The HRG: A Car “By Enthusiasts For The Enthusiast”

In 1935 three car guys in England, E. A. Halford, G. H. Robins, and H. R. Godfrey got together to build a car that they would sell to car enthusiasts.  This car became known as the HRG, using the initials from the last names of the three partners.  Apparently the statement of intent when the company was formed said that they were going to design and build a car “by enthusiasts for the enthusiast”.

HRG (1)

A 1947 HRG With A 1100cc Engine

These cars were all hand built cars in small numbers.  Only a couple hundred HRG cars were ever built – some with an 1,100cc engine, but many more with a 1,500cc engine.  Very few of these cars, maybe less than 30 were imported into the USA.  The car shown in this post is a right-hand drive car, therefore despite being hand-built cars, I don’t know if the cars initially imported into the USA were left-hand drive cars or not.

HRG (2)

The 1930s Styling Was Maintained Until The End In The Mid-1950s

These were simple cars with a ladder type frame and a front beam axle with leaf springs.  The rear axle was a live axle with semi-eliptic springs.  The 1100 models had a 99.75 inch wheelbase, while the 1500 models had a slightly larger 103-inch wheelbase.

There were some slight variations over the years, but the 1,100 models had 1,074cc engines that produced 40 horsepower and the 1500 models had 1,496cc engines with 65 horsepower.  Obviously these are not high horsepower engines, but they had lively performance in their era and the HRG cars only weighed about 1,500 pounds.

HRG (4)

The Badging On The Spare Tire Indicates That This Is A 1100cc Model

The HRG cars were quite austere.  They were primarily built for performance.  For example, the cars did not come with a heater.  The windshield wiper motor sitting on top of the dash looks like an after thought.  Also the cars are not particularly large.  In the photo below note the position of the floor-mounted hand brake lever which impedes the passenger’s comfort.

HRG (3)

The Interior Of The HRG Is All Business

The HRG cars largely met their goal.  They were purchased and driven by car enthusiasts, but just not in large numbers.  A HRG finished second in class in the 1937 24 Hours Of Le Mans race.  However before the outbreak of World War II, they just sold 25 1500cc cars.  In 1948 six HRG cars entered the Alpine Rally (two were the rare aerodynamic model) where they won some individual awards as well as team awards, but they only sold 40 cars in 1948.  In 1949 HRG cars won two classes at Le Mans, but in 1950 they only sold 11 cars.  The numbers just made the business unsustainable.

The 1500 HRG would accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in about 13.5 seconds and had a top speed in the 87 to 90 miles per hour range.  This was noticeably faster than the MG TC which had a o to 60 time of about 21.6 seconds and had a top speed in the 80 to 82 miles per hour range.  Even the improved MG TD would not keep up with the HRG cars.  So while far from fast in today’s world, in their era, the HRG cars were lively performers.

HRG In The Alpine Rally

A HRG Driven By Bill Shepherd In The 1951 Alpine Rally

From what I understand, HRG rally crews like Bill Shepherd and his navigator, John Williamson, were hardy souls.  I understand that these cars were rough riding (see the road shown above), open air cars with no heaters that they drove over high mountain alpine passes (see the snow in the picture above) at aggressive speeds in major rallies of the day.

HRG Rally Set Up

A Rally-Ready HRG Fitted With A Halda Tripmaster, Clock, And Stopwatches

HRG cars would be in competition in the marketplace with the more well-known MG cars.  An MG TD sold for about $2,150, while the selling price of a 1500 HRD was about $2450. Therefore the HRG was not improperly priced given its superior performance, but the MG cars had a much bigger following and customer base.  The classic HRG cars were available up to 1954/55 when HRG gave up building these cars to focus on other automobile related activities.

HRG At A Control

A HRG At A Rally Control

HRG helped to build the image of the British sports cars, but unfortunately while the car was a good rally/race car it was not successful in the marketplace.

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10 Responses to The HRG: A Car “By Enthusiasts For The Enthusiast”

  1. Peter Davis says:

    My father and I owned JLA 13 (S82 a 1947 “1100” ) Between the years 1968 to 1981 and in that time managed a minor restoration on it. The photo of JLA 13 has the then owner Mr Rodney Ross and Co driver Mr Ted Darby ? at a checkpoint during the 1948 Alpine Rally. I believe Mr Ross won a cup at the Mount Ventoux hill climb that year.

    • Hi Peter,
      You were fortunate to have owned one of these cars for a time. These cars were built with competition in mind. I looked up some information that I have about the 1948 Alpine Rally, a copy of an account in “Autocar” from 1948. I don’t see a reference to the co-driver/navigator so I can’t confirm that Ted Darby was the co-driver, but there is a grainy photo of the HRG team that includes a H. Ross in HRG Car #76 with the driver and navigator beside the car, but the photo lacks detail. There is an “H. Ross” in an HRG shown as finishing 5th in the 0.75 to 1.1 litre class in the Col D’Izoard Hill-Climb portion of the rally. I suppose that “Rodney Ross” and “H. Ross” must be the same person.
      I admire the competitors who took part in these rallies in open cars.
      Steve McKelvie

      • Peter Davis says:

        Hello Mr McKelvie, I have recently obtained a book titled HRG “The Sportsmans Ideal” (Author Ian Dussek Publisher Motor Racing Publications Croydon England ISBN 0-947981-04-7) and was particularly interested in the 1948 Alpine rally in which our JLA 13 “1100” competed. I found out that the co-driver/navigator was a Mr Ted Farley and it was Mr Rodney Ross who owned it at that time. Sorry for the long delay in replying, but this book came up with an answer.
        Regards Peter Davis

      • Hi Peter, I am glad that you were able to solve this mystery. It makes the ownership of the car more satisfying and probably more valuable when you are able to fully discuss the car’s competitive history. And thank you for pointing out the name of a book that seems like a good reference for HRG cars. Enjoy this significant car!
        Steve McKelvie

      • Hi Peter,
        I just ordered the 1985 first edition of this HRG book for $33.00 on Amazon. There was a 2010 second edition available for $274.00! Way too rich for me. I hope that the first edition is informative.
        Steve McKelvie

  2. W J Mahany says:

    This article is historically and technically wrong. Should have done their research before putting something like this is public.

    • Mr. Mahany,
      It would be helpful if you could point out the portions that need correcting. It would probably be better if you contacted me via email at the following address: shanna12 at comcast dot net This way we can exchange data and additional information as the website software does not allow attachments to the comments. Thanks for your input.
      Steve McKelvie

    • Peter Davis says:

      Hello Mr Mahany. Regarding HRG`s. My father (Ken Davis) and myself owned an Alpine 1100 (JLA 13 S82 between 1968 & 1982) when we lived in Harpenden and I have fond memories of that machine. We purchased it from a Mr Andrew Oliver who had previously bought it from Rodney Ross (1948 Alpine owner and driver.). Just out of interest, what points do you consider wrong in that article that you are referring to? and could you tell me if the HRG association is still “up & running”. I still have a large number of old “gazette`s” from the mid 60`s / early 70`s. which make nostalgic reading. Regards Peter Davis

  3. William Mahany says:

    A few things to assist you:-

    The company advertising logo was “By Enthusiasts for Enthusiasts” as well as “The Sportsman’s Ideal”.

    In addition to coming 2nd in the 1.5 Litre class at Le Mans in 1937, another private HRG entry with a 1.5 Litre car came 2nd in the 1.5 Litre class at Le Mans in 1938 and the same car won the class the following year in 1939. A team of 3 cars, again a private entry, returned to the first post war Le Mans in 1949 with 3 Le Mans prototypes (the Le Mans Lightweights) and won the 1.5 Litre class. They did not “win 2 classes”. They went onto win their class and the team prize at the 24 Hours of Spa a few weeks soon after n 1949.

    241 cars were made in total from 1935 to 1956. Some LH drive cars were made. Nearly all the last 12 cars made in the early 1950s went for export to the USA.

    They are not “rough riding cars” but made light and strong employing small gauges of steel, aluminium and even electron as much as possible. The chassis is well engineered and clever, with firm springs, stiff roll resistance, excellent shock absorbing and direct steering to give a lot of driver feel and control.

    A properly set up HRG gives surprising performance on the road and in competition situations. As with anything one needs to understand how it works to get the best out of it. I have owned and driven HRGs for almost 30 years and much longer in our family.

    I don’t think one can say “they were not successful in the market place”, They were very successful and sought after cars, particularly in the immediate post war period, with many drivers achieving some very significant results (the HRG company never had a works team). In the early post war years an HRG was almost twice the price of a new MG. HRG was always a very small company, they only built cars to order and never had intentions for selling on spec to the mass market. Its Directors all reached retirement at the same time and decided to wind the company up in the mid 1960s. Car production peaked in 1947/48 and HRG was always successful as a light engineering company and servicing the cars they made for probably more time of their existence than anything else.

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