During its running, both in short
racing events, speed trials and hill-climbs, it would be driven mainly
by B.G.P. (Basil) de Mattos, who was employed by Laystall and who was a
friend of Spikins. The car appeared at the Prescott Hill Climb on the 12th
September 1948. In very wet conditions Bob Spikins and Basil de
Mattos both drove the car in the up to 1500cc class, Spikins climbing in
60.14 seconds and de Mattos in 60.49 seconds to finish 9th
and 10th in the class that was won by Peter Walker's ERA.
The first Goodwood race meeting was held on the 18th
September 1948. The Spikins was entered in what was classed as a
sprint meeting, consisting of a large number of short races. In a
3 lap race for racing cars up to 1100cc supercharged and up to 2 litres
non supercharged, Basil de Mattos finishing 3rd behind the
MGs of Folland and Kennington. Bob Spikins then drove the car at
the Brighton Speed Trials where he finished 6th in the class for racing
cars up to 1500cc, the class being won by David Murray in a 1.5 litre 16
valve supercharged Maserati. The Motor Sport report said "Spikins
drove his latest Spikins Special, consisting of the ex Rose, ex Sommer
Amilcar Six with one of the new four-carburettor Lea Francis competition
The 1949 season started at Goodwood on
Easter Monday the 18th April. Basil de Mattos started
from the front row of the grid in the Lavant Cup race over 5 laps,
positions being decided by ballot. The Spikins Special retired after 2
laps. On the 26th May the car was entered for the Manx
Cup on the Isle of Man circuit. As the flag fell Stirling Moss, in
a V-twin Cooper, forged ahead and at the end of the first lap was out of
sight of the others, lead by Basil de Mattos in the Spikin. On lap
six de Mattos found the Spikin’s brakes useless and the car was retired.
Moss retired with engine problems, leaving victory to John Heath in the
HW Alta. Bob Spikin then took in the Brighton Speed trials on the
3rd September, winning the class for cars up to 1500cc.
The following week de Mattos competed in the International Prescott Hill
Climb, finishing 4th behind class winner Bob Ansell's ERA.
And the week after, on the 17th,
de Mattos finished 10th in the 5 lap Lavant Trophy race at
Towards the end of 1949 it was decided
that the Volkswagen rear end was not too sound, for the engine had by
now been modified further to bring it up to 1,767 c.c. and was
developing far more power. At this point the chassis work was
taken over by Jimmy Raynes and Bernard Rodgers of Raybern Cars, a small
firm in Richmond. They built a new rear end on the car, using an
E.N.V. differential unit, attached to the rear of the chassis, with
swing axle drive to the wheels. To position the axles, and
withstand the various forces, two radius arms were used on each side.
The first was attached to the rear of the brake back plate, running
parallel with the half-axle and pivoting on the same centre line as the
axle’s universal joint; the second running from the front of the back
plate, forwards to the chassis. A transverse leaf spring was
mounted on top of the differential unit and was coupled to the hubs for
springing purposes only, taking none of the acceleration or braking
By now the car had been renamed, and
the name chosen was that of one of Laystall Engineering’s well-known
products, the Cromard cylinder liner. Needless to say the engine,
although of Lea-Francis origin, had long since been extensively modified
to Laystall’s idea of a power unit, with such things as new crankshaft,
connecting-rods, camshafts and valve-gear parts. The Cromard
Special was entered for de Mattos to drive in the Lavant Trophy at
Goodwood on the 10th April 1950. But he damaged the car
in practice and was unable to start the race. Misfortune continued
in the Isle of Man when rear axle problems caused the car to be a
non-starter in the Manx Cup race on the 15th June. Bob
Spikins installed a larger power unit of 1767cc for the Brighton Speed
trials on the 2nd September, but did a spectacular hop, step and jump
when the pre-selector gearbox selected reverse instead of second.
His time of 30 seconds was 5.6 seconds slower than winner Raymond Mays
in the ERA. The Prescott Hill Climb on the 10th September was won
by Dennis Poore in a 3.8 litre supercharged Alfa Romeo, in a time of
45.39 seconds. He then tried his hand in the Cromard, still
running with its big engine, recording a time of 50.49 seconds for the
climb, finishing 3rd in his class. Poore again drove
the car at the Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb on the 23rd
September, now with the original 1496 cc engine installed. He
finished 2nd in the up to 1500cc class. On the 30th
September 1950 de Mattos drove the Cromard Special in the 5 lap Madgwick
Trophy at Goodwood. Starting from the front row he failed to
finish. He then competed in a handicap race over 5 laps finishing
3rd. de Mattos again drove the car, this time at Castle
Combe, finishing 3rd in the race for cars between1500cc and
All this time the chassis frame
remained as what was left of the original Amilcar after the
modifications. But naturally this was far too flexible for the
rest of the car and, at the end of 1950, the Cromard as it stood was
broken up and work commenced on a new car, using parts of the old one.
The engine, still of Lea Francis origin with push-rod o.h.v. from high
set cams, now had a capacity of 1767cc with a bore of 75mm and stroke of
100 mm. It spent the winter back at Laystall’s and subsequently
delivered 130 b.h.p. at 6,000 r.p.m., using four S.U. carburettors and
running on a compression ratio of 13.5 to 1. Bob then went back
Raybern Cars Ltd., for assistance in building the car. The pair
supplied a tubular frame, of the type which was rapidly finding favour
with specials-builders. This was formed with dual 2-in. 18-gauge
tubes as side-members. These tubes were placed one above the
other, 5 in. apart and braced at intervals by vertical tubular members,
while all cross-members were of 16 s.w.g. This resulted in a very
rigid and strong frame that was also very light in weight, giving a
wheelbase of 8ft. 0in. and a track of 4 ft. 0 in. At the front the
Volkswagen trailing arms were used but the laminated torsion bars were
altered to give a different springing rate, while a Citroen
rack-and-pinion steering box was coupled up to the German steering arms.
The suspension and drive, designed by Raybern at the end of the previous
season, were rebuilt on to the new chassis and an Armstrong-Siddeley
lacing preselector gearbox was fitted. A new Gallay radiator was
made and fuel tanks fitted on each side of the driving seat joined by a
bridge tank under the propeller-shaft. Laystalls made special
brake drums and these were designed to fit Austin A90 Girling 2LS brake
assemblies. They were actually the type used on the front of the
A90 and were fitted to all four wheels of the Cromard. The engine
was returned ready for racing and fitted into the new chassis; and in
this form the Cromard weighed 11.25 cwt.
It made its first 1951 appearance at
the Easter Goodwood meeting on the 26th March in the Lavant
Cup race over 12 miles. Basil de Mattos finished 9th,
one place ahead of the new Formula 2 Connaught which used the same Lea
Francis based engine. In the Madgwick Cup race that followed,
Smethwick Garage owner Ken Wharton took the wheel to finish in 6th
place. Afterwards the car went to the G. P. des Frontieres at
Chimay on the 13th May, having been altered to two S.U.
carburettors. It ran well and de Mattos was leading the first heat
when a radius arm fractured, putting it out of the running on the last
lap. It was in this same race that the owner of the car, Bob
Spikins, was involved in a fatal accident whilst driving his Frazer-Nash
and, rather naturally, that curtailed the car’s racing for most of the
However, towards the end of the
summer, Basil de Mattos ran the car at the Brighton Speed Trials,
finishing third in his class, and again at Prescott. For the final
Goodwood meeting, in September, he was not feeling sufficiently like
racing to do justice to the car and offered his entry to Ken Wharton.
After rather a limited amount of practice Wharton was beginning to get
the feel of the handling characteristics and competed in two events. The
first was the Madgwick Cup in which he was unplaced, though he ran well;
and the second a handicap event, in which he was re-handicapped on the
starting line, yet won with ease, at an average speed of 81.29 m.p.h.
It was indeed a major tragedy that Bob
Spikins lost his life. British motor sport lost one of its
most popular figures and there is little doubt that, if he had lived,
the Cromard would have been fully developed as a pukka Formula 2 car for
International racing. The Raybern chassis had shown up well in
1951 events, although a certain amount of trouble was experienced with
the swing-axle suspension. It was no secret that Spikins was
interested in the production of an entirely new power unit and that
plans had already been formulated for its construction.
The car was then acquired by Peter
Clark and was raced in Ireland by Mrs. Joyce Howard. On the 6th
September 1952 she entered for the Wakefield Trophy race on the five
mile long Curragh circuit. Autosport reported that:
"Joyce Howard in the Cromard Special made a tremendous getaway, leaving
Titterington (Allard) and Peter Clarks (DB2) yards behind, the car’s
rear wheels leaning in at an odd angle on the swing half axles."
Later in the report: "Mrs Howard had travelled round for several
laps under the impression it was spitting with rain, but a glance at the
thermometer told her that it was from somewhere else that that water was
coming! She came into the pits where the leaking water system was
revealed. She was driving a fine race and the Cromard Special was going
very well indeed."
The following year, on the 25th
July 1953, Joyce bought the car to England and entered the USAF formula
2 (for cars up to 2000cc) race at Snetterton, alongside the usual Cooper
Bristols and Connaughts, but retired on the first lap. The car then
disappeared until being seen at some historic events in the 1990s.
At the end of 2001 the car was found
on sale at the German historic car dealers, Auto Salon Singen AG.
They gave a list of drivers as follows:
B. de Mattos
They also said that the car was
restored in 1985, presumably by or on behalf of C. Sheriff, who was
probably the owner as well as the driver. They also say that "the
last FIA papers were provided 1994" and that the car has been raced
successfully at Goodwood and other historic racing car meets.
|Motor Sport Racing Car Review 1952
by D S Jenkinson
Formula 2 by Gregor Grant.
A Record of Grand Prix and Voiturette Races. Sheldon and Rabliatti.
Autosport and Motor Sport magazines 1948 to 1953.
Auto Salon Singen AG, website.
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