The Freikaiserwagen is an interesting example of the
cross over between pre and post war cars and illustrates that nothing is
ever really new! The original and best known car was a "Shelsley special", of
David Fry of the Fry's Chocolate family and Hugh Dunsterville. They were assisted
by Dick Caesar who was instrumental in the origins of the 500 movement as a founder member
of CAPA and the 500 Club (See Keith Gough's From Acorns......). The name
Freikaiserwagen is derived from their names, Fry and Caesar with a Germanic twist
appropriate to the time. In its original 1936 form, Freikaiserwagen used a
GN chassis and a V twin Anzani engine, mounted amidships, which was highly
unusual for the time and probably accounts for the nickname "Porsche" used
by the team members (A reference to the Auto Union Grand Prix cars designed
by von Porsche). David's cousin Joe Fry became the primary driver, partly
because of David's size but also due to Joe's considerable skill. The car
underwent constant development including a switch to a Robin Jackson tuned V
twin Blackburne engine and set many fastest times for its class.
war, this car was reconstructed around one of Caesar's Iota chassis
and two stage supercharging was used to boost power even further. Joe
achieved considerable success with the Freikaiserwagen, the pinnacle being
setting overall FTD at Shelsley Walsh in June 1949 but he also drove 500s
such as the Arengo. Tragically, Joe crashed the
Freikaiserwagen car in practice for the hill climb at Blandford in July 1950
and was killed. The Freikaiserwagen was broken up.
Freik in later form, the Iota chassis clearly visible
The Freikaiserwagen 500, built by David Fry in 1948, was also based on an Iota chassis with a Cross rotary valve engine but a JAP was
substituted due to overheating.
This car was sold to
Jack Moor, for
1949, who fitted a Manx Norton
engine and converted the rear suspension to double wishbones. This was the fourth Wasp
and became a long lasting and successful car.
David's brother, Jeremy, also raced 500s, the Parsenn being one of the most advanced cars of the early period.
The Freikaiserwagen 500 at
Silverstone in October 1948
for the British Grand Prix, with Joe, Jeremy and David Fry. The Cross engine
blew up in practice so the team set to to fit a JAP, borrowed from John
Cooper. They worked all night fabricating the necessary parts to get the car
to the grid.
“Freik – The
Private Life of the Freikaiserwagen”.
by Rob and Hugh Dunsterville and edited by Bob Cooper and James Fack.
Review by Steve Lister 14th June 09.
Prior to reading this book, I, perhaps like many other motoring enthusiasts,
hadn’t fully appreciated the real significance of this sprint and hill-climb
special in the history of British motor sport. Although raced for just seven
seasons between 1936 and 1950, this amazing Shelsley Special provided the
lead, and set the standards, for the rear engined racing cars that followed.
The “Freik” specification changed regularly. Not from season to season, but
detailed improvements were made from week to week! The Fry team used two
different GN chassis, the second being from the Watkins GN used for the
immediate post car resurrection and then finally an Iota chassis from Dick
Caesar. Initially the power was provided by a tame water-cooled v-twin
Anzani from an Aero Morgan. However, when Robin Jackson, the famous
Brooklands tuner, joined the project they switched to the very special
air-cooled Blackburne of Jackson’s own design. In 1937 the Blackburne
provided a highly respectable 70 bhp on Bowden carburettors. By 1949, engine
development, including two-stage supercharging, had lifted output from the
1100cc v-twin to an astonishing 115 bhp.
This little car was taking class wins and setting records from its first
full season, but the pinnacle of achievement was the new Shelsley Walsh
hill-climb record of 37.35 sec on 11th June 1949. In taking the record Joe
Fry beat Raymond Mays in the 2-litre supercharged ERA R4D, Dennis Poore in
the 3.8-litre Grand Prix Alfa as well as one Stirling Moss in an 1100cc
The book was initially conceived by Rob Dunsterville as a way to record
Hugh’s vital work in building the first Freikaiserwagen for David Fry and
his cousin Joe. It has become so much more. Based on the unique
understanding of the vehicle’s creator and then highly polished by James
Fack and Bob Cooper, it is an excellent diary of this unique racing car and
is complimented by an array of good quality, atmospheric photographs.
Attention to detail is most pleasing and factors that influenced the Freik
are well covered. Including – CAPA, Dick Caesar and Auto Union.
500 Owners Association members will be particularly interested to read about
the Freik’s mid-engine design and the development of the rear swing axle. It
was, of course, the same style of rear suspension that enabled Kieft to
seriously challenge the Cooper dominance in the early 1950s.
The book was originally published in 2008 and quickly sold out. A revised
version is now available and benefits from an 8 page addendum in which James
Fack explains important technical design aspects of the Freik. You also get
8 new illustrations and a more complete list of events entered thanks to
work by Adam Ferrington.
This is a must have reference book for any serious motor sport enthusiast
and also a delightful read.
Hugh Dunsterville passed away in November 2011.