10 May 2009 18:54

Allan Staniforth - Obituary

Category: General

Our friend and mentor ‘Stanny’ passed away peacefully on May 2nd after a short illness. He was 85 years of age and still driving competitively in Sprints and Hillclimbs.

Allan was a husband, father and grandfather to more than just his family, he was revered by students all over the world through his involvement in Formula Student and Formula SAE. He was a special friend of FSG.

I first heard of Allan when I bought his book ‘High Speed, Low Cost’ many years ago. He had designed and built a Mini engined racecar called the Terrapin and kept a journal which was published. I bought the book, not because I was interested in Mini engined cars, but because of the technical information it contained, particularly about suspension design. What I remember most about HSLC was the good standard of writing and the ‘string computer’ for suspension design, one of which I immediately built. This was long before the desktop PC was invented.

Allan also offered plans for his Terrapin and as a result replicas were built all over the world. They were a very cost effective way to get on track in the 1970s. They were particularly popular in New Zealand where several still compete regularly.


Allan Staniforth in his Terrapin Mk7 in 1975
Photo by Steve Wilkinson and taken from Allan’s book Competition Car Suspension.

Not until reading reports of the 1970 London to Mexico Rally over his byline did I became aware he was actually a newspaper journalist.

I met Allan personally when we were both judges at Formula Student UK in 2000 and we hit it off immediately. Allan was not technically trained, but had a good eye for detail and a reporter’s skill for asking those open questions that elicit more facts from the students than they might otherwise have told us. Allan was very deaf, a result of his early career as a navigator in Lancaster aircraft. ‘Stereophonic Merlins’, in Stanny-speak, did the damage however with modern digital hearing aids we had no trouble communicating and worked together very well as judges.

We saw Allan over the ensuing years as judges at FSAE events in the US and Australia and at FSUK. When we started FSG, Allan was first on the list of invited Design Judges, an event he attended ever since. Meanwhile, although officially retired, he was writing more books and technical articles for both RaceTech and Racecar Engineering magazines. His book Competition Car Suspension, now in its fourth edition, should be in the library of any FS team. His ‘Race and Rally Car Sourcebook’ is an invaluable guide for sourcing parts and services when building a FSG car.
‘High Speed, Low Cost’ has been reissued and has some updates and is a good value read.

My memories of Stanny always include laughter. We may have been a generation apart, but certainly we shared a sense of humour as well as an interest in mentoring the Formula students. The only time I have ever been thrown out of a pub was with Allan. We were sharing a meal and probably a second bottle of wine and laughing uproariously over my insistence that as a journalist, Allan should never have permitted the typographical error on the cover of his first book. I had explained it really should have been ‘Low Speed, High Cost’ when Security suggested we might well prefer to laugh somewhere else. Undaunted, we went back to the same establishment for dinner the next evening…and no doubt laughed just as hard.

The only time I ever saw the man annoyed and upset was when we discovered that his book CCS had been plagiarised into Japanese and published without his knowledge or consent. A Tokyo Denki student had innocently brought the book to the UK to support his suspension design decisions. You can imagine the reaction when the student pointed out to Allan that he had double-checked his suspension calculations with a ‘string computer’ as shown in the book.

We had the pleasure of having Allan as a judge in Australia in 2003 and he thoroughly enjoyed the trip. The Australian lifestyle really appealed to him, but as the event that year was held in semi desert country, he was not impressed by the flies.

Allan had driven his Kawasaki powered Megapin at Harewood in Yorkshire only a month before his death. He lived a life worth recording and it would be remiss of us not to spare him a passing thought now and again. I know I certainly will.

Please join with me in wishing our friend and mentor Allan Staniforth a heartfelt  “Thank you and Rest in Peace”.

Pat