1937 Frazer Nash-BMW 328 Roadster

Frazer-Nash_BMW_1.jpg

Registration No:GS 7431
Chassis No: 85034
Engine No:85034
CC:1971
Colour: Red
Trim Colour:Black

"The BMW 328 is legendary. It is acknowledged by car enthusiasts the world over as having a special pedigree, presence and uniqueness. It is definitively among the most attractive, successful and influential sports cars ever built". (Rainer Simons, 'BMW 328 - From Roadster to Legend')

Debuting not on a glittering motor show stand but at a rain swept Nurburgring, the BMW 328 still caused a sensation. Entered for the Eifel Trophy Sports Car Race on 14th June 1937 and helmed by world motorcycle record holder Ernest Henne, the prototype (chassis 85001) left more than just its Bugatti and BMW 319/1 class opposition floundering. Die Motorwelt commenting that "Henne got something incredible from his 2-litre car . . . He rockets away, down the long straight and into the bends and sweeps of the 'Ring . . . his sports car is faster than the entire supercharged competition! Henne is far superior from the start to his victorious finish". Designed and developed in a little over twelve months, the Type 328 was the brainchild of Fritz Fiedler and Rudolf Schleicher. The ultimate expression of BMW's contemporary 'Leichtbau' (or lightweight construction) philosophy, the newcomer was based around a tubular A-frame chassis. Notably rigid, the patent protected structure consisted of two large-diameter side members and three rectangular cross members. Equipped with independent transverse-leaf front suspension, a well-located 'live' rear axle and rack and pinion steering, advances over its Type 319/1 predecessor included improved telescopic shock absorbers and hydraulically operated 280mm drum brakes.

Charged with extracting more power from BMW's existing 1971cc straight-six engine, Rudolf Flemming devised an ingenious aluminium alloy cylinder head that housed hemispherical combustion chambers and symmetrically inclined valves (at an 80-degree angle) but without the need for double overhead-camshafts. Instead, the Type 328's crankcase mounted camshaft managed both the inlet and exhaust cycles. The former by a conventional pushrod and rocker action and the latter via bell cranks controlling additional shorter pushrods which spanned the head and contacted a second set of rockers. Initially quoted as developing 80bhp @ 4,500rpm, the resultant powerplant had great tuning potential (as well as forming the basis of a post-WW2 Bristol engine that continued winning top-flight races into the 1960s). Mated to a compact ZF AK-S15 four-speed manual gearbox and driving the rear wheels via a 'light' 3.888:1 rear axle, it delivered 100mph performance (a larger Hurth transmission and 'heavy' 3.7:1 rear axle being adopted from chassis 85281 onwards). Bodied in a mixture of steel and aluminium over a wooden frame, the Type 328 was styled under Peter Szymanowski (BMW's head of bodywork design).

Blending elegance with modernity, the Type 328 sported a svelte 'double kidney' radiator grille, semi-recessed headlights, cutaway doors and tapering wings not to mention a cinched-in waist, two-piece windscreen, disappearing hood and sunken spare wheel well. Riding on Kronprinz 'quick release' 16-inch disc wheels and boasting a kerb weight of just 780kg (with 50 litres of fuel aboard), it did not become publicly available until February 1937. An outstanding competition car, the two-seater enjoyed success on events as diverse as the RAC Rally (1st 1939), Mille Miglia (class win 1938, 1st overall 1940) and Le Mans 24-hours (class win 1939). Indeed, its first four seasons saw the sportscar notch up an incredible 141 victories from 172 national and international starts. The Bayerische Motoren Werke's UK agent since November 1934, AFN Ltd ensured that 46 out of the 48 right-hand drive cars made were supplied as Frazer Nash-BMWs (while, total Type 328 production amounted to 464 units). The prime mover behind AFN Ltd, H.J. Aldington contributed more than his fair share of race results to the model's competition pedigree; a task in which he was ably assisted by fellow Frazer Nash shareholder and racing driver A.F.P. Fane (both racing for the Works on several occasions). Today, the BMW Type 328 is eligible for such prestigious events as Le Mans Classic and the Mille Miglia Storica. One of the most rewarding yet least punishing pre-WW2 sportscars to drive, the design has long been acknowledged as an all time great.

According to The Frazer Nash Archives, this particular example - chassis number '85034' - was supplied new to existing customer T.W. Meikle Esq. of Perth, Scotland. Among the first Frazer Nash-BMW 328 Roadsters to reach Britain, it was road registered as 'GS 7431' by Perthshire County Council on 14th August 1937. Barely run-in, the two-seater had covered just 338 miles when a severe accident saw it returned to AFN Ltd for repairs on 12th December 1937. Sold to C.G. Buisk Esq. of Newcastle upon Tyne thereafter, the car's next known keeper was the famous Liverpool garagiste-cum-racer Gilbert 'Gillie' Tyrer who acquired it during September 1945. Paying £1,500 for his first taste of BMW 328 motoring (a steep uplift on its £695 list price), the sometime British Racing Drivers' Club member noted that '85034' was in excellent condition at the time. Further commenting that it had covered 13,000 miles, he added: "Following my SS100 3.5 Litre the BMW was considered GOOD. On collection Max 92mph, eventually 101mph". Although, we have been unable to discover whether '85034' was raced prior to World War Two (a scenario which could well explain the Frazer Nash-BMW's early misfortune), it had some interesting neighbours within the Type 328 chassis number sequence. For example, '85031' and '85032' contested the Mille Miglia (among other events) as part of Schleicher's experimental department, while '85035' was the David Murray / Pat Fairfield car that crashed nastily during the 1937 Le Mans 24-hours.

Between September 1945 and April 1947 Gillie Tyrer campaigned 'GS 7431' in a wide variety of sprints, hillclimbs, trials and rallies. Running at the likes of Prescott, Shelsey Walsh, Redcar Sands, Trengwainton, Colmore, Buxton and on the Land's End Trial, he collected numerous prize lighters, ashtrays and tankards. An accomplished driver as his later Jaguar C-type and D-type exploits would show, Tyrer was not afraid of the 'loud pedal'. Lining up for the Lancashire & Cheshire S.C.C. Driving Tests against the Stockport Police, he made quite an impression aboard the Frazer Nash-BMW: "Gil Tyrer's acceleration . . . was quite meteoric and (I think) rather startled the crowd who didn't expect motors to gain way quite so rapidly . . . The garaging test was next, and found the police at some disadvantage . . . Gil Tyrer showed the best way to do it, as he slipped out like an eel on full left lock, slammed in reverse across the face of the garage, full left lock again and back in before the crowd realised what had happened. Time 6.4/5 seconds. Gil then did it the normal way, and was the only competitor to slide his tail successfully. Time 9.2/5 seconds". Having acquiring his second Type 328 - the lower mileage ex-1938 Earls Court Motor Show Car '85301' - Tyrer sold '85034' to H. Merryweather Esq. of Bailey Electroplaters Ltd, Salford during the summer of 1947. Passing through the hands of Paul Joseph Ainscough of Latham, Lancashire, Douglas Patrick Breen Turner of Bromborough, Cheshire (1952) and Mr Smethurst of Southport, Lancashire (1957) thereafter, it had been stripped to component form and inherited by the latter's daughter by the time Nigel Stoyel of Sheldon, Devon took possession circa 1970.

A Frazer Nash specialist, Stoyel was commissioned to restore 'GS 7431' to its former glory by the late Anthony Harper of Bleadon, Somerset in 1996. Painstakingly pieced back together, the Frazer Nash-BMW 328 retains matching chassis and engine numbers ('85034' being quite visible on both) but has benefited from various new bodywork panels and ancillaries etc. Interestingly, the vendor reports finding the digits '45' along with what might be the ghost of a third number stamped on the glovebox hinges. In keeping with an early Series 1 car, the Roadster plays host to a ZF AK-S15 gearbox, correct-type serpentine oil cooler and full compliment of chassis crossmembers. While, upgrades seemingly comprise a RR53 Hiduminium alloy cylinder head (of the type available from 1939 onwards), triple SU carburettor conversion (a period Frazer Nash modification), miles per hour calibrated Veigel speedometer and drilled disc wheels etc. Tuned on a 'rolling road' by Sigma Engineering of Dorset in September 2005, 'GS 7431' entered the current ownership via Anthony Harper's estate last year. Garaged alongside the vendor's more competition biased Type 328, '85034' is only being offered for sale because its intended driver feels uncomfortable behind the wheel of so valuable a machine. Widely admired on our August 2008 VSCC Prescott stand, this well presented Frazer Nash-BMW 328 Roadster is offered for sale with correspondence from The Frazer Nash Archives and Gillie Tyrer, assorted period photographs, sundry paperwork and MOT certificate valid until January 2009. Eligible for a host of prestigious events, 'GS 7431' is worthy of close inspection.

Image and description kindly supplied by H&H Classic Auctions
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