The latest from Eric's blog
John Whitmore’s death in April cut one more link with Jim Clark. In 1959 they drove to tenth place at Le Mans in a Lotus Elite and remained firm friends up to Clark’s death in 1968. Sir John Henry Douglas Whitmore Bt was European Touring Car Champion in 1965 in a Lotus Cortina. He shared his town flat in Balfour Place Mayfair with Clark and Jackie Stewart so often they called it their Scottish embassy.
Owing to his tax exile status Jim Clark was not able to take part in testing the first Lotus 49, completed during May 1967. The first time he saw it was when it was unloaded from the transporter at Zandvoort. Its basis was not unfamiliar, for it was an evolution of Chapman’s Lotus 43, the abbreviated monocoque designed for the stop-gap, complicated, overweight but cleverly conceived BRM H16 engine of 1966, which Clark had taken to its only grand prix win in America.
It was 1964 before I got to grips with a Porsche like the one Clark drove. When I joined the road test staff of The Motor I compiled the report on a 1600SC. Its 95bhp doesn’t sound much now but 112mph felt quick in a small wieldy coupe with the engine at the wrong end. It was years before Porsches shed their eccentricity. Americans especially didn’t feel they were getting their money’s worth in a sports car unless it felt dangerous and difficult.
You know where you are with Anders Ditlev Clausager. Meticulous research, clear writing, a keen eye for detail; I could not wait to get into his Wolseley: A Very British Car. Anders sums up Wolseley delightfully. “Only in Britain did cars such as Wolseley flourish – the up-market quality but non-sporting car of relatively modest size is a British phenomenon with few parallels anywhere else.”
Eight years is all we’ve got. Stanford University says there will be no petrol or diesel cars after 2025. We will all be in electrics and probably not even driving them. All our cars will be scrapped, only a handful of nostalgics will own one, car dealers will disappear and oil at £25 a barrel could make the economy unrecognisable.
While Pink Floyd was making its first albums I was watching films at Shell-Mex House in The Strand. Busy fitting words to moving pictures for BBC 2 Wheelbase and Thames TV’s long-running Drive-in programme, I wasn’t finding easy. Matching commentary to action was stopwatch stuff. Nothing electronic then. I was working with film on big reel-to-reel machines, or else providing words for “presenters” – witless actors often, on outside broadcasts. Yet it was exciting. It was, to me, new.