John Granville Grenfell (1891 - 1975)

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Birthplace: Sidney, New South Wales, Australia
Death: Died
Managed by: Philip Richards
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About John Granville Grenfell

GRENFELL, JOHN GRANVILLE M.Inst.B.E., M.S.A.E.,was born 16 March 1891 in Sydney, Australia the son of John Edward Pascoe Grenfell and Georgina Mary Ann Pictett. He was the grandson of John Granville Grenfell (1826-1866), the Gold Commissioner murdered by bushrangers at Emu Creek, New South Wales in December 1866 and a great-grandson of Admiral John Pascoe Grenfell of the Brazilian Navy and later Consul-General for that country in Liverpool, England.

'JG' or ‘Jack’ Grenfell, as he was known, came to England in 1906 and in 1907 he was taken by his father to the opening car racing meeting at Brooklands, Weybridge, Surrey, an event which was to have a great influence on his future life. He was brought up and privately educated by his relative William Henry Grenfell (Lord Desborough). A man of many parts, at one stage Jack was 1st violin in the Queen's Hall Light Orchestra, spoke several languages fluently and was a judo ‘Black Belt’.

His first love was motorcycles which he began racing around 1909 and won several Swiss circuit events and many years later in a letter to Vintage M.C.C. magazine, listed 46 bikes that he could remember owning which were manufactured in 7 different countries. In 1913 built his first 500 cc car which used an ash frame, tubular axles and a Norton engine.

Between the wars he worked for Lancia, Rolls-Royce, Michelin, Firestone and Hispano-Suiza and finally opened his own workshops at Brooklands which specialised in tuning, servicing and supercharging engines, and were to become renowned throughout the motor industry. He was later considered to be one of the most respected and innovative engineers of his generation and was elected a Fellow of the Motor Industry in the 1960's.

In 1915 Jack Grenfell married Minnie Tully a very well-known motorcyclist and mechanic in her own right with a penchant for large and powerful bikes and their marriage proved to be a perfect partnership.

Nearly 40 years after the first, he built his second Grenfell Special ‘500’ car (above) at his workshops at Brooklands where ‘it was constructed to a standard not excelled by any half-litre machine of to-day, and the design is based on a number of ingenious features’.

On 26th November 1975 when 84 years of age and feeling unwell at his workshop he rode his bike to Weybridge Hospital where he was admitted and died shortly afterwards from a heart attack. His two sons Reginald and Francis were killed in WW2.

[Denis May, Portrait of a Perfectionist – Motor Cycling magazine August 1961. Edward Eves, 1946 Grenfell Special - with photograph - Autocar magazine August 1980. Iota magazine. Family information].

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John Grenfell's Timeline

1891
March 16, 1891
Sidney, New South Wales, Australia
1915
1915
Age 23
1975
1975
Age 83