Being a car manufacturer can be tough in a competitive market and not every marque is able to stay in business. There are a variety of defunct British car companies, but their historical significance shouldn’t be overlooked. English Racing Automobiles (ERA) was a niche marque that designed race cars during the 1930s. Company cars won a number of track victories, yet ERA were unable to maintain their momentum and they went out of business in 1954. We’re looking into the history of ERA to discover what kind of cars they developed.
In the 1930s, British car racing wasn’t up to the standards of a racer called Humphrey Cook. He wanted to build a supercharged motor that would eclipse others, so he partnered with Raymond Mays and Peter Berthon to form ERA in 1933. The aim was to design an array of single seater racing vehicles that could represent Britain in Continental European racing.
The first ERA was designed by Reid Railton, with it featuring a 1.5-litre engine that could output 150 bhp. The car could reach a top speed of 125 mph and would have debuted at the 1934 Isle of Man Mannin Beg race, but failed to survive the practice round. The car fared better in the 1934 Shelsley Walsh when Mays set a time of 44 seconds. He also won the Nuffield Trophy 100 race.
ERA scored more victories, notably at Nurburgring in 1935. During the race, ERAs took first, third, fourth and fifth place. More wins followed, with ERA’s greatest season coming in 1937 when the company won the London Grand Prix, Brooklands and took the Coronation Trophy at Crystal Palace.
ERA cars were popular overseas as well, as evident from two Thai princes purchasing three models. Naming the trio ‘Hanuman,’ ‘Romulus,’ and ‘Remus,’ the cars became famous and the princes ran their own team.
Post WW2 and collapse
After WW2, ERA was bought by racer Leslie Johnson, who oversaw the revamp of the E-Type GP2. Fitted with a Zoller supercharger, Johnson raced the car at the 1948 British Empire Trophy, finishing fifth. ERA expanded into the road sports car market, with designer Eberan von Eberhost producing the Jowett Jupiter.
Eventually, the company name changed to Engineering Research and Application, lending the moniker to the ERA Mini Turbo.
Although ERA went out of business in 1954, many of the original cars are still in existence. They compete in historic events across the country.