Sir Francis Samuelson

Sir Francis Samuelson

Sir Francis Samuelson was born on the 22nd February 1890, and inherited the title of the fourth Baronet of Bodicote in 1946 on the death of his father. The family appeared to make much of its money from the iron industry (opening the Britannia Steel Works in Banbury), and were well known as philanthropists. He appears to have been interested in automobiles from an early age,  and began racing cycle cars around 1908. Apparently, he even raced on his honeymoon in France - seconding his bride as riding mechanic. It is believed that he may be the only person to have raced competitively both before the Great War and after the Second World War. After the Great War, he moved to larger cars. He competed with his Lagonda at Le Mans in 1928, crashing on the fourteenth lap. He also undertook the Monte Carlo Rally on several occasions. In 1929 he did all the driving himself when his co-driver had to withdraw. His wife deputised again. His weapon of choice was now choice of MGs. He raced at Le Mans between 1930 and 1932. In 1931 he finished 7th, but was disqualified as his final lap took over half an hour. After the Second World War, information is a bit thin. The family appear to have sold out of the steel industry (perhaps to nationalisation?), and to have moved to the South Downs as gentlemen farmers (taking an active interest in the local hunt). Despite being well into his fifties, his racing interest was sparked again by the 500 movement.

Sir Francis in his Cooper Mk II in September 1948

Sir Francis at Brighton, 1st September 1947

In September 1947, he drove the original Marwyn prototype at the Brighton Speed Trials, finishing third. Realising that it was no match for the two Cooper prototypes, he hastily switched allegiance and was one of the first dozen people to order a Cooper Mk II. At the first event of the 1948 season, on 31st March at Luton Hoo, he shared the works Mk II with John Cooper. A cautious first run was followed by a moment on the second, and he was last of the five classified runners. By June, he had his own car, which he debuted at the Stanmer Park sprint, near Brighton. Sir Francis finished third in his Mk II at the October Grand Prix meeting at Silverstone.

Nearing 60, he was never going to beat the young guns, but he was a regular in the top ten at many races through 1949, and was an enthusiastic member of the movement. He joined the first international adventures, to Brussels in May, and Zandvoort in July, and organised the British representation for France's first Formula 3 race at Montlhéry in April 1950.

Sir Francis continued racing, apparently with a particular interest in the continental races, and purchased a new Mk V Cooper in 1951, but then appears to have left the movement. However, he did continue competing with the VSCC, well into the 1970s (and his eighties). He died on the 8th January 1981, just shy of his ninety first birthday.

In April 1963, Motor Sport reviewed Sir Francis' extensive cars. We are grateful to the WO Bentley Memorial Foundation for the copy