Tony Crook

Motor racing is full of characters and Manchester's Tony Crook is certainly one of them. A Royal Air Force pilot in World War II, Crook began racing at the first post-war motor race in England at a former RAF bomber base called Gransden Lodge in the summer of 1946 when he drove a pre-war BMW 328. In the years that followed he raced with much success on the British scene, notably with a 2.9-litre Alfa Romeo and later with Frazer-Nash machinery. At the same time he established a chain of garages called Anthony Crook Motors, which acted as agents for various sporting car companies.

He took part in two British GPs in 1952 and 1953. The first race saw him in his Frazer-Nash and the second was with a Cooper-Alta.

When he stopped racing Crook built up his car business and became a dealer for Bristol Cars, which had grown out of the Bristol Aeroplane Company, one of Britain's most famous aviation companies. The company had acquired the rights to most of the pre-war BMW engines and had begun producing luxury cars in 1947.

In 1960 the Bristol Aeroplane Company was nationalized and became part of what is now British Aerospace. Bristol's owner Sir George White bought the Bristol car division with Crook as his partner. The relationship was a great success and the two men worked together throughout the 1960s. But in 1969 White was badly injured in a road accident and eventually accepted that he could no longer run the company. He sold out to Crook in 1973.

Bristol continues to produce high quality cars to this day. It has not always been an easy struggle and in 1997 Crook had to restructure the company with new financial partners but this resulted in the launch of two new models in 2003, the Fighter and the Blenheim Speedster.