Matters of the moment

To commence this, the last issue of 1965, it is appropriate to look back on a year of satisfactory motoring fulfilment. Politicians may prate of universal speed-limits and provide far from adequate roads but specialised motoring continues to thrive. An exciting last-season of the 1.5-litre G.P. Formula ended in the Honda victory in Mexico, GT, Club and, indeed, every form of racing has been well supported and attended, And a successful Dragfest took place. The historic car movement, from veteran to those 2.5-litre racing cars encouraged by the V.S.C.C., is as virile ever, in spite of the May Sketch introducing, Everyman to the fascination of his very own vintage motor and Sotheby's making sure that such cars are beyond the reach of the majority of enthusiasts.

Just recently new speeds have been set in the categories loosely termed the " Land Speed Record," in spite of a weekly contemporary proclaiming, when Donald Campbell was taking his time at remote Lake Eyre, that in the age of satellites, space rockets and 2,000m.p.h. aircraft such absolute speed records are a waste of time and money. We do not Agree, and look to Campbell to regain for Britain the fastest-ever motor-car honours, in a British car on British tyres. The new records are discussed in the adjacent column.

Technically, there is as much refreshing variety as ever. The Wankel engine can be bought in an N.S.U. production model, and Mazda Gismo have it in two-rotor prototype form. Mercedes-Benz have proved the value of fuel-injection on a 6-cylinder engine, their 600 competes with a new Rolls-Royce in the luxury class, with the less-expensive Daimler Majestic well in the hunt, sports cars continue to be built, there were important new advocates of f.w.d. in 1965, yet best-selling rear-engined cars are made by Hillman in Britain, Volkswagen in Germany, Renault in France and Fiat in Italy. The British Shopper can choose from cars costing £410 (Fiat 5ooD) to £11,519 (Ferrari 275LM or 500 Superfast), and can have them with two, three, four, six, eight or twelve cylinders, and in an infinity of mechanical Variation. D.K.W. have almost dropped the two-stroke but this is still available from Saab and Wartburg, you can have belt-drive and automatic transmission on the DAF, automation on the Mini upwards, and 1965 saw the advent of the four-wheel-drive Dunlop Maxaret-braked Jensen FF.

Whatever may be the case in our cities and on our main roads, stagnation is not evident in the Industry and we face 1966 with confidence and enthusiasm.

Over the past month there has been more high-speed activity on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, than would seem possible, and certainly more than some people predicted, for Bonneville was " written off" by experts some years ago as not being suitable for speeds of over 400 m.p.h. In spite of these knowledgeable experts the American drivers have been going faster and faster each year, and recently there was a needle match between the two jet-propelled cars of Art Arfons and Craig Breedlove, both using American aircraft jet engines in 4-wheeled vehicles; Arfons running with exposed wheels on Firestone tyres and Breedlove with an all-enveloping bodywork on Goodyear tyres. These vehicles run in the class for record-breaking cars not propelled by their wheels, over the flying-start kilometre and flying-start mile distances.

The record was held by Arfons with speeds of 544 m.p.h. and 536 m.p.h. for kilometre and mile, respectively, the mile being the all-important record distance. These speeds were set up in were set up in 1964, and this recent record onslaught saw Breedlove raise the record to 555 m.p.h., while his wife also drove the car and set a Woman's all-time fastest run at 308 m.p.h. Then Arfons went out and raised the record to 576m.p.h. which spurred Breedlove on to have another go, and he settled things in the time of going to Press with a shattering 600.601 m.p.h. for the two-way average, his speeds being 593 m.p.h. and 608 m.p.h. for the two runs. His car, "Spirit of America—Sonic I," is sponsored by the Goodyear Tyre Company

Rather overshadowed by these speeds, but very meritorious nonetheless, was the new record set up in the class for vehicles driven by their wheels. This was a speed of 409 m.p.h. achieved hy the car called "Golden Rod " and built by Bob and Bill Summers from California. Using four 7-litre Chrysler V8 engines, mounted in line and driving all four wheels, the driver, Bob Summers, sits right at the back in Dragster fashion. The previous fastest in the wheel-driven class was Donald Campbell's 403 m.p.h., which he set up on the wastes of Lake Eyre in Australia. This new record by Summers is all the more outstanding because it is the first time the record has been broken by a car using automobile engines since the Sunbeam in 1926.

The only disappointment in all this record breaking is the fact that all the activity was American inspired, built and driven. At one time the British were assumed to be the holders of Land Speed Records and the leaders in this sphere, but those days seem to have passed. However, thank goodness there are tyre firms and people still keen enough in experimentation to continue to delve into the unknown, and set up new records. An Australian journalist summed up this Land Speed Record business very succinctly when he said : "If there is no risk to the driver anyone could get a record simply by paying a million or so for a new car, and if that's all it is, you might as well spend yout million on sound test equipment and set up your record in the laboratory. You'd learn a lot more that way." Needless to say, he believed in record breaking, just as we do,