Research has shown that smell is the sense most linked to our emotional recollection and there’s nothing like the smell of a well-oiled machine shop. The aroma of cutting fluid has a certain attraction to gear heads the world over. It’s almost an aphrodisiac in attraction qualities. That smell is one of the first things you notice when you walk through the door at Crosthwaite and Gardiner. A veritable beehive of activity, Crosthwaite and Gardiner, located in East Sussex England, has been at it since the late 1960’s when Dick Crosthwaite and John Gardiner started producing components out of necessity to keep race cars on the track. Today, the company continues offering a wide range of components engineered and designed in house to exacting specification and quality.
Philip Jordan, head of sales was kind enough to give us the grand tour of their historic yet modern facility. The contrast between old and new is evident throughout with classic lathes and mills tucked in between modern CNC machining centers. Philip explains that some things are better left unchanged and I think we can all agree.
Crosthwaite and Gardiner is what you might call a full service facility. They offer a wide range of components along with ground up vehicle restoration service as well as complete recreation of significantly historic cars. Working from original drawings and cad design , they are able to create just about any part or component, often times better than original in terms of quality and reliability. However the passionate staff strives to preserve the all so important period correct outward appearance of the part or component. Over the years I’ve come to respect and admire the quality of alloy and iron castings produced by the British motorsport industry.
Tooling isn’t free so the cast component price is typically more than a machined from solid part, however the artistic appearance of a beautifully cast differential housing or gearbox case is almost breath taking. But casting a part doesn’t always make financial sense if the quantities are low or demand is unpredictable.
We had access to the pattern storage area for the various castings produced by Crosthwaite and Gardiner. The shelves were stacked to the roof with a wide array of wheel and component patterns used in sand casting process. Your imagination wanders with ideas of what could be possible. Crosthwaite and Gardiner supplies wheels in magnesium for various applications including my favorite, the Lotus Wobbly. They are now starting to market wheels for the Porsche 917, and they are seriously wide.
One of the more popular items at Crosthwaite and Gardiner is their 3.8L Jaguar alloy engine block inspired by the famous Light Weight E types. In 1963, Jaguar developed 12 special lightweight cars with fuel injected engines for motorsport use.
These cars featured many updates to reduce the weight of the car and one the areas tagged for weight reduction was the standard cast iron engine block. By producing it from aluminum, Jaguar was able to significantly reduce the weight of the block. Jaguar produced a handful of these alloy blocks in period so they were very rare. Because of the increased popularity of the E type in historic racing, a renewed interest in an alloy block was sparked. Crosthwaite and Gardiner has sold nearly 100 of the precision machined blocks with updated main bearing caps and other essential improvements.
Crosthwaite and Gardiner didn’t stop at the alloy engine block either and now supplies the infamous Jaguar “Wide Angle” cylinder head along with complete D Type engines in both 3.4L and 3.8L and with all required ancillaries including slide throttle fuel injection systems.
Crosthwaite and Gardiner also manufacture a range of Girling Brake calipers used on many race cars through the 60’s and 70’s. The lightweight Girling AR, CR, ORA and NR brake caliper body arrive as a raw alloy casting and then machined to exact specification.
Their catalog of major components is impressive to say the least. Engine blocks, wheels, gearbox and differential components fill the list covering a wide range of applications. One could spend hours looking through their well stocked shelves, gazing at all of the intricate and precision quality products. if you’re readying this article, you know what I’m talking about.
While we had impressive access to the facility, there were a few things that were off limits to the camera. With respect to the owners of some very significant cars undergoing restoration, we can only say the work and craftsmanship at Crosthwaite and Gardiner is world class.
Crosthwaite and Gardiner is an oasis in time where old school craftsman work along side modern five axis machining centers crafting some of the finest motorsport grade components available. Companies like this are to be cherished for without their dedication, passion and commitment, many cars would be setting idle.
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