In 1936, two young students, Hugh Dunsterville and David Fry, put together a racing car from parts they bought in a Redcliffe scrap yard for a few pounds.
At its debut a few months later at the Backwell Speed Hillclimb, the car achieved 2nd in class, despite hitting the bank on the final bend and crossing the line with no rear drive and buckled wheels! Progress continued for a few more years, some good results being achieved with David’s diminutive cousin Joe at the wheel. The car was damaged in a crash in 1939 and was left unrepaired as war broke out. The protagonists joined the armed forces and the car was forgotten for the duration.
In 1945 the Bristol MC & LCC was quick to organise the first post-war speed event in the country at Naish Hill. With Hugh Dunsterville pursuing an army career, it was left to the Fry cousins to rebuild and develop the car. They were spectacularly successful: it became “one of the most successful of all sprint specials”.
We may think motorcycle-engined kit cars and racing cars are the latest thing, but the home-built Freikaiserwagen used this formula to such good effect that in Joe Fry’s hands it took the outright record at Shelsley Walsh in 1949. By beating a number of larger-engined Grand Prix cars it earned its place in the motorsport hall of fame, and established a trend for mid-engined single-seater design that has been followed by every racing car builder since. It can reasonably be argued that Bristol is the birthplace of the British mid-engined racing car.
Two years later, Joe was tragically killed in a practice accident at Blandford Camp. The car was never rebuilt. To honour his memory, Joe’s grieving widow commissioned model-builder Rex Hayes to build the accurate scale model we see today. She presented it later that year to the Bristol MC & LCC, and it is now awarded every year for the Best Performance by a BMC Member at Wiscombe Park Hill Climb in Devon.
The Joe Fry Trophy photo album is here
The full story of this car is told in the book “FREIK! – The Private Life of the Frekaiserwagen” by Rob & Hugh Dunsterville.