The passage of time leaves in its wake an ever increasing stream of historic racing cars, outmoded by technical advancement and changing formulae. What’s to be done with them all? There’s nothing so forlorn as a once active and competitive racing car posed like a stuffed dynasaur on a museum plinth. Thanks to an expanding hard core of enthusiasts there is an increasingly thriving selection of historic racing series in which to animate and exercise yesterday’s racers. The Vintage Sports Car Club began it all before the War, concerns like JCB and Speed Merchants broadened the spectrum in the early seventies and now there is a plethora of Championships providing spectacular nostalgic racing.
The VSCC, whose activities are chronicled regularly by W.B., remains the king pin of historic racing in Britain. As well as protecting the interests of the vintage cars and post-vintage thoroughbreds, the VSCC took under its wing post-war, front-engined Grand Prix cars built before the end of 1960. That still left sports, racing and sports cars from the same era out in the cold. From their lack of an umbrella emerged the Historic Sports Car Club, a fledgling which reached maturity this season with the organisation of several national historic championships.
Of these the Lloyds and Scottish Historic Car Championship has become the premier national series for old cars, gaining prestige from its inclusion in the British Grand Prix meeting, a precedent set by the JCB Championship. Like that series promulgated by Anthony Bamford and Bill Allen, the Lloyds and Scottish caters for single-seater, front-engined racing cars built between 1931 and 1960 and sports/racing cars constructed between 1950 and 1960. Lloyds and Scottish, the Edinburgh-based finance group, much of whose business is done with the motor trade, put a little over £15,000 worth of sponsorship into the six race series. The interest shown reflects the growth in historic racing and the number of raceworthy cars in being no fewer than 55 competitors registered for the Championship. With such massive oversubscription, three of the rounds on short circuits had to be split into separate races for single-seaters and sports/racers.
An astonishing thing about all these historic championships, which the Lloyds and Scottish exemplified especially, is the seemingly total lack of inhibition created amongst drivers by the soaring value of the machinery. Almost right down the field, cars have been driven with the full-blooded, competitive verve of their hey-days, to give the Lloyds and Scottish some of the best spectator appeal in contemporary racing. It’s almost frightening to think that when Championship winner Willie Green was displaying scintillating lock to lock performance on the way to victory in every round in the glorious JCB Ferrari Dino, he was perched in an investment worth something over £100,000 to Anthony Bamford.
One problem faced particularly by the single-seater “historics” is the glut of eligible Championships. With too much diversification facing a limited number of cars and drivers something has to suffer. The Lloyds and Scottish meeting, thrived on the dangled carrot of the Grand Prix meeting, while the VSCC’s faithful members showed expected support for its four single-seater races. This year it was Tom Wheatcroft’s Esso Single-seater Championship which suffered, so that Roddy McPherson’s victory in his fast and stylishly driven Cooper-Bristol was a trifle hollow.
Yet most of the single-seater drivers are against mixed races like the Lloyds and Scottish, so much so that a group of leading contenders have formed the Historic Grand Prix Cars Association to organise pure single-seater races and negotiate their own interests. There’s a strong feeling that race promoters are gaining a major spectator attraction too cheaply (Lloyds and Scottish prize money is £108, £72 and £42 for 1st, 2nd and 3rd in class, plus £24 to each finisher), whilst the cars have become terrifyingly expensive to run. Marlboro showed the true colour of the money available to this crowd-pulling formula by backing the historic parade at the Italian Grand Prix to the tune of £100,000. The Association, chaired by Bill Summers, plans four races next season, run under the auspices of the VSCC, possibly to include a race at Donington’s British Motorcycle Grand Prix. But most competitors have pledged their support for the Lloyds and Scottish Championship too. Much more ambitious plans are in the air for 1981.
One of the major problems facing historic racing is the thorny one of authenticity. An historic car should mean exactly that, not a replica built in 1979, but a look at some of the cars engaged in the Lloyds and Scottish Championship shows a worrying trend.
The Bamford Dino Ferrari, a show model built for the Henry Ford Museum, but never delivered, is pristinely authentic, though with no confirmed racing history. But should the two Dinos which Graypaul Motors are rumoured to be building up for Bamford out of spares be allowed to race as historics?
Halford’s Lotus 16 is reasonably historic, but eschews its original “progressive change” Lotus gearbox.
The BRM P25s of the Donington Collection and Lamplough were built up on new chassis made from the wrong specification of tube. The chassis number claimed by Lamplough’s car is for a stressed skin cockpit car, but this was made as a later car.
De Cadences Aston Martin DBR4, re-imported from Australia, is fairly original, except that it is running with its 3-litre Tasman engine instead of a 2 1/2-litre GP engine. But the Marshplant DBR4, usually driven by Richard Bond, is a replica made for Pat Lindsay by Tony Merrick, based on a new chassis, standard Aston suspension parts, a modified standard engine and a few original DBR4 bits which came back from Australia with the De Cadenet car.
The ancestry of McPherson’s two Cooper-Bristols isn’t all that certain, while the Minilite wheels and six-port head were certainly not fitted to Cooper Bristols before the end of 1953, the class age limit.
Beasley’s Connaught B-type has been very nicely rebuilt, though we took issue with the chassis number he claimed originally. Gerry Walton’s lovely Connaught A-type is just about as authentic as it is possible to get.
Maserati 250Fs have joined the replica syndrome, but only real ones have been out in the Lloyds and Scottish, including Norman’s 2527, the first lightweight, used by Fangio to win the Argentine and Buenos Aires GPs in 1957, Rothschild’s 2507, the ex-Sid Greene car, raced by Salvadori and Bueb, and JCB’s 2534, the Piccolo car, raced this year by Moss.
Morris’ ex-works D-type, OKV 3, is splendidly authentic to look at, but has the wrong brakes, a surmountable deficiency. The Lister-Jaguars, which dominate the sports/racing car class, are such a mish-mash of new bodies and chassis that it would be difficult to single out one as being authentic.
Even ERA Remus has lost its authenticity now that Lindsay has given it a 2-litre engine. But what an exciting car and driver combination to watch! Pilkington’s Talbot-Lago is refreshingly original and one of the busiest cars in historic racing.
Historic racing is a live museum; its credibility as such ought to be safeguarded. — C.R.