Monday, 28 July 2014

Another COTY winner

COTY jurors aren’t voting for Car of the Year. They are voting to look Green. Why else would they have elected the Ampera in 2012? They surely can’t have expected it to sell more than a handful. They’re not that stupid. No, they are spooked, along with governments round the world, by what WS Gilbert called greenery yallery Grosvenor Gallery foot-in-the-grave young men. Or women.

Opel and Vauxhall dealers, who hadn’t a lot of choice perhaps, accounted for the first year’s 5,000 or so Amperas. That sank to 3,184 last year and collapsed to 332 in the first five months of this, of which only 46 were in its German home market. GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky vented frustration at Geneva: “All the governments in Europe said, ‘We want EVs, we want EVs.’ We show up with one, and where is everybody?” The answer is that they were off buying something else, real cars mostly.

COTY jurors are like governments appeasing Green voters with inglorious wind farms and wasteful subsidies. By any standards the Ampera was a disaster. Production is stopping and although GM will redesign the broadly similar Volt next year it won’t come to Europe.

There wasn’t much wrong with the Ampera. It was sensibly-sized and quite handsome, drove smoothly and quietly and as a hybrid didn’t have the range anxieties of milk-floaty plug-in electric cars, attracting complaints now about how costly they are to top-up. Apparently charging stations take money by the hour, without knowing how much electricity is actually being used. The cost can be just as much for a battery flat or near full.

I have said before that there is a FIFA flavour about Car of the Year. In 50 years COTY has never elected a Jaguar, Range Rover or Land Rover. It can’t be anti-British-ness. Munich doesn’t come off well either. There has been no BMW; a range that goes from Rolls-Royce to Mini has never made the grade except for second last year for the i3. It elected an electric Nissan yet COTY doesn’t do safety. Volvo and Saab never featured. Engineering excellence? Bentley has never made it. Production quality? There have been no Hondas. Value for money? No Skodas, no Seats but 9 Fiats, 6 Renaults and 5 Fords. I can’t understand why manufacturers get so excited by it.

Gentlemen ran Jaguar

Sir Nick Scheele, who died last week aged 70, was in the purest image of Sir William Lyons, Lofty England and top men at Jaguar. Accessible, well-mannered and businesslike, their style was reflected in the public relations executives who were their links, Bob Berry, Andrew Whyte, David Boole and Joe Greenwell. Scheele, graduate of Durham, multi-lingual, urbane started with Ford in 1966 and after a distinguished career became chairman at Jaguar in 1992. He persuaded Ford to resuscitate the old Escort factory at Halewood to manufacture the Jaguar X-type. It now thrives exporting Range Rover Evoques. Rising through the office side of the Ford organization, Sir Nicholas Vernon "Nick" Scheele KCMG according to one obituary had the debonair poise of an actor, combined with “a backbone of stainless steel”. He was one of the industry’s most articulate spokesmen.
In 1994 Scheele challenged Coventry raise £400,000 to build, equip and run a new place for the NSPCC. To help child abuse victims and celebrate 100 years of the charity, the money set up Boole House in Whitefriars Street, named after David Boole who worked tirelessly on behalf of the appeal and died only days after fundraisers reached their target.

Boole may not have had quite the charisma of Jaguar racer Bob Berry, nor the great historical knowledge of Andrew Whyte, who researched and wrote some of the best books ever on Jaguar. But acutely aware of Jaguar heritage he agreed to buy into Dove Publishing’s Jaguar File. There was no formal agreement beyond a handshake, no correspondence; he died as work on the book began. Joe Greenwell took over his responsibilities, accepted our word and Jaguar got its book. It went into three editions, many reprints and is now, revised and updated, going digital. Greenwell became CEO at Ford in Britain and commissioned editions of The Ford File.

Sir Nick came to the press launch of The Jaguar File at Stratstone in Mayfair with Greenwell (left), Eric Dymock and Lord Montagu of Beaulieu on the right. Michael Kemp of the Daily Mail lurks behind looking, as ever, for a story.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

A new Auto Union

Germany’s Manager Magazin asserts that VW might buy Fiat-Chrysler. Ferdinand Piëch wants to re-create Auto Union and combine the VW brands Audi, SEAT and Skoda with classics like Alfa Romeo, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Maserati, and Porsche. Along with Fiat and Chrysler it could make over 14 million cars a year, consigning Toyota and General Motors with about 10 million into second place.

In the 1930s four rings signified the creation of the first Auto Union, the amalgamation of the motor industry in Saxony. DKW, Horch, Wanderer and Audi joined up to weather financial storms following the Great Depression and face intervention from the emerging Third Reich. The State Bank of Saxony, the Allgemeine Deutsche Credit Anstalt (ADCA) and the Commerzbank of Berlin were midwives at the birth of the Auto Union.
Wanderer was the oldest, established in 1885 at Chemnitz. In 1899 August Horch set up at Cologne-Ehrenfeld, moved in 1902 to Plauen in the Vogtland, then in 1904 as a public company eastwards to Zwickau in Saxony. Third ring DKW also had roots in Chemnitz from 1904 when Danish entrepreneur, Jörgen Skafte Rasmussen established Rasmussen & Ernst GmbH in an empty textile works at Zschopau in the Erzgebirge. In 1914, as the Zschopauer Maschinenfabrik J S Rasmussen, it did military work, experimenting with a large, and as it turned out unwieldy, steam vehicle the Dampf Kraft Wagen (DKW - Steam-Power-Vehicle).

DKW persevered with motorcycles, making a primitive car in 1928, then at the 1931 Berlin motor show made a breakthrough with the first front wheel drive production car three years ahead of Citroën. FWD was novel, it was cheap, and DKW was good at it. Innovation did not bring prosperity however, and DKW was obliged to take a shareholding in Audi, making Rasmussen chairman. But by 1932 car sales in Germany had halved and DKW suffered from Rasmussen's expansionism. To make things worse, the Hitler regime planned a state-sponsored car to go on sale to the German Volk at a seemingly impossible price to savers of political tokens.
Amalgamation was complicated and it took nine months to agree terms and acquire funds. Headquarters were at Chemnitz, the Zschopauer Motorenwerke raised its share capital from 4.5 million Reichsmarks to 14.5 million and the new Auto Union AG bought the fourth ring, Wanderer, leasing its factories.

DKW's contribution of share capital was Rm10 million, Horch brought Rm500,000, Audi Rm2,500,000, and Wanderer Rm15,730,000. The new combine had a staff of 4,500 and factories at Zschopau making motorcycles and 2-stroke engines, Zwickau (cars), Berlin-Spandau (wooden body frames) and Siegmar (cars and steel bodies). Auto Union was a major player in the German motor industry alongside Adler, BMW, Opel, Daimler-Benz, and Ford. Meanwhile the cause of all the angst, the Volkswagen, was slow making its appearance.
Ferdinand Porsche’s consultancy made a submission to the Ministry of Traffic in Berlin for a car selling for Rm1500, with a fuel consumption of 8l/100 kms (35 mpg), a top speed of 100 kph (62 mph) and a weight of 650 kg (1433 lbs). Hitler and Porsche met in April 1934, at the Kaiserhof Hotel in Berlin, together with Jakob Werlin, Mercedes-Benz dealer in Munich and an early member of the Nazi Party. Werlin carried weight, joined the Mercedes-Benz supervisory board, and went on to be inspector-general of the industry.

Hitler sanctioned the VW provided it could cruise the new autobahns at 100kph, obtain a fuel consumption of 7l/100 kms (40 mpg) and sell for Rm990. A contract was drawn up under which Rm200,000 was set aside for a prototype and a production run of 50,000. The effect on the established Saxony car makers was profound but in 1935 Volkswagen was inaugurated. State intervention had been inevitable and the Auto Union’s marques Horch, Audi, Wanderer and DKW were broadly complementary. Horch made premium big saloons and tourers, Audi was distinctly middle-class. Wanderer had a solid array of good family cars and DKW lively cheap two-stroke economy models.
An urgent task was to forge the group’s identity and it took up a German state subsidy to build a 16-cylinder car designed by Professor Porsche, inaugurating a momentous period of grand prix motor racing. Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union overwhelmed all opposition in a demonstration of German technical pre-eminence, a triumph for the Reich’s propaganda machine under Dr Joseph Goebbels.

Now Automotive News Europe reports: "The simple deal logic is straightforward," London-based analyst Arndt Ellinghorst of ISI Group wrote in a note to investors. "Chrysler - better Jeep and Dodge - could fix VW's US problems; Alfa could replace the ailing Seat brand; Fiat Europe is basically the 500 product family plus LCVs. Latin America could be sold, potentially to a Chinese buyer."
Both Piëch and Martin Winterkorn, VW chief executive, are on record as showing interest in Alfa Romeo. VW had $24 billion in cash to play with at the end of March, so a takeover would be manageable. Everybody denies any such thing but Piëch, the obsessive and brilliantly successful 77 year old grandson of Ferdinand Porsche gets his way more often than he doesn’t. If VW bought the 150-strong Agnelli-Elkann dynasty's 30 percent controlling stake in Fiat-Chrysler it could be $5 billion or $6 billion richer and even keep Ferrari to bring a regular $475 million pocket money every year.

Top: Mid-engined masterpieces, Auto Union racing cars by Dr Porsche.

Audi adopted Auto Union’s four rings.

Number 1 surmounts the bonnet of an Audi Front.

Horch made some spectacular cars

DKW Sonderklasse. Front wheel drive, 2-stroke and one of my first ever test cars, borrowed from the factory in Düsseldorf in 1956. My first drive at the Nürburgring.

Workaday Wanderer W24 with Auto Union rings

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Classic Motoring Photographs

What a lot we owe Bill Brunell. A professional photographer in the glass plate era of the 1920s and 1930s, he left a unique record of crisp, beautifully detailed pictures of a motoring age long gone. The Motoring Picture Library has added 5,000 images from the National Motor Museum’s Bill Brunell Photographic Collection to its website

The model with her head through the sunroof of the Singer 8 Junior is most likely Brunell’s daughter, Kitty, who features in many of the photographs, and drove in the Monte Carlo Rally in 1928 with her father in his Singer Junior. They started from John o’Groats but retired. She competed in 1929 driving a Talbot 14/45 for which she designed the body. It became known as the Sportsman’s Coupe and Talbot was so impressed that it built another car for her for 1930, known as ‘Kitty II’. She married veteran competitor Ken Hutchinson.

Bill Brunell was co-driver to the Hon Victor Bruce in 1926 when they became the first Englishmen to win the Monte Carlo Rally and worked for the Ministry of Information and secret intelligence in the First World War.
Motoring Picture Library Manager, Jon Day said: “Brunell’s photography is an evocative reminder of the golden age of British motoring, capturing perfectly the mood and spirit of the era. From street and social scenes to events, trials and rallies throughout Great Britain and Europe, Brunell’s images are an important historical record with artistic merit in their own right.It has taken NMM staff and volunteers over three years to digitise the glass plate negatives. The originals have subsequently been re-packaged and archived.The Beaulieu Motoring Picture Library with an archive of over a million images, is one of the most comprehensive sources of motoring photographs in the world. It supplies pictures to enthusiasts and commercially to publishing, broadcasting and advertising.

The works racing Austin Seven team (above) of Bert Hadley and Charles Goodacre at Brooklands with Kay Petre in car nearest Brunell’s camera.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Casimir Brau’s Panthère. MG’s Tigress. Jaguar’s jaguar

Jaguar’s leaping jaguar was not always a jaguar. It is third from bottom right in the 1925 catalogue of French sculptor Casimir Brau who describes it as a Panthère. In 1930 it appeared at the Olympia motor show in 1930 on an MG — as a tiger. Five years later SS Cars’ founder William Lyons instructed Bill Rankin, his publicity chief, to commission a mascot to go with his cars’ new name, Jaguar.

Brau’s 300 Franc mascots are now collectors’ items (below). Survivors auctioned by Sotheby’s in the 1990s went for upwards of £500. By 2010-2011 Brau originals sold by Bonhams as “Leaping Jaguar, circa 1925, retailed by Hermes, Paris, signed, nickel silvered bronze, 8¼ins long, on a wooden display base,” were going for £4400.

The link from Panthère to Tigress may have been Frederick Gordon-Crosby, a sculptor and artist whose work appeared in The Autocar and who was a close friend of Cecil Kimber, general manager of MG. One appears on Kimber’s desk as a paperweight in this official portrait, taken in 1933.

Michael Gordon-Crosby, the artist’s son, suspects that Kimber’s Brau statuette inspired the mascot on the 18/80 special edition Mark III (see below) that Kimber wanted to call the Tigress. A magnificent 2.5litre, six-cylinder car, it almost matched a Bentley in grandeur. Crosby liked the leaping animal so much he even had one on his own 18/80 saloon’s radiator cap. Only five Tigress MGs were made and probably only a handful of mascots, one of which was presented to author and MG historian the late Wilson McComb, from colleagues at Abingdon in 1969.

Lyons wanted to add a fast bird or animal to SS. The name may have stemmed from Standard Swallow; the SS1 was effectively a Swallow-bodied Standard Sixteen. It might have meant Standard Special since much of it was made by the Standard Motor Company. George Brough, who made Brough Superior SS80 and SS100 motorcycles, claimed he had thought of it first but it seems more than likely SS was coined from the great ocean liners of the 1920s and 1930s, like SS Mauretania, Majestic or Aquitania.

Armstrong Siddeley had used Jaguar on an aero engine but managing director Sir Frank Spriggs had discarded it and happily consigned it to SS cars. S.S. Jaguar had a ring to it and the following year even the full-points were omitted, “As the letters no longer stand for anything,” much as M.G. had once meant Morris Garages and long before the Schutzstaffel (protection patrol) Nazi police meant anything.

An accessory company produced a bonnet motif he disliked so Lyons asked Rankin to come up with something suitable. Rankin approached Gordon-Crosby and SS Jaguar’s jaguar was identical in almost every respect to the MG tiger (or tigress), save its back paws. On the Jaguar version they are tucked up behind. MG’s had them extended,

Whether Lyons and Rankin knew anything about history of the mascot scarcely matters. I approached Jaguar in 1992 about this sidebar to company folklore. Its spokesman the late David Boole was unabashed. He solemnly denied tigress and panther antecedents. “Our ‘leaper’ is an anatomically correct jaguar”.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

1928 MG 18/80 Mk II

A wider track and a 4-speed gearbox alone would not have justified the substantial price of the Mark II 18/80, on Classic MG digital at £7.56. Detailing was carefully done, aluminium components were polished, engines carefully balanced, and the three-ringed aluminium pistons ground and lapped. An automatic Tecalemit chassis lubrication system actuated by the car’s movement extended servicing intervals to 3000miles (4828kms), extremely generous for the time. The Mark II did not replace the Mark I straight away; it had never been a fast seller so the two were put on the market apparently alongside one another. Mark I Speed Models were eligible for a Brooklands 80mph (128.7kph) certificate for 12 guineas a time, cynics suggesting this was to cover a mechanic’s time spent making sure it would actually manage it. Triplex safety glass and a Dewandre vacuum brake servo were added but there was a certain amount of equivocation over the additional gear. It was described as a “silent third”, a fashionable reassurance in an era of loudly whining gears, or alternatively “twin top”, a tacit admission there was perhaps not much difference between ratios of 1: 1 and 1.306: 1. Extra equipment and a more substantial chassis carried a weight penalty of some 3cwt (152.4kg). Mark I production petered out in July 1931, Mark IIs in summer 1933, but eclipsed by the success of small MGs, some 18/80s were not sold until 1934.
BODY Saloon 4-door 4-seat; Sports 2-door 2-seats; Salonette 2-door 4-seats; Open Tourer 4-door 4-seats; chassis weight 20.5cwt (1041.4kg), Tourer 27cwt (1371.6kg), saloon 29.25cwt (1485.9kg) Speed Model with fabric body, staggered doors, left front passenger and right rear 22.75cwt (1155.7kg). ENGINE 6-cylinders; in-line; 69mm x 110mm, 2468cc; compr 5.75: 1; 60bhp (44.7kW) @ 3200rpm; 24.3bhp (18.1kW)/ l. ENGINE STRUCTURE Duplex gear and chain-driven ohc; cast iron block, detachable cylinder head, pent-roof machined combustion chambers; two horizontal double float SU carburettors; chain drive to distributor, waterpump, and dynamo, skew drive to oil pump; coil ignition; 4-bearing counterbalanced crankshaft. TRANSMISSION Rear wheel drive; five-plate cork insert clutch; 4-speed non-synchromesh gearbox with remote control; torque tube drive; spiral bevel final drive 4.27: 1. CHASSIS DETAILS Steel channel-section cross-braced upswept front and rear; upward-inclined half-elliptic leaf springs front-shackled 39in (99cm) front and 50in (127cm) rear; rear springs shackled both ends and carried outside frame; Silentbloc shackle bearings; single arm Hartford Duplex dampers; 14in (35.5cm) finned cable-operated brakes; Marles steering ; 12gal (54.5l) tank; 2gal (9.1l) reserve ; 19 x 5 Dunlop Fort tyres; Rudge-Whitworth centre lock wire wheels. DIMENSIONS Wheelbase 114in (289.6cm); track 52in (132.1cm); turning circle 37ft 6in (11.4m); ground clearance 8in (20.3cm); length 156in (396.2cm); width 64in (162.6cm ); height 64.5in (163.8cm), Tourer, 67in (170.2cm). PERFORMANCE Max speed 80mph (128.7kph); 20.5mph (33kph)/ 1000rpm; fuel consumption 18mpg (15.7l/ 100km). PRICE chassis only £ 550, 2-seater £ 625, Tourer £ 630, Salonette £ 655 (fabric body and Triplex glass), Saloon £ 670 (coachbuilt)

Clive Jacobs 1939-2014

Clive and I worked as colleagues on BBC Radio 4’s Going Places and BFBS motoring programmes, as well as a 1970s venture in stereo recordings of motor racing called Competition Cassettes. I marvelled at his professionalism in live studios. I was a hesitant broadcaster, but with Clive you knew there was never going to be a crisis. His rich voice would intervene in its deeply measured way and you were out of trouble in a trice.
You weren’t always out of trouble with Clive. We drove together sometimes on press launches and at least once, when he was at the wheel of a right hand drive car, we faced disaster in a left hand drive country. Meticulous, precise restorer of clocks and watches, Clive made models, loved cars and revelled in their rectitude. He could afford good cars although he had to suffer incredulity with a few, such as his AMC Pacer, at least with grace although not invariably good. This Rolls-Royce was one of his better ones.
Clive and I, you could say, were related by marriage. I was sorry he wasn’t at my recent birthday party; when he wasn’t able to come we knew things were serious but he was cheerfully represented by his son Blair and family. Clive was a great stepfather to Craig, invariably kind, and an everlasting friend.


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