Russell Special

Very little is known about this early 500. Indeed, we are not absolutely sure that these pictures are of the Russell Special. WH Russell and Ron Messenger were friends from Banbury, Oxfordshire. Each built a special, known unsurprisingly as the Russell Special and Messenger Special. It is possible that the chassis were of similar design.

The first recorded appearance for both cars was the British Grand Prix Meeting at Silverstone, 2nd October 1948. As the first major event for 500s, pretty much every chassis able to move under its own steam was entered. Thirty four cars appeared in the programme, and twenty six were able to take the start. Russell failed to qualify for reasons unknown, while Messenger would complete just the one lap.

Lulsgate, 16th April 1949. WH Russell at the start (Car No 3) behind Gerry Millington’s Milli-Union and Joe Gibbs’ MAC 500. This image shows the high profile of the car, which with wire wheels must have made for interesting handling.

Little is known about the chassis. Despite the grille front, it was rear-engined, and featured a Morgan-type front suspension layout. It certainly sat very high, but we have no information about what chassis or engine lay underneath. Mr Russell made several appearances in 1949, including Brough in April & October, and the first meeting at Lulsgate on the 16th April. It is likely that he competed in other minor events and sprints, normally accompanied by Mr Messenger, and rarely with success. He returned to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix in 1949 and 1950, the latter being the last noted appearance. By 1951 he appears to have abandoned the 500 movement.

British Grand Prix, Silverstone, 14th May 1949. WH Russell passes the Cooper Mk II of Peter Page, probably in practice. Silverstone experts will recognise a rare shot of the Club Corner chicane, used only in 1949. Image provided by Michael Aikey.

If anyone has any more details or photos please get in touch.