The Imp Site

Mr. Ernie Beck
...building a Sunbeam Tiger engine

Ernie Beck

Redditch, 1902 - Eastcotes(?), 1976(?)

Mr. Ernest Beck worked for the Rootes Competition Department in Stoke since 1952 or so. He was the engine builder and mechanic for most of the Works cars in his time, Tigers, Imps, etc. He attended them at every rally and also at Le Mans. Photos of Works Imps, taken at service points on rallies. The registration numbers are EWK 573C, FRW 307C and 7674 VC. This last one he purchased after the rally.

His youngest son, Tony Beck (born 1958, Oct. 19):

"While he was at Rootes Competition Department, he built every engine for every rally and race car that Rootes was entering at the time."
"I met Tiny Lewis at his house in Bristol. We were invited to Sunday lunch - my dad, my mum, my brother and me. I was only 5 or 6 at the time (1964/5). We travelled to Tiny's house in one of the Works Tigers. I remember my mother having to put her feet up on the dashboard, because of the heat from the exhaust. When I met Tiny, I did not understand they called him Tiny because he was so tall!"
"I never used to see him a great deal when I was young. He was always away in different parts of the world with the Works cars. Years ago I did see the passports. My dad kept them. There were quite a few, all full of visas. I don't know where they are now.
I knew when my dad was back from a rally: I would wake up in the morning to go to school and there would be the Works car parked outside the house. The one I remember most is the Hunter that won the London to Sydney. I remember this, because he gave me a lift to school in it that morning, before returning it to the Competition Department."
7476 VC, young Tony Beck on the engine lid of his father's Imp

In 1967, he retired at the age of 65. The competition Manager at the time was Des O'Dell.
He still carried on with building the Imp engines from his workshop. "He had a Works shop at home, where we used to live: Eastcotes, Tile Hill, Coventry."

He also built the engines for the hydroplanes, which were powered by a 998 full race engine. The picture of me sitting on the Imp was taken at the Midland Hydroplane Club in Kingsbury.


From: Destination Monte / Peter Harper
Chapter: Getting ready for the rally, page 27:

After a while the mechanics begin to know not only their drivers but their special fancies also. Jim Ashworth, in charge of the Rootes competition workshop, I am sure knows all mine better then I know them myself. Gerry Spencer and Ernie Beck have been working in this department longer than I have been driving for Rootes. Ernie, incidently, builds most of the rally engines, certainly those I have used, and fusses over them like some broody hen.

And on page 128,
Chapter: It's all part of the rally:

The mechanics play a vital part in rallying. Jim Ashworth, who is in charge of the preparation of rally cars at Rootes, is a great and likable character. Then there is little Ernie Beck, who prepares most of the engines, and always assures each driver that his engine is giving the most power, but who seriously tries as much for every single one of us.; and there are Gerry Spencer and Jack Coles - altogether a very fine team indeed.
I remember on one occasion in Greece I was having trouble with the accelerator linkage on my car, and Ernie Beck was looking after the servicing at this particular point. As he worked speedily to correct the fault, his metal watch strap shorted between the starter solenoid and the earth. His wrist was burning, but he carried on and finished the job before going to hospital for treatment for a very severe burn.


From: Works team : the Rootes competition department / Michael Frostick
Chapter 6: For Example...
This chapter is about the RAC rally 1963.

Just before the table:

"Whatever the outcome, however and whatever any individual may feel about the service teams which now accompany works cars every rally, it is quite clear that nothing could have been more thoroughly organized and carried out than the service the Rootes competition department provided for their competitors. There where more than forty special sections in the British Rally and there was a service car at the end of thirty seven of them."

On page 74 the table with the service arrangements for the RAC Rally, november 1963:

Rootes service team D
Norman Garrad   Ernie Beck (Mechanic)

Team A has Gerry Spencer (Top Mechanic) and Team C has John Gough (Engineering)


From: Rootes Maestros In their own words / Ed. Graham Robson
Chapter: Norman Garrad: Memories of a life in Motorsport, p.11

Then we had another chap, Ernie Beck, who built our engines. Not many people had even heard his name, but I knew that behind a lot of our successes the work of Ernie Beck helped us tremendously.


The Imp Site
   Imp History
      Engine tuners and/or builders
         Rootes Competition Department
            Ernie Beck, Works engine builder and mechanic
© Franka
Last edited: 3 March 2012
File started: 7 July 2005


Tony Beck, a son of Ernie Beck has received some photos from the Sunbeam Tigers Owners Club. They know of Ernie Beck and are going to do a write up for their site.