Preston Racing Associates

The Preston Racing Associates car is in the collection at the Black Country Living Museum, Dudley. It was built by Mr. C. Preston in 1953 and has a 500c.c. Manx-Norton engine.  Jim Evans has found the following information in "A to Z of Formula Racing Cars" by David Hodges and in Classic and Sports Car Magazine, July 2002.
PRA is an abbreviation either of Preston Racing Associates or Preston Racing Automobiles. No competition history is known for the 500c.c. PRA, which was designed by C. Preston in 1953 and built along the lines of a pre-war Mercedes Benz.

It has a tubular frame, in the front of which is mounted a single overhead camshaft Norton engine, which uniquely for a British 500, drives the rear wheels via a shaft. Like the Mercedes W 163, the front suspension is by coil springs and wishbones. A de Dion rear axle is used, and like its inspiration, it has wire wheels.

In the March 1953 issue of IOTA the in-house magazine of the 500c.c. Association there is a snippet about the car being built by a Mr. C. Preston of Wolverhampton. Ray Jones the Black Country Living Museum's honorary curator of vehicles thinks the man who built it could have had connections with Boulton Paul, as it is built to aircraft standards and designs.  There is a possibility that he emigrated.  
In the item, Preston states his belief that the power of the 500c.c. racing engine would be too much for a chain drive, hence the location of the engine (originally believed to have been a ‘double knocker’ Norton unit) and shaft drive.

He said "if one has to lift the foot to save the chains, one may just as well accept the slightly lower mechanical efficiency of gears and shafts and press on regardless."

The car is known to have been purchased by Tim Squance who left it in his shed for 20 years before selling it to Duncan Rabagliati. 

The restored car, as seen in the Bradburn and Wedge Garage at the Black Country Living Museum in February 2016.

Despite exhaustive efforts he was unable to learn more of the PRA’s origins before he auctioned it off in the late 1990s. It was purchased by the Marston Wolverhampton Heritage Trust, and later the Black Country Living Museum.

The car still has most of its aluminium bodywork intact, but is less drive shafts and springs. The rear axle unit is an aluminium casting with "PRA" cast into it, and appears to be a combined gearbox–differential–crown wheel and pinion unit. The Black Country Living Museum is hoping to restore it to working order.

If anyone has any information about the car, it will be gratefully received by the Webmaster.

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