Tag Archives: Skinner

Not A de Havilland – Comet JAP

In 1950 Brian Heyward bought the Rudge powered Aikens 500 Formula 3 car from Wing Commander Frank Aikens, Brian only had the opportunity to drive it twice before he was called up to serve His Majesty King George V in the Royal Air Force for two years in Germany.

During his national service Brian’s father Charles bought a Cooper Mark IV which he already found was far too overweight to be competitive.

Comet, Race Retro, Stoneleigh

Upon completion of his National Service Brian and Charles used parts of the Cooper Mk 4 and some, lighter, cast magnesium components off a Cooper Mk VI to build the Cooper Heyward Special more commonly known as the C.H.S..

Brian raced the C.H.S. from 1953 to 1957 and is known to have finished 5th at the wheel of the car in a final at Brands Hatch in December 1954.

Comet, Race Retro, Stoneleigh

Brian found employment at de Havilland alongside future Lotus designer Maurice Philipe, future Lotus driver Alan Stacey, the Costin brothers Frank and future Cosworth partner Mike, and Brian Hart who would also make an enviable name for himself in the field of race engine production.

Soon after in 1953 Brian and Charles began construction of their second car, today’s featured Comet, named after the the jet powered de Havilland airliner.

Comet, Race Retro, Stoneleigh

With machining help from fellow 500 F3 racer Don Parker in it’s original form the Comet featured Kieft castings and wishbone suspension at the front, with swing axles and bungee cord springs on the rear.

The Comet was developed up until 1958; receiving a Norton engine in 1955, glass fiber body in 1956 and at some point a rear transverse spring, as had been employed by Cooper since 1946, replaced the bungee cords at the back.

Comet, Race Retro, Stoneleigh

Construction of a Comet II was started, but never completed, both Comet’s were sold on in 1964 to Brixham Lifeboat Coxwain Arthur Curnow who entered the Comet for Ivor Churchill to race.

Since then the Comet, seen in these photographs at Race Retro, has been restored twice; by Sandy Skinner who fitted the JAP engine along with a new aluminium body in the early 1980’s and by Neil Hodges for Peter Becker in 2003, today the Comet belongs to and is run by James Gray.

Thanks for joining me on this “Not A de Havilland” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be looking at the first of this month’s series of cars that ran in the Indianapolis 500. Don’t forget to come back now !


Saturday Night Racer – #27 Ray Miles

Late in 1960 Ray Miles had a date that would alter the course of his life, his date Linda lived near Pleasantville Speedway in New Jersey, as Ray heard the roar of the track his curiosity was aroused and they ended up going there on their first date. Ray was hooked immediately and never missed a race after that and Linda soon decided her future lie elsewhere.

Working for a Ford dealer, Ray found a ride in the 6 cylinder #52 Plymouth Coupe owned by Pete Hearon of Goshen NJ, running at Vineland on Friday nights. Ray finished the 1962 season which he describes as a ‘learning experience’.

Vineland closed down at the end of 1962 so Ray headed back to Pleasantville known locally as P’ville and bought a ’39 Chevy Coupe for $400 from Harry McConnell. The car had a 4,277 cc / 261 cui 6 cylinder Chevy motor hooked up to a 1 ton International rear axle from a postal truck, as Ray says “nuttin’ fancy” .

Ray painted the car school bus yellow and put the #27 on. In 1966 Ray Bartling from the Sears Automotive Centre In Cardiff NJ where both Rays were working got involved with the #27 and became crew chief. The two Rays stuck together from 1966 through to 1975 when Ray hung up his helmet.

In 1967 P’ville was a NASCAR sanctioned track where Ray finished 3rd in points, 11th in the State of New Jersey.

Running on a tight budget if the team did not win enough money they would either make or borrow the parts needed to get to the next race. Eventually the chassis was replaced with a used one purchased from the legendary and much missed Tom Skinner this chassis was eventually fitted with a stock 5,276 cc / 322 cui Buick wrapped up with Rays original #27 Chevy Coupe body.

Towards the end of his driving career Ray drove several other vehicles including the Ed Browns #14 which Ray describes as a “fast mammy jammy!”

Today Ray has retired with his wife Suzy, and 5 Cats to Palm Springs where he has learned to play boogie woogie piano.

Keeping in touch with his racing buddies and keeping the memory of many others alive he started running the excellent Limited Sportsman Racers website where there is a wealth of information on the whole P’ville scene including the drivers, crews cars and some rare video footage. Look out for Bobby Isaacs doing a demonstration at P’ville in his #71 K&K; Insurance Dodge Charger Daytona with the 23 inch wing on the back !

Ray goes to reunions with his friends from P’ville at Harry Flemmings Pumpkin Run in Egg Harbour Township which comes highly recommended during the first weekend of November.

Slightly Off Topic

I’d like to wish David Piper who played an important role in the making of the film Le Mans subject of Sundays blog and in the building of the Ferrari 330 P4 # 0900 subject of yesterdays blog a belated Happy Birthday he turned 80 yesterday.

Hope you have enjoyed todays Saturday Night Racer blog and that you’ll join me tomorrow with another racer of a very different kind of vehicle based in New Jersey. Don’t forget to come back now !