Around and about, December 1977

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Alfa announcements

The Italian taxpayer’s view may be very different, hut from where we sit Alfa Romeo is doing a grand job for Italy. The range is now one of the freshest in Europe and contains some interesting engineering at a time when conforming seems to be the key to survival. In Britain the Alfasud Sprint coupe has been introduced to the market at virtually £4,000, while in Europe the latest model is the Giulietta.

Reviving a name introduced in 1955 the new Giulietta combines the familiar 1,570 c.c. d.o.h.c. four with De Dion rear suspension and striking bodywork featuring a sharply truncated tail. Although the body is new to look at, the wheelbase and front and rear track dimensions are practically the same as the Alfetta saloon, from which it would make sense to draw that rear suspension/transmission layout.

In this capacity the famous twin-cam engine has a slightly long stroke (87 mm. by 82 mm.) and produces 109 b.h.p. That is enough, say the makers, to allow 108 m.p.h. Although the car looks a lot less bulky than the Alfetta, a glance at the dry kerb weight of that saloon (1,060 kg.) and the Giulietta, albeit a Giulietta fuelled and ready to run at 1,070 kg., would suggest very similar performance.

With the five-speed gearbox, the clutch and final drive, all encased at the rear, Alfa Romeo again expect 50 per cent weight distribution front to rear. Disc brakes (inboard at the back) are fitted for all four wheels and other excellent chassis features include rack and pinion steering and double wishbone front suspension. Price of the Giulietta is not known at present, for the car does not come on sale in Britain until the middle of next year. Presumably it will fit in between the Alfasud and Alfetta lines. Now all that remains to be seen on the Alfa front is whether the V18engine they used in the ill-starred Montreal is likely to re-emerge in a new luxury car to sit on top of the range. At present neither Fiat, nor Alfa Romeo offer a 2-litre-plus mass-production saloon. Perhaps the Government have dictated that luxury is to be left to Lancia’s bold (but apparently pathetically received) Gamma models?

DTV 1978

Rather surprisingly Dealer Team Vauxhall have said that they are to dispense with circuit racing, in which Blydenstein’s men at Shepreth were largely so expert just two seasons ago. This has also meant dispensing with Gerry Marshall, the pillar of DTV for many seasons and one of the main reasons for the team’s existence today. Gerry is to be offered a consultancy, but his driving talents are not included.

On the ill-important rallying front the Chevettes will roam a bit further next year. Pentti Airikkala has signed a contract for another season (reputedly for £50,000, though this is strongly denied by the team) and will contest all the rounds of the British Championship, plus the Swedish, Arctic and 1,000 Lakes internationals. Joining him on some foreign dates will be Chris Selater, who is moved from his permanent number two slot in Britain to drive for a newly-created General Motors Continental team as part of a Vauxhall marketing drive in Europe.

The successful Group 1 Vauxhall Magnum campaigner Jimmy McRae will move into the Sclater position on the home team, but will be very busy as there is an interesting plan for McRae to contest a major British rally series with a Chevette powered by the rather cheaper s.o.h.c. engine: shades of a car for rally privateers that could be as popular as the Escort?

Other international events may be announced later. Meanwhile urv seem to be sorted out for the coming year well in advance; it could well be an advantage they hold onto in competition as well.

New team at DoT

Dealer Opel team have had a pretty quiet time since Tony Fall left Britain to manage the West German-based Euro Handlet Team for Opel at Russelsheim. Shortly before the RAC Rally it was announced that well-known saloon car driver John Handley had bought the Yorkshire Opel team and that it would be managed by Brian Gillibrand.

Since its inception in Britain, Opel’s dealer team has had a stormier time than most. At one time both the RAC saloon car and rallying championships were undertaken. On the circuit the Commodore was very competitive against both Ford and BMW until the Opel factory failed to keep up in the homologation race off the track.

On the rallying side Fall found Tony Pond very quickly and Pond put in some memorable performances before his departure for Leyland two seasons ago, having driven both Ascona and Kadett with distinction. Fall himself landed top three placings on home international rallies with the Kadett, but as with the main factory effort the frustrating thing is to unlock reliable power to keep up with other international rival marques: a task Fall is engaged upon in Germany at present.

As the 1968 European Touring Car Champion (in a British Vita Mini managed by Gillibrand: small World) and a somewhat irregular but nevertheless fast circuit racer in recent Seasons, Handley might well be expected to incline Opel a little more toward racing once more. Against that we have the fact, undisputed if you Iook at overseas entry lists, that the Group 1 Opel Kadett is the most popular privateer choice in rallying today.

Gillibrand comes to DoT from Roger Clark Cars, where he was a sales manager, but draws on years Of experience fielding cars for both Leyland and Ford in rallying and racing.

One marque rallying

Both Mazda and Ford are represented in recently announced schemes to operate one model in a “championship within a championship” next year. The Mazda series seems the more attractive with a bigger prize fund and a better-known Championship to compete within.

Mazda were also the first to announce their ideas (though Ford have done such things before, but for road rallying) which include £100 to the Mazda winner of each round, an £1,800 special price tag for their little 1300 hatchback and a basic kit of parts to convert the cars for competition. In rally trim, with Weslake’s help on the head, carburation, camshaft and exhaust, the little cars should boast 90 b.h.p. Langrop Engineering, Anstey Garage, Cropston Road, Anstey, Leicester, will be the central point for all parts. Further information about the series can be obtained from David Palmer, Public Relations Manager, Mazda Car Imports Ltd., Longfield Road, North Farm Industrial Estate, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN2 3EY.

The Ford Escort Championship is for cars to 1300 Sport specification (though there’s no reason why you should not convert a cheaper model) but all must be the later Mk. 2 type. Whereas the Mazda series runs within the Castrol/Autosport Championship, Ford’s Escorts will he part of the Esso-BTRDA title hunt, a more club level affair over 10 rounds, the same as the Mazdas will cover. First prize is £60, plus a free course of rally instruction.

As so much equipment is available for the Escort the instigators have sensibly ruled out the use of much expensive equipment. Full details can be obtained from Graham Robson (who is acting as the liaison man for the series: David Hardcastle will do much the came job for Mazda) who lives at Croft House, Brampton, Cumbria, CA8 1SG (tel. 06977 2166)

RAC helmet stickers

Belgrave Square have moved into the helmet sticker market, but not for decorative purposes. Next year all helmets used in the sport must carry either an A or B sticker which will cover BS 2495: 1960 and Snell 1970 (A) or BS 2495: 1977 and Snell 1975 (B). On the subject of helmets the RAC also remind competitors of the dangers that can be encountered in painting them, particularly if they are made from thermo-plastic ABS, when premature failure of the shell can be encountered.

Vee exchange

Surveying the sad remnants of a Ford vee engine? Perhaps the load will be lightened a little by the news that the V4 and V6 Essex family of British Ford vee units are now available on exchange. The engines are the “uprated” units provided in the Consul 2000 from February 1972 to June 1974 and all Consul/Granadas made in 2 1/2 and 3-litre V6 guise from 1972 onward. Also included are the 3-litre Capris, which came with the better-revving unit from October 1971. Incidentally, Transit vans with V4s that are suitable for exchange were made from May 1975 onward.

Prices vary from £240.68 for an automatic specification (sans clutch and flywheel) V4 to £331.83 for a fully equipped 3-litre V6.

Return of Z

A nice title for a horror picture, and a “nice” bit of news, for the Datsun 260Z is to be made freely available in Britain once more. In today’s terms the pricing is as keen as ever, the two-seater costing £5,728.21 and the 2+2 £6,529.66. Both versions come with alloy wheels and a good radio/stereo cassette player.

Abarth in UK

Those who wrote to J.W. trying to get hold of steering wheels for their Lancia Beta coupes may be interested to know that the Abarth range of speed equipment is now being sold in Britain. The vendors are the go-ahead Huxford Group, through their garage at Hambledon Road, Denmead in Hampshire (tel. Waterlooville 54641)

Autosearch

The Lamborghini Countach featured in this month’s colour pages was kindly loaned by Autosearch Ltd., a brokerage service for private buyers and sellers of high performance and quality cars. For buyers, Autosearch will find and demonstrate to them cars to their requirements. For sellers they will locate buyers, prepare and demonstrate the cars for sale and negotiate the best prices. Other services quoted are the arrangement of personal and direct export sales of new and used cars, “shopping round” for advantageous delivery dates and discounts on new cars and the negotiation of fleet discounts and leasing or credit finance for company vehicles. Directors Noel Gibbs, Christopher Allen and Ian Webb claim to have agents across practically the whole globe. The company lives at 24, Ormon Road, Richmond, Surrey (01-940 0015).

Airfield for hire

Is your Motor Club or organisation in need of space to run its noisy outdoor activities? Then James Preston, of Gwynne Hart and Associates I.td., a public relations company, informs us that he has clients who may have the very answer to your needs. How about a 2,200 yard concrete runway for a sprint? Or dispersal areas for driving tests?

Gwynne Hart’s clients have the unusual problem in this day and age of dwindling land resources of being stuck with an airfield for which they cannot find a use. Threehundred-and-fifty acres of the old HandleyPage airfield at Radlett, Herts., to be exact, once the home of such famous aircraft as the Victor and now in a sad state of disuse. The clients believe that the airfield, which is under security guard and completely enclosed, could he of particular interest for drag racing, speed trials, motorcycling and other motoring activities; as there is little likelihood of creating a noise nuisance. Equally the site could be used for large-scale car auctions, motor fairs, caravan and car rallies. Two reinforced concrete runways are included, with access runways and waiting areas.

Licences to use the airfield can he made available on a negotiated rental basis by the day or for longer periods from James Holloway, at Edward Synnfions and Partners, 56-62 Wilton Road, London, SW1 (01-834 ,?454).

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