Tag Archives: Dobson

As Seen On TV – ERA R7B

Austin and Arthur Dobson were to wealthy brothers who raced between the great wars of the twentieth century.

Arthur the younger, considered the more talented and more successful made his racing debut at the wheel of a FIAT 508S in the 1935 RAC Tourist Trophy from which he retired out of petrol.

ERA R7B, VSCC Spring Start, Silverstone,

By 1936 when he bought today’s featured ERA R7B Arthur was a busy racing driver also running a Riley TT Sprite.

Arthur was so busy he let Cyril Paul drive R7B in it’s first three events before taking the wheel himself.

ERA R7B, VSCC Spring Start, Silverstone,

In August 1937 Arthur won the Junior Car Club 200 at Donington running a works entered ERA C with a 1.1 / 67 cui motor while Charles Brackenbury raced the 1.5 litre / 91.5 cui R7B and Carlo Pintacuda finished the same race in 7th place.

Later in October Arthur drove ERA R7B to a second place finish half a car length behind B.Bira driving another ERA known as R2B or Romulus at Crystal Palace, the event was notable for being the first to be screened on British Television by the steam powered British Broadcasting Corporation.

ERA R7B, VSCC Spring Start, Silverstone,

Arthur continued racing R7B through 1938 scoring a third place behind the Maserati 6CM of Franco Cortese and 4CM of Armand Hug at Modena.

Arthur followed this with a 6th place in the 1938 Donington Grand Prix, R7B was the first non Auto Union and non Mercedes Benz to cross the finish line only 6 laps down on Tazio Nuvolari who drove the winning D-Type Auto Union.

ERA R7B, VSCC Spring Start, Silverstone,

1939 would prove to be Arthur’s final season as a racing driver in which he continued to race R7B and at the 1939 Albi Grand Prix in France he crashed the first ERA E-type.

During the 1939/45 war Arthur was briefly a Pilot officer, the termination of his commission might have been related to the brothers love of the occasional tipple of the falling down waters though the reason has not been identified.

ERA R7B, VSCC Spring Start, Silverstone,

After 1945 Arthur Dobson found himself in “straitened circumstances” having spent his fortune and only attended three more race meetings before his death in Battersea aged just 65.

His great ERA rival B.Bira died similarly anonymously after suffering a heart attack at Barons Court tube station five years later.

ERA R7B, VSCC Spring Start, Silverstone,

While in the care of H L Brooke between 1945 and 1948 R7B lost it’s unique chrome radiator, an item that was not restored until after P Mullins bought her in 2002.

Ken Hutchison had the 2 litre / 122 cui motor fitted in 1948/49 by Robin Jackson who was also responsible for upgrading the brakes to hydraulic operation.

ERA R7B, VSCC Spring Start, Silverstone,

R7B was bought by current owners Ms S & Ms F Wilton in 2014 and is seen in these photographs at the start of ERA’s 80th Anniversary Celebrations at the VSCC’s Spring Start meeting the same year.

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


Old Number 5 – Lagonda V12 #14089

Despite winning Le Mans in 1935 Lagonda looked to be going the same way as Bentley financially until it was rescued with an injection of cash by it’s new chairman 30 year old Alan Good.

Good hired two former Rolls Royce employees to design today’s featured car, none other than W.O. Bentley himself was responsible for the chassis while his colleague Stuart Tresilian was responsible for the 4.5 litre / 274 cui single overhead cam V12 motor.

Lagonda V12, Goodwood Festival of Speed

In late 1938 early 1939 Good announced that he would like to enter a Lagonda V12 into the 1939 Le Mans 24 Hours race.

W.O. Bentley who was to be prepare the car, originally designed as a production vehicle and never intended for racing, was adamant that this should only be done to see if the cars would last the distance in anticipation of a full onslaught in 1940 to which Good agreed.

Lagonda V12, Goodwood Festival of Speed

A short V12 chassis was lightened by drilling out as much dead weight as possible from the chassis members and independent front suspension arms. The V12 aluminium block motor was fitted with four carburetors and produced over 200 hp.

Good had hoped that Mercedes Benz star Richard “Dick” Seaman would drive chassis #14089 but Mercedes objected and so leading ERA runner Arthur Dobson was joined by Brooklands regular Charles Brackenbury at the wheel of the car which would become known as Old Number 5.

Lagonda V12, Goodwood Festival of Speed

During the preparations Lord Selsdon came into a substantial inheritance and persuaded Alan Good to enter a second car which he was to share with Lord William Waleran.

Observing strict instructions from W.O. the drivers of the two Lagonda’s lapped at a pre arranged speed and they completed 239 laps and 238 laps respectively, four more than the 235 laps completed by the winning Delahaye in 1938, but short of the 248 laps recorded Jean-Pierre Wimille and Pierre Veyron in their winning supercharged Bugatti type 57C.

Lagonda V12, Goodwood Festival of Speed

The Lagondas finished third and forth behind the Ecurie Walter Watney Delage with Old Number 5 ahead of it’s sister to secure first and second in the over 5 litre / 302 cui class.

Dick Seaman tragically was killed at Spa after an accident in his Mercedes Benz the following week.

The beginning of hostilities in 1939 meant the 1940 Le Mans 24 hours would not take place and so the Lagonda V12’s never got the chance to prove their true potential although they did finish first and second in one of the last races run at Brooklands before war broke out.

Lord Selsdon would, briefly, share the winning 1949 Le Mans winning Ferrari 166MM with Luigi Chinetti.

While Old Number 5 seen here at last years Goodwood Festival of Speed would briefly end up in the hands of Fighter Pilot and Racing Driver Robert, later Roberta, Cowell.

After war Lagonda became part of David Brown’s portfolio which included Aston Martin and was merged to become Aston Martin Lagonda.

Thanks for joining me on this “Old Number 5” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow for Maserati Monday when I’ll be looking at the prototype Maserati Tipo 60. Don’t forget to come back now !


Indianapolis Excursion – Indy 500 29th May 1988

I was living in Brixton, London in November 1987 when I received an invitation from Rick and Karen, two Canadian friends also living in London, to attend their wedding on May 27th 1988 in Toronto their home town.

The first thing I did after I received the invitation was to check the dates for races in the USA around the wedding date, the Winston 500 was to be run at Talledega on May 1st, the Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte on May 29th as was the Indy 500.

The timing was against me getting to Talladega, a track I finally visited 21 years later, and Indianapolis seemed a lot closer to Toronto than Charlotte so I made my mind up to visit the Indy 500 something I had wanted to do since I read a book by Tommaso Tommasi called from Brands Hatch to Indianapolis in which a precise description of driving around the track is given by Peter Revson.

Chevrolet Beretta

The weekend of the wedding I went to Avis and collected this shiny brand new Chevy Beretta, an interesting contrast to the £50 1973 Volvo 144 DL automatic I was driving around London at the time !

Early on the morning after the wedding I packed my stuff and headed around 350 miles west on the 401 which turned into Route 96/94 after I crossed the US border into Detroit and then 200 miles south on Route 69. The only difficulty I had was keeping to the 55 to 60 mph speed limits which seemed excruciatingly slow compared to the 70 mph I was used to in the UK.

Datsun, Indianapolis

Eleven hours after I had set out I arrived at a mall parking lot (Lafayette Shopping Centre ?) a mile or so north from the track having picked up a ticket for the bleachers from a vendor at face value of $15 (?) right out side the track. I felt very much at home as some lads were having a kick about with a proper round football, turned out they were telephone engineers from Manchester, England !

My plan was to spend the night in the car, I got a shock when I opened the boot/trunk of the car and found I had forgotten to pack two important items one of which was my sleeping bag. I need not have worried the weather was more than warm enough to feel comfortable sleeping on the back seat of the car wearing a T shirt and shorts.

On race day I woke up with the dawn, had a round of salami sandwiches I had packed in advance and my customary breakfast apple and headed off to the track which opened at 6am.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

I bought a souvenir T-Shirt from a girl, who like me hailed from Germany, on the way in and before I knew it I was standing on the hallowed pavement of Indianapolis pit lane. I was as inspired as I had been by any other tourist sight I had seen, Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower and even the Pyramids, by the Indy timing tower which I had seen in countless photographs over the previous 15 years I had been a racing fan.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Pinching myself standing before the gates of Gasoline Alley, I felt a little like I was standing before the gates of heaven itself as the sun came up.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

The immaculate team haulers seemed a tad quaint to be carrying 220 mph race cars, but then again a hauler never won the Indy 500.

I took a walk all around the infield while the hullaballoo that starts the days proceedings got underway prior to the 11 am start, including a look at the infamous inside of turn 3 hard partying Snake Pit. I saw ‘Supersonic’ Chuck Yeager prepare himself for duties in the pace car and took my seat in the bleachers as Grand Marshall Garfield was driven around the circuit.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

At this point the fact that I had somehow overlooked packing a telephoto lens I had borrowed specially for the event became painfully obvious.

The race was dominated by Rick Mears on pole with Danny Sullivan and Al Unser Snr who locked out the front row of the grid. All three were driving the new Penske PC 17 designed by Penske new boy Nigel Bennett and all three Penske drivers would be 3 of the only 4 drivers to lead a lap of the 72nd running of the Indy 500.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

’85 Spinner & Winner Danny Sullivan set a blistering early pace driving the Miller PC17, seen here chasing the #92 of Dominic Dobson, led a race high 91 laps but crashed out on lap 101 leaving Rick Mears to almost run away with the race. Sullivan would end the season as the winner of his one and only CART championship.

Lola T87 00

For 8 laps I was beside myself with excitement as Scottish born Brit Jim Crawford became the only non Penske team member to lead the ’88 500 in his year old Buick ‘stock block’ powered Lola T87/00. Jim who just two months earlier had been unable to walk as a result injuries received at Indy in 1987 became a father the following week. Jim retired to become a fishing boat captain and died of liver failure aged 54 in 2002.

March 88C, IMS

Two time world champion Emerson Fittipaldi did not lead a lap but still managed to come home 2nd in his Pat Patrick run March 88C powered by the then relatively new Ilmour Chevy V8. The following year ‘Emmo’ returned to win the fist of his two Indy 500 victories.

Penske PC 17, IMS

Rick Mears ran out the deserving winner of the 1988 Indy 500 a race that ended under yellow flags thanks to a piece of body work that flew off Michael Andretti’s 4th place Kraco March with just 4 laps to go. Ricks third 500 victory marked the first for the Ilmour Chevrolet engine which would dominate at Indianapolis until 1994 when a one off Mercedes push rod engine also designed by Ilmour would take top honours.

After the race I rehydrated and slept in the car for an hour before the 11 hour 550 mile trek back to Toronto. Two weeks later I was back at one of my other favourite race tracks Le Mans, but that story will have to wait for another day.

Thanks for joining me on this Indianapolis excursion edition of
‘Gettin a lil’ psycho on tyres’, I hope you will join me again tomorrow for an Indy Ferrari Friday special. Don’t forget to come back now !