The Goodwin Special

The Goodwin Special – By Brian Ledwith – from Bulletin 143 July 1965

A newcomer to historic racing car events this season is a 4.3 litre Alvis-engined device which promises, when fully developed, to be a force to be reckoned with. The Goodwin Special is owned by flying-machine exponent Ian Kerr, who is already well-known for his success in the ex-Powys-Lybbe 12/50 (see the February 1964 issue of the Bulletin).

The Goodwin was conceived as a sprint car by Billy Goodwin, who ran an engineering business near Macclesfield, Cheshire, with his brother Eric. Billy used to drive the ex-Embiricos E.R.A. R2A, owned at the time by Harry Caley, while Eric had made a name for himself at the wheel of a Kieft 500. Work on the car started in 1948, and the Goodwin ménage was an estimated £3,000 poorer before it emerged two years later.

The chassis consists basically of two large parallel tubes, cross-braced by small transverse tubes, and with fabricated bearers for the engine, suspension, steering rack, and the differential. The “ladder” frame concept was beginning to be popular at the time, and the use of proprietary mechanical components was typical racing practice of the succeeding decade (e.g. H.M.W. and Connaught). The engine is a warmed-up Alvis 4.3 formerly blown from an ex-Goldie Gardner Centric supercharger mounted behind the radiator, fitted with a Scintilla Vertex magneto and R47 racing plugs, and solidly mounted on aluminium cones at four points: thus the partially-stressed crankcase contributes to the torsional stiffness of the chassis.

It drove formerly through an E.N.V. pre-selector gearbox to an Alvis 3.8:1 c.w.p./differential, chassis-mounted in a specially-built housing. The suspension was all-independent by transverse leaf springs and single wishbones it la mode de Surbiton, but it was later found advantageous to invert the front springing mechanism and the wishbones are now at the top. (At the same time a standard Alvis all-synchromesh gearbox replaced the E.N.V. box, which could not stand the 200-odd horses).

The front wishbones, kingpins and hub carriers are as fitted to the 1947 Super Snipe. The camber of each wheel can be adjusted in a matter of seconds by adjustment of the eccentric outer wishbone pin (rather like the fan mounting on Speed 20’s). The hydraulic brakes are by Lockheed, also out of a Humber, but the tandem master cylinders formerly belonged to a Lagonda. The hubs and wheels are Alvis “jelly-mould” type at the rear and 12/70 Rudge Whitworth at the front. The rear shock-absorbers are by courtesy of Rolls-Royce. The whole is clothed in a very shapely body modelled on the contemporary Grand Prix cars—the tail especially calls to mind the 41 Lago-Talbot, the Type 159 Alfa-Romeo and the V16 B.R.M.

In Billy Goodwin’s hands the car competed successfully at various sprints in the north, and also at Prescott and at Shelsley Walsh (where at one time it held the record for Shelsley Specials). At this time it took about 14 seconds for the standing I/4 mile and 23 for the standing 1/2. Finally, he raced it at one of the early Oulton Park meetings in 1953, where he had an unpleasant experience when the release valve to the pressurised cooling system stuck. The header tank, fitted remotely over the scuttle, burst and covered his legs with super-heated water while approaching Knicker Brook at about 115 m.p.h. Goodwin managed to keep the car straight and get out, but after a spell of six weeks in hospital he decided to sell out.

The car then passed through a number of hands, including Brian Naylor of J.B.W.-Maserati fame, who sold it for £800 in 1954 or 1955 (a price on a par with E.R.A.’s at that time). The Goodwin then became the pride and joy of a farmer near Matlock whose eccentricity was exceeded only by his temerity. He converted the car for road use by dint of fitting wings, lamps, a starter and a battery, and painting a red dragon on the side. He fitted a set of hacked-about carburettors and Kigass priming from a vintage Silver Eagle, and he replaced the supercharger with an orange box. With the 7.00 x 18 racing wheels on the front and sprint twin rear wheels on the back he would trundle off to the shops, returning with groceries sprouting out of the orange box under the bonnet and occasionally a pig in a trailer behind. However, the insurance company (not to mention the law) did not share his optimism and the car was laid up in a barn under a mantle of sacking and a five-bar gate.

In 1963, Ian Kerr was frequently to be seen heading north-wards in the Powys-Lybbe or the short-chassis 4.3 tourer, and the word went discreetly round that something was afoot. Down through the years, the Spares Register had been keeping a paternal eye on the Goodwin’s progress, and when the time was ripe an approach was made and an offer proffered. However, the farmer seemed to prefer a Goodwin to gold, and there then started a protracted series of negotiations which closed a year later when a fairly large bundle of (stipulated) used pound notes changed hands. (The Kerr powers of persuasion were once again stretched to the utmost in order to convince the local bank manager that he was who he claimed to be, although in scruffy working gear—but that’s another story.) This was before Clink had invested in a smart transporter, and the immediate problem was to remove the car before second thoughts were had. There was nothing for it but to hitch it to the hack 25, and thus it was that patrolling policemen from Matlock to Assington were treated to the sight of a real racer on the road, wafted out of their ken before they were able to emit more than a strangled cry.

After sundry dead livestock had been removed, it was decided to venture to start the engine. A goodly note soon awoke the burghers of Bures, and the oil pressure needle swung round reassuringly. A compression test revealed that all was well down below, in spite of the seizure that had resulted from the Oulton occurrence eleven years earlier. However, the head was found to be cracked, and this was duly replaced by a version with new valves and guides and shorter pushrods, suitably milled to give, with the milled block, a compression ratio of about 8:1 (compared with 6.3:1 standard). The full length exhaust system was discarded for four stubs and the tiny Silver Eagle carburettors exchanged for three of the correct calibre (1.5 inch). The engine is thus putting out about 170 brake horsepower, which is considered sufficient for this season.

In the past year the car has been completely stripped and refurbished with loving care, the chassis shot-blasted and sprayed by George Jacklin, and the body sprayed in 300-line Belco in a delightful shade shown in the catalogue as simple “red”.

The first outing was, naturally, a try-out to make sure that there were no startling troubles. The historic car race at Goodwood on Whit Monday saw the Goodwin’s new debut and the turnout of the car (and of its crew, all with white shirts, collars and ties!) excited a lot of comment—not least from the scrutineer, who welcomed it as an old friend. Ian says that the handling was very smooth, and the acceleration was well up to the opposition before some annoying fuel feed trouble put an end to matters for the day. However, we look forward to the Goodwin living up to its name before long—provided always that the power-happy driver doesn’t perform a tete-a-Kerr!

DATA: Engine 4.3 litre, approx. 170 b.h.p. Gearbox 4-speed, all synchromesh. Final drive 3.8:1. Suspension, fully independent, transverse leaf-springs and single wishbones. Tyres 5.00 x 18 front, 7.00 x 18 rear (giving 25.5 m.p.h per 1,000 r.p.m.). Wheelbase 8 ft. 4 in., track 4 ft. 4 in. (front, 4 ft. 8 in. (rear). Weight 18.5 cwt. Fuel consumption approx. 10 m.p.g. on 100-octane (4 m.p.g. on methanol when supercharged).