Matters of Moment, April 1969

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• It’s All Happening

The sport of competitive motoring is again in full swing. Those who compete and those who prefer, or are compelled, to watch should count their blessings, at the quantity and variety of the sport that is available to them. American astronauts may be doing incredible things far above us and there must be warm admiration for the human skills of the French and British Concorde test pilots. But, on earth, our kind of sport very satisfactorily combines man’s skill with mechanical accomplishment.

In an age of World unrest and Industrial disputes, we should be thankful that a very full programme of motor sport remains open to us. Club racing, autocross, rallies, mud-trials, and races for anything from historic to F.1 cars, including long-distance events such as Le Mans where pit-work still counts for something, are taking place with great frequency. It is interesting that in America banked-track racing has returned to favour, with keen rivalry between cars powered with Ford and GM engines, the Daytona 500 in February producing the finishing-order Ford-Dodge-Ford-Ford-Dodge-Ford and a lap speed of almost 186 m.p.h. from saloon-bodied racers. Apparently it attracted over 100,000 spectators. We have thus seen the circle completed, because banked Brooklands was the first car track ever, its immortality now ensured by the formation of The Brooklands Society and the B.D.C., V.M.C.C., B.M.C.R.C. and V.Ae. Soc., Brooklands-splinter-groups. (Surely they should combine?)

Variety is the spice of the sport. We have reservations about Formula 5000 but experiments are always of interest, so you should go to the first races for the new multi-litred single-seaters at Oulton Park on April 4th, and at Brands Hatch on April 7th. Even the classic M.C.C. long-distance road trials are still held, the “Land’s End”, with a history going back to 1908, taking place again this Easter. As we said last month, spectators are essential to modern motor sport, so make the most of all that there is to see this year, remembering that activities of this enjoyable kind came to a sudden halt on two previous occasions, in 1914 and 1939 . . . . Motor Sport publishes a regular feature about what is happening of importance in International racing in this country and abroad and our monthly fixture-list covers lesser, more local events.

• A Ford Sensation

We are reminded, by an absorbing article in Hood & Fender, Journal of The Classic American Auto Club of Gt. Britain, of the sensation caused after Ford had stopped production of the legendary Model-T, of which we are told 15-million were made, and set about introducing a new car. For nearly a year public interest had been at boiling point. While the Ford Motor Company kept a well-calculated silence, newspapers made up stories out of wisps of facts or mere rumour. When these were thought to have gone too far, Ford said they arose from theft of material from an ad. agency’s offices, which was intentionally fictitious. Motor shares rose and fell as Henry Ford confirmed or denied the current rumours. The new Ford would be called the Linford, the Edison, it looked like a shrunken Lincoln, a diminutive La Salle, a small Marmon. Detroit traffic came to a standstill when an unfamiliar Ford appeared; Edsel Ford said it was new but not necessarily the new Ford . . . . .

As Model-A announcement-day approached, the new Fords were carefully canvas-shrouded and protected before transit to dealers; advertisement copy was put into safes at newspaper offices and the prices wired barely in time to make the edition. The arrival of the low-priced Erskine by Studebaker and GM’s boast that they would make 5-million cars in 1928 went almost unnoticed . . . . There is a splendid story that, just as The Motor in England is said to have scooped the first picture of the new 20 h.p. Rolls-Royce in 1922 by rushing into a chemist’s, buying a box-Brownie and a roll of film, and snapping one that had parked momentarily on a country road, so, in 1927, the Editor of the Brightion Argus in Michigan, hearing that a Model-A had parked near his office, grabbed a camera and is supposed to have scooped the rest of America’s Press to the release. Be that as it may, late in November the official Ford ads, began to roll, doling out the facts bit by bit, pictures and price last, at an estimated cost to Ford of 500,000 dollars a day.

The car itself was made public on December 2nd, and when Ford’s Model-A was revealed, police had to call out reinforcements to hold back the crowds, who in spite of extremely cold weather had formed long queues outside Ford showrooms. It is said that there were scenes of violence and brawling as people fought, avid to see, at last, the Model-T’s successor. Mounted police had to be called out in Cleveland, a platform had to be erected in Kansas City to enable jostling crowds to see the new Ford and even in the smaller towns, people lined up for hours in the bitter weather before the showrooms opened, and then packed them to capacity. New York streets were jammed, special ‘buses were run in from the provinces, people too isolated to see the displays telephoned their orders without waiting to see the Model-A, and one dealer hired Madison Square Gardens for a week, enabling 250,000 to see the cars. The New York Times used its front page to describe these astonishing scenes on announcement-day, when it was midnight before the crowds dispersed.

Soon the Model-A Ford was coming off the assembly lines at the rate of 2,000 a day. In all, a total of more than 4½ million were built. The appeal of the new 3-speed four-cylinder Ford began to wear a little thin by 1931 but Detroit and Dagenham had no occasion to worry, because they were about to give the World the first low-priced V8 automobile. But this happened in the days when the workers allowed Ford to build cars.

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The Brooklands Society

The Brooklands Society is holding its First Annual General Meeting of Members at the Headfort Place Hotel, Headfort Place, off Chapel Street, London, W.1, at 6.30 p.m. on April 15th. A notice of the meeting, the audited accounts to December, 1968, and a report of the General Committee of Management to the members has been sent to all Full Members. Only paid-up members are eligible to vote at the A.G.M., the subscription being £2. Associates (subscription 10s.) are not eligible to attend the A.G.M. but will receive a report of the meeting in the next News Letter. Those members wishing to visit the Steering Wheel Club, by kind permission of Mr. H. J. Morgan, may do so after the on production of their current membership cards.

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Alvis Owner’s Club

National Alvis Day will be held at Crystal Palace on Sunday, May 4th, commencing at 10.30 a.m. The events will include a Concours d’Elegance and Driving Tests.

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Another “Lost Causes” Rally—On May 18th

From time to time Lord Montagu has held “Lost Causes” rallies at Beaulieu for defunct British makes. The first of these coincided with his book “Lost Causes of Motoring”, one of the most interesting and informative of its kind to be published since the war. Now Lord Montagu has volume one of his “Lost Causes of Motoring-European Cars” and Cassell are publishing it on May 18th. On that day, therefore, another Lost Causes Rally is to be held in the grounds of the Montagu Motor Museum, for the makes and types of defunct European cars covered in the first volume of the new book.

Entries will be by invitation only and those with eligible cars are asked to contact the Curator at Beaulieu British cars and motorcycles are not eligible.

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Alvis Service

Owners of Alvis cars should be pleased to learn that Red Triangle Autoservices Ltd., Common Lane, Kenilworth, Warwicks., have taken over the entire stock of spares formerly held by Alvis Ltd., who had such a good reputation for being able to supply parts for even the older pre-war models. David Michie, formerly Alvis’ Service Manager, and Roland Simmonds, ex-Alvis Service Engineer, have the approval of their old company in providing service and spares for Alvis owners.

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“Daily Telegraph” 7th Manchester-Blackpool Veteran & Vintage Run, June 1st. Organised by the Lancashire A.C., with the co-operation of Manchester and Blackpool Corporations, the Lancashire Constabulary and the Royal Lancashire Agricultural Show, this consists of a 53-mile route for pre-vintage entries and a 75-mile route for vintage cars, leaving Manchester Town Hall at 9 a.m. Veterans have to average 15 m.p.h., Edwardians 18 m.p.h., and vintage cars 25 m.p.h. There will be a test and refreshments at Police Headquarters, Hutton, and the finish is in the Royal Agricultural Society’s Show Ground at Blackpool. Film shows, supper, a dance and a Mayoral reception are added attractions. Entry fee 30s. Restricted to 180 entries, list closing on April 24th. Many prizes for different types of cars in the three classes. Details from: S. H. Whitaker, White Gables, Elswick, near Preston, PR4 3YB.