From the BRDC this afternoon:
With great regret we have to report that the Club Office has just learned of the death on 26 December at the age of 96 of one of the BRDC’s oldest Members, Peter Avern. Originally elected as an Associate Member in 1954, Peter became a Life Member in 1979.
After service in the Royal Air Force from 1944 to 1948 in the latter part of World War 2, Peter worked in the textile trade in London. He became friends with a fellow motor racing enthusiast, Jim Mayers, by virtue of frequenting the same pub in Saville Row at lunchtime. Jim, whose family business was derived from a flourishing glassware distributorship which included the Jacobean range of tumblers, had been establishing a reputation as a rapid competitor in various MGs prepared by Harry Lester. In 1950, his first full season of racing, Jim won the Motor Sport Brooklands Memorial Trophy at Goodwood.
For the 1951 season, despite parental opposition, Jim set up the Monkey Stable, a team of Lester-MGs, which enjoyed mixed success in its first year. Pat Griffith came close to winning the BRDC British Empire Trophy on the Douglas road circuit in the Isle of Man, keeping his 1.5 litre Lester-MG comfortably ahead of Stirling Moss’s 2.0 litre Frazer-Nash Le Mans Replica on handicap until the engine seized with just two of the 35 laps remaining.
Named the Monkey Stable after the three wise monkeys who ‘hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil’ Jim wanted the team to be operated on a more professional basis in 1952, contesting the major UK sports car races in the British Isles. To this end he invited Peter to become the Monkey Stable team manager, initially on a part-time basis, with Pat Griffith and Gerry Ruddock joining as the other main drivers. This time Pat won the now 200-mile, three hour British Empire Trophy with Gerry second in his sister car.
A few weeks later the Monkey Stable Lester-MGs claimed first and second places in the 1500 cc class of the Jersey International Road Race in the hands of Jim Mayers and Pat Griffith. In the first Goodwood Nine Hours, the Lester-MGs finished sixth overall and first, second and third in the 1500 cc class, the winning car shared by Jim Mayers and Mike Keen. A disgruntled Gerry Ruddock was second with Rodney Peacock after they had not been kept informed that the Mayers/Keen car was catching them following earlier delays. Given that Jim Mayers was the creator of the team, he felt able to indulge in a little monkey business and instruct Peter not to keep Gerry informed. As a result Gerry left the team.
After spending the winter months working for Kieft, Peter became the full time Team Manager of the Monkey Stable in 1954 when the team switched allegiance from Lester-MGs to MG-powered Kiefts and took in races at the Nurburgring (twice), Zandvoort and Lisbon in addition to the major sports car races in the UK. It was a disappointing season with just the one race win – at Castle Combe near the end of the year. The central-seat Kiefts were sold and Peter went to work for Harry Lester, looking after customers wanting MG competition parts. The Monkey Stable drivers joined the Bristol works team, Jim Mayers sharing one of the aerodynamically-shaped 450s at Le Mans with Peter Wilson to win the 2-litre class in both 1954 and 1955.
The Monkey Stable lived on into 1955 with a new Lester Coupe, the M15, but it was uncompetitive against the lightweight Lotus and Coopers. Jim Mayers secured a place alongside Jack Brabham in a Cooper-Climax T39 for the RAC Tourist Trophy at Dundrod which ended disastrously when he was involved in a horrific multi-car accident which also cost the life of young Bill Smith. Peter had been in Jim’s pit as team manager.
With Jim’s death coming so soon after Mike Keen’s fatal accident in the Goodwood Nine Hours, Peter’s enthusiasm for motor racing diminished although he retained an involvement with cars, becoming an executive in the motor trade.
To Peter’s sister Patsy, his daughters Victoria and Rebecca and to his son Benjamin the BRDC offers its most sincere condolences. Peter’s funeral took place on 18 January.