Harold Biggs

Harold in EXK 601 at Brooklands

At the inception of the 750 Motor Club, which closely followed the end of Austin 7 production, there were many enthusiasts who believed that the Seven was the ideal, inexpensive and adaptable basis for sports cars for various applications. One such enthusiast was Harold Biggs whose early motoring days centred on motorcycles, later graduating to cars, in particular the Austin 7. Harold was a founder member of the 750 MC in 1939 and, according to the membership list published in the October 1940 “Bulletin”, found himself alongside such luminaries as Bill Boddy, Arthur Mallock, Holland Birkett and Jack French. This list had to be recreated from memory at the time because the club office had been destroyed by enemy action and the membership book was lost. Harold was editor of the “Bulletin” in 1951 and 1952 and became an honorary life member of the 750 MC.

A prominent one of his cars was EXF 601, a tourer, which doubled up for speed events and trials. Of particular note are his participation in a high speed trial at the JCC Members’ Day on 2nd July 1938 at Brooklands and his second place in the 850cc Sports Car class at the Speed Trials held at Beechwood House Markyate on 18th September 1938. Harold’s son, Mike, recalls that EXF was originally a Coupe that had turned over, the top cut off and the body roughly converted to a short, 4 seater, open car. It became Harold’s when taken as payment for some outstanding debts. At one time it had a supercharger fitted and it had an LMB independent front axle. It had two sets of wings that were fitted depending on the type of event.

After an apprenticeship, Harold, a capable and accomplished engineer, worked for Alfa Romeo British Sales, Marshall Superchargers and Frazer Nash before becoming a partner in the Bell Garage in Putney, just a few doors along from Allard, where he later worked.

During the war years, Biggs formulated plans for a car for use in trials, to be constructed when peace came.

Having kept a detailed diary of EXF 601 including modifications, events and purchases, he started another in 1946 when the construction “The Red Cow”, first registered as WMF 5 in 1950, began.

Tom Lush (left) and Harold Biggs with DKM 894 at the Wrotham Trial

His family car was DKM 894, another tourer, and later diary entries detail journeys in that car often in the company of Tom Lush, a 750 MC enthusiast and long-time Allard employee.

Biggs was already starting to suffer from a disabling and debilitating disease so much of the work on WMF 5 was undertaken another early 750 MC supporter and friend, J. V. (Joby) Bowles. The car was built on a 1932 long wheelbase chassis and was fitted with 1934 engine M202599. He bought half of a Laystall disc-webbed crank from Holly Birkett and had Laystall make the other half.

Harold tried a number of cylinder heads before settling on a Whatmough Hewitt head – now fitted to Stuart Ulph’s Williams Special. It was originally fitted with a Scintilla Vertex magneto but this was later removed.

Harold Biggs had been a significant contributor to Motor Sport magazine both as the author of articles and a frequent letter writer, and it was in the May 1951 edition of this journal that Bill Boddy who was reporting on a visit to see and drive Joby’s 2.6 litre Alfa Romeo wrote “ Finally, a glance at a special Austin Seven Bowles has built for that staunch Austin advocate Harold Biggs. A very trim car this, in its correct Austin orange, with fuel tank from a racing Amilcar, divided front axle, Whatmough Hewitt alloy head, Scintilla Vertex magneto …”

Harold Biggs and his son Mike in “Red Cow”

The rolling chassis that Joby built was taken to Maltick in Wandsworth and spent most of 1949 there while the body was built. To enable Harold to continue driving, the car incorporated some special features. An elongated driver’s door was fitted to enable him to get his legs in, the driver’s seat had its sides built up for better location, hand controls were fitted for the clutch and throttle, an extended fly-off handbrake fitted and reverse gear selector fitted to the gear lever. A knee pad was also fitted to the door to aid comfort.

Two spare wheels were carried, Allard style. To cater for the 3.50 x 19 fronts and 5.50 x 16 rears. The Red Cow emblems carried on the engine side covers derive from The Red Cow public house in Hammersmith that hosted many meetings of the 750 MC in the 1940’s and 1950’s and where details of the Harold Biggs Special may well have been discussed at length.

Progress on the car was slow and, by the time it was completed, Biggs was having increasing difficulty with his lack of mobility. Sadly Harold Biggs died in 1960, having had little use from the car and having been unable to achieve his ambition of competing in trials against Allard in it.

Since his death, The Harold Biggs Memorial Trial has featured on the 750 MC Sporting Trials fixture list and has been a qualifying round of the BTRDA championship. It continues to be a recognised event at Club level.

Alan Osborne with acknowledgment to Grahame Fullalove and Cliff Bradshaw.

Harold Biggs Photo Collection.

The following Photos are from the personal collection of Harold Biggs that the Archive was fortunate enough to acquire from the family. I am enormously indebted to Stuart Ulph for his encyclopaedic knowledge of such things and his tireless research to ensure accuracy of their descriptions. Sadly Harold, as you will see, was not the world’s greatest photographer but, accepting the limitations of his skills behind the camera lens, they represent an insight into motor sport before and just after the war that are unlikely to be seen elsewhere. The Archive would like to thank the current members of Harold’s family in providing these photos and the written material that is also reproduced.

Harold Biggs Notebook.

Harold kept meticulous notes about all the cars he owned. This 14 page document is an extract of a much larger notebook that covers all the vehicles he owned (though that has not been seen bythe Archive). These particular pages relate to his 1927 Chummy that he appears to have started keeping records for in November 1933 until he parted with it for the princely sum of £18-10-0. A couple of other vehicles are mentioned – notably a Sunbeam (assumed motor cycle) and what appears to be the beginnings of construction of an Austin 7 Special.

Harold’s handwriting is not of the best (rather like his photography) and it is hoped that this notebook can be transcribed into typed text in the future. If you would like to volunteer for that task, please do get in touch with the Archivist.

Harold Biggs Diary.

Things sometimes start at the end. My awareness of Harold Biggs’ involvement with the Austin Seven world was triggered by a correspondence with Cliff Bradshaw during the late 1970s. Cliff remarked that a car he would really like to own was Harold’s last significant Seven, the post war “Red Cow” trials special. I happened to be acquainted with its owner and was able to effect an introduction, which enabled Cliff to find out just how careful you should be in what you wish for. Much later I came across Harold’s “reminiscences” in war time copies of “Motor Sport” which revealed his impressive curriculum vitae.  [Link] Rather handily Harold has summarised this for us, complete with dates. [Attached]

One has to be impressed by the breadth of his experience. By the time of the Journal reproduced here he had a wide acquaintance with the people and cars involved with motor sport, both as a competitor and co worker. This gave him a detailed insight into motoring competition and an access to its participants that was in itself unusual but, even more remarkable, he maintained a comprehensive chronological record of his observations.

One should say that these notes were, of course, intended for his eyes only. As a consequence his assessments can be painfully direct; one rarely has to decode a tactful remark! By the same token, he is interested in technical detail on a practical level and I suspect that he records conversations pretty much verbatim. All this gives a rare immediacy to his notes, occasionally enhanced by a comprehensive description of his subject’s apparel, that transports one directly to the paddock at Brooklands or the hill at Dancer’s End.

There is a great deal of content here, quite apart from Austin. You are interested in Alta, Amilcar, Atalanta? Or further up the alphabet, Frazer Nash, GN, Hudson? You want to know what socks* Harold wore in his Austin 7 special at Brooklands in 1938 for the JCC High Speed Trial? Enquire within.

The Archive hopes to convert Harold’s manuscript to an indexed format which will make research within it it much easier. In the meantime, the curious will be rewarded by resort to the Jack Horner method. There many plums awaiting extraction.

*Odd ones.