A Closer Look at the HWM Jaguar ‘HWM 1’

A British Privateer operation headed up by George Abecassis and John Heath, HWM was a famous name in the 1950s. Following success in single-seaters, it became the first proper marque to create a Jaguar-engined sporty racing car. From 1953 to 1957, the team was involved in sports car racing both in Britain and on the Continent, sometimes beating its Jaguar and Aston Martin works competitors.

The first of the two late cars, 52106 (pictured) took on the registration HWM 1 that had been reassigned by the work from an earlier HWM. Taken to the Mille Miglia as a factory entry in 1956 (car no. 545), HWM 1 unfortunately did not finish the race due to a grave accident with John Heath at the wheel. A works rebuild used the same chassis, albeit with replacement rails, as was usual in this era of sports car racing. When the HWM was back to full fettle, Noel Cunningham-Reid drove it down to the Brighton Speed Trials, which acted as a shakedown exercise. Dick Protheroe piloted it at Goodwood in September, and Cunningham-Reid won a race with it at the final Snetterton meeting of the year.

In 1957 HWM 1 was run as a works entry for a variety of drivers. The first official outing was at the Easter Monday Goodwood meeting, driven by Brit Peter Blond. He went on to campaign HWM 1 on numerous occasions that year, with Jack Fairman and Les Leston also taking a turn. The period driver list reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of 1950s British sports car racers.

HWM 1 was sold at the end of the 1957 season to Team Speedwell, a quartet of enthusiastic drivers based in Middlesex, UK. Of these, it was John Bekaert who largely drove the HWM during a packed programme of club races, with much success. He apparently drove it to each meeting, relishing its road performance; he recalled the police catching him on his way to Silverstone at exactly 100mph over the speed limit. Autosport published numerous photos of the HWM in action on track during this season.

The HWM passed between a handful of custodians before ending up with historic racer Kirk Rylands, who kept 52106 for a staggering 34 years and maintained it in excellent health. Rylands raced and rallied the HWM, working with legendary preparer Arthur Mallock to improve the handling and track prowess. He finally sold HWM 1 in 2008, to Alfa guru Paul Grist, who carried out a total rebuild, including changing the front bodywork to its original configuration. In this form, it has been a regular sight at the Goodwood Revival.

In 2020, HWM 1 was returned to exactly the colours it ran at the 1956 Mille Miglia by Brazell Engineering. The picture above was taken at Concours of Elegance in 2020 and was the car’s first public appearance since this work was carried out.

ENGINE

3.4-litre straight-six, double overhead camshaft, Weber carbs

CONFIGURATION

Non-parallel twin-tube chassis, front coil springs and wishbones, rear coil springs and De Dion tube, Alfin drum brakes all round

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