Around and about, December 1981

BRM Auction Sale

At the Motofair at Earls Court, on October 22nd, the remains of the BRM works team were put up for auction by Christie’s, the Hon. Patrick Lindsay running the sale with a delightful touch of gentleness and efficiency, his auctioneering technique being qui te charming. Apart from works drawings, various aspects of administration, documentary films and odds and ends, there were various  quantities of spare parts and works tools and fixtures. However, the main interest lay in 11 BRM cars, some complete and in working order, others mere exhibition models .and one a kit of parts. Most useful of the collection was the 1958 Grand Prix car , the 4-cylinder P25 model of 2 1/2-litres capacity, said to be the actual car that won the Dutch GP in the hands of Jo Bonnier in 1959. Without doubt it is the only genuine P25 BRM, the other four in existence today are all replicas, built up in recent years using various BRM components. All the original cars, with the exception of 25/8, were broken up by the works to provide parts for the rear-engined P48 models. This unique P25 BRM number 25/8 was purchased at auction by Vic Norman, of Rosso Racing in Cirencester. As he is a keen Historic racing man, with a lightweight 250F Maserati, we can expect to see this historic 2 1/2-litre BRM in action next year. It was bought in full working order, recently overhauled by the Bourne factory.

Another car in full working order was the rear-engined 11/z-litre V8 model P57, number 578/1 raced by Graham Hill for the factory, then used by the Scuderia Centro-Sud and later by Maurice Trintignant, before returning to Bourne. It was totally rebuilt prior to the auction sale and was bought by the Pat rick Motors Group of Birmingham.

Of the four V 12-cylinder 3-litre cars only one was in running order and that was the P160, chassis number 10, the last of this series. This car dated from the days when cars began to spend more time in the paintshop than in the workshop, as outside sponsorship had arrived and the colour scheme seemed more important than the performance of the cars. This car was purchased by Tom Wheatcroft for the Donington Park racing car museum. Wheatcroft also purchased the other Vl2 cars for his collection, these being a non-running Pi39, a non-running P!53 and a P80 as a kit of parts “needing assembly”.

Returning to the days when BRMs were dark olive green, a P48 rear-engined 21/z-litre 4-cylinder, chassis number 48/4, dating from 1960 was bought by Alain de Cadenet, and though looking complete the buyer was warned that it was a non-runner and the engine needed a lot of attention. A very rare H16-cylinder 3-litre rear-engined car, assembled by Bourne as an exhibition piece, was bought by Victor Gauntlett and his Pace Petroleum firm, while Tom Wheatcroft bought the ultimate H16 engine, an experimental four valves per cylinder (64 in all!), which sold as a complete power unit.

Finally there were three of the infamous 135-degree Vl6 centrifugally supercharged 11/z-litre cars that started the whole sad history of BRM in 1949. There were things about the design of that car that were horrid when first seen in 1949 and are even more horrid to view in i 981. (In contrast, an Alfa Romeo Tipo 159 seen today gives the same pleasure it did in 195 I.) Of the three Mark I BRM V16 cars only one remains, this being chassis number I. One car was totally destroyed in a monumental accident at Albi which nearly killed Ken Wharton, a second car was crashed at Goodwood and not rebuilt and this remaining one was bought by London car dealer Dan Margulies for an unspecified client living in London. Tom Wheatcroft has a bare chassis frame, purchased from Bourne some time ago, and after this auction he has enough bits to contemplate building up another Mark I. To complete the Earls Court auction sale there were the two Mark 2 BRM V16 cars, built in 1954 to try and save face after the dismal failures of the Mark 1 cars. By this time everyone else had embarked on the new 2 1/2-litre Formula for Grand Prix racing, but BRM ran the short-chassis “sprint” models in National events, evolving a very exciting short-distance racing car that was too late in the overall scene. Chassis number 2/0 I in full working order was bought by Tom Wheatcroft for the formidable sum of £160,000 while the second car, number 2/02, a non-runner, was bought by Dan Margulies, again unspecified client.

With this auction sale which raised just over half-a-million pounds for Rubery Owen, less Christie’s percentage, the long-drawn-out saga of the BRM, brainchild of Raymond Mays, came to a final conclusion. Set in motion by a complex syndicate involving the British motor industry, it was later taken over by Sir Alfred Owen and his Rubery Owen industrial empire. In 1975 the BRM concern passed into the hands of the husband of Sir Alfred Owen’s sister and became known as Stanley-BRM, but this concern went into liquidation some time ago. Rubery Owen still exists but the BRM racing team has now gone for ever.

A Jaguar Evening

After working for Jaguars for 20 years, first as an engineering apprentice and then in management and press relations and publicity, Andrew Whyte left the firm recently to concentrate on freelance writing. His close ties with the Jaguar firm have seen him become involved in a travelling “flag waving” operation, run in conjunction with Jaguar agents and the Jaguar Drivers Club. These occasions take the form of a pleasantly informal evening at the agents’ showrooms where a display of the latest cars is laid on and Andrew Whyte gives an illustrated talk on the beginnings and the development of Jaguar Cars Ltd. with much reference to their competition successes and development. The keynote of the evening is that having regained total control of Jaguar Cars Ltd. within the British Leyland empire, the management has made vast strides in improving quality and maintenance of Jaguar cars and they proudly point at the XJS coupe with High Efficiency V12 engine as not only the best Jaguar ever made, but simply the best car in its class.

When Andrew Whyte visited Guildford in Surrey recently, we were able to join in this pleasant and informal evening at the showrooms of Wadham Stringer, the Guildford Jaguar agents. Members of the Jaguar Drivers Club had brought along some cars to illustrate the past, notably a 1939 saloon with 1 1/2-litre 4-cylinder engine, a “one-owner” XK150 drophead coupe, a V12 E-type and a 2.4-litre Mk. I saloon, all of which were driven into the Wadham Stringer showrooms and sat there exuding warmth from their radiators while we listened to Andrew Whyte’s talk and watched the display of historic slides and up-to-the-minute publicity film. During the “wine and buffet” session which followed, the talk was naturally of Jaguars and everyone interested could arrange for a demonstration drive with the Wadham Stringer sales staff.

These shows happen all over the country, at Jaguar agents, and we came away from the Guildford one conscious that Britain can offer a very fine car for the nineteen-eighties at a very competitive price, amid the exotics.

Rallysprint fun at Donington

For the fourth successive year the Donington Rallysprint has provided an amusing, informal and enjoyable note on which to round off a busy season, enabling a selection of Grand Prix and rally drivers to compete against each other both on circuit and special stage. The event was conceived originally by entrepreneur Nick Brittain who has done a first class job of promoting the Rallysprint concept, this year’s meeting being sponsored by Granada television which also helped to ensure that it appeared “on the box”.

The 1980 Donington Rallysprint was significant in one important respect inasmuch as it marked the competition debut of the Audi Queries in the UK. Handled -for the rallymen” by regular pilot Hannu Mikkola, it proved easily quickest on the loose special stage — despite Mikkola completing one of his runs with a deflated rear tyre. For the “circuit racers”, 1980 World Champion Alan Jones tried his hand in the Quattro and proved easily quickest of the Grand Prix drivers over two runs one each way: along the stage. Other contestants included jimmy McRae in his Opel Ascona 400 talternating with Nigel Mansell), Russell Brookes in his Sunbeam Lotus ,alternating with John Watson: and Tony Pond’s Vauxhall Chevette talternating with Derek Daly). Once all the contestants had completed their special stage, runs the action moved to the Donington race circuit where all the contestants were strapped into BL Metros for a wheel-to-wheel race. The outcome of the Rally-sprint was settled on a points system taking in both the race result and the special stage times. To, Pond, who won the Metro race, took aggregate victors for the second straight year although the Quattro was by far the quickest special stage car as expected by everybody). The seem also gave selected scribes she opportunity of partnering the drivers on the special stage and A.H. sat next to John Watson for both his runs. They were predictable, unflustered and controlled. the Ulsterman’s driving merely serving to emphasise that Grand Prix delvers are intensely competitive creatures, whether operating in their own world or sampling a totally different environment.

Raymond Mays Memorial

It is not surprising that the people of Bourne and motor racing enthusiasts everywhere wish to cream something by which Ramond Mays. CBE, will be remembered. His enthusiasm for motor racing covered a span of nearly 60 years, leaving indelible marks in the history of motor racing along the way, but the townsfolk of Bourne want something more personal and have inaugurated an Appeal Fund, backed by Mr. Malcolm Jones the Town Mayor of Bourne.

Already plans have been made to attach a suitable plaque to the outside of Eastgate House in Bourne, where Raymond Mays lived, and an old water mill, known as Baldock’s Mill, in the town has had one of its rooms donated to become the Raymond Mays Room, in much the same way as the Jim Clark Room in the town of Duns. in Scotland. Baldock’s Mill is an 18th Century stone building on the corner of South Street in Bourne, and is to become a general Exhibition Centre for the town and the first floor is to be given over to the Raymond Mays feature. In addition to this the Memorial Fund intends to erect some form of permanent memorial to Raymond Mays at one of the racing venues always associated with him, and as far as this is concerned our feeling is that it should be at Shelsley Walsh.

In addition to the usual appeal for money to finance the ideas of the Memorial Fund organisers, they are also interested in any items closely connected with Raymond Mays that could feature in the commemoration room in Baldock’s Mill. The Town Mayor of Bourne, at Wake House, North Street, Bourne, Lincolnshire PEW 9AG, would be pleased to hear from supporters of the Appeal Fund, in cash or in kind.

Shelsley Walsh

While browsing through some bound volumes of the Proceedings of the Institution of Automobile Engineers we came across a paper read by Mr. P. Brewster entitled “The Preparation of Motor Cycles for Speed Events”. This was read to the Institution in March 1926 and was interesting enough in itself, dealing as it was with the tuning of vintage motorcycles, but what caught our attention was the statement that the author had used a 47″ wheelbase with success at Shelsley Walsh. To the best of our knowledge the first time motorcycles can at Shelsley Walsh was in 1939 when an ACU sponsored “demonstration” was given. The war put a stop to subsequent participation by two-wheelers at the famous Worcestershire Speed Hillclimb, but motorcycles did run alike autumn meetings from 1946 to 1964. Indeed, there are strong moves within the Midland Automobile Club to try to incorporate motorcycles once more at Shelsley Walsh.

To return to Mr. Brewster and his passing remark made in 1926, we contacted Walter Gibbs who looks after the archives of Shelsley Walsh for the Midland Automobile Club and he came up with the answer to our query about Mr. P. Brewster. On June 10th, 1911 the Birmingham Motor Cycle Club organised a meeting at Shelsley Walsh concurrent with the Midland Automobile Club’s car meeting. At this meeting P. Brewster was riding a 3 1/2 h.p. Norton and was placed 3rd in the racing class for machines to 1911 Tourist Trophy regulations. The regulations stated that no pedalling would be allowed (early primitive motorcycles used to have pedalling gear like a bicycle to assist up hills), and that no practising would be allowed. As most of the machines were of single gear layout and, no doubt, many were clutchless, they were allowed a flying start, presumably from the level ground where the paddock entrance now is. It is interesting that Brewster should make this one brief reference, while discussing the effects of wheelbase in motorcycle design, to Shelsley Walsh fifteen years after the event.