Competing against some of the fastest cars of the day, Willis had a great day.
The race was won by Reg Parnell’s Cooper Bristol. Then followed 2 Connaught A-types, and a Ferrari 125/66. Willis finished a credible 5th, and in the process set a two litre lap record of 85.5 MPH.
As the 1952 season wound down Willis and Bulmer recognized that there were changes coming in the various Formulae. They also realized that they could no longer compete effectively with a car that was also being driven daily on the open roads. So they began to plan for the 1953 season. These plans developed into a special built and extremely light weight 1500 cc car with a steel space frame designed by Bulmer. Bulmer even designed a special short throw crankshaft that they planned to use in the new car.
Unfortunately reality caught up with the team as business set-backs caused Willis to have to sell his garage, and the partially finished race car they were building for 1953. 51203 also had to be sold and was offered in this ad in the Fall of 1952. This set-back also proved to be the end of Willis’ racing career.
The car was purchased by Berwyn Baxter who raced it throughout the 1953 season. The car appeared on entry lists as the “LMC Bristol,” so named for Willis’ now defunct garage, the Loughton Motor Company. 3rd place finishes at AMOC’s Silverstone race in August, and BARC’s Goodwood race in September comprised the highlights of that season.
Baxter bought a C-type Jaguar for the 1954 season so 51203 was idled, and finally it was offered for sale through the Scarth Hill Motor Co Ltd in Ormskirk. Cedric Brierly purchased the car in December 1954 for 365 Pounds. He intended to transplant the engine from the car into his own BS Special. Fortunately his plans changed and he sold the car to Peter Sims of Sheffield before it could be cannabalized.
The car ran two more races at Silverstone. The first was in July 1955, and finally in October 1956. It is thought to have then been converted back to street car, and it thus disappeared until 1967 when its newest owner, Paul Spencer, wrote to both Bulmer and Willis seeking additional information about the car in preparation for restoration. It was now in several hundred pieces, with its magnesium body long since rotted away and sold for scrap.
It then went through a series owners, John Baker (1968-1983), Fuad Mazjub (1984-1989), and Brian May (1989-2001), each of whom had the best intentions of putting the car back together.
But it was not until it came to Proby Cautly in 2001 that 51203 was finally and properly restored to its former glory. The car was completely refurbished by Neil Davies Historic Racing in Hertfordshire during 2002-2003. The car still retained its Frazer-Nash Type 40 chassis (#51203) and the 2 litre BMW engine (#361672) with the Bristol head. The biggest challenge was that a new body, faithful to the original had to be fabricated. However, due to safety concerns this one was made out of aluminum. The original cast magnesium wheels were also duplicated by Crosthwaite & Gardner using modern materials and techniques which resulted in much safer wheels.
Mr. Cautley ran the car in several vintage events until he sold it back to John Baker who wanted to satisfy his curiosity as to how the car actually performed.
From Baker it went to Paul Evans in 2008. Mr. Evans converted it back to street use, removing the roll bar and adding the gauges and lights necessary to obtain an MOT Certificate.
At this point the car was putting out somewhere near 60 bhp, so the next step was obvious. During the winter of 1949 a 2 liter motor was fitted. Willis used the vertical valve, M319/4 Type 55 with triple horizontal Solex carburetors. Though not as effective as the hemi-headed 328 power plant, Willis and Bulmer modified it for more power along the lines they had used with the smaller engine. The car was also fitted with an ENV 75 pre-selector transmission from a Riley via a custom magnesium bellhousing.
To mark this new phase in its life the car was also re-registered as PVW 893.
The 1950 season showed that the car was now quite quick, and was, in fact, a match for the factory Frazer-Nashs and HMWs. But as Willis was now participating in more circuit races, it also showed itself to be unreliable. But given the team’s limited resources, this should hardly seem surprising.
That summer the team ventured to the Continent and raced in the Formula 2 events at both Luxemburg and Chimay, Belgium in May, and the 4e Coupe des Petites Cylindrees at Rheims in July. All these runs ended with DNF’s. These disappointments discouraged further forays to Europe, and resulted in the team focusing on races close to home.
By mid-summer the car was running more reliably. A second place finish to Gil Tyrer’s ex-Mille Miglia 328 streamliner at Silverstone in July, and a victory over Oscar Moore’s OBM at the SUNBAC Silverstone race in August were very promising. In September Willis returned to Prescott and climbed the hill in 50.48 seconds to win the 1500-3000 cc class. This time set a new record for the class, and was even good enough to beat Sydney Allard’s new Cadillac-Allard for the best time of the meet for sports cars.
1951 was pretty much like 1950, fast but fragile. 3rd behind an XK 120 Jaguar and a Frazer-Nash Le Mans Replica in June at Silverstone. Another 3rd behind two Frazer-Nash Bristols at Boreham in August, and a well deserved 2nd behind a Frazer-Nash High Speed at Gamston Airfield in July. The year ended with a disappointing DNF at the International Wakefield Trophy Race at Curragh in September.
For 1952 the team realized that they would need more power if they were to remain at all competitive in the 2 litre classes. So Willis set about modifying the Type 55 engine to accept a 328/Bristol type alloy cylinder head fitted with 3 down-draft SU carburetors. This change was immediate and dramatic.
Bulmer drove the car in the first event of the season, the Gosport ¼ Mile Sprint where his best time of the day was 14.97 seconds, sufficient to beat 2 Frazer-Nash Le Mans Replicas and garner the 5th fastest time of the day.
Sharing the car for the May AMOC Race at Snetterton, Willis easily took his heat race ahead of a Frazer-Nash Mille Miglia and a potent MG-Cooper, but had to retire from the final. Bulmer was leading the Formula 2 race until he blew a head gasket in the late stages of the race. Still he was able to set the fastest lap of the day at 77.92 MPH.
Two weeks later Willis posted a record time of 48.84 seconds at the Prescott Hillclimb. This was down from his initial time of over 62 seconds from just a few years earlier. Bulmer won the up to 2,500 cc sports car class and finished 2nd in the Formula 2 race at Silverstone at the end of May, followed by a 2nd in the Formula 2 race at Snetterton.
Three weeks later Willis faced a tough field of Formula 2s at the West Essex Car Club’s Boreham race. Led by Reg Parnell’s Cooper Bristol, 2 Connaught A-types, and a Ferrari 125/66, Willis finished a credible 5th, and in the process set a two litre lap record of 85.5 MPH.