A production-car Trial



Before the war ordinary everyday saloon cars used to compete in trials but that was a long time ago and since the war mud trials have been the preserve of highly-specialised trials machines. So it is nice to know that late in October the Huddersfield M.C. held its Standard Car Trial, which, although it attracted only eleven entries, had interesting results. As the photograph shows, wheelgrip was at a premium and it is thus significant that W. H. Sugden’s Morris Mini-Minor won, three-up in the front seats, but that if penalty marks had not been imposed on rear-engined vehicles, G. Whitehead’s Volkswagen would have taken first instead of second place. J. C. England’s Austin Se7en was third, beating two rear-drive Ford Populars, a Triumph Herald, a sports Sprite, a Dauphine, another Austin Se7en and another Herald. The only retirement was S. Pemberton’s Austin Se7en. So for slippery terrain you need a Mini-Minor or a VW.


Rolls-Royce factory methods

Motor Sport‘s article on this subject in the October issue aroused a great deal of interest and has caused a reader to send us an article “Rolls-Royce’s New Era,” which appeared in Life, adapted from Fortune. This article opens with the remark that “after austerely disdaining it for half-a-century, Rolls-Royce has descended into the market place.” In an appraisal of the kind of market Rolls-Royce has entered, the author, Gilbert Burck, goes over most of the well-trodden ground. He gives some facts and figures which knowledgeable Rolls-Royce enthusiasts may care to note, such as quoting their chassis output up to World War II as not exceeding 1,200, whereas now the company, says Burck, has become volume-conscious, bringing out, in 1955, its own factory-made body, its first design for owner-drivers, so that in the following year it sold 300 cars in America, about doubling its best post-war annual sales figure. In 1957 the figure had apparently risen to 600, world sales to some 2,400. Profit on cars that year is estimated at some two million dollars on overall world sales. The number of employees is given at 2,300 to 2,500.

The wording of the article implies that Burck is another fortunate mortal who, like John R. Bond of Road & Track but unlike the Editor of Motor Sport, has been permitted to visit the Crewe factory. Indeed, he seems to have interviewed Harry Grylls, Rolls-Royce’s Chief Engineer, and Llewellyn Smith, Ph.D. (Oxon.), Managing Director of the Motor Car Division.

The article goes on to quote 800 inspectors out of a labour force on car production of 2,500 or so. Paint, we are told, has to be exposed for three months in the smoggy air of N. London, in the countryside near Crewe, in the sweating jungles of Malaya and then subjected to a machine that exposes it for 36 hours to heat, spray and ultra-violet light before being used on Rolls-Royce bodywork. Each chassis frame is jig-tested for accuracy before being delivered to Crewe and again at the factory. Tyres, we are told, are balanced at the equivalent of 80 m.p.h., and are rejected if they show a load change of more than 200 lb. which more than half of them do, which must be costly for tyre manufacturers who supply Rolls-Royce!

Every twentieth engine, Burck says, is run for 25 hours at maximum speed and then dismantled for inspection. If any flaws are found all the previous 19 engines are likewise broken-down. Bond, though, merely saw every engine run for 24 hours. Burck tells of the power steering being wrenched back and forth 7,000 times while concrete blocks hold the front wheels, which can move only against heavy springs. Body door-locks and catches, he says, are tested by opening and slamming a test-rig door 100,000 times. The Rolls-Royce body gets six coats of primer and pickling and then nine separate coats of paint. Apparently the body is lowered on pneumatic jacks onto its 15 mounts on the R.-R. chassis, to ensure that it sits “as free of stress as a pile of pillows.”

As to final testing, Burck tells of 20 drivers and mechanics who do about £100-worth of testing on each Rolls-Royce, under head-tester Frank Dodd. This testing must be worth seeing, for not only, according it Life, do the drivers “push the auto to top speed as fast as it will accelerate and brake it down to a walk as fast as it will decelerate but they “run it around corners on two wheels.” Each car goes through nearly 100 severe tests, according to Gilbert Burck, which “may take a week or more.” John Bond, on the contrary, quotes a test of 200 miles. Two good stories in this article concern the head-tester’s comment “Now and then we get a good one,” and an account of how R. N. Dorey, General Manager of The Car Division, drives from the factory to his country house in cars of other than Rolls-Royce make, so abusing their brakes that in every, instance (except when heis in a Rolls) they are “all burned up by the time he gets home.” Why?

What really goes on at Crewe? Bond has had a look, so has Burck; isn’t it time Boddy was granted a peep, on behalf of Motor Sport?


Hush-hush racing Chevrolet

News has reached us from Denver of a pleasing-looking Chevrolet which Arkus Duntov has been testing in secret at the Continental Divide speedway at Castle Rock. The car is a racing single-seater with, it is said, a V8 light-alloy engine behind the driver, with separate exhaust pipes on each side of the tail, a streamlined tank over the engine, an anti-roll bar above that and low wrap-round screen. The car is believed to have fuel injection, a four-speed gearbox and independent rear suspension like that of a Corvair. The car had most attractive lines and centre-lock wheels. It is said that it was driven faster than many competition cars using the track, but only where its performance could not be observed from the Denver-Colorado Springs highway. Is this the prelude to another rear-engined car from General Motors or does it mean the entry of Chevrolet into motor racing?


How fast is fast?

We covered a standing quarter-mile in 15 sec. before the war as passenger in the late Forrest Lycett’s 8-litre Bentley. Today’s sprint motorcycles get down to 11 sec. or so, on pump fuel. From Road & Track we extract some data about Mickey Thompson’s fabulous sprint car with which he broke the world’s and International Class A s.s. krn. record at 132.94 m.p.h. (16.82 sec.) and the world’s International Class B s.s. mile record, using another engine, at 149.93 m.p.h. (24.01 sec.). Thompson used engines supercharged with a 6-71 G.M.C. Roots blower chain driven from the nose of the crankshaft. His Class A 503 cu. in. engine is said to have developed 846 b.h.p., running on Mobilgas fed through a Hilborn constant flow injector. The Class A engine used straight methanol, the Class B engine 75% methanol and 25% nitromethane; both engines were lubricated with Mobil s.a.e. 40 oil. The respective compression-ratios were 11 and 10-1/4 to 1. These engines were actually Pontiac V8s, with Iskenderian camshafts and Scintilla Vertex ignition. They used Champion plugs and drove through a Schiefer multi-plate clutch and single speed 2.7 to 1 transmission. Thompson’s Dragmaster was the usual fantastic job with sling-seat well in rear of the back wheels. It had double anti-roll bars over the cockpit, ran on Goodyear 5.00/5.23 x 15 front and 8.20 x 15 rear tyres on Halibrand magnesium wheels, was sprung at the front on torsion bars, not sprung at all at the back, and had a wheelbase of 8 ft. 7 in., a front track of 4 ft. 0 in., rear track of 3 ft. 2 in. It was retarded by Halibrand-Eagle disc brakes on the back wheels and a Deist 16 ft. parachute. Thompson’s Class C engine broke a gudgeon-pin. We congratulate Road & Track on publishing an explanation of the rules governing records, instead of claiming every one of Thomnson figures as a world’s record. – W. B.


The Nicholls Suspension Stabiliser

Before the staff Sprite was stolen it was fitted with a Nicholls Diagonal Suspension Stabiliser. This has been designed by A. D. Nicholls, who has had considerable experience in the tuning field, and differs from conventional anti-roll bars in that it connects front and rear wheels on opposite sides of the car. The stabiliser takes the form of two torsion bars which are bolted to the lower wishbones at the front of the car and to the spring mounting brackets at the rear. The bars are carried in three rubber bushes which are bolted to the chassis. Where the bars cross just in front of the differential one bar is cranked to pass below the other.

With the stabiliser fitted the most noticeable effect is that the suspension feels firmer, as would be expected. The theory of the stabiliser is that on cornering when the car begins to roll the inside rear wheel, which normally tends to lift, will be depressed by the action of the torsion bar which is connected to the outside front wheel. With the Sprite, which already had stiffer dampers, the amount of roll was definitely reduced and corners on smooth roads could be taken very quickly indeed. The equalising of load on all four wheels during heavy cornering allows the rear end to be broken away at much lower speeds, which is enjoyed by the skilful driver but disconcerting to the tyro. This is especially enjoyable on roundabouts, where the lurch which usually accompanies a sharp change of direction is obviated.

On the debit side the firmer ride was at a disadvantage on poor surfaces, when the rear axle hopped more than usual and directional stability was affected. The rally driver would not object to this as cornering is made more enjoyable, although he would have to be careful not to negotiate too many rock-strewn “white” roads as ground clearance is decreased by the torsion bars. On the Sprite. a “clonk” came from the bars occasionally when traversing bumpy roads.

We were also invited to sample another car fitted with the stabiliser, this being a customer’s. M.G.-A. The M.G. has moderately stiff suspension and with the stabiliser fitted it becomes even more firm. However, the stabiliser does not seem to affect the M.G. in the same way as the Sprite and the performance was enhanced in every way. The owner, who accompanied the writer on the run, expressed his admiration for the Nicholls Stabiliser, which he found even more impressive from the passenger’s seat. Road-holding was certainly much improved and the series of swerves bordering the Thames at Runnymede were taken with the speedometer needle sitting on 90 m.p.h. and no indication from the rear end that it wanted to break away.

From our experience with the stabiliser we would say thal in general it does improve road-holding, with the reservation that poor road surfaces do tend to disturb the car in much the same ‘way as any stiffening of the suspension would. Although we were of course unable to check this point it is claimed that tyre life is prolonged when the Nicholls Stabiliser is fitted. Its best application would appear to be in the racing field, which is possibly confirmed by the fact that Jeff Uren used one on his Saloon Car Championship-winning Ford Zephyr last year, while Stirling Moss has had his N.S.U. Prinz so fitted for Peter Pilsworth to drive in saloon-car races.

The stabiliser is marketed by O’Carroll Kent (England) Ltd., and kits can be obtained from £14 10s. for the Sprite, Ford Anglia and Austin A40, to £16 10s. for the M.G.-A., Hillman Minx and Sunbeam Rapier. If fitted at the works a charge of £3 is made. – M.L.T.


Bathurst International 100-mile Race (October 2nd)

Driving a works Cooper-Climax, twice World Champion Jack Brabhani showed his fellow countrymen just how it is done, by winning the 100-mile race with ease and grace, on the 3.8-mile Mount Panarama circuit in New South Wales.


1st: J. Brabham (Cooper-Climax F.1)

2nd: W. Patterson (Cooper-Climax 2.2 litre)

3rd: R. Stilwell (Cooper-Climax 2.2 litre)

Watkins Glen Formule Libre – U.S.A. (October 9th)

The 100-lap race on the 2.3-mile Watkins Glen road racing circuit saw Jack Brabham in a works Cooper-Climax beaten by Stirling Moss driving Rob Walker’s dark blue Lotus rear-engined car. Bonnier, Salvadori and Gendebien were also driving Cooper-Climax cars, amidst a large collection of local drivers in sports cars and homemade “specials.”


Watkins Glen Formule Libre – 370 Kilometres – 100 laps

1st: S. Moss (Lotus-Climax F.1) – 170.272 k.p.h.

2nd: J. Brabham (Cooper-Climax F.1) – 6.5 sec. behind

3rd: R. Salvadori (Cooper-Monaco) – 91 laps

4th: J. Bonnier (Cooper-Climax F.1) 90 laps


A sad affair


Driving from Penicuik into Edinburgh about 12 o’clock one night, I was stopped by a police patrol car, and my vehicle was examined. After this was completed I was told that if the car (an ex-G.P.O. Morris van) was found in the same condition the next time they stopped Me I would be charged. They then decided to check the braking distances; the foot-brake was found effective but the handbrake was wholly ineffective.

As a result of the hand-brake being faulty (presumably) they told me that they required the car to be fully examined, either at a public garage or at the local police garage. I agreed that we should proceed to the police garage. On arrival, the braking system was stripped and it was found that the rear axle oil seals were leaking and that consequently the rear brake shoes were not gripping. After the car had been re-assembled I was cautioned and charged with: (I) That every part of the braking system was faulty; (2) that the lighting system was defective; and (3) that no exterior mirror was fitted.

In answer to the above, I can only say the following: (1) Although the hand-brake was fully ineffective the car could easily be stopped dead in less than three lengths from 30 m.p.h. (2) As far as the lights were concerned, the interior of the near-side side-light and the headlamp rim, glass and bulb had been stolen that very evening outside a cinema while the car was parked there. As proof of this I can produce a receipted bill for £2, dated about one month before being stopped, in relation to work carried out by an Edinburgh firm of electrical engineers; solely on the lighting system of the car. I also had a witness with me who can verify that the parts were stolen as this person was with me when I returned to the car from the cinema. (3) With regard to the mirror I have no excuse, as I was unaware that it was necessary to have one fitted.

The manner in which the summons was delivered was quite unsatisfactory, as I was on holiday at the time, and in consequence of this my mother refused to accept the summons on my behalf (and quite rightly). The timing of the delivery left much to be desired. since the constable in question tried to serve this paper at varying times between 11.10 p.m. and 1 a. m., thus disturbing the peace of the house. This was attempted to comply with the 10-day summary notice of appearance. Subsequently the notice was served the following evening (incidentally with the name incorrectly spelt), only allowing nine days’ notice. Further, the summons had to be taken back re-delivered after alteration of the name (in Biro ink) by a police constable.

I pleaded guilty (knowing from experience that this is the wisest course), with the following result. On count 1. I was fined £15, on count 2, £4, and on count 3, £3: making a total of £22 in all.

Not having heard of such drastic measures since your own recent Editorial concerning the savage convictions by Sheriff Frame of Ayr, for similar offences, I feel it will be interesting to you to hear of my own persnal experience in this matter.

As an apprentice chartered accountant the fine of £22 is equivalent to six weeks’ wages, and as I receive no other financial assistance this fine is, to me at least, of staggering proportions.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Leith. – J K. Skinner.

[A more lenient fine would surely have improved, instead of deteriorating, relations between police and public. There is small excuse for driving vehicles in defective condition but car owners are but human – and have the police never heard of virtually new cars losing all braking effort due to poor assembly. Who is blamed then? – Ed).]


Innsbruck Airfield Races (October 9th)

In the F.2 event on the short aerodrome circuit Hans Herrmann had little trouble in winning with a works Porsche, from an entry composed of private owners, including von Trips driving an old Cooper-Climax.


Formula 2 – 59.9 Kilometres – 35 laps

1st: H. Herrmann (Porsche F.2) – 32 min. 58.1 sec. – 108.326 k.p.h

2nd: W. von Trips (Cooper-Climax F.2) – 33 min. 09.7 sec. 

3rd: G. Ashmore (Cooper-Climax F.2) – 34 min. 05.2 sec.

4th: A. E. Marsh (Lotus-Climax F.2) – 1 lap behind

5th: A. Pilette (Cooper-Climax F.2) – 1 lap behind

6th: G. de Beaufort (Cooper-Climax F.2) – 1 lap behind

Fastest lap: G. Ashmore (Cooper-Climax), 53.5 sec. – 114.402 k.p.h


Formula Junior – 51 Kilometres – 30 laps

1st: G. Mitter (Lotus-D.K.W.) – 30 min. 53.9 sec. – 99.031 k.p.h.

2nd: K. Ahrens (Cooper-Fiat) – 30 min. 57.6 sec.

3rd: W. Schatz (Lotus-Ford) – 30 min. 58.8 sec.

Fastest lap: W. Schatz (Lotus-Ford), 58.4 sec. – 104.801 k.p.h.