The Halford Special was a Grand Prix racing car of the 1920s built by engine designer Major Frank Halford on the chassis of an early Side Valve Aston Martin tourer. It was one of the most advanced British-built racing cars of the mid-1920s and had many racing successes. It raced in the first British Grand Prix in 1926 at the Brooklands circuit, Weybridge, Surrey.
In 1923 Major Frank Halford realised that aero-engine design was far ahead of racing car engine design. He bought a crashed short chassis Aston Martin and built an engine specially for this car.
The car first appeared at Brooklands as the AM-Halford but, after fitting a new radiator to reduce cooling problems, it was renamed the Halford Special.
Photo by Austin Harris.
The design was very advanced for its day - 1,500 cc. with a turbo supercharger mounted on the exhaust. The turbo did not work well in practice and it was soon replaced by a Roots type supercharger. The engine has six cylinders, twin overhead camshafts, two plugs per cylinder supplied by two magnetos mounted behind the engine - aircraft practice of the time to reduce frontal area.
A Brooklands Museum photo. Major Frank Halford raced this car at least 12 times at Brooklands during 1926 where he achieved three 1st placings, three 2nd placings, three 3rd placings, two 4th placings and a 10th placing.
This was probably the first turbocharged road racing car until Renault developed the Alpine turbocharged car in 1968 that went on to become successful Grand Prix cars in the 1970s. It wasn't until 1970 that the current owner painstakingly rebuilt the car after Viscount Ridley had disassembled it in the 1930's.
1927 George Eyston bought the car, racing at Brooklands and the Grand Prix at Montlhery, France. Frank raced with the greats - Malcolm Campbell, John Cobb (both of whom he was to provide engines for water speed breakers) and Parry Thomas.
The Halford Special runs for the first time in 50 years
The Halford Special is an Aston Martin-based Grand Prix car from 1923/5. It ran 4th in the 1926 British Grand Prix driven by Frank Halford and 4th in the 1927 Grand Prix driven by George Eyston. This is the only Aston-based racing car to have ever completed a Grand Prix.
Throughout Frank's life people he met, worked alongside or raced with would always pop up again in his life. Frank bought a Bamford & Martin (Aston Martin chassis no. 1916) that had crashed in 1924, in a Voiturette Race in Bologne. It was driven by future World Land Speed Record holder George Eyston who would later buy the car for himself.
Frank Halford had bought the chassis convinced he could improve on current automobile power to weight ratios and built two 6-cylinder in-line engines for the car. Each had an aluminium cylinder-block and crankcase with steel liners, with rubber seals at their base. Bore and stroke were 63 mm and 80 mm giving 1.5 litres, the Grand Prix formula for 1926. The cylinder heads were cast iron with two camshafts, twelve inclined valves, and two 12 mm plugs per cylinder. he also proposed using a Turbocharger but this proved unreliable.
When first raced at Brooklands, at the 1925 BARC meeting in August, the car appeared with a two-litre Roots-type supercharger mounted on the front of the crankshaft. At its first race in 1925, August BARC, Brooklands, the 95 bhp engine, the narrow Aston Martin radiator proved to be too small, so a wider and deeper radiator was fitted and the car was renamed the Halford Special. The second engine had twin magnetos mounted behind the two overhead camshafts and developed 120 bhp and was then installed back into the Halford Special.
Frank Halford raced the car in 1925 and 1926 fitted with a Berk supercharger, manufactured by PressureVac Ltd. It took first place in
BARC Whitsun Meeting Brooklands (Halford), 90 Short
BARC Easter Meeting Brooklands, (Halford), 90 Short
BARC Summer Meeting, Brooklands (Halford), 100 Long
1926 RAC British Grand Prix Halford retired lying 4th
Frank sold the car to Captain Eyston who raced it in 1927 in the Middlesex County AC coming first.
It was dismantled by its new owner Viscount Ridley in the 1928, who fitted the first engine in a
Bugatti Type 35, the second engine having been modified was installed in a speedboat - which sunk!
Aston Martin Razor Blade.
The engine fitted to Razor Blade was a spare 16 valve 1.5 litre twin cam as used in the 1922 French GP'sproducing around 55 bhp. The specially made chassis was somewhat unusual as it was inswept at the rear and a narrow 3ft. track so this ‘crab looking’ car was notoriously difficult to handle. The smooth and sleek aluminium coachwork was made by the De Havilland aircraft company as B&M were an engineering company not able to make car bodies.
in 1923 Frank became associated with Bamford &Martin Company who were producing a small number of Lionel Martin's cars to order. Frank was invited to drive for Martin, first driving 'Bunny'.
For more information there is a link of The Aston Martin magazine in External Links in the footer of this page.
Caerphilly, Wales, Hillclimb 1923 Frank Halford driving 'Bunny'.
It was the intention of Lionel Martin to make Razor Blade the first light car to exceed 100 mph in an hour but unfortunately, an AC piped Razor Blade to the post. This did not deter Martin and the car became a successful Brooklands racer. In the hands of Frank Halford Razor Blade achieved victory in it’s first race in August 1923 at the Brooklands Automobile Racing Club meeting, lapping at over 98 mph. Later in the year, Razor Blade achieved records in both the standing start mile (74.12 mph driven by Kensington-Moir) and kilometer (66.54 mph driven by Frank Halford).
Link to Brooklands Museum page at footer
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