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Treasure hunting in the Weslake scrap heap


Guy Black
A personal history of superb cars and amazing aeroplanes


I bought the Elva Courier; or rather my father lent me the money to buy it, as his contribution towards stopping me continuing a career in motorcycle racing due to his perception of the dangers involved. The car, chassis number unknown, was equipped with a MGA push rod 1600 engine, MGA gearbox and I think a Riley 1.5 rear axle. It had steel wheels and one of the early modifications I made (which turned out to be a retrograde step) was to put some fancy aluminium wheels on it (Cosmic I think). They weighed more than the steel wheels and were eventually removed and sold on. The first modification was to take the head to Weslake (where I was an engineering apprentice) and ask the top cylinder head man, Jack Cramp, to convert it to full race specification which involved bigger valves, stronger valve springs, gas flowed and polished ports and a hefty slice taken off the head joint. Larger 1.5" SU carburettors were then fitted, along with a full race cam found in the Weslake scrap pile.

I had no aspirations then for the car to stop well, but to go faster, which proved an unwise choice, though eventually common sense prevailed and the suspension and brakes were improved. In this form it did quite well in sprints and hill climbs, but I wanted then to win not come second! So the next stage was to bore out the engine to 1800 cc (or thereabouts) and fit MGA twin cam connecting rods which are much stronger than the standard MGA rods. Bear in mind I was only 19 when this started out, and the drive of youth propelled me and the car forward far too fast, but I still used the car for going to work and I treated the daily ride as part of the test procedure - a habit that would not work today on our crowded roads.

I did some modifications to the car body, mainly to accommodate Dunlop racing tyres, painting the car bright Rolls Royce Regal Red and Alan Jenner, aluminium genius for Elva Engineering and still going strong, made an aluminium tonneau cover to make it sleeker - and in my youthful eyes, better looking. A much improved prototype competition cylinder head was found at Weslake again in the scrap dump, although this eventually proved to be the undoing of the engine which exploded in a dramatic way.

A MGB engine was sourced, and converted to full race spec, and in this form the car was very fast and began to win. However, the urge to modify had not waned, and again in the Weslake scrap dump I found an unused prototype full race MGA Twin Cam engine, which over a period of time was rebuilt. I cannot now recall what I did with the car after it was fitted (it probably burnt a piston - a problem that dogged this interesting engine), but later I reverted to the 1600 cc engine (now rebuilt) and the car was sold, to be replaced with a TVR Tuscan fitted with the Ford V6 engine, which was very convenient as Weslake were preparing the German Ford works Capri team.

The TVR was unbeatable in hill climbs due, in no small part to the almost square wheel base and track. With all its Weslake mods, the engine developed some 300 bhp. During this period I bought a Formula 1 March with no engine, the idea being to produce a hill climb car, but this never got anywhere as I could not find or afford a suitable engine, as I had by then left Weslake to start my own business, Lynx Engineering to restore Vintage cars - another interest. This business grew rapidly and we became focused on competition Jaguars, including the C and D Type and Light Weight E types. I found then a ready source of competition cars for hillclimbs, and again, the D Type was absolutely ideal and almost unbeatable. The urge to produce our one car resulted in D Type replicas, as well as C Types and much else.

About this time I had an urge to learn to fly and own an aeroplane, which of course had to be a Spitfire. This dream took a great many years to come to fruition, and I formed with a good friend of mine, Historic Aircraft Collection Ltd. to encompass this new interest and today it is still going strong, and we have a flying Mk. V Spitfire, an Hurricane, a few Hawker biplanes from before the war, a 1st World War DH-9 bomber nearing completion, a Fieseler Storch (Stork) and sundry others.

For me the real interest now is in restoring things - whether cars or aeroplanes or even houses, and the lust to race and own all these things is not so necessary.