While there are many rude nicknames for the Wal Phillips injector, they aren’t for the pages of TCM… but a description of the device is because it’s an important part of our history.
Words: Richard Rosenthal
Photographs: Mortons Archive
Born in Tottenham, north London, in 1908, Wal Phillips (d.1998) is today best remembered for his fuel injector. With Bert Le Vack and JAP development engineer Stan Greening as uncles, it is hardly surprising Phillips would spend his long life racing, developing and wringing ever more performance from motorcycle engines.
Desperate to race, young Phillips worked hard to scrape together money to fund his ambition and he built his first motorcycle from parts found discarded in the various workshops he talked his way into. Aided by skilful name dropping – Uncles Le Vack and Greening – Wal, still a teenager, was racing at Brooklands, recording his first win at the BMCRC (Bemsee) fourth race meeting of 1927 (Saturday, June 25), winning the three-lap Private Owners Handicap at 80.85mph on a 344cc Cotton-JAP.
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Racing prowess apart, Phillips also gained notoriety for cool-headed, artful tactics – for example, he’d cruise around midfield in heats to scrape through as a qualifier, then promptly blitz the opposition in the final. Learning of the craze of dirt track (speedway) racing, Phillips spectated at the first UK meet at High Beech in 1928. He left the meeting underwhelmed by the sport, but the prize money appealed, so he watched another meeting at Stamford Bridge and was subsequently smitten by the sounds, smells and razzmatazz as he watched one of the world’s great ‘leg trailers’ Lloyd ‘Sprouts’ Elder (USA).
Read more in the June issue of TCM – on sale now!