Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture


 My first automobile was a 1947 MG-TC Midget Roadster. The 1947 had skinny 19" wire wheels and my dad called it,"a coffin on four harps." It had sweeping mudguards with "top of the wing" mounted trafficators and Lucas headlamps mounted between the wings and the bonnet. It was British Racing Green(BRG) with fawn leather upholstery and a walnut rimmed steering wheel mounted on the right side. To top off my classic ensemble there was an external Lucas horn and fog lamp mounted on a badge-bar between the dumb-irons.  I was the most classic car on the highway,... until I saw an HRG of the same year coming at me in the opposite direction. I pulled a "U" turn and pulled the other driver over. On close inspection I dropped my phoney British sports car jargon and realized that I had been outclassed.


During the early 1930s British sports cars were not known as the nimble, fast-cornering high performance cars we think of today. Even the racing cars like the 1929 4.5 Litre Blower Bentley was a huge green firetruck of an automobile(4.5 Litre is a huge engine.) As a consequence sports cars were poor both in performance and handling. Too often the sports model was just the family touring chassis with a "sports" body, (sometimes heavier than the standard because a roadster needs extra bracing) and a louder exhaust. Their chief faults were, too much total weight in relation to capacity of engine, soggy steering, poor road holding due to lack of lateral rigidity of chassis and excess of unsprung weight, small diameter brakes. In 1930, the HRG was a breakthrough.

This state of affairs had often been discussed between three people all of whom had long experience of driving sports cars namely, E.A.Halford, G.H.Robins and H.R.Godfrey(HRG) and there did not seem to be any reason why a car should not be designed with the idea of eliminating the bad features of small heavy cars that didn't corner well, and were lead sleds., So in the spring of 1935 it was decided to pool resources to produce a design and make a prototype which it was hoped would be outstanding in both performance and road holding.

A small workshop was rented at Kingston-on-Thames and installed with the necessary equipment, the working drawings and the manufacture of the prototype being undertaken by the partners themselves with the help of one mechanic.They were off to the races.

They formed an engineering company, machine shop and race car factory. They cast their own cylinder heads. and designed a sports-racing car that had a respectable future on the European circuits. The powerplant bottom end was a Singer or a Triumph block. The head, pistons, valves and dual overhead camshafts were of their own design. The early engines developed 125 HP from 1.1 Liters and later 1.5 Liters(1500cc.)When road tested, the car exceeded expectations in every way, both in speed and acceleration, road holding and steering. It was then handed over to members of the technical press and others with instructions to drive it very hard, with the object of finding out any defects. However, no weaknesses became apparent in many miles, in fact the press representatives were all loud in their praises.

It appeared to be several jumps ahead of other sports cars of the period. Now that the prototype was so successful it was decided to go ahead with manufacture, on a small scale. A private limited company was formed in February 1936 with, a capital of $3,000 and larger premises were rented at Tolworth (the present factory). By the middle of 1936 cars similar to the prototype were being turned out at about 1 per week and the make quickly became a favourite with private owners, particularly those interested in competitions. If, was claimed that the owner of an HRG could use his car for everyday motoring and also indulge in trials, hill climbs or races with success.

During the period 1936 - 1939 a large number of successes in all kinds of competitions were gained by private owners of H.R.G.s. At the outbreak of World War II, cars were discontinued and the factory turned over to engineering war work.

When the war ended, cars were again produced still in small quantities of about 2 per week.

In the Post-war, the 1100 and 1500 2-seaters continued being made to the same pre-war design. HRG also commenced manufacturing the Aerodynamic model on basically the same vintage chassis.

1949 Le Mans Model

Guy Robins left the company in 1950 and sports car production ended in 1956 after 241 cars had been made, although the company remained in business as an engineering concern and as a development organisation for others, including Volvo. In 1965, they made a prototype Vauxhall VX 4/90-powered sports car. The company ceased trading in 1966, making a profit until the end.

Of the 241 sports-racing cars HRG Engineering constructed between 1935 and 1956, over 200 are still running. Some of these cars are still competing(and winning) in vintage auto races. The HRG marque is a tribute to British craftsmanship, innovation and dedication to a quality product, that is fast and fun to drive.

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Comment by John L. Sands on November 26, 2011 at 12:13am

I know, MG also had some really fast classic designs like the 1933 K-3 Magnette. This car never went into production and was constructed only for road racing.

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