Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler: BlackJack’sBriefs
Len Terry – 1923-2014
After leaving school early, in the mid-30’s Len, unguided, and perhaps unmotivated, played with a number of jobs that had nothing to do with motor-sports until he joined the RAF and discovered he had a natural engineering talent, and a mind that allowed him to see where currently accepted engineering practice might be improved.
After being demobbed in the late-40’s Len found work with the Ever Ready battery people but in his spare time he came into contact with the 750 Motor Club, a group of like-minded folk who wanted to go motor racing – on the cheap.
At that time Britain was full of old, and often crumbling Austin 7 cars with a workable chassis that could be easily exposed – just a few bolts allowed the rusting bodywork to be lifted off, helped along, when necessary, by a large hammer. The engine was an old side-valve design, which was also cheap and easy to tune-up – just whip off the head, skim a little off the face, to raise the compression-ratio, polish the easily accessed ports, add an aluminium (or plywood) sportscar body, and you could drive to the circuit, race the car and, if nothing untoward happened, drive it home again.
A need for more speed resulted in the same procedure being adopted with 1,172cc engined Ford cars – often known as ‘Dagenham Donkeys’, or ‘Sit up and beg’ Populars.
This long-lasting club became home to the likes of Colin Chapman, Adrian Reynard, Arthur Mallock, Jem Marsh, Frank Costin, Gordon Murray, Mike Pilbeam, Derek Bennett, Tony Southgate, Brian Hart, Maurice Phillipe and Eric Broadly, and Len worked alongside several of them.
Chapman was quick to notice Len’s ideas and offered him a job with Lotus, as a draughtsman, but he quickly became a designer as well, and he and Chapman constantly seem to have rubbed up against each other until, when Len’s own Terrier cars were successfully upstaging Chapman’s Lotus7s, and then won the Chapman Trophy, Chapman fired him.
After a stint with the ambitious but underfinanced Gilby team Len received another welcome back at Lotus, which he accepted because he was keen to race at Indianapolis… and his designs were allegedly better than Chapman’s own ideas… but the releationship seemed to amount to mutual disrespect and, after meeting with AAR at Indy, having had his Lotus 38 just win the Indy-500, he penned the Eagle… He didn’t seem to get on much better with Gurney either, though for different reasons.
A sparkling and inspiring career hit the skids with the ‘Stanley Steamer’ BRM, in 1977, and Len pulled back, to create replicas from the Mercedes SSK to vintage delivery vans, retiring to Lincolnshire, where he died last week.
Len Terry died the day I was researching his story for another article, which I learned on another blog-site… where the journalist who most vehemently criticises the ‘new-age’, cut-&-paste web-sites, errantly stated thet Terry had made FJunior cars in the mid-50’s, although this formula only started in 1959. I fear the words, ‘petard’ and ‘hoist’ came to mind… as his item was a clear copy of that on grandprix-com, and echoed on Autosport.com. Ho ho ho.