The ex-Godfrey, Brooklands 200 Mile Race 3rd Place and GN Team Award winning
1922 GN Akela 1,100cc 200 Mile Racer
Chassis no. 3093
Archie Frazer Nash was engrossed in his racing exploits as the twentieth century entered its third decade, some say to the detriment of the G.N. business of cyclecar manufacture. There is no doubt that he spent an inordinate amount of both time and money campaigning Kim to good effect up and down the country in hillclimbs, sprints and race meetings. Although the publicity achieved was good for the company, perhaps management time and business acumen were in short supply and this contributed to the ultimate decline of G.N.
The Junior Car Clubs announcement in 1921 of a 200 Mile Race at Brooklands for cars up to 1,500cc capacity certainly caught the attention of Archie Frazer Nash and a new engine was designed specifically to win this event. Designated Akela, (G.N. took engine names from Rudyard Kiplings Jungle Book), the new engine featured a T-shaped overhead camshaft drive, the main shaft rising from the timing case and then driving through right-angle bevel gears to transmit drive to the camshafts in each cylinder head. The 84x98mm engine featured four valves and two plugs per cylinder and was hurriedly tested in the Experimental Shop and readied for the October race.
Nash battled behind Lombard in the equally fragile and marginally faster French-built Salmson for much of the race but an extended pit re-fuelling stop by the Salmson enabled Nash to take the lead which he held to the end, winning the class at a mighty impressive average speed of 71.54mph.
For the 1922 200 Mile Race a fleet of three cars was assembled, including this car, Number 2 which was piloted by Godfrey, alongside others driven by Hawkins and Archie Frazer Nash. Salmson won the race but the team award was scooped up by GN, with Number 2 being brought home in 3rd Place overall.
It is known that in 1926 the car was purchased by N.G. Asprey, who raced it for a short while before selling to Hugh Sowell. Showell entered the Shelsley Walsh hillclimb that year, and had quite a moment which was caught by a brave photographer and became widely publicized of him wrestling a slide. Another photographer was less fortunate as Akela shot off the course breaking his leg before ending up in a bush!
One might have thought that this would have dampened Showells enthusiasm for the car not a bit of it, he went on to have the cylinder barrels bored out to 1,500cc and had Birkin fit it with a supercharger! Owning it for many years, the car continued to be raced and developed in his hands, finishing up with a rather skimpy sprint body on it.
Post-war it was acquired by the famous GN racer Basil Davenport who was responsible for restoring it to the 200 Mile configuration in which it originally raced. It remained with him until 1969 when it was purchased by Ron Slant, in whose control it continued to be overseen by Davenport. Charlie Smith a well known vintage engineer bought the car in 1980 and continued its racing spirit for another 27 years before it came into the current US ownership.
The thorough chassis and engine rebuild that was undertaken during Charlie Smiths ownership holds good today and the car presents well. It has been shown here on occasions including the New England Concours in July 2007 and is said to be capable of 90mph or more on the road.
Offered with a wealth of supporting information from copies of period racing images to books, engineering drawings and more, this is certainly a venerable and wonderful old warhorse!