Rumblings, February 1952


As the new season of racing comes nearer plans and preparations conceived during the winter come closer to fruition. Naturally, in view of the emphasis on Formula II and the splendid showing of the HWM team in this field last year, as described in the September issue of Motor Sport, eyes turn to Walton-On-Thames, where John Heath is well advanced with the 1952 HWM Formula II cars. Indeed, we were able to see the first of this year’s cars last autumn but were asked to keep our fountain pens sheathed and camera lenses covered. Now details can be revealed, and very interesting they are.

In common with most of the present-day racing cars, this year’s has a tubular chassis of triangulated double-tube construction, which Heath says is only two-thirds the weight of the 1951 single-tube frame but of twice the torsional stiffness. Gas-welded construction is used to unite the 17-gauge 70 ton high-tensile steel tubes, of which those at the top are of 11/4-in diameter, and the main tubes of 21/2- in diameter. The front coil-spring, Girling-damped ifs, has been improved in minor matters, but rack-and-pinion steering devised by Nuffield’s engineers for a very different sort of car is retained. An anti-roll bar is found at the front, however.

At the back the suspension has been completely revised, last year’s 4-elliptic leaf springs being replaced by torsion bars. Tension on these can be varied as required. Silentbloc bushes figure prominently in the layout and on each side twin radius arms run forward to the chassis frame. The rear brake drums now live inboard, more substantial Hardy-Spicer driving shafts than hitherto taking the drive, from the Salisbury final drive unit to the hubs, which embody Timken races and on which “simplification to add lightness” has been duly carried out.

After experiencing the benefits of a ZF differential last season these are now used on all the new cars. Armstrong-Siddeley close-ratio preselector gearboxes are retained but Heath would like to acquire some ERA gearboxes for spares if anyone has such in his attic or coal shed.

The new cars have a wheelbase and track of 7 ft 9 in and 4 ft 1 in, respectively, being slightly shorter than lest year. Girling 2LS hydraulic brakes again figure in the specification as well-tried components deserving to be retained.

The Alta engine in 83.5 by 90 mm four-cylinder twin ohc form will be retained but much magic has been performed in this department by the “horse-breeder” Robin Jackson. As crankshafts broke on awkward occasions last season these have been redesigned (a contemporary refers to them as “lovely” and engineers will know what. is meant) in conjunction with new connecting-rods and Wellworthy “Aero” pistons. Thus assured of reliability, Jackson has endowed the engine with a modified cylinder head, changed valve and port dimensions. and—ah !—more “potent” camshafts. Robin goes about the task of poking in extra horses with the thoroughness and patience of the surgeon operating on his patient. He has accomplished a considerable increase in power-output without recourse to intake ramming or exhaust extraction, so carburation is pertorrned, as before, by twin two-choke Weber carburetters close to the block, and four stub exhausts are retained. Fuel is carried in two 5-gallon tanks one on each side of the scuttle and in a 21-gallon tail tank, and an oil tank for the dry-sump lubrication system is accommodated beneath the driver’s seat, all tanks being of light alloy.

HWMs will have a busy Formula II season this year, especially in France. Stirling Moss has left the team, which will now be led by Lance Macklin, backed by George Abecassis, John Heath and probably by Peter Collins and Duncan Hamilton: The best of luck to them !

Another British Formula II car of great promise is the Cooper-Bristol. This exciting Cooper is to go into small series-production, the intention being to build ten of them this year. Preliminary figures claim a weight of 10 cwt sans fuel and an output of 120 bhp from the 66 by 96-mm Bristol engine, using a compression ratio of 8:5 to 1. Side tanks and a tail tank give a fuel capachy of about 24 gallons and alcohol fuel will not be necessary. The chassis is of box-section, liberally drilled with lightening holes, with two tubular longerons forming a mounting for the body-frame tubes. Front suspension is by the well-tried Cooper transverse leaf spring and wishbones, and at the back short shafts from the ENV final-drive unit convey the drive to the wheels, which are sprung independently, again by a transverse leaf spring and wishbones. This irs eliminates propeller-shaft rise and fall, so that the driver does not sit so high as might at first be supposed. The transmission is Bristol. The engine has triple Solex 32B1 carburetters and two separate exhaust systems shared amongst its six cylinders. The top-gear ratio is 3.46 to 1, the rear tyre size 5.50-15 (4.50-15 on the front wheels), the wheelbase measuring 7 ft 6 in and the track 4 ft 2 in. The specification embraces rack-and-pinion steering, hydraulic telescopic dampers and 10-in Lockheed 21.S brakes, while the single-seater body is of light alloy in detachable sections. The price of these cars is expected to be about £1,850. The first available will be driven by Eric Brandon and Alan Brown, of the Ecurie Richmond.

Frazer-Nash is contemplating building Formula II Bristol engined single-seaters if there is sufficient demand. Geoffrey Taylor is engaged on producing improved Formula II Altas, which Peter and Graham Whitehead will drive. Aware of the shortcomings in the old engine, Taylor is using redesigned crankshafts, rods, flywheel, pistons and camshafts, etc, as well as an entirely new induction and exhaust system. A new chassis will be used, with an eye on a 21/2-litre Formula 1 Alta in 1953, although the well-known Alta suspension, back axle and gearbox will be retained. A weight saving of some 2 cwt is expected.

With HWM, Alta, Cooper-Bristol, Connaught and Frazer-Nash to oppose the Ferrari, Simca, AFM and other Continental 2-litres, 1952 promises some tremendous Formula II racing, although, ironically, few races purely for these cars will be held in this country. Apart from these well-established makes some exciting “private-venture” Formula cars will be forthcoming. It can now be revealed, as they say in Fleet Street, that HA Richards, successful Riley exponent in the past, will use a 17-gauge chrome-molybdenum tubular steel chassis to take an 1,100-cc, 1,500-cc or 2-litre Riley engines as required. He will use torsion-bar ifs with light alloy wishbones, a similar layout of irs, double reduction gearing in the transmission to lower the height of the propeller-shaft, and an elektron casing for the Riley final drive. The Smethwick driver’s car is the usual single seater, uses rack-and-pinion steering, and is intended to weigh about 81/2 cwt in 1,100-cc form. Ron Willis is building a car with a proper tubular chassis, to take a “328” BMW engine.

So some intense racing should result and it will be of great interest to see whether the air-cooled V-twin cars, like Cooper 1,100s and in particular the Cooper Nor-Jap of Ray Merrick, will have found greater reliability with which to challenge the new liquid-cooled, multi-cylinder cars in the well-stocked 1-2-litre category. The Nor-Jap engine, another Robin Jackson brain child, which was described exclusively in Motor Sport last December, will be in a later Cooper chassis this year.

Formula III will produce its own crop of improved and new cars. Last year the Cooper Mk V held its own with JBS, Kieft and what have they. A new Mk VI is now ready to renew these battles. This has tubular side-members where previously box-section members were used, both these and the longerons above being 16-gauge 45-ton steel tubes. The geometry of the rack-and-pinion steering has been improved, the transverse leaf spring ifs stiffened up and twin brake master cylinders incorporated. The rear suspension, which last season was noticeably deficient when compared with newer layouts, has been replanned to allow of greater wheel movement, and a magnesium alloy final-drive casing is now used. The JAP engine, the gearbox and the final drive are now virtually one unit, there is provision for easily tensioning the driving chains and 4 lb has been saved in unsprung weight at each rear wheel by the adoption of magnesium wishbone connectors. The springs at each end now use four instead of six leaves, giving softer suspension, and the Mk VI Cooper is 65 lb lighter than the Mk. V.

The very successful Kieft, which served Stirling Moss so well last year, is now in production, priced at up to £700 without engine and up to £800 powered, in each case not, counting purchase tax. D Powell Richards, Jack Westcott, Ken Wharton, CD Headland, W Webb and Don Parker are likely to have these Kiefts ready in time for the first 500 cc race this year.

In the sports-car field, Gerry Ruddock, of HRG fame, has joined up with Jim Mayers and Pat Griffiths and their Monkey Stable of 11/2-litre Lester-MGs will compete in major sports-car races at home and abroad. Merchiston Motors has formed the Ecurie Ecosse, a team of Jaguars to be driven in at least fifteen 1952 British sports-car races by Ian Stewart, who will have a C-type XK, Bill Dobson, Sir James Scott Douglas, Bt, and David Murray, with XK 120s. This Scottish team will be managed by Murray, and the cars will be prepared under the supervision of popular “Wilkie” Wilkinson.

All in all, the 1952 English racing season, backed up by our exciting sprints at Shelsley Walsh, Prescott, Bo’ness and elsewhere, is likely to be extremely satisfactory. Come what may in the way of increasing cost of motoring and political restrictions, the fun should wax fast and furious. Soon enthusiasts will again plan routes, collect wives, girl friends and those females currently described as attchments, throw into their cars sunglasses and sou’westers, shooting-sticks and gum-boots, picnic baskets and umbrellas, ready for an early start to a motor-race venue. Once again the vivid sports clothes of the men (or their oil skins ?) and the brief summer attire (or makintoshs and coloured “brollies” ?) of the girls will mingle with the shimmering polished (or carefully shrouded ?) shapes of the racing cars in the sun-drenched (or mud-boggy ?) paddock. Come what may, motor racing is the Sport.