Ken Wharton

21/3/1916 - 12/1/1957

Record updated 21-Mar-23

Versatile performer who was not only a reliable Formula 1 driver, but also aquited himself well in international rallying, hillclimbing and sports car racing.

Ken Wharton
Born in Smethwick, Ken Wharton first raced at the age of 19, in an Austin at Donington Park, he also raced at Brooklands and other venues. War brought a temporary end to motorsport, but he returned to racing as soon as hostilities ceased. As an engineer with his own a Ford Dealership in Birmingham, he was able to design and build his own 'specials' using Austin Seven chassis powered by Ford or MG engines.

In trials he won successive RAC championships in 1948, 1949 and 1950, while in rallies he won the Tulip Rally in a Ford Anglia in 1949, the Tulip and Lisbon Rallies in 1950 and the Tulip, once again, in a Ford Cousul in 1952.

Ken fitted a highly tuned BSA vertical twin engine to one of his Austin specials with split axle front suspension and a light body, which when running correctly, was one of the fastest of the early 500s. Unfortunatly the engine rarely ran right for very long and the project was abandoned.

Hill climbing was the discipline that Ken mastered, driving ERAs, Kiefts or Coopers, he won the RAC British Hillclimb Championship in 1951, 1952, 1953 and 1954, the only driver to have claimed four successive BHCC titles.

Ken also drove for BRM and, at the Easter 1953 meeting at Goodwood, he won the Richmond Trophy at an average of 90.47mph.

In 1954 when he drove the Owen Organization's Maserati 250F to sixth place in the Swiss Grand Prix and also scored eighth places in the British and Spanish Grands Prix.

In 1955 Ken and Mike Hawthorn were signed to drive the rather underdeveloped Vanwall. Ken crashed in his first out with the car at Silverstone and he sustained burns and minor injuries.

Wharton also tried his hand at sports car racing and in 1954 he won the 12-hour race at Rheims in a works Jaguar with Peter Whitehead.

For 1955, Ken joined the Vanwall team, but suffered a nasty accident inĀ  his first race, the International Trophy at Silverstone, which resulted in burns to his arms and neck.

Wharton drove as a privateer in 1956, taking a third place in the Australian Tourist Trophy in Melbourne with a Ferrari Monza. However, early in 1957 he was killed in practice at another sportscar meeting, at Ardmore in Auckland, New Zealand, on 12th January 1957. His Ferrari Monza hit a stanchion and somersaulted. Wharton was thrown from the car and died from his injuries.

1950 - won at Zandvoort in Cooper-JAP
1951 - British hill climb champion
1952 - 4 F1 GP (Scuderia Franera - Frazer Nash), 3 points (4th Swiss GP). British hill climb champion
1953 - 5 F1 GP (own entrant - Cooper-Bristol), 0 points. British hill climb champion
1954 - 5 F1 GP (Owen Racing/BRM), 0 points. (6th Swiss GP). British hill climb champion
Won Glover Trophy. Won Reims 12hrs (Jaguar) with Whitehead 1955 - 2 F1 GP (Vandervell), 0 points
1956 - 3rd in Australian Tourist Trophy at Melbourne (Ferrari Monza)
1957 - Killed after crashing Ferrari Monza at Ardmore, New Zealand