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Smokey's JW4 Formula Four Rebuild Thread

Mark (smokey mow)

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Almost 50 years ago on Sunday 15th May 1966 a field of 17 cars lined up on the grid at Brands Hatch to take part in the very first Formula Four race to be held in the UK.

The entry list included four British Johnny Walker team cars, three specials and an assortment of Italian Tecno’s driven by both British and Italian drivers. The Italian travelled over especially for the race and were competing with Works supported Ducati engines. Conversely the JW4’s were all running completely standard Villiers Starmaker’s and a lack of time in the run-up to the event meant that none of the JW4’s were properly prepared or tested.

The British JW4s were driven in the event by Johnny Walker, Rally Champion Geoff Mabbs, GP Motorcycle rider Derek Minter and Imp Saloon car racer Nick Brittan.

The race consisted of 2-heats and a final with the first heat being won by Carlo Francisci in a Tecno, with teammate G.Picchi second and Dutchman F.du Mee third and also in a Tecno. Miss Luana Francisci (sister of the winner) came home forth with the first of the JW4’s home driven by Johnny Walker and finishing fifth. Both Minter and Mabbs retired from the race with oiled plugs.


The second heat ended in much the same order as the first with Francisci and Picchi first and second and Luana Francisci third. Derek Minter finshed 6th and the highest placed British Car.

In the 10 lap final Carlo Francisci was forced to retire at Clearways with engine trouble having been leading the race thus gifting the win to his teammate Picchi. J.Scaranic in another Tecno finished in second place and finally Luana Francisci was third with Derek Minter Again finishing 6th.


The JW4’s put on a good showing against the Tecno’s but were never really going to be in contention with their standard Villiers engines compared to the works prepared Ducati’s. The cooling stroke of the 4-stroke single cylinder Ducati proved advantages against the 2-stroke Villiers Starmaker and the JW4’s were suffering badly from fuel starvation in some of the faster corners. Nevertheless the JW4’s were only 15-20 seconds behind at the end of the races and lapping close to the others with the fastest lap being 62.2s (71.77mph).

The JW4’s problems in the races were largely attributed to a lack of development testing and the presence of a motorcycle engine in a car. This had given rise to a various issues including cooling of the engine bay but also with fuel surge in corners. Testing had been carried out using Villiers own Y-shaped inlet manifold for 2 Amal carburettors but this did not cure the problem even when a float chamber was attached to the second carb, as they were simply too close together. After considering various alternative options it was Verney Montague (Designer of the JW4 Mk2) who came up with an alloy T-shaped manifold for the 2 carbs each with its own float chamber. Although they were far from ideally positioned as they were mounted at right angles to the air stream this did solve the problem.

The design was proven when the JW4’s met the Tecno’s again at Mallory Park. Only 4 weeks after their defeat at Brands Hatch Derek Minter lapped all but one of the field to take a commanding victory.

The rest as they say is history…….

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Or is it…

About a year ago I posted on this thread that I was hoping to have my car completed and running in time for the 50th Anniversary of that first race, and I’m sure many of you may now be wondering if I managed it or not. Well, in short the answer is no, but I’m now not too far off from my goal and things have moved forward and in quite an unexpected way since February 2013 when I bought my first JW4.

In the last 3 years I’ve spoken with and met some quite amazing people each with a unique storey to tell and something to give. My search for parts has taken me as far north in the UK as Blackburn and to the West into Cornwall, and what started with one car became three and is now two. The correspondences have been worldwide, with owners past and present in Canada, America, Belgium, Italy, Sweden and the Netherlands all getting in touch.

I’ve gone from a car which I knew nothing about that once raced in an almost forgotten Formula to unwittingly becoming the authority for the Johnny Walker JW4 in the UK. The garage is now stacked full of spare parts waiting to be reunited with cars and the rafters are filled with tooling and body moulds; even the house hasn’t escaped, the once empty bookshelves are now filled with a diverse collection of books, period magazines, newspapers and of course drawings.

Whilst I may have not yet achieved my goal of having a running car for the 50th Anniversary, this will not stop me celebrating this occasion in some modest style; I am therefore pleased to be able to report that on the Bank holiday Weekend of 29th/30th May my car will be on display at Crystal Palace for Motorsport at the Palace featuring with it a small exhibition on F4, Johnny Walker and the JW4.


For anyone attending the event, please do come and say hello, pick up a free post card and whist there learn a little bit more about Formula Four racing in the 1960’s.


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That's amazing Mark!  What a journey you've been on!


I'm not in the country that weekend otherwise I'd have definitely popped over to Crystal Palace to see the exhibition. 


Well done

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This morning I wheeled her out of the garage for the obligatory annual insurance photos and a bit of final polishing before Crystal Palace next weekend.







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It certainly does. Fantastic work there Mark.

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But are you absolutely sure there's room for a man in there??

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Brilliant - a real credit to your workmanship Mark - this car looks amazing  :yes:

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