16/3/1893 - 3/8/1978
Humphrey Cook was a wealthy gentleman racer who provided the finance to Raymond Mays and Peter Berthon to start ERA. Humphrey Cook died 44 years ago, he was 85
Humphrey Cook was a wealthy young Oxford graduate and a wealthy gentleman racer who provided the finance to Raymond Mays and Peter Berthon to start ERA in late 1933.
Humphrey bought the old 1922 TT Vauxhall which had been supercharged by Amhust Villiers and renamed the "Villiers Supercharge", from Raymond Mays along with his White Invicta.
They decided to concentrate on the 1.5 litres supercharged voiturette class with Mays and Cook as the works drivers. The first cars were based on a conventional chassis frame usually powered by a 1.5-litre twin cam engine with a Rootes-type supercharger funning on Methanol.
In 1934 Humphrey Cook had won a handicap race at Brooklands with an 1,100cc model.
In 1935 four cars were entered for the voiturette race at the Eifelrennen on the Nurburgring circuit in Germany and gave a very good account of themselves. Raymond Mays won the race at an average speed of 68.99 mph, with Rose-Richards 3rd, Dick Seaman 4th and Humphrey Cook 5th. In 1938, although ERAs continued to be successful in the UK, their domination of the voiturette class abroad was overtaken by Maserati.
The cost of running the works, and full racing programme, was beginning to become a problem for Humphrey Cook who had already spent over £200,000 supporting the venture and money was getting short. So in 1939 Humphrey withdrew his funding and the ERA Club was formed with a subscription fund to help maintain the works at Bourne. Unfortunately this did not bring in sufficient money and the works was closed.
During the war, racing came to an end, the Company site in Bourne was sold for aircraft component production and Company closed.
In 1946, ERA Ltd was officially re-registered in Humphrey Cook’s home town of Dunstable, and moved into premises on London Road. Then late in 1947, Leslie Johnson bought the virtualy obsolete ERA Ltd from Cook along with one of the E-types. ERA's main business became research and development consultancy, and to further its reputation Johnson planned an F1 car for the new 2.5-litre formula.
The F1 project was a disaster and Johnson eventually suffered a heart attack and retired from business. In 1953 the project was sold to Bristol Cars who subsequently developed it into the successful Bristol 450 Le Mans car.