Friday, 21 March 2014

Goodwood 1914

Goodwood had a 1914 French Grand Prix Mércèdes at Bonhams in Bond Street in the run-up to the Festival of Speed. A hundred years ago WO Bentley purloined one of the works team cars in an obscure piece of espionage worthy of Hannay in The Thirty-Nine steps. The great racer had shown such speed and stamina over a 23 mile course near Lyon, that Bentley believed its secrets should be revealed. The race took place on July 4th 1914, a bare six days after the fatal shots that began the Great War had been fired at Sarajevo.
By the outbreak of war Bentley was effectively out of work. His family firm had been selling cars but trading soon ceased. Cars still had to be serviced but with his business in ruins for as long, it seemed, as the war lasted, WO wanted to make the most of his great secret scoop. He had been one of the first to adopt aluminium pistons in the DFP in which he set ftd for his class at the Aston Clinton hill-climb. He set a ten-lap record at Brooklands for a 2 litre car at 66.8mph (107.5kph) and a year later, with L8 aluminium pistons, raised it to 81.9mph (131.9kph).
He now wanted to put this breakthrough at the disposal of the nation. It would be just the thing, he was sure, for high performance aircraft engines. He sought out Commander Wilfrid Briggs, head of the Air Engine Section, which liased between the Admiralty and the engine industry. Briggs operated from a small wooden office on top of Admiralty Arch and captured WO’s attention at once. “The only officer in the navy as clever as Briggs was the man who appointed him,” wrote WO, recounted in The Complete Bentley.
By June 13 1915, less than a year after the grand prix, Briggs had WO Bentley gazetted as a Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR), an elite bunch of civilian volunteers who obtained quick promotion for wartime officers into the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). Briggs sent WO to Derby, where Rolls-Royce was making air-cooled Renault aero engines, to meet Ernest W Hives (later Lord Hives) with whom WO formed a friendship that lasted 20 years. Engineer Hives soon had Rolls-Royce’s new 200hp water-cooled Eagle engines equipped with aluminium pistons.
Henry Royce was adept at meticulous improvement rather than radical innovation. WO was determined he should get to know more of his adversary’s engineering. WO recalled that in 1915: “…a friend of mine tipped me off that one of the Mércèdes racing cars, which had swept the board at the 1914 French Grand Prix, had got stuck in England at the beginning of the war and still rested at the Mércèdes showroom in Long Acre. I thought it ought to be investigated. So I told Briggs about it and together we went along, representing the British Crown so to speak, with a ‘search warrant’. The place was in a fine old mess, but down in the basement lay a 4½ litre Grand Prix Mércèdes. We had it dug out, and soon it was being taken to pieces by Rolls-Royce at Derby.”
There was no search warrant of course and accounts of the legitimate wartime larceny differ. In one WO towed the Mércèdes to Derby behind Briggs’s Rolls-Royce. In another he recruited his old school friend Roy Fedden, later a distinguished engineer at Bristol Aircraft, and the pair raced along empty wartime roads from London to Derby, before towing the 1914 racer into the Rolls-Royce factory.
The precocious young Lieutenant also recommended that Rolls-Royce examine the contemporary double overhead camshaft Peugeot racing engine.
Lord March promoting the world's best motoring garden party

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Roger Crathorne and Land Rover

Roger Crathorne had already been with Land Rover 16 years when I met him on a windy hill in Kintyre. The best Land Rover driver in the world, he was there to endorse a full page advertisement in the Daily Telegraph claiming you could drive across the peninsula. I had failed. Crathorne’s assignment was to show how.
Roger now says he is retiring. It is surprising how much an individual can influence a company culture. Lotus had Colin Chapman. MG had Cecil Kimber. Rover had a handful of Wilkses; Jaguar Sir William Lyons and Bentley WO. Test and development driver, engineer, the cross-country pre-eminence of Land Rovers and Range Rovers owes everything to his skill and (I do not exaggerate) devotion. He has achieved it, furthermore, while remaining one of the most courteous approachable and unostentatious individuals in an industry where such virtues are rare. I was honoured when he agreed to a foreword in the 65th anniversary edition of my Land Rover book.
There are not many jobs-for-life these days, but it has been my luck to have had one of them. Land Rover has been my career; I have loved every minute of it, so I am delighted to introduce a new updated edition of a book that details what has been, in effect, my life’s work. Fittingly it celebrates 65 years of Land Rover and my 50 years with the company, describing every phase, every up-and-down and every important product to bear the name. The story of a stop-gap model that became a world wide success has been told in hundreds of books, some written not only about one model or series, but just about one particular car. The Land Rover File covers the entire span in one work of reference that answers most of the questions people ask. Departments and executives inside Land Rover rely on what Eric Dymock and his researchers have chronicled so as an independent author, we may not agree with him on absolutely everything. We use this book as a working document and I commend it as objective, truthful, packed with good pictures and down-to-earth detail. Roger Crathorne: Enthusiast and Technical PR Manager.
Retire? It is not in Roger’s nature. He will be fettling his own classic Land Rover. He will be advising, consulting in his quiet-mannered way. Royce was lucky to have Rolls for the practicalities, to perfect the imperfect, to work out ways and means. Land Rover was just as lucky to have Roger Crathorne.
Longest employee in the oldest Land Rover Roget Crathorne in HUE 166 (top) And with the Best 4x4s he created.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

MG 90

MG’s 90th year is, apparently, off to a strong start with over 1000 orders for the MG3. “Since the first MG went on sale 90 years ago in 1924…” according to SAIC Motor Corporation, MG’s Chinese owner.
Unfortunately MG is awash with first car claimants. They’re detailed in Classic MG and, as anybody will tell you, go back to 1902 when Morris Garages was set up at old livery stables in Longwall Street, Oxford (above). William Richard Morris started business alongside Magdalen College. Longwall Street was named after the old city wall in the grounds of New College, and it was another two decades before Morris Garages created MG. Romantic histories of MG by Alfred Edgar Frederick Higgs, or Barré Lyndon as he called himself, are no help. Barré Lyndon gained fame as a Hollywood scriptwriter and his books lent MGs as dramatic a quality as his films. His legacy of myth and legend went well beyond anything so prosaic as a car.
Morris Garages’ manager, Edward Armstead unfortunately left in 1922 and committed suicide. Mr Morris was too busy buying up Morris Motors’ suppliers and in the course of taking over axle manufacturer EG Wrigley, came across Cecil Kimber a bright executive steadily losing his savings as the firm failed. Morris knew a natural salesman when he saw one, appointing Kimber as replacement for Armstead. Morris was careful not to take Kimber on to Morris Motors; he had something more specialized in mind. Wrigley was bought cheaply from the receiver in 1923 and recast as Morris Commercial Cars Ltd
MG started with Kimber developing a premium profitable Morris Garages sideline. Besides selling, servicing, and repairing cars, he fitted Morrises up with a variety of coachwork. Like young William Lyons in Blackpool, busily laying the foundations of Jaguar at the same time, Kimber had an eye for style. He encouraged customers to specify individual designs much like their betters did in the luxury bespoke market. Even though the chassis was made by the humble WRM Motors, Kimber had coachwork designed for them by Raworth of Oxford, or Carbodies of Coventry. WM Morris didn’t much like the interruptions this caused to production, but put up with it for the money.
Cecil Kimber carved out the octagonal initials, adding pedigree to Morris’s homely ingenuity, inventing what the world’s motor industry came to know as niche marketing. MGs could be priced 20 per cent higher provided they were 10 per cent faster, looked 10 per cent better, and hardly cost any extra to make.

Manufacturing a Morris Garages Cowley Chummy of 1924 actually turned out cheaper, so Morris stopped making the plain Sports Cowley, a poor seller anyway, setting the stage for a new car not only stylish but also fast. Morris owners had been buying engine conversions such as Pope Ricardo aluminium cylinder heads at £8 15s 0d (£8.75), or overhead valve sets from Chesterfield or Lap at around £25. They were in the market for speed although on its own it was not enough. Neighbours didn’t notice. MGs had to have a smart appearance and a good name. Wealthy Oxford undergraduates were eager buyers.

Kimber flattered them. MGs “…can be bought by those who know.” An MG octagon superimposed on a Super Sports Morris might be thought the first MG. It could be argued that MG as a make dated from an advertisement in The Morris Owner of May 1924.

Before the first batch of Super Sports Morrises was finished, an order came in from a customer who wanted an aluminium-bodied Morris Oxford 4-seater. Kimber liked it so much that he based another new Morris Garages model on it. Changes to the Oxford chassis, which was brought in complete then stripped and reassembled, included flattened springs, lowered steering, raised axle ratio and a “tuned” engine.
Mudguards were painted smoke blue or claret, or maybe something to match the upholstery. Colour co-ordinated hood and carpets enhanced a graceful aluminium body. Both 2- and 4-seat versions of the MG 14/28 were built in Pusey Street during 1924, with polished aluminium Ace discs on beaded-edge artillery wheels. The first MG at last? Not quite, although the octagon was for the first time embossed on door sill step-plates.

The 14/28 offered, “10 per cent better performance, 50 per cent better handling, and 80 per cent better appearance than the standard Morris Oxford.” Kimber achieved improvements at small cost for the 20 per cent increase in price. Early MGs were often road-going facsimiles of cars made for trialing up muddy hills. The only MG actually made at Morris Garages’ workshop at Longwall Oxford, which had simple machine tools and no space for production, was Kimber’s Old Number One, FC7900.
Although by 1924-1925 it could scarcely be the first-ever MG, its title was enshrined in MG folklore and whether Kimber ever really intended it to be “first” or “my first”, or “first competition” or first anything doesn’t much matter. It came to be called Old Number One and was put on show as such ever after.

In 1922 Kimber acquired premises in Alfred Lane to make the Chummy and the first 14/28s but more space was still needed and it was 1925 before he persuaded Morris to let him use the available space. The acquisitive Morris had bought a radiator supplier in Bainton Road Oxford, reorganized it as Morris Radiators, and allowed MG spare bays there until 1927. It moved once again to a factory, specially built at a cost of £20,000, in Edmund Road, Cowley, still lacking a paint shop so MGs had to be sent for mudguard fitting and painting to Morris Garages’ coachwork repair shop in Leopold Street Oxford.

So about 90 years since the first MG.
The author samples Old Number One
Timeline from Classic MG

1902 Morris bicycle dealership 48 High Street Oxford, and 100 Holywell Street, known as Longwall.
1903 Morris enters partnership, The Oxford Automobile and Cycle Agency, at 16 George Street, George Street Mews and New Road. Business fails, Morris borrows money to buy back tools and never enters a partnership again. Resumes repair business at 48 High Street and motor trade at Longwall.
1907 Expands garage business at Longwall.
1908 Sells 48 High Street to Edward Armstead.
1912 Oct: WRM Motors established. £4000 capital from Earl of Macclesfield.
Nov: Morris shows designs of Morris Oxford at Olympia. Gordon Stewart of Stewart & Ardern buys 400.
1913 The Morris Garages (WR Morris, proprietor) established in Longwall, Queen Street and St Cross Road.
29 Mar: First Morris Oxford: body by Raworth, engine and gearbox White & Poppe, axles E G Wrigley, bull-nose radiator by Doherty Motor Components. Built at Temple Cowley.
1914 Jan: WRM Motors lists six Morris Oxfords. Standard £180. De Luxe coupe £255. Sports £220.
Apl: Morris sails to USA with Hans Landstad of White & Poppe, meets Continental Motor Manufacturing Company in Detroit, Michigan. Landstad joins WRM Motors.
1915 Apl: Morris Cowley two-seater with American engine and gearbox.
Sep: Chancellor of the Exchequer, Reginald McKenna, imposes 33-and-a-third per cent import duty on cars. First engines for Morris Cowley delivered from Continental. Supplies erratic due to war.
1916 Mar: Engine imports badly affected by wartime shipping restrictions.
1918 Nov: Last Morris Cowleys with Continental engines.
1919 Mar: Morris Garages manager, F G Barton, resigns due to ill health. Replaced by Edward Armstead.
Jly: WRM Motors liquidated. Morris forms Morris Motors. WRM Motors tied to unacceptable distribution agreement. First Hotchkiss engine.
Aug: Morris sets up Osberton Radiators at Cowley, helping HA Ryder and AL Davies (from Doherty Motor Components) to buy it.
1920 Jan: Cecil Cousins joins Morris Garages at Clarendon Yard. Syd Enever, aged 15, joins Morris Garages in Queen Street.
1921 Cecil Kimber joins Morris Garages as sales manager. Enever to Clarendon Yard.
1922 Mar: Kimber becomes general manager after Edward Armstead.
Autumn: First Morris Garages Chummy based on Morris Oxford with lowered springs, special paint and leather trim.
1923 1 Jan: William Morris buys Hollick & Pratt, coachbuilders, for £100,000 after a fire. Sold to Morris Motors in 1926. Morris also buys Osberton Radiators.
Feb: Chummy production from Longwall to Alfred Lane under Cecil Cousins.
Mar: Cecil Kimber takes Chummy on Land’s End Trial with Russell Chiesman.
May: Hotchkiss factory in Gosford Road Coventry bought by Morris for £349,423. FG Woollard becomes works manager.
16 Jly: The Morris Company formed.
Nov: First appearance of octagonal MG logo in Morris Garages advertisement in The lsis.
Dec: Morris buys EG Wrigley.
1924 Jan: Miles Thomas joins WR Morris to launch Morris Owner.
May: Morris Owner carries advertisement for Morris Garages with MG octagon.
1925 13 Mar: Carbodies begins building ‘Old Number One’. FC 7900 registered 27 March, 1925.
Apl 10-11: Land’s End Trial. Kimber and Wilfred Matthews enter in FC 7900.
Sep: MG production starts Bainton Road alongside Osberton Radiators.
Modern MG3. MG has announced over 1000 orders and more than 400 registrations of the supermini, since its launch in November 2013. Ten new retailer appointments have been announced so far this year. You can have one for £99 a month.

Friday, 28 February 2014

London Grand Prix

Hope springs eternal. With all the talk of closing public roads for rallies or races there is speculation once again about a London Grand Prix. I floated the idea in Sunday Magazine in 1981 with WHY NOT A CITY CENTRE GRAND PRIX. In 2012 Bernie inevitably encouraged the idea of one round the Olympic Stadium. I had only been reviving a 1930s proposal with Innes Ireland, who had come to lunch and drew up a Hyde Park course with racing cars tearing down Park Lane at 180mph, braking hard for a sharp right hander at the Hilton and going flat-out in fifth past the Serpentine.
Grand Prix cars only had five gears then and were racing round some unlikely places, like the Caesar’s Palace car park in Las Vegas, and inaugurating street courses in Montreal, Long Beach and Detroit. Lunch with Innes was always entertaining.
Whitehall, Birdcage Walk and The Mall are being talked about. Hyde Park was probably practical; Grosvenor House and The Dorchester would have been good viewing points. Decent breakfast and all-day bar. The Parliament Square picture was a product of artist Geoff Hunt’s imagination.
Nothing’s new really.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Divina Galica and Susie Wolff

Divina Galica and Susie Wolff illustrate the difference between quick and competitive lap times. Quite a lot of drivers can manage decent back-of-the-grid laps in a well set-up racing car. I have done it myself. And inside the five laps which, they say, shows you could go faster.
Reaching the middle of the grid is harder. A front row time requires not only native skill, visual acuity, lots of experience or whatever it is that makes a good racing driver. You have to be brave. Professional drivers deny bravery in public but in private they have told me they have caught themselves literally holding their breath trying for a fast lap. Sure there are the Jim Clarks and Sebastian Vettels, who have some magic ingredient that always makes them point something of a second a lap faster – or the Michael Schumachers who take risks on skis.

When it gets to actual racing wheel-to-wheel a driver needs an unusual degree of self-confidence, or maybe lack of imagination. It must get the adrenalin-flow that makes them face danger if not with equanimity at least with resolve. At that point it doesn’t much matter which sex you are.

Divina Mary Galica MBE held the British women's downhill skiing speed record at 125 mph so she could cope with speed. She took part in her first Olympic games at Innsbruck in 1964 aged 19, competing in downhill skiing and slalom. She was in the next two winter Olympics, at Grenoble in 1968 and Sapporo in 1972, both times captain of the British Women’s Olympic Ski Team, finishing in the top ten of the Giant Slalom. Aside from Olympic competition, Divina achieved two World Cup podium finishes downhill, taking third place at both Badgastein and Chamonix in 1968. She even returned to skiing at the 1992 Winter Olympics, representing Great Britain in speed skiing.
Divina drove so well in a 1970s celebrity motor race that she embarked on a new career. She raced karts before Formula 2, finding success in sports cars and later in the rough and tumble of truck racing. She drove in Formula Renault and Formula Vauxhall Lotus and publicity and sponsorship opportunities led to Formula 1. There was more single-seater racing before she switched to Thundersports S2000 sports cars, eventually becoming a racing instructor with Skip Barber Racing Schools. She rose to senior vice president of Skip Barber Racing, managing both its driving school and racing series. In 2005, at the Mont-Tremblant weekend of the Skip Barber Race Series, Galica announced she was leaving Skip Barber to work for as a director in the company.

Divina was cross with me for downplaying her chances in Formula 1 although I tried not to buy into the idea that her reputation on snow and her looks engaged the sponsors. Yet even the staid old Guardian took any opportunity to carry her picture. She certainly had the right stuff and really was only a few fractions of a second off the pace.
Susie Stoddart, now Susie Wolff will drive a Williams.

Divina Galica, the former Olympic skier, is to try and qualify for the John Player British Grand Prix on July 18. She could be the first British girl to drive in a world championship Grand Prix should she lap the Brands Hatch Grand Prix track in around lmin.23sec in the Surtees TS 16, with which she broke five British speed records last week.
John Surtees is trying to complete a new TS 19 car for her to take part in the biggest test of her two-year-old career at the wheel, but she will probably still use the car in which she lies fourth in the Shellsports 5000 European Championships,
The chances of Divina reaching the starting grid in the Grand Prix are slim. There are 30 entries, 26 places on the grid, and it will only be if some cars fail to turn up, or have trouble during practice, that she is likely to take part in the Grand Prix - round nine in the 1976 World Championships.
Two years ago Lella Lombardi, the Italian girl driver who subsequently took part in a full season’s Formula One, was entered for the same race and managed a lap at 1min. 23.3sec. Although there were five cars slower, she failed to qualify for the race by a full second. Recent alterations to the track have slowed it slightly, and James Hunt’s pole position for the Race of Champions in March was 1min. 20.4sec., so Divina will need to aim for something between 1min. 23sec. and 1min. 23.sec., to reach even the back row of the grid.
Yesterday I asked what her best time in private practice had been round the undulating 2.61miles, but she confessed she had not yet driven the full course. Her longest race so far has been only three quarters of an hour, to the two gruelling hours a Grand Prix would take.
Imperial Tobacco Ltd will take their cigarette brand insignia off the cars they have entered in the Grand Prix, which means the John Player Lotuses will appear in plain black and gold, without the J.P.S. logo. This follows an undertaking given to Dr David Owen, Minister of State at the Department of Health and Social Security last November.
Throughout their two cigarette manufacturing units, John Player and Sons and W. D. & H. O. Wills, Imperial Tobacco are one of the largest sponsors of motor racing in the country. No similar undertaking has so far been given by Phillip Morris, the American company who sponsor the Marlboro World Championship team.
Davina crashes
Divina Galica had a narrow escape from injury when she crashed her Hesketh on the first day of unofficial practice for Sunday’s Argentina Grand Prix. She went off on one of the fastest parts of the course, a 150 m.p.h. bend, and wrecked one side of her car against the safety barrier.
“I was trying out some suspension modifications,” she said later. “The car just turned round on me. It was very quick, and there’s really no explanation. We are getting the spare car ready for practice tomorrow.” Miss Galica had been having trouble getting down to a competitive practice time, and her accident might make it difficult for her. She needs to improve by seven or eight seconds - a big margin - to reach a qualifying speed.
She has been in Buenos Aires for several days, and so far has not posted a lap speed that would qualify her for the race. Mario Andretti (John Player Lotus), James Hunt (McLaren), and Niki Lauda (Brabham Alfa Romeo) were among the fastest drivers yesterday in good conditions, with a light breeze taking a little of the heat out of the strong sun.
Miss Galica was not the only driver who went off the road. Didier Pironi, the new member of the Tyrrell team, collected some catch fences on the right hand corner at the end of the pits, but damage was superficial.
Practice proper starts today with 24 starting places at stake for the 28 cars entered. It is already apparent that the winners will be those who pace themselves best on Sunday. Driving on the limit in this heat would, mean cars would be unlikely to survive two hours’ racing, even if the drivers did.
Tyres have gone soggy within a few laps, not so much from the influence of the hot asphalt, as the absence of the usual stream of cool air to keep their working temperature correct
Lap times until now must be treated with caution, because yesterday’s tests were more in the nature of a shake-down. Brake pads must be bedded-in, the gloss abraded off new tyres water and oil run through engines to make sure things are done up, but already there are signs to show who will be fast and which teams have tpo worry about starting places.
The military remains the biggest worry to the Grand Prix Circus. Like many other things in Argentina. The track officials take second place to the masses of heavily armed soldiery who stand about, taking on roles usually the preserve of police at European tracks, or as in Britain, volunteer marshals.

Good piece by Beverley Turner in The Telegraph today

Monday, 24 February 2014

Hunt vs Lauda

Hunt and Lauda. What I wrote at the time. The Guardian 25 October, 1976.
No writer of fiction would have dared drag out the suspense of a world motor racing championship to the closing minutes of a year long, 16 race series. The final laps in the Grand Prix of Japan, when it looked as though Niki Lauda might keep the title as James Hunt’s McLaren suffered tyre trouble, contained the sort of drama only expected in a Frankenheimer movie.The blond hero did not win the race, but he won the cham-pionship, while the battle scarred Austrian, who had seemed unassailable in June, retired
because he couldn’t see through Fuji’s October fog. It was a brave decision. He returns to Europe for an operation to an eyelid which still does not close, a legacy of his Nürburgring injuries.
The season’s acrimony and protests will not be forgotten. The legal wrangles may have failed to get Lauda the drivers’ title, although they did gain Enzo Ferrari the constructors’ championship which, for the 78 year old Master of Maranello, is probably more important. His attachment to his cars is emotional and he remains the most powerful man in motor racing, Bernie Ecclestone and the Formula One constructors notwithstanding. They are no match for Ferrari, who directs events by remote control without ever leaving his shuttered industrial fortress on the plains of Lombardy.
Lauda’s courage will be remembered longer than his cavalier attitude towards the press, and the enthusiasts who tried to meet him or, pursue him for his autograph. The most they usually see is the closed door of his caravan,- or his helicopter as he flies back for more testing at Fiorano. Here, he hones his cars to perfection, and the moment he stops, as after his accident, their edge is lost.
James Hunt will be remembered for a calmness and maturity surprising to those who knew him in his early days. He is accessible, entertaining, and seems to drive racing cars because he enjoys it. No cool technician like Lauda, who may have his head and his heart in his driving, Hunt has his soul in it.
It is difficult not to draw a comparison between Hunt and Britain’s first world champion, Mike Hawthorn. Hunt has the same boyish good looks, the same easygoing manner, and the same sort of zest. You could never picture Jackie Stewart with a pint in his hand; there was never anything boisterous about Jack Brabham. Denny Hulme was positively monastic. Hunt’s talent is like Hawthorn’s, at its best against the odds and enjoying a challenge, and although occasionally inconsistent it stems from a natural athletic urge.
He is different from Jim Clark, who was shy and retiring. Clark’s talent amounted to genius, and he would take whatever car he was given and make it go faster than anyone else in the world; his sense of balance and accuracy of vision were so highly developed that he adjusted to the car not the other way round.
Jackie Stewart had natural talent too, but it was focused more on making the car suit him. His gift was precise communication with his engineers. He could describe how the car behaved and would have it constantly improved.
Graham Hill was a man of iron will, who won races with more courage and determination than inborn skill at the wheel. Like Lauda he recovered from a terrible accident, but Lauda added an understanding of the complex electronic test facilities Ferrari employs to match the car to each circuit before it reaches the start line.
Jack Brabham was a talented engineer, who knew his car’s theoretical limitations and would calmly experiment as he drove until he established what they were in practice. He almost invented the science of chassis tuning, adjusting ride height, spring rates and so on 17 years ago. John Surtees, champion in 1964 for Ferrari, was another practical driver, perhaps relying even more than Brabhani on how the car felt through the seat of his pants.
There will be no monasticism for the new world champion. He keeps in training, but by inclination, not stricture. He will be a successful ambassador for his country and for motor racing, with all the qualities of a classic schoolboy hero.
In an interview after the Japanese Grand Prix Lauda defended his decision to pull out of the race after two laps. “There is a limit in any profession or sport,” he said. “The cars are not suitable for driving through so much water. When logic tells you that things will not work right, to me it is the normal human reaction to draw the inevitable conclusion, not to say ‘I hope for a miracle’ - and a miracle it was, in my opinion, that there were no fatal accidents.”
FINAL WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS. Hunt (GB) 69, Lauda (Austria) 68, Scheckter (S. Africa) 49, Depaillier (France) 39, Regazzoni (Switzerland) 31, Andretti (US) 22, Lafitte (France) 20, Watson (N. Ireland) 20, Mass (Germany 19, Nilsson (Sweden) 11, Peterson (Sweden (10) Pryce (GB) 10, Stuck (Germany) 8, Pace (Brazil) 7, Jones (Australia) 7; Reutemann (Argentina) 3. Amos (NZ) 2, Stommelen (Germany) 1, Brambilla (Italy) 1.

Following the film RUSH and the Motor Sport retro video the BBC repeated its splendid Hunt/Lauda documentary last night with Simon Taylor, one of the stars of the film, who said “This is indeed a completely new documentary. It includes fresh interviews with Daniele Audetto, Alistair Caldwell, Niki himself, even James’ sister (who has never appeared talking about her brother before, apparently). I have only been allowed to see snatches, but they were enough to indicate that the researchers have managed to find some remarkable footage from 1976 that was new, as well as the old familiar stuff.”
I was motor racing correspondent of The Guardian at the time. Italian newspapers took up what they perceived as criticism of Enzo Ferrari, and he basked in the view of himself as influential as Bernie Ecclestone. He responded personally to me the following year. I framed the letter.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Bentley 3 Litre

Could a 1924 3 Litre Bentley do 70 in second? Third maybe, but although a bare chassis was guaranteed to do 90, its weight and with what they used to call the “windage” of even an open body would restrict speed to not much over 85mph. So I somehow doubt “Open Throttle” in the Brooklands Gazette (later Motor Sport), writing enthusiastically in its very first issue that “With a slight pressure on the accelerator one can then speed up the Bentley in a few yards to fifty, fifty-five, sixty-five, and seventy quite easily—all on second. The leap forward when the increase of engine revolutions permitted by the sudden change from top to second, is a thing to be experienced to be appreciated.”

It was, he claimed, “one feature that may be described as unique… How many sporting cars will do seventy miles an hour in second gear?” His test car, moreover, had the five-jet water-jacketed Smith-Bentley carburetter, the 45BVS, used up till 1923, not the regular Speed Model’s two sloper SU G5s. Perhaps a 3 Litre Speed Model person can put us right.
Otherwise “Open Throttle” doesn’t materially contradict The Complete Bentley (Amazon e-book - £12.31). This first Brooklands Gazette of July 1924 gave the price of a 3 Litre with 4-seat body as £1,125 and with two seats £1,100. My research was based on contemporary advertisements and other accounts. I gave the Red Label Speed Model a couple of decimals’ difference in the top gear ratio. You could have any colour you liked on the badges but speed models were all red. “Open Throttle” discovered the “system of dual controlled magnetos” but surprisingly doesn’t seem to have counted the spark plugs. He gives the weight at 19½cwt although that was for the chassis only. Bodywork added 5-6cwt. I think I prefer Motor Sport’s later practice of initialling contributors, such as WB and DSJ.
A lot of 3 Lire Bentleys were burdened by heavy saloon bodywork.

1924-1929 3 Litre RED LABEL SPEED MODEL

Essentially a development of the TT Replica, Speed Models brought in four wheel brakes, and twin SU carburettors. WO maintained that hydraulic brakes had been tried on EXP2, but production cars had a mechanical system based on Perrot principles, which had a shaft with sliding universal joints. The front axle section was increased to take the strain, and instead of cast iron linings as used in the rear drums, all eight brake shoes had fabric linings. The handbrake operated an additional set of shoes and a single adjustment beneath the floor took up lining wear on all four wheels. There was no servo, but WO and FT Burgess developed and patented a mechanical compensator used subsequently in Bentleys up to the 8 Litre. There were several stages of Perrot-Bentley brakes, improvements having been tried out on Burgess’s experimental car ME 2431, that was doing effective duty as EXP4. The stage 1.1 Perrots ran to 1926, stage 2, which pinned the sliding keys, to 1929. There were gearbox developments and a larger sump as well as a gradual thickening of the chassis frame from 0.144in (3.7mm) to 0.156in (3.96mm), and in 1928 0.188in (4.78mm). Chassis flexure was problematical. LJK Setright: “(WO) carried over to his cars the notions of scale he acquired in railway locomotive workshops. So far as his chassis were concerned, the effect was almost always disastrous; everything about them was of heroic dimensions and villainous proportions, the outcome being an aggregation of components that was grotesquely heavy without being particularly stiff. Indeed the main chassis rails, though of very thick channel section, were only 4in (10.2cm) deep and their inadequate beam stiffness made it necessary for supplementary trusses to be bolted beneath, an arrangement which improved matters in bending but did nothing to improve the torsional stiffness of the chassis.” The reinforcements were struts and stiffeners below the main chassis members giving the effect of a deeper beam section. The radiator header tank was enlarged, making the domed shell 1in (2.5cm) taller and adding dignity to the prow. In 1926 steel rocker arms were replaced with duralumin even though they proved fragile at Brooklands in 1927.
BODY various coachbuilt; chassis weight 20cwt (1016kg); 1925 23cwt (1168.4kg); maximum with body 26cwt (1320.8kg) to 28cwt (1422.4kg)
ENGINE 4-cylinders, in-line; front; 80mm x 149mm, 2996cc; compr 5.6:1, 6.1:1; 85bhp (63.39kW) @ 3500rpm; 28.4bhp (21.18kW)/l; RAC rating 15.9HP
ENGINE STRUCTURE 4-valves, double springs; hollow overhead camshaft gear-driven from front; cast-iron non-detachable cylinder head, cast iron cylinders; aluminium crankcase; cast aluminium 2.5gal (11.4l) sump with gear-driven pump; long securing studs from block to crankcase; two sloper SU G5 carburettors; 2 spark plugs per cylinder; two ML CG4 later some RG4 magnetos, Autovac fuel system; 5-bearing Laystall forged steel crankshaft; water-cooled, L8 hourglass or BHB split skirt aluminium pistons.
TRANSMISSION rear wheel drive; Ferodo-lined 42.25in (107.3cm) cone clutch; separate 4-speed A-type gearbox, or C-type on Speed Models; right hand change; one-piece plunger joint propeller shaft; spiral bevel final drive 3.78, or 3.53:1
CHASSIS pressed 35ton steel channel section frame, 4 riveted cross members; half-elliptic leaf springs (different leaves according to body weight) suspension; Hartford, Duplex friction dampers; 15.75in (40cm) drum brakes with Bentley-Perrot shafts to front; worm and wheel steering; 11gal (50l) fuel tank with 2gal (9l) reserve; Rudge-Whitworth centre lock wire wheels, 820x120 tyres. Dunlop after 1926
DIMENSIONS wheelbase 117.5in (298.4cm); track 56in (142.2cm); length 159in 403.8cm); width 68.5in (174cm); ground clearance 7.25in (18.4cm); turning circle short right 46ft (14m) left 42ft (12.8m).
PERFORMANCE maximum speed, 86mph (138.1kph); 24.3mph 39kph app @ 1000rpm;
0-60mph (96kph) 40sec; fuel consumption 20mpg (14.12l/100km)-25mpg (11.3l/100km).
PRICE chassis only, £1050, 1924 £925; complete car (mostly VDP) £1275-£1475; 1924 £1125-£1350 PRODUCTION 513
THE sporting car, as a class, has characteristically more distinction than that possessed by touring types. Being essentially out of the ordinary, and representing the result of concentration upon a design intended to emphasise particular motoring qualities, the sporting car usually has quite an individuality of its own. Some sporting cars, of course, are much more conventional than others; whilst there are those which seem to stand quite apart from orthodox standards.
In the latter category one may place the three-litre Speed Model Bentley. This car embodies all the qualities which one has come to consider essential in a sporting car. In addition, it has features and characteristics quite its own. A brief review of the chassis reveals at once how interesting a proposition the Speed Model Bentley is, and this opinion is vastly enhanced when one takes the car for a trial on the road.
The engine is a four-cylinder monobloc of 2,996 cc. capacity and 15.9 h.p. on the R.A.C. rating. Its design has much originality, which has been well justified by the results obtained. There are two inlet and two exhaust valves in each cylinder, arranged in the head and operated by a totally enclosed overhead camshaft and rockers, running in oil. Both crankshaft and camshaft are carried in five bearings. The pistons are of aluminium, designed for high compression service. Cooling is by pump circulation controlled by an automatic thermostat. Ignition on a sporting car is, of course, a factor demanding the most careful attention. One usually has to “drive on the spark” more than is requisite on a touring car, and if one desires to obtain really the best running from the Speed Model Bentley one makes no exception to this rule with it. On this car one finds two M.L. high-tension magnetos, having a synchronised firing point control. The system of dual controlled magnetos enables one to obtain particularly effective ignition. Lubrication is by pressure to the main bearings and big ends, and by splash to the pistons and gudgeon pins. There is a pressure lead from the main oil supply to the hollow crankshaft, through which the camshaft bearings, cams and valve rockers are lubricated.
Carburation is by a five-jet water-jacketed Smith-Bentley carburetter. A notable point is that a petrol consumption of 25 m.p.g. at 30 m.p.h, is guaranteed. The speed model Bentley, considering its wide capabilities, is not under any condition excessive in fuel consumption. The clutch is of the inverted cone type, lined with Ferodo. It has compensated withdrawal mechanism automatically lubricated, and there is a special automatic lubricator for the clutch spigot. The four-speed gear-box gives ratios in the forward speeds of 9.35 to 1, 3 78 to 1, 4.72 to 1, and 3.53 to 1.
It is operated by a simple right-hand gate change carried on an extension of the box. The frame of the chassis is of particularly strong construction, and does not rely on the engine or gearbox for part of its bracing. Double Hartford shock absorbers are fitted to the back axle and single to the front. There are oil lubricated Wefco gaiters on all springs. Steering is by worm and wheel.
In a car of such advanced design as the Bentley, one naturally expects to find front wheel brakes, and the system of fully compensated internal expanding brakes operating on all four wheels and controlled by pedal is very effective. The hand brake operates direct on the rear wheels. Wear on the four wheel brakes can be taken up by a single adjustment.
The tank holds eleven gallons of petrol, and a two-way tap near the filling cap gives access to a reserve supply of two gallons. The cardan shaft is hollow and is loaded with oil through a plug, this reservoir providing an oil supply for the back universal joint. Chassis lubrication is by oil, supplied from an oil-gun through screwed oil plugs. The only grease cup on the chassis situated on the water pump. After the chassis has been lubricated it can be run for three months of normal mileage without further lubrication, apart, of course, from the engine’s requirements.
The wheelbase of the sporting Bentley is 9 ft. 9½ins., and the wheel track 4 ft. 8ins. The weight of the chassis is 19½cwts., and it runs on 820 x 120 m.m. tyres. The annual tax is £16.
From the foregoing it will be appreciated that the Speed Model Bentley is a particularly interesting car. Our road experiences with this model, although not at the moment as extensive as we should like, have convinced us that this car must possess a fascination for every sporting motorist.
The sporting Bentley is naturally a fast car. But that is by no means the sum total of its outstanding attraction. Very few sporting cars arc really docile in control, many are not at all comfortable to ride in. The Speed Model Bentley is a happy exception to this too prevalent rule. We drove the Bentley quite comfortably on top gear at an exceptionally low speed, and found it very docile in traffic and those places wherein “sporting” characteristics are not over appreciated. Owing to its high gear range one must, of course, remember that the four speeds are there to be used. Gearchanging is so easy a matter, however, that one finds not the smallest objection to always starting in first and to a fairly frequent use of the lower ratios in traffic. On each gear the car is instantly responsive its life and acceleration under all conditions being admirable.
Later Sloper carburettor
There is one feature of the Bentley that may be described as unique, and to this we would give due prominence. How many sporting cars, or cars of any sort, will do seventy miles an hour in second gear? Their number must be very few indeed. The Bentley, however, makes light of this. One can speed up in the ordinary way on the successive gears until one is going along smoothly and comfortably at, say, forty-five miles an hour on top gear. One then changes down direct to second gear, missing third - and things begin to happen. With a slight pressure on the accelerator one can then speed up the Bentley in a few yards to fifty, fifty-five, sixty-five, and seventy quite easily—all on second. The leap forward when the increase of engine revolutions permitted by the sudden change from top to second, is a thing to be experienced to be appreciated. The acceleration is quite remarkable, as remarkable as the fact changing down at forty-five miles an hour itself. The Bentley will hang on to round about the seventy mark on second gear indefinitely, and the change down at speed with a quick double-clutch is not unduly difficult. One can change into top at practically any speed, slow well as fast, and the Bentley will attain the neighbourhood of the eighty mark without much forcing.
Steering of the Bentley is delightfully easy, comparable in its comfort to that experienced on a high quality light car. The four-wheel brakes, operated by pedal, remarkably powerful, and very easy and smooth in operation. Although there is not an over abundance of seating room the Speed Model Bentley is quite comfortable to ride in.
The electrical and other equipment is very complete and the general lay-out of the car very pleasing to those who desire a high quality sporting vehicle which is quite
practicable for ordinary touring and exceptionally attractive amongst sporting designs for town and general use.
The price of the Speed Model Bentley with four seater body is £1,125 and with two-seater body £1,100, purchasers being afforded the option of choosing the colour of body and upholstery. The manufacturers are Messrs. Bentley Motors, Ltd., 3, Hanover Court, Hanover Street, London, W.1. The extensive Bentley factories are at Cricklewood. London, N.W. 2.
Interest in the Bentley is naturally enhanced by this car’s splendid victory in the French Grand Prix d’Endurance last month. The Bentley was the only British car amongst some forty competitors, and its outstanding performance throughout the race provided a notable tribute to British engineering in general, and to Bentley design and workmanship in particular Magnificently driven by Duff and Clement, the Bentley maintained a thrilling struggle with some of the best representatives of French automobile science throughout the twenty-four hours that the race occupied. This event is indeed appropriately named, a trial of endurance, for it is difficult to imagine a more exacting test under road conditions than this gruelling struggle of speed throughout a day and a night.
The Bentley had no mechanical trouble, and at the end of the race was in good condition and still lapping consistently. The distance covered by the Bentley in twenty-four hours with Duff and Clement alternately at the wheel, was exactly 2,188 kilometres, or 128 laps of the course. Second place was taken by the Lorraine-Dietrich, driven alternately by Stoffel and Brisson with 2,016 kilometres to its credit.


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