MATTERS OF MOMENT
• THAT WAS THE YEAR THAT WAS
“The maxim of the British people is ‘Business as tauar” — Winston Churchill.
This is the last issue of MOTOR SPORT that will be published this year, the first twelve months of the 1980s, so it behoves us to glance hack at a few of the significant motoring happenings therein. From our viewpoint it has been mostly a good peat—use in which Fl Grand Prix racing was competitive, at times exciting, and satisfactory, with Alan Jones a worthy Champion, dose overlooks the bickering about the Spanish Grand Prix and the storm which may lie ahead over who controls top-grade motor racing in 1981. This year the BBC managed Sunday-evening coverage of some of the Fl races, much appreciated by those avid for an overall picture, to whet
their appetites until they could read full accounts by A.H. and D.S.J. in Motoring News and MOTOR SPORT. Club events survived the greed and the politics, the Motor Cycling Club continuing to hold its classic long-distance trials with their night sections, that constitute adventure for hundreds of riders and drivers, of all manner of homely vehicles, and fun for many spectators. There were Club race-meetings and hill-climbs all over this green and pleasant land, including the MCC Silverstone Race Meeting and the 750 MC Six-Hour Relay Race, etc., which only pressure on editorial space prevented us from reporting. In the field of International rallying, top manufacturers resumed fanner battles for public recognition in 1980 which last month’s well-supported and spectator-inundated RAC Rally concluded. All in
all, the sporting scene has been in a healthy state. In old-car circles the VSCC ran its full programme without a hitch (with the Enstone driving tests to come on Dec. 6th), but among the Historic
racing-car folk there was ill-feeling about reproduction racers competing against genuine historic cars that haven “continuing history”, a term which only makes sense if a date is inscribed for the conunencement of that achievement. We saw the Bentleys return to Le Mans, no less than 130 of them(l), organised by the irrepressible Bentley Drivers’ Club, and, indeed, the many one-make clubs, from Trojan to Rolls-Royce, went on creating their own vital and so enjoyable background to the sporting motoring scene. Among club saloon-car racing we saw Ford vanquish Rover and Stirling Moss return to the circuits for Audi, with less mechanical fortitude than his “fans” had hoped for. In other areas of the Sport, too, it has been as good a year as could have been expected — not only on the roads and circuits, with vintage commercial-vehicles and traction-engines as well as with cars, boron the water and in the air.
Early in 1980 the RAC British Motor Sports Council came in for strong criticism fonts unrealistic proposed increases in the fees charged to the smaller motoring Clubs for running events, and because of fresh legislation, which killed off the VSCC Measham Night Rally, for example. Prompt lobbying seems to have quelled the worst of these intentions. The fuel-shortage scare receded, to the extent of petrol becoming freely available, at reduced prices if you shopped around, which shows that politicians never cease to puff out rubbish. During 1980 British Leyland managed finally to kill-off the great name of MG.
The former feeble cry that an Imports Embargo should be imposed, to aid the diminished British Motor Industry, was heard again and again during the year that is now coming to a close. Better by far to build cars capable on their own merits of repelling the competition. In the past eleven issues of MOTOR SPORT we have reported on Daihatsu, Datsun, Mazda and Toyota cars, to keep you as fait with the Oriental opposition. Of exCiting new models that burst upon the motoring scene during 1980, the BL Mini Metro had such a fanfare of prolonged publicity (80 m.p.g. and all that. . .) that this might have undermined the new baby, had it not been such a good and interesting economy-car. So from British Leyland Metro to Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit, Britain has brave new ,ars to offer, with Ford introducing their FWD Escort and their ingenious hemi-head CHV engines that contrive recombine the classic combustion chamber shape with the use of but a single o.h.-camshaft, Rover for their six-cylinder cars having done the same sort of thing, by Continued overleaf We wish our readers 5g( 3f)appp Cbri5tnia5 ant Prlai Pear
halving the number of rockers formerly associated with prodding inclined valves with one oh. camshaft. Which brings us to technical developments, in which the increase in Turbocharging, both for racing and production cars or as proprietary-kits, has been the notable trend in 1980. It did not maintain Renault’s early promise in Fl — but perhaps in 1981? There is still plenty of engineering variety among the cars you can purchase, if less obvious innovations. • Openable cars are coming back into the catalogues, to cock-a-snoot at the safety-always “do-gooders”. Driving through the front wheels has been normal for almost all small cars and many larger ones, and this been accompanied by a considerable increase in the number of four-wheel-drive vehicles on offer, so that those who find normal roads too congested for them, can easily go cross-country; although we sympathise with the Rambling Clubs that object to the presence of motor vehicles along the green-ways. Small cars of character and individuality continue to attract much attention and therefore our choice of “Personal Car of 1980” might well be the VW 5-speed Golf GTi, also available as the GLi Convertible. . .
As car-ownership is so closely related to living-standards, we are delighted to learn from some sections of the media that inflation has decreased satisfactorily in 1980. But until essentials such as bread and milk cost less, this good news will be lost on most of us! Quite the worst piece of motoring news that came up in 1980 was the proposal of the ill-advised Minister of Transport Mr. Norman Fowler, to remove the existing car-taxation system and replace it with a tax on all motor vehicles, whether in use or not. We have fought hard against this and believe that the Minister is having second-thoughts, or at least, as politicians no often do when cornered, is postponing action. However, do not let this deceive you. He is said to have already recruited 500 Inspectors, whose duties, as wc understand it, would be to enter private premises without a warrant and seek out unused vehicles. How Mr. Fowler can do this while purporting to want to introduce his new taxation measures in order to reduce the cost of Police-time in tracing untaxed vehicles, we fail to comprehend. Come to that, how he could sally forth gaily on the 1980 Veteran Car Run, after proposing such a fatal blow to all old-vehicle interests, and still save-face, is also beyond us. Do you realise that anyone who has, say, half-a-dozen old vehicles which have been awaiting restoration for twenty years could with the back-duty that is suggested, be milked next year for 0,200? (If we have it incorrectly, excuse us — the Editor wrote early in October to his MP for clarification of these and other aspects of the matter, but a reply is not to hand. . )
On the whole,1980 was a better year than might have been anticipated. Except for this quite astonishing Conservative “1984 Big Brother” lack of regard for the old-car movement. It might be thought that, with the Labour movement in dis-array, the Conservative’s “Iron Lady” has it in her powers to succeed, and remain Prime Minister for another spell. But unless Norman Fowler retracts and leaves car-taxation alone, or puts all tax on petrol without a too great an increase in the cost of a gallon, she may well fail. Never mind Norman’s sop of no tax at all on pre-1940 cars, this will not appease those who restore and run post-war Classics, for a start. . . . Our National (BL) Motor Company has done well in introducing the Metro and its workers in quelling their threatened strike. We hope that similar sense will continue to prevail and that it will embrace the whole of the Motor Industry and other Industries. It seems mere common-sense that inflation will never be beaten if wage-increases continue to be demanded. It might, indeed, be said that those in non-union employment may see even a 61/c rise as something beyond their reach and unnecessary unless productivity justifies it, and that older persons who have saved for their retirement may not see eye-to-eye with the CBI and others in the call for reduced lending (and therefore interest) rates. Yet how seldom the media puts the case for OAPs and retired persons. . .
However, be of good cheer! It may never happen, that fear you have of an unsettled future, in whatever direction. The 1981 season in our world opens with a country-wide celebration of 50 years of Vintage-Car usage, on New Year’s Day, and the MCC will nut its Exeter Trial on January 9th/ 10th. Enjoy it all while you can. . . . —W.B. • • •
The MCC Exeter Trial
ANOTHER issue of MOTOR SPORT will have appeared before the 1981 MCC Exeter Trial has happened, but those planning to spectate (entries to compete have closed) may care to know that the date is January 9th/10th and that the Observed
Sections will be the favourites Fingle Bridge and Simms, together with that at the Cricket St. Thomas Wildlife Park, and those at Windout. Rocombe, and Overrun. Spectators are asked tube very careful to leave the lanes clear for competitors and the 300 or so competitors to drive with extreme care, in the interests of the Open. Anyone experienced in marshalling may find their services welcome — the person to contact is J. Walker, 51 Little Bushey Lane, Bushey, Watford, Herts, WD2 3DS. The event finishes at Sidmouth on the Saturday. — W.B.
Tax on Possession
“I HAVE received a great many responses to thr consultation paper. Many of them have come from classic car owners. Let me make it clear that it is not part of the Government’s intention unfairly to penalise this group. The consultation paper already proposed special rates of exemption for vehicles over 40 years old and one of the things we will now be considering is whether this special status can be extended to take in more classic vehicles. Similarly, we are contemplating the possibility of exemption for long periods of laying up which would help people who are rebuilding or modifying vehicles which have been off the road for a long time. I shall also be considering the effect of the proposals on motor traders and I have met them recently to discuss this.
“I have, of course, taken very careful note of all the representations we have received, and was grateful for the responses to the consultation paper. We have not entered into any firm commitment on the details and we will be anxious to avoid unnecessary difficulties when we reach our final conclusions. Let me emphasise that l shall be giving very careful consideration to all the comments and suggestions made to me. This will take time and a final decision is not imminent.” The Editor may not have received a reply from his M.P., but The Department of Transport recently published this extract from a reply made by the Minister of Transport to a writgen parliamentary question submitted by the Member for Christchurch and Lymington. Mr. Robert Adley. It is pleasing to know that many motorists have made comments to the Minister following his consultation paper published in July, but the tone of his parliamentary reply indicates that Mr. Fowler has made up his mind to go ahead with the principle of his proposals, only conceding that certain exemptions may be considered.
We still feel that the whole idea of a tax on the possession of a motor vehicle (or anything, for that matter) is quite ludicrous and utterly wrong. Keep badgering your MP’s — we must do all we can to prevent the government imposing yet another financial burden on the already overtaxed motoring enthusiast. — P.H.J.W.
Audi Rally Plans
AUDI NSU Auto Union have announced a major onslaught on the international rally scene with their new 2.14-litre 4-WD Quattro coupe. This will run to International Group 4 regulations and will contest the World and European Rally Championships next season. Two entries will be made, one for Finnish star Hannu Mikkola, the other for French lady Michele Mouton who finished seventh on this year’s Monte Carlo Rally. In addition to the rally programme, Audi will continue to support an entry in the European Touring Car Championship (using an 80GLE) while they will be testing the Quattro at Hockenheim and Nurburgring in the near future to see whether it has a future in this category as well. — A. H.
BMW Drivers Club
A CROUP ot BMW enthusiasts has got together to form a Club which is completely independent of the factory and the UK importers. There will be the usual social activities offered by one make clubs as well as a regular news sheet and bulletin. Emphasis will be placed on helping owners of older cars to keep their running costs down without any sacrifice in reliability — and this will include an insurance scheme for club members. The secretary is Sheila Benham, the address is 107 Brandon Road, Watson, Thetford, Norfolk and the Club should be fully operational from January 1st.
The MP Who Didn’t Reply
THE Editor wrote to his MP, ‘Font Hooson, the Conservative Member for Brecon and Radnor, on October 3rd, about the proposed change in Car Taxation. An acknowledgement, dated October 8th, was received, stating that our queries had been passed on to the Minister of Transport and that “I will come back to you as soon as I have his comments on the points you raise”. Over a month later no further communication has been received! Towards Election-time MPs are busy kissing babies, even calling on you. At other times, apparently, mere voters do not matter and motorists can be ignored!
Australian Grand Prix
Calder Raceway — 15th November 1980 1st Alan Jones (Williams FW0781) 2nd Bruno Glacomelli (Alfa Romeo 812)
IN THE story in this issue on the 1980 season of the Williams team, add one to their total of race victories and one more win to car number 7. This Australian outing was a works entry. — D.S.J. . • •
The book “Down The Hatch” by Mark Kahn is published by W. Foulsham & Co. Limited, Yeovil Road, Slough, Berks and not by Carole Pengelly as inadvertently printed in our October edit ion .
THE BUGATTI 57S “ATLANTIC” COUPE
WHEN THE Bugatti factory in Molsheim was at the peak of its production, in the mid-nineteen thirtirs the basic model was the Type 57, a 3.3-litre straight-eight, twin-overhead camshaft engined car, with conventional channel-section steel chassis frame, half-ellliptic leaf springs at the front and the classic Bugatti reversed quarter-elliptic leaf springs at the rear. With a single carburettor the model was the Type 57 and with a supercharger (compressor) it became the 57C. There was a wide range of bodywork available, from four-door saloon to drop-head coupes and the chassis was for sale without coachwork, so that the customer could have a body to his own choice by • a specialist coach-builder. Both the 57 and 57C were essentially touring cars. though various options were available to make very good sporting cars. Using the same mechanical components a more sporting chassis was introduced that was shorter and lower which was called the 570 and with a supercharger added it became the 57SC, the ultimate road-going production Bugatti. The S chassis was unusual in having very deep side members from the middle to the rear, still of channel-sectioned steel, and at thereat there were large holes in the sidemembers through which she rear axle passed, suspension still being by the classical reversed quarter-elliptic leaf-springs. The tubular front axle stemmed directly from the Grand Prix Type 59, in that it was in two halves with a threaded muff joint in the centre and minimal rotational movement was possible between the two halves. This did not give a degree of independence to the front wheels but it reduced inter-action between the king-pins. As one king-pm castor angle changed with suspension movement it did not automatically affect the opposite one. That was the theory anyway, and for precise and accurate steering the 57S was a yard-stick that few could match even 20 years later. As with the Type 57 and 57C, the 57S and 57SC was available in chassis form for specialist coach-builders to practice their art upon and some very pretty balies resulted. The S chassis
departed from the long established horse-shoe shaped flat radiator, so distinctive of Ettore Bugatti for so many years, and used an almost elliptic radiator shell with the longer axis vertical, and with a pronounced ver formation. It was also very low and whatever the mudguard formation that was used their highest points were about level with the radiator line. However clothed the 57S was a very striking looking car. The factory offered a two-seater fixed-head coupe with a rather bulbous tail, known as the “Atalante” and its sales were quite good, in either S or SC form while various coach-builders offered similar fixed-head coupes or drop-head coupes.
At the London Motor Show in 1935 a “way-out” Bugatti body design was offered on the S chassis, the coupe body having an unbroken line right down to the tail. It was constructed ut Elektron and all joins formed exposed ribs, one over the centre-line of the roof and others along the top of the mudguards. In those days the welding of magnesium-alloy was in its infancy and certainly was not possible by the average body-builder. You either accepted this new body style and construction as something exotic and biurre that only Bugatti would dare to p0500 the market, or you viewed it as a joke that looked like a bridge-builder had been at work. This prototype was called “L’Aerolithe” but by the time the first production one was built the following year the name had been changed to “Atlantic”, not to be confused with the “Atalante”.
Some reference works quote five or six “Atlantic” coupes being built, but so far I have only been able to trace three, not counting the prototype. There have been two fake ones made in recent years with aluminium bodies on Type 57 chassis. Two real ones came to England, one registered DGJ 758 eventually went to America, and the other was EXK 6 which is still in this country. Although the official title was the 57S (or ‘SC depending on whether a supercharger was fitted) “Atlantic” coupe, they were more popularly referred seas the “Elektron Coupe”. In the Schlumpf Collection in Mulhouse there are nine versions of the Type 57S (or SC) including four ‘Andante” coupes, but no “Atlantic”. The Elektron coupe is one of the few models that the Schlumpf brothers never acquired.
As can he appreciated the “Atlantic” coupe was about the ultimate in 1930s exotica, whether beautiful, ugly, fascinating or ridiculous depended on the eye of the beholder. But, would You believe, someone has made the semblance of an “Atlantic” in fibreglass! The mechanical components are Type 57 and a run of six is envisaged. We always thought the “reproduction” business was getting out of hand, but a fibreglass “Elektron coupe” has got to take the award of the Ycar. On that silly note we will end this series of fake cars and turn our attentions to other aspects of the old car game, hobby, profession or racket, depending on which branch is involved. Before leaving, it has been interesting to note that the descriptions of “bastard” cars without history or fake cars purporting to genuine ones seems to have upset some readers, notably those with such cars to sell or those who have bought them,
wittingly or unwittingly, or those who are constructing diem (verb sap). In the Autumn issue of Bu,ganties, the magazine of the Bugatti Owners Club, there is a very apt paragraph which we quote in full with their kind permission.
“The scene in the racing world is a bit tarnished by controversy on the authenticity of restored or replica cars, something the Bugatti owner has known about for some time. Indeed some of the worst cases of the replica disease am with our make of car — people claiming cars as genuine when they are not, others ascribing original chassis numbers on conjecture to cars which patently cannot be proved or in some cases demonstrated. One can understand if not condone a dealer doing this !caveat emptily), basis is sad to see members of the Club doing it. But when an original chassis number on a Bugatti, Ferrari or Mascrati adds £10,000 to the value of the car you are trying to sell we suppose it is so be expected, human nature being what it is.” — D.S.J.