Granville Grenfell

Granville Grenfell

John Granville Grenfell was born in Sydney, Australia in 1893, came to England in 1906 and in 1907 he was taken by his father to the opening race meeting at Brooklands, Weybridge, Surrey, an event which was to have a great influence on his future life. He began racing in 1907 on bikes and in cars and, in 1913 built a Norton engine special which pre dates the 500 movement by a considerable margin and proves that nothing is ever really new! During the 1920's, he worked for Vincenzo Lancia, one of the most innovative manufacturers of that period as well as Rolls-Royce, Michelin, Firestone and Hispano-Suiza. Granville Grenfell's workshops were based at Brooklands in Weybridge. His 500 featured a most unusual front suspension and steering arrangement. He used a Triumph engine, later replaced with a JAP and Albion gearbox, it appeared briefly towards the end of 1951 then disappeared as he attempted to patent the front "Swing axle". John Granville Grenfell died in 1975. The car reappeared some years later now owned by Michael Lovell who used though the late 1950's and early 60's

Mike at Goodwood in 1957. Photo courtesy Peter Lovell

Peter Lovell at Great Auclum in August 1955. Photo courtesy Peter Lovell

 How it was was reviewed in Iota.

Michael Lovell's Grenfell at Goodwood for the Formula Libre race in October 1962. Photo courtesy Ben Cowdrey.


This is being written from a distance of almost 60 years, so any errors or omissions must be forgiven.

My brother was M.R. (Mike) Lovell. A pilot for BOAC and a former bomber pilot, his burning ambition was to be a racing driver. His first step in that direction had been to buy a Frazer Nash in the late 1940`s which we both used to drive in VSCC events. One day in 1953 he was at the premises of a car dealer in Bromley, Kent. Why, I do not know. It was there that he came across the Grenfell Special. Why that was there I do not know either. Anyway, the end result was that he bought the car and we towed it home to Woking on the end of a rope. An unfortunate side effect of the decision to buy the Grenfell was that he had to sell the `Nash in order to do so, so that was the end of our VSCC activity.

The Grenfell Special was built by John Granville Grenfell at his workshop in Weybridge, not far from Brooklands where he operated in pre-war days. Having got it home we were able to have a good look at it. The rear end of the car was fairly conventional. There was a JAP engine with chain drive to a solid rear axle which was mounted on semi trailing quarter elliptic springs. It was at the front end that things were different, especially with regard to the IFS. In order to ensure the minimum change in camber angle each front wheel had, in effect, its own axle, pivoted about a mounting on the opposite side of the chassis. This gave the maximum swing arm length and pivot radius but at the expense of quite a lot of unsprung weight. The front suspension struts were aircraft undercarriage oleo legs which had to be inflated to a certain air pressure. The fuel supply was maintained by a pressurised tank with the traditional hand pump in the cockpit. In order to learn more about the car and as a matter of courtesy we went to see Granville Grenfell a couple of times in his workshop in Weybridge. A fascinating and charming gentleman.

As the car had not been run for some time it seemed prudent to dismantle as much as was practical for a thorough check. This included the JAP engine which was stripped down and thoroughly checked and cleaned. Havi