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Piper Car History

Piper Cars & Piper Company History

 

The Piper company was formed in 1966 by George Henrotte who was the owner of Campbell`s Garage in Hayes, Kent and had been running the works Gemini F3 team

Bob Gayler added his technical genius gained from working at Harry Weslake`s research establishment and then with Baldyne Engineering

Ken Packham was a director of Metallic Components Engineering and he placed his machining facilities in Piper`s direction

Tony Hilder was an artist and freelance designer and had been responsible for the body design of the McLaren M1A sports-racer Tony had designed his own car but he had no facilities to build it and he joined the team as the body / chassis designer

The logo of the `Piper`came from the trade mark of Campbell`s Garage and it gave the new company it`s name.

So the first Piper was built, a rear engined open sports-racer powered by an Alfa Romeo twin-cam which had been ordered by Gerry Hall

Together with a range of tuning conversions and accessories the company received orders for more cars. An order came from Bobby Bell for a Lotus twin-cam engined Piper and one came from the states from Jerry Titus for a Buick V8 powered car

A single seater F3 car was designed and built using a Mallite section (end-grain balsa core in light-alloy skins) to form the monocoque

A Group 6 sports racer was introduced in 1968 called the GTR. This closed cockpit rear engined Piper also featured Mallite in the bulkheads and under tray of it`s chassis tub with multi-tubular sub frames extending to the front and to the rear that could carry the twin-cam Ford engines
or 2 ltr BMW, the Martin V8 and BRM power unit`s were also an option

The body profile was wind tunnel tested at Kingston Technical College and featured rear mounted water and oil radiators and a anti-vortex trim on the tail section so that the cooling air flow exiting under the car was not disturbed by the air also passing over it.

 

A 1300cc Ford twin-cam powered Piper GTR was entered into the1969 Le Mans 24 hour. The race engine had been held up at scrutineering because it had not been checked by the RAC for the engine capacity and the team had worked all night to get the car ready for the race only to be told that they had been withdrawn the day before because the organisers had not expected the small British team to be ready but nobody had informed the Piper team about the decision ! We are told that the practice engine had suffered a miss-fire and slowly returning to the pits over the long lap lengths had caused over heating

The company was bursting with original ideas and even at this early stage they were not afraid to undertake some big development projects

A group of club racing drivers approached Piper Cars to design and build
a Sports-GT body / chassis unit to take Austin Healy Sprite mechanicals and the project got underway and a model was shown at the 1966 Racing Car Show, but unfortunately with a change to the rules the group later pulled out.

Piper`s had put so much into the project that a prototype was exhibited at the 1967 Racing Car Show and the response was encouraging and a limited number were produced

Brian Sherwood was a clubmans racer who had one of the Piper sports racing cars and he had taken it back to the factory to have it converted to the latest coupe spec. Brian was shown the new GT racer project which could be built to order and have the option of Sprite, Imp or Ford engines.
Customers could then finish off the car themselves and go racing or even trim the car out for road use.

Brian could see the potential of the new GT car but this was to be with Ford mechanical parts and be fully built up by the factory and sold as a road car.
Brian began to get involved with Piper`s and the new GT sports car project
and some time was spent sorting out the build problems with the car
and then production continued

The success of the tuning side and orders for the cars had led Piper`s to outgrow their premises and it was decided to split the company into different operations and Brian took control of the car production and moved it into his factory in Wokingham, Berkshire

George carried on with the tuning business which later became Piper Cams
and the road cars were fitted with Piper modified cylinder heads and camshafts to the Ford Cortina 1600 GT engine as standard or as an option any degree of tuning to the customers requirements

So production started again in a larger factory dedicated to building cars Brian continued his racing and took control of production of the GTT (T as in two as the later revised GT cars were now called) production continued and the future looked good for the small company but remember we are back in the seventies and regular Ford strikes were causing problems with the supply of parts and this affected production and sales

Piper`s were not prepared to compromise and look elsewhere for parts as other companies had.


The cars were only made to order and were hand built to the customers requirements and often cars were paid for gradually as the work progressed

Then things took a turn for the worse with Brian`s tragic death while driving along the notorious three lane stretch of the A 20 near Brands Hatch on the 18th December 1969

This affected the car production and finished the racing program for Piper`s which was a huge financial burden to the company but had supplied the much needed racing promotion but it was all to much and the small company was wound up

Bill Atkinson and Tony Waller were Piper employees and with the foresight of problems ahead had formed their own company as Emmbrook Engineering and after a time they restarted Piper production in the same factory

Looking forward they completely redesigned the car but still keeping its clean racy Tony Hilder styling. The result was the new much improved lengthened and strengthened Piper and it was called the Phase Two (P2)

Piper production was up and running again but so were the Ford strikes and the quite times were spent improving a few points and a move was made to a new factory in Lincolnshire in 1973

To comply with new regulations the head lights were changed to pop-up and with the purchase tax concessions no longer applying the last few cars were built to a very high standard

The last one left the factory early in 1974

 

Barry Miller ~ for and on behalf of ~ The Piper Sports and Racing Car Club

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