Freikaiserwagen & Freikaiserwagen 500

The Freikaiserwagen is an interesting example of the cross over between pre and post war cars and illustrates that nothing is ever really new! The original and best known car was a "Shelsley special", of  David Fry of the Fry's Chocolate family and Hugh Dunsterville. They were assisted by Dick Caesar who was instrumental in the origins of the 500 movement as a founder member of CAPA and the 500 Club (See Keith Gough's From Acorns......). The name Freikaiserwagen is derived from their names, Fry and Caesar with a Germanic twist appropriate to the time. In its original 1936 form, Freikaiserwagen used a GN chassis and a V twin Anzani engine, mounted amidships, which was highly unusual for the time and probably accounts for the nickname "Porsche" used by the team members (A reference to the Auto Union Grand Prix cars designed by von Porsche). David's cousin Joe Fry became the primary driver, partly because of David's size but also due to Joe's considerable skill. The car underwent constant development including a switch to a Robin Jackson tuned V twin Blackburne engine and set many fastest times for its class.

Post war, this car was reconstructed around one of Caesar's Iota chassis and two stage supercharging was used to boost power even further. Joe achieved considerable success with the Freikaiserwagen, the pinnacle being setting overall FTD at Shelsley Walsh in June 1949 but he also drove 500s such as the Arengo. Tragically, Joe crashed the Freikaiserwagen car in practice for the hill climb at Blandford in July 1950 and was killed. The Freikaiserwagen was broken up.

Freik in later form, the Iota chassis clearly visible

Frekaiserwagen 1.jpg (70856 bytes)

Freikaiserwagen 500

The  Freikaiserwagen 500, built by David Fry in 1948, was also based on an Iota chassis with a Cross rotary valve engine but a JAP was substituted due to overheating.

This car was sold to Jack Moor, for 1949, who fitted a Manx Norton engine and converted the rear suspension to double wishbones. This was the fourth Wasp and became a long lasting and successful car.

David's brother, Jeremy, also raced 500s, the Parsenn being one of the most advanced cars of the early period.


The Freikaiserwagen 500 at Silverstone in October 1948 for the British Grand Prix, with Joe, Jeremy and David Fry. The Cross engine blew up in practice so the team set to to fit a JAP, borrowed from John Cooper. They worked all night fabricating the necessary parts to get the car to the grid.

The following is an article by Joe Fry, published in  Iota, February 1949, covering the original Freikaiserwagen

“Freik – The Private Life of the Freikaiserwagen”.

Written by Rob and Hugh Dunsterville and edited by Bob Cooper and James Fack.
Review by Steve Lister 14th June 09.

Prior to reading this book, I, perhaps like many other motoring enthusiasts, hadn’t fully appreciated the real significance of this sprint and hill-climb special in the history of British motor sport. Although raced for just seven seasons between 1936 and 1950, this amazing Shelsley Special provided the lead, and set the standards, for the rear engined racing cars that followed.

The “Freik” specification changed regularly. Not from season to season, but detailed improvements were made from week to week! The Fry team used two different GN chassis, the second being from the Watkins GN used for the immediate post car resurrection and then finally an Iota chassis from Dick Caesar. Initially the power was provided by a tame water-cooled v-twin Anzani from an Aero Morgan. However, when Robin Jackson, the famous Brooklands tuner, joined the project they switched to the very special air-cooled Blackburne of Jackson’s own design. In 1937 the Blackburne provided a highly respectable 70 bhp on Bowden carburettors. By 1949, engine development, including two-stage supercharging, had lifted output from the 1100cc v-twin to an astonishing 115 bhp.

This little car was taking class wins and setting records from its first full season, but the pinnacle of achievement was the new Shelsley Walsh hill-climb record of 37.35 sec on 11th June 1949. In taking the record Joe Fry beat Raymond Mays in the 2-litre supercharged ERA R4D, Dennis Poore in the 3.8-litre Grand Prix Alfa as well as one Stirling Moss in an 1100cc Cooper!

The book was initially conceived by Rob Dunsterville as a way to record Hugh’s vital work in building the first Freikaiserwagen for David Fry and his cousin Joe. It has become so much more. Based on the unique understanding of the vehicle’s creator and then highly polished by James Fack and Bob Cooper, it is an excellent diary of this unique racing car and is complimented by an array of good quality, atmospheric photographs. Attention to detail is most pleasing and factors that influenced the Freik are well covered. Including – CAPA, Dick Caesar and Auto Union.

500 Owners Association members will be particularly interested to read about the Freik’s mid-engine design and the development of the rear swing axle. It was, of course, the same style of rear suspension that enabled Kieft to seriously challenge the Cooper dominance in the early 1950s.

The book was originally published in 2008 and quickly sold out. A revised version is now available and benefits from an 8 page addendum in which James Fack explains important technical design aspects of the Freik. You also get 8 new illustrations and a more complete list of events entered thanks to work by Adam Ferrington. This is a must have reference book for any serious motor sport enthusiast and also a delightful read.

Hugh Dunsterville passed away in November 2011.