BCW History – 1

Though nearly forgotten today, The British Coach Works, Ltd. of East Acton, London (not to be confused with British Coach Works, Ltd. of Arnold, PA, of more below) blazed a trail later followed by Shelby, Yenko, AMG, Calloway and other aftermarket high-performance re-fitters now known to car enthusiasts the world over.

Founded in the spring of 1950 by 24-year-old Nigel Gantry and his 21-year-old brother Nils, the garage operated as a factory-affiliated speed shop amid the ruins of still burned-out London. Though nominally operating a body shop, these east-end lads were full-time gearheads whose overbuilt motors tended to produce unworldly horsepower in very short bursts. The Gantry brothers were thus akin to the lake-bed drag racers of the USA in the same era. But hot-rodding was even less socially acceptable in postwar Britain than it was in 1950s America, and the lads did little to burnish their public image.(2)

The Gantry boys were not picky about mixing and matching parts from various marques. One TD was reportedly fitted with a six-cylinder Willys Jeep motor (possibly left over from the war).(3)

photos: above, a BCW engineered six-cylinder TD; below, a TD sporting a Mercedes star. (both courtesy British National Automotive Museum archives)

Another was powered by a Mercedes Benz engine (and even fitted with a Mercedes hood ornament)–very outré in Great Britain at the time! A fragmentary report concerns the installation of an air-cooled Lycoming aeroplane engine in a highly-modified MGTC, though it is unclear whether this design was ever made road- or track-worthy.(4) At any rate, one wag* allegedly dubbed the BCW garage “The Bollocks Chimera Werks.”(5)

Continued. . . .

*Published attribution to Sir Stirling Moss could not be verified, as both accounts (see note 5) appear to rely on a pub tale told by Sir Sterling’s one-time accountant, Misha Gray, who later proved  extremely unreliable (see, for ex. Crown v. Gray, [1972] AC 662, 503). At any rate, Sir Sterling has told this author that he has no recollection of the phrase, nor of BCW, the company in question.

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