Rumblings, April 1948



That Film Again

The German Motor-Racing Propaganda film, together with George Monkhouse’s great colour-films of pre-war Mercedes-Benz and Auto-Union racing, could surely be used to very good effect as publicity for the B.R.M.? We feel, and have felt for a long time, that British motor-racing prospects would improve if a series of lectures by well-known personalities could be given to the general public in various parts of the country — like the Political Hustings now in operation by one of the great daily newspapers. Raymond Mays is doubtless very fully occupied at the present time, but we feel sure he could be persuaded to start such a motor-racing Public-Relations-Scheme, if others would back him up. We visualise something on a larger scale than Club film-shows, something, indeed, rather like the Sir Malcolm Campbell show at the Central Hall, Westminster, which A. F. Rivers Fletcher caused to happen last month — only about modern road-racing, and Britain’s urgent need to participate successfully therein. We hate to mention the shadow of war, but such a shadow, real or imaginary, reminds us that a country operating a world-beating G.P. racing car would be respected alike by friend and foe — who can say but that the very efficiency of the Mercedes-Benz and Auto-Union teams in 1939 brought home forcibly to Europe, America and Russia the potency of the German menace ?

The British public is not apathetic to motor-racing. A thousand pities, then, that it cannot be educated to appreciate that proper racing is a matter of beating foreign cars on the road-circuits of the world and not a question of freak motor-cycles scattering the cinders at Wembley.

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A British Track?

It is very good news indeed that Parnell is leading a “Give Us Donington” campaign launched by “Bira,” Lord Waleran, Raymond Mays, George Abecassis, Ken Hutchison, F. R. Gerard, Leslie Brooke, St. John Horsfall, B. H. Davenport, R. D. Poore and Charles Mortimer. At a recent luncheon given by Lodge Plugs, Ltd., it was decided to approach the Castle Donington Parish Council, after Mr. Bernard Hopps, Managing Director of Lodge Plugs, Ltd., had put a resolution to the meeting calling for the early release of Donington circuit. [Alas, as we close for Press we learn that, despite eloquent pleading by Mays, the Parish Council decided unanimously, on March 18th, to support proposals to make Donington a permanent vehicle depot. — ED.]

Brooklands has been written-off, even in motor-racing circles, but C. A. Lewis, Secretary of the B.M.C.R.C., hasn’t given up hope. The reasons why he hasn’t are contained in the following very enlightening letter we have received from him:

“Brooklands is still in large part usable, but a section has been cut out at Byfleet, buildings have been erected on the actual surface which, in general, would need repair and the removal of such objects as ‘cats-eyes.’ The latter would be little more than was always done annually, whilst the other renovations were envisaged as an essential cost to be borne by the Government on the cessation of hostilities, at the time of their enactment as a wartime emergency measure.

“The Vickers Armstrong Company stated as recently as November 13th last:—`In order to afford the facilities you desire, it would not be necessary only to restore the racing surface which has deteriorated, but it would involve very substantial work on the rebuilding of the Track, which has been destroyed by erection of buildings thereon. The expenditure, therefore, would assume enormous proportions, quite out of line with any sum likely to be found by private sources. In addition we think you will appreciate that at this juncture we could not possibly face the disorganisation of our works which would result from the removal of several substantial buildings from the track itself.’ Viking aircraft made at Brooklands are flown away from the airfield with the lightest possible load to Wisley airfield, from which they can be safely operated. The risk to the surrounding towns of Byfleet and Weybridge hardly needs comment; thanks are due to the skill of the pilots who get hitherto-never-airborne Vikings out of Brooklands without mishap.

“Development work is now going ahead with other aircraft less likely to be flown safely out of so small an airfield.

“During the war, it was proved that very large aircraft could be built as main assemblies at factories and transported by road to their final erecting centre over a hundred miles away. This, too, with big wartime contracts.

“Cannot the same be done in the case of such closely-placed localities as Weybridge and Wisley? If so, there should be amply-sufficient factory space at Weybridge without encroaching on the Track.

“The Government should take over Brooklands Track, restore it and thereby restore to England the opportunity properly to use an asset which, at the moment, is vilely abused. The airfield, too, could be restored to its old and appropriate duties as a flying school.”

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It can now be revealed that for the past year or more W. Boddy, Editor of Motor Sport, has been working on a detailed history of racing at Brooklands Track. The story of racing at the world’s first motor course is long overdue and no one is more fitted to compile such a book than Boddy, because he has made a detailed study of the subject for many years and has been generously assisted in his researches by many well-known drivers and personalities.

So much information has been set down that “The Story of Brooklands” will, of necessity, be published in two volumes. Even so, the first volume contains over 100,000 words and will be lavishly illustrated with full-page photographs, many of which have never previously been published.

The story opens with the building of the famous track and goes on to give a year-by-year account of the racing organised by the B.A.R.C. Much technical detail of the cars, both famous and obscure, is given, and the “atmosphere” of the Track is admirably captured in the anecdotes and episodes so graphically recalled.

Yet this is a serious history, and the records and lap-speeds quoted therein are absolutely authentic, having been compiled from the official records of the Brooklands Automobile Racing Club. The author has, in fact, been honoured by a foreword written by John Cobb, holder of the Brooklands Lap Record and Land Speed Record. This new book is uniform in page size with Boddy’s “200 Mile Race.” Publication date is May 10th and as paper restrictions will limit the edition, you are advised to order “Brooklands” now, either from your newsagent or direct from Motor Sport. Do not forget — published May 10th, by Grenville Publishing Co., Ltd., 15/17, City Road, London, E.C.1, at 12s. 6d. per copy, or 13s. per copy post free.

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J. B. M.

Ever since the James Boothby Limited advertisement in the last issue of Motor Sport, we have been asked continually just what is the J.B.M. “Fireball” Formula racing car. Having visited James Boothby and his (literally) merry men, at his charmingly rural works near Crawley, we can give you the answer. This car will consist of an unblown 4-litre single-seater, suitable for Formula I racing. The first-off, which is now under construction, will be for Boothby’s own use, but it is his firm’s intention to build six further cars, which, it is hoped, will be available to the racing public at approximately £825, plus purchase tax. The engine will be a six-cylinder, side-valve, Grey “Fireball” racing marine engine. Its flywheel, located on the front of the crankshaft, will be machined down, and a Type 120 or 150 Wilson gearbox will be installed in the normal position. A light sheet-steel sump will be fitted and the modified Grey engine is likely to weigh 30 lb. less than a V8 Ford engine. The Grey engine, well known in American marine racing circles, has extremely good porting and a seven-bearing crankshaft, and it is hoped to obtain about 165 b.h.p. at 4,800 r.p.m., on a 10 1/2 to 1 compression-ratio, using either three or six carburetters. A horizontal Scintilla Vertex magneto will protrude into the cockpit.

This engine will go into a very light, box-section chassis fabricated from 4 by 2 in. steel, having a wheelbase of 8 ft. 10 in., a front track of 4 ft. 8 in. and a rear track of 4 ft. 7 in. Front i.f.s. will be by vertical coil springs, suspension of the normal rear axle by transverse leaf spring and special radius arms. A Ford axle-casing will be used, in conjunction with a 3.1 to 1 straight-tooth bevel drive. The dash, seat and tail assemblies will be welded to the frame and it is probable that the seat will be offset to clear the propeller shaft. The dry weight of the car will be about 13 cwt.

Apart from discussing this exciting venture, and appreciative inspection of a s.v. Aston-Martin, Samuelson’s 1914 T.T. Sunbeam and a Type 55 Bugatti in the J.B.M. tuning-shop, we were able to inspect and drive the production J.B.M. cars. The Series I have reconditioned Ford V8 components and we were able to try a customer’s two-seater, which gave a speedometer-speed of well over 80 m.p.h. with entire lack of concern, and most refreshing acceleration, while riding very steadily. Personally, we would have liked more positive and higher-geared steering and a gear-lever less prone to jump out of second on the over-run. These things are being remedied in the Series II cars, which have new components throughout and the aforementioned fabricated chassis, dropped 8 in., and 55 lb. lighter, and more rigid, than the Ford frame. On these Series II J.B.M.s the seat goes 14 in. further back, a 25-gallon saddle-tank replaces the two 10-gallon tanks, one each side of the propeller-shaft of the Series I; there is Marks-Weller steering, Lockheed braking and remote control.

The “Competition” two-seater, with long tail containing spare wheel compartment and ample space for suitcases, a simple hinge-forward bonnet and central headlamp, costs £750, and a four-seater £800, plus P.T. A four-seater coupe is being produced for export. Boothby uses special exhaust manifolds on all his cars to reduce the notorious back-pressure of the V8 engine. Our visit concluded with a drive in Boothby’s own J.B.M., with Scintilla Vertex magneto and other special features, and it was a truly exhilarating experience, with urge that made a certain amount of care necessary when opening up out of corners — very refreshing, these days!

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An Allard in America

Owing to the extraordinary amount of interest aroused by Allard cars in the United States, R. J. Canharn, Allard’s General Manager, will be sailing on April 1st, taking with him a drophead coupe, for a comprehensive coast-to-coast investigation of sales possibilities.

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How Times Change!

On March 20th last, members of the Junior Car Club went as an organised party to watch racing at — White City Greyhound Stadium.

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Odd Spots

Congratulations to John Cobb on being awarded the Segrave Trophy for the most meritorious motoring achievement of 1947 — his Land Speed Record at over 394 m.p.h.

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As Abecassis’ new Alta will not be ready for Jersey, he will drive a normal Type 6C Maserati in that race, probably the ex-Negro car.

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Watson’s ex-Cowell Alta has had its gear-lever transferred to the steering column.

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The Emeryson-Special has been rebuilt with longer chassis and the unblown 4 1/2-litre engine from the ex-Street and Duller Duesenburg.