Rivers Fletcher

14459 Speed 25 Special Rivers Fletcher

RIVERS FLETCHER was a great enthusiast for the Speed models, served on the AOC council for many years and was Team Manager for Alvis in the Silverstone Six Hour Relay Race. He was a regular contributor to the Bulletin.

Rivers writing in 1978 – he was a Council member of the Alvis Owner Club for several years in the 1970s and 1980s
A happy juxtaposition of posters on Holyhead Road

Alec Francis Rivers Fletcher was born on June 23 1912, the son of a stockbroker, has died aged 87. (from the Daily Telegraph, 4th September 1999)

He was educated at Alford School, Lincolnshire, and was originally destined for the church. He drove racing cars for almost 70 years; at the age of 15 he partnered Sir Malcolm Campbell in a Grand Prix at Brooklands, and when he retired from motor sport in 1996 he was, at 83, Britain’s oldest — and perhaps most stylish — active racing driver.

Campbell was a friend of Fletch­er’s family, and in 1928 (seven years before he broke the land-speed record) he needed a mechanic to ride with him in the Junior Car Club GP. Fletcher got the job because he was small and light and (despite wearing a thick woollen suit) could squeeze into the single-seater Grand Prix Delage beside Campbell. Fletcher’s mother only allowed him to take part on condi­tion that Campbell did not drive too fast.

In fairness to Campbell, he only drove as fast as was necessary to win. The excitement of taking the chequered flag, and of mingling after the race with crowds who wanted his autograph, decided Fletcher’s vocation for him.

His exploit with Campbell, how­ever, had ensured that young Rivers’s interests lay in the cock­pit rather than the pulpit. His father was also friendly with the racing driver Wolf Barnato, one of the “Bentley Boys”, and on leav­ing school Rivers was able to secure an apprenticeship at Bent­ley Motors.

The works were then still super­vised by the fearsome W 0 Bent­ley. Fletcher later recalled how one withering look from the great man could freeze a miscreant to the marrow.

His fellow apprentices included Freddie March, later the Duke of Richmond and Gordon, and through him Fletcher came to know John Mills, Rex Harrison and Jack Buchanan. He also worked as a marshal at Brook-lands — the track which in the 1930s, at the height of its popular­ity with the beau monde, ran under the slogan “The right crowd, and no crowding”.

Fletcher was taught racing driv­ing at Bentley by Sammy Davis, but soon realised he would never be fast enough to make the team. “I was spoiled there,” he remem­bered. “They got me test-driving the Le Mans cars. But I found out pretty quickly that I was no blooming ace.”

Instead he developed a knack for sprints and hill climbs, while at work he concentrated first on pub­lic relations for Bentley, then later on becoming a successful writer and maker of documentary films about motor sport. He acted as a consultant to Gainsborough Films, and came to amass what, by his own estimate, was the world’s finest archive of motor racing footage and memorabilia.

The lack of a competitive Brit­ish-built racing car had inspired Raymond Mays to design and develop one, the ERA (English Racing Automobiles). It never became a serious rival to the Mer­cedes and Auto-Unions marques, which were supported by the state, but it nevertheless proved extremely successful on the racing circuit. In 1934 Fletcher formed the ERA Club to try to raise money towards the project, and he remained the association’s chair­man until his death.

During the war, Fletcher was in the National Fire Service and later at the Ministry for Aircraft Pro­duction, but he also helped to keep the spirit of British motor racing alive. He organised monthly lunches for motoring enthusiasts at the Rembrandt Hotel, London, and in July 1945, with the support of Earl Howe, organised the first post-war meeting, on a building estate at Cockfosters. Later he organised a sprint event at Elstree airfield, with 100 cars and 20,000 spectators.

After the war, Fletcher went to work for Sir Alfred Owen, who was providing much-needed finan­cial assistance to the BRM (British Racing Motors) team, which had also been set up by Mays. Fletcher remained their public relations manager for 20 years, and in 1962 was rightly proud when a BRM driver, Graham Hill, won the Formula One World championship.

For many years Fletcher serve as Assistant Clerk of the Course at the British Grand Prix, and he also found time to compete at meetings in one of his vintage cars, all painted a distinctive shade of light blue. In the 1950s he scored win in sprints at Silverstone and Snetterton and was rated the third best hill climb driver in the country behind Raymond Mays.

But in 1960 a serious accident a Jaguar at Prescott ended his racing career. Fletcher was knocked unconscious when his car mile over on top of him, and the damage to his brain impaired his speech for several years after wards. Yet he could cheerful: watch film of the accident. “I see pictures of this fool driving far to quickly, and the car turning end over end and him lying injured of the road. And the fool is me!”

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