K1 (1, 1950-53)

Some of the text and pictures in this chapter are rigorously protected by copyright since publication and are the property of Rick McDowell Photo Journalism. Rick's original magazine article 1953 Killeen K1 appeared in ``MG World Magazine'' (Oct-Nov'2001).

K1, early years

Considering MG's long and illustrious history, it is perhaps hardly surprising that many others have found MG components suitable for their own special projects. Such ``proprietary'' use of components from a major manufacturer is nothing new, yet more often than not it can result in some awful monstrosities of cobbled together parts. Yet when all is said and done, the rarest, and even most exotic, vehicle to use proprietary MG parts has to be Tom Killeen's 1953 monocoque special.

[K1 around 1978] k1_early2_small.jpg

Note the singular connotation in that last paragraph, because Tom Killeen only ever built one of these cars and you're looking at it right now. Admittedly, the Killeen's only MG component is its TD based engine, not just any old XPAG engine though. The Killeen K1 (as the car became known) was fitted with one of four (six ?) TD ``factory'' motors bored out to 1,466cc for MG's 1954 EX 179 speed project.

The K1 was Killeen's first design for a sports racing car. The design was started in Mar'1950 and finished that November. The actual car was completed in 1953 as a commission for E. John Newton, which Killeen claims I built the K1 in my spare time for Jack Newton who was a friend of mine. For its first competitive event it was entered in the Sunbac Silverstone meeting in Sep'1953 driven by John Newton. Newton was director of the Birmingham based family business, Newton Oils, whose Notwen brand was at one time favoured by racing people. One was ex. RAF driver R. Dennis Poore who was a hill climb and Formula Libre champion driving an ex. Scuderia Ferrari/ Nuvolari super-charged Alfa Romeo Tipo 8C-35.

[Period photo, Motor, inset shows the 1/8 scale model] jack_and_tom2.jpg

[Very early photo of K1] k1_early3_small.jpg

[Early picture from Motor magazine] motor-pic_small.jpg

In 1947 he had been successfully running a red HRG car with a Meadows engine which he bought from Ken Baillie-Hill for trials and hillclimb events. He later used Renault and Frazer Nash motors. He knew Tom Killeen well [how?] and commissioned the new K1 car. Tom put his draughtsmanship and mechanical skills employed at Jensens to work and Newton debuted the Killeen K1 in the low key meeting of the Sutton Coldfield and North Birmingham Automobile Club's mid-September meeting at Silverstone which had around 90 entries. On that occasion it had the 1250cc stage two XPAG engine. It had previously been seen in the paddock at the Silverstone M.G.C.C. meeting, was snapped by an Autocar photographer and appeared in their July 10th edition with registration plates NOK 7. [who built the car?] Photographs also appeared in the Sutton News, 11/9/1953 and a short article in the Birmingham Mail, 1/9/1953. The car's performance in its first event isn't known, [check papers] but up until 1956 Newton raced the Killeen MG in various club meetings, hill climbs and even the Sports Car support race before the British Grand Prix in 1954.

Some results from entries in 1953-5 include the following:

Event Position Time
Debut: Sunbac (Silverstone) sports cars to 1500cc, see Autosport 11/9/53 unplaced  
British Empire Trophy (Oulton Park) sports cars to 1500cc, see Autosport 8/4/54 10th fastest lap 2m 16s
B.D.C. (Oulton Park) sports cars to 1500cc 5 lap race,see Autosport 22/4/54 1st fastest lap 2m 17s
B.D.C. (Oulton Park) sports cars to 1500cc handicap race,see Autosport 22/4/54 unplaced fastest lap 2m 19s
Lydstep Hill Climb, sports cars to 1500cc, se Autosport 23/4/54 3rd 37.2s
Maidstone and Kent M.C., Race 2 for sports cars to 1500cc, see Autosport 28/8/54 unplaced  
British Grand Prix Meeting (Silverstone) International sports car race, car driven by ``Pitt'' see Autosport 23/7/54 unplaced best lap 2m 36s (practice)
N. Staffs C.C. (Silverstone) sports cars 1101-1500cc, see Autosport 15/10/54 3rd in class and 3rd overall  
MAC International (Shelsey), see Autosport 24/6/55 3rd in class ? 51.26s (wet)
Prescott 26/6/55, sports cars 1101-1500cc, see Autocar 1/7/55 1st driven by E.J. Newton 50.19s
24/7/55 Bouley Bay, sports cars 1101-1500cc, see Autocar 29/7/55 1st driven by E.J. Newton 61.8s, new record

By 1955 the car clearly had the 1467cc engine.


*** Special thanks to Stuart Penfound in the UK for this rare shot of the Killeen in action. Stuart's not sure of exact details, nor the year this shot was taken, but says the photo was taken at an MGCC Cecil Kimber Hill Climb at Batings Dam ***

The historic photos of K1 from 1978 which were sent to me by Peter Hardy, Tom Killeen's nephew, in Sep'2006.

[K1 around 1978] k1_early1_small.jpg

K1, design and construction

Killeen's intention with the design was to give a greater structural stiffness in relation to its weight than any previous design. This set in motion Killeen's range of monocoque cars and was the closest to his original principle of using a tubular stressed skin, see Chapter 2.1. 16swg Hiduminium sheet was used, a light aluminium/ copper/ magnesium-based alloy similar to the famous Alcad L72 later used in Formula 1 racing cars. The main frame to which this was attached was built up from three hoops, of 1/8" tee section steel equally spaced and 17swg steel top hat section stringers between them lightened with 3/4" diameter holes. The frame could be built on a simple jig which was afterwards drawn out through the back of the shell. The skin was attached to the frame with snap head rivets of various sizes. Extra skins were used to provide bracing in the scuttle and cockpit surround areas and for the rear spring attachment brackets.

The bulkheads in front of and behind the driver were attached to the rear two frame hoops and made from braced Plymax sheets. The front suspension was attached to a bridge like bracket positioned on the first frame hoop. It was of equal length double wishbone type with the upper wishbones replaced by a transverse leaf spring 41 1/2" long. The lower wishbones were fabricated from 14swg carbon steel tubes. A similar setup was used at the front and also the rear of Cooper racing cars from 1946, originally derived from the front suspension of the Fiat 500 road car at the time. It was only completely abandoned in 1959 in favour of external coil oversprung shock absorbers and double wishbones giving greater stability (the leaf transverse springs would twist slightly upsetting the car's geometry).

At the rear of K1 was a different arrangement. A curved de Dion solid axle was fitted with radius rods and quarter elliptic leaf springs of equal length. The MG gearbox was rigidly mounted in the chassis and attached to the axles by splined shafts and Hardy Spicer universal joints at the two ends. Because of using cantilever springs with little or no possible sideways movement and a 42" wide wheelbase Killeen decided it was not necessary to fit a Panhard rod, Watts linkage or other locating device for the axle.

In setting up the steering a modified Morris Minor rack was used with the track rods moved inwards to obtain the same length and geometry as the wishbones, so that bump steer could be eliminated. The front suspension was mounted at 3 1/2 degrees tilted rearwards to provide castor angle.

The jewel in the K1's crown for MG enthusiasts is the TD-based engine which is a genuine factory special. There is plenty of documentation that came with the car to say that the engine is from one of MG's EX streamliners, explained Ken Richardson, current owner, but it wasn't until I opened the engine up that we had any idea as to which streamliner exactly. The clue that Ken talks about was found on the conrods - which were forged with EX 179 on them. Now, as all MG enthusiasts know, EX 179 was MG's 1954 speed project which clocked 153.6mph in the then Class F. EX 179 then developed into a twin cam project which in 1956 cracked 170.1mph. With a supercharged 948cc engine in 1957, the same car managed an amazing 143.4mph.

Pure history book stuff really, yet what is intriguing is that EX 179 (in its first form) and the Killeen were equipped with a 1,466cc version of the rugged XPAG engine. It was fairly common practice in the early 50s to re-bore the 1,250cc XPAG engine out closer to 1,500cc, yet it was a practice that saw many pistons become, quite literally, water cooled. Some tuners and engine builders attempted to use liners in the quest for increased capacity with the XPAG engine, but this also proved to be a dubious practice. With the XPAG's stroke of 90mm, a bore increase from 66.5mm up to 72mm was required to achieve an actual 1,466cc. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that MG themselves did make some blocks with 72mm bores long before the 1500 TF was released and these early 72mm bore ``factory'' engines were dubbed XPEG. Perhaps not surprisingly, most of them found their way into a wide variety of racing cars in the UK at the time. Whether MG then specifically built a batch of these EXPEG engines with ``extra features'' for the EX 179 project is open to debate. The fact that Ken found the Killeen's conrods forged with EX 179 on them would seem to indicate that this was so.


As such and if the Killeen K1 has one of these motors - as opposed to an ``everyday'' EXPAG engine - then several questions are raised. How, for one, did Tom Killeen manage to persuade MG to simply hand over one of four, 72mm bore engines? Then again, did Jack Newton or even Tom himself have a ``contact'' within MG at the time? Some answers came from Colin Cooper who owned the car from around 1979 until 1985. He had met Tom Killeen in 1979 (?). Tom explained that he had persuaded John Thornley to let him have one of the spare engines. It had been sent to the USA for the trials, but came back still crated as it had not been needed, however it was of course fully prepared. Of course K1 already had some racing credentials by 1954 as noted above, so it may have been seen as a publicity opportunity for MG and a suitable home for the engine.

The Killeen's engine is certainly quite an interesting piece of machinery - especially in regards to how breakout into the water jacket has been avoided. Ken said, When I pulled the head off I was amazed to discover that the water jacket at the top of the block has been blocked off! They've used a special outlet from the rear of the head which goes in one side of the block and out the other, thus completing the cooling circuit. The engine's oil circuit is also unique, as there is no pickup extending from the block into the sump. Instead, a strainer located internally on the sump pan, protrudes at the front of the sump pan base. From here an external flexible line connects to the oil pump, which sends the lubricant to a filter, an oil cooler and then into the engine. Whilst Ken says that the Killeen K1's crankshaft looks to be a stock TD item, the conrods are certainly ``beefier'' than standard. In addition, `The pistons are slightly different than normal, but of more importance, the rings are less than half the thickness of normal TD or TC piston rings, so as to produce less friction', said Ken. Back up top and internally, the head was found to have been ported, but whether this was done by MG themselves or someone else is another of those mysteries. The valve gear is essentially stock TD, except for slightly oversize valves and a monstrous camshaft. According to Ken, The lobes on the cam are bloody near square!. Induction meanwhile, is achieved through the two 1 3/4'' SU carbs that the Killeen K1 has worn all its life. Despite the high specification Colin Cooper says it wasn't ``cammy'' and performed strongly and smoothly - very pleasant as a road car.

killeen3.jpg killeen4.jpg

K1 and Jack Newton

Additional photos were found in 2009 by Peter Croft. These show the complete K1 car and two show Tom preparing the car for Jack Newton to race. These photos are now ©Ted Walker of Ferret Photograpic so we have chose not to show them here. Copies can be obtained from Ted.

Let's now go back to the start and follow this story more fully. In the first phase, Jack Newton had some success with K1 between 1953 a 1956. He entered the British Empire Trophy and the International Sports Car Race which preceded the British GP in 1954. The car broke a class record in a hill climb at Bouley Bay, yet by the mid 1950s, the car giants of the day, such as Cooper, Lotus, Elva, were beginning to make their influence felt on a wider scale and the Killeen K1 quite literally ran out of speed. Jack Newton eventually sold the car in 1956, when it then passed through various hands until it disappeared in the mid 1980s.

By 1961 Jack Newton had moved to bigger cars and from his workshop in Thornton Heath, where John Farley and mechanic Jim Thornton worked, there appeared a well used second hand 1958 Formula 2 Cooper with leaf springs and 4 speed gearbox which they fitted with a 4.4l Chevrolet Bel Air engine mildly modified to give around 250bhp@5000rpm - later to 4.6l producing 320bhp@6000rpm. Notwen Oils later went on to sponsor hillclimb meetings on a reglar basis, for instance the Notwen Oils Trophy meeting at Prescott in 1968.

In the mid-fifties racing cars changed hands with alarming regularity, most drivers only keeping a car for a couple of years before moving on to the next and best special. This was indeed the fate of K1 as Jack Newton disposed of the Killeen in July 1956 via Hunts of Birmingham to a Mr. Mills of Jockey Rd., Sutton Coldfiled. Mills probably never used the car and Hunts again had it for sale in Oct'1957. Their advertisement stated: 1935 M.G./ Killeen sports/ racing car. ex. Newton, maroon, 11 1/2 cwt, 95 BHP, space frame, rack and pinion steering, Girling hydraulics, de Dion rear axle, 8 wheels, with almost new racing tyres, and many new spares, including alternating ratio differential. £485. Tom would have been shocked at the mistaken mention of a ``space frame''.

[Wild competed in it a couple of times: Brands Aug'56, came last; Commander York, Silverstone '56]

[R.J. Wild later entered a Formula Junior Gemini-Ford Mk2 driven by B. Cole in 1961, e.g. at Mallory Park, Snetterton. He drove the car in 1960 entered by Walker and Ward Ltd.]

K1 continued to be used after Newton sold it for some 25 years in competitive events, firstly by a Mr. Mills of Sutton Coldfield

K1, the middle years

On reading through the correspondence we can piece together some other clues. It fills in some details of the history of K1 during the time from 1957 to 1981 including details of its earliest restoration.

It is possible that in 1956 the car moved to the North West of England to start the second phase in its history.

Some enquiries had been made about the drawings in mid-1958 by K. Kaye of Storeton Engineering Services of Teehey Lane, Higher Bebington, Cheshire. Correspondence shows that he was trying to have the rear half shafts re-made. Tom was asked to provide the drawing, No. 177, to Leonard Schofield of Somerset for manufacturing purposes, which he did.

[May have been at Storeton Garage for a couple of years.]

I have found Mr. Graham, via Brian Smallthwaite. I have spoken to Bill and he is happy for me to pass on his telephone number:

Bill Graham, tel. 0151 336 1017

Bill has supplied additional information, which you will be interested in. The car also competed at Shelsley Walsh and in Yorkshire. Brian Smallthwaite also drove the car and it was F.B.(Brian) Williams (then from Southport, now the late), who was driving when the wheel fell off at Aintree, 02/05/1959. This corrects info already supplied. Bill had the car for about 4 years, and definitely had it from 1959 to 1962. It came from the Storeton Garage and went to someone in Blackpool.

I have invited Brian Smallthwaite to meet us on 1/2/2014. he lives near Bill Graham (on the Wirral) and Bill can probably be persuaded to come along.

Meeting with Bill and Margaret (?) Graham. ------

Red Lion Little Budworth at the Oulton Park re-union luncheon 1/2/2014, invited by Graham Heath. Phil and Glenda Robinson were also there with me.

Bill Graham, Teal Cottage, Old Hall Lane, Puddington, Neston, Wirral CH64 5SP

A very nice elderly gentleman somewhat accident damaged and slightly forgetful. Was certainly happy to talk about K1, his racing companions and the many other cars he's owned. Said he may still have photos or other info at home and will look. Would be happy to meet sometime during the year.

Owned K1 for 6-7 years, possibly until c.1962 when his first son was born. Is that possible? Sold it to someone in Blackpool. He had a Cooper MG before K1. He owned quite a few race cars and other people drove them for him. He owned some kind of automotive business but sold it and now specialises in buying and selling industrial machinery.

Drivers included:

Brian Smallthwaite, who was going to join us but couldn't. He worked for PECO but drove K1 and got some company involvement in exchange for advertising. Brian drove K1 maybe 4 times?

Brian Williams drove it and also had a Cooper MG (maybe the same one?). They also had a Norris Special at some time.

Austin Huxley, who's now 88 and still drives like the wind, drove a Connaught and won the last TT in the Isle of Man beating Stirling Moss. Lives near Bill and we may be able to meet them both. Austin also had a Cooper Bristol at some time. Not sure he ever drove K1.

[Bill Grahamam said Austin has a lot of photographs. He lives next door to Bill]

Bill Allen drove an Austin Healey.

Vernon Farthing, also worked for PECO and was involved in the advertising.

It was Bill Graham who was driving K1 when the wheel came off and he blamed the De Dion suspension setup. He was quite amused when I told him you'd found the evidence. Apparently up to that point the car was in good condition. He seems to have had several accidents both on and off the circuit.

Bill also paid around £25 to have a new steering wheel made which was a copy of the original one, but slightly smaller in diameter. [original still exists]

He may have some spare parts still somewhere. He said there should be a 1/2 width aluminium faring which covers the passenger seat and has a leather shoulder rest converting the car to something like a single seater.

Also mentioned but maybe not relevant:

Co. George Gray, Loxons Garage, Preston who lived in Garstang.

(Lady Mary Grosvenor drove a JAP special in hill climbs...)

I asked about R.J. Wild [Richard?]. Bill said he didn't know him, but may have been involved with Storeton Garage. Apparently someone (Wild?) [no it was Kaye] bought the Killeen without telling the directors and it was stored in their showroom. He may have been in the Wirral 100 Club which raced at McAlpines site in Ellesmere Port?

I forgot to ask about Kaye, but Bill said he was happy to try to answer any other questions. I got the impression he didn't know any of the other owners either before or after. However he may recognise some of the other drivers if he sees photos.

[Peter visited Bill Graham 18/8/2014 - see separate notes]

Was then from the early 1960s by Freddie Fox, an antique dealer from Bolton who used it as a road going sports car. [Jack Knapkin said this is not correct.]

[article in Preston and District VCC magazine, Spring-summer 2013, p16-20]

From 1967 the car passed to Jack Knapkin, owner of Adams Garage, Manchester Road, Tyldesley, Manchester from 1962-86. See K1 at this time began a systematic restoration as it was now 15 years old. All the bills of this period are to Adams Garage. Clearly work was undertaken on both the engine, exhaust and tyres. Bearings and pistons were ordered from Advance Motor Supplies in Chesterfield. Valves were ordered from the original supplier, Laystall Engineering of London who referred to V.W. Derrington as they had ceased to deal in M.G. parts. The valves eventually came from W.G. James Valve Makers in London as a special order. Archway Engineering in Manchester eventually provided both main and big end bearings. Exhaust components came from Bainbridge near Bolton. Tyres came from Dunlop in Erdington, Birmingham (Fort Dunlop). The whole rebuild appears to have lasted from March until Oct'1967. Jack contacted in in Spring of 2010, he still remembers the car well.

[Peter and I visited Jack on 13/6/2013 - more info to be added,]

Some photographs taken by John McCartney exist from this time showing various views of the tired looking red car. K1 was still registered on the road as NOK 7.

nok7_red_side_small.jpg nok7_red_rear_small.jpg

[The registration NOK 7 was kept by John MaCartney but sold at some later time and is subsequently to be found on a gold BMW 3-Series (2003 model).]

A letter from Tom Killeen to historian David Culshaw of Wigan in 1973 says I was interested to learn that the K1 is still in existence and wondered if it would be possible to obtain a photo of it. Ten years later he was re-united with the actual car.

K1 was used regularly around the Bolton and Manchester area by Freddie Fox and others, and suffered quite a lot of wear. John McCartney acquired the car in 1978 (a further ten years later) and again had the engine re-built by John Baker-Courtney. A letter from Tom to John McCartney on 29/4/1980 reads as follows.

Many thanks for your letter of April 24 and enclosures. I am returning the coloured photos as requested. You certainly have done a first class reconditining job and I am pleased to learn that the basic structure is still sound.

I have long advocated monocoque and took out a patent for this form of construction in 1952. Since that time I have designed and built nine cars and two motorcycles all using this method of construction.

I built the K1 in my spare time for Jack Newton who was a friend of mine and he had a fair amount of success with it in the Fifties. As far as I can remember the original colour was a metallic green.

I have enclosed a set of drawings fo the K1 which I would like you to keep and hope they may be of some use to you....

Clearly the car was then returned to its original metallic green as part of this restoration.


John used K1 regularly and it appeared at sprint events such as Shelsey Walsh, Prescott, Oulton Park, Batings Dam, etc.

Subsequently K1 was purchased in 1982 by Colin Cooper, of Frodsham, Cheshire, who campaigned it for a number of years, notably in the Bellini Models series in 1983. Colin contacted Tom a several times and they exchanged information. Tom said If you can manage a trip to Somerset with the K1 it would mean a high spot of the year for me, there is so much to discuss and you can give me all the gen. on the Kayne Specials. [what are the Kayne Specials?]. Colin and his wife Barbera did indeed visit ``Finches'', Tom's home in Somerset on Friday 14th June 1983. Some photos of Tom with his beloved K1 from this time is shown in Section 3. Tom was around 79 years old at this time.


The following photograph shows Colin Cooper and K1 in the paddock at Silverstone in August 1983.


Here is another of Colin in action at Coppice corner, Donnington Park in April 1984.


K1 was then offered for sale in 1983. An advertisement appeared in Classic and Sports Car magazine in December of that year. It was quoted as Killeen K1 1953 HSCC/ FIA regd. As raced Bellini Series 1983. Immaculate and important (first monocoque patent) car. Full history. Also Killeen K11 monocoque motorcycle. All drawings, photos, correspondence etc. everything £14,750. K1 had previously been advertised in Motor Sport magazine for £12,500.

There were no takers, so Colin Cooper kept the car on the road. It received its last UK MoT test on 27/4/1985 and was recorded as having done 3,067 miles. K11, described in a later chapter, had been sold the previous November. K1 was actually sold in July 1985 at auction by Christies at Beaulieu for £9,000, complete with all the related correspondence and original drawings from Tom Killeen. Its whereabouts then became a well kept secret for many years and thus starts phase three of K1's history.

[and was last seen in Lancashire in the early 1990s ???, probably 1985... ]

[another article in Car and Driver ?]

K1, post 1985

[Found! see]

In 2000-1 Colin Cooper was seeking to find K1 again. He had kept a copy of some of Tom Killeen's drawings and intended to build a replica if he could not locate the original car. I put him in touch with Robin Human, owner of K9 at the time, in case he could help. Cooper soon bought K9 and focussed his attention on that for a while. See the chapter on K9 for the rest of this story. Work on a replica of K1 had also started in mid 2001, but Cooper gave up the project in May 2002 and passed on to me the copy drawings for the project. These are listed in the table. Note there is a copy of drg. #177 described above.

Drawing number Description
100 frame jig
101 main frame
102 frames 1,2 and 3
104 G/A rear axle - track 50 3/8''
105B wishbone - front suspension
106 front suspension - side elevation
108 detachable frame for front suspension
109 rear spring mtg bkt
110 front hub
111 rear hub, issue B 25/2/52
112 rear hub shaft
113 spring chair
114 spacer front spring bkt
140 tube schedule
141 coupling flange
142 front spring trunnion bkt
145 G/A front + rear road spring
147 bkts for rear axle
166 studs for brake drums
167 brake drums showing lightening holes
169 tools for flanging 1'' and 1 1/2'' lightening holes
170B rear axle, issue B, 15/4/52
171 details of lightening holes in frame
176 box for mounting diff
177 final drive output shaft
184 torque tube
189 front cowl
190 steering wheel
192 former for rear cowl
193 untitled - shows pedals, clutch and brake
195 untitled - handbrake lever?

The material which Colin had owned and which had apparently been ``lost'' when he sold the car later came to light. This started with a phone call on 17/4/2004 from Jimmy Enevoldsen in West Berkshire. He claimed that he had found the missing paperwork for K1 - drawings, letters, magazine articles, etc. He also said he had some parts - including a tonneau cover, new valve springs and an unidentified metal component finished in metallic green. He had previously spoken to J.M. McCartney in Bolton who raced K1 around 1979 before Colin Cooper got it. Apparently the Shelsey Walsh Club know something about it too. I visited Jimmy and collected this material on 29/11/2004 to check through it. It did indeed contain all the letters written by Tom and his wife Pat to motor manufacturers and others on the subject of K1 and the monocoque patent between 1955 and 1962, and also the replies he received. I subsequently purchased this material in early 2007.

While we were piecing together this story and searching for the post 1985 evidence, an Australian journalist, Rick McDowell, had been doing his own research and published his article in ``MG World Magazine'' [47]. How the Killeen K1 came into existence, how a rare factory MG engine found its way on board and how the Killeen made its way ``Down Under'' to Ken and Mary Ann Richardson's private collection in Perth is quite a story.

Miraculously, the various owners took great care of the Killeen K1 and in 1983 it made a rare public appearance in an historic demonstration event at Donnington Park. It was to be the first of several outings at such events and ultimately the car was noticed by Australian entrepreneur, Robert Holmes a Court. Born in South Africa in 1937, Holmes a Court moved to New Zealand with his family in the 1950s, but Robert eventually settled in Western Australia and married his wife Janet in 1966. Now a solicitor, Holmes a Court also quickly developed numerous business interests that soon led to him being nicknamed ``The Great Acquirer''.

killeen1.jpg killeen2.jpg

By the mid 1980s he had become one of Australia's greatest businessmen and owned their largest cattle station, numerous Australian and English companies, not to mention half the theatres in London's West End including such notables as the Palladium and the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. Holmes a Court was also an avid collector - especially of priceless art and classic/ vintage cars. It was perhaps hardly surprising that Holmes a Court took an interest in the Killeen K1 special and in 1985, he purchased the car for an undisclosed sum. Australian classic car buffs knew all about Robert Holmes a Court's four wheeled acquisitions, which became known as the Heyetesbury collection. Most of the cars were Jaguars, but on the MG front there was a J2, a twin cam MGA, at least one TD and, of course, the Killeen K1. The Heytesbury collection was garaged in an air conditioned private museum at the Holmes a Court estate and adjacent horse stud complex in the countryside south of the Western Australian capital, Perth. When Robert Holmes a Court died in 1990, Janet was left with the business empire - and a staggering debt of three hundred and fifty million Australian dollars.

Janet being a true surviver, and incidentally still Australia's richest woman, managed to re-structure her husband's business affairs in the early 1990s, although the west end London theatres quickly had to be sold off. The art and car collections remained largely intact, but by about 1998, word began to spread Down Under that the Heytesbury car collection was perhaps going to be auctioned off. It was in 1998 that the Killeen K1 ventured out of its private museum for the first time in quite some years and as Ken Richardson recalls, The car actually turned up at a re-enactment of the old street races we used to have here in WA. That was in the town of Northam about 100km inland from Perth, but it appeared at some other re-enactments in 1999. Ken further explained that he had known about the Killeen K1 for some years prior to all of this, but it was John McLean from Shannons auctioneers (Australian vintage car specialists) who spoke to Ken about the Killeen K1 possibly being available to a private buyer. Yet purchasing the car was not a straightforward procedure. First it was for sale, then it wasn't, recalled Mary Ann. So Ken and I decided to chase it, if you know what I mean, and in May 2000 we were successful. Part of the condition of the sale was that Ken and Mary Ann would not reveal how much they paid for the car and so we'll leave that issue right there.


This West Australian couple didn't just acquire the Killeen K1 special so that it could sit in their garage and be pointed at however. The intention right from the start was to use the car exactly for what it had originally been built, whilst at the same time looking after and preserving a unique piece of automotive (and MG) history. Quite frankly, the Killeen K1 couldn't have found a better home after all these years. True, Mary Ann might have more of a motorcycle background thanks to her brothers, but Ken's automotive knowledge includes the full concourse restoration of both a TD and a TC. Whilst the Killeen K1 takes pride of place in Ken and Mary Ann's garage these days, there is also the most amazingly original 1936 SA, a TC ``Super Special'' with 4.4 litre Leyland V8 motor and a 1947 TC concourse winner, together with a rare (reportedly only 8 surviving) French ``E'' Series Amilcar from 1925.

The new component in the engine area is the tuned length intake manifold designed and manufactured by Peter Lawson at Legends Exhausts. Not surprisingly, Peter also added a new ceramic coated exhaust system to the car, with tuned length headers and a 4 into 2 into 1 pattern. The muffler is also of Lawson design and manufacture, although Ken says he does like to run the car occasionally without the muffler! From the engine, an estimated 130bhp is fed through a lightened flywheel and heavy duty clutch. Ken says it is all TD equipment, yet the gearbox is undisputedly TC. John Boules in the WA town of Waroona is a renowned MG gearbox expert and he said it's the most original TC gearbox he's ever seen, explained Ken. All the lock tabs have been knocked over from factory and everything else is in great shape. Right out back lives the diff, which is housed in a metal box that forms part of the car's integral stress distribution mechanism. The diff itself is an unknown quantity, as Ken has never had reason to pull it out for repairs. However, the rear suspension is of the De Dion type.


The Killeen rides on wheels that measure 15"x5 1/2" up front and 16"x6" at the rear. Ken has no idea what brand the wheels are, nor the massive drum brakes front and rear. To date the only change needed in this department has been the addition of decent rubber and Michelin Engleberts have thus far served well. In many respects the K1 was ahead of its time. Tom Killeen went on to produce other prototypes in the 60s and 70s as described in the rest of this book, yet, like the K1, the technology they carried was never taken seriously by the established thinking of the day. All things considered, the K1 is a truly rare and unique car and discovering more about its history has become something of a passion for Ken and Mary Ann. We'd really like to try and track down Tom and/ or his family said Mary Ann. If at all possible we'd like to acquire Tom's original working drawings off the K1 and there's also supposed to be a 1:3 scale model he made too. Sadly this was too late as Tom died some 10 years previously.

K1 was seen at the Vintage on Avon ``around the houses'' race of the Vintage Sports Car Club of Western Australia on Sunday 1st April 2001 driven by Ken Richardson. In race 9, an all MG race, only 5th position had been achieved, and in race 25, the Smoke Free WA pre-1956 Northam Flying 50 K1 finished 11th.

K1 had another outing at the Narrogin Commemorative Australian Jubilee Grand Prix of the VSVC on Sunday 25/11/2001. This event re-enacted the original 1951 Australian Grand Prix. In race 12, the Town of Narrogin handicap, driven by Ken Richardson as car number 6, K1 completed 5 laps of the circuit in first position having achieved a fastest lap of 1:15.3. In race 17, MGs vs. Austins, K1 was less successful finishing 3rd after completing 3 laps with a fastest time of 1:19.37.

Ken and Mary Ann, who married in March 2002 to become Ken and Mary Ann Stewart-Richardson, have been in touch a number of times and have spoken with Colin Cooper and also with archival staff at the Beaulieu Museum. They obtained the drawings for K1 from the curators of the Heytesbury Museum. I have been in dialogue with them about the remaining papers and letters. They bought a famous Australian racing car in late 2004, the [???] dating from c.1940. They have therefore reluctantly offered K1 for sale at a price of around £35,000 which reflects its value today. It was sold in late 2006 to new owners in New Zealand.

More recently K1 was seen and photographed by reporter Charlie Stone.

Killeen1-500.jpg Killeen2-500.jpg

It was bought by Peter Croft and moved to New Zealand in 2006. Peter is undertaking a thoroughly researched restoration of the car, but has already taken it to a few vintage rally events. Peter and his wife Kate Bovett visit the UK every year and we have spent many happy hours exchanging stories.



modifed MG 1467cc water cooled 4 cylinder 72mm bore x 90mm stroke ohv. 8.3:1 compression ratio. 65bhp@? rpm. BHB Hepolite 12755 pistons ref. RP10441, top ring 2x MTP14785, bottom ring 2x MD07153. Timing chain 114038, 60 pitch. B/e brg shells Glacier heavy duty B4339LC or B4163M. Main brg shells Glacier M3281M. Head gasket MGTF 1500 type, Payen MSIA494 or MkII LL730 (?). Sump gasket set SS9623 MkI. Conversion gasket set MKI EC151. Valves, exhaust 8986XKE965, inlet VK+1994 from W.G. James. Valve springs, Tranco 9394. 2xSU carburettors. Aluminium radiator operating at 5lb pressure.
4'2 3/8"
Front - lower wishbones, upper transverse leaf spring replacing second wishbone set. Rear - 1/4 elliptic locating leaf spring and DeDion axle.
modified Morris Minor rack and pinion
Girling 2x CV type 3112241W (SP1963 kit) m/cyl. Front w/cyl 390320/1W (SP2046 kit), rear 390120W. Hoses, front 3700631W, rear 3700628W.
10'' Borg and Beck.
Weight and distribution:
10cwt: 52% front 48% rear laden


Dates Owner Activities
1952-3 Tom Killeen, Four Oaks Constructed
1953-6 John Newton, Thornton Heath Racing
Jul'56-Oct'57 Mr. Mills, Sutton Coldfield, driven by R.J. Wild  
? c.1958- K.E.M.Kaye, Higher Bebington and Heswall, Wirral  
-do- Storeton Garage, Wirral stored in showroom
1959-1964 W.R.Graham, Neston, Wirral Racing
  Dealer in Blackpool  
? 1964- Freddie Fox, Bolton daily transport
c.1967 Jack Knapkin, Adams Garage, Tyldesley restored and competed
1979- John McCartney, Bolton competed in sprints and hillclimbs
Sep'1982-5 Colin Cooper, Frodsham restored and competed in sprints and hillclimbs
1985-2000 R.A. Holmes a Court, Australia private collection
May 2000-6 K. and M.A. Richardson, Perth partly restored for private collection and exhibition races
2006- Peter Croft, New Zealand full restoration under way

Rob Allan