In 1965 Dessin de Boivent Duffar of Champion magazine depicted 15-year-old Jim Clark’s resolve to drive racing cars. In 1951 brother-in-law Alec Calder won races in Ireland with a Riley Nine, a car that set Mike Hawthorn on his way to becoming first British World Champion in 1958.Read More
Winter term 1949. The Clarks moved to Berwickshire in 1942 and for Winter Term 1949 sent the future world champion to exclusive boarding school Loretto. In 1965 Champion magazine’s Dessin de Boivent Duffar imagined a Dominie’s view: “As always top at running, winner at cricket and hockey but behind in English and Maths”. In the new edition of JIM CLARK, Eric Dymock quotes the late Bill Cormie, Jim’s room-mate at Loretto. “Jim was very self-sufficient. He had few close or special friends. He was quite taciturn but we shared an interest in cars. I was jealous when he came back after half-term and said he’d been driving at 90mph. We didn’t believe him. He was only 14.”Read More
Car Encyclopaedias don’t have much between Maserati and Matchless. The Mastra was no more than a footnote in the Beaulieu tomes under “Trojan”. Yet An Entirely New Six-cylinder Model with the Engine Mounted at the Back, at Olympia in 1935 is worth noting. After plodding for years with an ingenious square-four 2-stroke engine and whirring Brooke Bond Tea vans, Trojan of Purley Way Croydon went out to challenge Rover.
Trojan wanted to move up-market. Expensive cars made more profit. How the catchy title was coined remains obscure however. Nowadays costly consultants would come up with something but this was 82 years ago. If Studebaker could call a car Dictator, it seemed, nothing would stop Trojan going for something Masterful.
Trojan’s RE had been a disappointment in 1929. RE only meant Rear-Engined, its final drive was by chain and under founder Leslie Hayward Hounsfield (1877-1957), it wanted to do better. In engineering since before the First World War it didn’t start making cars until the 1920s. It shared a factory at Ham Common, Kingston-upon-Thames with Leyland so the first cars were shown jointly at Olympia in 1922. Trojans had 2-stroke engines, usually horizontal under the floor, a 2-speed epicyclic transmission, chain drive, and solid rubber tyres at £2 each against £5 for pneumatics. Blow-up tyres were fitted reluctantly. “Our agents are sometimes asked: Can I have my Trojan on pneumatics? We don’t think them necessary. But if you regard the luxury of pneumatics worth the risk of a puncture, why not?”
Solid tyres went twice as far as pneumatics without wearing out. Trojan’s long cantilever Wondersprings gave an astonishingly supple ride for cars firmly in the bargain basement. Their performance was between moderate and really slow, engines were the essence of simplicity and economy with only seven moving parts, four pistons, two V shaped connecting rods and a crankshaft.
The four cylinders were side by side in a square cast iron block. Each pair shared a common combustion chamber and the pistons were connected to a single crankpin. This meant that the slim arms of the V bent slightly every revolution, so although the pistons were together at top and bottom dead centres, they got out of kilter during their stroke. One piston opened the exhaust port just before the other opened the inlet, which helped scavenging. Small and quiet under the floorboards, the little unit ran at only 1500rpm on petroil, and the contortions of the con-rods never seemed to do much harm.
Hardly any changes were ever made, beyond replacing plain big-end bearings with rollers, and reducing the capacity from 1523cc to 1488cc making it officially a light car paying less tax. Ham Common had a twin-track assembly line, engine castings coming from Leyland’s foundry in Lancashire for finishing and boring.
Flat-out Trojans could do between 30 and 35mph yet showed extraordinary agility on hills. At little more than walking pace they could ascend inclines of one in eight in high gear, or one in three in low. In 1925 the price was reduced to £125, the same as a Model T Ford, and against the Austin Seven at £149. The simple chassis was easily adaptable for commercials, Brooke Bond bought 800 in 1927-1928, running them for three years before selling them back to the makers for little more than scrap value. Trojan then cheerfully sold them on often unrestored. The GPO and the RAF were big customers.
Trojan cars were popular as taxis, some went as far afield as Japan, and by the end of the decade 80 to 100 a week were being made. Nearly 11,000 of 16,800 Trojans made were cars, until in 1928 Leyland decided it wanted its factory back, leaving Trojan to fend for itself. It was forced to contemplate smaller numbers so took two initiatives. One was a six-wheeled cross-country vehicle, drawing on experience in trials such as the Exeter or Land’s End. Intended for the military it drove through both rear axles. On the lowest 48:1 gear the six-wheeler climbed a wet grass and chalk incline of one in two but to no avail. It could only do 30mph, too slow for the military, and only half a dozen were built.
The other proposal was to develop the RE, which began life with neither front wheel brakes nor electric starter (the regular Trojan had a ratcheted lever on the floor that spun the engine into life), but had a smart Riley-style two-door fabric saloon body. Cycle-type wings, low build, and with the engine now upright in what looked like a luggage trunk at the rear, it went on sale in 1929 for £179. It scored well on appearance against Standard, Triumph, and Singer but suffered a fundamental shortcoming.
Its evaporative cooling system, with header tanks and cooling matrix in the lid of the rear trunk and radial vanes on the flywheel to blow air through, was problematical. Production REs tried a conventional-looking rounded radiator at the front. Pipes ran underneath warming occupants’ feet but not cooling the engine. From 1931 to 1934, only some 250 were sold and Trojan went back to what it was best at - vans.
Leslie Hounsfield, aged 56, left in despair. He had invented a folding sprung-frame camp bed as a sideline and set up on his own, making it until the 1950s.
Trojan’s other big idea was the Mastra. In 1935 it was priced at £395 for a 4-door saloon, £380 for a convertible with two cylinders added to the square four by cutting engines in half and welding them in place. This made a sort of oblong six, and unlike the RE where it was upright, it was once again laid on its side, at the rear of the chassis. Rubber-mounted above the axle centre-line, inlet ports uppermost and exhausts underneath, it had a single-plate clutch and 3-speed synchromesh gearbox. The chain drive was enclosed in a transverse casing, connecting through a forward-facing shaft to a worm drive on the offset back axle.
The structure looked reassuring with channel-section side members, boxed in the middle, and a tubular sub-frame for the engine and gearbox. Suspension was by cantilever springs, with extra torque members on the tubular front axle, and semi-elliptics at the back. Brakes were Girling mechanical. Lessons from overheating REs were not forgotten and an engine-driven pump speeded the flow of coolant to and from the radiator at the prow. A by-pass valve was fitted to warm the interior. A front fuel tank helped counterbalance the weight of the engine at the back, at any rate when it was full, and was high-mounted to provide a gravity feed to the Trojan-made variable jet carburettor.
Bodywork this time looked more Wolseley than Riley, made by the newly revived Ranalah Coachworks, at Merton in South-West London. The saloon was a well-proportioned fastback, with a lump accommodating the final chain gearcase, Jackall hydraulic jacking, petrol warning light and self-cancelling indicators.
Trojan was cagey about power output of the 63.5mm x 117.5mm 2232.7cc engine. The 4-cylinder had not provided much more than 11bhp (8.2kw) for the 1315lb (596.48kg) Trojan in 1923 but even if the 6-cylinder was twice as powerful twelve years later, the Mastra was by no means swift. Such power as it did develop was dissipated in the tortuous transmission system and top speed was not much more than the RE’s 35mph. Wheelbase was 114in (289.56cm); track 57in (144.78cm); length 192in (487.68cm); and width 69in (175.26cm).
The Mastra was a determined effort, and although Trojan did not conceal its connection with it, the press was happy to regard it as an entirely new make of car. The Motor thought: “Students of design will find the Mastra exhibit a most interesting one.” It considered the 6-cylinder two-stroke mounted at the rear: “…a form of construction which many people believe will become common practice before long.” Symptomatic of Trojan’s aspirations, in publicity drawings a chauffeur drove the convertible.
It seems unlikely that either of the cars shown at Olympia, “in attractive metallic blue” was a runner. Perhaps the saloon never was, although the convertible underwent some kind of proving trial in Devon. At £10 more than the new SS Jaguar neither stood a chance. Three plywood bodies were once discovered rotting at the back of the works, along with engines. All were consigned to scrap in the 1950s.
Even at 10 Jim Clark was at the wheel of a car – to the alarm of his sisters.
In 1965 Dessin de Boivent Duffar portrayed the future grand prix driver in Champion magazine, with one of the family cars. The Austin Seven had been an expedient in wartime. Like everybody else between 1939 and 1945, Clark’s father had set his big car aside, decommissioning his 1930s Alvis Speed Twenty. Its unused petrol ration filled the tank of the small economical Austin for farm journeys.
Jim drove tractors in fields. Like most mechanically minded boys he could easily learn how to do it so also took to driving the car on rutted farm tracks. It was not quite so easy after the big Alvis returned to service in 1946. Jim Clark was not tall. Even when grown-up he was only 5ft 7¼in and 150lbs. To get the sporty Alvis with its long bonnet and huge headlamps moving he pressed the clutch, selected first gear, then when the car set off quickly jumped up to the driving seat to see out. Steering was easy and he could control speed with the hand throttle.
Unfortunately on one occasion reversing out of the garage his sleeve caught on the hand throttle and before he could leap back down to reach the clutch and brake, the car hit a wall. The Alvis was strong, the damage did not amount to much but he kept the first accident of his driving career secret for years.
Guests at a family occasion noticed the Alvis apparently driverless leaving home. It was Jim, completely invisible from behind, but father reassured the guests that he’d be back soon. Jim Clark’s first paid driving job was at sixpence an hour on a tractor at harvest time. He was still only 10. His talent for car control won him a lifetime of racing victories, two world championships and the Indianapolis 500.
Elizabeth (Betty) Peddie, 1933-2017. Jim Clark’s sister, who died 27 February. Golden helmet from the Jim Clark museum, Duns. “Presented by Esso Petroleum Co Ltd to Jim Clark 1965 World Champion Driver and winner of Indianapolis.”
Suddenly, at 113 years, Britain’s oldest make of car faces extinction. It is time to buy Vauxhall Model by Model, a study of its continuous history of manufacture from engines at the Vauxhall Ironworks on Thames-side Lambeth, to car factories in Luton and Merseyside. Vauxhall led Edwardian splendour with the Prince Henry and the 30-98, transformed popular cars in Britain with independent front suspension and integral body structures and in 1914 made D-type army staff cars then in 1941 Churchill tanks. Taken over by General Motors in 1927, Vauxhall was integral to British industry, but has an uncertain future following acquisition by Peugeot.Read More
Approved, almost on the eve of what would have been his 81st birthday, the printer’s running sheets for the new edition of Jim Clark: Tribute to a Champion. These pages are now being bound into books at 10:10 in Hong Kong and will be in good bookshops and on Amazon next month.Read More
Some say Vauxhall did. And there were sports cars amongst the 39 Autocar named as motoring landmarks this week. Usual suspects, Austin 7, Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, Model T Ford, Jeep, etc but not one MG. Some cars became classics because there weren’t many. MGs were classics even though there were lots. Cecil Kimber’s original recipe was so good – use bits from a cheap production car, polish and refine them, smarten them up, make them a bit faster but not so fast as to be dangerous and they could be sold at a premium. From the humble Morris Garages’ sporty special to the K3 of 1933 raced by Nuvolari, MGs were charismatic. When a team went on a recce in January for the April 1934 Mille Miglia, they were received by the King of Italy, Il Duce Benito Mussolini and Enzo Ferrari manager of the works Alfa Romeos. They finished first and second in class when Britain was still a motor racing backwater
MGs were jazz age cars. They exemplified the suburban idyll, the Wodehousian world of Blandings or Jeeves and Wooster. MG was the sports 2-seater born and bred at Brooklands, made almost within the University of Oxford and trialled on British hills. It may have lacked the glamour and riches of the contemporary Bentley; MG was virtually classless not pretentious. A classic emblem for dashing young men in blazers and Bright Young Things with short skirts and bobbed hair it was picnic sandwiches and Anyone for Tennis? John Betjeman's subaltern would have whisked Miss Joan Hunter Dunn from Camberley to Brighton or Gretna Green in an MG, never a Hillman.
Seldom fast or expensive and not always Midget, MGs were as much part of the British way of life as summer weekends or romantic novels.
MGs of the 1920s and 1930s lit the spark of sports motoring. In the 1940s RAF pilots climbed out of MGs into Spitfires. In America, heartland of large softly sprung gas-guzzlers, the MG was a nimble sports car raced by amateurs. Autocar should at least have remembered the 1962 MGB, the first open 2-seater to banish scuttle shake. Sports cars used to rattle to pieces before the B gave them backbone. It may be regarded nowadays as over-engineered and yes it was a bit heavy but you could open and close the doors without it sagging. Its stiff monocoque was exemplary.
Without the MG we might never have had The Mazda MX-5, which Autocar did include. MGs were the prototype shadowed by Singer, Austin-Healey, Triumph and countless more. MG-Rover collapsed and MG was bought by the Chinese, which pretended to carry on with a sports car like the underrated MGF but the game was up. Despite the bravura even MG clubs and magazines have shown them, China MG’s dull saloons are like British Leyland’s dull badge-engineered MGs. They won’t change the world ever again.
No problem with Autocar’s choice of VW Beetle, BMW 328, Land Rover, Range Rover, Citroen DS, Trabant, Mini, Jaguar E-type, Porsche 911, Audi Quattro, Mazda MX-5, or McLaren F1 but really - Ariel Nomad? Fun and an Autocar favourite but no more of a game-changer than a dune buggy.
Nobody ever portrayed Bernie better. Kevin Eason, retiring grand prix correspondent of The Times tells us more in 275 exemplary words than tens of thousands written in books about Bernie. In his valedictory column after 18 years Kevin speaks with the wry indulgence of one jack-the-lad for another.
“At the head of this extraordinary travelling circus was the ringmaster, Bernie Ecclestone. The night we first met, he stretched out his left hand for his customary pseudo-royal handshake, looked me in the eye and said: “Ah, so you’re the one writing all that sh**.”
“From that unnerving start, we were to develop as close a relationship as it is possible to have with a multi-billionaire, Duracell-powered ruler of a global sport. We clashed often, but he always took it on the chin and he could disarm me with a rotten joke or an anecdote.
“Ecclestone carries a reputation as a hard man – and he is in business – but he is paternal about his drivers, personally intervening to get Lewis Hamilton out of McLaren and into Mercedes, for example, or playing backgammon with Sebastian Vettel. Even now, he wells up when you ask him about Stuart Lewis-Evans and Jochen Rindt, two drivers he managed. Both were killed on the track.
"For all the bravado, Bernie is soft-hearted, giving millions to charity without a fuss. He loves mischief and there is always a twinkle in his eye. When he makes his pronouncements, you have to separate the facts from the wind-up – not always easy.
“In Russia last year, Vladimir Putin sent an emissary to advise on protocol. At the end of the meeting, Bernie asked Putin’s man for an opinion. “We have been asked to stage a new grand prix,” he said. “In Syria. A new circuit in Damascus. What do you think?” Putin’s man was flabbergasted, until he saw a smile crinkling at the side of Bernie’s mouth. No subject is beyond his cheek.”
This is not the Bernie who once said drivers were expendable, like light bulbs; if one goes out you remove him and screw in another. I recall Bernie’s subtle mischievousness from the 1970s. Hockenheim was still new. I watched two self-important reporters complaining that a new grandstand obstructed their view from the press box. Bernie was still fresh in his ringmaster days, viewed with deep suspicion by old-school press men: “I’ll have it moved for next year,” he reassured the pompous parties. “You see, he’s not bad. He listens to us.” Of course the stand was never moved. Anybody with half an eye could see the twinkle in Bernie’s; stupid people never guessed.
“Then”, writes Eason, “there was Ferrari, commanded by Michael Schumacher but steered by the most glamorous figure in Formula One, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, the aristocratic president and chosen one of Enzo, the founder. Di Montezemolo was charismatic beyond belief, his greeting so warm we might have been related.”
I can vouch for di Montezemolo. I had met Enzo, who compelled you to listen to every word. Luca made you think he was listening to you. He wasn’t, of course and he would forget you at once. Charisma won Ferrari championships; you were coerced into Ferrari. Di Montezemolo put Kevin in a 360 sports car at the Fiorano test track. Inevitably Eason spun and was slow but it secured him into the Ferrari family. Michael Scarlett and I drove Ferraris at Fiorano and we didn’t spin and although no match for the track’s test drivers our lap times weren’t at all bad. Then again the older I get the faster I was.
“Standing in the Monaco tunnel watching the old V10-powered cars screaming by was akin to standing next to a Saturn rocket launch; or at the end of the pit straight in Monza before the Italian Grand Prix where drivers came to halt and went through the start procedure. As the engine rumbled and then screeched to about 16,000rpm, the ground shook and the vibrations rippled through the air and into the chest.
“And then there is the best 15 minutes in sport. I have been to Wembley but never stood on the pitch with Manchester United or Arsenal. I have been to Wimbledon finals but not stood next to Andy Murray on court. But I have been to the Monaco Grand Prix and stood on the grid as the cars arrived, shook Jenson Button’s hand to wish him luck, chatted with Red Bull’s Christian Horner, rubbed shoulders with Roger Federer and met Michael Douglas, the Hollywood star.
“To work in Formula One is to join the family; I have probably listened to more words this year from Lewis Hamilton than from my wife - and, boy, can she talk. Reporting Formula One is not a job, it is your life and not just because of the 140 or so nights in hotels and the 120,000 miles in the air. We spend weeks together, we eat together, share our jetlag together, quarrel and make up.
“For 18 years, Formula One was my family as I covered the most irritating, silly, politically incorrect, frustrating, brilliant, wild, thrilling, mad sport on the planet. And now it is over. But thanks to The Times - and Bernie - for the ride of a professional lifetime.
I was in the family, once, too. For about 15 years. Believe me Kevin, when you stop, nothing’s ever quite the same.
I must declare an interest in reviewing BMC Competitions Department Secrets by Marcus Chambers, Stuart Turner and Peter Browning (Veloce Publishing £24.99). Were I a contestant on Mastermind, my Specialist subjects would include the BMC Competitions Department 1955-1980. I reported on motor sport, wrote about cars, covered rallies, I even ghost-wrote Paddy Hopkirk’s Autosport column in 1967. (He was cross when editor Gregor Grant inserted “begorrahs” to make it sound Irish.) So, this book covers an era when I knew people including the three authors, Chambers less so than the others, yet it still tells me more than I ever knew back then.
“Secrets” in the title is crucial – this is, literally a revelation.
Some secrets, like how well-funded the operation was from the beginning, were naturally well concealed. Comps’ annual budget of £100,000 (that would be £2.6million now), revealed in a memo of 1954 shows how seriously British Motor Corporation took the impending challenge from Standard-Triumph. Nuffield’s Morris, Wolseley, Riley and MG was now merged with Austin and it needed to create an identity. This was vital inside BMC as well as outside. Directors knew their steadfast Austin and Morris loyalists. It was a problem never really solved, made worse when BMC became British Leyland and Triumph engineers fell out with Rover engineers while Jaguar fretted over its identity.
Marcus Chambers set up BMC Comps department. He had managed HRGs at Le Mans and was a solid professional left over from when motor racing was gentlemanly amateur. He could see the potential in Gerald Palmer’s clever but overweight MG Magnette and lobbied for its betterment. Sadly he never carried the weight to effect much change. The heirarchy demanded success with what had become a dreary range of cars. He persevered with the Austin Westminster.
Stuart Turner’s is probably the best bit. It is certainly the best-written and recalls the wily Geoffrey Healey’s tell-tale rev counter used in works driver selection at Silverstone. When aspirants promised they hadn’t gone over 6000rpm Geoff knew which were telling the truth. Stuart was adept at reading the rule book. “Rallymanship” he called it, and applied regulations strictly yet when it came to homologating cars’ technical specifications took interpretation to the limit.
Turner’s skill, a bit like that of Colin Chapman at Lotus, was that unless rules specifically forbade something it was, by default, allowed. He details the Minis’ disqualification after winning first three places on the 1966 Monte Carlo Rally. The French were convinced the cars had somehow been changed for special tests and excluded them on a lighting technicality. Turner’s explanation: “We were perhaps better prepared than our rivals. I’m not sure other teams put out garden thermometers to check if certain sections of the route froze overnight, or were as careful in practising the stages at rally times to best know what conditions would be like in the middle of the night.”
After he took over from Turner, Peter Browning found the French had not forgotten. And maybe not forgiven. In 1968 when the Minis were once again supreme, he went to great lengths to avoid last-minute exclusion. He failed. Any sense of fairness was quickly abandoned in organisers’ determination to defeat the Minis. Scrutineers scarcely glanced at the winning Porsches. Careful, meticulous strict Browning can scarcely conceal his bitterness. Disappointingly he presided over Comps’ declining years yet scored some notable successes. In one of the first events he accomplished outright victory ofMGBs in the 1966 84-Hour Marathon on the Nürburgring. A legacy of the Marathon de la Route Spa-Sofia-Liege after it had become too dangerous to run on crowded public roads outright victory (it was almost 1-2-3) was a testament to the MGB’s utter reliability but also to Browning’s attention to detail against opposition from Porsche, Alan Mann Cortinas and Ferrari.
Not many books reach the heart of a time when our Minis, MGs and Austin-Healeys were earning Gold Medals like automotive Olympian gamesters. Poor BMC may, by hindsight, be a bad memory of interfering governments, indifferent management and arrogant engineers. But it did produce moments of glory often, notably, against the run of play. Not to mention self-serving organisers.
The more you read this book the better it gets, especially when you discover pictures of a car you road tested. EJB 806C (pictured below) was the Austin-Healey 3000 Timo Makinen and Paul Easter drove to second place in the 1965 RAC Rally (pictured above). And I drove later.