While racing and touring in
Europe in 1934, Aldy recognized the merit of BMW's sport/touring
car, the 315 Model. AFN then became the importer of BMW's to
England, rebadging these cars as the "Frazer Nash-BMW". The BMW
Model 328 later became well known for its advanced design and
performance after its introduction in 1936. Three Model 328s
with special aerodynamic aluminium bodies, competed in the 1940
Mille Miglia very successfully, in spite of their relatively
small 2 litre engines.
Immediately after the end of
WWII, Aldy returned to Munich while still on active duty and
rescued one of the factory-team BMW "Mille Miglia" sports-racing
cars, bringing it to England under the guise of his personal
328, which had been left at the factory before the beginning of
the war. This same car quickly assumed a third identity as the
new 1946 Frazer Nash "Grand Prix" model.
Aldy then managed to bring the
328 designer, Fritz Fiedler, to England, where he updated the
328 design for intended production by both the Bristol Aeroplane
Company and Frazer Nash. A plan to directly share production
didn't work out, but Bristol tooled up for the production of the
BMW-design engine, now the "Bristol", for use in their newly
designed touring models. Bristol intended to diversify from
airplane manufacturing. Bristol also agreed to supply AFN with
engines and other mechanical parts for their planned line of
sports cars, which was based on an update of the BMW 328 Mille
Targa Florio S/N 421/200/185
under construction at AFN in 1953.
Photo courtesy of Doug Reardon-Smith, the original owner!
The Cars and Models
AFN Limited produced approximately 85 cars
after WWII. Rebodies and re-use of some chassis makes an exact
count difficult. The models were:
High Speed, Competition, Le Mans Replica
Mk 1, Le Mans Replica Mk 2, Single-Seater
The most easily identifiable and recognizable
post-war Frazer Nash is the "classic" cycle-winged Le Mans
Replica. 37 of these models were built, most of them the Mk 1
series. These cars had great success in races and rallies in
much greater proportion than their production numbers would
suggest. A third place finish in the 1949 24 Hours of Le Mans
caused the renaming of this model from "High Speed" to "Le Mans
Replica" late in that year.
Shown here is Ned Curtis' Le Mans Replica (s/n
421 100 119) as it appeared at the inaugural Los Angeles Grand
Prix, August 30, 1997.
This car was originally owned
by Bob Gerard and raced very successfully in England for many
years before being brought to the United States.
A Le Mans Replica won the
first 12 Hours of Sebring in 1952 driven by Larry Kulok and
Harry Gray (s/n 421 100 160). A Le Mans Replica also won the
Targa Florio in 1951 with Franco Cortese as the driver (s/n 421
Fast Tourer, Fast
Roadster, Mille Miglia, Mille Miglia Mk 2
The most attractive post-war
Frazer Nash is the Mille Miglia, shown here (s/n 421 100 161,
1979 photo courtesy of Commander Gerald Brigham).
"Critics acclaimed this
curvaceous little number as one of the world's finest looking
sports cars." ("Frazer-Nash and the Brothers Aldington", Road &
Track, January 1965) It seems that another English manufacturer
agreed, as the later MGA borrowed some of this design!
Originally called the "Fast
Tourer", this model quickly assumed the Mille Miglia name after
good finishes by Le Mans Replica models in the Mille Miglia race
in 1950. Not much logic, but good publicity! Eleven of these
models were built, the last one using the revised parallel-tube
chassis (Mk 2). The body is aluminium over a superstructure of
light tubing (the same as the "Superleggera" technique of
Touring), but otherwise the mechanical specifications are the
same as the Le Mans Replica.
The factory weight is listed
as 1680 lbs., which is 280 lbs. heavier than the Le Mans
Replica. Although this was also a "series" production model,
each Frazer Nash car is unique. Some Mille Miglia models had
the traditional vertical Frazer Nash grill (shown above) and
some had a horizontal grill with bars. Nearly all Frazer Nash
models are true dual purpose touring and racing cars. Although
most Mille Miglias are fully equipped for touring, with a trunk
and divided bench seating, a few were perhaps more oriented
towards racing, with no trunk, no provision for a spare tire,
and true bucket seats.
This is Frank Twaits driving
his Mille Miglia (s/n 421/100/163) in the hairpin at Lime Rock
Park, circa 1957.
I've long owned a 1953 Mille
Miglia, discovered in Honolulu and now being restored at Kimmins
Coach Craft, Lake Havasu City, Arizona. This is the Mille
Miglia exhibited at the 1952 Turin Motor Show (s/n 421 100 168).
Targa Florio, Le Mans Coupe
When racing regulations
outlawed cycle-fendered cars from the sport car classes, AFN
produced an envelope body much simpler in design than the Mille
Miglia. The Targa Florio, an open roadster, has a vertical
grill like the Le Mans Replica and Mille Miglia.
These photos, from the AFN archives courtesy
of Jim Trigwell, show Targa Florio, s/n 421 200 169, FNS 1/41,
which was finished at the factory in December 1952. The original
colour was blue and the registration was YMD 790. The
distinguished owner shown in both pictures is Errol Flynn. (Mr.
Flynn is in costume for the movie "The Master of Ballantrae".
He is pictured below with his wife, Patrice Wymore Flynn.)
This was the first production Series 200
chassis. It was delivered to Elstree Film Studios. The current
location is unknown and the car has been rumored to be in either
the USA or Italy. This was the car built immediately after the
Mille Miglia which I own - mine is the last "first" series
chassis. The Series 200 chassis uses simple parallel main tubes
rather than the more complex 100 series. Debate continues on the
merits of each.
Although the Le Mans Coupe was
contemporaneous with the Targa Florio, it is more than a Targa
Florio with a roof and a horizontal grill opening. Rather this
design includes curves which hint at the future Sebring model.
15 Targa Florios and 9 Le Mans Coupes were built. Three of the
Le Mans Coupes actually ran at Le Mans and one of these cars is
now located in California.
A very nice photo of a Le Mans coupe at a 1998 concours of
the Bristol Owners Club was sent to me by Bob Charlton, the
Registrar of the BOC.
This is s/n 421 200 202, which is a car built
in late 1954. According to a later report on this concours, it
was the first place finisher in its class!
Another Le Mans Coupe, s/n 421 200 196,
located in the U.S. was featured in Automobile Quarterly, Volume
29, No. 4. This car was damaged in a vintage racing accident in
1996 and it has been restored by a new owner. It participated
in the 1999 Colorado Grand.
The stylish Sebring was the last of the
Bristol-engined post-war models. Only three were built.
"Classic and Sportscar" magazine did a comparison test between a
Sebring and an AC Bristol in their August 1996 issue. This test
car is pictured below.
The photo above was taken by Jim Trigwell at
Silverstone in 1997. It is a Sebring built in October 1954 and
raced at Le Mans in 1955 (s/n 421 200 207, engine BS4/407). The
original color was crimson before the 1954 Earls Court show,
repainted green before sale. After this picture was taken, this
car was sold and is now in the USA. Note the other Frazer Nash's
in the background!
The last two cars built by AFN, the
Continental, had a BMW V-8 engine and were closed touring cars.
A few other models were built in small numbers or one-offs. For
example, the Cabriolet was a single car - a Bristol-engined, 4
seat drophead, styled by Fritz Fiedler. One Frazer Nash was
built on a DKW chassis!