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Kieft Badge.jpg (12914 bytes)Cyril Kieft was born in Swansea in 1911 and followed his father into the steel industry. By 1939 he was managing the steel works at Scunthorpe and was a regular spectator at Donington Park.  In 1946 Cyril left the steel business, fearing nationalisation and set up a tool company, Cyril Kieft and Co, based at Bridgend South Wales. Cyril's love of motor sport led him to becoming involved with the Tenby Motor Club and their Lydstep hillclimb and was a founder of the Welsh Motor Racing Club, becoming its President and the driving force behind the Fairwood race meetings.

Cyril purchased a Marwyn 500 but his driving career was brief. He was disappointed with the car's performance at Lydstep and promised his wife, Megan, that he would quit active competition after seeing Jack Moor roll his WASP. When the Marwyn company folded, Cyril acquired the remnants and commenced construction of his own car.

The Kieft "Mk I"

The prototype was designed and largely made in house but used a number of Marwyn parts and ideas. The chassis was similar to the Marwyn but the suspension, by Metalastic bushes in tension and wishbones at both ends, was completely different.

The project was completed in 7 months but early outings weren't too promising, partly due to the inexperience of the drivers and the choice of a Vincent engine but there were also some handling issues with the car being less than stable.

The production cars used JAP or Norton engines and enjoyed more success but were heavier than the Coopers. Michael Christie, however, fitted one with an 1100cc V-twin JAP engine and ran it in hill climbs. Cyril sold eight or nine of the original design, with varying body styles, and thereby became a professional constructor.

Ken Gregory in one of the early Kiefts

Ken Gregory in Kieft.jpg (78146 bytes)

Dick Richards in a Kieft Mk 1 at Brands Hatch in 1951,  this car used Kieft's in house body.

Dick Richards Kieft Brands 51.jpeg (10264 bytes)

Advert following the Montlhéry records

Kieft Mk 1 records advert.jpg (28488 bytes)

In November1950, Kieft tackled the 350cc and 500cc international records at Montlhéry. The driving team consisted of Stirling Moss, Ken Gregory (Moss' manager) and Jack Neill with Steve Lancefield preparing the Norton engines. They came away with 13 records, taking many of these from under the noses of the DB team who were still awaiting ratification for their runs in October. The car was then sold to Oscar Frank in Germany. Partly as a result of this success, Cyril asked Moss to drive for him, offering a number of inducements, but Stirling did not rate the car highly, and realising that it was not capable of beating the Coopers, declined.

A pair of Mk Is with the team transporter.

Mk 1 with Kieft Transporter.jpg (80280 bytes)

CK 51/52

The catalyst for the new Kieft CK 51 was Stirling Moss and his manager Ken Gregory, who had considered the idea of building their own car but lacked the finance. Instead, they approached Cyril Kieft and persuaded him to bankroll a car to be designed and built by Ray Martin to Stirling's specification. Kieft agreed and drafted in Dean Delamont and John A Cooper (of the Autocar, no relation). Moss (aged only 21) and Gregory became directors of Kieft Car Construction Ltd, a new entity based in Wolverhampton.

Development fell behind schedule during the spring of '51 and Moss was forced to use a Mk I car for his first race of the year, the Luxembourg Grand Prix, a poor result was inevitable.

By the 9th May, it was ready for a shakedown at Brands Hatch and finally made its debut in the International Trophy at Goodwood on the 14th May 1951. After problems in the heats, Stirling ran away in the final to win by 27 seconds from Alan Brown's Cooper Mk V.

Moss consults with Ray Martin on the grid.

Moss in Kieft 1951.jpg (68041 bytes)

The CK51 featured a rear swing axle suspension arrangement using aero specification rubber bands and large amounts of negative camber with wishbones at the front suspended by rubber in torsion. The driver was placed well forward in the triangulated frame giving a distinctive bulbous appearance to the nose, Borrani alloy Rudge type wheels were used and steering was by rack and pinion.

Moss' car used a "Double-Knocker" Norton engine, production cars were offered with a JAP engine at £800 plus purchase tax or without engine and box for around £700. Moss' other commitments meant that he could not do a full season of Formula 3 but it proved highly successful with wins for Moss, Parker and Charles Headland and a full order book for Kieft. At last, a serious challenge was offered to the domination of Cooper and J.B.S.

Significantly, Don Parker was allowed to try the Moss prototype and matched Stirling's time. Don ordered a car in kit form and applied his experience to a meticulous build incorporating many modifications of his own. Don would become synonymous with Kieft and had several cars over the next few years, each featuring further developments of his own. For 1954, he purchased the penultimate chassis which, following Don's modifications, is usually referred to as the Parker-Kieft.

In 1952, Don achieved 22 wins to take the Autosport Formula 3 Championship, Light Car Challenge and Veterans Trophy. He took the National Championship again in 1953 and only missed out on the hat trick by one point to Les Leston in '54. Only in 1956 did he abandon the Kieft in favour of the now ubiquitous Cooper.

 

Tommy Bridger exits Druids in 1951

T Bridger in Kieft exits Druids 1955

The review of the Kieft CK51 from Iota

Moss talking to Briggs Cunningham in the paddock of the Grand Prix meeting 14th July 1951. Cyril looks on while Ray Martin is holding the engine cover. Photo courtesy of Paul Skilleter.

On his way to Victory later in the day.

Moss Kieft Silverstone 51.jpg (27089 bytes)

1952 was most emphatically Don Parker's year with his modified Kieft with 22 wins and the Formula 3 championship. Moss, Headland, Wharton and Loens also enjoyed considerable success both in England and on the Continent.

Moss had, however, suffered some unreliability in his works car and had several times borrowed Derek Annable's production car which was not as quick as his own. He purchased a new Cooper Mk VI which he felt would be more consistent and resigned as a director.

In October, Kieft exhibited the car at the Earl's Court show in London attracting much interest from the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret.

Also in 1952, the first Kieft sports car was launched. It was essentially a wider F3 car with cycle wings, headlights and a 650cc BSA engine, designed by Gordon Bedson. Cyril hoped to establish small sports car racing but the idea never caught on and only one car was made.

In 1952, Jack Turner built a four cylinder, double overhead cam, 500cc engine, which was fitted to a lengthened Kieft chassis, driving through a Douglas gearbox.

Turner 500 engine.jpeg (21415 bytes)

Jack's premises were also in Wolverhampton and Cyril took an interest in the project. At one time they planned to build a series of cars but the engine did not produce sufficient power and reliability to take on the Manx Norton and only two Turner Kiefts were made.

For 1953, Don Parker continued to modify his car and enjoyed even more success. He won 30 races from 44 starts and finished on the podium in a further 12. His second championship was a formality. Parker came close to a hat trick in 1954, battling throughout with Les Leston in the works Cooper Mk VIII. He thought he had won the championship at Cadwell Park but an extra race was added for Boxing Day at Brands Hatch. Leston finished third and Don, fourth so Les took the title.

Advert for the 1952 season featuring Moss' win at Goodwood.

Kieft Ck 52 advert.jpg (196015 bytes)

As a result of the success of the CK 52, Cyril set his sights on on greater things, starting with the Kieft AJB Formula 2 car. This was a modified Formula 3 chassis, designed by Gordon Bedson, with Archie Butterworth's 1 litre AJB flat four engine. Sadly it proved totally unreliable with over-heating a problems and the capacity rules for Formula 2 changed making the car obsolete. In the Spring of 1955, Kieft handed over support and maintenance of all Formula 3 cars to Don Parker in Battersea, effectively ending the factory's involvement.

Kieft also tried to move into Formula 1 and built two prototypes using a Coventry Climax engine. They failed to meet the expected performance and so the project was cancelled. The Derry Street premises were closed in 1956 and what was left was purchased by an enthusiast and moved to Birmingham. Kieft Cars finally closed in 1961. Sadly, Cyril Kieft passed away in May 2004 at the age of 92. His cars continue to compete and win in 500cc Formula 3.

The classic swing axle, Nigel Ashman's ex Dick Irish CK52 at Mallory Park.

And Kieft's take on independent front suspension from the same car 50 years earlier. The pedals are ahead of the front axle. Photo courtesy Nigel Ashman.

Rodney Delves at the Goodwood Revival in 2005, photo courtesy Nick Bond.

Rodney in Kieft at paddock Goodwood 2005.jpg (115618 bytes)

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