By Will Silk
This edition of Classic Cars for Sale comes from the pages of a 1965 dealer catalog that features a beautiful 1953 Frazer Nash Roadster up for offer. The story of Frazer Nash is often a misunderstood tale at best. Many in the collector car hobby believe that Frazer Nash was part of Kaiser-Frazer or the classic American manufacturer known as Nash, however that is not the case as there is no affiliation with these companies.
Frazer Nash was started in England by Archibald Frazer-Nash in 1922. Frazer-Nash had partnered with Henry Ronald Godfrey to operate the GN Cyclecar Company in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey. In 1927, the company entered receivership and was reborn as AFN Limited, followed by a move to Isleworth, London in 1929. H.J. Aldington acquired the majority of the company’s shares in 1932, and he, along with his two brothers developed the cars from that point on. It’s believed that roughly 400 cars were constructed up until the mid-1930s, many of which were chain-driven vehicles.
In 1934, AFN Ltd. became the importers of BMW cars into the UK. They would remain in this role until the outbreak of World War II in late 1939. During this time, the team at AFN would become familiar with the layout and technology of BMW automobiles, which would play a heavy role in post war Frazer Nash production. The 1930’s saw AFN enter many races and speed trials as Frazer Nash BMW, and many records were made by what otherwise were contemporary BMWs being tuned by the AFN Ltd. firm for performance.
With the outbreak of war, AFN Ltd. became involved in the production of armaments for the British military, particularly the manufacture of powered ball turrets for a number of British combat aircraft.
It wasn’t until 1948 that Frazer Nash picked up production again in terms of cars. Gone were the chain-driven cars the company was known for in the 1930s, as AFN set about engineering an evolution of perhaps one of the greatest sports cars of the pre-war scene, the BMW 328. Having profound knowledge of the 328 through its role as importer of BMW cars to the UK in the 1930s, the company set about procuring engines from Bristol, as Bristol had won the rights to the venerable little 1971cc straight six engine from BMW as a part of war reparations.
The first to see the light of day were the “High Speed” and “Competition” models, better known as Le Mans Replicas. These were noted as having cycle wings and used the Bristol inline six cylinder engine for power. Tony Crook won races in England, and Larry Kulok scored well in a number of road races in the Northeast part of the United States while piloting these machines. Franco Cortese also captured a famous win for the marque in the 1951 Targa Florio race driving a Le Mans Replica, which gave Frazer Nash the honor of being the only British constructor to do so. The Le Mans Replicas were produced until 1953.
Also in 1948, Frazer Nash would debut a full bodied car known as the Fast Tourer or Mille Miglia. Only 12 were reportedly produced, and again the company retained the use of the Bristol OHV inline six engine. The Fast Tourer/Mille Miglia models were produced through 1952.
This brings us to the car featured in this edition of Classic Cars for Sale. In 1952, Frazer Nash revealed a beautiful aluminum bodied roadster known as the Targa Florio, named in commemoration of their 1951 win at one of the world’s toughest races. The car sat on a 96 inch wheel base and was offered in three states of tune, the Gran Sport BS1, the Gran Sport BS4, and the Turismo. The latter model was more of a base level car, utilizing a 105hp version of the Bristol 2 liter power plant with an 8.5 to 1 compression ratio. The Gran Sport BS1 was the middle of the road model with a reported 138hp version of the Bristol mill, this gain was largely assisted by the bump in compression ratio to 9.0:1. The hot version of the Targa Florio was the Gran Sport BS4 with 142hp and a reported 137lb ft of torque on tap to give the roadster the most spirited performance of the three variants offered. All variants used a triple Solex carburetor set up and a version of the Bristol 4-speed gearbox. The chassis was of tubular frame construction with transverse leaf spring suspension in the front, and a torsion bar set up in the rear with a live axle. Being a performance minded company, Frazer Nash offered a variety of rear ratios ranging from a standard 3.6 to 1 all the way to a stump pulling 6 to 1 ratio. Wheels and tires were of the 5.5 by 16 inch specification. Braking was handled by Alfin drums.
The ad from the Vintage Car Store’s 1965 catalog states, “Performance is well above 100 mph in keeping with the intent of the design to satisfy both competition and road use.” With the specifications outlined in the above paragraph, it’s easy to believe that the English roadster would be able to handle itself quite well in terms of speed and handling amongst a number of contemporary rivals.
What is perhaps the most unbelievable part of the ad is the asking price of just $1,500 USD. Last year, our friends at Martin Chisholm had a beautiful Bristol Green with grey interior Frazer Nash Targa Florio listed for 315,000 GPB, the equivalent to $507,000 USD! Needless to say, it would be nice to still have the 1953 Frazer Nash Roadster in the garage today knowing that in 1965 it was purchased for just over a quarter of the price of a new Corvette. Whoever the soul may have been that picked up the 1953 Frazer Nash Targa Florio Roadster in this edition of Classic Cars for Sale indeed knew how to pick a good investment quality collector car.
Special thanks to Dean Newton for sharing his copy of the Vintage Car Store 1965 catalog.