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See Homepage. This page: Details of companies that sold tuning parts in the fifties and sixties
Nordec Superchargers
Austin A35 hotly pursed by a Riley Pathfinder

Period tuning and car performance upgrades

A look at companies that sold parts to make your car go quicker

During the 1950s, interest in tuning and upgrading standard road cars really took off. It was around this time that the craze for building sporty specials, using saloon car underpinnings wrapped up within a shapely fibreglass or alloy body, increased in popularity. People had been building specials for a long time of course, with many being used in competition prior to WW2, but it was in the 50s that tuning, modifying and building your own car became a popular pastime, and not just the preserve of eccentric engineers in their sheds.

All manner of bolt-on goodies were now available, transforming the mediocre performance of many humdrum saloons into something altogether more sparkling. Some were simple bolt on upgrades, and others much more in-depth and requiring a deep knowledge of mechanical issues, and even deeper pockets.

One of the most tuned engines, certainly in the 50s at least, was the humble sidevalve Ford engine. All iron, and with no pretensions of glamour or grunt, this solid old plodder at first wouldn't seem an obvious choice for tuning. However as the interest in Ford-based specials took off, demand for parts to liven-up the Ford engine followed. Many companies waded in with performance upgrades. Some worked well, others less so.

Speedwell tuning parts
Engine & Performance mods:
Aquaplane BMC A Series
Bowden Austin 7 / Ford E93A conv.
Bowden Austin 7 Hydraulic brakes
Bowden Austin 7 - Ind. Suspension
Cambridge Engineering (Austin 7)
Halifax tubular chassis (Ford/Morris)
Marshall-Nordec Superchargers
Nordec Superchargers Austin A35
Quinton Hazell big bore silencers
Race Proved Mk1 Escort GTs
SAH Triumphtune TR2-TR4 parts
Speedex Austin 7 Body & Tuning
Speedwell Austin A40
Speedwell Austin A55, 15/60 etc.
Speedwell Camber Compensator
Speedwell Engine Conversions
Speedwell Exhaust Systems
Speedwell Suspension Conversion
Stromberg CD carburettors (Ford)
Stromberg CD carburettors (Mini)
Super Accessories Austin 7
Willment Powermaster conversion
Also see on oldclassiccar:
Austin 7 spare parts page.
Ford 1172 Specials.
History of Speedwell Sprite 505 BZ.
Terrapin '60s homebuilt racer.
WSM Austin-Healey Sprites.
Well-known purveyors of tuning parts for sidevalve Fords included Aquaplane and LMB (Ballamy). They could sell you tasty aluminium 'cylinder heads', oil coolers, tubular exhausts and twin carb setups. Ballamy concentrated on handling kits for the wobbly upright sidevalve, and offered trick split independent front axle set ups, wheels, and other add-ons.

Wooller would sell you remoted gearshifts, and companies such as Lucas would happily supply you with all the auxiliary lamps, switches, gauges, and other essential upgrades for the motorist who wanted to liven up his existing car, without the expense of buying an expensive performance car.

Interest in tuning carried on through the 1960s, with the emphasis shifting towards more contemporary motorcars. By the early/mid 1960s the craze for building Pop-based sportscars was waning, and interests switched to making newer saloons go quicker. Spurred on by competition success by the BMC Works drivers, many drivers chose to pep up their roadgoing Minis with big bore exhausts, big valve heads, lightweight alloy wheels (Minilite being an example), bucket seats, bolt on lamps and sporty steering wheels all being available. Speedwell were one of the key players when it came to making BMC products go quicker, although there were other outfits equally adept at making bog standard road cars fly - Downton springs to mind as one.

In this section of oldclassiccar I plan to feature some of the tuning parts that were available to drivers 40/50 years ago.

If you have something suitable that would be of interest to include here, for instance an illustrated delivery note like the Aquaplane one shown below, please get in touch via the contact page.
Aquaplane tuning parts

Morris Minor MM with Alta OHV conversion.

In the following short video, I take a quick look at a very rare 1953 Morris Minor MM that has a period ALTA overhead valve (OHV) engine conversion, paired with twin SU carburettors. The video also features a tired Minor 1000 "at rest"

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