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Lot 137: Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica Sports-Racing Two-Seater

Goodwood Revival Sale, Bonhams (15 September 2012)

This most important example of one of the Frazer Nash sports car marque's most charismatic and delightfully impressive models is offered here with a tremendous racing history that has endured almost lifelong. The Isleworth-based company's 'Le Mans Rep' is quite simply the most highly regarded of all postwar cycle-mudguard sports-racing cars, and 'HBC 1' offered here is the example raced as new by the leading British privateer racing driver of the period, Leicester garage proprietor Bob Gerard. Bespectacled Frederick Roberts Gerard (1914-1990) began his motor sporting career in the 1933 Land's End Trial, immediately winning a Premier Award in his Riley Nine. Through the remaining pre-war years he raced various Rileys, and came to prominence circuit-racing at Donington Park and Brooklands. On the eve of postwar peace in 1945 he bought his first proper racing car – an ERA – and it was in these cars that he soared to prominence as perhaps the second most successful British driver of the late-1940s, to his Derby-based near-neighbour, Reg Parnell. For five years 'Mr Bob' campaigned ERA R14B to tremendous (and often profitable) effect. He was a shrewd, intelligent and consistent driver while the cars prepared at his Leicester works were impeccably presented, fast and reliable. He won the BRDC's British Empire Trophy race three consecutive times, won the Jersey Road Race twice, and as first British finisher placed third in the 1948 RAC British Grand Prix at Silverstone and second there in 1949. He campaigned his ERAs until 1951, before investing in a brand-new Cooper-Bristol for 2-litre Formula 2 World Championship racing in 1952-53. By that time, 'Mr Bob' already had huge experience of the Bristol racing engine thanks to this Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica, which he had bought brand-new in 1950, and had used in sports car events ever since. The Aldington family's entirely distinctive postwar sports car design, in which shaft-drive at last superseded Frazer Nash's traditional chain-drive system, had emerged in 1948 as the 'High Speed' or 'Competition' model. In the first postwar Le Mans 24-Hour race, run at the Sarthe circuit in 1949, company head H.J. Aldington and Norman Culpan co-drove their 'High Speed Model' home into a fine third place. Thereafter this Bristol-engined Frazer Nash model was marketed to sports-oriented customers as the 'Le Mans Replica'. The Frazer Nash proved a brilliantly successful competitor in all kinds of sports car competition of the period, handling wonderfully well and producing sufficient power and torque from its reliable Bristol 6-cylinder engine to put far more modern looking machinery to intense shame... Denis Jenkinson - 'Motor Sport' magazine's legendarily well-informed and hugely experienced Continental Correspondent (who navigated Stirling Moss in their 1955 Mille Miglia-winning factory Mercedes-Benz 300SLR) - was a lifelong Frazer Nash fan and he wrote as follows: "In 1949 one of (their new cars) finished third at Le Mans. This prompted Frazer Nash to name the model the Le Mans Replica, and it was in production for four years, about fifty being built. In its day it was a good yardstick for performance, for it would do well over 120mph and cover a standing-start quarter-mile in 16 seconds. It handled well and apart from being a good road car it was a very successful racing car in its day, being sold 'ready to race' in anything from the Targa Florio to a Goodwood Club meeting" - which the discerning original owners of Frazer Nash Le Mans Replicas did in their droves, and which standard modus operandi has been enthusiastically pursued by subsequent owners to this day. This particularly outstanding example was delivered new from AFN Ltd's Falcon Works, Isleworth, factory in 1950. It was the first Le Mans Replica to be built with Newton telescopic dampers, the rears mounted vertically outside the bodywork. The new car carried a distinctive radiator grille design, its sides being straight rather than tapered. The cycle-type wings had the desirable external supports. Al-fin brake drums were fitted and initially the car used a 3.9:1 back axle ratio, although alternatives were readily available. 'Mr Bob' intended to race the new car in long-distance sports car events, for which attractive start, prize and component-supplier bonus monies were offered. He took delivery of 'HBC 1' – finished in green and to sport white-painted wheels - in time for Silverstone's one-hour Production Car Race in the 'Daily Express' meeting on 26 August. But after setting the fastest 'Nash lap time during practice, mechanical problems spoiled his race. The Gerard Le Mans Rep then reappeared in the RAC Tourist Trophy race of 16 September, 1950, which was actually the great race's postwar revival. Sadly, the chosen venue of Dundrod in Ulster was inundated that day by torrential rain and high winds. Through such atrocious conditions 'Mr Bob' drove 'HBC 1' now offered here to a fine third-place finish on handicap and sixth on distance completed. He won the 2-litre class, and his Le Mans Rep had begun to earn its keep... He retained the car for 1951, and in the inaugural 'Daily Express' May International meeting at Silverstone he promptly finished second to Tony Crook's Le Mans Replica after a terrific duel in the one-hour up-to-2-litre Production Car Race. On June 14, Gerard contested the sports car event at the British Empire Trophy meeting in Douglas on the Isle of Man. There he was confronted by the youthful Stirling Moss in Syd Greene's sister Le Mans Replica, and the two-hour sports car race ended with Moss winning and the bespectacled, avuncular Gerard in 'HBC 1' again an honourable second. The Leicester garage proprietor then returned to Dundrod for the 1951 RAC Tourist Trophy classic on September 15 – again finishing third on handicap and winning the 2-litre class. His 1952 campaign saw him strip the car of its road-going sports-car wings and lights to contest the Formula 2 International Trophy race at May Silverstone. His customary luck – generated of course by forethought and careful preparation – for once deserted him and he was forced to retire from the first race heat. The car had by this time been revised with a standard-shape radiator grille and a replacement engine, a very common modification in that period as cars were campaigned over multiple seasons while engine development continued apace. With 'HBC 1' re-rigged as a sports-racing car with wings and lights, 'Mr Bob' then contested the inaugural Goodwood Nine-Hours race on August 16, 1952. He co-drove with fellow Leicester enthusiast David Clarke, and they finished happily, fourth overall (behind an Aston Martin DB3S and two Ferraris V12s). By 1953 the Nash was approaching obsolescence and could only really compete against more modern opposition through reliability. Latest regulations had banned cycle-type wings, requiring mudguards merged into the main bodywork. The necessary valances fitted to the Le Mans Replica created aerodynamic lift and drag that adversely affected both the cars' steering and maximum speed. 'Mr Bob' now opted to enter 'HBC 1' for genuinely long-distance races rather than mere sprints, targeting the Le Mans 24-Hours, Reims 12-Hours, Goodwood 9-Hours and the RAC TT. The car was fitted with another fresh engine with short exhaust system – as on the Mark II Nashes – and a streamlined perpex windscreen was fitted together with better-shaped front wing valances. He also fitted an auxiliary oil tank and hand pump that enabled the driver to top up engine oil at pre-planned intervals. A ZF limited-slip differential was installed, and at Le Mans that year 'HBC 1' ran well until its crankshaft damper worked loose during the night. This was not immediately diagnosed and engine vibration caused the exhaust system to disintegrate and loosened various ancillaries – leading to retirement at 6am Sunday morning. The car was repaired for the Reims 12-Hour race on 5 July, 1953. Bob Gerard was driving his Formula 2 car in the World Championship Grand Prix there, so 'HBC 1' was shared instead in the 12-Hours by David Clarke and Peter Scott-Russell. The car lost its filler cap early on, which meant that the tank could not be fully filled at each pit stop, so refuelling frequency was doubled. Nonetheless, 'HBC 1' car ran reliably and the British pair finished seventh overall, and third in class. – without ever changing a tyre... For the Goodwood 9-Hours on 22 August, the BARC organisers allowed the 'Nashes to run without wing valances. Bob Gerard again co-drove with David Clarke, bringing 'HBC 1' home sixth overall and again winner of the 2-litre class. The RAC TT at Dundrod then disappointed. Wing valances were again required, and Gerard and Clarke suffered with misfiring, a rear tyre puncture and a burst oil cooler pipe. Despite these delays they finished seventh on handicap and second in class ... after more than nine hours' racing. On April 10, 1954, Bob Gerard finally drove his last race in the faithful 'HBC 1' –finishing fifth in heat and ninth in the handicap Final of the British Empire Trophy race at Oulton Park. He then advertised the car for sale early in 1955, together with his ERAs and 500cc Formula 3 Cooper '500'. Maurice Tew bought the car, later racing it in that year's British Empire Trophy Race and a series of minor club events before entering it for that year's TT, to be co-driven by Irish driver Joe Kelly. They finished 23rd on distance and fourth in class. On September 30, 1955, Mr Tew advertised the car for sale in 'Autosport' magazine. It was bought by a Mr Grant of Edenbridge, Kent, who later sold it in 1957 to club racer Bill Wilks. He then campaigned the car very successfully at club level – winning many times – until December 1958. Hill-climber Tom Clapham then acquired it but passed it on quickly to emergent young racing driver for Tony Lanfranchi. He club-raced the car through 1959-60 but by 1963 had sold it to Ian Kennedy. He passed it on through dealer Dan Margulies in 1964. Richard Skilbeck and Simon Scrimgeour then club-raced 'HBC 1' in 1965, before it was sold to Bob Hammel in the USA. In 1969 – painted white – it passed to Spencer Young of Arizona. Ned Curtis then acquired it in 1971 and he retained it for the next 27 years during which he raced it at Laguna Seca and ran in the 1986 Mille Miglia Retro. The car was acquired by its present vendor in 2002 – and he raced it here at the 2004 Goodwood Revival Meeting, and loaned it to none other than Stirling Moss for the Monaco Historique event of May 2008. Prior to the Monaco race, HBC 1 was given to marque experts Blakeney Motorsport in 2007 for a comprehensive overhaul. The car was stripped completely and all safety related items crack tested. The suspension was rebuilt with wish bone inner bushes updated top current Blakeney specification; uprated half-shafts were fitted and the rear axle rebuilt. The gearbox, differential and all engine ancillaries such as carburetors, distributer, starter and dynamo were rebuilt, as was the radiator. New wiring was also installed in period cotton braid. A new aluminium fuel tank was also made and new wheels fitted all round. The body and chassis was then re-painted in its current dark green The car has since been maintained by Blakeney MotorSport and serviced annually on no expense spared basis. HBC 1 returned to Goodwood in 2009 for the Freddie March 1½-Hour Race co-driven by Tony Dron and Paul Blakeney Edwards who rates HBC 1 as one of the best Le Mans Reps from an historical, performance and condition point of view. Praise indeed from one of the most respected specialists of the marque. This most important and extremely well-presented Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica is well chronicled in the definitive work The Post-War Frazer Nash by James Trigwell and Anthony Pitchard, published by Palawan Press in 2009, and offered with a good history file that includes current HTP papers.

Lot Details
Auction Goodwood Revival Sale
Bonhams, Chichester, Goodwood
Lot Number137
Outcome NOT SOLD
Hammer Price-
Hammer Price (inc premium)-
Condition rating
Registration numberHBC 1
Chassis number421/100/119
Engine numberBS1/125
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors2