Around and about
WE recently had occasion to look in on an auction sale of old cars, ranging from a veteran to cars that only recently became obsolete and out of production. The general trend seemed to be that many cars were not reaching the inflated reserves put on them by their owners, while on others negotiations continued outside the auction room once the car had been withdrawn. A rather blatant piece of "rigging" took place on a not-very-interesting old car, whose rarity value probably came about because the model did not sell well when it was new, so the production run was very small. The owner had two friends in the audience and after a long silence, during which the auctioneer tried in vain to get a starting bid of even a few hundred pounds, one of them near the rostrum murmured "£10,000", at which there was a rustle as it really wasn't worth more than £4,000, if that. The other chap upped the price by £200 and then between them they took it to £12,300 and then abruptly stopped and there was no further bidding and the car was withdrawn. A reserve of £12,500 had optimistically been put on the car, so it was a case of no sale, and had they not bid themselves the car would have never even received a laughable offer of £500. Taking the car away, the owner was able to advertise it at £12,500 and in all honesty tell any prospective customers that it " . . . reached £12,300 at auction . . .".
We never did like auction sales of old cars.
APPEARANCES can be deceptive. The 52nd Salon de l'auto Geneve, held in its new location in the characterless Exhibition and Conference Centre close to the airport, was superficially a low profile event with few outstanding new models, but closer examination revealed plenty of technical interest.
The ambitious Mitsubishi concern, for example, can now boast a turbocharged version of every model it makes and its new flagship, the Station 2000 EX coupe, proved the star of the show. Of rakish appearance, the Station employs the familiar, sophisticated turbo engine from the Lancer range but its mechanical specification is enhanced by the adoption of independent rear suspension. It is scheduled to arrive in the UK mid' year and its 135 m.p.h. top speed and 0-60 m.p.h. acceleration time of 7.4 sec. should guarantee a high level of interest. Turbocharging's popularity was clearly in evidence and one does not need a crystal ball to predict that blown diesel power units will be de rigeur in many manufacturers' ranges within a short time. Peugeot, of course, is in the vanguard with its 604 model, and further revealed its trend of thought with a development of the Vera prototype, now powered by a turbocharged diesel version of the 104 range's engine. Volkswagen Audi, too, is pursuing this path, with diesel turbo versions of the 80 and Golf Models. Also in on the act is Renault, whose D/T 30 is claimed to be both faster and more economical than its petrol engined brother. Proof, if any be needed, that turbocharging is now a wholly respectable — and effective — way of increasing performance is further provided by Rolls-Royce's adoption of such a system on the latest Bentley. At last that worthy marque has an identity of its own, with the Mulsanne Turbo. Undeniably a car of generous proportions, it revives Bentley's sporting traditions for despite its bulk the machine will accelerate to 60 m.p.h. from rest in a highly creditable 7.4 sec. and can devour distance at a near 140 m.p.h. gait. Equally sporting, yet disappointing in shape, is Maserati's twin turbo offering, aptly christened the Biturbo.
Of high technical interest was Volvo's prototype version of the new top of the range 760 series. This incorporates an electronic wheelspin sensing system — the ETC — in conjunction with the Volvo Computer Controlled Turbo (VCCT) power unit. Sensors assess the level of tyre grip and a micro-computer then determines the amount of engine power to deliver to the wheels to avoid wheelspin in unfavourable conditions. The first stage is to cut out the turbo but if that is insufficient, the system cuts out three cylinders to ensure that the tyres always maintain adequate grip. The system should find its way on to production Volvos by the end of the decade. Other points of interest centred on Ford's new Escort flagship, the RS1600i, which is a fuel injected high performance XR3; GM's svelte new Camaro in European specification: a two-wheel drive production version of the drophead Porsche 911 design study shown at last year's Frankfurt Show; and the attractive Tropic Auto Design drophead BMW 635. Who said convertibles had had their day?
An accolade for the most outrageous car should be reserved for Sbarro's Super Twelve. A Renault 5 sired 2+2, this is powered bv a transversely mounted straight 12 power unit, comprising two Kawasaki Z1300 motorcycle engines geared together to produce 260 h.h.p. Apparently, the prototype has already been snapped up by an intrepid Swiss buyer.
From Powerboats to Motorcycles
WHILE in the Poole area recently, we called in on Malcolm Cole's establishment on Hatch Pond Road to see the facilities this versatile engineer has at his disposal and to try his conversion of a used Range Rover to Peugeot diesel power.
Cole has been involved with specialist developments in the transport field for some 15 years. Following initial training with the Ministry of Aviation as an instrument maker, he worked on the development of racing motorcycle engines, prepared trans-desert motorcycles in Australia, spent time in the USA developing turbocharger installations both for cars and powerboats and also tried his hand at heavy engineering, working in an iron ore mine.
For the past few years, he has concentrated most of his efforts on specialist development and maintenance in the world of powerboats, working for a small and exclusive group of customers, but last year, with backing from the Endless Group of Companies, he set up Malcolm Cole Limited in the Poole premises with a view to expanding his clientele. Powerboat work is still very much at the forefront of his activity, witnessed by a 30 ft. long, slender, vessel on its trailer outside the main doors, and an 8-litre Mercruiser engine having attention to its gearbox in the assembly area of the workshops. Cole told us that he maintains an installation consisting of two of these engines, in turbocharged form. Also evident were some V6 Cosworth engines destined for use in powerboat racing, while in the welding bay, some intricate work fabricating a water-cooled silencer / exhaust manifold for a marine diesel was in progress. Intricate welding is a speciality of the establishment, the Ministry of Defence sending stainless steel fittings and other items to Cole for attention.
On the automotive front, Cole has a simple turbocharger conversion for the Mazda RX7 (he runs one of these rotary engined cars himself) and is looking at the possibilities of turbocharging the 2.8 injection Capri. He has fitted a turbocharger conversion to his own idea of the ideal towing vehicle for a fully fledged powerboat — a Range Rover with a Cole designed and built third axle with hydraulically adjustable suspension to enable the rear of the elongated vehicle to be lowered and raised to assist in picking up trailer hitches. But it is the conversion of Range Rovers to diesel that is the bread and butter of the business.
Cole argues that the diesel conversion is particularly attractive to the Range Rover user who, with 100,000 miles on the clock, is faced with heavy expenditure on a replacement engine for a vehicle which is otherwise in reasonable condition. The extra cost of the diesel conversion is rewarded with appreciable savings in running costs, which can become considerable if the owner is a farmer or contractor who buys diesel in bulk or if he drives frequently on the Continent where diesel prices can be as little as a quarter the price of petrol.
The basis of the conversion is Peugeot's 2.3-litre, 4-cylinder, turbocharged diesel engine which comes complete with clutch and ancillaries and has factory warranty. Cole provides all the special items required to install this unit in place of the V8 petrol engine, including a modified bell housing, special engine mounts (the engine is mounted vertically in this application), alternator and hydraulic pump mounting brackets, twin electric fans, revised dip-stick etc., etc., machining many of these components in his own small machine shop. When complete, none of the usual conversion tell-tales are apparent: there are no awkwardly bent control rods, no botched cable joints, no obvious fabrications, no insulating-tape covered joints in the wiring, no evidence of hammer work on any panels to provide clearance.
With the power output reduced by 50 b.h.p., performance is nothing to shout about, but the converted vehicle proved itself just as versatile on the rough as a petrol engined Range Rover would have done, climbing a 1 in 4 mud slope quite happily on tick-over in low ratio, and starting off with no fuss or drama on a similar slope on tarmac in high ratio. On the road, it was happiest on country roads ambling along at a steady 55 m.p.h. Above this speed, noise in the cabin begins to build up, although the vehicle is perfectly happy travelling at 70-75 m.p.h., at which speeds it is no noisier than Mercedes' diesel G-wagen. Independent test results show a maximum speed of nearly 80 m.p.h. with a typical average fuel consumption of 25 m.p.g., compared with the standard vehicle's 98 m.p.h. and 16 m.p.g.
AT a small gathering to celebrate the first season in Formula 1 racing of the Avon tyre, manufactured at Melksham in Wiltshire, and distributed and serviced by International Race Tyre Services, the head of the latter firm in the alliance, Jean Mossier, made an interesting declaration on behalf of the two firms. Apart from Formula 1 tyres they also make and market racing tyres for Formula 2 and Formula 3 and oval-track Hot Rods. In the world of British Formula 3, in the major championship, the tyres are restricted to one make and one type in an attempt to keep down costs and complications. At the end of last year some tests were carried out at Silverstone in which six different tyre manufacturers offered their tyres in competition for the "one-make contract". These were Goodyear, Dunlop, Pirelli, M&H, the Japanese Yokohama and Avon and tests were carried out under RAC supervision using a Formula 3 'Ralt, driven by Raul Boesel and a Formula 3 March driven by Mike White. The RAC were looking for a combination of performance, wear, price, service and the guarantee of supply. At the end of the day Avon won the contract, so for this season and the next two, all competitors in the British Formula 3 Championship will have to buy Avon Formula 1 tyres.
Now you would think this would please Avon/IRTS, and of course it does, but Mosnier came over strongly that the idea of granting approval to a single tyre manufacturer does not meet with their approval as they consider it is not in the best interest of their business, which is making and selling racing tyres, nor is it in the best interests of the sport. It seems that while Avon have been granted a monopoly in Great Britain, Michelin have a similar monopoly in France, Pirelli in Italy and Dunlop in Germany, so that if the Avon tyre proved to be the best for Formula 3, competitors in other countries could not use them, which effectively restricts the business opportunities of Avon/IRTS. They would prefer to see the choice of tyres being left to the competitor so that they could choose whatever suited their car, their driving style or their pocket, and being confident of their ability Avon/IRTS would expect most competitors to choose Avon tyres.
They would also like to see a limit put on the number of sets of tyres a competitor could use in practice and the race, as is done in Formula 1, and they would like to see the American idea adopted, whereby you have to race on the same tyres you used when you qualified for the grid. Avon/IRTS are expanding rapidly, after a cautious start in 1981, and for this season the ATS, Theodore and Ensign teams are on Avon tyres and in addition to Formula 2 and Formula 3 Avon will be active in Rallycross, Saloon car racing, Sports car racing in Group C, Rallying and motorcycle sidecar racing, while they intend to be in solo motorcycle racing towards the end of the year.
The Lloyds and Scottish, 1982
AT the recent presentation of awards for the 1981 Lloyds and Scottish Historic Car Championship (won by Michael Bowler in his Lister Jaguar, followed closely by Gerry Marshall in the Marsh Plant DBR4 Aston Martini), the Lloyds and Scottish Finance Group announced details of the 1982 Championship.
Registered under the wing of the Aston Martin Owners Club, the Championship will be run over six rounds, three at Silverstone (April 12th, July 3rd and September 11/12th), and three at Brands Hatch (May 9th, July 17th,18th and August 30th).
The classes for single-seater racing cars have been changed in acknowledgement of the ever improving performance of the ERAs fitted recently with 2-litre engines and the superiority of the cars of the late fifties. Classes cover the period 1931 to 1952 (except 2-litre ERAs), 1953 to 1957 (including 2-litre ERAs) and 1958 to 1960. A radical change is the inclusion of certain rear-engined single-seaters in the last class. The sports-racing classes cover the periods 1945 to 1957 and 1958 to 1960.
So far, over fifty registrations have been received, and, as there will be no split grids this year, practice might well turn out to be more exciting than the race as individuals battle to qualify for a place on the grid.
Elford's turbocharged Mazda RX7
ELFORDS ENGINEERING of Tuckton, near Bournemouth, have been involved with the motor car since the early years of the century. Latterly, they have been successful as agents for Mazda cars and have developed such a reputation for the quality of their service that they have been appointed the only 3-star Mazda agent in the South West.
Three years ago, when the RX7 first came to the UK, Mr. Elford was taken with the rotary engined car, but was soon persuaded that it needed more power and would benefit from turbocharging. In conjunction with fellow director Ted Merchant and a freelance engineer, they developed a turbocharger installation for the car. We tried a prototype in the Autumn of 1980 (see MOTOR SPORT, November 1980) and were favourably impressed with the very smooth nature of the converted car and with the neat finish to the installation. However, there were reliability problems with the early conversions, and Elfords had to make the decision early in 1981 either to pour more money into a really thorough development and ultra-professional conversion or to withdraw the Elford Turbo. Since the car had already developed quite a name for itself, they decided on the former course of action and set up Elford Turbo Limited.
The result of the re-development programme is a conversion so neatly engineered and so carefully integrated with the rest of the car that it is impossible for those not thoroughly familiar with the RX7 to know where one ends and the other begins. The Elford Turbo must have found favour with Mazda UK Ltd., since they include a course on the conversion in their training for dealers' technicians. A Garrett AiResearch turbocharger is used the same as that fitted to the Saab Turbo, thus ensuring availability of turbo spares throughout the world) sucking through an SU HIF carburetter in to a neatly cast special manifold. Maximum boost is regulated by a conventional wastegate to 5 p.s.i. The standard rotary engine's compression of 9.4:1 is retained, but micro-chip wizardry is employed to retard the ignition as the boost (and thus the effective compression ratio) increases to prevent detonation, a condition to be avoided at all costs in a rotary engine since it seriously damages the rotor tips. The micro-chip serves other functions: if boost pressure rises above 5 p.s.i. due to a sticky wastegate valve (a condition avoided by a vacuum operated device to open the wastegate on the overrun), or if the driver should fail to notice the audible warning bleep when the engine revolutions exceed 7,000 r.p.m., the black box cuts every other spark on the leading plugs until the boost and/or the revolutions drop to safe levels. With many turbo conversions, usually carried out in dribs and drabs or at best in small batches, the manifolds required are fabricated and are not always interchangeable one for another. Elford's, wary of their reputation for quality, have gone the whole way. The exhaust manifold, on to which the turbocharger is mounted, is neatly cast in iron and is jig machined to fine tolerances while the inlet manifold, machined in the same way from an alloy casting, has been carefully designed with better balance to iron out some of the problems encountered with the original turbo-conversion. Neat touches include a separator to remove the air from the turbocharger lubricating oil before it is returned to the sump — in reciprocating engines, a small amount of oil / air froth returning to the sump from the high speed turbocharger spindle bearings makes little difference, but in the rotary application it could lead to problems with the metering device for the tip lubrication. The forward parts of the exhaust system are of stainless steel, only the final expansion box and the tail pipes of the original system being used.
The full Elford treatment is not confined to the turbocharger alone. The already purposeful appearance of the RX7 is considerably enhanced by the addition of a deep air dam at the front and a full width rear spoiler, both made from fibre glass, sprayed to match the car. Cibié spot lamps, which can be used for daylight flashing, or to augment the headlamps, are incorporated in the air dam, while the rear spoiler provides another example of the fine attention to detail which characterises this conversion: a small, barely noticeable drainage channel is provided represent any accumulation of water which may seep through the hole for the electrically operated aerial. Customers may choose whether to retain the original headlamp washing system or to have this adapted to provide additional jets (and capacity) for the somewhat mediocre screen washers of the standard car. Competition brake pads are fitted.
Finally, Wolfrace sonic wheels, bronze tinted and fitted with Pirelli P6 rubber are substituted for the Japanese Dunlop shod Mazda wheels. 13 inch wheels are standard, giving a slightly lower overall gearing with the 60% profile Pirellis, but customers may opt for 14" wheels, or even 50% profile, P7 shod, 15" wheels at correspondingly higher prices. As with the under-bonnet arrangements, the exterior modifications are integrated with the original so well that it is difficult to believe that they are not manufactured and fitted by Mazda in Japan. The interior remains unchanged, without even the addition of a boost gauge.
Thus modified, the characteristics of the Elford Turbo RX7 bear so little resemblance to those of the standard car that it is surprising that so little has been done. The RX7 we had on long term test recently was awkward in traffic, the engine being fussy at low speeds necessitating much use of the gearbox: not so the turbo. The standard car's brakes were almost too powerful, care having to be taken not to lock the front wheels, especially in damp conditions, not so the Elford car. Mazda's RX7 provides good roadholding and controllable, tail happy handling: the Pirelli tyres provide the Elford Turbo with truly excellent roadholding and add a new dimension to the handling.
The quoted power output of the turbocharged engine in 160 b.h.p., up by some 40 b.h p. on the standard unit. More impressive is the improvement in the characteristics of the engine — the normally aspirated motor needs to rotate quite fast for adequate performance — there is little below 2,000 r.p.m. and it is at its most comfortable above 4.000 r.p.m. In the turbocharged form, there is plenty of torque across the whole range of engine speeds. The engine will pull from as low as 1,000 r.p.m. quite happily and smoothly, making town driving much less tiring. Acceleration is much improved, the rest to 60 m.p.h. time being reduced to below eight seconds, our best time being a whisker below 71/2 sec. bv dint of making an early up change from first to second to avoid the tendency of the gearbox to baulk when a rapid change is called for at high engine speeds. There is no trace of any flat spot, and the engine seems even smoother than ever. If the standard car was happy pounding along continental motorways at a steady 100 m.p.h. (just under 5,000 r.p.m.) the Elford car would be happy at 120 m.p.h., hour in, hour out, the engine running perfectly sweetly at some 6,100 r.p.m on the 13 in. wheeled demonstrator we borrowed for an all too brief 600-mile stint early in March. The standard car goes slightly faster in fourth at some 121 m.p.h. than in fifth, when the best we obtained was 117 m.p.h. Elford's car is still pulling strongly when the speedometer needle goes off the 140 m.p.h. clock, the rev counter showing 6.700 r.p.m in fifth. Top speed must be of the order of 135 m.p.h. Mid-range acceleration is also considerably improved, making marginal overtaking manoeuvres safe and enabling the owner to achieve better journey times in a more relaxed state. The biggest improvements come in the top gear acceleration at typical cruising speeds - 50 to 70 is improved from over 11 seconds to seven seconds, while 80 to 100 shows a dramatic improvement of over five seconds at a shade under 11 seconds.
The handling, roadholding and breaking are all transformed by the Pirelli rubber – gone is the tendency to lock up the front wheels under braking, even on damp roads, unless one really stamps on the pedal. The point at which the car starts to unstick is in the dry has been elevated beyond the limits of all but the totally crazy, while the handling is more responsive than the standard set up, there being much less initial understeer when approaching a corner fast, quicker turn into the corner and no trace of tail steering on a dry road unless the driver is being deliberately brutal. On wet roads, the Pirellis continue to grip remarkably well, but tail slides are relatively easy to induce and equally easy to control – all the driver need to do is to steer in the direction he wishes to travel and the car seems to collect itself, following the chosen course.
There was one fault on the six month old demonstrator which manifested itself only occasionally, but always at awkward moments. Elford's provide a drainage tube to carry any liquid fuel which might accumulate in the turbo-housing on the overrun back to the carburetter. The tube on our car occasionally blocked, preventing the drainage taking place. The effect was to make the engine very over rich and totally gutless at anything below 2,000 r.p.m., but tickover was unaffected. The result was gentle clutch and throttle movements, which would normally get the car away to a smooth start, would merely lurch the car a couple of yards into the traffic whereupon the engine would virtually die, necessitating a rapid change of tactics to dip the clutch, build up the revs and scream away, boy racer style. Considering that the car had covered over 19,000 miles in the hands of some very press-on drivers, it is to Elford's credit that there was no, more serious snag.
The only quibble we have with the conversion is its range. The fuel consumption of the RX7 we tested during the latter half of last year worked out as an average 231/2 m.p.g. The turbo charger conversion knocks that figure back to below 20 if the car is driven with any spirit, making fuel stops essential every 200 miles: if Elford's wished to go one step nearer to perfection, they should incorporate double fuel capacity.
To buy a converted new RX7 will set you back the best part of £12,000. Elford's will convert an existing owner's car (Mk. I or Mk. II ) for £2,650., but will not sell a kit other than through a recognised dealership (such as Lightowlers of Bradford, Donalds of Peterborough and Richard Knight in London) who will carry out the conversion. Spoilers are available separately, as are the sonic wheels and Pirelli tyres, or if you only want the turbocharger on its own, the cost is £1,500. – P.H.J.W.
Land Rover Options
AT the end of last month, Land Rover Ltd. announced two new variants to their range, a high capacity pick-up and new "County" station wagon as well as a series of new options for their rugged moss-country vehicles to enhance their appeal in the expanding four-wheel-drive market. The main option, which will particularly benefit those who spend long hours behind the wheel, is to have "County" scats and trim in the cab — the seats are considerably more comfortable than the standard items, and the trim includes excellent sound-deadening material. Together, these options transform the vehicle from the comfort point of view. Other options are aimed at improving fuel economy and include radial ply tyres and free-wheel hubs as well as an ex-facto, overdrive, although these last two are not available on the V8-engined models which run in permanent 4WD.
IN the article published under this heading last month I mentioned being shown the proper way round Goodwood circuit by Graham Hill, on the occasion of some endurance running with small Fords. Foraging among old papers the other day, when searching for details of some Mercedes racing history, I came upon the report of this event, from which I see that Graham wasn't one of the drivers, although he did take me through the Goodwood corners. For the record, it was a run organised in 1955 by National Benzole — so many of these endurance exercises were to promote petrol and oil companies' products — to establish m.p.g. figures for the current Ford Anglia and an equivalent Ford fitted with overdrive. It lasted 24 hours, the drivers, who included well-known rallymen, being changed every two hours. The ordinary Anglia covered 1,000.8 miles at 41.7 m.p.h. and 39.88 m.p.g., the overdrive car 1,116 miles at 46.5 m.p.h. and 40.58 m.p.g including two changes of the front wheels, which presumably proved something or other, speed having been deliberately restricted by pit signals. Elsewhere in the "Endurance Runs" article the aeroplane used by Alan Hess for his Round-the-World scans with an Austin A40 Sports is quoted as a "DL4"; it was in fact a DC4 -Douglas Corporation Type-4 surely? And the Nagant-Hobson referred to on page 320 did a run from Sydney to Melbourne.
Cars In Books
CARS are referred to by two famous authors in autobiographical books. C. S. Forrester, creator of "Hornblowcr" in Naval fiction, who didn't like cars, remembers that at school any lack of social eminence could be compensated for if one's parents possessed the right kind of car. In "Long Before Forty" (Michael Joseph, 1967) he suggests that a Rolls-Royce put a Linen Draper, for example, on a par with a Rear Admiral, and that one Daimler was worth two doctors, so to speak, but that it was better to disclaim all ownership of a motor car than to admit the existence of a family Ford — all long since altered, of course, as parents arrive at their sons' public schools in Granada Ghias . . .
Desmond Morris, best-known perhaps as the author of "The Naked Ape", tells in "Animal Days" (Cape, 1979) of how Danny Lehrman fell through the floor of his small sports Singer, feet on the ground. I thought when I first read this that it must have been a rare pre-1914 Singer Ten, with decayed wooden floor, as I remembered how someone had asked me for a lift when I was leaving Silverstone in my 1914 Alfonso Hispano Suiza and on saving "Jump in", he did just that, going through the floor, which was riddled with wood-worm. I did not realise what had happened and took his shouts for "goodbyes" to his friends, so that he was obliged to run with the car as I drove off. But Morris' Singer was owned while he was at Oxford after WW2, so must presumably have had a metal floor, and one concludes that rust was to blame. — W.B.
The Things They Say . . .
"...I think it is about time somebody stopped the stupid business of rallying and motor racing. . . on motor-racing circuits we have screaming machines manned by pathetic creatures who have never grown up and who think it brave and glamorous to risk their lives and others' eardrums in the pursuit of speed . . I will never believe any Government that tells me to Save It (petrol) while allowing these overgrown schoolboys to play their enormously wasteful games — Gerry Anderson, writing in the Wolverhampton Express and Star, who presumably "saves it" by using only a bicycle for transport. It is just as well to know one's friends and one is of course free to choose one's newspapers — remembering that this one was once favourably disposed towards motoring sport. — W.B.