Ken McAlpine

Ken McAlpine

21/9/1920

A member of the McAlpine engineering dynasty, Kenneth was a keen amateur who became the major benefactor of the Connaught team, racing their Formula 2 A-Type car in selected Grands Prix between 1952 and 1955.

Kenneth McAlpine was born in Chobham, Surrey, England. His family are part of the famous McAlpine civil engineering business that was founded in 1869 by Robert McAlpine. He had started a building company utilising concrete as an innovative construction method. "Concrete Bob", as he was nicknamed, went on to build railways, roads and hundreds of public buildings, including the old Wembley Stadium.

Ken developed an interest in racing cars in his late 20s, starting out in hill-climbs and speed-trials. He then acquired an ex-Whitney Straight Maserati 8CM, which he took to Continental Cars, to have it prepared. Mike Oliver and Rodney Clarke tackled the job with a degree of professionalism that was rare for the time. They not only rebuilt the car immaculately, but they also put together a development programme. McAlpine was impressed and, when Clarke let him know that he intended to build his own sportscar, Ken put his name down for one. McAlpine also commissioned Clarke and Oliver to build him an F2 car.

They began trading as Connaught Engineering and Clarke proved a remarkable designer and engineer. His first single-seater, which first appeared in 1950, under the A-series name, was beautifully engineered, but with a 1767cc Lea-Francis engine, it was hopelessly underpowered. 

The A1 made its debut at the Castle Combe in October 1950 where, over ten laps, McAlpine finished second to Stirling Moss' HWM. In 1951, the car appeared nine times and failing to finish only on two ocasions.

In 1952 Connaught formed a works team with McAlpine and Clark being joined by Ken Downing and others. These included Reg Parnell and Mike Hawthorn.

When the Formula 2 regulations were adopted for the World Championship in 1953, the Connaughts became Grand Prix cars. However Tony Brooks did give the team an amazing victory in 1955 at Syracuse, beating the factory Maserati team. Connaught thus achieved the first British victory on the Continent since 1924.

McAlpine continued to race a works car during the early part of the 1954, taking third place in the 1954 Glover Trophy, but the following year, after finished second in the British Empire Trophy, he stood down as a driver to concentrate on his business interests.

By 1957 Connaught had run out of money, McAlpine could not continue his financial support, and in October Connaught Engineering was wound up and its effects were sold by auction. Bernie Ecclestone bought two of the cars and racing them in 1958 without success.

McAlpine went on to work in the family business while also running his own subsidiaries, including McAlpine Helicopters. He also set up the Lamberhurst Vineyard in Kent and has done much to promote wine-growing in Britain.

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