By the late-1940s, HW Motors was one of Britain's leading motor racing manufacturers. Starting out in sportscars, the Alta-powered sportscar would take victory in the Manx Cup in 1949 and 2nd at the Grand Prix de l'ACF held at Comminges that same year.
In Formula 2, HWM would be a prominent player, and would remain so when the governing-body made the decision to switch from Formula One to Formula 2 regulations for 1952 and 1953.
Throughout the 1952 season, HWM would be just one of a couple of teams that would manage to put together strong performances at each and every round of the World Championship. Of course, HWM had nothing for the dominant Ferrari 500, but still, it was proving to be a strong contender nonetheless.
However, 1953 would see HWM fail to make the necessary leap in evolution the competition in the World Championship requires. With such cars as the Ferrari 500, the Maserati A6GCM, the Connaughts and the Cooper-Bristols, the HWM just could no longer compete.
And then came 1954. By the end of the 1953 season, it was clear HWM was on the back foot. But now, the World Championship world would again change. The Formula 2 era had come to an end. New Formula One regulations were coming into effect heading into the 1954 season. HWM needed to adapt, or, face extinction.
HWM would try to do what they could with the limited resources they had. The biggest change heading into the 1954 season would be the increase in engine displacement from 2.0-liters with Formula 2 to 2.5-liters with the new Formula One regulations. Therefore, HWM would contract Alta to build a 2.5-liter engine for their HWM 53 chassis.
Alta would come through. They would be a 2.5-liter version of their longitudinal four-cylinder engine. While it produced more power than the 2.0-liter variant, it still lacked the power of the Ferrari 625, the Maserati 250F and the Mercedes-Benz W196 that would all make their appearance over the course of the 1954 season. Still, HWM had their car and would make final preparations for the start of their 1954 season.
Although the manufacturer would make the jump fully out of Formula 2 and into Formula One, its limited resources would keep their potential and their season in perspective. Therefore, while the actual Formula One World Championship would begin with the Argentine Grand Prix in mid-January, HWM would remain back in England waiting for the European racing season to begin in a couple of months.
HW Motors would wait until the middle of April before it would arrive to take part in its first Formula One race since the Swiss Grand Prix back in 1951. Instead of Bremgarten, Switzerland, HM Motors would not have to leave England to take part in its first race of the season. There would be nine rounds of the Formula One World Championship in 1954 and more than double that in non-championship races. One of those non-championship events would be the 6th Lavant Cup race held on the 19th of April as part of the Goodwood Easter Monday races.
A great deal of excitement built up around the Easter Monday races at Goodwood. It had been the plan to have the double World Champion Alberto Ascari come and drive for Vandervell's team. However, this would not end up happening. But still, with the presence of the Maserati 250F driven by Roy Salvadori and the Ferrari 625 of Reg Parnell in the field for the short 7 lap race, there was still a fair bit of excitement surrounding the race.
Goodwood's Easter Monday was one of the highlights of every season during the early 1950s. Converted from an auxiliary airfield attached to RAF Tangmere, the 2.39 miles of perimeter road around what had been known as RAF Westhampnett would serve as the perfect site for hosting motor races. And in the case of the Easter Monday races, the circuit would serve as host to a number of short races featuring all kinds of classes of racing, the Lavant Cup being one of them open to both Formula One and Formula 2 entries.
HW Motors would have one entry for the 7 lap, 17 mile, race. The car would be driven by regular Lance Macklin. Macklin was something of an all-around racer. No matter whether it was Formula One, Formula 2, Sportscars, Macklin would be a regular figure at circuits throughout England and the rest of Europe.
The whole of the starting grid for the race would be something of a mystery but it would seem abundantly clear that Salvadori started from pole in the Maserati 250F. Kenneth McAlpine and Reg Parnell would each line up 2nd and 3rd.
Even though the race was just 7 laps in length, it was still one of the first races of 1954. Therefore, it would not be all that surprising seeing some cars fall out after just a lap or two. And, sure enough, the Lavant Cup race would have its share of retirees. John Webb and Peter Whitehead would each fall out after having completed just a single lap. Alan Brown would last just 2 laps before he too would fall out of the running.
Thankfully, for HWM, Macklin remained in the running and was battling strongly within the top five toward the end of the race. But despite having a 2.5-liter engine himself, there was very little Macklin could do to keep touch with Salvadori and Parnell.
Both the Maserati and the Ferrari were just vastly superior when it came to outright power and speed. They would se this advantage to pull away from the rest of the field, but it would provide the crowd with an epic duel for the victory.
Salvadori would start the race from the pole, but Parnell would not let him escape without a challenge. In fact, the two would battle for the lead throughout the whole of the race and Parnell would end up looking the stronger competitor using his vast experience and knowledge to his advantage.
The two would be evenly matched. Both would set the very same fastest lap time averaging nearly 90 mph. In contrast, Macklin would be more than thirty seconds behind safely inside the top five.
The battle for the victory would come right down to the end. And as the two rounded Woodcote for the final time, it would be Parnell in the lead with Salvadori attached to Parnell's backend. In a race that would take less than twelve minutes to complete, the crowd would be delighted with every passing minute as the two men would cross the line just six-tenths of a second apart with Parnell taking the victory over Salvadori. Exactly thirty seconds would end up being the difference back to McAlpine finishing in 3rd place in his Connaught. A further ten seconds would be the difference to Macklin finishing in the 4th position in the HWM.
It would be a solid, and yet, subdued start to the season for HWM. The 4th place result would most certainly be welcome, but it was clear the 2.5-liter Alta had nowhere near the power of the Ferrari and Maserati engines of the same capacity. Therefore, there was as much reason for concern as there was reason to be excited.
After the race at Goodwood, HWM would withdraw from grand prix racing and would take the time to make preparations to the car before its next race. If there had been some concern following the Lavant Cup race concerning the true pace of the HWM compared to the competition then the team's next race would help to make things a whole lot clearer.
Nearly a month after the Easter Monday races at Goodwood, the HW Motors team would pull its transporter into Silverstone in expectation of its next test. It was now mid-May and the team would arrive at Silverstone in order to take part in what was to be the 6th BRDC International Trophy race, a very popular non-championship race that attracted the best England, and Europe, had to offer.
The 6th edition of the International Trophy race would be no exception. While there would only be privately-entered Maseratis in the field, Scuderia Ferrari would make the trip bringing with them three cars.
Macklin had enjoyed success in the International Trophy race. Back in 1952, he had come away with the overall victory leading the way for a HWM one-two. However, the 1953 edition of the race would see Macklin fail to finish the final race. It was clear the HWM chassis had been stretched to its maximum when it came to evolution and development. With the 2.5-liter engine no onboard, Macklin would hope for a return to glory.
Listed in the first heat race, Macklin would have a hard time achieving former glory. Not only would the circuit experience torrential rains, but Ferrari's Jose Froilan Gonzalez would also be listed in the first heat.
In practice, leading up to the first heat race, the rains would not yet be falling on the circuit. Therefore, the true pace of all of the competitors would be clearly evident. And it would be clearly evident that if things stayed as they were there was absolutely no chance for anybody to challenge Gonzalez. Gonzalez would set the fastest lap in practice with a time of 1:48 around the 2.88 mile circuit. The closest to him would be Jean Behra in a Gordini T16. His best effort would be 1:51. Stirling Moss and Alan Brown would complete the front row, each with times well under two minutes.
Lance Macklin, on the other hand, would be well on the other side of the two minute barrier. In fact, the best he would manage to do would be a lap time of 2:11. As a result, Macklin would be positioned down on the fourth row of the grid in the 12th position.
Macklin would be out-qualified by a number of Formula 2 cars. It was more than evident the HWM had some kind of troubles. As a result, Macklin would not even start his 15 lap heat race. Therefore, there would be no return to glory for Macklin and HWM, besides there would be practically no chance of that with Gonzalez in the running.
Gonzalez would run away with the heat race, despite the torrential weather conditions. Fourteen seconds would be the margin of victory for Gonzalez over Prince Bira. Another two seconds would separate Bira and the 3rd place finisher Stirling Moss.
The second heat race would see Ferrari's lone other entrant, Maurice Trintignant, line up on pole with Reg Parnell, Andre Simon and Bob Gerard alongside on the front row. The second heat would also be 15 laps in length but would be quite different from the first heat race. Drier conditions would cause the lap times to drop and the average speeds to increase. As a result, Trintignant would leave Parnell and the rest of the field in his wake as he powered his way to a convincing victory.
The wet and dry conditions would certainly throw the final grid into disarray as it would be determined by finishing times. Therefore, Trintignant should have clearly started on the pole with Parnell in 2nd, Robert Manzon 3rd and Roy Salvadori 4th. But that is what 'should' have happened.
Instead, Gonzalez would line up on the pole, with Trintignant's car! Apparently, Gonzalez's engine seized immediately following his first heat victory. But instead of giving Gonzalez, Umberto Maglioli's Ferrari it would be Trintignant that would be called upon to give up his car. And instead of starting from pole, Trintignant would be forced to start from 6th. Still, it could have been worse for Trintignant. He could have been like Macklin and the HWM team packing up their equipment and broken car heading home.
Many of the questions surrounding the 35 lap final had been answered even before the start of the race. Case in point would be: Gonzalez starting from pole in drying conditions. And what questions did remain, would be answered within the first couple of laps of the race.
Gonzalez would make a great getaway from the line and would clearly lead the way from the start. Just 2 laps into the race, Robert Manzon would falter due to transmission failure. Three laps later, Reg Parnell would drop out with a broken propeller shaft. And as Salvadori faded over the course of the final race, it became abundantly clear Gonzalez was on his own out front of the rest of the field.
Setting the fastest lap of the race with an average speed close to 96 mph, while also averaging nearly 93 mph throughout the entirety of the race, Gonzalez would be well out in front just cruising toward victory.
Gonzalez would thoroughly dominate his heat race and especially the final. Crossing the line in just a little more than one hour and six minutes, he would end up lapping all but Jean Behra running in 2nd place. And though he would not be lapped by Gonzalez, Behra was, by no means, in a position to battle with Gonzalez. In fact, as Behra came across the line in 2nd place, the final margin of victory would be some thirty-six seconds. Andre Simon would finish in the 3rd position a little more than a lap down.
The problems Macklin's HWM-Alta suffered severely set the team's Formula One back on the back foot. Already limited in the resources, the team would miss out on a great opportunity to test and improve their car prior to the European season of the Formula One World Championship getting underway. The team would experience yet another setback just a couple of weeks later that would make matters even worse.
In an effort to gain more track time, and to help their cause financially, HW Motors would enter a Formula One and Formula 2 race on the European mainland. The race was the 24th Grand Prix des Frontieres held in Chimay, Belgium. The race would be held on the 6th of June and would provide HWM with a great opportunity to get some good laps under their belts before the Formula One World Championship geared back up in a couple of weeks.
The season, to that point, had been filled with nothing but disappointment and unfulfilled promise. The team had a new 2.5-liter engine but it was clear it was lacking the power to really compete. In addition to this, the total amount of laps the car had completed in order to be in top form to mount a serious challenge had all but been zip. It seemed things couldn't get any worse. But they would.
Prior to the Grand Prix des Frontieres, the team's one and only HWM-Alta would be damaged in a crash. Therefore, yet another opportunity at some important racing miles would be lost. HW Motors wasn't just on the back foot now. They had been knocked down seriously contemplating whether or not to get back up.
HW Motors had taken a shot to the chin. The team's legs were gone, but still, the team would get off the mat and would attempt to go at least one more round. That one extra round would not come at home. Instead, the team would see, for sure, what it was made of. The team would enter its sole car for the French Grand Prix held on the 4th of July at the ultra-fast Reims circuit.
HW Motors wanted to find out whether it would sink or swim and the ultra-fast 5.15 mile Reims circuit would be the perfect venue to search out an answer to such a question. The Reims circuit would first be established in 1926. And even from its very beginnings 'speed' was the watchword. Even as it underwent design changes throughout the years, the circuit would remain one of the fastest circuits in the world.
Reims would host the World Championship for the first couple of years before it relocated to Rouen-les-Essarts for the 1952 season. However, the French Grand Prix would return the following year and would produce one of the greatest grand prix of all time. With the exceptions of the Muizon and Thillois hairpins, the circuit, which was comprised of public roads, would be either long straights or fast sweeping esses.
This circuit, therefore, was not the ideal setting for HWM, but yet, it was. In one race HWM would get a very clear idea of where it stood against the competition. And it wouldn't look good heading into the race, at least not with the return of the Silver Arrows of Mercedes-Benz. While Mercedes were coming to the race with a brand new car, HWM would be coming with a car, effectively, two years old and lacking in both power and reliability. This would be the toughest round HWM would go through and it very much had the potential to knock them out cold. However, if they could perform well in the race, they would find new life in their legs and they would be ready to mount a strong challenge throughout the remainder of the season.
Practice would not provide the confidence the team was hoping for. While Juan Manuel Fangio would streak around the circuit in the new streamlined W196S at average speeds greater than 124 mph, Macklin would be struggling to average better than 105 mph. As a result, there would be a large disparity in lap times between Macklin and those that would occupy the front row of the grid.
The man that would line up on the pole would be Juan Manuel Fangio. His lap time of 2:29.4 would be exactly a second faster than his Mercedes teammate Karl Kling. Alberto Ascari, driving for Maserati, would end up completing the front row in 3rd place. His best lap would be just a tenth slower than Kling's best effort.
Macklin's best effort would not be in the same league as those occupying the front row. Despite having a 2.5-liter engine himself, Macklin would only manage a best lap of 2:52.5, some twenty-three seconds off of Fangio's pace. However, because the whole of the Equipe Gordini team and some privateers did not set a lap time in practice Macklin would not start from the tail-end of the grid. Instead, he would find himself on the 6th row of the grid in the 15th position overall.
Not only had the storm clouds started to gather over HWM's grand prix program, but heading into the race on the 4th of July, storm clouds literally began to gather and threatened to have an influence on the proceedings. However, as the cars lined up on the grid, the sun would still be shinning through.
Here it was. HWM's first round of the World Championship for 1954. Everything was riding on this race. And as the engines came up to a roar, the team's hopes would soar with the noise. And when the flag dropped, Fangio and Kling would make a great start with Kling actually having the advantage. Ascari would run into trouble right there on the grid and would end up retiring from the race without having competed the first lap of the race. Kling and Fangio would have a clear advantage over Gonzalez, who would make a great start in his Ferrari.
Macklin would get away from the grid fine but would soon find out that his HWM certainly did not have the speed of the rest of the field. Over the course of the first lap of the race Macklin would lose ground. And while he may have started 15th, he would complete the first lap in 18th. Over the next half-dozen laps, Macklin would find himself falling ever backward until he would find himself running dead-last as of the 6th lap of the race.
Kling would lead the way through the first couple of laps of the race. However, by the 3rd lap, Fangio would be in the lead and would hold onto the position over the course of the next 25 laps.
Macklin would hope his race would have lasted that long, but it, unfortunately, would not. Running dead-last in the field anyway, Macklin would manage to complete 10 laps before his Alta engine would blow up, thereby ending HWM's race, even existence in Formula One.
Fangio and Kling would leave everyone in their wake, especially after Gonzalez's engine expired on the 14th lap of the race. Onofre Marimon looked best to capitalize on Gonzalez's misfortunes, but after a while, he would head into the pits to have some fouled plugs replaced. Unfortunately, on the 28th lap of the race, the whole thing would come to an end when the engine failed.
As the rains soaked the circuit, the first couple of places seemed to be a lock, but the team manager for Mercedes would not admit that after both of his drivers ignored his pleas for them to slow down in the wet conditions. The rest of the field, however, seemed totally wide open. The usually high attrition was taking its toll. It wasn't even certain if there would be five finishers to garner all of the possible championship points.
As they had throughout the whole of the race, Fangio and Kling ran nose-to-tail. And as the two rounded the Thillois hairpin and would power their way toward the finish line for the last time, the two would be nearly side-by-side. It would be a demonstrative win for Mercedes with Fangio taking the victory by just a tenth of a second in front of Kling and with more than a lap in hand over the rest of the field.
Prince Bira looked on track to finish in the 3rd position. However, he would begin to run out of fuel on the last lap of race and would hand the position over to Robert Manzon driving for Ecurie Rosier. Manzon would cross the line nearly a lap and a half behind Fangio and Kling.
Reims had delivered the knock-out blow. There would be no getting up for HWM after the thorough pummeling it received during the French Grand Prix. Not only had Macklin been running dead-last just before the engine failure, but the limited resources of the meant that such blow-ups would not be able to dealt with on a routine basis. This would be the final blow that HWM would never manage to get up from. And so, as the team packed up their broken car and equipment and headed back to England in the evening hours they were literally driving away from their career in Formula One. It was over.
It had come to an end for HW Motors, at least in Formula One. The manufacturer had thrown all of their eggs into the Formula One basket, and now, were left looking for a new outlet that would also provide the best opportunity for continued success. HW Motors had dropped their 2.0-liter engine program in favor of the 2.5-liter Alta engine. Therefore, Formula 2 was out of the realm of possibilities. Therefore, HW Motors would return to its roots. Instead of single-seater grand prix racing, HW Motors would make the move back to sportscar racing using its 2.5-liter Alta engine.
The weekend of the 4th in 1954 would be a telling time for not only HWM, but also, Lance Macklin. Not only had the grand prix come to a terrible end, but another engine failure would bring HW Motors' efforts in the sportscar race to an end. So while HW Motors would make the switch over to sportscar racing after the French Grand Prix, Macklin would make the move away from HWM and would only drive for the team and that would come at the Goodwood 9 Hours in August of 1955.
After John Heath was killed in a racing accident during the Mille Miglia in 1956, and the other founder, George Abecassis, stepped away from the team to concentrate on the business aspects of Hersham and Walton Motors, HWM would begin to fade from the racing scene. Before the 1960s, HWM would be an almost forgotten about element in motor racing history. It would only be the record books, noting Macklin's victory in the International Trophy race in 1952 and Paul Frere's splendid drive in the rain to earn a 5th place result in the 1952 Belgian Grand Prix that people would be reminded of HW Motors presence in Formula One. Then, all of a sudden, the reader is taken aback by the fact that, for a little while at least, HWM presented the greatest challenge to the dominance of the Ferrari 500 and Alberto Ascari.