Eric Brandon

Eric Brandon

eric brandon.jpg (191451 bytes)Eric Brandon was born in July 1920 in Gosport, Hampshire, a childhood friend and neighbour of John Cooper. In the immediate aftermath of the war, the pair decided to build two specials to the newly announced 500cc National Rules. Initially they shared the first Prototype (T2) until the second was finished for Eric (T3).

He is often referred to as a Cooper "works" driver although this is not strictly true. John and Eric built the cars for their own fun and and had no contractual relationship. Eric's day job was working for his electrical company in London, Halsey Electric and it was Eric's electrical contacts that allowed the boys to obtain BTH magnetos for their JAP engines. Eric made his debut at Prescott in August 1946, failing to finish due to the frailties of the new prototype car but a few weeks later he managed fourth at the Brighton Speed Trials in the 1 litre class.

In 1947, Eric and John undertook a more serious campaign, some of the mechanical gremlins now sorted. They attended the practice meeting at Prescott in April and the "White Hart" event in early May but the first proper Prescott meeting proved disappointing as neither finished. At Shelsley in June, Eric took third against representative 500 opposition and the following day they returned to Prescott where Eric took fastest time, beating Colin Strang and Frank Aikens for the first time. He then had honour of winning the first official race for 500cc cars, organised by the VSCC at Gransden Lodge in July followed by a second at Prescott later in the month.

Eric prepares for the off, Prescott Hill August 1946. John gives encouragement.

At Great Auclum on 26th July, Eric took an easy victory from John Cooper and Frank Bacon and another easy win at Prescott on 30th August. He failed to finish at Brighton then won the 500cc class at Poole plus a remarkable second in the 1,500cc class, won again at Southsea and finished the competitive year with a win at Shelsley on 27th September, beating all of the 500 regulars. Eric and John attended the abortive Silverstone event on 25th October but went on to run at Towcester racecourse with the gang. All things considered, this was an excellent first full season for Eric, he had beaten John more often than not and all of the best 500 drivers at various times, there was no doubting his or the car's abilities

Eric, exiting the esses at Shelsley Walsh, in his Prototype Cooper, T3.

1948 would see more competition, much of it "in house", Coopers having launched their first production car, the Mk II. Eric was forced to use his faithful T3 prototype car for much of the year owing to the demand from paying customers, among them Stirling Moss, Stan Coldham and Ron "Curly" Dryden. The season started brightly with a second to John at Luton Hoo but he was beaten by Lones and Strang at Prescott and then Moss at Stanmer Park. On the 12th and 13th of June, Eric did the double winning at Shelsley then Prescott but it wasn't until September that he won again, back at Prescott. Circuit racing recommenced in 1948 and Eric, now in a Mk II, duly finished second to Moss at Goodwood on the 18th September. The highlight of the year was the British Grand Prix race at Silverstone on the 2nd October, Eric finished fourth, quite an achievement given that he wasn't even in the car when BRDC President Lord Howe dropped the flag!

For 1949, Eric again reverted back to T3 for the first race, at Brough in April. He duly beat the Mk IIs and IIIs of Coldham, Saunders and Kearon. He failed at the Goodwood Easter meeting and the Grand Prix, then won at Prescott in May, Shelsley in June and Prescott again later the same month. Back on the circuit and in a Mk III, he won the first race at Silverstone on the 9th July, then Prescott again on the 17th July. Along with most of the British 500s, Eric travelled to Zandvoort in Holland for a fourth on 30th July. Eric beat Moss and Dryden to take the 50 Mile Race at Silverstone in August.

To start 1950, he had to settle for second to Bill Whitehouse at the Inaugural Brands Hatch meeting, then could only manage seventh at the "Royal" Silverstone race and eight at Goodwood, all in May. Only in July did things improve, Eric travelled to Rouen and took third, then a win at Brands on the 23rd and two third places in the Brands Hatch Championship race on 17th September, then another third at Goodwood on the 30th, to Dryden and Moss, to close a slightly disappointing season.

With the Formula 3 regulations a year old, a more serious approach was required and Eric formed the Ecurie Richmond team with Alan Brown and Jimmy Richmond, acquiring a pair of new Cooper Mk Vs and Manx Norton engines. The first Brands Hatch meeting of the year marked a significant improvement; second in the Open Challenge, third in the Brands Hatch Championship, a win in the Championship of the meeting plus the team prize. Back at Brands, on the 21st, he took third in the Open Challenge, behind Don Parker in a JBS and his team mate, Brown, and won the Championship of the meeting, then won the Daily Telegraph Trophy at Silverstone in early May. On the 12th, again at Brands, Eric won the Open Challenge Final but failed to finish the International Trophy and took fifth at Goodwood two days later. Two wins at Boreham, on 26th May beating Peter Collins, and again on the 30th June, taking Brown and Bernie Ecclestone. In between Eric finished second to Alan at Draguignan on 25th June and back to Germany to win the Grand Prix at the Nürburgring on 29th July. This was followed by a fifth at the Grand Prix, Moss taking the win in the new Kieft.

The 4th of August brought a third at Ibsley, behind the JBSs of Collins and Loens, then a third in the Silverstone 100 on the 18th, a second on aggregate on 1st September and a win on the 22nd, plus another trip to Germany to take second at Grenzlandring. A return to Brands on the 23rd brought a second to Ken Carter in the works car followed by a second at Brough on 7th October to become the first National Formula 3 Champion, ahead of his team mate Alan Brown, Peter Collins and Don Parker. Significantly, the Ecurie Richmond cars had out performed the works Mk Vs to see off the threat from the new JBS concern. To finish the year, Brandon travelled to Retiro Park in Madrid to win on 21st October.

Mr and Mrs Brandon brew up.

1952 would be a more challenging year for all of the Cooper drivers, the Kieft, now in the hands of Don Parker and occasionally Stirling Moss became the car to beat. Things started brightly with a win at the Nürburgring on 24th May, then Eric took second at the Boreham Festival in July and second to Moss in the Grand Prix, fourth back at Boreham on 2nd August. A return to Germany brought second place to John Cooper on the 31st. At Charterhall in October, he got the better of Moss (now in a Cooper) but that was about it for the season. Both Eric and Alan had already stepped up to Formula 2 by this time in Cooper Bristols.

Eric leads through Madgwick in September 1954. Jim Russell and Reg Bicknell behind. On the outside are Les Leston and Don Parker. On the inside is Stirling Moss with Ivor Bueb and Eric Fenning.

By 1953, Eric was spending much of his time in senior classes but continued to race in Formula 3 when time permitted. He managed a fifth in the Earl of March Trophy, third in the International Trophy at Silverstone in May, second to Moss at the Nürburgring and in the British Grand Prix, second to Don Parker at Snetterton in July and a win at Davidstow on the 1st August, finally, trips to Pescara and Agen yielded two wins.

Now in a Mk VIII, Eric travelled to Helsinki to win and on to Lappeenranta for a third, then took fourth place in the Goodwood Whitsun race in June 1954. Then a trip to Bressuire, France on 27th June for second place and a win Montauban on 4th July followed by third at Davidstow on 2nd August and finally a win at Chieti, Italy running in the 750cc class, at the end of the month.

For 1955, he returned to Finland to win in Helsinki, managed fourth in the Earl of March Trophy and second, to Ken Tyrrell, at Davidstow in May.

Around this time Eric funded the construction of his own sports car, the Halseylec, named after his electrical trading company, using an 1,100 climax engine and showing a number of Cooper derived features including the wheels and transverse leaf springing. Former Cooper mechanic, "Ginger" Devlin did much of the construction and two cars were eventually built. Eric raced this through 1955 and early '56, sharing the driving with Peter Jopp. Shortly after the Halseylec project, Eric changing his interests to hydroplane racing and disappeared from the scene. Eric Brandon died in August 1982.

Eric at Goodwood, September 1954.

Eric Brandon in Cooper at Goodwood Sept 54.jpg (15337 bytes)

Eric and the Halseylec in the British Empire Trophy, April 1955. Photo courtesy Michael McRitchie.