Page 1 of 1 British Motorracing was at an all-time low in 1933, Bentley's Le Mans domination seemed ages away and Britain's last international single seater success dated back to the early 1920s. A wealthy amateur racer felt something had to be done and he provided the finances for setting up a new company. The effort was headed by Raymond Mays, who had already scored many successes with Invictas and in 1933 had campaigned a Riley special. ERA (English Racing Automobiles) was the name picked for the company and cars. Reid Railton was hired as designer of the new car for the Voiturette class.
Riley's straight six engine was the logical power choice after Mays' experience with it in 1933. The 'six' was by no means conventional, as it featuring camshafts on either side of the engine. One camshaft operated the intake valves, the other for the exhaust valves, both actuated by pushrods. Two engines were available in the first cars; a 1.1 litre and a 1.5 litre. Assisted by a large Roots-Type Supercharger the latter was good for around 166 bhp. Mated to the modified Riley unit was a Wilson pre-selector gearbox. Pre-selector gearboxes were very popular in the 1930s. Drivers selected the gear before using the clutch so that the selected gear was automatically engaged when the clutch was pressed.
Railton designed a ladder-frame chassis, much like that of the competitors. Front and rear suspension was made up of live axles, sprung by semi-elliptical leaf springs and damped by Hartford friction shock absorbers. Large drum brakes made sure the ERA stopped quickly to compliment its already fierce acceleration.
A series of four A-Type ERAs, R1A through R4A, were built and raced by the works team in 1934 and 1935. For the first privateers, a slightly revised B-Type chassis featuring a more reliable engine became available in 1935. 13 of these were built, R1B through R14B. Chassis number 13 was not used for superstitious reasons. Customers included one of the best known privateers of the era; Prince Birabongse Bhanubandh, 'B.Bira' of Thailand. His three B-Types secured over 20 British and International victories. Most famous of all ERA drivers was Richard Seaman, whose performance in R1B earned him a spot in the Mercedes-Benz Works racing team. Page 1 of 1