Recently I was privy to a reasonable question ask regarding the fascination for JAP engines. My immediate reaction was to think of the numerous speed records that JAP engine racers have made and broken over many years. Of course it's also the look and the sound of them. Thinking about the question of fascination and of course, in my case addiction, I reread what is probably the best example of the JAP magic. It’s a story of record breaking as related by Jeff Clew in his history JAP: The End of An Era.
By 1932 the JAP Speedway engine was well established as the engine to use if you wanted to win on the cinders or on a grass track. The circle track racers loved it but the remainder of the racing community looked on it as a freak. One young road racer didn’t have the same opinion of the engine. As a result he determined to win a new trophy put up at Brooklands by H.J. Bacon for the first privateer to cover 100 miles in an hour. Fergus Anderson was that young racer.
Mr. Fergus Anderson planned that if he could lap at around the 104 mph mark he could take one pit stop and carry off the hour record and the trophy. To do so he went off to the Tottenham factory with cash in hand for an engine. As his luck would have it the factory had five speedway engines ready for dispatch. It has to be remembered that at this time the factory was building the engines mostly by hand and then dyno testing for output with a complete strip down and inspection before dispatch.
As a result Fergus picked up an engine which was guaranteed by the factory to produce 37.8 bhp at 5,750 rpm. Apparently he chose one of the five at random. Fergus then installed the engine in a Grindlay-Peerless machine of Bill lacey’s. His tuner for this escapade was Tommy Atkins who had about four hours with the engine before the attempt was made. With a fresh engine and quick tuning Fergus took to the Brooklands banking, April 21st of 1932, for his go at the record.
In his first lap from a standing start Fergus brought the virgin engine across the line at 98 mph. His second lap was a crazy fast 109.22 mph. For the hour record with trophy Fergus averaged 100.52 mph. All of this with a virgin engine, four hours tuning and an engine that was never designed for this type of racing.
That's the JAP magic!