Prudence Fawcett was the daughter of a Sheffield solicitor. As a young girl, she became fascinated by sports cars and was encouraged by her Uncle Percy a Bugatti owner and enthusiast.
She learnt to drive at the age of 17 and was a proud owner of a Wolseley Hornet. Prudence was not shy of mechanical work and was able to maintain her own cars to a high standard. As a true enthusiast, she was known to leather down her cars following a wet journey what ever the time of day or night.
As a young lady, Prudence swopped the industrial city of Sheffield for the more exotic location of Genoa, Italy where she experienced the thrill of the latest Alfa Romeos. Driving an Alfa Romeo 1750, she entered a minor event there and finished 2nd.
Prudence Fawcett in the 1938 Morgan 4-4 Le Mans car (Ref 12)
On her return to England, Prudence continued her association with Alfa Romeos. Together with her friends, Charlotte and Lance Prideaux-Brune, she imported Alfas into England for sale through their Winter Garden garage.
Like many young society ladies of the time, motor racing was a big draw and Brooklands a favourite venue. Caught up in the right crowd, Prudence was one of a party that went to Le Mans in 1937 in the Duke of Kent’s private aeroplane. There she witnessed ‘professionals’ and amateurs, women and men, competing for 24 hours.
Back in England, Prudence decided that she wished to compete in the following years Le Mans race. Lance Prideaux-Brune had just secured the concession for Morgan at his Winter Garden garage having had his long association with Aston Martin terminated by the factory. Prudence became convinced that a Morgan would be the right car to do the job.
HFS Morgan was approached to supply a car. Although he agreed to Prudence’s requests he was adamant that the Winter Garden garage run the whole operation.
Prudence then approached her friend Lord Wakefield of Castrol oils for sponsorship. She also persuaded Geoffrey White, the Winter Garden garage’s Sales Manager to be her co-driver.
Once the Morgan, registered BNP 370, had been delivered to the Winter Garden garage, Dick Anthony gave the car a thorough going over applying his knowledge of the demands of 24 hour racing. The engine was prepared to 1098cc with a down draught carburettor, magneto ignition and an 8:1 compression. The car was tested at Brooklands and found capable of speeds just less than 100mph.
The car was driven across France to the circuit with her girl friend and a base was established at the nearby Hotel Des Ifs. This was a popular hotel with Le Mans racers and had previously been used as a base for the Aston Martin works entries.
Prudence Fawcett and Geoffrey White at Le Mans in 1938 (Ref 11)
In the race, Prudence and Geoff changed drivers and filled up with petrol every 15 laps. A misfire caused by valve problems and water loss through a leaking radiator hose were their only problems late in the race. The Morgan finished a commendable 13th overall out of 42 starters and secured entry into the Biennial Cup. The Morgan had covered 1,373 miles at an average speed of 57.2mph. By comparison, the winning Delahaye averaged 82.4mph and the Alfa Romeo of Sommer was recorded as reaching nearly 150mph on the Mulsanne straight!
Post race, Dick Anthony fitted new valves to the tired engine and Prudence drove at great speed back to Sheffield. Her average to Calais was over 60mph!!
Racing was not Prudence’s only love, she became engaged to a keen aviator. As a pact, Prudence agreed to give up motor racing if her husband gave up flying.
HFS Morgan and Prideaux-Brune were keen to exploit the opportunity to win the Rudge Whitworth Biennial Cup. They therefore agreed to enter a car at Le Mans in 1939 but this time to be driven by Dick Anthony and Geoffrey White. Prudence Fawcett agreed to enter the car.
As before, Morgan supplied a car to the Winter Garden garage for Dick Anthony to prepare for the race. An entourage from the Winter Garden garage together with Charlie Curtis from the Morgan factory drove down through France and set up base at the Hotel Des Ifs.
In the race the Morgan acquitted itself well finishing 15th overall and 2nd in class. Sadly, the Biennial Cup was won by a Simca-FIAT.
Prudence Fawcett’s link with motor racing then disappeared although her love of sports cars remained with her to the end of her life.
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Information on this page has been gathered from historical journals and contemporary text books.
Please refer to the reference page.
© 2002 John Clarke