The name of Falcon Shells has become well known to builders of glass-fibre-bodied “specials” as manufacturers of some of the best-looking bodies on the market, such as the current Caribbean and Bermuda, and the Competition model which has recently gone out of production. Some time ago Director Peter Pellandine realised that the glass-fibre “special” could be advanced beyond the Ford 10 stage and introduced his own space-frame chassis for use with the Competition shell. This featured wishbone front suspension and well-located rigid rear axle, together with options of B.M.C. or Ford 105E running gear. This car, which sported twin head-rests, became a familiar sight at the circuits, and with the 105E engine circulated at quite considerable speeds in club races. This class of 1,000-c.c.-engined sports cars has become one of the most interesting and active in motor racing, with such names as Fairthorpe, D.R.W., Terrier, Marcos, Yimkin, Lotus, Turner, G.S.M., T.V.R., and Tornado swamping the Sprites in most races. Many of the 1,100-c.c. Climax-engined sports cars have been converted to push-rod engines because of the lack of interest in this class of racing. It is a great pity that no championship exists for this type of car as it is undoubtedly one of the cheapest methods of combining a competition and road car.
The Falcon Competition model was not an outstanding success in respect of sales volume, mainly because it was intended as a race car and little attention paid to home comforts. Realising that the average man who has between £500 and £1,000 to spend requires a dual-purpose car, Falcon Shells designed a G.T. body in glass fibre to fit to their space-frame, and as they wanted their cars to reach a high standard of finish they took the bold step of offering the car as a completely trimmed model, thus incurring the penalty of purchase tax. However, for around £1,030 the buyer of this new model, which is being built by a separate company and named the Peregrine (motor manufacturers were always fond of bird names), receives an elegant, clean-lined two-seater hard-top with a space-frame made up from 18 s.w.g. round and square tubes, front suspension by unequal length wishbones and Armstrong coil-spring damper units, B.M.C. rear axle located by twin upper radius-arms and lower ” A ” bracket, rack-and-pinion steering with 2½ turns lock-to-lock, 9-in. Girling drum brakes at the front, 8-in, at the rear, interior trimming in leather, and a full set of instruments, while the engine is supplied in “cooking” form, giving about 50 b.h.p. from a single Solex carburetter, Wilen camshaft, and 8.9-to-1 compression-ratio.
However, the car which we were invited to test at Silverstone was the prototype car finished in pale blue which was exhibited at the Racing Car Show and will probably be used as a works competition car. The Ford engine had naturally been ” tweaked,” and with twin 40 DCOE Webers, racing camshaft, lightened flywheel, modified head, etc., it is believed to be giving something in the region of 75 b.h.p., and with further tuning another 10 b.h.p. should be available. Since the car is mainly intended for competition work there is no interior trimming to speak of, but so good is the assembly work that the weather is unlikely to find its way in. The glass-fibre shell is supplemented with aluminium bulkheads and wheel arches giving a high degree of rigidity. The doors shut well at all times and do not have those unpleasant gaps seen on so many glass-fibre “specials,” but the lift-up windows have not yet been perfected. The front-hingeing bonnet is opened by a catch under the dashboard and the boot is opened by a similar catch behind the seats. The body is commendably smooth as well as being undeniably handsome, and the detail work such as the fitting of bumpers, door locks and lamps is of a high order. An opening in front of the doors, a la 300SL, serves to extract underbonnet heat, and on the passenger’s side the exhaust silencer is recessed into the body below the door, a feature which has been abandoned on other designs because of the danger of burnt trouser legs or dissolved nylons!
The day chosen for the test was sunny but a strong, gusty wind was blowing up the main straight of the Club circuit from Woodcote corner, precluding the making of any startling times, which was a disappointment to Mr. Pellandine as the car had made a particularly good time at Brands Hatch the previous week. After a warming-up session by the Peregrine’s mechanic, who uses the ex-Paul Fletcher 135-m.p.h. aluminium-bodied Twin-Cam M.G. as a road car, the writer was invited to step aboard for a few exploratory laps. Entry is not too easy as the space-frame intrudes into the cockpit and the wooden steering wheel is placed low enough to get the wheel into the desirable near-vertical position. Once in position the bucket seat grips the driver’s thighs and instills confidence, while perfectly-placed pedals show that a competition driver designed the cockpit. The gear-lever of the close-ratio gearbox naturally falls to hand, as does the handbrake, which is placed outside the space-frame on the driver’s side.
Having checked the two external mirrors the Peregrine was headed on to the almost deserted track, and the lusty Ford engine soon began to whistle round to the 7,000-r.p.m. mark in third gear but could not reach it in top gear on the long straight because of the strong wind. However, 6,500 r.p.m. was reached, which gave an indicated 100 m.p.h. on an uncalibrated speedometer. On Woodcote and Copse corners, which were both taken in third gear, the car showed some understeer, and on the acute Becketts hairpin this tendency was more pronounced. Braking was fully up to expectations and even after purposely delaying application at Becketts the car was retarded smoothly and powerfully with no sign of fade. Although the Silverstone track is fairly smooth the Peregrine was shod with Dunlop R5 racing tyres inflated to 31 lb./ sq. in. at the front and 34 at the rear, and one would have expected a bumpy ride, but the Peregrine remained very smooth at all times. Roll was virtually absent on fast cornering except when going right up to the limit or beyond, as we did on one occasion at Becketts, when the rear end broke away quickly and was only just caught in time. No doubt adjustments to tyre pressures would have brought about some change in the handling characteristics, enabling slides to be caught a little quicker.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of testing a competition car is the experiments that can be made to bring down lap times. After our first outing a change of jets brought times down from a modest 1 min. 27 sec. to 1 min. 24 sec., and some tyre-pressure adjustments were about to be made when an electrical fault curtailed the day’s programme rather suddenly just as we were beginning to get accustomed to the car.
It can he said, however, even from our short experience that the Peregrine offers commendably high standards of road-holding, steering, braking and comfort, and will undoubtedly make a very usable road-cum-competition car at a relatively modest price. With the announcement that the World Sports-Car Championship will give way in 1962 to a World Grand Touring Championship the cars of the specialised manufacturers such as Peregrine could well be a force to reckon with.—M. L. T.
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