1956 Tojeiro-Butterworth AJB Racer

I have no idea how much fun it might be to drive, but I can guarantee
it won’t have a chance against the Lotus 11s and Cooper Bobtails

Chassis number: TAD354
Engine number: B44

Archie Butterworth of Frimley Green, Surrey, was a wonderfully extroverted engineering personality involved in the resurgent years of British motorsport immediately post-World War II. Here we offer this most unusual and intriguing Tojeiro-chassised sports-racing car from 1954, powered by one of the Butterworth AJB flat-4 engines. This car, we are advised, was commissioned by former Brooklands racer Major Ronald Clare Clifford Palmer. He bought it from John Tojeiro’s Automotive Developments company.

Major Palmer and fellow enthusiast Roger Hans Everett set about installing a 1.5-liter AJB engine with poppet valves — as opposed to Butterworth’s ingenious (but never fully developed) swing-valve system — into this Tojeiro chassis. Palmer and Everett were intent upon saving as much weight as possible, which of course was one tenet of the air-cooled engine design, as it required no heavy water-filled radiator and cooling system.

A sleek, molded fiberglass body was commissioned for this putative sports-racing car, and with the 1500-cc AJB Star flat-4 engine driving to the rear wheels via an MG T-series 4-speed manual gearbox, the Major’s new Tojeiro-AJB was first U.K.-registered “XNK 900” on May 28, 1956.

However, the major quickly discovered that the motorcycle-type Amal carburetors that Butterworth recommended would not work satisfactorily when mounted as downdraught units, despite the company’s published claims to the contrary. Try as he might, he failed to convince Amal that there was a problem, and ultimately — also confronted by other AJB difficulties — the frustrated Major Palmer simply laid up the car and abandoned further development.

We are advised that the car remained within Major Palmer’s ownership for 30 years before being offered for sale after his death. It was sold at a Sotheby’s auction to prominent collector David Wenman, who commissioned Michael Williams of Beaufort Restorations to revive it for him. This Tojeiro-Butterworth’s AJB engine, meanwhile, had been partly re-engineered and re-machined to accommodate modern Vandervell bearings, new con rods, pistons and a replacement starter motor.

The gearbox and back axle were found to have very little use and were re-used after suitable cleaning and refettling. Porsche 356-like Solex carburetors were adopted in place of the original, troublesome — or poorly understood — Amals that had caused Major Palmer such grief in period.

Since completion of this restoration work, the Tojeiro-Butterworth has been sparingly used, and its last outing was the HGPCA Silverstone meeting of April 2007. As now offered here, the car has covered fewer than 50 miles in the past year, it has been preserved in a climate-controlled underground garage and — as the vendor says — “…the engine starts instantly, runs perfectly and consumes oil as it was originally supposed to do!”

Thor Thorson

Thor Thorson - SCM Contributing Editor

Thor grew up in northern Iowa. His father bought a red Jag XK 150 in the late 1950s, and that was all it took; he has been in love with sports cars , racing cars and the associated adrenaline rush ever since. He has vintage raced for more than 20 years, the bulk of them spent behind the wheel of a blue Elva 7. When he’s not racing, he is president of Vintage Racing Motors Inc., a collector-car dealer and vintage-racing support company based in Redmond, WA. His knowledge runs the full spectrum of vintage racing, and he has put that expertise to good use for SCM since 2003.

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