In post-war Britain a whole generation of young engineers were growing up as racers, building their own racing machinery from kits or from parts of old cars. It was do-it-yourself motor racing.
The 500cc Club and the 750 Motor Club both played an important role in this, although it was the 750 Motor Club which had access to the basic Austin Seven which the enthusiasts treated “as a grown-up Meccano set” with which to create racing and rally cars.
The popularity of the car clubs created commercial opportunities for those with the skills and the vision. As the sport grew so did the need for car constructors, component manufacturers, engine tuners and other businesses. As they were set up by racing enthusiasts with specific aims they tended to be dedicated to motorsport and so had to be competitive to survive. They didn’t have any spare cash to fall back on. When engineers came along who felt they could do better than what was available they were often proved right.
Colin Chapman was a leading member of the 750 Motor Club with Austin Seven-based cars. Eric Broadley was another 750 Motor Club graduate who began building his own cars in the late 1950s. The result was Lola Cars which would become one of the biggest racing car production companies in the world. He too would recruit from among his friends in the 750 Motor Club, notably Len Bailey, the designer of the Le Mans 24 Hours-winning Ford GT40.
So how will Eric Broadley be remembered?
Says one F1 commentator: “Those who knew and worked with him will remember him fondly and with affection. His vision and dedication to Lola deserves the same respect rightly afforded to Chapman, Williams, McLaren, Dennis and Brabham, because the influence he had on the UK motorsport industry was so vital.”
Broadley was a true engineer’s engineer.