English Racing Automobiles

English Racing Automobiles (ERA) was a British racing car manufacturer active from 1933 to 1954.

ERA R6B Donington 2007
1936 1.5-litre ERA R6B, ex-Dudley "Doc" Benjafield

Prewar history

ERA racing engine
A six-cylinder supercharged ERA engine in Prince Bira's racing car

ERA was founded by Humphrey Cook, Raymond Mays, and Peter Berthon in November 1933 and established in Bourne, Lincolnshire, next to Eastgate House, the family home of Raymond Mays between Eastgate road and Spalding road. Their ambition was to manufacture and campaign a team of single seater racing cars capable of upholding British prestige in Continental European racing.

With the cost of aspiring to full Grand Prix racing prohibitive, they instead aimed ERA's efforts at the smaller voiturette—1500cc supercharged—class of motor racing, the Formula 2 equivalent of the day. Humphrey Cook financed the operation—using the wealth from the family drapery business, Cook, Son & Co., of St Paul's Churchyard, London. Berthon was responsible for the overall design of the cars, while Mays became its principal driver—having already successfully raced several other makes including Vauxhall, Bugatti and Riley.[1] A new chassis was conceived by British designer Reid Railton (who had also successfully designed the Bluebird land speed record cars for Malcolm Campbell) and was constructed by Thomson & Taylor at Brooklands.[1] The engine was based on the well-proven Riley six-cylinder unit, albeit this was modified in a number of significant ways. A stronger forged crankshaft with a large centre Hyatt roller bearing was made and an entirely new aluminium cylinder head designed. The engine was supercharged using a bespoke supercharger designed by Murray Jamieson who had worked with Mays and Berthon on the White Riley. The ERA engine was designed around three capacities— a base 1488cc for the 1500cc racing class, one of 1088cc for the 1100cc class and also was capable of being expanded up to 1980cc for the 2000cc class.[2] It ran on methanol and in its 1500cc form was capable of producing around 180–200 bhp and in excess of 250–275 bhp in 2000cc form.[1]

The panel-beating brothers George and Jack Gray hand-fashioned the new car’s single-seater bodywork, to a design credited to a Mr Piercy who had previously designed the bodywork for Campbell’s '‘Bluebird’' record breaker.[1]


The unveiling of the first ERA—chassis R1A—to the press and public took place at Brooklands on 22 May 1934 following testing at Syston Park. After initial chassis handling problems, which required a number of modifications, soon ERA had a winning formula. By the end of the year ERAs had scored notable victories against many more established marques. In 1935, in a major race at the Nürburgring, ERAs took first, third, fourth and fifth places. The car was available in engine sizes running from 1.1 to 2.0 Litres.[3] Four were built, two with 1.1-litre superharged engines, one 1.5- and one 2-litre.[4]

Through the remainder of the decade, with drivers of the calibre of Dick Seaman in the team, ERA dominated voiturette racing.


In 1935, production of the B-Type began (minimally changed). The A and B models were offered with three engine sizes.[3]

Two Siamese princes, Chula Chakrabongse and Bira Birabongse, whose trio of ERAs became famous as "Hanuman", "Romulus" and "Remus", ran their own team, operating from The White Mouse Garage, Hammersmith.[5] Prince Chula owned the team, having bought Romulus as a present for his cousin, Prince Bira, who was the team's driver.[6]

13 B-Type ERAs were produced,[4][7] three of which were later modified to subsequent (type C or in one case type D) specifications.


ERA D-Type R4D - Flickr - exfordy
1935 ERA D-Type R4D

1936 saw the emergence of the C-Type. The same ladder-frame chassis and aluminum panel bodywork were kept on from the A and B models. However, the C model had a slightly different range of engines. None of the C stage cars had the smallest engine option, having instead 1.5 or 2.0 liter, with an added 1.75 liter intermediate engine option. Changes were also made in the suspension and control arms. Hydraulic dampers were installed on the rear suspension while a completely new front suspension appeared, replacing the elliptic leaf springs and friction dampers with a trailing arm with transverse torsion bars and hydraulic dampers.[3] Three type B ERAs were modified to type C standard, cars R4B, R8B, and R12B.[4]


The D-Type was the designation for the number R4B ERA after modification in 1937. R4B had previously become R4C before being modified to this standard.[3]


ERA E-type Donington 2007
1938 E-Type chassis no. GP1, raced by H.L. Brooke, Leslie Johnson, Reg Parnell, Peter Walker and Peter Whitehead

The more modern E-Type ERA appeared just before the Second World War but was not fully developed, with only one car, GP1, actually racing.

Postwar history

The Second World War brought a halt to motor racing in Europe, and the team's Bourne site was sold to the Bus operator Delaine who occupied adjacent premises. The original building is still in use today by Delaine as an office block. By the time racing resumed in the late 1940s Berthon and Mays had moved on to the British Racing Motors (BRM) project.


ERA E-type
Leslie Johnson's E-Type, GP2, displayed in the Donington Grand Prix Exhibition museum

ERA restarted operations in Dunstable under new ownership in 1947 when Leslie Johnson bought the company, together with ERA E-Type GP2, the second of two built in 1939, which had been raced by Reg Parnell and Leslie Brooke. Refitted with a Zoller supercharger and driven by Johnson, GP2 tied with Parnell's Maserati 4CLT for fastest lap in the 1948 British Empire Trophy and finished fifth. In the same race GP1, upgraded by the works with Murray Jamieson-designed Roots-type supercharging and driven by Reg Parnell's mechanic Wilkie Wilkinson (who had supervised modification of the E-Types), retired with a broken connecting rod.[8]

After posting the fastest time in the opening practice session for the 1948 British Grand Prix, Johnson retired GP2 from third place on the first lap when a driveshaft universal joint failed. In practice for the Coupe du Salon at Montlhéry he broke the lap record but retired GP2 from the race with a fractured fuel tank after three laps.[8]

In 1949 at Goodwood GP2 broke a back axle universal joint in practice but Johnson took the car to fifth in the Richmond Trophy and third in the Chichester Cup. In the first day's practice for the Jersey International Road Race, he was second-fastest to Luigi Villoresi's record-breaking lap in a Maserati but on the second day the engine bearings failed and the car did not race. At Silverstone's 1950 Grand Prix d'Europe the supercharger disintegrated after two laps.[8]

Meanwhile, GP1, driven by Fred Ashmore, failed to finish the 1948 Jersey International Road Race owing to fuel starvation and defective steering.

In the 1949 BRDC/Daily Express International Trophy, Peter Walker took GP1 to within 1.2 seconds of Giuseppe Farina's Maserati in practice and finished fifth in the race, despite gearbox and steering problems, a leaking radiator, and the exhaust burning the driver's foot. Walker was fastest in practice for Ireland's Wakefield Trophy road race, but a snatching brake forced him down the escape road at the first corner. Here GP1's race ended when it was hit by an Alta that had already collided with Salvadori's Maserati 4CL.[8]

Finally in 1950, GP1 was gutted by fire in a crash at the British Empire Trophy race on the Isle of Man, caused by driveshaft failure when the car was at high speed with Walker at the wheel.[8]


The 2-litre G-Type raced in the 1952 World Championship, the first season to be run under Formula Two rules. The fundamental design was laid down by Robert Eberan-Eberhorst, one of the world's leading theorists of racing car design, who had replaced Ferdinand Porsche at Auto Union and designed the Auto Union Type D Grand Prix car. His protégé and successor David Hodkin completed the G-Type design.[9] The frame was constructed of two longitudinal magnesium tubes with four crossmembers. Suspension was by double wishbone with coil springs at the front and de Dion tube at the rear. The car was powered by a Bristol engine with modifications to Hodkin's specifications.

Stirling Moss drove, but the engine was unreliable and the race results were disappointing. Moss said: "It was, above all, a project which made an awful lot of fuss about doing very little. By this time I was very disillusioned by the Clever Professor approach to racing car design. I would eventually learn that even the most brilliant concept could fail if the team concerned lacks the manpower and organization and money to develop the inevitable bugs out of it."

Johnson sold the project to Bristol—who used the car as the basis for an assault on Le Mans that would bring them several class wins in the mid-1950s—and focused the company on research and development (R&D) engineering.[10] He eventually sold it to Zenith Carburettor Ltd, which was then purchased by Solex, another carburettor firm.

Chassis design for the Jowett Jupiter

In 1949 von Eberhorst, working for ERA, designed the space-frame chassis for the Jowett Jupiter.


Although renamed Engineering Research and Application Ltd, and still primarily an R&D operation, ERA still did a small amount of race preparation. In the 1980s it put its name to the ERA Mini Turbo, a turbocharged version of the Mini.


ERAs in competition

1934 1.5-litre ERA R2A at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 2008
1937 E.R.A. 12C at VSCC Curborough Speed Trials 2009
1937 E.R.A. R12C at VSCC Curborough Speed Trials 2009

The vast majority of prewar ERAs are still in existence, and they have continuous and verifiable provenance. They still compete in historic events despite the youngest being nearly seventy years old. The cars are particularly associated with the Shelsley Walsh hillclimb thanks in large part to Mays, who won the first two British Hill Climb Championships in 1947 and 1948; indeed an ERA has for many years held the hill record for a prewar car.

Mays exhibition

There is a permanent exhibition about Raymond Mays' contribution to motor racing, including his ERA days, at Bourne Civic Society's heritage centre in Bourne. It is open on weekend and bank holiday afternoons.

Complete Formula One World Championship results

Key: D=Dunlop

Year Chassis Engine Tyres Driver 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
ERA E-Type ERA 1.5 L6s D United Kingdom Leslie Johnson Ret
ERA E-Type ERA 1.5 L6s D United Kingdom Peter Walker Ret*
ERA E-Type ERA 1.5 L6s D United Kingdom Tony Rolt Ret*
ERA B-Type
ERA C-Type
ERA 1.5 L6s D United Kingdom Cuth Harrison 7 Ret Ret
ERA C-Type
ERA A-Type
ERA 1.5 L6s D United Kingdom Bob Gerard 6 6
ERA B-Type ERA 1.5 L6s D United Kingdom Bob Gerard 11
ERA B-Type ERA 1.5 L6s D United Kingdom Brian Shawe-Taylor 8
ERA G-Type Bristol BS1 2.0 L6 D United Kingdom Stirling Moss Ret Ret Ret
* Indicates shared drive


  • ERA Gold Portfolio, 1934–1994, Brooklands Books - compilation of historic and contemporary articles on ERA and includes the full text of John Lloyd's The Story of ERA
  • ERA: The History of English Racing Automobiles, David Weguelin, White Mouse Press: expensive and scarce but hugely detailed and profusely illustrated book covering the contemporary and historic career of all the cars.


  1. ^ a b c d Bissett, Mark. "Peter Whitehead in Australia: ERA R10B: 1938". primotipo.com. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  2. ^ RILEY MOTOR CARS -ERA Specifications rileyrob.co.uk, accessed 11 July 2019
  3. ^ a b c d Jeremy McMullen: 1935 ERA B Type conceptcarz.com accessed 27 May 2019
  4. ^ a b c The Cars- '...most of the cars manufactured and associated with English Racing Automobiles starting from 1934... englishracingautomobiles.co.uk accessed 27 May 2019
  5. ^ B. Bira: Siam's prince of racing motorsportmagazine.com/archive, August 1999 Page 63, accessed 2 June 2019
  6. ^ grand prix history: era grandprixhistory.org accessed 2 June 2019
  7. ^ English Racing Automobiles: Fifty Years September 1984, Page 44 motorsportmagazine.com, accessed 1 June 2019
  8. ^ a b c d e Smith, Norman (20 April 1951), "Case History of the E-Type E.R.A., A Promising Venture Which Ended Unhappily", Autosport
  9. ^ Taylor, S. 1999. Tunnel Vision. Motor Sport. LXXV/8 (August 1999). 80-85
  10. ^ Maréchal, Christian: "Learning Curves" Classic and Sportscar magazine, June 1996.

External links

1952 Belgian Grand Prix

The 1952 Belgian Grand Prix was a Formula Two race held on 22 June 1952 at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. It was race 3 of 8 in the 1952 World Championship of Drivers, in which each Grand Prix was run to Formula Two rules rather than the Formula One regulations normally used.

1952 British Grand Prix

The 1952 British Grand Prix was a Formula Two race held on 19 July 1952 at Silverstone Circuit. It was race 5 of 8 in the 1952 World Championship of Drivers, in which each Grand Prix was run to Formula Two rules rather than the Formula One regulations normally used.

New pit facilities had been built on the straight between Woodcote and Copse corners; the original pits were located between Abbey and Woodcote.

1952 Dutch Grand Prix

The 1952 Dutch Grand Prix was a Formula Two race held on 17 August 1952 at the Circuit Zandvoort. It was race 7 of 8 in the 1952 World Championship of Drivers, in which each Grand Prix was run to Formula Two rules rather than the Formula One regulations normally used. The 90-lap race was won by Ferrari driver Alberto Ascari after he started from pole position. His teammates Giuseppe Farina and Luigi Villoresi finished in second and third places.

1952 Formula One season

The 1952 Formula One season was the sixth season of FIA Formula One motor racing. In comparison to previous seasons, the 1952 season consisted of a relatively small number of Formula One races, following the decision to run all the Grand Prix events counting towards the World Championship of Drivers to Formula Two regulations rather than Formula One. The Indianapolis 500 was still run to AAA regulations as in previous seasons.

The 3rd FIA World Championship of Drivers, which began on 18 May and ended on 7 September after eight races, was won by Alberto Ascari, driving for Scuderia Ferrari.

In addition to the Formula One races and the World Championship Formula Two races, numerous other Formula Two races, which did not count towards the Championship, were held during the year.

Billy Cotton

William Edward Cotton (6 May 1899 – 25 March 1969) as Billy Cotton was an English band leader and entertainer, one of the few whose orchestras survived the British dance band era. Cotton is now mainly remembered as a 1950s and 1960s radio and television personality, but his musical career had begun in the 1920s. In his younger years Billy Cotton was also an amateur footballer (soccer player) for Brentford (and later, for the then Athenian league club Wimbledon), an accomplished racing driver and the owner of a Gipsy Moth, which he piloted himself. His autobiography, I Did It My Way, was published in 1970, a year after his death.

Cameron Earl

Cameron Earl (1923–1952) was a British automotive engineer.


An era is a span of time.

Era or ERA may also refer to:

Era (geology), a subdivision of geologic time

Calendar era


The ERA HSS, or ERA SS, is a single-seater track car produced by Tiger Racing. Tiger Racing say that the styling of the ERA HSS is influenced by early Lotus and BRM vehicles.


The ERA R4D, built by English Racing Automobiles, is the last development of this classic voiturette racing car, the only D-Type ever built. Originating as R4B in 1935, the car was rebuilt as a C-Type by modifying the front end of the chassis frame to accommodate independent Porsche-type torsion bar front suspension. Over the winter of 1937-38 the car was given a completely new fully boxed frame, and was designated R4D.As the first ERA to be fitted with a Zoller supercharger (in 1935), R4D accumulated a formidable competition record in its various guises, finally being purchased from the works by Raymond Mays, one of ERA's founders, and running as a privately entered car in 1939. Mays set numerous pre-war records in R4D, including Prescott and Shelsley Walsh hill climbs, Brighton Sprints and Brooklands Mountain Circuit. Mays describes his history with the car in his book Split Seconds.

After World War II R4D continued in active competition, but the demands on Mays's time created by the evolving BRM project meant he competed less frequently. In 1952 Mays sold R4D to Ron Flockhart. In 1953 Flockhart had a phenomenally successful season, winning the Bo'ness hill climb in a record setting 33.82 seconds. The car was featured on the cover of Autosport magazine. This success led to his joining the BRM team as a works driver, and later successes at Le Mans and elsewhere.

In 1954 Ken Wharton purchased R4D from Flockhart and used the car to win the RAC Hill Climb Championship. In 1955 he used R4D and his Cooper to finish equal first in the hill climb championship with Tony Marsh. Since Wharton was a multiple previous winner, the RAC awarded the championship to newcomer Marsh.

An achievement of R4D in the post-war era is that it has won the Brighton Speed Trials seven times, driven by Raymond Mays four times and Ken Wharton three times, more wins than any other car at this event. The owner after Ken Wharton was the pseudonymous "T. Dryver," creator of the aero-engined De Havilland-M.G. Special. He raced the ERA in the Brighton Speed Trials in 1957 but his chance of achieving fastest-time-of-the-day was spoiled by rain.From the mid-fifties onward, the car had a variety of owners, but achieved notable success in historic racing in the hands of Neil Corner and Willie Green (the latter driving for Anthony Bamford). R4D rose to pre-eminence again in the hands of Anthony Mayman, achieving many successes and setting many pre-war class records at various venues. In recent years the car has been owned and driven by James Mac Hulbert, and continues to be one of the most successful pre-war racing cars still active in competition, having set new pre-war class records at numerous venues. Madge Hulbert sold the car to Brian Fidler in late 2015, and Nick Topliss drives it in competition. For a full history of this remarkable car see J.Mac Hulbert, ERA: The Autobiography of R4D, Porter Press, Tenbury Wells, UK, 2016.f

Harry Mundy

Harry Mundy (1915–1988) was a British car engine designer and motoring magazine editor.

He was educated at King Henry VIII School in Coventry and went on to serve his apprenticeship with Alvis. He left them in 1936 to join English Racing Automobiles (ERA) in Bourne, Lincolnshire as a draughtsman. Also at ERA was Walter Hassan who became a lifelong friend; the two would work together later at Jaguar on engine development.

He left ERA in 1939 and returned to Coventry to work at the Morris Engines factory.

After World War II he moved to British Racing Motors (BRM) in 1946 as head of the design office, being involved in the design of the BRM V16 Formula One engine, before moving on again in 1950 to Coventry Climax engines as chief designer working on the FWA engine.

His career then took a change in direction and he moved into journalism becoming Technical Editor of The Autocar magazine in 1955 but while there he also worked on the design of the Ford based twin-cam engine for Lotus.However, following Jaguar's purchase of Coventry Climax in 1963, Hassan persuaded Mundy to return to engineering where, with William Heynes, they developed the Jaguar V12 engine.

Harry Mundy stayed with Jaguar until his retirement in 1980, after which he still did some consultancy work.

Inline-four engine

The inline-four engine or straight-four engine is a type of inline internal combustion four-cylinder engine with all four cylinders mounted in a straight line, or plane along the crankcase. The single bank of cylinders may be oriented in either a vertical or an inclined plane with all the pistons driving a common crankshaft. Where it is inclined, it is sometimes called a slant-four. In a specification chart or when an abbreviation is used, an inline-four engine is listed either as I4 or L4 (for longitudinal, to avoid confusion between the digit 1 and the letter I).

The inline-four layout is in perfect primary balance and confers a degree of mechanical simplicity which makes it popular for economy cars. However, despite its simplicity, it suffers from a secondary imbalance which causes minor vibrations in smaller engines. These vibrations become more powerful as engine size and power increase, so the more powerful engines used in larger cars generally are more complex designs with more than four cylinders.

Today almost all manufacturers of four-cylinder engines for automobiles produce the inline-four layout, with Subaru and Porsche 718 flat-four engines being notable exceptions, and so four-cylinder is usually synonymous with and a more widely used term than inline-four. The inline-four is the most common engine configuration in modern cars, while the V6 engine is the second most popular. In the late 2000s (decade), due to stringent government regulations mandating reduced vehicle emissions and increased fuel efficiency, the proportion of new vehicles sold in the U.S. with four-cylinder engines (largely of the inline-four type) rose from 30 percent to 47 percent between 2005 and 2008, particularly in mid-size vehicles where a decreasing number of buyers have chosen the V6 performance option.

Leslie Johnson (racing driver)

Leslie George Johnson (22 March 1912 – 8 June 1959) was a British racing driver who competed in rallies, hill climbs, sports car races and Grand Prix races.

List of Formula One constructors

The following is a list of Formula One constructors. In Formula One motor racing, constructors are people or corporate entities which design key parts of Formula One cars that have competed or are intended to compete in the FIA World Championship. Since 1981, it has been a requirement that each competitor must have the exclusive rights to the use of certain key parts of their car – in 2018, these parts were the survival cell, the front impact structure, the roll structures and bodywork. However, one key part that is not covered under this requirement is the power unit.

List of companies in Lincolnshire

This is a list of notable companies that were founded in Lincolnshire, England or have a large presence in the county as a major employer. The official headquarters or registered office may be elsewhere.

The list is split into two main sections: current companies, and defunct companies that are no longer in business in their original form.

Raymond Mays

Thomas Raymond Mays (1 August 1899 – 6 January 1980) was an auto racing driver and entrepreneur from Bourne, Lincolnshire, England.

He attended Oundle School, where he met Amherst Villiers, leaving at the end of 1917. After army service in the Grenadier Guards in France, he attended Christ's College, Cambridge. Mays enjoyed the London theatre and watching Jean Borotra play tennis.

Richard Seaman

Richard John Beattie Seaman (4 February 1913 – 25 June 1939), was one of the greatest pre-war Grand Prix drivers from Britain. He famously drove for the Mercedes-Benz team from 1937–1939 in the Mercedes-Benz W154 car, winning the 1938 German Grand Prix. He died of his injuries after his car crashed into a tree and caught fire during the 1939 Belgian Grand Prix.

Stirling Moss

Sir Stirling Craufurd Moss, (born 17 September 1929) is a British former Formula One racing driver. An inductee into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, he won 212 of the 529 races he entered across several categories of competition and has been described as "the greatest driver never to win the World Championship". In a seven-year span between 1955 and 1961 Moss finished as championship runner-up four times and third the other three.

Taso Mathieson

Thomas Alastair Sutherland Ogilvy ('Taso') Mathieson (25 July 1908, Glasgow – 12 October 1991, Vichy) was a British racing driver. Between 1930 and 1955, he entered more than 30 races, including multiple times the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

2019 season


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