Ken Wharton

Ken Wharton

Ken Wharton was born in April 1916 and first competed at the age of 19, at Donington Park, in an Austin. Motorsport ceased during the war, but at the earliest opportunity Ken entered whatever competitive events were available.

He was a motor engineer, owned a Ford Dealership in Birmingham, and was able to design and build his own “specials” employing an Austin Seven chassis powered by Ford or MG engines. Ken fitted a highly tuned BSA vertical twin engine to one of these Austin chassis with split axle front suspension. When running correctly, the Wharton Special was one of the fastest of the early 500s. Unfortunately the engine rarely ran right for very long and the project was abandoned. He did win the 850cc Class at the Southsea Speed Trials in September 1947 beating the Coopers of Eric Brandon and John Cooper

By 1950, Ken was in a Cooper himself finishing fifth at Goodwood in May, sixth at Silverstone Daily Express Meeting, second at Lydstep in a Kieft, fourth at Goodwood on the 30th September. At some point. he acquired a Cooper Mk IV, so called lightweight car, which he continued to run with BSA power as a 500 but also modified to take the V twin JAP and then fitted a supercharger. From then on, the majority of his outings would be with the bigger engine class.

Ken and his Cooper Mk IV at Bo'ness, June 1951.

Ken Wharton Boness 0651.jpeg (22784 bytes)

1951 began with another fastest time at Lydstep in March, again in the Kieft, then a win at Castle Combe on the 31st in a Cooper Mk V. Shelsley in June brought a second to Clive Lones followed by fastest time at Bo'ness. Ken took second place at the British Grand Prix meeting in July to Moss then fastest times at Lydstep and Shelsley.

Hill Climbing was the discipline that Ken really mastered, driving ERAs, Kiefts or Coopers, he won the RAC British Hillclimb Championship in 1951, 52, 53 and 54.

Ken also drove for BRM and, at the Easter 1953 meeting at Goodwood, he won the Richmond Trophy at an average of 90.47mph. The club's main championship trophy, which was donated by Ken's family, was the one he was awarded in the Albi Grand Prix when part of the BRM team.

At Prescott in 1956, Ken's Cooper in 1,100cc trim.

From an article in Motor Sport

Co-driving with Peter Whitehead, he won the 12-hour race at Rheims in a Jaguar in 1954 at an average of 104.5mph. In 1955 he was invited, with Mike Hawthorn, to drive for Vanwall which proved to be somewhat underdeveloped. On its first outing at Silverstone, Wharton's car crashed and he sustained burns and minor injuries. He also drove Ferrari and Maserati, mostly as a privateer. It was in practice at another sports car meeting, in Auckland, New Zealand, on 12th January 1957, that Ken’s career was brought to a sudden end when his Ferrari hit a stanchion and somersaulted. Wharton was thrown from the car and died from his injuries.

An article by Ken published in Motor Sport December 1953