Rumblings, December 1960



Guild Day at Goodwood

The Guild of Motoring Writers put on another of its splendid Test Days at Goodwood – actually its 13th – on Motor Show Sunday, primarily for overseas journalists to be able to acquaint themselves with the handling characteristics of British cars, Some very delectable machinery was offered to them, such as the Aston Martin DB4GT, Jaguar XK150S, the Lawrence Morgan Plus Four with racing numberer discs on its doors, and a Lotus Elite.

As this enthralling afternoon wore on some of the cars gave trouble, such as the racing Alexander Mini-Minor, others just faded away, or had not arrived at all, like the Lotus Seven, T.V.R. GT, Berkeley Bandit, Aston Martin DB4, Austin A99 and one of the Morris Mini-Minors. But there were still plenty of cars to be sampled out of the 90 “entries.” The writer did not drive as many as usual because he arrived late on account of his Mini Minor doing its best to shed a front wheel and was further distracted fixing a replacement car for the run home and enjoying the lavish hospitality in the Rootes’ tent, where one of the nicest buffet lunches ever was dispensed to appreciative guests.

However, the day’s dicing did include re-acquaintance with the Wolseley 1500 (which expired inexplicably on the far side of the circuit but soon recovered), the Ford Anglia, which felt rather “lifty” but got through the corners fast nevertheless, and the rather flabby Hillman Minx. The Citroën DS shows up badly at Goodwood only because it corners so fast that the driver gets flung across the bench-seat into the passenger’s lap on the right-hand corners, but it tramped along well enough to keep a 3.8 Jaguar in sight.

The Ford Anglia in Alexander-tuned form was much better fun, and didn’t seem to mind some 6,000 r.p.m. on its electric rev.-counter. The M.G.-A 1600 went as an M.G. should but its pedals clanked. The Alexander Mini-Minor was enormous joy, passing a string of five cars round Madgewick, the Austin Healey 3000 amongst them, and later the fast Morgan Plus Four, and it was never re-passed, so lots of gentlemen of the “fourth estate” couldn’t have been trying. We always try to drive a Morgan on this particular day and this year had two – the light-alloy-bodied, twin Weber Lawrence “racer” which will soon be available as a production model, and the new Ford 105E-engined 4/4 Series II. The former was sheer delight and when we had to go between a sliding Daimler Majestic Major and a gentleman conducting a Mini-Minor on the left of the road, no-one seemed to notice. The rev.-counter had vague marks, so that we were afraid we were exceeding 6,000 r.p.m. and relieved to find that fluffing out of Woodcote was due merely to a low fuel level, and the catalogue car will need a more rigid throttle pedal. But what acceleration – 105 m.p.h. came up without a thought as to top speed. The small Morgan is nice and taut but we never felt at home with the funny gear-change – why can’t the Ford 105E central lever be used?

Which reminds us – what a variety of gear-changes there are about. There was this horrid Morgan push-pull change under the scuttle, the enjoyable Ford Anglia box with unremembered short travel between third and top, the splendid M.G. box with remote lever up rather high, the not-pleasant Mini-Minor change, and the flick-lever of the Citroën DS with its elusive neutral and first-gear locations.

We took tea with Rootes and were lent the Wolseley 1500 to go home in, having to abandon the stricken Minibric.

This small Wolseley is a nice little car – compact yet four-door, “posh” on account of leather upholstery and polished wood facia and fillets, and with good controls, including a very nice gear-change and good Lockheed brakes. There are two lidded cubby-holes and a generous under-facia shelf, and the boot is very big. On the 1961 version the heater quadrants are on the left but the three knobs controlling facia lighting, wipers and lights are over on the left and too “fumbly,” while the driving seat could be higher. On the car we borrowed rain-water penetrated to the driver’s side of the under-facia shelf and sometimes dripped on his feet. When will Britain make waterproof cars?)

But we like the Wolseley 1500, as a quality small car. It’s fine value at £752. B.M.C. mustn’t drop it from their extensive range!

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Shell films

One or the highlights of the London Motor Show period is the Film Show which Shell-Mex and B.P. Ltd. give to their guests at Shell-Mex House. This year we saw “The Heroic Days” and “Mikhali.” The former is the first of a motor-racing history directed by Bill Mason after painstaking searching for ancient films. It a truly splendid work, from which the nature of the early road races, commencing with the Paris-Vienna race of 1902 and concluding with the dramatic French G.P. of 1914 is readily apparent. Some of the early Gordon Bennett races, and the Grands Prix of 1906, ’07, ’08 and 1912 are included, as well as brief glimpses of the 1911 Le Mans race, Percy Lambert’s 25-h.p. Talbot on Brooklands (capturing the fascination of the specialised outer-circuit racing cars), pre-1914 Shelsley Walsh hill-climbs, the Gaillon hill-climb and sand racing at Weymouth, etc.

There is plenty of action, some spectacular crashes, the whole bound together by a sensible commentary to a film which runs for 32 minutes. Sound has been cleverly panned-in; one suspects that the exhaust note of Mason’s own 4-1/2-litre Bentley deputises for some of the 1914 racers. The 1902 de Dietrich Paris-Vienna racer, 1907 Coppa Velocita Itala and 1912 Coupe de l’Auto Sunbeam of the Montagu Motor Museum, driven by R. Warne, perform on the Museum roads and at Beaulieu Aerodrome, lending support to the contemporary scenes.

Better than any book does this film reveal what motor racing of the heroic age was like, and if the moving pictures, which are surprisingly clear, are assisted by “stills” of drivers and cars seen before in books, this is but a clever touch to a masterly presentation. The warmest congratulations are due to Bill Mason, Pat Holmes and Edward Williams, who have enabled Shell to secure another “first.” We await impatiently the next film in the series.

“Mikhali” is about the B.P. agent on the island of-Skiathos, off the Greek mainland, of his service to the sailors, and his son’s marriage on his return after five years’ absence – the celebration interrupted by a boatman’s need for B.P. fuel. It is all in glorious Technicolor but slow-moving. We enjoyed that fine B.P. film “Giuseppina” rather more.

“Lofty” England, of Jaguar Cars Ltd., made a speech of thanks in which he reminded his audience of how much motor racing owes to the Shell organisation.


No more Harleyford

Until safety precautions are improved at the Harleyford Hill-Climb course near Marlow the R.A.C. will issue no further permits for events to be held. The R.A.C. also remind holders of competition licences not to take part in competitions which are not authorised by the R.A.C. The numbers of unauthorised Treasure Hunts seem to be on the increase and some are now even being staged on a national scale by people who ought to know better. The printed Kart Regulations are now available from the R.A.C. Competition Licence holders can obtain a copy by sending a stamped addressed envelope to the R.A.C. Competitions Department, Pall Mall, London, S.W.1. Clubs may obtain up to 100 copies free of charge.


Donald Campbell gloves

It is now possible to obtain gloves exactly like those designed for Donald Campbell’s attempt on the Land Speed Record. The “Touring” glove was selected by Campbell as light, comfortable, but possessing the same sensitivity and grip as the “Competition” gloves which were developed as perforated all-leather gloves with a non-slip grip. Made by Silas Dyke & Sons Ltd., of Milborne Port, Sherborne, Dorset, these glove so pleased Campbell that he permitted his signature on commercial replicas. I. & R. Morley and Brown Bros. supply both types to the trade and good shop supply single pairs in plastic eontainers in Campbell’s colours – 30s. a pair for “Competition”, 27s. 6d. a pair for “Touring” gloves. A Ladies “Touring” glove is also sold for 27s. 6d. a pair. Specially-selected lightweight Cape leather, sewn with pique sewing to provide fingertip sensitivity. Idea for a Christmas gift?