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SLIDER: 1956 HWM/Jaguar

This HWM/Jaguar is the famous ex-works car HWM 1. After some years in bare aluminium it has now been repainted in its original green and bears the same competition number, 545, as it did in the 1956 Mille Miglia when it crashed killing John Heath, founder of HWM. It won the Woodcote Trophy race at Donington driven by Gregor Fisken and Sam Hancock.

HWM was a famous racing organisation in the fifties, headed up by George Abecassis and John Heath. It started with success in single seater formulas and then became the first marque to create a Jaguar-engined sports racing car. From 1953 to 1957, the team raced sports cars in Britain and on the continent, sometimes beating works competitors from Jaguar and Aston Martin.

This car, chassis number 52106, raced at the Mille Miglia as a factory entry in 1956; the number 545 signified a start at 05:45. Since the winner was Eugenio Castellotti in a 1956 Ferrari 290 MM with car no. 548, this suggests that the HWM was considered to be a powerful contender that could keep up with the Ferraris (the brilliant idea of the numbering system was that spectators in the countryside could see who was doing well by observing low-numbered cars mixing it with higher-numbered cars that had therefore set off much later).

After HWM 1’s fatal crash at the 1956 Mille Miglia it was rebuilt at the works with the same chassis but replacement chassis rails and was raced throughout 1956 and 1957 by many drivers. It was sold at the end of the 1957 season to ‘Team Speedwell’, four enthusiasts of which John Bekaert was the principal driver; he drove it to each meeting, being caught by the police on one occasion at 100 mph above the speed limit. After several other owners HWM 1 was kept by the historic racer Kirk Rylands for 34 years. He worked with Arthur Mallock to improve the handling, resulting in a string of successes. HWM 1 passed in 2008 to Paul Grist who rebuilt the car to its original front bodywork shape and original colour of British Racing Green.

Photo by Peter McFadyen. See his website:


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