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Thread: RA Vanguard

  1. #1
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    RA Vanguard

    Thanks to all those comments and photos of the car in the Roycroft thread.

    As a bit of background the car was originally built in 1950 by Hec Green and his partner Jack Brewer who together ran an engineering business in Christchurch. They had both been aircraft mechanics during the war and had a keen interest in motor racing with Hec having raced very successfully his Wolseley special and Jack having a background on two wheels.

    At the culmination of the War, as part of war reparations, specialists in their fields were sent into the various industries of the axis powers to learn their industrial secrets. One such expert was a young British engineer named Cameron Earl who was sent by British Intelligence into occupied Germany to investigate the development of the all conquering (prewar) Auto Union and Mercedes racing cars. His findings were published in 1948 by the HMSO (His Majesty's Stationery Office) Hec purchased for 30 shillings, a copy of this publication and this greatly influenced his design of the RA Vanguard. Hence its resemblance to a miniature Auto Union is not altogether accidental.

    The car was built at a time when they were trying to run a business and had little in the way of resources or finance to develop a racing car. They frequented the War Surplus asset sales and bought up anything that they could recycle into their business or car development. As Jack Brewer told me one of their favorite purchases were old aluminium propellers from which they had a source of high quality material for fabrication of components.

    The RA Vanguard first saw the light of day at the 1950 (or 51?) Wigram meeting where it was displayed unfinished with a wet paint sign beside it. It was originally painted in a bright orange colour which Jack Brewer recalled was paint given to theM by George Begg (Who apparently had a supply for painting tractors)

    The design was considered to by quite revolutionary with a rear (Mid) engine configuration, which at that time was only seen in the little air cooled formula three cars, The front suspension was a parallel trailing link arrangement as used by Auto Union, but the springing medium chosen was rubber shock cords (Bungee) a medium that the two builders were familiar with, as at the time, it was extensively used in aircraft landing gear. The rear suspension was an unusual low pivot swing axle arrangement where the swing arm inner anchors were directly below the centre of the rear axle. Springing medium was Air over Hydraulic oleo struts from the tail wheels of a couple of P40 Kittyhawks.

    The engine was a standard vanguard wet linered engine with a few minor modifications, larger head studs, cross drilled crankshaft, and a Hec Green designed and ground cam shaft. Fed by a pair of SU carburetors through an aircraft cabin blower chain driven from the front of the crankshaft to provide 14 pounds of boost. Fuel was an methanol blend. Transmission was originally Citroen, but this caused repeated problems with the horsepower and torque of the blown engine and was eventually replaced by a 3 speed transaxle of their own design and manufacture. This proved well up to the task and is still in the car today.

    The car was raced in the South Island and performed well (despite lack of development) it had numerous problems with both the original transmission and the wheels that were originally fitted. These consisted of brake drums and rims with steel spokes attached between the two, Initially only six spokes per wheel, then increased to 12 spokes, but they continued to be a problem until eventually replaced (in about 1957) by wire 16" spoked wheels.

    Hec won the 1953 South Island beach racing championship in it, held the NZ class D km speed record at 188.89 kph and was reportedly timed over the standing quarter mile at 13.8 seconds.
    Hecs interest moved on to the build and development of his next project the "Vanguard Special" for which he built a complete DOHC engine. Jack Brewer raced the car followed by Geoff Mardon and then Les Moore who tragically crashed at Timaru in 1961.

    The car then lay outside for many years behind a factory in Christchurch, the remains eventually being purchased by Grant Cowie and offered for sale. They then moved to Auckland where a recreation was undertaken which while not accurately recreating the car at least served to keep all of the remaining components together. It appeared at the Hamilton street races where it ended up on the footpath with broken rear suspension (either as a result or as the cause of its excursion) The rear end was repaired and the car again offered for sale, by the then owner Mike Courteney.

    I purchased the car in November 1995 and ran it for a few years in HRSCC events, hillclimbs and circuit till stripping it down for a total rebuild.............
    But that's another story to follow

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nodiff View Post
    The RA Vanguard first saw the light of day at the 1950 (or 51?) Wigram meeting where it was displayed unfinished with a wet paint sign beside it.
    I have a copy of the 1950 Wigram programme, and can’t find any mention of the R.A. Vanguard in it.

    The 3 Feb 1951 Mairehau programme mentions that Hec Green’s Wolseley Special is “… bristling with many clever innovations, these are nothing compared with the revolutionary new Special he is building. Unfortunately it was not completed in time for to-day’s race,”

    The 31 Mar 1951 Wigram Programme has the R.A. Vanguard entered for J.Brewer and mentions “This is the first public appearance of the car”.
    The Chch press report on 2 Apr 1951 says “Perhaps the most interesting car entered, H. Green’s new Standard Vanguard Special, did not start because a hole suddenly appeared in the top of one piston during the practice laps”. J. Brewer finished 7th in the Wolseley Special which Hec Green was entered in.

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    Thanks for that, so its first appearance was 51 Wigram I have a photo of the car at the Wigram pits displayed unfinished with the wet paint sign alongside, and always thought that to be 1950. That may still be the case as the photo indicated that it was certainly not race ready. perhaps on display only ???????

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nodiff View Post
    I have a photo of the car at the Wigram pits displayed unfinished with the wet paint sign alongside, and always thought that to be 1950.
    Name:  wigram.jpeg
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    Anyone know what year this is?, obviously Wigram,

  5. #5
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    Another shot probably the same year as the "wet paint"Attachment 17627 photo

  6. #6

    Pit shots at the Roycroft Trophy

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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nodiff View Post
    Anyone know what year this is?, obviously Wigram,
    In the programme for Wigram 1950, Car No.12 was the De Soto Special of F.Zambuka.

    The entry list for the 1951 Wigram race has the R.A. Vanguard as No.12. (and the same for 1952 & 53)
    Also in 1951 Car No.13 was the Wolseley Special, 1604cc, which might match the pit banner to the left of the photo.

    The 1953 programme and press report both refer to the car as being red, instead of orange (1951 & 52 programmes) so perhaps George Begg gave them a new tin of paint.

    In 1954 Hec Green was entered in a car just called the R.A. which I think was a different car to the R.A. Vanguard, right? Apparently it caught fire.

    I'm happy to scan everything I have relating to your car and email it to you if you like. Send me a PM.
    Last edited by Powder; 04-08-2013 at 08:23 AM.

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    Which seems to indicate the "wet paint" photo was early in practice - or maybe they did a bit a touching up for some reason

    Re the wheels: photos of Geoff Mardon racing the car in 1958 show it still on original (or at least original-type) wheels. First racing appearance of wires seems to have been with Les Moore in 1960

    Moore's fatal accident in the car was at the Saltwater Creek track, Timaru, on Labour Weekend the same year

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nodiff View Post
    Name:  wigram.jpeg
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    Anyone know what year this is?, obviously Wigram,
    Not really any help, but it can't be any later than 1951 - number plate on the trailer in the background is from the 1946-1951 series, dark numbers on a light background (a sort of putty colour if memory from primary school days is correct). Plates changed in June or Sept 1951.

    Another point re RA Vanguard : story, or just urban legend, that Les Moore altered the rear suspension in some way which could have been a factor in his fatal crash at Saltwater Creek, Timaru. Was this a grass, sand, or loose surfaced track? I also believe there used to be an airfield at Saltwater Creek in the '50's.

    Stu Buchanan

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    To add even further confusion the "Wet Paint" photo shows totally different wheel type, certainly not the fabricated spoke type that gave so much trouble first with 6 spokes and later with 12.

    Thanks Stu for your input.....Can we assume that in those days unlike today, all trailers were legal?..... And yes Jack Brewer told me that Les Moore had the rear suspension changed in some way, just what those changes were I dont know.

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    Thanks Nigel for the great pics from Roycroft.

    Here is another Wigram photo, which shows the car on 6 spoke wheels, plus windscreen and radiator grill. I have always thought that this was 1952, though I would love to have someone confirm, or correct me.Name:  wigram 3.jpeg
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  12. #12
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    [QUOTE=Powder;27042In 1954 Hec Green was entered in a car just called the R.A. which I think was a different car to the R.A. Vanguard, right? Apparently it caught fire..[/QUOTE]

    I believe that was probably the "transitional" for want of a better name car that was built after mine to develop the "Vanguard Special" twin cam car. IT had genuine rubber band suspension (stationers rubber bands) The final car (owned by Errol Norris in Christchurch) has the VW front end.

  13. #13
    What an amazing thread this is! Thanks Richard for starting this. That first photo with the wet paint sign is priceless!

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nodiff View Post
    Here is another Wigram photo, which shows the car on 6 spoke wheels, plus windscreen and radiator grill. I have always thought that this was 1952, though I would love to have someone confirm, or correct me.Name:  wigram 3.jpeg
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    The RA Vanguard was No.12 at Wigram in 1952 but also 1953. However, photos from the latter year's race show it with the 12-spoke wheels, so I can't see it not being 1952

    And no doubt about it being Wigram, on the right-hand kink after the Hairpin. In 1954 the Hairpin was omitted, and the faster corner seen in the background used instead

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    Quote Originally Posted by David McKinney View Post
    The RA Vanguard was No.12 at Wigram in 1952 but also 1953. However, photos from the latter year's race show it with the 12-spoke wheels, so I can't see it not being 1952
    Also, the Chch Press report on the 1952 Wigram race says "In the fourteenth lap Green had the misfortune of losing four of the six spokes of his left-hand rear wheel, and he withdrew from the race".

  16. #16
    I found this over in another thread:

    Name:  UnknownSpecialRA.jpg
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Holmes View Post
    I found this over in another thread:

    Name:  UnknownSpecialRA.jpg
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    Thanks Steve, an excellent photo, I do have a copy ion my collection, it would have been in the Les Moore days, but I don't know the identity of the 4 people. Wouldn't I just love that Bedford truck in the background, make a great tow wagon

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nodiff View Post
    Thanks Steve, an excellent photo, I do have a copy ion my collection, it would have been in the Les Moore days, but I don't know the identity of the 4 people. Wouldn't I just love that Bedford truck in the background, make a great tow wagon
    Don't know who the 2 "suits" are on the right of the picture, but the 2 on the left could well be Brewer and Hec Green(who went in for very severe 'short back' and sides haircuts). Green built his own wire wheels for the later RA Special/RA 5/twincam whatever, perhaps he made these too.

    I presume you have read the story of Hec Green's cars in NZ Classic Car magazine by Penn McKay (Sept-Oct-Nov1998). He had the advantage of talking to Hec Green and also Brewer, who commented that Les Moore had altered the rear suspension to a more conventional system. "He (Moore) was a speedway man and his idea of getting around bends was about hanging it out on the corners, whereas Hec's suspension wouldn't do that.... so it tucked a wheel under and somersaulted, killing Les.

    For those interested in the RA cars, there is also a Scott Thompson article in "Beaded Wheels" April/May 1998, and Ralph Watson's comments in "Ralph Watson - Special Engineer" which also appeared earlier in "Sports Car Talk - Special Edition #2 .

    Stu

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    I think the two guys on the right are probably just spectators. The guy next to them is how I remember Jack Brewer, and it may be Les Moore on the far left

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by David McKinney View Post
    I think the two guys on the right are probably just spectators. The guy next to them is how I remember Jack Brewer, and it may be Les Moore on the far left
    Thanks David, good that we have access to your "memory banks"

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