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The Ex-Robin Montgomerie-Charrington 1952 Aston-Butterworth Grand Prix Monoposto Chassis no. nb42

Estimate: £60,000 - £80,000
Lot 152
1952 Aston-Butterworth Grand Prix Monoposto
Chassis no. nb42
Goodwood Revival|10 September 2016, 14:00 BST|Chichester, Goodwood

The Ex-Robin Montgomerie-Charrington
1952 Aston-Butterworth Grand Prix Monoposto
Chassis no. nb42

*Period World Championship Grand Prix entrant
*Cooper Chassis
*Ultra lightweight flat-4 racing engine
*Eligible for many of the world foremost historic motorsports events


When 2-litre unsupercharged Formula 2 was adopted as the World Championship-qualifying class of single-seater road racing for 1952-53, this fascinating air-cooled flat-4 cylinder Aston-Butterworth was one of the most exotic and unusual cars in contention.

The Aston-Butterworth was created by private owner-driver Bill Aston, combining a front-engined Cooper Mark I chassis – similar to those used for the more familiar 6-cylinder in-line-engined Cooper-Bristol – with daringly extrovert engineer Archie Butterworth's new 1986cc flat-4, eventually swing-valved, racing engine. Offering around 140bhp this power unit drove via an MG TC-type gearbox to an ENV final-drive offering quick-change drop gears to permit speedy ratio-changing to match different circuits.

A friend – Robin Montgomerie-Charrington – ordered a second Aston-Butterworth which is the car now offered here. These two new air-cooled Formula 2 cars were probably the lightest in the class. Unfortunately, Archie Butterworth injured himself badly when he crashed his experimental 4-wheel-drive sprint car at Prescott hill-climb, disrupting engine development.

Consequently, the Aston-Butterworth programme did not in period achieve their full potential. Montgomerie-Charrington's American blue-and-white liveried car offered here ran as high as seventh in the 1952 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa before a bungled refueling stop in which the wrong mix was loaded. At Chimay in the Grand Prix des Frontieres, while Bill Aston retired his car, 'Monty' placed third despite running out of fuel on the final lap....

Butterworth continued to develop his air-cooled flat-4 engine through the 1950s – ultimately providing a swing-valve variant which powered a celebrated Elva sports-racing car driven by the great Archie Scott-Brown. That car, with its cylinder head clearance humps was nicknamed 'Sabrina' after the celebratedly pneumatic British movie starlet of the time.

While Bill Aston retained his single-seater until 1959 before selling it to Dickie Metcalfe, who had it converted into a pretty Climax-engined sports-racing car, this Montgomerie-Charrington Aston-Butterworth was acquired by VSCC Cooper-Bristol star Bill Wilks. It then passed into other hands – less engine – around 1967. The original engine had gone into the drag-racing world – but the ex-'Sabrina' flat-4 was acquired instead from Archie Butterworth who still maintained a large stock of relevant spares at his Frimley, Surrey, base. The car was reassembled with original-type MG gearbox, ENV drop—gear final-drive, Alfa Romeo Giulietta front drum brakes, and original Cooper rears, etc,.

The contemporary owner raced the car at VSCC Silverstone in April 1971, and subsequently had its exhaust valve system re-designed to use conventional and proven Cosworth poppet-type valves, closed by double coil-springs and collets. The engine was reassembled and ran reliably with its four racing Amal single-choke carburettors tuned for petrol instead of methanol, starting readily and evidently "...making a tremendous din!".

A quantity of related spares – including much of the prototype Bill Aston car's engine and the set-aside exhaust swing-valve hardware – was also offered with the car when it was next sold – by Bonhams here at Goodwood - in 1999, these remain with the car (see list on file). New owner well know historic racer David Brock Jest restored the car to running condition through 2001-2004, spending circa £30,000 on the engine with respected engineer Derek Chinn (see invoices on file).

This technically fascinating Grand Prix car warranted an entry for the 2004 Monaco Historic meeting, though it unfortunately did not start. The current owner, the retired proprietor of an engineering company acquired the car from Brock Jest in 2014, with the engine dismantled. With the assistance of a member of the Butterworth family the engine was re-assembled with all components tested. Since then we understand that he has run it in the 2015 Crystal Palace sprint, before achieving a first in class at Wiscombe hill-climb, and further success at the Bressuire Grand Prix historic meeting.

This wonderfully evocative Formula 2 single-seater evokes the pioneering postwar days of heroic road racing when a private owner could create his own World Championship Grand Prix car from parts available 'off the peg', and then go off to follow a gipsy existence around the great racing circuits of Europe...seeking to make ends meet financially from start, prize and bonus money. This Aston-Butterworth offers a new owner a most attractive and unusual entry into Historic Grand Prix Car competition. Offered with a VSCC buff form and old style FIA papers.

Saleroom notices

Please note the number stamped on the dashboard of this vehicle is AB22.

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  • 9 September 2016, 09:00 - 17:00 BST

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