Letter from England



[By means of which the Continental Correspondent, even while he is not motoring abroad, can keep in touch with the Editor.]

Dear W. B.,

It was my intention to write you a final letter from Europe for the 1970 season from the Osterreichring at Zeltweg, in the centre of Austria, but what with one thing and another time went by all too quickly. The last serious motoring trip across Europe involved 3,600 kilometres in 16 days, including two race meetings, three visits to various people, a vintage rally and a couple of days relaxation. During this trip the E-type passed the 30,000-kilometre mark and gave its first symptom of trouble, necessitating a little hotel-yard maintenance before motoring on next day. This was a “ticker-ticker’ from the front of the engine, which turned out to be a fraying primary vee-belt driving the water pump. Standard in the tool kit of Jaguars is a spare belt, so I was soon motoring smoothly again, and now 32,500 kilometres have passed (approximately 20,000 miles) so my faith in Jaguar speed and reliability is once more justified; yet I still meet people who have all sorts of troubles in under 5,000 miles, but I’m convinced they are the sort of people who should not be driving cars at all. I was slightly amused by Motor Sport last month, where you were extolling the praises of the Alfa Romeo that managed to survive more than 10,000 miles “on road-test” and the Production Manager achieving 12,000 miles with his GTV, both cars having been back to Alfa Romeo “for routine servicing” during that time. Jaguars often tell me I am their worst customer, for I collected the car last April and they have yet to see it since then, while the London Agents who organised the paperwork have never seen the car at all, for I collected it myself from the factory with 226 miles on the odometer and set off for Madrid on its running-in trip. I must admit I did my own “routine servicing”, changing the oil by the roadside in France and tightening the cylinder head down and checking all the nuts, bolts, wires and hose clips in the car park of the Madrid Motel. Apart from occasional oil changes and a new set of front brake pads it has gone on and on, the driver’s door lock going wrong (and it is still wrong) at 11,000 miles, someone backing into it while it was parked at around 15,000 miles, which made a slight dent in the nose and caused the stick-on number plate eventually to blow away in the wind, and I bounced it off a wall at 19,000 miles, putting a very slight scratch in the passenger’s door.

Some idea of the use it had in Europe between April and October can be gained from the last trip across Germany and Austria after all the caravans and holidaymakers had gone to ground and the roads were pretty traffic free. While putting 1,000 kilometres into a day’s motoring I came up on one of the 1.9-litre GT OpeIs that was getting along very nicely. This was on the Autobahn from Frankfurt to Nurnberg (which you should sample if you like rolling, open farming land all around you) and we had a most enjoyable run in close convoy, cruising at 4,200 r.p.m. on the E-type, about 108 m.p.h., with the Opel obviously flat-out, for up the hills it slowed to 90-95 m.p.h., regaining its 105-108 m.p.h. down the slopes. One of the joys of motoring about Europe is to come across someone else enjoying their motoring and driving in a like manner to oneself. It did not take long to see that the Opel driver was handling his car and the road conditions neatly and smoothly so that it was a pleasure to run in company with him. There were no dicey manoeuvres, no desperately heavy braking, no antagonising of other road users; he was simply covering the ground efficiently and the little Opel GT coupe looked safe and steady and took some of the long curves at 100 m.p.h. in a most satisfactory manner. Quite often I come up on people travelling fast in Opel Admirals, Citroens or Mercedes-Benz and straightaway I know I don’t want to be within a mile of them; they are being driven so badly and the drivers are obviously out of their depth, with little or no safety margin on their judgment and reflexes. During our 100-mile run in close convoy I was agreeably impressed with the 1.9-litre Opel GT and thinking about it I decided that it was the sort of car that might well have come from Coventry if the projected joining of Lotus and Jaguar had come about some years ago, as was seriously under discussion at the time. Lotus would have designed the Elan and Jaguar would have made it a production car, with Coventry-Climax designing and building the engine, and the result would have been a splendid small GT car and a young brother for the E-type.

As my 1,000-kilometre non-stop trip was ending I arrived at the frontier between Germany and Austria and met Brian Redman in his 911S Porsche, and as darkness was falling we did a few more miles in convoy and stopped at a hotel. Comparing our respective day’s motoring Redman had covered 1,200 kilometres to my 1,000 kilometres, and he had been cruising at 120-125 m.p.h. to my 100-110 m.p.h., our day’s running time being very similar. Over dinner we talked cars and motoring and were agreed on the excellence of the 2002 BMW, having both had occasions when these family four-seaters have given our GT/sports cars a run for their money, and we commiserated with each other on the fact that a BMW saloon would have done our day’s motoring just as effectively as the Porsche or the Jaguar. This was to be Redman’s last trans-European trip and the Austrian 1,000-kilometre race (which he won with Siffert) was his last long-distance classic, for he has now emigrated to South Africa, to race in their winter season and then settle down in Johannesburg to work for the BMW importer. I feel that our loss is their gain, for Redman is one of the top sports-car drivers and not only enjoys his racing but also his everyday motoring.

Before leaving Bavaria, to head back towards England and the winter, I made a detour to the small village of Lenggries, due south of Munich and not far from the Austrian mountains. In the peaceful little farming village some of the fiercest competition cars are made, for it is here that Francis MacNamara has set up a neat and tidy little racing car factory. MacNamara is an American who was serving with the American Army in nearby Bad Tolz and when his military service was finished he started to play about with Formula Vee cars, still living in the area he had got to know so well. Like so many people, what started as a hobby developed into a business, building Formula Vee cars and then Formula Three cars, and this year he got his great break when Andy Granatelli commissioned him to build the STP Indianapolis cars. This project proved successful and a batch of 10 cars are being built for the 1971 Indianapolis and USAC racing, and when I called in one of the 1970 STP-MacNamara cars was being dolled-up for exhibition purposes, while the first of the oval-racing cars was well under way and the first of the USAC road-racing cars was being built on the jig.

In a special department were two competition Ford Capris, with 2.4-litre V6 engines, these being out-and-out racing saloons, both of which had already proved successful in National racing. This branch of MacNamara is looked after by Peter Reinhardt, who also drives one of the cars, and the whole project has the help and blessing of Ford of Cologne, the V6 power-units coming direct from there. Overall design work for the single-seater USAC cars is done by Viennese-born Josef Karasek, while Englishman John MacNamara (no relation to the American-born one) looks after the sales and business side of things. Ex-USAF Francis MacNamara and his wife direct and control the whole operation and the handful of skilled workers who build the cars come from all parts of Europe. It is a small, friendly and efficient little set-up, the delightful surroundings encouraging everyone’s enthusiasm for the furtherment of MacNamara Racing. Next year the USAC cars and the racing Capris will be the leading activities, with plans for other forms of racing already fomenting, business sidelines such as tune-up kits for Ford Capris being an obvious follow-up, and they are offering their workshop facilities to any racing teams that may be in trouble when in that part of Europe.

Until the ice and-snow recedes, yours, D. S. J.