500 Owners Association - The Logo

500 Owners Association - The

Rose Cottage, Foxwist Green, Norwich, Cheshire, CW8 2BJ.

The history of the 500 Movement from its pre war origins, Formula 3, decline and revival

CAPA and the Shelsley Specials

The roots of the 500 movement go back to before the war when two overlapping groups of enthusiasts built and competed in cars based on similar principles to those of the 500 Club, namely simple, light weight cars, using relatively small capacity engines and aimed at the amateur.

The first influential group consisted of a number of racing enthusiasts in Bristol who set out to enjoy themselves with some low budget motor sport. They formed an informal club which they called CAPA (after the initials of four of the founders (Dick) Caesar, Aldrich, Bobby Price and Adrian (Butler). The members also included Bickerton, Joe Fry (who allowed members to compete on his estate at Lulsgate), his cousin David Fry, Walter Watkins, A. C. H. Harding, John Siddall, McCormick, Breyer and others. The CAPA cars were mainly based on Austin Sevens with body work removed and a mild tune. Whenever the group met, the subject of developing more low cost motor sport was raised and it is thought that Dick Caesar first suggested the idea of using motorcycle engines as the power plant for racing cars. His argument for this being that they were cheap to buy, available and would enable a good power to weight ratio. The plan was to evolve a formula to which all cars would conform, thereby preventing the wealthier racer from having too much of an advantage over the CAPA type of constructor.

The second group is usually referred to as a Shelsley Specials, simple chassis cars with all unnecessary parts removed and highly tuned engines used for competing in hill climbs, notably Shelsley Walsh. One good examples is the WASP of Jack Moor. He built three cars prior to the war for this category and later took over the Freikaiserwagen 500 of David Fry which he further developed into Wasp IV, one of the most successful and long serving 500 specials. The other great example was the original Freikaiserwagen itself, built by David Fry and Hugh Dunsterville in 1936 around a GN chassis and V twin Anzani engine, a highly successful car.

The Bristol Aeroplane Company Motor Sports Club

The outbreak of War in 1939 put a halt to all active motor sport. The CAPA enthusiasts were also members of, among others, the Bristol Motor Cycle and Light Car Club and some of them worked at the Bristol Aeroplane Company. Many members were called up for military service and the clubs were shut down for the duration. Those members continuing to work in the company formed the Bristol Aeroplane Company Motor Sports Club, the idea being to keep the spirit of motor sport alive even if competitive events had to stop.

The 500 Club

In the Autumn of 1946, an AGM was held but it was clear that members wanted to revitalise their old clubs and regarded the BACMSC as having served its purpose. A resolution was passed to wind up the BACMSC and found a new club to pick up the threads of what CAPA members had been thinking about before the war. It was called the 500 Club and the balance of the BACMSC funds were transferred to it. In a matter of months about half a dozen cars had been built to a general specification prepared by the Club and competition began, initially on the hills as that was all that was available to them. A key part of the concept was the encouragement of individuals to construct their own cars and, in this, the Club was highly successful. Colin Strang dominated 1946 but other key names began to appear in the results; Clive Lones in his Tiger Kitten and, most importantly for the future of motor racing, the Coopers of John Cooper and Eric Brandon.