I read with great interest your article about the G.S.M. Delta. As you say, or rather as “M. L. T.” says, the Delta “originated in South Africa.” A Cape Town firm formed to build the cars in large quantities went out of business simply because of ridiculous taxation. The car was priced at £888 in Johannesburg—some £40 more than an M.G.-A—with a specification of 100E Ford engine meagrely modified with two S.U.s. I do not remember what proportion of the price went to the Government but I do remember being told that excise duty on new cars amounted to 1s. per pound weight (makes about £75 for the Delta).
The device was originally called the Dart, and indeed still is, in South Africa. The Dart first saw the light of day in January 1958. Bill Jennings, then South African champion driver, drove the prototype in a number of races, winning several. My recollections of the first Transvaal appearance in May, 1958, are slightly hazy but I do recall that the Dart won one race and was second in another. This Dart had a 100E engine with two Solex carbs., etc., etc., and a 403 Peugeot gearbox. Tony Maggs was racing a slightly-warmed Healey 100-Six and was heard swearing about “that damned little blue car” which “passed me just as I changed into overdrive!” The blue car was, of course, the Dart!
Since that time various special and not-so-special Darts have appeared. For the S.A. Grand Prix at East London in January 1960, Bill Jennings drove a Porsche Carrera engined device (one of his opponents in this race was S. Moss in the Walker Cooper-Borgward). The engine was front-mounted, well behind, the front wheels driving through a Peugeot transmission. There can be few cars which were driven to and from a race of such stature. The Dart-Porsche went well during the race, if at the tail of the field, but Bill finished eighth (I think), ahead of a Tojeiro-Bristol and several Coopers. I suppose this car is still in Cape Town.
Sometime about now, the late Jo Eckhoff made appearances in a Dart-Peugeot. Jo was a very fast (and fearless) driver and this Dart was truly astonishing. The 403 Peugeot engine was bored-out to 1,600 c.c. (shades of the 404!), with Weber carbs. and everything else possible. Maximum speed of this car was 120 m.p.h.+ but the road-holding was such as to frighten onlookers! (Eckhoff later bought a 2,200-c.c. Cooper-Climax and was killed at Lourenco Marques in the car.)
Another interesting variation on the Dart theme was Sarel Hibberd’s Dart-Zephyr. This was indeed an awesome weapon. The Zephyr engine was equipped with Raymond Mays head and M.G. TC gearbox. Hibberd also incorporated his own design of i.r.s. which was by wishbones and coil-springs, something like a Cooper, using a transverse leaf-spring as anti-roll member. This car was written off when it crashed at somewhere near its maximum speed at Johannesburg’s Grand Central Circuit in May 1960. Hibberd lived to tell the tale.
Yet other versions included Alfa Romeo S.V. engines. Ernest Pieterse was the first to try this form of motive power. Requiring a machine for the Nine Hours Race (S.A.’s classic sports-car race), and having to beat such machines as Porsche Carreras, Ernest bought a Dart and fitted disc brakes, Alfa S.V.+ engine, etc. In the said Nine Hours Race, the car led for a while but retired with boiling brake fluid. This let John Love’s Carrera into the lead but it too retired, or was delayed, and another Dart with 1,100-c.c. Climax engine stepped into the breach and was leading after nine hours. This was 1959. Since then Porsche Spyders and Lotus Fifteens have been used in the Nine Hours, rather squashing anyone with aspirations of winning in a Dart.
For the clubman, however, the Dart has remained a useful machine and, indeed, many are to be seen at each and every race meeting, mainly engined by 997-c.c. Ford engines.
Robin W. Smith.