John Mew

John Mew

Born in 1928, Dr John Mew was a dentist by trade, but has managed to a number of remarkable careers into his spare time.

Starting out with a Matchless motorcycle (and volunteering himself as a despatch rider for the Defence Services), and quickly progressing to an old Lagonda, John found himself soon learning the skills of repair work. That led him to building his own Mercury-engined sports car. in the early 1950s. Soon after, as a member of the Tunbridge Wells Motor Club, he was organising sprints at Brands Hatch and competing in said Special.

It was in late 1957 that John decided to progress into Formula III. Buying George Wicken’s Cooper Mk IX and installing a JAP engine, he entered the October finale and December Boxing Day Meetings.

The plan for 1958 covered all the Brands Hatch events (Mew being based in Sussex) plus the Commander Yorke, and a trip to Goodwood in September. Results were coming, with a 4th place in a JAP race 20th April, and another fourth 18th May, this time in a Junior Race against several Norton-engined cars. Progress continued, despite retaining the JAP engine. Most races were now against the leading professional drivers like Jack Pitcher and Don Parker, who still had a distinct advantage even when running on petrol. A fourth at the Brands Hatch March opener, a sixth at Snetterton in April and a fifth at Brands in July were amongst the better results, and a podium at Mallory Park was just reward. But his most notable drive was to 6th place in the Commander Yorke Trophy, and easily best JAP driver. In their report, Motor Racing magazine praised John, saying “Were the JAP Championship still in existence, John would certainly have walked away with it this year, and it seems that here is another driver who, with the right car, would be up amongst the leaders.”

On the grid at Brands, 4th October 1958

John’s 500 career ended at the Brands Hatch Boxing Day Meeting of 1959, as he planned a move to Juniors, but he would become associated with the season-closer again. He ran a Lotus 18, then 20, first in Europe, but then joining the Continental Tour that was becoming popular with British prize drivers. His racing highlight came at Monza. Scraping into the final qualifying place (30th, of 90 entries) a late idea to change gearing led to some fairly frantic work, utterly scuppered when a bolt was dropped into the open box. As the 15-minute klaxon called drivers to Assembly, John hit upon the only option – recruiting strong arms, they tipped the entire car upside down until the offending bolt fell back out (a trick we haven’t seen recently, but it worth filing away!). Suitably fired up, John fought through the field to pick up some decent prize money, and was summoned to meet Fangio who had waved the flag and wanted to meet this Englishman.

John's known results:

Brands Hatch 20th April 1958, 4th in JAP race

Brands Hatch 18th May 1958, 4th in junior race


Brands Hatch 28th March 1959 World Sports Trophy, 3rd in heat, 4th in final

Snetterton 19th April 1959, 6th

Brands Hatch 12th July 1959, 4th in heat, 5th in final

Silverstone 8th August 1959 Commander Yorke Trophy, 6th & 1st JAP

Crystal Palace 22nd August 1959, 7th

Mallory Park 19th September 1959, 3rd

Back in the UK, the BRSCC asked John to dress up as Santa for the Boxing Day Meeting. Santa came better equipped this year, his Lotus 20 gaining antlers and a barrel of brandy for a couple of laps. John would perform this role for a few more years.

By 1963, John was restricting himself to racing in the UK. The 20 was replaced with a 22, and plan was hatched to drop a 1500cc Climax motor in and enter the British Grand Prix. That though was scuppered when the motor was destroyed in testing. John would wind down his racing over the next few years, and a huge Formula Libre accident in 1968 finally nudged him towards a family life.

John was also a keen sailor, being selected for the 1958 Americas Cup British crew (although ultimately not participating) and in 1974 taking second place in the World Championship Anniversary race at Cowes. He built himself a Braylsham Castle in East Sussex, a genuine reproduction castle on an island, in which he and his wife still live. If you pity her, remember that she bought him the JCB as a birthday present that he used to dig the moat. John’s professional life has been no less un-normal. He developed an alternative from of orthodontics that claims to avoid traditional surgery, but which has brought him into repeated conflict with professional bodies and the GDC