Everyone loves Goodwood ,the quintessential English race circuit that was reborn in September 1998 after 32 years of closure. The revival meetings have been a big part of the upsurge of interest in retro motor sport with many of the original cars from the circuits heyday ,indeed british motorsports heyday ,back entertaining the crowds. Ferrari 250 GTO, Aston Zagato ,Jaguar D-Types ,AC Cobras ,a multitude of single seaters and classic BTCC saloons look at home to the idylic backdrop that is the Goodwood circuit. But what of the many early 'special' saloons that raced ? Not so familiar or represented.
By my reckoning using the excellent 'The Glory of Goodwood' book by esteemed historians Mike Lawrence ,Doug Nye and Simon Taylor there were over 80 races won by saloon cars at Goodwood not counting the British Saloon Car Championship.
A full list of these races with winners and fastest laps can be viewed on a seperate page , see link :
The list of saloon race winners reads as a list of the A-Z of the pioneers of modifed saloon car racing in its infancy plus many unsung and forgotten racers too. This page looks at the men and machines and how the genre grew along the way.
August 1957 - A pair of modified Ford Anglia 100E's hustle through the famous Goodwood chicane during the 27th Members Meeting '5-lap Handicap for closed cars'. A.B.Davies ( 60 ) with non-standard air scoop heads Mike Barker's version that used a Marshall Supercharger. No heavy chrome bumpers between them this photo by George Phillips is one of the earliest to show clearly modifed saloons racing in the UK.
Saloon cars were barely seen racing at all on UK circuits before 1953 but by the end of the decade they would have their own championship which we know today as the British Touring Cars. Prior to 1958 there were no rules governing racing saloon cars and each circuit had its own ideas of how they would be accomodated into any race meeting. At Goodwood things were very traditional with 5-lap handicap races the norm, very much in the spirit of pre-war Brooklands.
We hardly see a handicap race these days but a VSCC meeting at Donington i witnessed a while ago had one such and proved the concept quite fascinating as the tiddlers were effectively given a head start of perhaps 30 seconds ,then the mid-sized cars ,then after another 30 seconds the big bangers released . The theory was that all the cars should arrive at the finish line a few laps later in one cluster for an exciting and unpredictable finish ! If the handicaping wasnt enough the races were open for 'closed cars' so the variety of machinery was wide and unpredictable.
1953 and 1954 saw 5 Closed car handicap races won by 'tiddlers' beating the 'big bangers' ,the latter typically in the shape of Everard and Brown in Aston Martin DB2 Coupes setting fastest laps in vain. Those first 5 tiddlers were Alan Foster ( Morris Minor MM ), Len Potter, twice ( Dyna Panhard ) ,K.W.Moore ( Renault ) and J.Corps ( Citroen ).
Motor Sport magazine commented of one Goodwood race 'some suprising speeds put up by ordinary cars'.
The 1955 races didnt throw up a tiddler winner beyond J.K.Bell's Morris Minor winning the Novices handicap in March. The main 3 handicaps that season being won by giant saloons Zephyr ,Armstrong Sidderly-Sapphire and Jaguar mark 8.
The Fifties was of course a boom time nationally for car ownership .The number of licensed vehicles in Great Britain increased from about 4 million in 1950 ( 414 thousand a year ) ,19 million by 1971 to over 34 million ( 2.4 million ) in 2010. With the rise in car ownership came both a rise in racing car ownership and the whole tuning industry.
The latter half of the 50s saw the rise of the tuned small saloon race car. Some were highly experimental and ingenious ,often to get one up on the Handicapper by making the car go much faster than it looked on paper.
So who were the saloon pioneers at Goodwood...
R.Dore and J.K.Bell were both early exponents of racing tuned-Morris Minors at Goodwood and are all but forgotten. Both used the Tourer model over the standard saloon ,maybe to save weight though both had to run with hoods up as these were handicap races for 'closed cars'.
Dore maybe the first to put a larger engine in a Moggy to go racing in UK club events having fitted a 1486cc Jowett overhead valve flat 4 cylinder. Jowett from Yorkshire had sadly gone into liquidation in 1955 but left a sporting legacy in the years since the War with that engine. Class wins at Le Mans in 1950 + 1951 in racing Jupiter models plus class wins in International Rallying and the Spa 24 hours for the Javelin saloon model.
Dore won the Novices closed car handicap at the Goodwood 21st Members Meet in March 1956 of which Motor Sport Magazine wrote : 'Dore drove his 1½-litre Morris Minor tourer to victory from the 50-sec. mark. Its engine size mystified, but, in fact, it has a Jowett Jupiter engine, Standard Fourteen gearbox and Wolseley 4/44 back wheels. The neat installation of the engine is a pungent reminder that designer Issigonis intended the Minor to have a flat-four power unit, only B.M.C. said no.'
He won again the same car in the Closed car Handicap at the 26th MM in June 1957.
J.K.Bell was the other early exponent of racing tuned-Morris Minors at Goodwood.
Bell's car used the BMC 943cc unit but with a cylinder head from Alta. Geoffrey Taylor's sporting Alta company had ceased car production by 1955 but remained as engine suppliers to single seater teams such as George Abecassis' HWM , Connaught and Cooper.
Bell won the Novices Handicap ( 18th MM ) in March 1955 with a BMC 918cc engine and raced in the 20th MM Handicap as did Miles ( John E.Miles ? ) in a similar car. His 2nd Goodwood win was in the 22nd MM Handicap race, April 1956 and raced in th e 23rd MM which Motorsport described the car as 'really a Tourer with it's hood up'.He lost the Whitsun Meet Handicap by just 6/10th in June 1957 with a 943cc unit fitted.
J. Miles also raced a Moggy Minor Tourer and used a Superchager on his 918cc . He Placed 3rd in the 18th MM Novies handicap, March 1955 and 4th in the 20th MM Handicap.
Ellis Cuff-Miller won the 23rd MM Hadicap for closed cars in his Ford, July 1956. Using an Elva cylinder head engine his Ford also raced in the 25th and 26th MM Handicap races. Motor Sport reports didn't specify which Ford model he was using but come the Whitsun Trphy Saloon race of May 1959 he was in a Ford Zephyr 2.6 which he was running in the 1st year of the British Saloon Car Championship returning in 1961.
His Ford had a special cylinder head from new sports car company Elva of Bexhill founded by Frank Nichols. This was for the 1,172 cc Ford engine, devised by Malcolm Witts and Harry Weslake and featured overhead inlet valves.
A former Bank Clerk and Fleet Air Arm Officer 'Cuff' was a well known racing figure driving a variety of cars having founded a succesful dealership business. The story of Cuff-Miller can be found via this link to the Business' website. 'Cuff' passed away in 1990 aged 84 .
The LMB Ford Populars raced at Goodwood, Silverstone and Brands in the latter half of the 1950's .
In 1957 Willy Meisl and John Turner were in 2 cars in the 25th MM Handicap but not classified. Later Peter Gammon placed 5th and 3rd in one of the cars in the Whitsun Meet ( June ) and 26th MM ( June ) respectively and raced in the Heinkel Trophy race ( August ). In Thoroughbred + Sportscar ( Jan 1990 ) Meisl recalled "I loved the upright, almost Gothic Ford Popular saloon: fitted with a blower and Bellamy front suspension, it went like stink on the circuit and assumed the oddest angles under hard cornering". The cars used a supercharged 1172cc side-valve engine and suspension by Leslie Bellamy. Motor Sport reported : 'while Meisl's and Turner's Ford Populars were L.M.B.-suspended, the former with 100E copperised head, 8.5-to-1 compression-ratio, four-branch exhaust system, twin 11/16-in. Amal carburetters, 100E steering box, 5.20 by 15 Michelin tyres and a close-ratio three-speed gearbox'.
Willy Meisl had a fascinating career as Rally co-driver, German translater for Porsche and the first importer of the now famous Stuttgart product before being a leading light at the Cibie company...
Peter Gammon a Draper from Guildford had over 150 sports car races in the UK with MG,Morgan,Lotus,Elva,Cooper,Tojiero and works Lola cars .
Not Goodwood but Brands - above : Willy Meisl entertained the crowds in one of the LMB Ford Pops in 1957 as did Pete Gammon below in the same 3-wheeling car.
The Goodwood chicane, August 1957. Modified Ford Anglia 100Es . A.B.Davies ( 60 ) with air-scoop is followed by Mike Barker ( 71 ) in his super-charged car. Photo George Phillips.
Ford Anglias were also modified at this time. Mike Barker took 3rd in the 25th MM handicap with his super-charged version and pictured in the 27thMM. Barker went on to set fastest laps in the handicap races at the 1958 28th + 29th Members Meetings.
The Fords had struck an early blow for tradition by winning the 1955 750MC 6-Hour relay with 2 of the 4 'Tinlids Team' being Anglias ( John Mitchell + Ian F.Walker ) against teams mostly of true sports cars. The 1957 event the all Ford 'Power Masters' team took 3rd made up of Anglias and 'hotted' Thames Vans.
By 1958 the saloons had been sepearated from the sports cars in the Goodwood Handicap races for 'closed cars' . 'Closed car race 1' featured the Jaguar XKs for example and 'Closed car race 2' the saloons. This marked the recognition as a sepearate genre of the sport. Quite where Goodwood were in this compared to other circuits at the time im not sure but things were moving fast.
One prime racer of the time John Sprinzell was one of those asking for a set of rules to be drawn to govern saloon car racing in fixing what was a legal modification and what wasnt. For 1959 the BRSCC introduced the British Saloon Car Championship as a regulated Formula. From that point all racing saloons fitted into one or other category...modified within the new rules for the BSCC or modified beyond them ,which is where Special Saloons would develop from.
In part 2 we follow Goodwood's next years up to 1966 and as the home of the rival BARC club there was plenty of special saloon racing on the bill.