September 2000 - View Full Page in a New Window

The Trials Career of Arthur Mallock

Even if Arthur's name is not immediately familiar all Motor-Sport fans will know about the cars he and his family have created.. The modern Nissans and Vauxhall’s are well known to today’s younger generation. Those of us a little older fondly recall those front-engined U2 sports racers that even found their way into Formula Ford. But how many of you knew that Arthur Mallock had a profound influence on today’s trials cars.

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EGP 171 was the first car Arthur built. Nicknamed "Bren" it was based on an Austin Seven van but incorporated a great many innovative idea’s, including the independent front suspension which is working so well in this 1946 picture.
 Arthur made his competition debut on two wheels, riding his BSA in a trial at Berkhamstead in 1936. After the war he did most of his trialling in the north as he was in the forces based at Catterick Camp. Later he did a few trials in his road car where he perused his idea's of weight distribution!

The Mallock family have had a tremendous impact on UK Motorsport over the last fifty or so years. Ray Mallock’s RML company prepared the championship winning Nissans for the British Touring Car championship, were responsible for the development of the Astra Formula 2 rally kit car for Opel, and run the works Astra’s for Vauxhall in the British Rally Championship.

Earlier in the companies life it worked in a consultancy role for Aston Martin and took responsibility for the entire design, manufacture, and race management of another long-distance sports racing car, the Group C2 Ecurie Ecosse Ford. In 1985, this was placed second in the World Championship for Teams, and in 1986, with factory support from Austin Rover, RML won the World title.

Next was an Aston Martin Cl design, with carbon-composite chassis and bodywork, but when the marque withdrew suddenly from racing on the brink of the 1990 season, RML was enrolled by Nissan to develop and run its R90C Le-Mans car. It was a potential race winning programme as the team battled with the front runners, including the eventual TWR/Jaguar victor, for over 16 hours, leading for 5 hours and setting a new lap record.

Before RML Ray and his brother, Richard worked with their father Arthur, designing and building the all-conquering clubmans formula Mallock U2 racing cars. From a personal point of view, this was my only point of contact with the Mallock family. Peter "Mad Dog" Smith and I looked at buying a U2 with a 1 litre A series engine in it and wrote to the Mallock’s asking for information. Arthur wrote back to say he couldn’t read my writing and that was that!

But its trials not racing cars that this piece is about, for Arthur Mallock was one of the men who laid the foundations for today’s successful lightweight, highly manoeuvrable, class eight machines. By the 1930’s, trials had very much taken the shape we know today, with the competitive part of the event being decided on non-stop observed sections. The early part of the decade was dominated by modified "off the shelf" sports cars. The MG, Singer and Austin marque’s were very much to the fore, with several works teams and a host of enthusiastic private owners. By 1936, the heavy brigade had arrived in the form of the original Allard special, which had been developed, from an ex-TT Ford.

The immediate post war years were dominated by the Ford V8 special’s, big robust machines fitted with the ubiquitous 30 hp 3.6 litre Ford V8, which provided plenty of power and torque in standard tune. These were generally installed in specially built chassis, with standard Ford axles and rudimentary bodywork. There were variations of this "big car" theme and some are still around today in the form of Roger Ugalde’s wonderful Allard and Mike Furse’s Mercury Special. The big V8’s started to sweep all before them, but they soon had challengers, for there were some who believed that a light, manoeuvrable car could beat brute power. There were several exponents of this theme. Cornishman Ashley Cleeve in his famous Morris special, Ken Wharton with his Ford 10 engine mounted in an Austin Seven chassis, a much imitated theme, and Arthur Mallock with his Austin Seven based specials.

Arthur was born in 1918, just as the Great War finished. He purchased his first car, an Austin Seven, at the tender age of 17 and set off on a 200-mile journey to spectate at Fingle on the 1935 Exeter Trial. His trials debut was on two wheels, rather than four, riding a BSA in the 1936 Berkhamstead schoolboys trial. By 1939 Arthur was in the army and constructing his first "trials special" Arthur was always a chassis and in particular a suspension man. He eschewed the fashion for brute power, in the form of the dominant Ford V8’s. Independent front suspension, a lightweight body and chassis and manoeuvrability were his themes. He based his lightweight special on a 1932 Austin Seven van, which he got running just before the Second World War. Unfortunately, Arthur only managed a couple of speed events before the conflict bought motor sport to an end for many years.

While serving in the forces, Arthur managed to find the time to develop his Austin Seven special into quite a respectable machine. EGP 171 was nicknamed "Bren", after the gun. "Bren" had independent front suspension and skinny motorcycle tyres, designed to dig through the mud to the solid stuff in search of grip. Arthur’s theories were proved right on Burledge in the Bristol Clubs Full Moon Trial in January 1946. The hill is still used today on The Allen Trial and can be pretty tricky. The bottom part is in a tree lined gully with a reasonable solid base which is OK in the dry but can get pretty slimy when mud is washed down the hill in the rain. You go round a right hander, then it’s straight up a muddy rutted track.

It had been very, very cold for over a week, but the thaw set in just before the trial. Mud was washed down the hill and grip was very hard to find. Mallock’s little Austin, with it’s LMB Independent front suspension, locked diff and skinny motorcycle tyres, was one of only two cars to clean the hill. Arthur got a first class award on the event and would have won overall if the gear lever hadn’t broken! Further success followed during the season but Arthur was increasingly of the opinion he needed more power and less weight and decided to build a new car he could use for speed events as well as trials.

WJ 1515, sometimes known as "Bombsk" was also based on an Austin Seven chassis and the car included all the best ideas from "Bren" plus some new ones, including a blower for the 750cc motor, 19 inch wheels and a big weight reduction. The car took about a year to build, it would have taken longer but basic petrol rationing was about to be suspended, prompting a rash of events to compete in. Arthur’s new car was a runner by now and he took part in it with it straight away, before it even had a body. He caused a storm by driving it in chassis form, winning the" Northern Experts"

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While he enjoyed a lot of success with “Bren” Arthur felt he could do better and built WJ 1515. This was a much lighter car that was originally intended to be a used for both trials and speed events. As time went on it became a dedicated racer and was eventually broken up to provide parts for the U2 Mk 1.

Arthur didn’t want to miss out on his Motorsport completely while building his new car. Bren had been sold so he competed in the Ford Eight family car. It was souped it up a bit for trials. The puny "eight" motor was thrown out and in went a "ten". A couple of hundredweight of ballast was bolted across the back bumper to increase the grip and the doors to were removed to lighten the front. Eligibility was a problem even in those days!

Gradually Arthur competed in more and more speed events and fewer and fewer trials. By the time, the 50’s came along WJ 1515 was a dedicated racer, taking part in 1172 Formula races. Arthur developed and raced WJ 1515 for several more years until the winter of 1957, when he designed and built the U2 Mk 1 from scratch, cannibalising WJ 1515 for many parts in the process and the famous old car was no more.

Arthur and his family went on to design and build a whole series of Mallock U2 racing cars, Arthur remaining true to his creed by believing the secret was in the suspension. He did return to trials briefly in 1962/63, competing in the 750 MC’s championship in a newly constructed Austin Seven base special and finished runner-up. But apart from that he dedicated the rest of his life to his racing cars.

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WJ 1515 had a rather brief career in trials as Arthur competed in more and more speed events and it became a dedicated racer. Arthur raced the car until the winter of 1957/58. By this time it had a Ford motor and was cannibalised to provided engine, gearbox and suspension components for the original Mallock U2 Mk 1. You can see Arthur’s ingenious Independent Front Suspension in this picture.
Arthur’s trials career is over-shadowed by his success designing his Mallock U2 racing cars. During his life-time they were always front engined, like this Mk 29 pictured in 1996. After his death son Richard started to produce rear-engined Mallock’s and production is now incorporated in Ray Mallock’s RML company.
You can learn a lot more about Arthur Mallock in Paul Lawrence's book "The Lone Furrow", published by TFM, ISBN 0 9530052 0 8

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