Matters of Moment, December 1955

Bravo Britain!
The 1955 motor-racing season ended with two achievements over which Britain is perfectly justified in blowing her own trumpet. We refer to the outright victory of 23-year-old C. A. S. Brooks in a Connaught against the works Maseratis at Syracuse, and the capture of International Class c records at Montlhèry, including the coveted ” hour,”by a Cooper-Climax running on pump fuel.

At Syracuse young Brooks beat Musso and Villoresi convincingly, and although it may be argued that the short 3.4-mile triangular circuit particularly suited the power characteristics of the Connaught’s four-cylinder Alta engine, races of this calibre, against Maseratis driven by Italian aces, are won only by driving of exceptional skill. Brooks showed common sense by saving his brakes, knowing that he could out-accelerate the Italians after the hairpin. Incidentally, he was also extremely modest after his victory, so unexpected by the Italians. Brooks has shown outstanding virtuosity at the wheel of saloon D.K.W., sports Healey, Frazer-Nash and Aston Martin, and racing Connaught cars for some considerable time, and by finishing over a mile ahead of Musso at Syracuse in his very first Grand Prix, averaging a shade over 99 m.p.h, and putting the lap record, previously held by Marimon’s Maserati at 99.3 m.p.h., to a rousing 102.34 m.p.h., this unassuming young driver elevates himself to genuine Grand Prix stature.

The congratulations we offer Brooks we would extend to include the names of Kenneth McAlpine, who sponsors the little Connaught factory at Send, in Surrey, his skilled technicians, Rodney Clarke and Mike Oliver and the mechanics who prepared the car.

The International Class G records broken at Montlhèry by the Cooper-Climax are equally meritorious in their particular sphere. Here was a British car, built by the small but well-known firm at Surbiton, in Surrey, which set out, not merely to prove its worth as a sports car running on normal Esso petrol and Essolube oil, but to attack records which are the province of out-and-out racing machinery and special record cars.

Subject to confirmation, it broke the figures from 50 kilos. to six hours, at speeds of from 111.55 to 128.27 m.p.h., taking the difficult hour record at over 125 m.p.h. and, incidentally, putting up a new s.s. lap record for Montlhèry of 101.70 m.p.h. and a best flying-lap of 132.56 m.p.h. — this with road equipment such as lamps, horn, etc., in place, and with the Le Mans back-axle ratio, fuel consumption being quoted as 35 m.p.g.! M.G. and D.B. records were broken convincingly.

Congratulations again — to Cooper Cars, Coventry-Climax, and the drivers, Jim Russell, Arthur Owen and Bill Knight.

With the Mille Miglia and Targa Florio won by British drivers, Le Mans won by Jaguar, and the promise shown by our Connaught, Vanwall and B.R.M. Grand Prix cars, Britain can face the sporting side of motoring with equanimity in looking at the prospects for 1956.

What is a Production Car?
To the old conundrum “What is a sports car?” has been added, since the British Motor Corporation’s” 100-in-the-hour” runs at Montlhèry, the new one:” When is a production car not a production car?”

World and International-Class records nearly all stand today at high speeds and it is excellent that there should be other, lesser but still formidable, achievements at which the ambitious can aim on the banked high-speed circuits at Montlhèry and Monza. For this reason there came into being, in 1937, the “sports car hour” unofficial record. Very soon our R.A.C. refused to observe it, on the grounds that it offered opportunities of setting up sensational speeds with cars which departed materially from catalogue specification. This did not prevent this interesting “record” from continuing, as a leading article in this issue of Motor Sport recalls.

The recent runs of this duration by the B.M.C. have resulted in considerable confusion as to just how non-standard cars can become in these pursuits. So some words of explanation seemed to be called for.

As such “records” are in any case unofficial, there is really no need to comply with any requirements other than confirmation that a given driver of a certain car has been timed officially at such-and-such a speed for this or that duration. Broadly speaking, however, cars submitted as production-type vehicles, other than sports cars, may be expected to fall within four categories: completely standard vehicles, normal series production touring cars, “Grand Touring” series production cars or Special series production touring cars, the three last-named being defined under groups 1, 2 and 3, respectively, of Appendix J of the International Sporting Code. Sports-type cars are sub-divided into Series-production and international categories (groups 4 and 5, respectively). Now the B.M.C. used for their runs three saloon cars which put up speeds which quite obviously could not have been accomplished by standard vehicles, as road-test reports and the experiences of private owners confirm — indeed, one of these saloons was appreciably faster, carrying four passengers, than the sports Austin-Healey 100M and M.G. series MGA, which were also timed for the hour “record.”

The explanation is that, although the official B.M.C. hand-out dated 23rd October referred to these vehicles as “for sale over the counter” cars, elsewhere was inserted a statement that they ran under groups 3 and 4 under F.I.A. regulations.

What this amounts to is that, although all three of these B.M.C. saloons would have qualified as normal series-production touring cars as defined under group 1 of the F.I.A. requirements, 600 of each having presumably been built within 12 consecutive months, to run in this category cars are required to be in reasonably “catalogue trim,” changes which affect performance being confined to alteration of make and type of sparking plugs and distributor, jets and chokes and type and make, but not size, of carburetter, and the ratios of gearbox and rear axle, and capacity of fuel tank and radiators, only if such special parts are sold according to catalogue and listed beforehand.

Clearly the B.M.C. had to go beyond this to get the required speeds, using non-standard compression ratios and valve springs, twin S.U. carburetters on the Austin A90 Westminster in place of the single Zenith carburetter fitted as standard, and higher back-axle ratios on the Austin, Riley Pathfinder and Wolseley 6/90 cars. Consequently, wishing to publicise the cars which did these 100m.p.h. plus speeds as “production touring cars,” it was necessary to declare them under group 3, in which a pretty free hand is given to entrants in respect of “hotting-up” modifications.

In spite of this, and a statement of what was done to each of the cars having been issued by the B.M.C. Competitions Department, B.M.C. advertisements have appeared which proclaim: “B.M.C. are the only manufacturers to offer you five 100-m.p.h. models yet there is no increase in the price of any of these superbly-engineered cars.” No reference appears in these advertisements to the tuning of these cars to F.I.A. group 3 and 4 standards.

Little wonder, then, that comment has been made by readers of Motor Sport and other papers, and the publicity value of these very fast runs by mass-produced British cars — which performed with creditable reliability, a little tyre trouble apart, ably compered by Marcus Chambers and John Thornley — diminished.

We suggest to future participants in the “production-car-hour” whose standard cars cannot hope to achieve 100 m.p.h. on occasions such as these that they either keep to the modifications permitted by the F.I.A. to normal series-production touring cars (group 1), or else that they desist from embarking on such demonstrations for purposes of commercial publicity. By running cars modified with parts unobtainable “over the counter,” they will succeed in bamboozling only the more gullible elements of the motoring public.


A Matter of Policy

If “British Bulldogs” would read war-time or pre-war issues of Motor Sport they could assure themselves that W.B. is very well acquainted with British motor cars, particularly the higher grade ones, many of which are no longer in production.

If they would then pursue the matter further and read sufficient of these past issues they would come to realise that W.B., although an individualist by taste, nevertheless has never failed to give praise to the humblest car, if it be a good and honest car, or to debunk pretentious rubbish, however high its price or powerful its manufacturers. Indeed, to read war-time Motor Sports shows fully what great hopes W.B. and his many friends in the motor sporting world had for post-war British cars, and to read the issues of the last ten years shows how bitterly he and they have been disappointed. It is probably true that motoring as it was understood in vintage and earlier years is dead, and its passing will be lamented only by the few. If the satisfaction of this few were the only concern, this could be done quite adequately by the handful of specialist car makers still left in this country, the imported car and the vintage movement. Unfortunately, however, the commercial success abroad of British cars is of very great concern to all of us, for on it rests to some extent our National economic well-being. The plain truth is that we are losing markets, markets we should never have lost but for poor design, indifferent workmanship and appalling wervice. The Successes of British motor cars which “British Bulldogs” are so proud of are either commercial successes on the home market or the competition successes of the products of very small production works quite unconnected with the car-making industry in its wider sense.

The success of Connaught at Syracuse lends weight to this, for in the same paper that described the race was the news that the concern was once again hamstrung for lack of finance and unlikely to continue. The brains and knowledge at Connaught Engineering, coupled with a determined attack on standards of manufacture, would be sufficient to revitalise our export trade, yet the British Motor Industry stands aloof, content to see invaluable knowledge go begging.

“British Bulldogs” are presumably connected with the motor industry, from their address, and if a guess may be made from their curious and pedantic style of writing they are of executive class. If I have guessed correctly, then they may yet have cause to bless W.B., although I strongly doubt if they will do so. Every foreign car sold here, of a type that is selling well abroad, is some slight pressure on the home producer to produce a competitive product. Import duties and import quotas make this unlikely, but we can only hope that this, W.B., and possibly Mr. Butler will all have the desired effect in a short space of time. Otherwise, the inevitable retribution will leave both well-paid Motor Industry executives and we lesser mortals wondering where our next meal, or job, is coming from.

I am, Yours, etc.,
J. B. Owen.

*   *   *

I am not in the habit of writing to magazines, but I decided to write to you to implore you to refrain from giving the VW so much publicity in Motor Sport. You tell us that you were tired of the 2.4 Jaguar after seeing 65 separate pictures of it in a weekly contemporary. I would like to point out that I am getting sick, tired and weary of continually seeing so many references to the VW in every issue of your magazine. Practically whatever the article, the VW will get some place in it somewhere, whilst British cars are pushed further and farther into the background. At least the weekly paper kept to the advertisement section for the 65 pictures. You spread VW throughout the text!

As soon as I read Robert Glenton’s article in the Sunday Express I at once thought that Motor Sport would spend a great deal of space answering back. You certainly did. If it had been, for example, an A30 that had been criticised, I wonder whether you would have mentioned it at all! I think not.

You don’t like drawing comparisons between cars, yet what about page 607 of the October issue? This was just another example of how you bring the VW into everything. Another example is page 679 of the November issue.

Two great car factories have been celebrating great occasions in their history of late — VW and Austin. You published a three-page article on the VW celebrations yet the Austin jubilee was hardly mentioned — if at all. Why?

If the VW has any rivals in Motor Sport it is the other famous Continental cars — especially Mercedes. As Jaguar and Mercedes are very close rivals, doesn’t it ever occur to you that Jaguars might like a little space front time to time? We have so far had three road-tests of a VW, and stacks of references and articles on the Mercedes, yet we have had only one test of a Jaguar — an XK120 a long time ago.

The person who only reads Motor Sport will hardly have heard of a Mark VII — surely one of Britain’s best cars. Incidentally, when Jaguars won their first Le Mans there was a one-page report, when Mercedes won theirs in 1952 there was a four- or five-page report. Why was this? [In 1952 Motor Sport had fewer pages and a smaller staff than today, and reports had to be proportioned accordingly. — Ed.]

We went on a three-page tour of the B.M.W. works and car last issue. This was a very interesting article, and I enjoyed it, but couldn’t we go to a British car factory from time to time? You did publish an article on the specialist makers; but what about the others?

Did I read on page 673 of the November issue that you doubt whether Jaguars will lend you a car? If that is so, then I think you might as well pack in, or change the name on the magazine. On reading the tail-end of the article on the new Citroën, I was amazed to see that you say that you came away “feeling that British cars are merely vintage vehicles dressed up in modern shells,” Surely all the Continental jobs except the Citroën are not more “modern” than ours, unless you consider that rear-engined cars are more “modern” than the conventional type. The Mercedes haven’t got power steering, brakes, automatic transmission and such-like, yet surely the Mercedes is not a “vintage vehicle in a modern shell.”

I was rather taken aback to see a letter published by you from Mr. M. C. Hogan: not because of what it said about British cars, but you deliberately held it back for the Motor Show edition. Surely this was a deliberate free advert. for VW. [Not deliberately, expediently, Mr. Hodgson. — Ed.]

I am not saying that. the VW or any other Continental make is not what you make it out to be, although I don’t think much of the VW as a family car, as there is nothing like enough room inside. What I am trying to say is, why should a VW get all the limelight whilst Allard, Alvis, A-S, Aston Martin, Bentley, Dellow, Jaguar, Jensen, Lagonda, Riley, Rover, R.-R. and such-like are hardly mentioned? Why should one car get all the publicity whilst others get none? I honestly think it is spoiling the otherwise excellent magazine. Could you please publish just one edition without mentioning the VW, or is this asking too much?

Just to touch onto another subject: Isn’t the performance of the 1953 Javelin about equal to the Borgward Isabella?

I am, Yours, etc.,
F. L. Hodgson.


We publish above two readers’ letters, that from Mr. J. B. Owen because it does much to endorse the Editorial policy of Motor Sport, that from Mr. F. L. Hodgson because it crystallises the kind of criticism which this policy draws forth.

We have always considered that the first duty of a paper to its readers is to present honest, accurate and unbiased views. We are fully aware of the seriousness of lost markets to the British Motor Industry, both to ourselves and, more important, to our children. But refusal to recognise merit in rival products will not undermine the weight of their attack and, to say the least, is foolish and defeatist. The present “line” that the sales figures of a certain world-beating German small car are faked, that its manufacturer sponsors deliberate lies against our products in the foreign Press, and that sneers should be directed at those who seek to publicise what is good, no matter from whence it emanates, such is un-British and certainly will not restore lost sales.

If the British Motor Industry is to compete successfully in world markets it must discard old designs and build cars incorporating the modern technical features it is obvious the world’s buyers seek. Our policy is to underline this essential in the patriotic hope that something will be done, and soon.

What people tend to overlook is that in the high-performance and sports-car field a car may possess excellent performance but be marred by one unhappy feature, such as poor steering; it may prove capable of very high speed but fail to appeal on account of, for example, badly-spaced gear-ratios; but in the lower-price categories one or two backward features, weighed against the whole, seldom or never condemn. For example, those who are compelled to purchase the less-expensive vehicles have to assess performance, reliability, passenger and luggage accommodation, suspension characteristics, fuel consumption, adaptability to extremes of heat and cold, effectiveness of the controls, finish and price in one crucible, and their choice is unlikely to be deterred by one or two adverse factors, such as the alleged noise-menace of a VW (less tiring, surely, than the raucous exhaust-notes of many sports cars?) or the cramping of an occasional fourth passenger.

It is apparent that on this basis small Continental cars are outselling British vehicles of out-dated design and Motor Sport claims to have predicted what was bound to occur. If overmuch space appears to some of our readers to have been devoted to attempts to draw the British Motor Industry’s attention to this dangerous state of affairs, other readers, in greater proportion, seem to approve of the policy; many of them have been kind enough to endorse the correctness of our “forecast” in respect to the German beetle-car, a car which has recently beaten all-comers in the tough 9,100-mile Redex Australian Trial.

The time is now opportune to throw some light on the apathy of the British Motor Industry in respect of Motor Sport’s attempts to publicise British cars. Three years ago one of the biggest car manufacturers in the country took exception to some technical criticisms of two of their faster products which we had road-tested. Proprietor and Editor were summoned to their presence — as we thought to discuss our criticisms with the engineers, thus starting a platform of discussion in which error, could be righted and our readers be able to benefit from the views of the Industry technicians. What happened? The second-in command of this vast motor empire banged his desk, demanded that criticism of his company’s products never again appear in the pages of Motor Sport, told the Editor he was neurotic and had lost the following of every competition driver in the country. He brushed aside our suggested interview with his engineers with the astonishing comment that quite probably his company’s cars did possess the defects we named but that never again must Motor Sport dare to say so. And, in case we refused to be muzzled (Britain has a free Press), this gentleman said never again should we drive his company’s cars, and to this day the ban has been maintained.

Mr. Hodgson remarks that “Jaguar might like a little space from time to time,” so we are compelled to state that we have repeatedly written and telephoned the P.R.O. of the Jaguar Company, requesting cars for road-test, but without result since we were lent an XK120 in 1951. This is not an isolated case. The Editor suggested an article on the development of the Daimler Conquest but their P.R.O. said, in effect, “Come if you like, but there is really nothing to tell you.” We wrote up, as Mr. Hodgson recollects, the British specialist firms but not one of them, apart from Lotus, has ever managed to submit a car for test, although the first on the list has made scores of promises of “one the week after next,” which are never fulfilled in spite of our numerous appeals to P.R.O. and Managing Director.

Alvis, Armstrong-Siddeley, Aston Martin, Bentley, Jensen, Rover, Rolls-Royce, Daimler and Jaguar — we can go through the list and state honestly that it is always next week, next year, but never today that Motor Sport will get one of these famous British cars for test purposes. We have a reputation for frank but fair reporting and we maintain that without criticism where it is merited praise loses much of its significance — an opinion which so many of our friends who came to see us at the Motor Show very generously endorsed, unasked. The practice of borrowing anybody’s car for an afternoon and then writing a full test-report on it, repaying the “loan” by words of unblemished praise, so that the car seems at least as good as any other, if not better than the last, never has appealed to us. If the British manufacturers named fear a Motor Sport road-test of their products, then the British Motor Industry is indeed in a serious position.

It may be argued that we should seek such cars from agents or from private owners, but when the parent factory has failed to lend us a car, to test a vehicle which might be either sub-standard or extra-potent would put us in an invidious position; apart from which, if the companies we approached can afford to forgo several hundred pounds’ worth of free world publicity, why should Motor Sport go to them cap-in-hand? Nevertheless, this apathy is an embarrassment to us when we are obliged in answering the many enquiries we receive continually from overseas buyers to say that so far we have not been allowed to gain first-hand experience of the British cars in which these good people are interested.

In case readers think that we are unfair as well as outspoken, perhaps it should be mentioned that we have suffered failures of major components when taking over cars for test, but satisfied that these were due to careless servicing, such as not filling a back-axle with oil on a 2-litre sports car now out of production, bearing failure of a 4-litre saloon due to an obstruction in the oilways, in both instances when the Proprietor was driving, and a sticking valve on a vintage-style 1½-litre saloon (in the two later instances the cars have never been re-submitted for test), we have refrained from comment which under the circumstances would be unfair to the unfortunate British firms involved. Those who make good cars have nothing to fear — Continental Press cars have never given trouble and are more readily submitted for test and over much longer periods. No, it seems that the British Motor Industry has been afraid, for too long, of honest criticism, or is terribly apathetic, or both.

Mr. Hodgson queries why we reported at length on the VW “one-million” festivities but not on Austin’s Jubilee. The answer is so simple — the Editor received an invitation to one, no invitation to the other.

Mr. Owen is correct when he emphasises the seriousness to everyone in Britain of growing Continental sales — the thought was never very far from your Editor’s conscience as he sat in Wolfsburg Stadium watching an International festival, even though motor cars were scarcely mentioned. But to attempt to muzzle the facts is no way to combat the foreign menace. This menace can, indeed, be under-estimated. Mr. Hodgson thinks that not all Continental cars are more modern than ours, but the fact is that such up-to-date items as independent rear suspension, front engines with front-wheel drive, rear engines with rear-wheel drive, air-cooling, two-stroke engines, petrol-injection and the like are almost without exception the sole prerogative of the Continentals — Citroën, VW, Fiat, D.K.W., Renault, Borgward, Mercedes-Benz, Lloyd, Skoda. Porsche. etc. Mercedes have got automatic transmission (the 300C); the Jowett Javelin (an honest attempt to build something different and effective in this country) did go nearly as well as today’s Borgward Isabella but it wasn’t so roomy and, in any case, has been crowded out of the market. Even amongst the “lowest-form-of-motoring-life,” scooters, the N.S.U. Quickly is capturing markets.

All this alarms and disturbs Motor Sport, as does unsatisfactory service for British cars, of which, alas, we have had first-hand experience.

The Editor writes not only as a journalist but as an ordinary car user and enthusiast. He is abetted in this by his Proprietor, for which he is appreciative. Like every human mortal he makes mistakes.

We are British, we have no reason to be pro-German and will not only be pleased but proud to give publicity to any really new British car if the manufacturers will co-operate. The Editorial VW, D.K.W., and Porsche were purchased and paid for in the normal course of business, we hasten to explain, not accepted as “bribes”! The first-named came from a factory which, let’s face it, was point blank refused by the British Motor Industry when offered to them as war reparations. It would appear that the very best suggestion put forward by the investigating committee, the Chairman of which we believe was Sir William Rootes, was to dismantle and destroy.

Why did Motor Sport buy these invaders? Because the Editor wanted an air-cooled engine, a nice gear-change and all-round independent suspension. The Proprietor wished for a swift, compact car that would handle as well as his obsolete Javelin; his wish was satisfied by the two-stroke engine with f.w.d. The Continental Correspondent sought a fast, air-cooled car not exceeding 1½ litres, that would give him 600 tireless miles in a day and provide a decent economy of fuel. Where are the equivalents from the British factories?

We long to proclaim to the world the quality, high performance and good equipment of British cars, with fair criticism where justified. But we shall continue to print what we discover to be true, not what we are persuaded is true or are told secondhand; and we refuse to be muzzled, even by the tycoons of the big factories. That this policy is not wrong is proved by the continuing rise in the circulation of Motor Sport which has put it in the position of the motor paper with the largest A.B.C. Certified Net Sales. — W. J. T. / W. B.


Daimler-Benz and Motor-Racing

Back in the summer the Daimler-Benz factory announced that they were withdrawing from Grand Prix racing at the end of the 1955 season and would continue with sports-car racing. The reason for this was that it needed all the brains and technical skill in the factory to carry out the very full 1955 programme of Grand Prix and sports-car racing, and this had curtailed development work on the normal production cars and engines produced by Daimler-Benz. When one has seen the thorough way in which the Daimler-Benz engineers tackle the problem of motor-racing and racing-car design it is understandable that 500 people were engaged on the project.

That the brief re-entry into racing by the Mercedes-Benz team was successful in the extreme can be seen by the record of their successes since July, 1954, when they made their first appearance in the new Formula 1 with their highly complex W196 car. From July, 1954, to September, 1955, they competed in 13 championship Grand Prix races and won 10 of them, on two occasions they were beaten, finishing fourth at Silverstone and third at Barcelona, in 1954, while the third race they did not win was the Monaco Grand Prix this year, when all three cars retired with engine trouble, the only serious mechanical failure that ever affected the whole team. The record of their 300SLR sports car is equally impressive, being first and second in the Mille Miglia, Tourist Trophy, Targa Florio, Eifelrennen and Swedish Grand Prix, and only failing to win at Le Mans, where the cars were withdrawn for reasons of manufacturer policy. In addition to these successes the 300SL models won the Tulip Rally and the Liége-Rome-Liége Rally among many others and netted the Touring Car Championship for the year, so it was not surprising that Daimler-Benz had a celebration at Stuttgart, for all those drivers who had been successful with their cars.

It was at this re-union that Dr. Nallinger, the head of the racing department, announced that Daimler-Benz were withdrawing from sports-car racing as well as Grand Prix racing. To many people this was difficult to understand, but when it is realised that Daimler-Benz tackle motor-racing as a technical exercise for their engineering abilities and not for sport, it can be appreciated that they could quite easily say “We will now direct our technical organisation towards another mechanical problem.”

The French, the Italians and the English, for that matter, go motor-racing because they enjoy the sport of competition and they have a love for fast cars and if they could race without the technical background required to build a racing car they would happily do so, but Daimler-Benz have a different outlook, their real interest lies in the project of motor-racing as a technical problem. They have solved that technical problem with almost 100 per cent. success in 18 months, so it really is not very surprising that they have written out their findings, drawn up the conclusions and closed the folio headed “For the attention of the technical department — Subject: motor racing” and opened the next folio headed “Passenger-car development.”

If Maserati or Ferrari were to stop racing their whole beings would stop, the technicians and mechanics would stand around idly wondering what they could do with themselves and that is one of the fundamental differences between Mercedes-Benz and the other racing teams. This attitude is not confined to the Stuttgart firm, but applies to any manufacturer of their size, for not long ago Alfa-Romeo withdrew their 159 models and have yet to re-appear in Grand Prix racing. Large concerns like these do not race for a living, a sport, or a way of life, but as an exercise of the most exacting kind for their technical and organising powers, and to prove to the world and themselves that the quality of their engineering is the best there is. That certain technical developments are passed on to the production cars, such as the Daimler-Benz fuel-ignition, are side-issues, such developments would arrive without racing, but Grand Prix racing must certainly speed-up the development. The real reason behind the participation of a large manufacturer must first and foremost be to show the world that that firm’s ability in engineering problems is of the highest possible order. If the organisation were to do what Daimler-Benz have done then they would create a name for their engineering prowess, which would not only convince the world that all branches of their engineering most be as good. but wonld automatically affect all their various engineering activities, instilling that same high standard that Grand Prix racing demands.

The complete withdrawal by Daimler-Benz is an unhappy thing for many of us, especially those interested in technical development, but, on the other hand, they had monopolised racing to such an extent that their withdrawal will at last allow someone else to win. — D. S. J,