Champion racing driver’s rally plates up for auction

A COLLECTION of car rally plates connected to a champion driver from the Black Country will go under the hammer at The Lichfield Auction Centre later this month.

Frederick Charles Kenneth (Ken) Wharton was born in Smethwick on March 21 1916.

Initially the owner of a Ford dealership in Smethwick famed for high speed car servicing, Mr Wharton found fame through his exploits behind the wheel rather than under the bonnet.

He first drove an Austin Seven at Donington Park in 1936 but his career finally took off after the war.

Mr Wharton became famous as a successful racing driver with a career in F1, F2, single seater, sports car, rallying and hill climbing, driving assorted makes of car for various teams and owners, including at the beginning cars he built himself.

He was British Hill Climbing champion four times in succession from 1951-54 and the winner of the 1954 Rheims 12-hour race in a D type Jaguar.

Sadly, Wharton was fatally injured in an accident driving a Ferrari Monza in the Grand Prix at the Ardmore circuit in New Zealand on January 12 1957.

“This is a fascinating collection of the actual plates which were fixed on Mr Wharton’s cars during racing,” said valuer Jon Price from Richard Winterton Auctioneers.

“The plates are all complete, with wear commensurate with their age. We estimate they could fetch between £500-£800.

“It really is a very special collection relating to a local driver who truly made his mark on the racing world.”

The plates for sale include: winner of the Tulip Rally 1949, 1950 and 1952 driving assorted Fords (Anglia 1949 plate 139, V8 Pilot 1950  plate 201 and Consul 1952 plate 143) and winner of the 1950 Rally Lisboa (Estoril) in a Ford V8 Pilot plate 23.

“There is a letter with the plates detailing his progress – or lack of it – in the Monte Carlo rallies and the cars driven,” added Mr Price.

The plates are being offered in Richard Winterton’s Fine & Decorative Arts Sale, which starts at noon on September 19 at The Lichfield Auction Centre, Wood End Lane, Fradley Park.

Viewing for the sale is on Saturday, September 15, from 9am to noon and Tuesday, September 18 from 10am-6pm.

For further details, please telephone 01543 251081 or email

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