English Racing Automobiles


English Racing Automobiles

English Racing Automobiles (ERA) was a British racing car manufacturer active from 1933 to 1954. Currently the ERA trademark is owned by a British kit-car manufacturer.

Prewar history

ERA was founded by Humphrey Cook, Raymond Mays, and Peter Berthon in late 1933 and established in Bourne, Lincolnshire, in a yard behind the home of Raymond Mays. Their ambition was to produce a British car capable of winning a Grand Prix race for the first time since Henry Segrave's victory in a Sunbeam at the 1923 French Grand Prix. However by 1933 continental governments had begun to support the wealthier teams such as Auto Union and Alfa Romeo, making it too expensive for them to compete.

Therefore they aimed ERA's first efforts at the smaller voiturette class of car. Peter Berthon was responsible for the design of the cars, while Raymond Mays became its principal driver - having already raced several other makes including Vauxhall, Bugatti and Riley.

Logical developments of Mays's "White Riley", the early ERAs were powered by six-cylinder Riley-derived engines of varying capacities (1100 cc, 1500 cc and 2000 cc), both supercharged and unsupercharged.

The marque's first race was at Brooklands on 22 May 1934 and 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.

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

Two Siamese princes, Chula Chakrabongse and Bira Birabongse, whose trio of ERAs became famous as "Hanuman", "Romulus" and "Remus", drove for their own team, operating from The White Mouse Garage. They were not ERA team drivers.

The more modern E-Type ERA appeared just before the Second World War but was not fully developed.

Postwar history

The Second World War brought a halt to motor racing in Europe, and the team's Bourne site was used to produce aircraft components. By the time racing resumed in the late 1940s Berthon and Mays had moved on to the BRM project.ERA restarted operations in Dunstable under new ownership: Leslie Johnson bought the company, together with one of its three pre-war E-Type single-seaters, in late 1947.

A new 1.5-litre Grand Prix car, the G-Type, raced in the first two years of the Formula One World Championship but never realized its potential. The team used a Bristol engine for 1952, when Formula 2 teams contested the Championship. Stirling Moss drove, but 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 cars to Bristol—who used them as the basis for an assault on Le Mans which would bring them several class wins in the mid-1950s—and focused the company on research and development (R&D) engineering. [Maréchal, Christian: "Learning Curves" "Classic and Sportscar" magazine, June 1996.] He eventually sold it to Zenith Carburettor Ltd, which was then purchased by Solex, another carburettor firm.

Although renamed "Engineering Research and Application Ltd", and still primarily an R&D operation, ERA still did a small amount of race preparation, and in the 1980s put its name to the "ERA Mini Turbo", a turbocharged version of the Mini capable of convert|115|mi/h|km/h|abbr=on.

World Championship record

Today

ERAs in competition

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.

ERA trademark

A kit-car manufacturer, unconnected to the ERA voiturettes or Grand Prix cars, currently owns the ERA trademark and produces two vehicles badged as ERAs: a sports car called the ERA 30, similar in appearance to the Lotus 23 and Lotus 30, [ [http://www.tigerracing.com/era-30.php Tiger Racing :: Sportscars For Road And Track :: Tiger ERA 30 ] ] and a single-seater called the ERA HSS. [ [http://www.tigerracing.com/era-hss.php Tiger Racing :: Sportscars for road and track :: English Racing Automobiles HSS ] ]

Bibliography

* "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.

References

External links

* [http://www.motorsnippets.com/cars/era/index.htm The ERA story]
* [http://8w.forix.com/era.html The post-war ERA-Bristol G (R1G)]
* [http://www.automobilemag.com/reviews/0412_put_to_the_test/ A modern outing in an ERA] (From the magazine "Automobile")


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