Pete Stowe ........
some MotorSport History
Motorsport in the
RICHARD DYNELY “DICK” CAESAR
“As a man he was above all courteous and kind and he had a deep understanding of human nature as well as machinery; Dick always had time to listen to other people and to explain patiently to the young in simple language.”
“Out of his fertile and creative imagination were born not only a number of ingenious ‘specials’ but also new kinds of motoring event or competition; his enthusiasm was infectious.”
“Always gentle and charitable, he shunned limelight. Other motoring personalities may be more widely known but those who were privileged to know Dick Caesar will always remember him with gratitude.”
Some extracts from the obituary which appeared in Motor Sport magazine following Dick Caesar’s death on 2nd December 1974 that characterize a little known, but significant, figure in British motor sport history.
Born in Kent in 1906, Dick Caesar
graduated from Cambridge University with a degree in English and History, and
also received medical training – his father and grandfather (also
Richard, a GP originally from Cork, Ireland) having been in the medical
profession. When at
During World War 2 he worked in the Service Department of the Bristol Aeroplane Company at Filton, using his own cine-camera for making instructional films. At war’s end in 1945-46, as a member of the Bristol Aeroplane Company Motor Sports Club, his enthusiasm for affordable motor racing came to the fore once more, and he was the driving force behind the creation of the new 500cc racing car formula intended to allow the average person to go motor racing1. It was this new formula which inspired Charles and John Cooper to build their first rear-engined racing car in 1946 and thus create the Cooper marque, leading eventually to double World Championships in 1959 and 1960 for Jack Brabham in his Cooper-Climax, and the pre-eminence of British cars in Grand Prix racing - without Caesar’s enthusiasm and drive none of this would have happened. As a committee member of the 500 Club, founded in 1946 to control this new formula, Caesar maintained direct involvement through to 1950.
In 1946, to encourage the
construction of racing cars to the new formula, he drew up a simple chassis and
suspension design, the Iota, which was sold as a kit for budding constructors
to complete (one of these chassis was also used by David Fry as the basis of
his 1948 version of the Freikaiserwagen hillclimb car2). An updated
Iota 500 was later offered as a complete car by Iota Racing Cars (Caesar and
Dick Bickerton), operating out of premises in
Earlier, in 1945, Caesar’s desire to create a high-performance sporting road car had emerged with his design for the Gordano. Using a relatively conventional chassis, the Gordano was originally intended to be fitted with a new air-cooled rotary-valve engine. Caesar, with co-directors Bickerton, et al, operating out of the same Alma Vale premises as Iota, produced a pair of prototypes, but this project also folded, in 1950.
During the 1950s, and up until retirement around 1964, Caesar worked in the Press Office of Bristol Aero Engines Ltd (later Bristol-Siddeley). In 1959 with William Mayne he wrote a motoring novel for children “The Gobbling Billy” (published under the pseudonym “Dynely James”). Set in Ireland, his engineering and motor sporting knowledge clearly showed throughout this story about the restoration and racing of an old racing car, a “1908 16-litre 6-cylinder Gobelin-Billet”.4
He was a member of the VSCC from 1938, and also an active member of the Bentley Drivers Club.
Dick Caesar died suddenly on 2nd December 1974, aged 68.
The Specials of Dick Caesar.
Caesar Special (later ‘Kaiserwagen’)
An AC-engined road-going sports car originally built by Dick Caesar sometime prior to 1935, and known as the Caesar Special. He rebuilt it as a single-seat racing car, still known as the Caesar Special, and used it during 1936. It was then acquired by the Fry cousins, renamed Kaiserwagen, and used by them from 1937. Its last known appearance was at Prescott in 1946 in the hands of Jeremy Fry.
of parts from numerous different cars, the Caesar Special was described by
Caesar as “a true hybrid in the Shelsley tradition.” It had a
6-cylinder, two litre AC engine of 1925 vintage, Morgan cone clutch, GN
In August 1935 the car was driven in the first local Backwell hillclimb by Franklin Coombs, who crashed, fortunately without injury, as Light Car magazine reported: “… snaking nastily and finally out of control….” “It approached the corner hopelessly fast and still steaming, as railway folk put it. A slide, a half-roll and a crash…..” “Fortunately the driver, CJF Coombs, was not hurt, but his two-litre Caesar Special was distinctly awry. Amongst other things the extremely light front axle was in two pieces and, although an old flaw was disclosed by the fracture, it seems clear that the break was a result and not the cause of the crash. As it happens, all the damaged parts had already been shortlisted for replacement so nobody was much the worse for the affair.”
For 1936 Caesar rebuilt the car as a single-seater, replacing the original front end with Morgan-based independent suspension. It had an Austin Seven radiator, and with three Solex carburettors and some slight engine tuning by Robin Jackson, 70 bhp was produced. With a weight of 7 cwt, in this form the maximum speed was said to be well over 100 mph. In its new racing car form it was entered by Caesar in the 1936 Backwell hillclimb in July.
He later sold it to the Fry cousins, David and Joe, who then renamed it ‘Kaiserwagen’. During 1937 David entered the car at Shelsley Walsh and Brighton in September, and in 1938 it appeared at Syston Park in March, Prescott in July (driven by P Dunlop), and was entered by Joe in the September Brighton Speed Trials.
Belch” or “Toby I”, the original CAPA car. An
“Scumph”, an Austin 7 engine in Triumph Scorpion chassis. Raced by Caesar in 1939; post-war sold to George Bowen & Weever, then to Tommy Jones, by then with Riley engine.
‘Alfi-CAPA’ (later the Caesar Special)3
Built by Dick Caesar over the winter of 1937/38 and used by
him for CAPA racing, and hillclimbs at Backwell and Prescott. At the end of
1938 he sold it to Joe Fry, who sold shares to Bobby Price and Tony
‘Doc’ Taylor. It was used by them in 1939 in CAPA racing, and by
Caesar’s new special for CAPA racing in 1938 was also constructed using parts from many different marques. Alfi-CAPA’s frame, transmission, and steering box were very early GN. There were only two gears, with one chain for each gear, and the radius arms had been lengthened to enable the driver to sit between the two chains.
The independent front suspension was
made up of two semi-elliptic springs from a
The engine was an unblown 2-litre AC from 1928-29, with three Amal motor-cycle carburettors. It appeared to peak at 4,500 to 5,000 rpm, and was believed to develop 60-70 bhp, but with excellent low speed torque.
It originally had full bodywork, in maroon, with cowled nose and streamlined tail, reminiscent of a monoposto Alfa Romeo.
During 1938 Caesar raced “Alfi” regularly at CAPA, and with the 2-litre car being much the fastest, would have to start on the scratch mark for these handicap races and chase everyone else down. That September Caesar also drove “Alfi” at the local Backwell hillclimb, recording times of 25.2 and 25.3 secs. for the 550 yard climb.
At the end of the year Caesar sold “Alfi” to Joe Fry for £30 (the amount it had cost him to build) and Joe then sold third shares to RD ‘Bobby’ Price and ‘Doc’ Taylor for £10 each.
During 1939 it was used by this trio in CAPA races, again being much the fastest car, although it was not always trouble free, as Autocar related : “Fry, in Alfi, having got a good second in the long race, stopped his engine and, sitting in the cockpit, had only just remarked that there was something a little funny with one cylinder, when came a tremendous hissing noise, quantities of steam squirted into the cockpit and from the bonnet, and the driver came out like a shot from a gun, for the gasket had blown.”
Although the engine was repaired in
1940, the car spent the rest of the war in a damp shed at Joe Fry’s
place, and by 1945 was in a poor condition.
With the car now always known and
entered as the “Caesar Special”,
Eventually it was sold to Mark Walker
who campaigned it for several years, then at
‘Thor’ – a Bentley road car. Created out of a 6 ½ litre Big Six Bentley saloon (reg. no. YE 9409). After stripping the chassis bare, Caesar built a light wood-framed open four-seater body on it, and later modified the engine with the help of Robin Jackson.
Caesar Special - a post-war, Humber-based, roadgoing car.
Information Sources include: Light Car, Autocar, Motor, Motor Sport, Bugantics.
2. “Freik – The Private Life of the Freikaiserwagen” by Hugh & Rob Dunsterville, available from the Midland Automobile Club ( www.shelsley-walsh.co.uk ) for £15.00 inc. p&p – see also www.freikaiserwagen.com for more details.
Special by ‘Doc’
Gobbling Billy” – 1959 1st Edition: Dynely James (
Copyright © All Rights Reserved Pete Stowe 2008