The annual Motor Show Test Day at Goodwood Circuit, organised by the Guild of Motoring Writers, is one of the outstanding events of the winter season.
On October 26th, the date of this year’s Test Day, the weather remained fine until a quarter of an hour before the track was closed. No fewer than 37 British cars were assembled for the journalists and foreign visitors to drive as fast as they could for three laps of the circuit, taking their guests as passengers. Only the Frazer-Nash was a “non-starter.”
The day’s entertainment was splendidly organised for the Guild by John Morgan and his B.A.R.C. officials. Although the demand for cars was naturally considerable, we managed to try nine different makes and ride in a tenth, which no doubt represented the experience of the average visitor. And a valuable experience it was, embracing nearly 80 miles of unfettered high-speed driving in 1953 cars.
Our impressions can be summarised as follows :—
Allard Palm Beach.—Brisk and pleasant to handle, but one felt conscious of its light weight. The bonnet “ripples” noticeably, the central gear-lever, although very smooth to operate, has long movements and is rather indefinite and there was a clanking from a detached shock-absorber which “retired” this car for a time. The bench-seat is unsuited to such a fast-cornering car; it will be adjustable on production models. The dashboard is so flimsy it flexes as you press the starter! Excellent top-gear performer.
Allard Safari.—This large, useful car was great fun, as it would do most of the circuit in top gear, taking the bends in safe controlled slides. Its Ford V8 30 engine was rather tired and the short right-hand gear-lever had an unusually long travel like that on the Palm Beach. It could “outcorner ” its bench-seating. This wood-panelled shooting-brake is a low-built, good-looking car but somehow reminiscent of the “red-petrol” era.
Bristol 401.—This car went very fast and smoothly and cornered far faster than we were led to expect by its comfortable suspension. There was some brake fade.
Ford Zephyr.—Gave a smooth, pleasant and very willing ride. The starter-button on the side of the new instrument-cluster on the facia is rather fun.
Hillman Minx.—Has a smart “new-look” so that even after we got out we had a vague idea we had driven a baby Humber. More “squidgy” than we had remembered.
Jaguar Mk. VII.—Sumptuous car, but needed getting used to, as the Mintex-lined brakes are so powerful as to be sensitive under one’s foot and the stiff central gear-lever is not where you expect it to be and has unexpectedly long movements. Engine very quiet: inaudible at tick-over. More supple than we liked. Smelt very warm. Adjustable steering column elected to adjust wheel while we diced!
Jaguar XK 120 coupe.—Splendid fun; felt extremely safe at speed and was about 20 m.p.h. quicker than the Mk. VII along Levant Straight. This was a left-hand-drive car; the brake-pedal is placed too much above the treadle throttle pedal.
Jowett Jupiter.—Although this red two-seater has noticeable oversteer, it really did feel safe when cornered fast, and earns full marks on that score. The gear-change on the steering-column is a trifle harsh and the brake-lever practical if “agricultural.” The engine slogged away without complaint at 4,000 r.p.m.
Morgan Plus 4.—Taut steering, a proper gear-change by tiny lever on the floor, and felt essentially safe round the corners. The engine “pinked” badly but got up to a speedometer 70 in third. It did not run-on when the ignition was “cut.”
Apart from trying these cars, we rode in the Bentley Continental which was entrusted only to Bentley’s new P.R.O. Even so, the good even-keel ride, excellent top-gear acceleration and famous “knife-through-margarine” gear-change were appreciated. Head-room in the back seat is restricted and the back windows will not open.
The new Armstrong-Siddeley Sapphire was also considered either too complex or too valuable for mere “writer-types” to drive, and was conducted by a member of the A-S design staff. Mostly he drove it sedately but once be took Woodcote very fast.
The new Humber Super Snipe was in great demand, so much so that it began to boil. The DB II Aston-Martin, we were told is entirely delightful on this circuit but it “retired” after being driven with the hand-brake on (!) before we could get hold of it. Floyd Clymer, from U.S.A., was singing the praises of the Jenson, in which he was not alone.
An added attraction was a Jaguar Mk. VII with Girling disc-brakes, which contributed black marks on the straights. Moreover. there were two Jaguar XK120Cs present, in which the persuasive (male) and attractive (female) had rapid rides with Stirling Moss, “Loftie” England and others. The Duke of Richmond and Gordon sportingly “had a go” in one of these XK120Cs.
Altogether it was a great day and something which, as Clymer admitted, even the Americans cannot organise yet. No one crashed or even spun round but no doubt many journalists now have a warmer respect for racing drivers who go round even faster than they did; yes, even for those who spin off in their endeavours!—W. 13.
An Excellent Shell Film
Do not fail to see the Shell Film about this year’s Le Mans Race! It runs for 30 minutes, none of which are wasted on near-misses, crashes or similar nonsense. Excellent shots of well-known personnel, the typically French scenes around the course, the British arriving for the race (in Buckler Special, overloaded Austin taxi, etc.) add to the excellent filming of the race itself.
This film does not lack drama, however. Close-ups at the pits show Neubauer’s realisation that at last Levegh has stopped and Lang’s and Riess’ Mercedes-Benz 300SL lead this classic race. You see the great German team-chief himself hold out the magic “1” to the leader, and “2” to his second Mercedes-Benz, just as, earlier in the film you saw Lang pushing the crippled Talbot of Levegh through the bends, hopeful of breaking it up. New techniques add to the reality of the night racing scenes, and the winners are seen sportingly acclaimed by the French crowds.
The film fades on that last-minute loser, Levegh (who for 23 hours alone carried the hopes of all France in his hands, in the leading Talbot, until the crankshaft broke)—a tired, unshaven, little Frenchman who walks sadly, thoughtfully along to congratulate the Germans, after being greeted tearfully by his wife. It is good that the Shell film thus pays tribute to Levegh’s gallant drive.
Clubs should book this film for their next show—apply to Shell-Max & B.P. Film Service, Shell-Mex House, W.C.2.—W.B.
On November 1st the B.B.C. was scheduled to show a television film on motor racing entitled “Looking Ahead.” We duly assembled at a friend’s house to enjoy this feature, which should have begun at 3.55 p.m. “Country Calendar” was in progress when we arrived and this continued until some time after the motor-racing film should have commenced, then faded out to the familiar fixed announcement of a breakdown.
Perhaps television breakdowns are inevitable but there was absolutely no need for the invisible golden-voiced girl to tell us, in so many words, without apology moreover, that we had “had” our motor-racing—the film had been shown earlier that afternoon to cover another breakdown in the outside televising and when the programme could be restarted we should be back at “Country Calendar.”
The B.B.C. has recently become aware of the vast audiences which it has for Raymond Baxter’s excellent motor-racing commentaries; it is high time the television section showed similar appreciation of the fact that motor-racing is now a national sport. In any case, to depart from the published times of its programmes is to make a mockery of the Radio Times, in which, on page 49 of their issue dated October 24th, “Looking Forward—a film for motor-racing enthusiasts” was clearly billed for 3.55 p.m.—W. B.
Fay Taylour has reached Australia and the Sydney Sun has let fly about her. In their issue of October 22nd they describe Fay as having broken “the late Sir M. Campbell’s lap record on the famous Brooklands Mountain Circuit in America” in 1951! What interests us more than Fay’s fictitious record at a phantom Brooklands is that her threatened book “One Love Lasted ” has now, according to the Sydney Sun, been written. When we have finished the Tallulah serial in the Sunday Express we shall want to read it.
In connection with our used-car road-test report on a 1950 750-c.c. Renault, published last month, we are asked to emphasise that since 1951 winding windows have replaced the sliding variety in the front doors of these excellent little cars.