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Archie Butterworth


It would not be unreasonable to think of Archie Butterworth as something of an engineering genius who had little in the way of formal training having left his studies at University College to join the army, and just like Frank Nichols, he learnt a variety of skills which enabled him to build his first car, a dirt track racer.

He spent much time with tools and lathes in engineering workshops, but soon was noticed for his talent with engineering drawings and design, but he needed more and moved on to form the Butterworth Engineering Co. in 1950 so that he could concentrate on developing and modifying racing cars. He built a car powered by the Steyr V8 engine of which he later said "...it spent three years`trying to kill me" and he did have a nasty accident in 1951 which nearly proved him right! However, his particular passion was 'engines' and he designed and built the AJB flat-four power unit which was based on the Steyr but featured the swinging inlet valves to allow uninterrupted gas flow.

Through his connections with Peter Nott, who was designing for Elva, Archie was introduced to 'Father' Frank and an agreement was reached to fit this powerful engine into an Elva Mk.III sports racing car. The car soon became known a 'Sabrina' due to the necessary bulges on the front section (to clear the inlet trumpets) and was often driven by the incredible Archie Scott Brown.

The subsequent stories from the Elva folk are of huge excitement closely followed by immense disappointment as the car was extremely fast but terribly unreliable. It was not the swing valves giving problems but the sodium filled poppet valves which lost the head, often being spat out through the exhaust and being picked off the track by a nearby marshall who then threw it back up in the air with several blistered fingers!

However there was a notable win for Archie Scott Brown in 'Sabrina' but overall the car was the source of considerable frustration within the Elva team. Keith Marsden wanted Archie to allow the fitting of a water jacket to the air-cooled engine and thus control the cooling and Frank pleaded with Archie to change the exhaust valves, but neither happened and the engine was unceremoniously removed and replaced with the more conventional Climax FWA. Still, it was close to being a wonderful success and at least a good few gin & tonics were enjoyed from the boot of Archie's Jaguar.

Photo shows (left to right) ... a dapper Frank Nichols, the great Archie Scott Brown, Archie Butterworth with g&t, and Peter Nott. All standing infront of 'Sabrina'.

Photo is copyright

Archie Butterworth was wonderful man, a larger than life character who will be sadly missed by family and friends, particularly in the BSRC (he was the Founder of the British Sporting Rifle Club), and his wife Barbara to whom he was married for 65 years.

Roger Dunbar


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