English Racing Automobiles was a British racing
car manufacturer active from 1933 to 1954
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. The remit was to manufacture
and campaign a team of single seater racing cars
capable of upholding British prestige in
Continental European racing. The models were all
built using Riley component parts, with the 'White
Riley' regarded as the prototype. During 1935 an
MPH was converted to the E.R.A design, but
was returned to Riley to be put back
to it's original condition.
As costs of Grand Prix racing were prohibitive, the team aimed their efforts at the smaller 'voiturette' or 1500cc supercharged class. Humphrey Cook financed the operation using funds from the family business, Cook, Son & Co., of St Paul's Churchyard, London. Berthon was responsible for design of the cars, while Mays became principal driver having already raced several other makes including Vauxhall, Bugatti and Riley.
Reid Railton designed the new chassis (he had also later designed the Bluebird land speed cars for Malcolm Campbell) then constructed by Thomson & Taylor at Brooklands. Engines were based upon the proven Riley six-cylinder unit, although modified in significant ways. A stronger forged crankshaft with a large centre Hyatt roller bearing plus an entirely new aluminium cylinder head. The engine was then supercharged using a unit designed by Murray Jamieson who worked with Mays and Berthon on the White Riley. This ERA engine was designed around three sizes—a base 1500cc, an 1100cc and also was capable of being expanded up to 2000 cc. 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.
ERA Type A (1934)
ERA Type B (1935-7)
ERA Type C (1936-7)
ERA Type D (1936-7)
ERA Type E (1936-7)
Videos Found:- Limerick 1935 Round the Houses, ERA was 2nd
Contemporary Newspaper Articles:-
Future of Motor Racing By "Highwayman" CHEQUES are seldom unwelcome, but I have just received one which I would much rather have done without. It was from Lt.-Col. J. T. C. Moore-Brabazon, M.P., for 18s. 5d., and it represented all that was left of my first year's subscription to the British Motor Racing Fund. Accompanying it was a request that I cancel my banker's order to pay the fund a guinea every New Year until further notice.
The British Motor Racing Fund, you may remember, was started at the beginning of the year to support (with the aim of eventually taking over) Humphrey Cook's magnificent enterprise, the E.R.A. racing team. After spending about £60,000 of his own money in developing the E.R.A. out of the Brooklands Riley to the point where it was the finest and most successful i½ litre car in all Europe, Cook decided that he could not continue finding £15,000 a year. There was an ambitious programme for 1939, when much more serious opposition from both Italy and Germany threatened. At Bourne, in Raymond Mays's malthouse, they were planning to build four of the new-type car, and two machines were actually on the stocks when Mr. Cook let it be known that while he was prepared to see the two cars into existence he could not promise to put them into commission or foot the heavy bill for racing them in the coming European season. Indeed, he talked of shutting down, which would have been such a sad finish to a splendid one-man struggle to beat Europe that the British Motor Racing Fund was hastily formed under the auspices of the R.A.C. The cars were moved from Bourne to Donington, the business side reorganised, the first car, tested by Arthur Dobson, proved tremendously promising, and everything looked lovely, though subscriptions only came in driblets. Then there followed a string of disappointments. The car was always breaking down on the eve of its four-times-postponed debut. Humphrey Cook, however, never lost faith. Cheered, apparently by the change of scene to Donington, he announced that independently of the fund he would finance the running of this car and a second one as soon as it could be completed in the remaining European races for which they were eligible and then Hitler intervened. At that moment things were in train for the Tourist Trophy race at Donington, due to be run on September 2. The second Shelsley was due the following Saturday, and it was hoped that the new E.R.A. would make its bow there. After that the only race in which it could have taken part was the Donington Grand Prix. However, that was not to be. To be frank, the fund as an effort to stimulate a national interest in and support of what might, all going well, have blossomed into a real national racing team of cars and drivers was a damp squib. It started moderately well, chiefly in recognition of Humphrey Cook's splendid sportsmanship, but as time went on and the fund slowly grew the new car was never seen. If only the car had appeared and made a show to justify at least some of the hopes and boastings, then I think the fund would have made a good show too.
There were the
makings of as fine a battle of the nations as has
been since the Gordon Bennet Cup days. There was
Italy steadily perfecting her 1½
litre Alfa-Romeos with the Maseratis
almost as fast, and the German i½
litre Mercs, after sweeping the board on
their first and only appearance at Tripoli, had
been hastily put back on the shelf ready against
the expected challenge of the British E.R.A. I
don't know whether jealousies could have been
conquered, but what was in view was a stable of
three E.R.A's with a fourth car in reserve, Freddy
Dixon as head mechanic and tuner, and Arthur
Dobson, A. P. Rolt, Johnny Wakefield (if not
determined to continue as an independent) and
Percy Maclure as drivers. That was the bright
ideal dangling before the eyes of the more
enthusiastic supporters of the British Motor
Racing Fund. Had it materialised there would have
been enough support for the fund to have run the
team in all the chief races of the 1940 programme,
from Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic
News - Friday 19 January 1940
Motoring Commentary By Alan C. Hess
Somebody-- please don't ask me who --once said, "Nothing succeeds like Success," and to this Oscar Wilde rejoined, "Nothing succeeds like Excess." The fallibility of the latter aphorism is immediately apparent to anyone versed in what is, at its best, the gentle art of motor racing; but it was not until I saw Freddie Dixon at Donington during the Nuffield Trophy Race that I appreciated the equal sophistry of the former adage.
No one denies Dixon's inspired ability to extract the uttermost whiff of power from an internal combustion engine. As a super-tuner he has no equal anywhere. Now no man, I maintain, can climb to the heights to which Dixon has risen as a tuner without also possessing a genius for ingenious design. Immediately after the War, Dixon became famous as a racing motor-cycle tuner and rider. Since that time his name has become almost legendary the world over as a tuner and driver of racing cars. Success after success has rewarded his efforts and however apparently unorthodox his methods, the end has always justified the means.
At Donington on the occasion of the Nuffield Trophy Race, however, Iris Gcii was iivj l ctnuwcu to compete as the Scrutineer had con demned it as unsafe. And here is some thing which I happen to know which will, I believe, be news to Dixon. Whereas this same car was pre cluded from com peting in the R.A.C. International Car Race in the Isle of Man through Dodson having failed to qualify in practice, the car having broken down before the neces sary qualifying distance had been com pleted, I happen to know that the Scrutineer had also made a report on that occasion which, had Dixon's car qualified, must have had the effect of barring it from competing on the score of safety.
The trouble, it appears, arises out of Dixon's modifications to the front axle assemblage and steering layout of his much-altered Riley special. An alarming looking front-end flexibility is character istic of the car now which it never possessed before. Some sort of vindication of the Isle of Man scrutineer's condemnation would appear to be evidenced by the fact that Dodson suddenly and inexplicably found the car uncontrollable at speed during practice on the eve of the Donington race, as a result of which it mounted the bank beyond the Hairpin Bend and turned over, Dodson crawling out from underneath miraculously unhurt apart from one slight scratch. All that night, Dixon, Dodson and their no less famous friend, George Brough, worked on the car with a picked band of the latter's mechanics, so that the car might be ready for the next day's race. Dawn had broken by the time their labours were completed. Imagine Dixon's disappointment, therefore, when his car was banned. Years ago, Dixon invented a banking side car which he entered for one of the Tourist Trophy races for motor-cycles and side-cars in the Isle of Man. The outfit was horrible to watch at speed.
Those of us who had grown accustomed to the Simian antics of side-car passengers in their efforts to counteract centrifugal force when cornering in such races, got a new kind of thrill when Dixon's machine approached a corner, for his passenger sat quite still simply pulling a kind of joy-stick which caused the side-car to lean right over away from the motor-cycle to which it was attached by a flexible mounting.
A hasty conference followed the first morning's practice in which this terrifying spectacle had been witnessed, and Dixon's machine was banned. A typical Dixonian flow of oratory ensued and the organisers at last were won over. On the day of the race Dixon's weird machine ran and won
Now I am not expressing any opinion upon the merits or demerits either of Dixon's modifications to the Riley front suspension or of the Scrutineer's reactions to these but one wonders whether or not Manx history might not have repeated itself at Donington had the car been allowed to start.
Be that as it may, the Dixon-Special's absence removed one more obstacle from the path of the all-conquering E.R.A.'s, and they responded in hearty fashion by once more trouncing the Italian opposition and scoring a 1, 2, 3 victory.
Yet again, Maclure put up a truly magnificent performance in his non- supercharged 1,100 c.c. Riley, finish ing fourth at 62 07 m. p. h., only 2 minutes 19.75 seconds behind the winner, Fairfield's blown 1,500 c.c. E.R.A., being beaten for third place by Raymond Mays' supercharged 1,100 c.c. car by the narrow margin of less than 69 seconds.
Arthur Dobson, who finished second a mere 46 seconds behind Fairfield, drove the race of his life, lapping with amazing consistency throughout. Alone among the competitors, Fairfield and Dobson ran right through without a re-fuel which points another moral. The only other finisher was E. de Graifenreid, the Swiss driver, holder of an Austrian barony, who put up a good show in a car which was plainly out classed by its British opponents. As to Donington itself, why must the public be subjected to such primitive conditions as those prevailing there In the most expensive enclosure of all, spectators had to move about knee-deep in rain-soaked grass.
Surely for a race of such importance as the preliminary Press notices would have had us believe the Nuffield Trophy Race to be, it would have been worth while to have had the grass scythed. And when will the caterers realise that quite a lot of people object to drinking out of cardboard cups When somebody imparts a little Continental showmanship into the pre sentation of British motor races, then and then only will that somebody begin to get something approaching Continental gates." I wish it were possible to persuade our British Clerks of the Courses to pay a quick visit to Avus the next time there is racing there why, at Avus even the sanitary arrangements are adequate And after all, it is in mortals to deserve success
P. Maclure (Riley) is Leading A. C. Dobson, Who Came Second
Pics RK files
Motoring Commentary By Alan C. Hess
Following my announcement last week that the first tests with the new Grand Prix E.R.A. had been success fully carried out at Donington, the time is perhaps opportune to review briefly the history of English Racing Automobiles, since the inception of the Company in 1933. In that year, Humphrey Cook and Raymond Mays decided to modify and race a 1 ½-litre Riley, and the manner in which the engine responded made Cook, who for a number of years had been keen to see Britain with a real racing car. realise that at last they had a suitable power unit. In November of the same year, the Company was formed, and operations began on the new cars in the workshop behind May's mills at Bourne.
Peter Berthon and the late Murray Jamieson set to work on the engine, and considerably modified it, while a special chassis was designed by Reid A. Railton. Surprisingly few teething troubles were encountered, and by the end of 1934, the success of the marque was established, Mays winning the Nuffield Trophy, and Cook finishing in fifth place whereupon Mays went on to beat Whitney Straight for fastest time of the day at Shelsley Walsh the following week-end. During the winter, a number of new cars were built, and the following season, in addition to the works team, comprising Mays and Cook, Richard Seaman and the late Pat Fairfield raced E.R.A. cars as independents."
It was in 1935 also that an addition to the ranks of the independent E.R.A. drivers was a certain Mr. B. Bira," of whom a great ileal was to be heard later, although at that time he was comparatively a novice.
Until 1937, when the works decided not to produce any more cars, but to concentrate on the preparation and running of their own, a number of other well- known drivers joined the ranks of E.R.A. independents," and the marque estab lished its dominating supremacy in the 1500 c.c. class by winning, at one time or another, practically every important voiturette race both in this country and on the Continent, and even in far-off South Africa, acquitting itself nobly in a series of races held there at the beginning of 1937 and again this year.
When, in the autumn of last year, it was announced that the Company intended to produce a Grand Prix car to comply with the new formula, details of which had just been announced, general delight was expressed by motor-racing patriots, particularly as the triumphal visit of the Auto-Union and Mercedes teams for the Donington Grand Prix last October had opened the eyes of a large section of the public to what this type of racing really was like. It is a matter of considerable satisfaction that now, after a lapse of so many years, Britain is once again to compete in Grand Prix racing, and it is fitting that due acknowledgment be made to Humphrey Cook, whose generous financial support has made this possible. It is understood that the first public appear ance of the Grand Prix E.R.A. will be at Brooklands on August 27th, in the Junior Car Club's 200-mile race.
It will be remembered that Murray Jamie- son, the brilliant young designer of E.R.A.s, was one of the victims of the crash in which Paul's Delage was involved at the start of the International Trophy Race at Brooklands last May. I was ap proached in the paddock at Brooklands on August Bank Holiday by a number of drivers who are anxious to stage a benefit meeting for Jamieson's widow. I under stand that most of the foremost Brooklands drivers are willing to give their services in this cause, and I hope the Brooklands authorities may be counted upon for their support, for the object is indeed a worthy one. Nobody has done more to assist Humphrey Cook and Raymond Mays to score their striking successes for British prestige than Murray Jamieson, and any thing we can do by way of reciprocation should be more than a mere duty to us.
Earl Howe told me at Brooklands recently that he had received a delightful letter from Seaman in answer to a congratulatory one to him on his success in the German Grand Prix. Seaman's letter is typical of him. There is not a word about himself in it, but it is full of sympathy for poor Brauchitsch," who was dogged by misfortune in the race. Earl Howe went on to say that the letter ended with What a pity it couldn't have been a British car and he added that Seaman, like the late Tim Birkin, is possessed by a desire to see a British car carrying off the honours in Continental Grand Prix racing, and that he believes that Seaman would gladly give his services as No. 1 driver, irrespective of whatever tempting offers from foreign sources, if a really good British G.P." car made its appearance-- so perhaps we may yet see Seaman back at the wheel of an E.R.A.
from The Bystander
- Wednesday 10 August 1938
Riley ERA belonging to Patrick Jean-Philippe