Tag Archives: Bolster

Remus – ERA R5B

In 1936 today’s featured ERA R5B which became known as Remus was added to the 1935 ERA R2B known as Romulus at the White Mouse Racing stable for the Siamese Prince Birabongse Bhanutej Bhjanubandh Bira to drive.

ERA R5B, HGPCA Test Day, Silverstone

Like Romulus Remus was fitted with a 1.5 litre / 91.5 cui supercharged engine which remained in the car until 1979 when it was replaced by the 2 litre / 122 cui seen in the car today.

ERA R5B, HGPCA Test Day, Silverstone

Bira’s only notable success in the car was to win the 1936 Albi Grand Prix, after being left unused in 1937 Tony Rolt bought Remus and drove her to victory in the 1939 British Empire Trophy at Donington Park after it had been modified by Freddie Dixon.

ERA R5B, VSCC Spring Start, Silverstone

Tony and St John Ratcliffe Stewart “Jock” Horsfall both drove Remus on the Cockfosters Rally Demonstration Run on July 14th 1945 just two months after the end of hostilities in Europe.

ERA R5B, VSCC Spring Start, Silverstone

I F Connell briefly owned Remus in 1946 before selling her on to Peter Bell later the same year who entered her for John Bolster to race.

ERA R5B, VSCC Spring Start, Silverstone

Murray Walker in his autobiography “Unless I am very much mistaken” tells how while commentating for BBC Radio at Silverstone for the 1949 British Grand Prix John Bolster lost Remus in a big way and deposited himself “in a bleeding mess” at the foot of his commentary box, Murray’s understated commentary to the BBC Radio audience was “Bolster’s gone off !”.

ERA R5B, Charles McCabe, Silverstone Classic,

John retired from driving there after and the repaired Remus passed through a succession of documented owners before being bought by current owner Charles McCabe who is seen at the wheel above during a Silverstone Classic meeting.

Thanks for joining me on this “Remus” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow for Mercedes Monday. Don’t forget to come back now !


Schoolboys And A Handrill – Bloody Mary

Half brothers John and Richard appear to have been born in 1910 and 1912 respectively to Vary who married Richards father Richard (Snr) Bolster in 1911 the same year in which she and John’s father were granted a Decree Absolute. Richard (Snr) was killed in action in 1917 while serving with the rank of Major in the Royal Field Artillery. During the 1914 to 1918 Great War Vary, who was very interested in cars and motoring, is said to have driven her own Napier and a Mercedes as part of her contribution to the war effort. After the war Vary Bolster is said to have driven a 3 litre Bentley and spectated at Brooklands events organised by the BARC who’s strap line ran “The right crowd and no crowding”.

Bloody Mary, 5th Tony Marsh Memorial Weekend, Gurston Down

While still at school John and brother Richard set about building a special with the object of “driving around a field as dangerously as possible”. To build the tapered from the front to rear chassis the boys fashioned three longitudinal chassis rails from ash and joined them together with with steel brackets to two cross members front and rear. It would appear the most sophisticated tool at the boys disposal was a hand drill.

Bloody Mary, 5th Tony Marsh Memorial Weekend, Gurston Down

The original front axle had no suspension other than that afforded by the balloon aircraft tyres fitted to the wheels or brakes. The 1914 13 hp vee twin JAP motor, mounted between the center chassis rail and left chassis rail drove a chain attached to the Juckes, motorcycle, gearbox which in turn drove a rubber belt attached to a solid rear axle, carried in a pair of bronze bushes in gunmetal housings sourced from a Grahame White cycle car, mounted below the chassis rails and suspended by quarter elliptic springs. With the driver sitting to the right almost alongside the motor and gearbox the contraption in it’s original guise weighed around 230 kgs / 507 lbs and was said to be capable of 55 mph, and was slowed using “negligible” band brakes on the rear axle.

Bloody Mary, 5th Tony Marsh Memorial Weekend, Gurston Down

Not having scared them selves sufficiently, over time the car was developed, a GN tube front axle with leaf springs bound with “best quality blind cord” to the chassis replaced the original though again without brakes. The output was more than doubled to over 30hp with the acquisition of a more modern 4 cam JAP vee twin motor which required the rubber final drive be replaced by a chain twixt gearbox and rear axle. A semblance of a body was added along with the name “Bloody Mary” which has been interpreted as a jest against the stuffy preeminent establishment still prevalent in Britain between WW1 and WW2. Described as a determined “bon viver” John would later become well known for his “very blue“, language, after dinner speeches.

Bloody Mary, 5th Tony Marsh Memorial Weekend, Gurston Down

As the boys became undergraduates, John at Oxford and Richard at Cambridge, they started entering the road registered car into speed and trials competitions which meant wiring torches to the mudguards for illumination and obliging the passenger to perch precariously twixt hot exhaust to the front and above the rear chain. After finally scaring himself in Bloody Mary Richard eventually went on to build a second GN based special of which John said “owing to some oversight on the part of the licensing authorities, both cars had the same registration number” meaning care was taken that the two specials were never seen together.

Bloody Mary, 5th Tony Marsh Memorial Weekend, Gurston Down

John persevered with Bloody Mary fitting a new tubular front axle carrying 1928 vintage Austin Seven brakes and wheels. After two unfortunate “wild” young men fell off their Brough Superior motor cycles John replaced the 4 cam JAP which had given as much as 40 hp after much development, with first one over head valve KTOR JAP motor and fitted the second when it unexpectedly also became available using an ingenious spring loaded sprocket to compensate for firing irregularities between the two motors. In order to avoid back fires which would destroy the drive train John always needed four strong blokes to give him a push start, it was a tribute to Johns good standing in the paddock that he never had a shortage of volunteers.

Bloody Mary, 5th Tony Marsh Memorial Weekend, Gurston Down

On his first outing at Lewes Speed Trials in the now twin engined junk yard special the hubs burst as John was accelerating, while John fought to control the car through a series of wild slides he switched off the motors and coasted over the line with a time fast enough to win his class. The hubs were subsequently replaced with sturdier Frazer Nash items and in 1937 John was just a shade over 3 seconds slower than Raymond Mays’s supercharged ERA R4B up the Shelsley Walsh Hillclimb, a performance described in one contemporary report as ‘a miracle of wheel-winding’. At this point John retired Bloody Mary to build a new, faster, special with independent suspension augmenting the two JAP engines from Bloody Mary with two more to fashion beast with four JAP vee twins.

Bloody Mary, 5th Tony Marsh Memorial Weekend, Gurston Down

After the 1939 – 1945 war, in which half brother Richard lost his life serving in the RAF over Germany, John rebuilt Bloody Mary and from 1948 to 1953 he held the VSCC course record at Prescott with the machine in which he sat a mere 5″ off the ground. As Bloody Mary was becoming increasingly less competitive John’s competition driving career came to an end after a major accident in a race at Silverstone while driving a borrowed ERA.

Bloody Mary, 5th Tony Marsh Memorial Weekend, Gurston Down

John became a well known author one of his most popular books was called “Specials” and journalist with Autosport Magazine, he never used a type writer preferring to use Biro and paper as the tools of his trade. His activities included commentating on motor racing events for the BBC and in a similar role he was immortalised on film with a cameo role in the comedy The Fast Lady.

Bloody Mary eventually found it’s way to the National Motor Museum with ownership passing to his widow Rosemary Bolster upon John’s death in 1984. The car is seen in these photo’s at the 5th Tony Marsh Memorial Weekend run at Gurston Down earlier this year.

Thanks for joining me on this “Schoolboys And A Handrill” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres”, I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !


5th Tony Marsh Memorial Weekend – Gurston Down

On Sunday I made the first of what I hope will be many visits to Gurston Down for the 5th Tony Marsh Memorial Weekend hillclimb. Gurston Down just west of Salisbury is set on a working farm and was devised by six time British Hillclimb champion Tony Marsh in 1965.

Gurston Down, Wiltshire

The course is just over a half a mile long and rises a total 140 feet, it is also the only Hillclimb in the UK that starts on a downward slope. As I found out on Sunday the facilities and viewing areas are excellent and it is no surprise to hear that Gurston Down has won the Norrie Galbraith Memorial Trophy for best organised British Hillclimb Championship event a record eight times.

Mortimer, Porsche 911, Gurston Down, Wiltshire

After a cup of tea and obligatory bacon and egg roll in the excellent restaurant on arrival I made my way up to the Ashes Bend towards the top of the hill during the opening practice runs arriving in time to observe the second practice runs. Above Bob Mortimer lifts an inside front wheel in his Porsche 911 at the apex of Ashes.

Gates, Force LM, Gurston Down, Wiltshire

On his second practice run Johnathon Gates was forced into a bit of lawn mowing at Ashes bend as the back of his car stepped out unexpectedly under braking. No damage was done and he ended the day with 8th fastest time.

Rudge, Westfield SEi, Gurston Down, Wiltshire

Mike Rudge is seen correcting oversteer / push coming out of Ashes in his Westfield SEi, he easily won his class by seven seconds more surprisingly to me he finished with 9th fastest time of the day beating a number of single seat open wheel cars in the process.

Stapely-Bealing, Formula 1300, Gurston Down, Wiltshire

During her second practice run Hannah Stapely-Bealing came by showing signs of contact with the Wiltshire scenery however the car was repaired and put in two timed runs, however the motor of her Formula 1300 Clubmans car was no longer running cleanly and she was around a second off her first practice run.

Bloody Mary, Gurston Down, Wiltshire

National Motor Museum Beaulieu kindly sent along former Autosport Technical Editor John Bolsters “Bloody Mary” Special for a welcome demonstration. The special started as a project for two teenagers to scare the cow’s in a nearby field and became a successful if by all accounts rather terrifying Brough Superior powered hill climb winner.

Penfound, Lester MG, Gurston Down, Wiltshire

I was introduced to another new, to me, manufacturer at Gurston namely Lester who built MG powered cars in the 1950’s. Stewart Penfound navigates the steep and tight Karousel in his example above.

Pamplin, MG XPAG Special, Gurston Down, Wiltshire

Another interesting MG was Chris Pamplin’s MG XPAG Special as listed in the programme and 1935 MG Magnette according to the registration plate.

Spicer, Ferrari 328 GTB, Gurston Down, Wiltshire

Standing out from an otherwise mostly red crowd of Ferrari’s was Mike Spicers Modena Yellow 328 GTB seen approaching Deer Leap which recorded 2nd fastest Ferrari time of the day.

Fanner, Subaru Impreza, Gurston Down, Wiltshire

Lewis Fanner will have given his wife with whom he shares their Subaru Impreza a scare as he spun the car going into Karousel. Fortunately he did not hit anything and returned to the paddock for his one remaining run.

Hadfield, Lotus 22, Gurston Down, Wiltshire

Simon Hadfield and Geoff Hunt shared this Lotus 22, originally designed for Formula Junior competition, and finished the faster of the two albiet second in class to the more modern Ensign LNF3 driven by Fyrth Crosse.

Beale, Ginetta G33, Gurston Down, Wiltshire

Over the past couple of months the lines of Graham Beales class winning Ginetta G33 have really grown on me, apparently the idea for the Rover V8 powered car was conceived on a table cloth in a pizzeria by Mark Warklett and Noel Palmer.

Street, Ford Escort XR31, Gurston Down, Wiltshire

Darren Street was another who found the entry to Karousel a bit tricky in his Ford Escort XR3i, here he is seen on his way to an appointment with the hay bales. Fortunately he suffered no injuries and he eventually drove to the top of the hill under his own steam.

Lewis, St Bruno Roughcutter,  Gurston Down, Wiltshire

Like the Bloody Mary Special Adrian Lewis’s St Bruno Roughcutter Clubman’s car has an Autosport connection it being the creation of Barry Foley, best known as Autosports ‘Catchpole’ cartoonist. Barry built the car in the early 1970’s crediting help from a variety of sources including design input from Maurice Phillipe himself a part time Clubmans racer when not busy designing Formula One cars.

Dent, Hornet F3,  Gurston Down, Wiltshire

On both of his timed runs Alistair Dent lost time when his tail got onto the grass on the exit of Karousel, which had the benefit of at least entertaining those of us watching, above Alistair is seen on his first run in the Hornet JAP powered 500 F3 car.

Chard, Mazda MX5, Gurston Down, Wiltshire

By for the most serious incident of the day was when Karl Chard left the road at Karousel and ended up going straight into the hay bales. Fortunately again Karl was unhurt which is more than can be said for the Mazda MX 5 which he shares with his brother Ian. At least all the wheels were still attached.

Flagg, Subaru Impreza STi, Gurston Down, Wiltshire

David Flagg lost 3/10ths of a second on his second timed run this display of wheel spin from his Subaru on the run to Deer Leap probably did not help his cause.

Hollier, Pilbeam MP62, Gurston Down, Wiltshire

Edward Hollier set best time of the day (BTD) running the course in 29.19 seconds in his Pilbeam MP62, both of his runs were quicker than the next fastest competitor Peter Smith who was driving a Force in the same class as Edward. Coincidentally Ed won last time that I saw him running at Wiscombe Park last month.

Another great day out at yet another great venue, if you have never been I doubt you will be disappointed.

Thanks for joining me on this “5th Tony Marsh Memorial Weekend” I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !

PS Shameless plug my British Grand Preview can be found at Motorsports Unplugged on this link.