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Memories of Jack Barlow by Malcolm Buckler 

Written for the Historic Kart Club of Great Britain

I do not have a lot of info re Jack Barlow's karting career but I knew him long before karting came to the UK. This was a great time ago and I was just a schoolboy. My memory recalls the following, but forgive me if I may have got things a little out of context after all this time.

Jack started as an apprentice for my father at Bucklers of Reading not long after the war. His family had hit hard times in those austerity days and I recall my mother saying that Jack arrived on his first day at work with no socks, so she went out and bought him a pair. Jack proved to be an outstanding apprentice and quickly climbed the Buckler ladder. He was soon able to use a vernier gauge, strip and rebuild a car engine, strip and rebuild a gearbox, use the Churchill crankshaft grinding machine, rebore an engine, cast bearings in white metal, line bore bearings and weld to a good standard etc.

He took an intense interest in the work and would think nothing of working any hours, without complaint, to get an urgent job completed. I remember that one night he worked through to 5 am to prepare the Buckler works car to race at Silverstone that day, finally grabbing a spray gun to give it a complete coat of paint and then went to Silverstone with it. He was of course glad to boost his wage packet but also to get any opportunity to get behind the wheel of fast machinery.

Jack was as sharp as a razor. He was lean of build with dark intelligent eyes, a sharp nose and even sharper brain. He had a great respect for himself and did not suffer fools gladly. I remember that he was not shy to ask for a pay rise if he felt he had earned it. In the early 1960's Bucklers of Reading were themselves on hard times and finally unable to oblige Jack and to prove a point Jack took a job as a traveling salesman with another company and much better salary.

But Jack needed the smell of engine oil, so this clean suited job was short lived and he soon found a niche at Buckler's company at Crowthorne where the karts were made. Jack had got involved with the Buckler karts from their conception and became a keen competitor. Once at Crowthorne, he was in his element and became legendary not only as a driver but also as the top Villiers engine tuner in the country. Indeed Karting Magazine reported that the Villiers powered Buckler Kart they tested produced 1,000 rpm more than any other. It was Jack who had tuned that engine. I recall a meeting at Camberley when it seemed that Jack's Buckler kart was impossible to start, so high was the compression. The wheels just remained locked. In the end, with two men holding it down and two pushing, it did start and won almost every heat with Buckler karts taking most of the other places. This was in the early days before karts had to have a mandatory crash bar at the front.

Jack went on from one success to another and the Historic Kart Club will have this better documented than I. When the Buckler cars and karts company failed under new owners circa 1968, Jack saw a great opportunity to better himself once again and to run his own show. He purchased enough equipment from Bucklers to start his own kart company, which he called Barlotti and, starting with the Buckler design, which had a lot of Barlow development in it, he continued to evolve the Barlotti into a competitive machine for the 1970's. Somewhere in this story Jack worked successfully for some time as a development engineer for Hewland gearboxes near Maidenhead but I am not quite sure where that slotted in. Maybe it was during the collapse of the Buckler Company at Crowthorne when things were in a state of chaos and flux but he probably continued developing his karts at nights and weekends.

I have fond memories of Jack and was very shocked to hear a few years back that he was afflicted with Alzheimer's disease. We had many a confidential chat when he was at Bucklers of Reading, where I also worked for a while and I remember spending a day with him and visiting his home and "development shed" in his garden and doing the rounds of his neighbourhood where he seemed to keep a charitable eye on any neighbour in difficulty with their essential two stroke commuter bikes. One elderly gentleman, wearing a trench coat, hobbled up to Jack's home to say that his trusty steed seemed to be failing him. Jack asked him to rev up the sorry little BSA Bantam and noted that the smoky exhaust was rising vertically and immediately set about stripping down the blocked and filthy silencer in the street. Once back together, the Bantam and its owner were happily purring away down the road. Jack had a hard but successful and interesting life and you only have to see the intense joy on his face when leading a kart race to know how much he enjoyed himself in this field. He was one of the best, sometimes undervalued but always strong and ready to fight back. I like to think he will soon be back on the starting grid again.