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Singer's Racing History
at Le Mans

Les Vingt-Quatres Heures du Mans, or more simply Le Mans, is the hallmark of Road Racing. Its name has graced more than a few cars in over 75 years of automotive history, not the least of which has been the Singer from Coventry. But occasionally the mystique clouds the meaning and the memory, leading us to take for granted the essence of the event and its true relevance to the automobiles that participated. In this case, I refer to the pre-war Singer Sports, Le Mans and Replicas which ran with considerable success.

The Le Mans road race was conceived in 1923 by Charles Faroux, a noted French motoring journalist of the period, who had long been concerned with the inadequacies of automotive electrical equipment of the day. Hence, he suggested to two colleagues, the idea of running a night race in order to stimulate the perfection of these accessories. The idea gained ready acceptance and support from Faroux’s two colleagues, Georges Durand, Secretary General of l’automobile club de l’ouest, and Emile Coquille, Managing Director of the French branch of the Rudge-Whitworth Wheel Company. The first race took place in late May 1923.

The rules were generally straight forward and stressed the genuine advancement of touring car development. Competing cars had to conform strictly to catalogue specifications with fully equipped, four seater coach work, except in the 1100c.c. class. Tops and side curtains were mandatory, and after 1925, were to remain erected for twenty laps of the race. A French observer was heard to remark that at 21 laps, the majority of these would have collapsed of their own accord.

Le Mans actually consisted of two contests run simultaneously. The Grand Prix d’endurance was a straight forward long distance affair, which obviously favored the larger touring cars. Concurrent with this, however, was the contest for the Rudge-Whitworth Triennial Cup, later to be renamed the Biennial Cup, designed for the smaller cars which were run on a handicapped basis.

The handicap system for the Rudge Cup established minimum qualifying distances for each class to be covered within the 24 hour period of the race. The qualifying mileage’s were originally rather forgiving, varying from 503 miles (at an average speed of 21.9 m.p.h.) in the 1100 c.c. class, to 968 miles (representing an average of 40 m.p.h.) for the larger 4 Litre cars. These minimums were increased in 1924, so that even the 1100 c.c. class had to maintain an average speed of 38 m.p.h. over the 24 hours of the race.

Distance checks were performed every six hours in order to disqualify automobiles that were not maintaining the prescribed pace early in the game. Cars 20% below their established minimum distances at the six hour mark were eliminated. Similarly cars running at 15% below minimum at the 12 hour mark and 10% at the 18 hour mark were also disqualified. All those meeting or exceeding their minimums and finishing the race, would then qualify for the Rudge-Whitworth Biennial Cup. However, the actual winner of the Cup would be the Marque showing the greatest proportionate excess above its stipulated minimum over two successive years.

As conservative as the qualifying mileages seemed, there was good reason for it. Le Mans was, and is, for that matter, a grueling endurance test and any of a number of factors, such as electrical failure, faded brakes, engine fatigue or just plain poor driving could contribute to disqualification. Accordingly, the finishing rate for Le Mans was not high. In 1929, only ten cars finished out of twenty-five starters. 1930 saw only nine survivors, and in 1931, a meager six contestants qualified out of twenty-six. These figures perhaps best set the scene for Singer’s outstanding performance in June 1933 and their continued success in the following years.

Those familiar with the pre-war Singer sports models will recall that the Nine Sports first appeared in October 1932. It was a totally new car in the Singer stable, unique in design, not having been directly evolved from any previous production model. It was also built in a different factory located at Coventry , rather than Birmingham, where Singer continued to manufacture their other production models.

The Nine Sports was widely accepted by enthusiasts and the press alike because of its smart appearance and sporting performance. Indeed, it met with a high degree of success in virtually every motor sport event in which it was entered. The ultimate test of a car’s mettle, and its appeal at the retail distributorships, was Le Mans. Singer therefore set out to establish the worth of their new sports model at the 1933 race.

The vehicle which was entered was virtually stock, with the exception of a slightly modified gearbox, finer tuning and a larger gas tank which occupied the car’s entire rear seating compartment. Driven by F.S.Barnes and A.H.Langley, the Nine became the first unsupercharged British car under 1000c.c.’s ever to qualify for the Rudge Cup, having finished intact and maintaining an average speed of 49.4 m.p.h. Never mind that it placed 13th and last in the race. This was no mean achievement for a light, inexpensive sports car barely into its first year of production.

The Singer management , obviously impressed with this achievement, immediately introduced a Le Mans version of the Nine Sports to be entered for the 1934 season. This was, in fact, a logical development of the Sports Nine, but having a more compact two seater body, a greater capacity slab-style fuel tank and twin spare wheels mounted at the rear. In the engine compartment, the Le Mans had a supertuned, twin carburated engine with a fully counterbalanced camshaft and machined webs. Its high lift overhead camshaft had harmonic cams and the oil sump was of extra large capacity and ribbed for more efficient cooling.

In addition to the new Nine Le Mans, Singer introduced a 1.5 litre version with the same coachwork, featuring a large in-line 1493 c.c., six cylinder engine. With this impressive lineup, Singer was planning an all out assault on Le Mans for the 1934 race.

Armed with these two new and competitive models, Singer made an exemplary showing. The race saw the two 1.5 Litre Le Mans’ take 2nd and 3rd places in the Rudge Cup competition and 7th and 8th places overall. Of the smaller Nines, Norman Black and J.R.H.Baker came in 15th overall and placed 1st in the 1000 c.c. class. Wisdom and Barnes came in 18th and the Gardner/Beloe car placed 23rd.

In the 1935 Le Mans, no fewer than eight 9’s were entered, including a new Nine Replica, which had a supertuned engine and a more streamlined racing body capable of over 90 m.p.h. The Singer team again captured a 2nd place in the RudgeCup competition at the hands of Barnes and Langley, who headed a group of Nines in the 1000 c.c. class, where Singer finished 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 7th.

Their mounting successes at Le Mans showed exactly what a worthy line of vehicles that Singer had been able to produce in a very short period of time. There was every indication that they could compete in world class events with the best and win, which contributed to their increasing popularity in the retail market vis a vis their closest competitors, such as the MG’s and Rileys.



Singer's Racing Results
at Le Mans

1933 No. 37 9 Sports 972cc Barnes/Langley 13th overall Qualified for Rudge Cup
1934 No. 25
No. 26
No. 47
No. 48
No. 49
No. 50
Le Mans 1493cc
Le Mans 1493cc
Le Mans 972cc
Le Mans 972cc
9 Sports 972cc
Le Mans 972cc
Barnes/Langley
Lewis/Hindmarsh
Wisdom/Barnes
Black/Baker
Hendy/Bolton
Gardner/Beloe
8th overall
7th overall
18th overall
15th overall
Retired
23rd overall
3rd for Rudge Cup
2nd for Rudge Cup
-
-
-
-
1935 No. 34
No. 47
No. 48
No. 49
No. 50
No. 51
No. 52
No. 54
Le Mans 1493cc
Le Mans 972cc
9 Sports 972cc
Le Mans 972cc
Le Mans 972cc
Le Mans 972cc
Le Mans 972cc
Le Mans 972cc
Henon/Res
Connell/Lloyd
Hendy/Bolton
Barnes/Wisdom
Baker/Black
Barnes/Langley
Gaillard/Aimee
Marsh/Guest
17th overall
Retired
19th overall
Retired
Retired
16th overall
23rd overall
20th overall
-
-
3rd in 1000cc class
-
-
2nd-Rudge/1st in 1000cc
7th in 1000cc class
4th in 1000cc class
1937 No. 50
No. 51
No. 52
No. 53
Le Mans 972cc
Le Mans 972cc
Le Mans 972cc
Le Mans 972cc
Black/Barnes
Eccles/Eccles
Boughton/Lye
Savoye/Pichard
Retired
Retired
Retired
Retired
-
-
-
-
1938 No. 46
No. 47
Le Mans 972cc
Le Mans 972cc
Savoye/Savoye
Barnes/Wisdom
8th overall
Retired
-
-
1939 No. 44
No. 45
No. 46
Le Mans 972cc
Le Mans 972cc
Le Mans 972cc
Scott/Wisdom
Jones/Wilkins
Savoye/Savoye
Retired
18th overall
Retired
-
-
-
-
1949 Le Mans 972cc Savoye/Renault Retired -

26 Singers raced at Le Mans 14 finished the course

Copyright 1998. NASOC. All rights reserved.