Leslie Ballamy

Leslie Ballamy 1903-1991.


Leslie Ballamy was an inventor and motor engineer who was involved in British motor sport including the 750 Motor Club in both the pre and post war periods. He was gifted, talented, self taught and independent.
Although considerably older he was a peer of Colin Chapman and his thinking on independent front suspension may have inspired Chapman in part.
The term “Ballamy wheel” has entered folklore. Leslie Ballamy was very influential in production sports car racing and his range of products / components contributed significantly to Ford specials of the 1950’s and the 1172 Formula racing with which Chapman and Lotus as so identified.

Leslie Ballamy: The Man

Leslie Mark Ballamy was born in Camberwell. South East London in 1903. He was a Scout but left school young without qualifications or any evidence of engineering interest or potential.
He was however to develop into a gifted, intuitive, focused practical engineer with a bent towards exploration and research. He tackled a diverse range of problems as his designs and patents prove. [See below]
As young man he travelled in Europe acquiring some basic engineering and mechanical skills.
He returned home and set up a business with his brother possibly in Hammersmith
At the end of the 1920’s he established independently; from his own premises at 13 Leigham Hall Parade, Streatham, South London, SW16 & 63 Old Town Clapham, SW4 c 1935 [note shared Town location with Allard [see below] and possibly a branch in Thornton Heath

Independent Front Suspension

LMB had possibly commercial as well as theoretical reasons to improve the Austin Seven front suspension.
C1933 he split the front beam axle in a way that he considered improved handling and safety. This product was put into production and was primarily aimed at Austin Seven &Ford 8/10 owners. However this suspension system he fitted to other cars including Allard, Bugatti, Delage V12 and Bentley.
It ought be recorded this was not a first and other major manufacturwres had experimented with this arrangement.
Its very possible that major mass production manufacturers did not believe the system cost effective and that their customers were satisfied with the product and its value for money in the utility car class. A combination of reasons including existing patents might have prevented the LMB systems wider adoption.

Lotus Connections: Direct and Indirect

LMB was known to Colin Chapman but they were not in direct competition within racing classes although both has some parallel involvement first with Trials and the use of Austin Seven and then Ford 1172 side valve components. Both may been aware of each other through the 750 Motor Club. As noted Chapman may have taken some inspiration from Ballamys IFS.He certainly dramatically simplified it but retained the same essential components.
In Russell’s book further connections are noted:

  • See page 131 The Lotus Mk.III in background
  • See page 132 Lotus XV with Buick V8 at LMB workshop
  • C 1957 -59 Peter Gammon drove Ballamy’s racing Popular registration No. 817 FXH
  • Nordec Special captured in photograph alongside Lotus Mk.VI [registration ECP 100 seen at Silverstone 1954?] offering contrasting interpretations and performance from basic Ford 1172 cc side valve components and significantly the IFS formats.

The Caterham Connection and Supercharging [see editor’s photographs]]

C 1939 and almost immediately after the Second world war Ballamy had moved southwards to a location on the A22 between Caterham and Whyteleafe in Surrey. The present location is colloquially referred to as the Wasps Lodge Roundabout.
Its here that Ballamy is believed to have set up his “Research Laboratory” on what was former large ex army premises and possibly land used by Moore and George. As far as the editor can detect the site is now Bourne House. [Russell’s book shows some period photographs and additional items can be seen in the Bourne Society Village series.]
It’s believed that LMB fitted superchargers ex Air Ministry Godfrey Marshall cabin blowers from this site along with other motor components.
After moving the site might have been acquired by Givandans
As an aside Tattershalls, Shalless Engineering Co.Ltd and Blue Star were other garages within a mile of each other.

For a brief period c 1940 it’s believed that LMB had an interest in North Downs Engineering that were based at Westway Common, Caterham on the Hill. They have an Internet listing and went on to produce model aeroplane engines. There may have been a short overlap with Caterham Cars who established a hundred or so yards away at Town End [see A&R article on Caterham Cars]
There is some reference to LMB having contact with Patriot Engineering in Caterham Valley but the editor has not been able to research this.

Specials and Contemporaries including the Nordec [see editors photographs]

Leslie Ballamy was involved with the following specials:

  • C1934 Ford V8 [Registration MG 3306]
  • C1935 Ellembee Special [Registration no. BCL 335]
  • C1936 LMB Epoch 10hp 1172 cc Ford conversion [Registration no’s JG 7785, CYO 576,]
  • C 1936 Type 37 Bugatti and “Doodlebug” Ford 10 trials car [Registration No, DBY 803]
  • C 1936/37 LMB V8 known as Symmons V8 Special [Registration no GMD 1 now rebuilt and registered KMB 300 [see authors photographs,]
  • 1939/40 various Allard’s
  • Thompson Engineering Special [based on Salmson]
  • 1961 LMB Debonair [Edwards Brothers fibreglass body and Ballamy lightweight ladder chassis. Priced at £785 in late 1950 early 60’s it was not particularly good value against the Mini or Austin Healey Sprite. It has been estimated that 50 were sold. [Its thought that the chassis might have influenced or perhaps evolved into the subsequent Reliant Sabre with Ashley Laminates body]


Its possible that Ballamy had an interest in at least two Nordec Specials They seem to be associated with North Downs Engineering {see above} and possibly sold from the Godstone Road site.
An advertisement in Autocar 25th March 1949 offers a Nordec at £650. It comprises a 1172cc Ford side valve with attractive two seat aluminium clad body and full windscreen that seems in appearance to resemble a scaled down Allard. [See references for link]. It appears to be relatively expensive [see A&R article on price relativity]
A further Nordec may have been NNK13? A photograph in “Motoring Specials – see references] at Silverstone in 1954. This car is fitted with a supercharged Ford 1172cc side valve engine. It is well designed and has the appearance of a BMW. It might have been both a test bed and demonstrator for the supercharger conversions that Ballamy was offering.

It’s possibly that one of these cars was coachbuilt by Fox&Nicholls and fitted with a Marshall J75 supercharger?


From the 1930’s onwards with the introduction of the Ford V8 many specials were constructed with the simple expedient of using the power, reliability and low stressed affordable American units in modified chassis with lightweight bodies.
This formula was possible first experimented in trials [see A&R article on Lotus trials cars]
Sydney Allard was very successful with utilising this combination and also tried the Ballamy front suspension principle. He went on to produce very successful racing and road cars

“Peer Pressure”

C 1935 Ford GB introduced a variation on the £100 “Y” Type 8. The specification included the 1172cc side valve four cylinder unit producing an estimated 30bhp.Top speed was limited but the robust engine was receptive to tuning. Approximately 10-15 additional bhp could be extracted by tuning including twin carburettors, and higher compression etc etc. The engine could also be supercharged. Its very self evident that should this engine be incorporated with a light weight chassis and body significant performance was possible a la Lotus Mk.VI.as the most sophisticated expression of these principles.
Hence the popularity of special building in the 1950’s when the mechanical components were readily available and relatively inexpensive.

Leslie Ballamy was in the company of and possibly influenced by these special builders:

  • Derek Buckler [Reading and Wokingham]
  • Ken Dellingpole & Ron Lowe [Dellow] trials car
  • M&L Special [note constructed by Alfred Moss and Mike Lawson – see A&R article Lotus Trials cars]
  • Gregory brothers who produced one off specials Ford based V8 and 1172.
  • Mid to late 1950’s the Ford special craze with fibreglass bodies.
  • Arthur Mallock – Mallock “U2”

Ballamy Accessory Range

The following are some of the range seen in period magazine articles:

  • LMB Light weight IFS
  • Ford E93A modified head
  • Twin Amal Carburettor conversion
  • Ignition equipment
  • Economy Manifold
  • Cross Flow radiator
  • Brass header tank
  • High ratio crown wheel pinion
  • Twin leading shoe front b’k kit
  • 15”wheels and hubcaps [see editors photographs]
  • Wheel spacers

“Ballamy Wheels” [see editors photographs]

Ballamy wheels have entered folklore and command a high premium. They are widely used on the Lotus Mk.VI where they mate with the 5 studs fixing on the Ford 10” drums.
LMB offered these for Ford Popular 8 &10, variety of Ford Specials of the period and the LMB chassis
Its thought that the 15” wheels were made for LMB by Rubery Owen and that prior to this manufacturers wheel was modified.
In period the relatively lightweight wheel retailed for £2/2/6 and with 15/125 Michelin X [steel braced radial Tyres and tube] at £7/17/6.
The advantages were:
Reduced ground clearance down from the standard 17” Ford road wheel.
Reduced unsprung mass
Improved road-holding quality of tyre.
[Of course a lower back axle ratio was also required to compensate]

LMB: Guildford

Leslie Ballamy lived in and had premises inn Guildford from the 1960.’s. The details are I believe:
Home: 5 Albany Road.
Works: Rowland’s Yard, Ladymead and Weyford House, Woodbridge Meadows.

Ballamy Designs and Patents

Tony Russell lists these as some of Leslie Ballamy’s ideas:

  • Aerosol Can
  • Centrifugal clutch
  • Lawn mowers
  • Paintbrush holders
  • Drawing board clamps
  • Garden tools
  • Hypodermic Syringes
  • Lampshades
  • Sliding joints
  • Wheel barrows
  • Tube bending equipment
  • Carpet tufting
  • “Stepstool” manufactured by Creative Tubewear.
  • The Polio Car

This was an idealistic attempt at increasing mobility for the disabled. In 1961 the Polio research Charity Fund commissioned a design with the following brief:

  • Independence
  • Mobility
  • Capacity for passengers
  • Space
  • Safety

Ballamy came up with design using Citroen Dyane floor plan and both rear and side access. Although it did not reach major production it was influential and has spawned the current much larger market and manufacturers like Brotherwood Automobility Ltd [see references]


Leslie Ballamy was a modest man and perhaps did not acquire the fullest reputation and publicity he deserved. He participated in various forms of motor sport perhaps the least “romantic” or exciting or publised production car where his Popular’s were driven to success by the likes of Rivers Fletcher.
He contributed significantly to the post war specials movement and assisted the less well off enter motor sport or construct their own individual car.
He was a contemporary of and influenced on some of the best-known names in British motor sport.
He was also an influential member of the London engineering and motor sport tradition who was fortunate to be involved with Brooklands pre war.
He perhaps represented the best of the British tradition of applied engineering and allied inventions for the purpose of practical problem solving. He possessed a form of engineering idealism.

Out in Front: The Leslie Ballamy Story.
Tony Russell
MRP Publishing.
ISBN: 1899870695

Bourne Society Village Histories [No.2] Caterham.
Ed. G.Fookes
ISBN: 0900992452

-Do- [No.9] Whyteleafe
ISBN: 0900992670

Motoring Specials
Ian Dussek
Shire Publications

Relevant OS large scale maps that help identify factory site as Godstone Road, Whyteleafe