SPEEDEX CASTINGS AND ACCESSORIES LTD
17a, WINDSOR STREET, LUTON, BEDFORDSHIRE.
Tel.: LUTON 4443
Jem Marsh is of course the man behind that great British sports car the Marcos. But during the late 1950's Jem used to race an Austin Seven special while working as a sales rep for Firestone Tyres. During the first few months of 1958 Jem was employed by Robin Read as manager of his Dante Engineering Company. This lasted until 30th April when Jem told Robin that he intended to leave and start his own company, Speedex.
In May 1958 the first Speedex advert appeared in the 750 Motor Club Bulletin and it was clear that Speedex were offering cosmetically altered versions of Dante products, including finned aluminium cylinder heads, twin choke inlet manifolds and a pulley for the Ford export water pump.
Speedex Austin Seven Head
From July 1958 Speedex offered their own IFS unit and the cast aluminium wheels appeared a month later.
Speedex IFS and wheels for the Austin Seven
In October Jem launched his first shell, the Speedex 750. Made from aluminium it was available for the Austin Seven chassis of 6`2" and 6`9".
From January 1959 Tuning equipment was made available for the Ford E93A and 100E. This included Four branch manifolds and aluminium cylinder heads.
Aluminium cylinder heads for the Ford E93A and the 100E
In October 1959 the fibreglass Speedex Silverstone was made available for the Austin Seven chassis. This was based on the 750 cars of Team Sigma and Mike Featherstonehaugh.
Then in April 1960 Speedex announced the delightful looking Sirocco. Peter Hammond designed the Sirocco.
Speedex Sirocco with a Halifax chassis
Designed to fit a Ford Popular chassis or Speedex own 'Mercury' frame.
Jem Marsh's own Sirocco
Speedex 'Mercury' multi-tubular frame.
Could be described as a 'semi-space frame'.
Peter was born in Birmingham and while he was at college there applied for a job with Alex Issigonis at the Austin. Unfortunately he never got the job but a vacancy arose for a stylist at Vauxhall which he applied for and got. He moved into lodgings at an old coach house in Luton in 1956 and started work in the styling dep't with around ten other people working on what would be the Victors and Cresta's of the 1960`s. Also staying at the coach house was another Vauxhall employee named John Heseltine who at the time was racing the Austin 750, Vanford 11 and later raced the 1172 Vanford U2. John introduced Peter to two people employed at Robin Reads Dante Engineering, Dave Abbot and Jem Marsh. Jem was soon to leave to start his own company called Speedex. It was while he was on holiday touring the design houses of Italy that Peter decided to build his own Ford Special, and on his return he drew up a spaceframe chassis influenced by the Maserati "bird cage". This was decided upon because the E93A Ford chassis was thought to be to flexible and old fashioned for a glass fibre shell. The chassis was made up from 1.5 and .75 mild steel tubing Manganese bronze brazed, the result being a very light and strong structure. Suspension was independent all round with the geometry based on the then current Lotus set up, while the front and rear wishbones were made up from 1" Reynolds 531 tubing manganese bronze brazed . A Triumph Herald diff unit was used with cut down Austin Seven prop shafts for drive shafts for the IRS. Peter made up his own stub axles from Singer back axle ends and brakes and having designed his own wheels Jem had them made up for him at Dan Taylors foundry in Derbyshire. The engine was a Ford E93A with ally head twin SU`s and export water pump with a cross flow rad and header tank and electric fan. The design for the body was worked around the Vauxhall E series Velox front screen, two of which Peter had purchased as scrap for 6/-. Jem Marsh suggested that Peter should use the 7`6" wheelbase with a view to future commercial development, Jem then offered Peter space at the Speedex works to model the body. This was done by starting with a metal buck made to the inside shape of the body minus 3" all round this was then covered in chicken wire and a mix of plaster and Hessian slopped all over it. Neat plaster was then added and smoothed on left to dry and scraped and filed to shape. The final shape was then checked all over to make sure that one side was a perfect mirror image of the other,( its a pity other manufacturers didn`t follow this example, just take a look at the rear wheel arches of a Convair). When Peter was finally satisfied with the shape it was given a good coat of shellac and smoothed down with wet and dry and finally sprayed with paint. A mould was then taken from this buck and later Peter took delivery of a one piece body shell.
The part constructed Sirocco of Peter Hammond
Space at the Speedex works was very restrictive for someone used to working in a proper studio, with space to stand back and take a good look his work and Peter was never 100% happy with the final shape particularly the front and rear screen sections.. Peter had a friend make up the steering wheel for him and the rest of the interior was trimmed in Black and Tan vinyl. The body was painted metallic crimson with a polished ally egg crate grill and side window surrounds.. Peter drove the car for about 8000 miles until in 1963 he sold 756 ENM to a Mr. Raper of Luton. The car was spotted a few times and then it disappeared. Peter would dearly like to know the whereabouts of the car. Does any one have any information of 756 ENM since 1963?
It was because of the high sill line of the space frame that Peter decided to use gullwing doors. These doors were of course modified later to a more conventional style, but not before at least two more cars were made with the original design, one on a Ford chassis by Jem Marsh himself, this was the car used in the adverts and one by Geoff Healey who was one of Jems staff at Speedex, also on a Ford Chassis. Peter remembers seeing a stack of five shells on the platform of Luton station and a completed car in white on the road near Mansfield Nott`s and thinks that about twenty shells were made in total. He also has very fond memories of the late fifties /early sixties traveling to Brands and Silverstone with Jem with his Speedex 750 on the back of his VW flat bed. Also the monthly evening run with an array of different cars and Specials traveling in convoy from Luton to the 750 Motor Club monthly meetings at The Abbey Hotel at Stonebridge Park on the North Circular Road in London. Its interesting to note that the pre production shell that John Orpin bought at the time, which still survives, had no inner wheel arches, firewall, or dashboard and the wheelbase was different on each side of the car.. John found that one side of the car was 7`6" and the other 7`7.5" and it took a fair amount of work to put it right . Johns shell was also delivered as a one piece unit. Production shells came in sections (roof, nose, rear, doors, sills, bonnet and dashboard), which were flanged and had to be bolted together by the purchaser. John paid the pricely sum of 100.00 for his pre production shell and was later to find out that these shells could be bought for 40.00. When the production shells had finally been sorted the price was:- 99.00 for an untrimmed shell,119.00 trimmed, and 135.00 including side windows and four wheel arches. Around the same time that the Sirocco was launched, Jem also announced the arrival of the Marcos GT. The last Speedex advert appeared December 1961, by which time Marcos had taken off, and in April 1962 Cambridge Engineering were stating that they could now offer most of the parts available from Speedex, including the Silverstone body and Speedex wheels to special order. Jem revived the Speedex name briefly a few years ago, using it as the the name for an accessory business based at the Marcos factory in Wiltshire. But sadly this venture was soon sold to Europa spares at Burton on upon Trent and the Speedex name has again been put on the back burner.
The finished car with Peters wife