an innovative 'Special' hill climb car from the
thirties, fitted with BSAFWD transmission and drive, built and raced by the Glegg brothers
Note: this article and 'photo originally appeared in
the June 2003 issue of 'Front Wheels' The official bulletin of the BSAFWD club
Gordon Glegg is airborne at the top
of the old Brooklands test hill, Eric Fernihough clicks the watch
The Glegg brothers, Gordon and Donald, were most enthusiastic specialists of
the 'try again' school, for whenever their most cherished theories were disproved,
to the accompaniment of the thunder of rending metal, they just swept up the bits
they could find and had another go.
Usually, they arrived at Shelsley heavy eyed from lack of sleep, and still working
on an incomplete vehicle, and after their first practice run were apt to walk up
the hill demanding, "Anybody seen a universal joint, a couple of gears, and a
length of chain?" Dorcas I was an Austin based special, which has no great claim
to fame, except for an incident at a hill-climb at Chalfont, where Gordon posted
a friend on a corner with his camera, with instructions to secure a good action
picture, On approaching this corner, our hero found that his throttle would not
shut, so baled out before the inevitable accident.
The trusting friend was run
over a hundredth of a second after he had clicked the shutter; happily they both
came out, that is to say the photograph came out of the camera, and the friend
eventually came out of hospital. Dorcas II was that unusual thing, a front-driven
special. The front drive was obtained from a BSA three-wheeler, and consisted of
a three speed gearbox, a worm drive, and a differential, which carried a single
brake. The front wheels were independently sprung, each one having four transverse
quarter-elliptic springs, and exposed driving shafts were connected to
the wheel hubs via a couple of universal joints. A sturdy double dropped frame
ran back to the reversed quarter-elliptic springs of an old Brescia Bugatti,
which carried the Bugatti wheels and brakes on a tubular 'dead' axle.
The power unit was a 981 cc JAP engine which had been prepared by Eric
Fernihough, and its considerably augmented power output was sufficient
to break most of the vital parts of the BSA transmission fairly regularly.
The car was usually run with twin front wheels, which naturally put a great
load on the transmission, and gave the machine a unique appearance. After
racing in this form in 1932 and 1933, the Gleggs designed a four-wheel
drive layout that used more, and longer, chains than even I have ever
seen before. The theory of the thing was that, when the front wheels
slipped more than 5 per cent, a pair of ratchet free-wheels would take up the drive to the rear wheels, which normally
acted as 'passengers'. That was the theory, but in practice, the sudden take-up
of the ratchets resulted in a shower of chains in Worcestershire.
Not one whit dismayed, Gordon and Donald set to to build up a completely new
car. This had four-wheel drive too, but there were no chains, an
all-shaft-and-gear lay-out having been evolved. The straight channel
chassis frame was suspended by coil springs, all four wheels articulating
independently on swing axles. After they had suitably developed this layout,
Gordon Glegg was successful in breaking the old 'cyciecar' (1100 cc.) record
for the Brooklands test hill, previously held by Frazer-Nash in 'Kim'. Finally,
Fernihough built a special JAP engine of some 1200 cc. capacity, and with this
motor installed, Dorcas won the unsupercharged section of the 11/2 litre class at
Shelsley in 1938. The time was 46.88 seconds.
In case any of my less enlightened
readers have missed the significance of the name 'Dorcas', I would mention that
she was a Biblical lady who was 'full of good works'.
This article and photograph are taken from a book called
'Specials' by John Bolster. I know nothing else about this
book, but Amazon list it as published in October 1971 by Foulis.
The ISBN number is 0854291334. My thanks to Tony Henderson for
sending this copy of the extract from the book.
( footnote by our magazine editor, Peter Nicholls).