Around and About , April 1972

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Comment on the Racing and Club Scene
The Lotus engine

In this day and age there are precious few companies in Britain, outside the big four, who manufacture their own engines. We can only think of Aston Martin, Rolls-Royce/Bentley, Reliant (for three wheelers and the little Rebel) and now Lotus have joined this élite band. Lotus have, of course, been building the 1600 twin-cam engines for several years but based on the Ford block and other parts. Now the announcement has been made that Lotus have started production on their own 2-litre slant-four engine which they have been developing for some years. Although in these early stages a Vauxhall cast-iron block was used; in production form the Type 907 (as the engine is called) is completely Lotus designed and manufactured and now has a cast-aluminium block.

The Type 907 is obviously a very important stage in the development of Colin Chapman’s growing company. Lotus have spent almost £1/2-million on building a new manufacturing facility for the engines and hope to step-up production from the initial 25 units a week to ten times that number within the next twelve months. The engines are being supplied for the Jensen-Healey and Lotus have also said that their new four-seater car to be announced in the autumn will also be powered by the motor, while Lotus hope to sell the engine to other manufacturers in the future.

One of the most exciting aspects of this very modern engine is the excellent results that have been achieved in the area of exhaust emission control. This is a function of the excellent design of the combustion chambers and particularly the use of four valves per cylinder.

The engine is a slant-four in-line inclined at 45 deg. and was designed so that, as a second stage, the basis could be used for a V8 by the addition of another bank. Thus the cylinders are wider spaced than usual to allow for the provision of further bearings and rods. The cylinder centres are 4 1/4 in. apart. But that is in the future— the present engine has a capacity of 1,973 c.c. with a bore of 95.28 mm. and stroke of 69.24 mm. A low compression ratio of 8.4:1 means that cheaper grade fuel can be used.

Both block and head are die-cast aluminium and, as mentioned earlier, the head design has four valves per cylinder operated by twin overhead camshafts with a central 14-mm. spark plug. The camshafts run in separate housings in five integral bearings and are driven by a Uniroyal toothed belt. The block incorporates cast-iron wet liners with H. & G. solid-skirt pistons running in them. These have a dished crown with valve clearance recesses and there are three rings. The En 16T steel connecting rods are being manufactured in Italy due to difficulty in delivery from Britain but Vandervell bearings are used. The crankshaft is S.G. iron and there is a cast-aluminium sump.

There are two alternative induction systems at present. For the domestic and European market Dell’Orto DHLA 40 carburetters are used and, in this form, the engine satisfies all European emission regulations. But, for the US market, Zenith Stromberg 175CD carburetters take their place on a water-heated manifold and, in this form, the engine meets the stringent 1974 Federal regulations. Provision is also made for fuel injecting the engine at a later stage.

Although during the development stages engines were built to racing specification, gave over 240 b.h.p. and did well in 1969 in the Lotus 62 racing sports cars, the productionised road engine gives 140 b.h.p. at 6,500 r.p.m. with an excellent torque band. The engine may again be seen in racing form at a later date if, as is suggested, Lotus produce a version for Formula Two use.

The plant to produce these engines is in the area of the Lotus factory previously occupied by Lotus’ customer racing car production department which has been disbanded while Team Lotus now have separate premises on the other side of the road from the main Lotus factory. The new plant works on a numerically controlled principle and the machinery installed is considered to be the first complete machining facility of its kind in the British motor industry. While the system is not as fully automated as the transfer lines of the big manufacturers it does give a high degree of automation while giving the facility to re-programme the machines for other engines. British Marwin multipurpose machines are being used which carry out all the major machining operations on the heads and blocks and are controlled by Plessey continuous path NC systems. The latest in up-to-date inspection equipment is also in use. Metric systems apply throughout the engine. We recently visited this new facility and were most impressed with it although, unfortunately, did not see the impressive machinery in operation due to the power crisis. We look forward to driving a car with this new engine and congratulate Colin Chapman, Engineering director Tony Rudd, and the Lotus team on this fine effort.

Group One starts

By the time you read this the club season will be in full swing but, as this is written, the first major club meeting of the year at Brands Hatch has just been run-off with the opening rounds of several season long championships. Amongst these was the Britax Production saloon car race, one of the two championships for Group One cars. It produced a capacity field full of variety although some cars are not yet ready. Despite the rain that prevailed we had an indication of how the various models will perform. Overall victory went to a BMW 2002 of motoring journalist Roger Bell of the Motor magazine but Motor Sport honour was also upheld as Jeremy Walton (who writes the tuning pages) won the L600-£800-class with the Janspeed-prepared Ford Escort Sport. Bell, who is in the over-£1,100 category, beat other BMWs and two Ford Capri 3,000s, one driven by John Webb of Brands Hatch management fame.

In the £800-£1,100-c1ass there was considerable interest with Vauxhall Firenzas opposing Hillman Avengers and several Cooper Minis. Although Gerry Marshall was driving a Dealer Team Vauxhall entry, victory went to the Avenger driven by Chrysler employee Bernard Unett who is entered by MOPAR, the Chrysler parts division. The Escort Mexico has not been homologated into Group One yet so none were present. In class C (£600-£800) the winning Escort Sport was the only one of its kind and was opposed by Mini 1275 GTs and older Mini-Coopers. But the biggest surprise of all came in the Up-to-£600-class in which victory went to that very experienced driver Tony Lanfranchi who was driving, believe it or not, a 1,478-c.c. Moskvitch 412 saloon, another one also raced. It would be interesting to learn if this is the first ever Russian victory in a British motoring event.

Plenty of other cars are on their way including several Fiats and there are definitely two Alfas coming along for Stan (brother of Roger) Clark and former Mini driver John Handley, who is returning to racing after a nasty illness. There is news also of a big American saloon from Escort racer John Bloomfield and all in all the scene looks very healthy indeed.

March sell more

The go-ahead March Engineering concern seem to be having a very successful third year in terms of racing car sales. A recent Press release informs us that so far they have taken orders to the value of a quarter-of-a-million-pounds for the 1972 racing season. For 1972 the firm has orders for over 70 racing cars, the great majority of which have already been delivered and these cover Formula One, Two, Three, Atlantic and American Formula B. £188,420 has been earned from overseas buyers including USA, France, Japan and Germany which is a good record for a firm with just about 9,000 sq. ft. of floor area and a total of 46 employees with an average age of under 28. Max Mosley, who looks after production and administration, tells us that he confidently predicts a further 15-20 orders before the end of the season and hopes the firm will become the first racing car manufacturer to have turn-over in excess of £1-million.

Alan Rees, one of the original four directors of the firm along with Mosley, designer Robin Herd and the late Graham Coaker, is no longer an active member of the company although he retains his directorship. Rees was to have run a March subsidiary to service and manage March customer racing cars but the scheme seems to be stillborn. The exact future of former racing driver Rees seems uncertain at the moment but March’s plans are unaffected.

Further news from March is that their works STP-sponsored Formula Three team will comprise of flame red cars for James Hunt and the Irish driver Brendan McInerney. The pair last year drove works-backed cars but under the title Rose Bearings-Team Baty Group.

Racing Car Insurance

The insurance of racing cars has always been a rather tricky problem and few brokers were interested in such a risk. News comes this month of a comprehensive new scheme, available through Lloyd’s, which will enable full cover anywhere in the world. The two men behind the scheme are Lloyd’s Broker Ian Bracey and Underwriter Malcolm Blair. Bracey, a well-known club driver, used to work in Lloyd’s Livestock Insurance Market and did not see why racing cars could not be insured as “mechanical horses”. Together with Blair a scheme was devised which was readily acceptable to other Underwriters. The new scheme is very simple and gives protection for a fair price.

The insured need not insure for the full value of the car for there are alternatives which allow various combinations of the chassis, engine, gearbox and other components to be covered separately. Bracey is quick to point out that the object of the scheme is not to pay for minor shunts and scratches. The insured has to pay a proportion of each loss and is therefore to a degree self-insured. This excess is calculated at 10% of the insured value of the rolling chassis but with a minimum of £100.

Costs vary considerably according to the type of car and event and the number of races in which the car will compete. The basic rates vary between 3 3/4% and 5% and there is a comprehensive no-claims bonus scheme which reduces the cost considerably the more races that are undertaken without incident.

The scheme will particularly appeal to sponsors to insure continuity of their programme but also to private individuals who can be certain that, while they will have to pay a little more for their racing„ their complete assets cannot be destroyed in one go. Further details of the scheme can be obtained from Chandler, Hargreaves, Whittall & Co. Ltd., 5/6 Marshalsea Road, London SE1 1EF.

Pit Stops

• New Zealand driver Graham McRae finished up the convincing winner of the recent Tasman series driving the Leda-Chevrolet he has helped to develop. Britain’s Mike Hailwood finished second in the series, despite trouble with his out-dated Surtees TS8, while Frank Gardner (Lola T300) took third place. Incidentally, following the series Gardner announced his retirement from single-seater racing although he will continue to drive saloon and sports cars.

• Two hundred motor clubs will be participating in a scheme to win a Ford Escort RS1600 in the Esso Uniflo Pit Stop competition. This entails dismantling and reassembling the major components of a Ford Escort and is rather similar to a competition organised by BP a couple of years back. The early rounds began in March and the final will probably be at the Tourist Trophy at Silverstone on September 24th, an event also backed by Esso.

• Esso Uniflo are also sponsoring the European Formula Two meeting at Thruxton on Easter Monday. In recent years this event has grown to be one of the most enjoyable race meetings in Britain all season. There is bound to be a fabulous field of Formula Two cars and last year’s winner, Graham Hill, is expected to make his only F2 appearance of the year. Other names include Mike Hailwood, Francois Cevert, Ronnie Peterson, John Surtees and Carlos Reutemann plus many of the young up-and-coming drivers who are on the brink of the big time. Other races are for Group Two saloons, Formula Super Vee and 2-litre sports cars. Thruxton is near Andover.

• By arrangement with JW Automotive Engineering Ltd., P. & M. Racing Preparations of the Arches, Chiswick Park Station, London W4 have become the sole stockists of parts for Ford GT4Os and are also able to undertake maintenance of these exciting cars at their premises. Managing Director John Cook is a former JW employee.

• The BARC has appointed a new competition secretary to replace Barry Bland, who has joined Motor Race Consultants after seven years with the club. The new man is 22-year-old John Wickham, a former racing marshal who previously worked in a bank.

• Forward Trust recently held a pleasant and informal party at the Cheshire Cheese pub in Fleet Street as a thank you gesture for everyone who made their Formula Three Championship such a success last year. All the drivers were invited and many were present including Championship winner Dave Walker and the party was well appreciated by all concerned. This season Forward Trust are again sponsoring a Formula Three Championship and also one for club saloons at BARC organised meetings.

• There will be a Formula 5000 meeting at the new Belgian circuit of Nivelles near Brussels on April 9th which will be sponsored by the Wiggins Teape paper people, who have a large mill adjacent to the circuit. The track was first used last October but this will be the opening of the full circuit as will be used for the Belgian Grand Prix this year. Naturally the Wiggins Teape racing Ford Capri will take part in the supporting saloon car race.—A. R. M.