Walter Ernest Wilkinson
7/8/1903 - 20/8/2001
Ace tuner and respectable racing driver, Wilkie Wilkinson was one of the founders of Ecurie Ecosse, tuning the winning Jaguar D Types at Le Mans in 1956 and 1957. Walter Ernest Wilkinson died 21 years ago, he was 98
Wilkie Wilkinson was a fifth son of a printer who started grammar school but left at the age of 14 to get into engineering while the First World War was still in progress, joining the Blakers Motor and Welding Company in East Finchley in 1917. He stayed there for seven years, leaving in 1924 to work as a coach driver and mechanic in Dorset.
He moved back to London in 1929, joining the company L.C.Rawlence, an importer of high performance Italian cars, and from this gained the opportunity to join the OM race team, riding as mechanic to Giulio Ramponi at Ards. When the first Maserati 8C sports cars arrived in the UK, Wilkinson became mechanic to George Eyston, riding in the Brooklands 12 hrs race in May 1931.
Wilkinson moved as chief mechanic to Bellevue Garages of Wandsworth, which specialised in racing MG's. It was during this period that Wilkinson started racing himself, driving Billy Cotton's Riley at Crystal Palace in 1937, and his ERA to 7th place in the 1938 British Grand Prix at Donington Park.
In 1936 Wilkie, along with Walter Hassan and ten others, formed the BRMC. A year later Wilkie was elected to membership of the British Racing Drivers Club in his own right as a driver member.
The war intervened and Bellevue Garages closed, so Wilkinson moved to Gloucestershire to join Rotol Airscrews, a division of Rolls Royce, for the duration of the war.
In 1947 Wilkinson joined up with Reg Parnell at Highfield Garages in Derby, racing cars all over Europe, but in 1951 he moved to Edinburgh to work for David Murray at Merchiston Motors. David Murray, then an Edinburgh accountant, persuaded Wilkie to enter into partnership with him. The word soon spread that the ‘Ace Tuner’ had taken up residence and work began to flow in.
Shortly afterwards they formed Ecurie Ecosse, from modest beginnings with XK120’s owned by their drivers, the team acquired a Cooper Bristol for the 1952 season. In 1953 the famous ‘C’ type Jaguars were campaigned with consistent results including a second place at Spa.
Wilkinson tuned Jaguar's, won the 1956 Le Mans 24 Hrs with Ron Flockhart and Ninian Sanderson, and the 1957 event with Flockhart and Ivor Bueb.
In 1961, with Graham Hill preparing to sign up, Wilkinson joined BRM as team manager, a team who he had turned down in 1950. However, the internal politics were too much, but he enjoyed his time working on the Rover-BRM gas turbine sportscar, as well as Matra's BRM engined car.
He retired from BRM in 1972, and on the death of his wife Dorothy in 1977, he decided that he would spend his winter months in the Caribbean, and he could be seen well into the 1980s fishing with the locals.
In 2000 he was becoming too frail to care for himself, so he entered the Motor and Allied Trades Benevolent Fund home at Easenhall, Warwickshire, where he spent the rest of his days.