Around and About

For business and pleasure

Regular readers of Motor Sport will know that Dan Margulies has been advertising within these pages for more than twenty years, dealing in specialist cars. He had involved himself in the business for many years before it became “fashionable” to own elderly cars and they began changing hands at their current high prices. VSCC members will know the Romanian born, Kensington based enthusiast as a long-time supporter of this category of racing, using a 4CLT Maserati since 1972, which Margulies confesses "is the longest I’ve ever owned any car”. Many more race fans will recall that Dan Margulies was responsible for discovering Graham Hill, back in 1955, but perhaps fewer will know that his enthusiasm for the sport was fired by spectating at the 1937 Bucharest Grand Prix, won by Hans Ruesch in the 3.8-litre Alfa Romeo which has been owned since 1946 by Dennis Poore. Since the Second World War he has been a regular competitor in many categories of motorsport, from long distance races to international rallies, and he clearly intends to be involved in historic racing for some time into the future.

Dan Margulies admits that he couldn’t really afford much in the way of an ambitious motor racing programme when he started after the War, but managed to run in “lots of hillclimbs and speed trials”, first in a Bugatti 39A, from which he graduated through a Daimler V12 to a Talbot 105. He then admits “I was introduced to the joys of hire-purchase” and acquired the well-known ex-R.R.C. Walker Delahaye, DUV 870, which had earned a certain notoriety in the early 1950s when Walker had loaned it to another driver to race in France only to find the car apprehended by the Customs and Excise upon its return through Newhaven, found to be carrying an illicit consignment of watches and consequently confiscated by the authorities! Margulies recalls with some pleasure his fourth place at the Curragh in 1953, in a major race won by Anthony Powys-Lybbe’s Alfa-Romeo, and he enjoyed two seasons of British club racing before selling the Delahaye at the end of the 1953 season. By this time Dan’s father had died “which released me from the business of running a factory which I wasn’t particularly interested in” and, in preparation for 1954, “I became Colin Chapman’s third ever customer, buying an MG TF-powered Lotus 8 with a Laystall cylinder head”. Margulies recalls that they contested the supporting race to the 1954 German Grand Prix with this Lotus, “although it broke down – as it did, of course, for virtually the entire season”, before moving on to Senegalia in Italy where, amongst other things, Dan remembers meeting “D.S.J. for the first time while he was in the middle of repairing his Lancia Aprilia!”

For 1955 he acquired the ex-Duncan Hamilton C-type Jaguar and, soon afterwards, made the acquaintance of one Graham Hill. “He was with the Lotus entourage and he later helped me out on preparing the car”. When Margulies later went off to race in Agadir –“we had to race in events that paid us some money –and that meant going far afield. I’d always liked road races, but I could never afford to run at Le Mans because I couldn’t make it pay!”. At Agadir Margulies was seventh in a race won by the French driver who competed under the pseudonym of “Michel Sparken”. He also recalls finishing third in Sardinia, and then lying third at Messina when he crashed the C-type, was thrown out and suffered some nasty cuts and bruises “when I was thrown down the beach. I crashed just after a stop for fuel. We’d poured in over forty gallons of petrol, so the handling was rather different when I resumed”. Margulies also recalls Graham Hill returning from Messina to England by train “for the single fare of £11!” although Graham had been rewarded by being nominated as Dan’s co-driver in that race.

After another season with the C-type in 1966, Margulies reverted to the Lotus marque, acquiring a Lotus 11 with which he embarked on another tour of the European sports car circuits. Races included the Tour of Sicily – “I collided with Piper’s similar Lotus shortly after the start” – Aspern in Austria, Mont Ventoux for the European Mountain Championship event and Opatija in Yugoslavia “where the track was used for motorcycles as well and the hairpin was so tight that the Lotus’s turning circle wouldn’t get it round. As I was leading at the time, the whole field had to stop and wait for me to sort myself out!”

In 1957 Dan admits that it was time “to try and earn a living”, so he sold up his racing cars and began to trade in road machines, taking his first advertisement in Motor Sport in September 1957. But his enthusiasm for competition wasn’t to be quenched easily, and he turned his hand to the rally world in 1958 with a Speedwell prepared Austin A35 “built up by Graham Hill”. This was soon followed by a Lotus Elite, in which he contested the Tour de France in 1959, and “I persuaded David Piper to buy a Ferrari GTO for the 1962 Tour de France which was probably one of the best things he ever did. We finished fourth!”.

Between 1961 and 67 Dan Margulies had a particularly busy time, running a flourishing motor business as well as taking part in International rallies with a succession of Mini-Cooper, Ford Cortinas and, eventually, and early Porsche 911S, as well as having some outings in the Targa Florio and doing historic events with his ex-Whitney Straight 3-litre 8CM Maserati. He recalled buying that first 911S direct from the factory and getting his co-driver Rob Mackie to go to the factory and collect it before driving it down to Sicily where Margulies saw it for the first time. He has happy memories of a succession of drives at both Mugello and in the Targa Florio, culminating in his last outing with a 911 Carrera in 1973, “the last time the Targa had proper international status”.

During the 1970s he has rallied a succession of vehicles, including Avenger and Sunbeam Lotus machines, his most recent success being third in class on the 1977 Scottish Rally. But he admits “that you’ve got to choose between rallying and racing. You need such an enormous amount of organisation just to do a couple of major rallies in one year that I’ve decided to concentrate on the 4CLT Maserati in historic races”. Meanwhile, Dan Margulies continues enthusiastically in the motor trade, admitting that if he ever gets bored “. . . I sometimes go out, buy a car and see how much I can get for it”. Keenly aware of just how expensive some classics have become, he admits that he has seen several cars go through his hands on more than one occasion “although I suppose that is inevitable in this kind of business”. As for retirement, nothing could be further from his mind; “I don’t believe in it, particularly if you’re doing something you enjoy. I honestly don’t believe I ever will retire”.

Anglo-American Alliance

Former Panther Westwinds director D. A. Hibbert’s Reigate Auto Developments Ltd. have come up with a novel, striking “executive” adaptation of one of America’s most popular off-road vehicles, the Dodge Ramcharger. Trimmed to a very high standard indeed, we recently spent a few days trying out Mr. Hibbert’s machine which some people might feel offers a realistic alternative to the popular British Range Rover theme. A very large machine, the executive version of the Ramcharger is immediately distinguished by its huge “nudge bars” round the front end, a feature we are told will stand up to a 5 m.p.h. collision with no damage at all. With substantial ground clearance, this imposing vehicle runs on 7” x 15” alloy road wheels shod with Goodyear radials running to a pressure of 36 p.s.i. all round.

Under the bonnet, the 90 degree V8 develops 140 b.h.p. @ 4,000 r.p.m., driving through a three-speed automatic transmission. Although a four-wheel drive facility is provided, for all practical purposes 2WD is adequate for road use and running without the front differential engaged contributes to the memorably low noise level; in this respect it’s certainly very much better than the Range Rover, on which wind noise becomes tedious to live with at around 80 m.p.h. The Ramcharger’s ride is soft, for the front and rear leaf spring arrangement doesn’t provide a terribly well moderated feeling over bumpy roads, and the power steering is typically transatlantic inasmuch as it needs continuous corrections while running in a straight line. Inside, however, the Ramcharger Executive is trimmed to a superbly high standard with high-quality velour upholstery, considerable sound-deadening material and wall-to-wall carpeting of very good quality indeed. General equipment includes Wolfrace high back seats, lockable central console, radio/stereo system, electric aerial, tow bar, tinted glass, electric windows, air conditioning, exterior tyre carrier, adjustable steering column and a dual tone paint scheme. Price varies according to particular specification, details of which can be obtained from Reigate Auto Developments, 18 Beaufort Close, Reigate, Surrey, RH2 9DG.

A New 850 c.c. Sports Car

When we sent to Canley last month to collect a road-test Rover Vanden Plas we returned through Coventry to see what has been happening at Cipher, the new small sports car project of Tony Stevens, which made news at the 1980 Birmingham Motor Show. Tony was a Rootes project-engineer, responsible for the Arrow-Hunter range of cars, who later designed Avon open and estate car bodies for use with Jaguar XJ mechanicals, and he also designed the Sienna MG-like replica. He is now flat-out on his Cipher sports car project, in a factory leased from Courtauld’s.

The Cipher is a two-seater all-enveloping sports car with handsome styling, using largely unaltered Reliant Kitten mechanical components. The light alloy 848 c.c., 40 b.h.p. Kitten engine, gearbox, and back-axle are unchanged but the power-unit is set lower in the chassis and has also been moved back 6”, to achieve a 50/50 weight distribution. The separate chassis of the Reliant, which makes the whole project possible, has been modified to afford greater stiffness, to enable the occupants of the Cipher to sit each side of the central member, and to take the sub-frame that supports the body panels (50 in all). Although the body is of fibre-glass, made on steel master-moulds, it is unusual, for a very good reason. We had expected a monocoque shell, or at any rate a body in a few sections, for dropping onto the Reliant chassis.  Instead, Stevens uses separate panels, attached to the elaborate sub-frame, as with a metal-panelled body. He explains that only by using such an easily-repairable body could he obtain a low insurance-rating. Fibre-glass bodies cannot be repaired after an accident with anything like the facility of metal-panelled bodies, and thus insurance companies, in their infinite wisdom, rate them accordingly. The Cipher has been rated as a Group 3 car, whereas even the simple Kitten is rated Group 4 – the unitary fibre-glass body, you see. . . Not only that, but Stevens has had the Cipher National Type Approved, for the UK market, without having to submit a prototype to costly crash-tests.

This Cipher project dates back to mid-1978 but only now are cars beginning to dribble into dealers’ showrooms – the only complete Cipher to be seen at the time of our visit was a blue one destined for Chequered Flag in Chiswick, to sound-out customer reactions, and the Killinghall Garage in Harrogate have had one. For the same reason, Stevens took a small stand at the last NEC Show and had a good response. It seems that there is a market for a stylish, very small-engined sports car, on which, after all, MG made their name in 1929 with the elementary M-type. Cipher base their stake on a price around £5,200, the low insurance-rating, 50 or more m.p.g., and a claim of 90 m.p.h., and 0-60 m.p.h. acceleration in 14.8 sec. We look forward to driving one.

The specification includes a substantial roll-over bar, a quickly-erectable hood with transparent roof-panel on a fibre-glass framework, curved wind-up side windows, and a neat fascia.  There is leg room for a driver over six-foot tall but at present the pedals are biased too far to the right and the small steering-wheel is oddly angled. There is stowage space behind the seats, but the depth of the boot is seriously restricted by the 6½-gallon Kitten fuel tank beneath it. The doors have Scimitar hinges and window-winding mechanism, and the front-hinged bonnet locks shut with a key, as on the Kitten. The spare wheel is carried ahead of the engine, and is easily removable. Goodyear Grand Prix 12” tyres are used, on four-stud steel wheels, the overall gear ratios being as on the Kitten, so that the speedometer does not have to be recalibrated. Neat rectangular headlamps are recessed in the nose, not being of the projecting kind as on a Caterham Super Seven, but it was decided not to proceed with “pop-up” headlamps.

Stevens wants 100 UK dealers eventually and says 60 showed interest in his Show exhibit (Reliant have 80 UK outlets), and that finance for his project is sound. Two Ciphers have been built, as third is used as a “fitting-horse” for development purposes, and Reliant themselves have two as a planning exercise. It may be that the car will be sold around the World on a sub-contract basis. Stevens sees a potential output of 10,000 a year in two years’ time, and says his design is intended for a ten-year run without major changes. The weight of the Cipher is around 11½ cwt. The Cipher offices are in Warwick, where Healeys used to come from – a good omen perhaps.

If the finish is cleaned-up and initial handling problems ironed out – rear suspension at present uses single leaf Kitten ½ -elliptic springs with a damper leaf, and the Reliant coil-spring and wishbone front suspension is used unaltered at the front – it would seem that the Cipher may well open-up the moribund market for the really small-engined, cheeky, super-economical sports car. One wonders, however, whether an even more simple fun-two-seater, rather like a Lotus 7 body on the Kitten chassis, might not also have a big appeal, and cost less?

Triking Three-Wheeler        

It is some time since we last referred to the sporting three-wheelers made by Triking Cars Ltd., of Marlingford, Norwich, in Norfolk, the venture of Tony Divey. He tells us that his original prototype Moto-Guzzi-engined three-wheeler has covered 100,000 miles and is in daily use. Now somewhat battered, it has been taken abroad, achieving very high speeds on the autoroutes, and has been used in MCC trials. In fact, in this year’s Exeter Trial it cleared all the observed-sections but Divey made what he calls two silly errors in the special test, even so he gained a third-class award.

The Type-Approval tests have regrettably pushed Triking Cars Ltd. into the kit-car market but this has not stopped production. The tenth one is due to go to Scotland this month and a left-hand-drive model has been sent to San Francisco.

A Special BMW M1 Coupe

Passing through Godalming (Surrey) recently we called on Michael Cane at his workshops near the railway station. While his workforce are still rebuilding and restoring various Jaguars, the main activity was on a very exciting new project destined for the long-distance sports and GT car races. This is a BMW M1 coupé which they are building to Group 5 specification, which means that the basic car must be homologated as a production model, but wide scope for modification is permitted. This mid-engined straight-six BMW powered car has a Swiss-built bodyshell made of carbon-fibre, which merely forms a covering over the M1 chassis and space-frame.

The car is being built for Steve O’Rourke who plans to race it in the long distance events at Monza, Silverstone, Nürburgring and Le Mans and his driving partner will be Derek Bell, with David Hobbs joining them when his USA commitments permit.

Also in the workshop was O’Rourke’s very special Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer which Cane prepared for Le Mans last year and with all the current racing modifications like super-wide wheels, rear aerofoil, sunken air intakes etc., it really is an exciting-looking beast. With his involvement with the special M1 this year it is unlikely that O’Rourke will find the time to use the Ferrari, so he will probably sell it. What a road car it would be, if there was room to use it.

51° Saloon de l’auto Geneve

The Geneva Motor Show staged its last edition at the traditional riverside location this year. For 1982 it moves out closer to the airport, gaining in efficiency no doubt, but losing a little in convenience and low cost attendance of the kind we at Standard House have enjoyed over the years.

We went down by road, using Renault’s recently stretched 2.2 litre 20 TX, and thoroughly enjoyed a comfortable ride that included the Col de Faucille hillclimb course en route.

This year’s Geneva was really a show waiting for a new home and genuinely new models. In the absence of major mass-production sensations, the sporting element was emphasised.

The De Lorean DMC, rear engined gullwing sports car, had been shown previously in Ulster, but attracted most attention on its Geneva debut. The conception remains that of former GM boss John Z. De Lorean, in that it has the rear mounted Douvrin V6, stainless still body finish and gullwing doors. Yet making that concept a moving motor car was the multi-million pound development job of Lotus at Hethel. Their technology division (which also handled the Talbot Lotus Sunbeam project) benefiting to such an extent by this well-publicised association, that we are now told a good percentage of the company’s overall income is coming from the 22 contracts presently signed on the development side.

The DMC originally had somewhat starker lines from Giugaro. These have now softened since the car originally appeared on the covers of our American contemporaries. Now a drag factor of some 0.36 is claimed and the 2,600 lb. car is expected to reach 60 m.p.h. from rest in under 8 sec., top 120 m.p.h. and cost $25,000 in American 135 b.h.p. emission form. A European version has yet to be approved, but there seems to be plenty of interest in this and a possible 2+2.

Significantly, Geneva also saw the debut of a new shape Scirocco from VW. This does not have the instant attraction of the original – which will remain on sale here until stocks run out: it will then be January 1982 before RHD new Sciroccos are available – but offers more interior space and claimed better aerodynamic efficiency (0.38) than previously. Mechanically the front drive range continues as before, though it is unlikely that we in Britain will have the 1.3-litre model, which is said to be good for fractionally less than 100 m.p.h. The fuel injection GTi can be expected again, this time with a claimed 118 m.p.h. maximum.

We spent many happy hours plodding around the Geneva halls, both this year and last, for they are packed with eccentric tuners and displays. One Porsche purveyor spent some time kindly demonstrating the latest Dinfos digital instrumentation – which can include a miniaturised sonar radar for parking and fog – while another had strewn six square lamps and gullwings into a Golf. There was even a turbo diesel intercooled Ferrari Boxer look-alike to ogle with a claimed 127 m.p.h., and 50 m.p.g. or so overall consumption claim.

One show a year is enough for this writer, but before leaving an acknowledgement too for the exciting-looking Capri 2.8 Injection. This will be coming to the UK in RHD at a price between £7,500 and £8,000, for which you get Granada’s smooth 160 b.h.p. engine and a chassis engineered by former FAVO residents, who are now at Ford Engineering and Research, Dunton. For many, this 130 m.p.h. Capri development was car of the Show, even though it retains the familiar looks of a Series 3 Capri. Adieu Genève. 

Fuel consumption at a glance

Gadgets come in all shapes and sizes. Some are good, some bad, some entertaining, some aggravating and some dangerous. Having just spent a few days with a 2.8-litre automatic Granada Ghia equipped with Mobelec’s “Maximiser”, I still cannot decide which category is most appropriate, for it can be described in such a way that it fits all. Size and shape are simple enough to describe: the kit comes in a neat package consisting of a fuel-flow sensor coupled with a fuel filter, a contact breaker sensor, a speedometer sensor, the display unit and a package of nuts, bolts, pipe unions, clips and so forth. Fitting should take between two and four hours depending on the car and the experience of the d.i.y. mechanic doing the job. The display unit is a neat black box with a screen for the three digit read-out, alongside which are buttons for calibrating the instrument and for activating the memory.

Once fitted and calibrated (very simple, just drive the car at a steady 30 m.p.h. on a level road and press the calibration button), the instrument shows the instantaneous fuel consumption in miles-to-the-gallon, provided the road speed is above 20 m.p.h. The display changes once a second, so in town the figures do not mean much: driving the Granada along the traffic-filled Marylebone Road, the figures ranged from 7.2 m.p.g to over 80 m.p.g. – the former when increasing speed between 20 and 25 m.p.h. to keep positon in the traffic and the latter when decelerating from 35 m.p.h. It is not until one is on the open road that the figures stabilise and the instrument can be put to its intended function – helping the driver to be economical.

It was interesting to see a steady 23.5 m.p.g. shown while cruising at 65 m.p.h. on the level, and to watch this drop first to the low 20’s and then to 19.5 m.p.g. as the throttle was opened gently to maintain this speed up a gradient. The speed had to be dropped to below 50 m.p.h. on this motorway slope to maintain the 23.5 m.p.g. Cruising at 70 m.p.h. gave 22.3 m.p.g., while being illegal was not as expensive in terms of fuel consumption as I expected. The worst figure I was able to achieve at a steady speed was 16.8 m.p.g., but figures as low as four or five appeared briefly when accelerating though the gears. By way of seeing whether the “Maximiser” could save me any money, as claimed by the manufacturers, I drove the car from my home on the Berkshire/Wiltshire border up to north of Kidderminster ignoring the display, but using the memory, activated by pressing the button, to tell me how much fuel was used on the journey. The 101 miles took two hours and five minutes and consumed 5.1 gallons, 19.8 m.p.g. Returning by the same road, but concentrating on maximising my consumption (but not refraining from overtaking when baulked by commercials), the journey took quarter of an hour longer, yielding a .9 of a gallon improvement in consumption: at that rate it would not take long to pay for the “Maximiser” kit, which is available from most motoring accessory shops at about £40.

It is good, bad, fun, aggravating or dangerous? It is good because it will help to improve your fuel economy, if you are not already economical, that is. It is bad because the display changes too frequently and, in traffic, the figures are often almost meaningless – who wants to know that for the last second he has been doing 99.9 m.p.g.? It is fun for the children. It is aggravating because the memory is lost if the engine is stopped for more than 30 sec., for instance at a level crossing, unless the driver remembers to press the appropriate button. It is potentially dangerous because the fanatic fuel-miser might spend too long looking at his meter and not long enough at the road.

I raised these points with Mobolec’s Roger Hammond, and was told that they are constantly looking at ways of improving the product, currently planning to extend the time-base to five seconds and to feature an automatic memory.