'A nickname as evocative as the "chain gang" is guaranteed to raise the eyebrows of and fast-car enthusiast not too conversant with the intimacies of the pre-war Frazer Nash.' Bruce Hudson, British Light Cars 1930-1939.
The Frazer Nash was the direct descendant of the GN cycle car, a twin-cylinder, chain driven vehicle produced until 1922 by the partnership of Captain Archie Frazer-Nash and H R Godfrey. Archie Frazer-Nash then formed a new company and in 1924 the first Frazer Nash appeared. The new car used the GN-type transmission, which consisted of a separate chain for each speed, the drive sprockets being engaged by dog clutches. Three forward speeds were offered at first, with a fourth added later, power being transmitted via a countershaft to the rear axle. Reverse had its own chain. In many ways this system represented the sporting motorist's ideal; it was lighter and absorbed less power than a conventional gearbox, while the sprockets could be changed quickly to suit different types of event: trials, sprints, hill climbs, circuit races, etc. Once mastered, the Frazer Nash's chain-drive transmission could be operated as swiftly as any conventional 'box.
Although the chain drive was highly unusual, at least for a motor car of the period, a chain is more efficient than almost any other form of transmission and Frazer Nash's system was one of the best. References at the time to 'smoking or red-hot chains lying on the road' after the rare breakage were mistaken. The reason chains were handled with care was because they were dirty, and many lasted over 40,000 miles. With their unique form of drive, Frazer Nashes over-steered dramatically under power and it was said at the time that 'Frazer Nashes never go round corners, they merely change direction.'
As first conceived, the Frazer Nash chassis employed quarter-elliptic springing, rack-and-pinion steering and cable-operated brakes on the rear axle only, though four-wheel braking was soon standardised. The Power Plus 1.5-litre overhead-valve four-cylinder engine was used for the first dozen-or-so cars before the similar-size sidevalve Anzani 4000 series was standardised in 1925. A number of different engines was used by the factory, and the TT Replica model was fitted the 1½-litre, four-cylinder, overhead-valve Meadows, the 1,660cc six-cylinder, twin-overhead-camshaft Blackburne and the 1½-litre, four-cylinder, single-overhead-camshaft Gough, the latter being made by Frazer Nash themselves. (The factory undertook the manufacture of individual cars to order and various combinations of engine and chassis were produced).
In 1928 Captain Frazer-Nash left the company, which then came under the control of H J and W H Aldington. Between 1924 and 1954, when production effectively ceased, approximately 450 Frazer Nash cars were produced, of which 350 were pre-war 'chain gang' models.
One of the handful originally fitted with the Plus Power engine, this early Frazer Nash has the successor Anzani engine, in this particular case an 'HE' (high efficiency) unit producing 52bhp. This engine appears to have been installed some time after 'PD 3616' was registered on 26th November 1924 and may have originally been fitted to a 1929 chassis, number '1215', which subsequently received a Meadows engine. 'PD 3616' is pictured when new in 1924 in David Thirlby's 'The Chain-drive Frazer Nash' (Plate 18).
The immediately preceding owner, Ian Kennedy, acquired the car at auction in October 1993, at which time it was said to have been in the then owner's hands 'on and off' for 40 years, undergoing extensive restoration while in his care, including an engine rebuild. The accompanying VSCC eligibility form states that the Frazer Nash had been family owned for 30+ years and converted to four-wheel brakes and four-speed transmission. It further states that the damaged chassis had been replaced and fitted with a new boat-decked body as per factory drawings. The body is polished aluminium, with chassis, carpets and boot lining in British Racing Green, as is the Connolly hide buttoned upholstery and tonneau cover. A splendid Vintage-era sports car more than able to hold its own against contemporary opposition, 'PD 3616' is offered with the aforementioned VSCC paperwork, expired MoT (August 1993) and old-style Swansea V5 document.