1920 chain driven GN ‘Kim II,
Lot 337
G.N. 1,086cc V-Twin Cyclecar - ‘Kim II’
Sold for £65,300 (US$ 109,644) inc. premium
Lot Details
G.N. 1,086cc V-Twin Cyclecar - ‘Kim II’
Registration no. IT 327

Footnotes

  • Stafford East would be the first to admit that he called this racing G.N. cyclecar ‘Kim II’
    after the most careful consideration . Perhaps the most fitting description of the car would be, in modern parlance, a ‘clone’ of that most famous 1920’s racing car, campaigned with almost unchallenged success by Archie Frazer Nash in the 1920’s. But it is more than a ‘clone’ for it incorporates much of the original G.N. engine dating from 1914, built to compete for the Dangerfield Trophy in the Cyclecar Grand Prix in The Isle of Man that year and fitted in the original G.N. racing car known simply as ‘Kim’.

    As a youthful motor racing enthusiast Stafford East had watched ‘Kim II’ racing and followed its activities in the motoring journals. Much influenced by the performance of that car, his first car of choice was a G.N., bought for seventy shillings from Norman Finlayson - actually he thought he had bought two for that price but that is another story. So started an 80 or so year involvement with the G.N. marque. Other G.N.’s followed and Stafford East was always quick to gather up spares or ‘lost cause’ examples which he was able to store away in his Chesham garage.

    Stafford East had a passion for Bugattis too, mechanicing for Kenneth Bear in pre-war years in his racing exploits. In the immediate post war years, while exhibiting Bear’s Bugatti at The Racing Car Show, Stafford East was attracted by the engine from ‘Kim II’, exhibited by no less a person than Ron Godfrey, the ‘G’ of G.N. This fired in Stafford the possibility of re-creating ‘Kim II’ but it was some time before this was to come about. He developed a close friendship with Ron Godfrey, both skilled engineers swapping and comparing notes on all things G.N. and Stafford learning much of G.N. engineering practice and folklore ‘straight from the horse’s mouth’.

    Piecing together the history of this historic engine it was built, as previously mentioned, to compete in the Dangerfield Trophy race to be held on 24th September 1914, but the onset of hostilities saw that event in the Isle of Man cancelled, however Kim, in its original form, with wooden chassis and wire and bobbin steering, did run in the South Harting Hillclimb that year. The engine was a 90 degree v-twin with the Godfrey-designed overhung crankshaft, 90 degree valves, following the pattern of an Austro Daimler that Godfrey had owned, and with hemispherical combustion chambers. It had three forward speeds and reverse. The war put an end to motor sport, but in 1919 ‘Kim’, now designated ‘Kim I’, re-appeared with a channel steel chassis, but still retaining the wire and bobbin steering, and clad in tall narrow aluminium coachwork with pointed tail. In this form it was all-conquering, winning every race for which it was entered at Brooklands at the Junior Car Club Whitsun meeting in 1920, where, as the fastest cyclecar present, it lapped at an astonishing 85.38mph.

    Archie Frazer Nash is quoted as saying that ‘all racing cars should have a good crash as it releases any stresses in the engine’. He certainly put that to the test at the August Bank Holiday meeting that year when losing control on the Railway Straight while pulling out to overtake George Bedford’s 1.5 litre Hillman, crashing ‘Kim I’ badly. Archie suffered minor injuries, but ‘Kim I’ was badly damaged (see illustration), although the seven year old engine remained largely intact.

    Yet again ‘Kim’ was rebuilt with new chassis frame and body, adopting four forward speeds and reverse and now using a conventional G.N. steering box. The rebuilt car was now designated ‘Kim II’, and enjoyed outstanding success in the hands of Archie Frazer Nash, achieving over 100 outright wins, many fastest times of the day and setting innumerable World Records in the cyclecar class. ‘Kim II’ was driven to events as far afield as Shelsley Walsh, Sutton Bank, Cheltenham, Garrowby Hill, South Harting, Kop Hill, Southend and of course Brooklands. Adventures on the way to those events could be the subject of a book on their own and precise details of ‘Kim II’s many successes are recorded elsewhere.

    In 1924 Archie sold ‘Kim II’ to A.J.Hall, in favour of campaigning his new car ‘Mowgli’, the old racer then passing to Lewis Humphries and in 1925 it was campaigned by R.G.Moore at Skegness Sand Races. It passed then to A.C.M.Jamieson who it is thought blew the engine up. Ron Godfrey bought back the remains of ‘Kim II’ in 1935. It was the engine from this car that he exhibited at the post war Racing Car Show, albeit missing much of its internals.

    Ron Godfrey and Stafford East exchanged both knowledge and expertise over many years in their rebuilding of G.N. motor cars and at one point Godfrey agreed that Stafford had the expertise to recreate ‘Kim II’, which lay in Godfrey’s workshop at Bramley Mill, among his squirrel-like hoard of GN spares, and the remains were to go to Stafford. He had a change of heart and it was not until near the end of his life that the parts relating to ‘Kim II’ were moved from Bramley Mill to Stafford’s garage. He took an active interest in the re-creation of ‘Kim II’, but more importantly Stafford East relied heavily on the engineering expertise and knowledge of former GN racing engineer, L.A. Cushman, who had been Archie Frazer Nash’s mechanic and knew ‘Kim II’ intimately. Period photographs were scrutinised in detail to ensure that the recreation was exact in all possible detail and although a new chassis frame had to be made, most other fittings were genuine GN and sourced from Stafford’s own stores or from fellow GN enthusiasts. The late Ralph Wilde was to locate in France a rare pair of Houdaille shock absorbers, exactly the right size for ‘Kim II’. The finished car was exhibited for some time at the Chiltern Motoring Museum at West Wycombe and has made several guest appearances by invitation at Brooklands, ascending the Test Hill in fine style. It also took part in the 1985 Frazer Nash Boulogne Raid in 1985.

    Although presently fitted with ‘wired-on’ tyres, a set of more correct beaded edge wheels and tyres come with the car. In 1971 ‘Kim II’ was allocated the registration number IT 327, a number used by Archie Frazer Nash and GN in period for more than one of their cars, and it comes with appropriate Swansea documentation.

    So here is Stafford East’s ‘Kim II’, a car watched by him as a schoolboy in the hands of his racing hero, a car the major component of which has a continuous and distinguished history, an engine and other components acquired directly from its creator, Ron Godfrey, and a car meticulously assembled using the expertise and knowledge of Cushman, Archie Frazer Nash’s racing mechanic. Some say that the engine is perhaps from GN ‘Bluebottle’ of 1913, itself a legend in GN history – that does not accord with the continuous history and thoughts of Ron Godfrey himself and Cushman who built the car originally and participated in its re-creation. Some say this car should be called ‘Kim III’ – perhaps that’s right, but no matter, here is a car with its own undoubted history – a glorious hark back to an age of motor racing long gone – and yet perhaps itching to appear again at Shelsley Walsh or Brooklands in appropriate events and in sympathetic hands, following careful recommissioning.
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