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British Industrial History

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Walter Thomas Frederick Hassan

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Walter Hassan (1905-1996) of Jaguar

1905 April 25th. Born in London of Irish descent. His father owned a clothes store in Holloway, North London. His natural interest was always in mechanical things.

He studied at Northern Polytechnic (now the University of North London) and then Hackney Technical Institute of Engineering.

Wally's first job was as a 15 yr-old shop boy in Bentley as employee #14. He was a fitter in the engine shop then in the chassis shop gaining a complete experience of the 3-litre cars then in production.

He eventually moved to road testing working under the head of experimental department Frank Clement, the company's professional racing driver, and was a riding mechanic in some races. Off-season he was part of the Bentley Motors service department.

Establishing himself as the best Bentley mechanic he was allotted to Woolf Barnato, their top driver and Bentley Motors chairman and shareholder. They established a close and lasting friendship

After it was put into liquidation and taken over by Rolls-Royce Limited at the end of 1931 Hassan left Bentley Motors and worked for Woolf Barnato.

1933 Married Ethel Murray and had four children.

In 1933 he started to build a racing car, it would become known as Barnato Hassan, and was one of the fastest cars ever to lap Brooklands.

Later he developed a car for Bill Pacey, named Pacey Hassan. It was a success on the British racing circuits in the 1936 season. By now he had become a family man and accordingly sought out more stable employment

Wally then spent time at Raymond Mays' ERA at Bourne in Lincolnshire working there with Peter Berthon on engine development and at Brooklands with Thomson and Taylor on ERA chassis development.

In 1938 he joined SS Cars Ltd, later Jaguar Cars, as chief R&D engineer at Coventry. When the war started he moved to Bristol and worked on engine development for the Bristol Engine Co. At the end of the war he returned to Coventry to continue to work with William M. Heynes on what became their XK engine. This engine remained in production with various displacements from 1948 until 1992. It powered the winning car at Le Mans in 1951, 1953, 1955 and 1957.

In 1950 Hassan joined Harry Mundy at Coventry Climax, and they designed the FW series (featherweight) lightweight overhead camshaft engine intended for fire pumps but further developed for motor racing.

In Colin Chapman's cars they had great successes in the Le Mans 24 Hours, Formula 2 and Formula 1 twice bringing the world championship to Jim Clark and Team Lotus. This engine was also used in cars like the Lotus Elite.

Coventry Climax was bought by Jaguar in 1963 and, now back with Bill Heynes, Heynes Hassan and the Coventry Climax team developed a Jaguar V12 engine.

In later years, Le Mans-winning Jaguars were powered with this V12 engine.

A 7.0-litre V12 based on the production 5.3-litre engine powered the winning Jaguar XJR-9 in June 1988.

A Jaguar XJR-12 powered by a 7 L 60 degree SOHC V12 won in June 1990. During that race it covered 4882.4 km at an average speed of 204.036 km/h / 126.782 mph with a maximum trap speed of 353 km/h / 219 mph.

Walter Hassan retired on 28 April 1972 at the age of 67 and was awarded the OBE for his services to motor sport.

After Ethel's death he lived with his son Bill at Kenilworth though he later moved to the Motor Industries Benevolent Home

1996 July 12th. Died at Easenhall Warwickshire aged 91 years.

1996 Obituary.[1]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times, July 16, 1996