By Eli Solomon
While much has already been written locally about this Frazer Nash-BMW 328, very little has floated to the surface of the web so when I chanced upon a rather rare photo of this car in action at the Gap Hill Climb (Singapore, 28 October 1951), I figured I ought to write a short piece with the few photos of the car that are in the Rewind Media Archives.
First off, let’s go back to June 1937 when, after some serious negotiations between the BMW factory and AFN Ltd, the first batch of 328 sports cars arrived, consigned to AFN Ltd at Falcon Works in Isleworth. There was much confusion – what should journalists call these cars? Frazer Nash, BMW, BMW-Frazer Nash, or Frazer Nash-BMW? There were other more difficult issues to deal with, like Anglo-German currency exchange, for example. As Denis Jenkinson wrote in his book From Chain Drive to Turbocharger, “this new BMW model had been described as the ‘Grand Prix’ model, in recognition of its first appearance outside Germany in the French Grand Prix at Montlhéry, but following its success in the Ards Tourist Trophy race it was renamed the TT model. The car proved to be so individualistic, however, that it stood on its own merit and did not really need a model designation. It was simply the Frazer Nash-BMW 328…”
The Gap Hill Climb in Singapore in June 1939 showing the 328.
Which of course brings us to the origins of our car – Chassis 85120. This car, according to the Pendine Cars website (https://pendine.com/cars-for-sale/frazer-nash-328/), was supplied new through Glasgow dealer Scott Brown & Co to first owner Jack Miller. It was finished in Ivory with registration BSF725. Miller apparently sold the car sometime in early 1939, through well-known Bugatti man and car dealer Jack Lemon Burton. The buyer was Wong Chek Quee, a respected contractor in Singapore (who also imported a 2 1/2-litre SS100 and a 4CS Maserati before the war).
My first record of the 328 in action in Malaya is at the Kuala Lumpur Lornie Road Half-Mile Acceleration Test on 26 March 1939, driven by E.L. Williams. It next appeared at the Gap Hill Climb in Singapore on 11 June 1939. There appears to be a Frazer Nash entered at the Gopeng Hill Climb on 24 March 1940, raced by Bill Ferguson. Hard to say whether this was Wong’s car or not. Hugh Dornhorst, a dental surgeon based in Kuala Lumpur, raced it at the Negri Sembilan-Malacca Branch of the AAM’s Seremban Half-Mile Standing-Start Sprint on 12 May 1940, and event held at the 1st Mile Seremban-Tampin Road with 73 entries. Gopeng tin miner Lee Chee Peng then appears with the car at the Gap Hill Climb in Singapore on 4 August 1940. There was no entry for the car at the Johore War Effort Grand Prix that November. When war intervened, the story goes that the car was requisitioned by the Japanese in Tapah, Perak, where it was parked under a tree with transmission removed to keep it from being driven off. Lim Peng Han, on one of his jaunts, apparently spotted the car when his Wolseley broke down in Ipon. He purchased the car for Malayan$800, had it retimbered in Chengai hardwood (at a cost of $400) and had a Mercedes 170 transmission cover replace the missing BMW cover. The dates are hazy so one presumes that this was early post war because Peng Han showed up with this very car at the Bukit Batok Hill Climb in Singapore on 8 May 1949. He probably had a lot on his plate that weekend because it was raced by Yip Peng Yin.
Scanned from a negative from one of Lim Peng Han’s pre-war photo albums.
A most interesting image of Lim Peng Han at speed in the Frazer Nash-BMW 328, 28 October 1951 at the Gap Hill Climb in Singapore. BMW experts should be able to identify the marking on the bonnet vents. I’m curious to know what it is.
The pre-war registration was SN303, post war it carried A5087 and later on, when based in Singapore, it carried registration SE7659. Ownership history is sketchy. Peter Laws bought it and was meant to race it at the Bukit Batok Hill Climb in Singapore in November 1950 but the car was damaged before it got to the event (while driven by a young Mike Evans). It was entered at the Gap Hill Climb in Singapore on 27 May 1951 and again at the 28 October 1951 Gap, where Peng Han raced it. There are probably a lot more entries but it’s one car I never did pay much attention to so have neglected to track all the club events it was entered it. Ken Saunders bought it sometime later (it still with Saunders as late as October 1963). It was then dismantled in 1968, minus transmission and back with Peng Han, parked at his Peterson Road home, behind Goodwood Florists in Singapore. It was later sold to Roger Scott (circa 1973), then to Sultan Karim, with Singapore road registration SE7659, before Karim shipped it to Canada when he moved there.
The car as it now looks, with original UK registration but minus the badge on the louvers of the bonnet. Image courtesy of the current owner.
Words by Eli Solomon