HRG 1100 Sports (1939)
During the early 1930's little attention had been paid
to Sports cars in Britain, as manufacturers had been concentrating on
the production of family saloons, for which there was an ever increasing
demand. In consequence, with few very expensive exceptions, sports cars
were poor both in performance and handling characteristics. Too often
the sports model was just the family touring chassis with a "sports"
body, (sometimes heavier than the standard) and a louder exhaust. Their
chief faults were, too much total weight in relation to capacity of
engine, soggy steering, poor road holding due to lack of lateral
rigidity of chassis and excess of unsprung weight, small diameter
This state of affairs had often been discussed
between three people all of whom had long experience of driving sports
cars namely, E.A.Halford, G.H.Robins and H.R.Godfrey and there did not
seem to be any reason why a car should not be designed with the idea of
eliminating the aforementioned bad features, So in the spring of 1935 it
was decided to pool resources to produce a design and make a prototype
which it was hoped would be outstanding in both performance and road
A small workshop was rented at Kingston-on-Thames and
installed with the necessary equipment, the working drawings and the
manufacture of the prototype being undertaken by the partners themselves
with the help of one mechanic.
In general, the design followed conventional practice
of the period but special attention was paid to the following:
Other parts were of special
design for the job, excepting of course, the bits and pieces always
purchased from specialists. An aluminium 2-seater body was fitted with
slab petrol tank at the rear.
When road tested, the car exceeded expectations in
every way, both in speed and acceleration, road holding and steering. It
was then handed over to members of the technical press and others with
instructions to drive it very hard, with the object of finding out any
defects. However, no weaknesses became apparent in many miles, in fact
the press representatives were all loud in their praises. It appeared to
be several jumps ahead of other sports cars of the period. Now that the
prototype was so successful it was decided to go ahead with manufacture,
on a small scale. A private limited company was formed in February 1936
with, a capital of £1,000 and larger premises were rented at Tolworth
(the present factory). By the middle of 1936 cars similar to the
prototype were being turned out at about 1 per week and the make quickly
became a favourite with private owners, particularly those interested in
competitions. If, was claimed that the owner of an HRG could use his car
for everyday motoring and also indulge in trials, hill climbs or races
with success. Competitions were of course, not so specialised as they
During the period 1936 - 1939 a large number of
successes in all kinds of competitions were gained by private owners of
H.R.G.'s (see pre-war catalogues). The Meadows engined H.R.G. continued
to be made up to the outbreak of war in September 1939 but during the
summer one 1500,Singer power unit had been tried out. This engine (after
a number of HRG modifications had been made to it which increased the
power by about 10 b.h.p.) gave about the same performance as the
Meadows, but was very much quieter and smoother and was fitted with a
synchromesh 4-speed gearbox. It was also available in 1100 c.c. form. At
the outbreak of World War II, cars were discontinued and the factory
turned over to engineering war work.
When the war ended, cars were again produced still in
small quantities of about 2 per week. The chassis was not altered but
the Singer engine with HRG modifications and gearbox units were used.
The other alteration was that the petrol tank was now concealed instead
of being a slab tank at the back of the body.
The "1100" engine model was made (similar to the 1500
in all other respects). The "Aerodynamic" model was also introduced in
1500 form, the body being the main difference.
In 1946 additional capital was made available to the
Company and Lord Selsdon and Mr. T.A.S.O. Mathieson joined the Board,
Lord Selsdon being Chairman. In 1950 Mr. S.R. Proctor joined the Company
as a Technical Director, Mr. Halford and Mr. Robins having left.
The Singer engined HRGs were made until 1956, the
later models being fitted with the short stroke 1500 c.c. Singer engine
and Salisbury Hypoid axle. These post-war HRGs were again very
successful in competitions, for example in the 1948 International Alpine
Trial, the HRG team of private owners quite dominated the event (see
About 1952, it became evident that the old design was
becoming outdated and vintage and a number of more up-to-date designs
were sketched out. These were finalised in 1956 and four prototypes of
the new design were made.
A number of up-to-date features were incorporated
This 1956 model was not put into
production., although the prototype gave every satisfaction. The
traditional firm safe feeling was still there softer springing gave
added comfort. With over double the b.h.p. and the same weight the
performance was quite exceptional.
Unfortunately the Singer Company on whom HRG had
relied for some components including the bottom of the engine, had been
taken over by another Concern, The old co-operation between the H.R.G.'s
and Singers had therefore ended, which meant that with a change of vital
components, a lot of expensive re-designing and prototype work would
have been necessary. The Company therefore decided to concentrate on its
general engineering side and no more cars were made after July, 1956. It
must not be overlooked too that with the demand for sports cars
increasing as it was and the big firms were all their resources entering
the market, small firms were soon running into difficult times.
During the late fifties, general engineering
continued in combination with servicing of the cars. Although spare
parts became increasingly difficult to obtain, it was still possible to
obtain a complete rebuild and the happy relationship between the Works
and customers was cemented in 1960 by the formation of the H.R.G.
Association, strongly supported by Works, owners and erstwhile owners