Post-WWII restrictions on materials – and steel, in particular – hampered home market sales for car manufacturers large – and, especially, small. One solution that conveniently side-stepped purchase tax as well as maintaining sales under these difficult conditions was the delivery of running chassis to specialist coach-builders – hence the shooting brake-bodied vehicles so commonly seen in the 1950s and for some years thereafter. Many of the firms that bodied these vehicles worked principally on commercial vehicle chassis and no doubt saw the occasional one-off or low-run body on a private car chassis as more of a challenge and a show-piece for their skills, as well as being one that held the promise of a greater profit margin.
At this same period, the ‘small ads’ pages of Motor Sport were extensive, and alongside recent sports two-seaters are listed many fine vintage and 1930s cars, ranging from sports and racing cars with pedigree to formal-bodied patrician chassis such as Hispano-Suiza, Mercedes – and, of course, Rolls-Royce. ‘WO’ Bentleys abound. Fascination and futility make happy conjunction when those pages of the 1950s issues are read today. This week’s ‘Snapshot’ is one advert that caught the eye, published in the October 1956 issue. It typifies the bizarre type of motor vehicle that not uncommonly featured. But where to seek illumination?
One remarkable publication is Edmund Nankivell’s ‘Jowett Jupiter Special body’ (2011), a 200 page hard-bound A4-size book that tells the story of the 67 Jupiter chassis that were bodied ‘outside’, by coach-builders ranging from the well-known such as Farina, Ghia and Beutler and, here in the UK, Abbott and Radford, to those of extreme obscurity. ‘Comprehensive’ scarcely begins to describe Nankivell’s coverage of his most interesting subject. And although the ‘Scientific GT’ never featured a Jowett chassis of any type, its story is duly told, accompanied by a better photograph, if still seen from much the same angle.
Ray Barrington Brock was an enthusiastic HRG owner, and his connections with the Tolworth works led to his acquisition of a ‘Jupiter’ engine supplied by Jowetts to HRG for evaluation as a possible replacement for the 1500cc Singer engine in their sports cars. Brock designed his Scientific GT from first principles, and maybe the chassis was built for him by HRG. The Jupiter engine was rear-mounted, driving forwards to a preselector gearbox. There was independent suspension all round, and rear wheel drive. Weight reduction was given full consideration, as evidently was aerodynamic efficiency, enhanced further by a full undertray. Radiator cooling was via an air scoop placed towards the rear of the roof. Triple headlights and automatic chassis lubrication were additional sophisticated features of this unique car. The Scientific GT was completed in the Spring of 1955. Stirling Moss drove the car, and commented favourably on its handling.
It seems that Brock sold his brainchild as a result of his 1956 adverts. The Scientific’s next owner succeeded in writing it off when competing at Brands Hatch – an unfortunate end to a creditable vehicle that had many advanced features.