Continental Notes, April 1964

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The Formula One season is now well under way and we have a good idea of the lines along which the various teams are developing, Lotus keeping to their Type 25 monocoque design but naming the 1964 version the Type 33, while B.R.M. have seen the error of their ways in trying to combine a tubular space structure with a stressed skin structure and have gone over to full monocoque layout. However, more interesting from B.R.M. is the knowledge that they are working on development of a 4-w-d car, using Ferguson principles, and though it will probably be seen this season it must surely be the result of some advanced thinking in preparation for the 1966 Formula, when 350 b.h.p. is going to be available. First glimpses of the Honda Grand Prix car lead to much speculation, especially as the 12-cylinder engine is mounted transversely in the rear of the chassis. This must inevitably make for a wide car and consequent high frontal area, so if they are going to challenge the pencil-slim Lotus and B.R.M. cars, they must have a lot of horsepower. Now this is something that could well be possible for their development work on 4-cylinder 250-c.c. motorcycle engines has produced excellent power results, and a long time ago Mr. Honda said there was no point in designing a 1½-litre Grand Prix engine unless it would give 220 b.h.p., and European designers are still scratching about around 200 b.h.p. with 10,000 rpm. and cumbersome old-fashioned valve gear. When the Honda car is going to appear is anybody’s guess, but if the motorcycle champion Jim Redman is going to drive it, as seems likely, then my guess would be Spa or Monza, as he knows both circuits well and sheer power will always win on either circuit.

Due to the bad winter of 1962/63 and a high-pressure programme on the cars for long-distance GT Prototype racing, the Scuderia Ferrari were behind in its development for Grand Prix racing right through last season, and it was not until the end of 1963 that the true form began to show. It will be remembered that for practice at Monza last September a new Ferrari appeared, with stressed-skin construction, Lotus-like suspension layout, and a new V8-cylinder engine. This engine was not ready to race, and final races of 1963 were run with the new chassis fitted with the old V6-cylinder engine. During the winter much development work has gone on in the Maranello workshops and the Ferrari team look like starting the season with two brand-new power units. The V8 has been redesigned and uses a B.M.W.-like inlet port layout, similar to that on the new Indianapolis 4-0.h.c. Ford V8 engine. This engine looks a worthy successor to the long-used V6 engine, but more interesting still is the latest Ferrari Grand Prix engine, which is a horizontally-opposed 12-cylinder engine. Like the V8 it uses fuel-injection, but, unlike previous Ferrari engines, it uses but one sparking plug per cylinder. The ancillaries for the injection and ignition are driven by exposed internally-toothed belts from one of the inlet camshafts, and each exhaust camshaft has a scavenge oil pump mounted on its end. As all three Ferrari engines, the V6, the V8 and the flat-12, can be fitted to the stressed skin chassis layout it would seem that Surtees and Bandini will be in the enviable position of having “cars for courses,” but it will need a strong-minded chief engineer to prevent chaos creeping in.

* * *

On the Formula Two front the mists have cleared rapidly and the French have announced that they intend to run a series of races to this Formula which they will call “Les Grands Prix de France,” not to be confused with “Le Grand Prix de France” which is for Formula One and will be at Rouen. These French F.2 races will be at Pau, Reims, Clermont-Ferrand, Albi and Montlhéry, and there will be millions of old French francs as prize money for the individual race winners as well as the overall winner of the series. These races will be very much for works teams or works-sponsored teams and the French hope to have two teams of blue cars competing using Formula Two Renault engines built by Gordini. British hopes lie at present with the Cosworth engine, which is a single o.h.c. unit of 998 c.c. based on the successful Cosworth-Ford Junior engine of last year. Lotus and Brabham will use the Cosworth engine and Cooper are to have a new B.M.C. twin o.h.c. unit. At these French races there will be supporting races for Formula Three cars, and the organisers stress that they are only interested in private-owners and true amateurs for these events. There is no question of a top driver cleaning-up both Formula Two and Formula Three events at the same meeting. There will also be Formula Two races at Avus and Solitude in Germany, which will be run on the same lines as “Les Grands Prix de France” as far as entries and conditions are concerned. Other engines on the benches for this 1,000-c.c. 4-cylinder Formula are Conrero-built Alfa Romeo Giulietta inspired units, Abarth twin-cam engines, and the rather bulky Tomaso fiat-four that is being developed in conjunction with Holbay.

* * *

Last year one of the most outstanding events in motor rating was the appearance or the first gas-turbine driven racing car taking part in a competition, this being the Rover-B.R.M. Anyone who saw it perform at Le Mans in the hands of Graham Hill and Richie Ginther must have been impressed, and what was even more impressive was the confidence of the Rover team before the race. It was only running as a demonstration so could not figure in the general classification, but there was never any doubt in the minds of the Rover team that the car would run for 24 hours at the required speed of over 100 m.p.h. average. In the pre-race fever the Rover attitude was almost naive, there never being any question a breakdowns, accidents or mechanical failure, and as, it turned out the car ran perfectly for the whole 24 hours, seemingly quite oblivious to all the drama and destruction going on in the race proper. Before the race the Shell company were advertising that the Rover turbine would turn so many thousands of revolutions during the coming weekend, which savoured of “sticking the neck out,” but they were dead right, and one of the finest sights of the race was to see the Rover mechanic, appropriately enough wearing a bow tie and spotless overalls, topping up the oiling-system from a graduated measuring flask, the number of c.c.s of oil required being very critical. In contrast other mechanics were hurling oil by the gallon into conventional piston-engined cars, and lots of it was being blown out of engine joints, breathers and exhaust pipes. The Rover-B.R.M. finished the 24 hours as clean as most of the other competitors were filthy and oil covered.

The reason for recalling this memorable landmark in motor-racing history is that the Rover Company have entered once more for Le Mans, and this year they are permitted to compete in the 2-litre class. B.R.M. are preparing the chassis again and the Rover turbine unit has been considerably developed since last year, while the bodywork is being completely remodelled and will be an aerodynamic GT prototype (with the engine in the back, needless to add). Hill and Ginther will once more drive the car and, if last year is anything to go by, the new 904 Porsches will have to get their skates on, for the turbine car saw off the ordinary 2-litre Carrera last year.

While on the Le Mans race, the entries have been fixed and the list shows a number of Shelby Cobras. which should stir things up. At Daytona, one of the new coupés, with 4.7-litre Ford V8 engine and A.C. chassis, was leading by a long way until put out by a fire. There are also two Rootes Group entries, of Sunbeam Alpines fitted with 4.2-litre Ford V8 engines, the thought of which makes. one shudder. Ford of America have entered three V8 cars, which are the Lola-Fords, while Ferrari has entered a row of prototypes, either the new 3.3-litre 12-cylinders or the 4-litre 12-Cylinders. There is also a lone 2½-litre A.T.S. coupé, the rear-engined V8 car that has been a long while coming, and a row of the new 904 Porsches, which are well into full production, some 50 having already been delivered to customers.

* * *

While at Cheshunt recently, at the home of the Lotus, I was able to see the first of the Lotus 30 cars under construction, the one at the Racing Car Show having been a mock-up. This ingenious car has a backbone chassis made of sheet steel pressings spot-welded together, and this box-section backbone forms the main fuel tank. At the front of the centre beam is a transverse box that contains the steering gear and the pedal assemblies, and carries the front suspension. At the rear the backbone divides into a fork and in this fork nestles 4.2-litres of o.h.v. Ford V8 engine, to which is coupled a new design of ZF gearbox with five forward speeds. A bridge-piece across the rear carries the rear suspension, and that is about the lot, the driver and passenger sitting on either side of the central backbone and a fibreglass shell covering the whole assembly. By the time this is being read this prototype model 30 may have appeared at Goodwood, but if not it will certainly be complete and undergoing prototype testing. Ford V8 engines naturally led one to the racing shop, where the Indianapolis Type 29 that was on show at the Racing Car Show was being fitted with one of the new 4-o.h.c. Ford V8 engines, with the inlet ports between the rows of valves and the exhaust ports in the middle of the vee. Judging by the size of the fuel-injection inlet tracts a lot of power is going to be developed, and 450 b.h.p. would not seem unreasonable. A special version of the Type 30 ZF gearbox was being attached by a Lotus bell-housing, this box having only two speeds, the Colotti boxes of the Type 29 of last year being abandoned. This particular car was the one Gurney should have raced last year, but he bent it in practice, and it has now been rebuilt and sold to an American private-owner. It was interesting that the 4-cam Ford engine was well and truly wired and sealed by Ford Engineering so that no-one could open it up and see what made it tick, and it looked as though it was going to make some pretty loud ticks. Nearing completion were the two new Indianapolis chassis frames, full monocoques as last year, but known as Type 34 models and incorporating minor changes learnt from last year.

With Ferguson Research building a 4-w-d chassis for the V8 supercharged Novi engine on behalf of Studebaker, and Brabham building a car for the latest Offenhauser 4-cylinder engine, and American builders hard at work on rear-engined cars, the Indianapolis race is rapidly changing its character once more, a thing it seems to do automatically every decade or so, without any revision to its rules. One of the rear-engined American cars, with 4-cylinder Offenhauser Meyer-Drake engine, has already been on test on a short track, driven by A. J. Foyt. His improvements on this short track over the old type of Indianapolis roadster has led him to suggest Indianapolis lap speeds of over 155 m.p.h., according to Competition Press, the Californian newspaper.

* * *

As a change from competition cars I will review a simple high performance road-going car. This is the latest model from the Ferrari production line, the 330GT, which has a 4-litre 12-cylinder engine as used in the 330LM Prototype coupés last season. This new model is a 2+2 saloon in typical Modern Ferrari de luxe style, with a performance that should be more than sufficient for most modern roads, even autostradas. As if this was not enough, a further production model has been announced, called the 500 Superfast, with one of the sleekest coupé bodies that Pininfarina has yet conceived. This is a luxury coupé, elegant and practical, and essentially a high-speed touring car; that it is a high-speed car is ensured by the engine, which is a V12-cylinder in typical Ferrari fashion but of 5-litres, and 400 b.h.p. is suspected at 6,500 r.p.m. on an 8.8-to-1 compression-ratio using six twin-choke Weber carburetters. Speed is happily quoted as 175 m.p.h., but I wonder if anyone cares much about the truth of the statement, for no one will argue the fact that the 500 Superfast must be superfast. While the new production Ferraris get faster and sleeker it is odd that, like the fast American stock cars, they still retain rigid rear axles and use leaf-springs.—D. S. J.

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