General => Douglas Racers and Racing History => Topic started by: Buzzie on 04 Jan 2019 at 14:46

Title: Douglas engines and 500/Formula 3 Car racing
Post by: Buzzie on 04 Jan 2019 at 14:46
I joined the forum recently to get some help with rebuilding a Dirt Track Douglas engine to use in my 1947 500 Racing Car called Buzzie. I have received a lot of great help on here, and a member suggested I write a short article about 500cc Racing and some Douglas engined cars.

500cc racing was a movement started in the UK after World War 2 to encourage and facilitate single seater car racing for the impecunious ordinary person. At the time there were no racetracks open, petrol was very heavily rationed and parts and materials in very short supply.

The concept championed by the 500 Club was for lightweight single seater cars powered by 500cc motorcycle engines built by their owner drivers. The club formulated a set of regulations, helped people to build cars, and organise competitions hill climbs, sprints and races for 500 cars.

The movement rapidly became a huge success. It would be no exaggeration to say that it laid down the roots of the British Motor racing  successes in the 1950s and beyond. Many famous names such as Stirling Moss, John Cooper, Stewart Lewis Evans, Tony Brooks, Ken Tyrell, Peter Collins, Ivor Bueb and even Bernie Ecclestone, to mention but a few, cut their motor racing teeth in 500 Racing.

Races were held all over the world and in the early 1950s the formula was adopted by the FIA as international F3. 500 Racing is alive today through the 500 Owners Club, with races being held worldwide for 500/F3 cars. Indeed in 2019 a 500 race is being included in the Goodwood Revival Meeting.

The first cars were built in 1947. The early cars were pretty crude by modern standards, being built in peoples sheds and garages from whatever recycled components that came to hand. There was a variety of engines used to power these cars, mainly singles or twins. As may be imagined there was a lot of speculation in the Club magazine about which engines were best! It was pretty clear that for outright power the Norton and JAP singles were best, but many argued that the wider spread of torque delivered in smaller pulses by the lower powered twins were a better bet for powering a car in road racing.

There was a very vocal lobby, unsurprisingly based around Bristol, which championed the Dirt Track Douglas engine! They made what look today like highly inflated claims for the power out puts from these engines. They argued passionately that the way in which the power was delivered made it a more effective engine for 500 Racing than the more powerful singles.

In the early days several people fitted DT engines to their cars, and competed with them in 500 races throughout the country. There is no doubt that these engines contributed to the development of 500 Racing in those early post war years.

My interest in all of this is that I bought the remains of Buzzie, which was one of these early cars, at a Carboot Sale some 20 years ago! I am now restoring her with the hope of being invited to race at Goodwood in September.

Buzzie was built by Jim Bosisto in 1947. Jim Bosisto was a member of the 500 Club's technical panel and was a pioneer of 500cc racing. Buzzie was based on a modified Morris 8 frame with Morgan sliding pillar front suspension. Rear suspension was independent using a converted BSA three-wheeler's front end. The engine was a  Dirt Track Douglas horizontally opposed twin driving through a Norton four speed gearbox. The car was typical of the early cars being constructed in three weeks on a very small budget of about 35.

Jim Bosisto competed with the car throughout 1947. She didn't achieve many sparkling results but its clear from the reports at the time he got a lot of enjoyment out of building and competing with Buzzie, and learnt a lot from doing so. It was pioneer owners like Jim Bosisto who showed what was possible on limited means by an ordinary enthusiast, and which I'm sure contributed to the success of 500 Racing in subsequent years.

Buzzie was sold to Jimmy Ebdon who after a season with the Douglas engine rebuilt her with new bodywork and a JAP engine. He then renamed her the Halldon. Jimmy used the car for another season, mainly in hill climbs. The Halldon was sold by Jimmy to a fellow member of the Bugatti O wners Club, and after that nothing more was heard of her until she surfaced at the Car Boot sale!The car had no engine or gearbox when I bought her, so I have to find, rebuild and install them in the car in order to get her up and running.

Another prominent Douglas powered 500 in 1947 was Stromboli. Unlike Buzzie, which was a scratch built special,, Stromboli was based on an Iota Chassis.
In 1947 a consortium of enthusiasts lead by Dick Caesar designed and had built a chassis to be commercially manufactured which sold under the name of Iota. The idea was that owners could build their own car on these chassis.

Adrian Butler (secretary of the original CAPA) and Bruce Mardon's Iota based Stromboli was the first to be completed. It used a DT engine, Morgan style front suspension and swing axle and leaf spring arrangement at the rear.

The pair attended the "White Hart" meeting in May 1947, then June Shelsley, Gransden Lodge in July where they failed to start and Prescott in August where Butler took second fastest time to Brandons Cooper, Shelsley in September brought a seventh for Mardon and they finished the year with a trip to Towcester in October. There are no photos of Stromboli wearing clothes so perhaps the pair realised that this engine/chassis combination would not be a match for the Coopers and retired her. Adrian continued to play a part as editor of Iota until the end of 1949.

Stromboli re appeared at the Douglas Cavalcade in Bristol in 2014, and the photo of the car attached was taken on that occasion. I am lead to believe that, as with Buzzie, little is known about Stromboli between her retirement in 1947 and her recent re appearance in Bristol.

Another British based 500 fitted with a Douglas Engine was the KN. It was the successor to a pre war KN car which had two Douglas engines installed!Kenneth Neve built his first cars around G.N. chassis with Morgan front suspension and a G.N. rear axle, very much in keeping with the traditional pre war special format. Two Douglas engines were fitted but war precluded further development.

Kenneths first 500 was built around an aluminium and ash monocoque with Morgan front suspension and a G.N. rear axle, sprung by elastic. A single Douglas engine was mounted at the front and drove through an Albion gearbox. Ken was very fond of the idea of low cost motorsport and built his car for a total cost of 111 pounds, 10 shillings. It wasn't especially successful but he clearly had some fun.

The attached photo shows the KN 500 on Wallasey Beach in 1947. It is understood that Ken broke a piston whilst competing in the Chester Motor Club Sprint there after a commissioning trial up a lane local to his house!
A second KN 500 was built but featured an Aerial engine.

Reg Trevellick was prominent member of the 500 Club from Quinton, West Birmingham. Reg's first car was built in 1949 and used Rudge and Douglas  engines, before accepting the inevitable JAP for 1950. Little is known of this first car.

The 1951 car featured Standard 8 front suspension and a Douglas engine. Three cars were built in all which were sometimes entered as a team; Trevellick Racing Cars (Reg was joined by son Peter). A swing axle rear suspension was adopted and the engine placed behind the driver.

There were also two 500 style Specials with Douglas engines fitted built in Australia, the Howe and the Warburton. These don't appear to have been raced in 500 events. It would be great if anyone has any news of these or other 500 cars with Douglas engines posted details!

After these early years the 500s became Formula Three and the class was dominated by professionally built Coopers and Kieft cars. These were much more sophisticated machines which reflected practice in the Formula 1 cars of the period. These cars were almost exclusively powered by JAP and Norton Racing engines, which of course had but one cylinder!

I would like to acknowledge the 500 Owners Associations website ( )for some of the information on the early 500 cars referred to here, and to Doug for his Stromboli pic he posted on another thread on here.

I attach some pics to give an idea of these cars

Four views of Buzzie
Title: Re: Douglas engines and 500/Formula 3 Car racing
Post by: Buzzie on 04 Jan 2019 at 14:53
Buzzie at Shelsey Walsh in 1947
Title: Re: Douglas engines and 500/Formula 3 Car racing
Post by: Buzzie on 04 Jan 2019 at 14:54
Buzzie being rebuilt
Title: Re: Douglas engines and 500/Formula 3 Car racing
Post by: Buzzie on 04 Jan 2019 at 14:56
Stromboli at the Douglas Cavalcade
Title: Re: Douglas engines and 500/Formula 3 Car racing
Post by: Hutch on 04 Jan 2019 at 23:12
Thanks for posting some very interesting information on the Stromboli, Buzzie and KN Douglas engined 500cc racing cars. On the 500cc Owners Club website there was reference to the Australian Rowe and Warburton Specials and that triggered a memory that I had seen something about these in some old Australian Motor Sport Magazines that I have mouldering away in some storage boxes. I dug them out and had a look and came up with these articles. Unfortunately I don't have a full set of these magazines, but will see if I can find some more information.

Coincidentally I used to be a member of the 500 Car Club of Tasmania in the late 1980's. By then 500 cc  car racing had died out and the main focus of the club was car rallying. The club still exists and has had a long and active life since its inception on 5th October 1955.


Title: Re: Douglas engines and 500/Formula 3 Car racing
Post by: Hutch on 04 Jan 2019 at 23:15
The Rowe Special
Title: Re: Douglas engines and 500/Formula 3 Car racing
Post by: Buzzie on 07 Jan 2019 at 14:26
Hi Ian

Thanks for posting that really interesting about the  Australian Rowe and Warburton Specials. They are mentioned on the 500 OA website, but the information is very scarce! Those articles you have found tell us all there is to know!

Im sure that the 500OA will be really interested to read about these cars, so I will send the articles to them when I get a mo.
Title: Re: Douglas engines and 500/Formula 3 Car racing
Post by: cardan on 07 Jan 2019 at 20:30
Here's another Douglas-engined Australian 500, this time with the motor (said to be "I.O.M." rather than DT) in the rear.

Title: Re: Douglas engines and 500/Formula 3 Car racing
Post by: Hutch on 07 Jan 2019 at 22:44
Very interesting article on the Chatterton - Warburton Special Leon. Here is a newspaper article in the Telegraph (Brisbane) on 13th June 1947 and seems to indicate that the chassis Chatterton built for Warburton was to have a Velocette MSS engine and that the engine for his own 500 was to be Norton.


Title: Re: Douglas engines and 500/Formula 3 Car racing
Post by: Hutch on 07 Jan 2019 at 22:56
By mid 1948 the Warburton car (is this the same car as the Douglas powered Chatterton - Warburton Special?) appears to be Matchless powered. looks like a bit of foxing was going on in the handicap races of the times - nothing changes!
Title: Re: Douglas engines and 500/Formula 3 Car racing
Post by: Hutch on 08 Jan 2019 at 00:01
Looks like things get a bit complicated!!. Scroll down to see Rob Saward's (austmcreg) and others comments on this forum from post #255;

Does anyone have copies of the articles referred to in these posts that are not shown above? Pity that the pictures that used to be attached to the posts do not appear to be there anymore (I looked at this site a few years ago looking for information on the Penguin Hill climb in Tasmania). These posts also seem to indicate that at least one of these cars may still exist???


Title: Re: Douglas engines and 500/Formula 3 Car racing
Post by: Hutch on 08 Jan 2019 at 06:55
Funny how coincidental events happen :-). There is information on the Low(e)-Lane special posted here 2/1/2019;

It appears that the first Douglas powered "500" in Australia was the Chatterton - Warburton Special

I wonder if the picture of the Low-Lane Car is at White's Hill, Queensland?

Title: Re: Douglas engines and 500/Formula 3 Car racing
Post by: Hutch on 08 Jan 2019 at 20:45
Hi Buzzie and Leon,

Here is a summary from John Holmes in Loose Fillings No. 2A, Summer 1999, from their website that covers the early air cooled cars in Queensland. Appears that the Dougie IoM engine was not used for very long in the Chatterton - Warburton special.