Matters of Moment, February 1954



The Coming Season
A whole issue of Motor Sport could be devoted to discussion of the prospects and possibilities of the coming racing season, so popular and well supported is present-day motor-racing. Confining ourselves to a few random observations, it seems that many excitingly fresh Grand Prix racing cars built to the new 1954 Formula will emerge from the chrysalis stage, although how many will have proved themselves by the end of the year, and whether the oft-spoken-of marques of Mercédès-Benz, Alfa-Romeo, Lancia, E.R.A., B.R.M. and Vandervell will be seen all on a starting grid at any one race, in company with the expected teams of Ferrari, Maserati, Osca, Gordini, Talbot, H.W.M., Cooper, Kieft and Connaught, remains to be seen. Perhaps by 1955? If a rumour that Enzo Ferrari is paying less this year for drivers is true, so that World Champion Alberto Ascari will drive for Lancia, a levelling-up between the leading teams will result.

We are glad to see that Stirling Moss has taken heed of our advice and bought himself a real racing car, in the form of a Maserati. Now we shall see how he shapes in real Grand Prix racing and watch with interest how he compares with No. 1 English Grand Prix driver, Hawthorn.

Speculation revolves round the rumoured return of Bugatti to Formula I racing with a 2 1/2-litre Grand Prix car designed by the renowned Colombo. This is another famous name to add to those listed in the second paragraph, but at this stage your guess is as good as ours.

It may be that English race-organisers are wise in stating that races for existing 2-litre Formula II cars will be provided if insufficient support is received from sponsors of new 2 1/2-litre machines. Whether a blown 750-c.c, car will appear, a minnow amongst the salmon, in the field of the new Formula I is another matter for intriguing speculation. B.R.M. has been mentioned in this connection and the old-established J.A.P. concern has increased the possibilities of such cars by introducing a neat, air-cooled, four-cylinders-in-line 500-c.c, power unit for the Formula III boys who wish to graduate from their trusty, powerful, but rough, “singlebangers.”

Sports-car racing will be an intense business this year indeed, especially with the revised 300SL Mercédès-Benz joining in and a strong possibility of Auto-Union and B.M.W. as well. A new class of racing, ranking perhaps as a circus stunt but seeming to have possibilities, is due to break out at its own 1/4-mile track in London next Easter. In other words, Stock-Car Racing, run to American Stock-Car Racing regulations. This, we think, may be more exciting by far than the one-time midget-car racing, if equally far removed from the “classic.” At least it should rid the used-car lots of many rusty American sedans that otherwise look like gradually disintegrating into oblivion.

Auto-cross, “wet or dry,” as Wilson McComb has sagely subdivided it, may well overwhelm trials this winter and next. And then, apart from the Sport, there will be plenty of ordinary motoring, in which connection the less affluent enthusiasts can take heart from the continued fall in used-car prices — they are reaching new low levels and even then it seems doubtful whether the vendors get as much as two-thirds of the advertised prices in many instances.

Coming back to motor-racing, the B.R.D.C. has always been commendably adaptable and not afraid to try out fresh ideas; it is to be congratulated on giving the new Oulton Park road circuit, perhaps our first genuine road circuit since the demise of Donington, a decided uplift by taking their National Empire Trophy Race there on April 11th, their I.O.M. course having become impractical.

The B.A.R.C. has our sympathy over the fact that work on the Aintree circuit is held up over the matter of a public footpath which crosses the terrain, just as, 47 years ago, the late Mr. R. F. Locke-King had to face the same problem while building Brooklands Motor Course. We note, too, that the B.A.R.C. has abandoned the Nine-Hour Sports-Car Race at Goodwood, but knowing John Morgan’s organising ability we have every reason to expect that whatever he substitutes will he very good indeed — a revival of the 200-Mile Race perhaps, which, if for Grand Prix cars, would rank as Goodwood’s first long-distance racing-car fixture.

Whichever way you look at it, 1954 should be a first-rate season, and we wish the greatest luck and enjoyment to all — competitors, officials and spectators — who participate in it. — W. B.

A Suggestion, Mr. Butler!
It is high time purchase tax on new cars was reduced or abolished. This would stimulate home sales and thus help to prevent overproduction in our factories. This, in turn, would bring down the prices of used cars, and that would increase safety by removing from our roads worn-out, mass-produced monstrosities, because then no one would need to buy such cars. Logic, Mr. Butler?

“Safety” Glass
A recent episode in which the Managing Director of Motor Sport was involved again directs our attention to the criminal danger of allowing manufacturers to use toughened safety glass in the windscreens of their cars. He was motoring with three passengers in his Jowett Javelin along the Southend Arterial Road when he drew in to let a Ford Zephyr, whose driver was travelling by himself, pass. Pulling out again to tail the Ford, he was watching the road ahead through the back window and windscreen of the Zephyr when suddenly the Ford’s screen went completely opaque. This resulted in the Ford’s driver, being taken completely by surprise, blindly swerving from side to side of the, luckily, one-way highway, striking both kerbs before coming to rest, a very shaken man.

Had our Managing Director not seen the Ford’s screen go opaque he would have had no warning of the Zephyr’s subsequent antics and would almost certainly have crashed into it.

It is easy to imagine then where blame for the accident would have been placed! As it was, when the excitement had died down some-what it was easy to convince the Ford’s driver and the intrigued bystanders that a stone had hit his windscreen and had caused the toughened glass to go opaque.

It will be recalled by regular readers that the Editor experienced a similar alarming happening when driving a Citroen Six in 1952.

How many accidents which come in the mystery or “driver lost control” or “bad a heart-attack” category are really attributable to this failing of toughened safety glass no one can safely say. What the effect of a screen going opaque is on a twisting road when a car is being driven fast does not bear contemplation.

Stones thrown up from approaching as well as preceding vehicles can cause this startling result, nor are we satisfied that those “mystery breakages” on certain roads are due to human intervention — a surfeit of loose stones or sun shining from the brow of a hill could cause the glass to lose its transparency.

Recently in Kenya Sir Anthony Stainer, Bt., formerly a well-known motoring enthusiast in this country, was driving his XK120 Jaguar when a Mau Mau bullet struck its windscreen. Luckily this was of laminated safety glass, which neither shattered nor went opaque, so that the episode ended happily.

Toughened glass should be banned from all car windscreens, just as it is from the race-track. Our Managing Director tells us that he would not tolerate toughened glass in his Bristol 403 or Jupiter; nor in any car he drives. You should follow suit and refuse to drive unless it is behind laminated safety glass.

If those manufacturers who fit laminated glass as standard to their cars care to notify us we will gladly give them well-deserved prominence in these pages.

Stock Car Shunt
We have previously referred to the likely arrival in London at Easter of American-style Stock-car racing over tracks. The spectacle will no doubt be exciting, entertaining to the enthusiast, and enthralling for the general public.

We are, however, surprised that the names of well-known racing drivers such as Stirling Moss, Reg Parnell and Sir James Scott Douglas have become associated with this form of racing, which, contested on dirt-tracks between old American sedans and involving numerous lurid “shunts,” is really in the “circus” category.

Their skill and reputation should place them above participation in this form of racing, however much pleasure unknown drivers may derive from stock-car dicing and no matter how exciting it may prove as public entertainment.

The R.A.C. will be wise to warn those who take part that they may automatically endanger their Competition Licences unless this new form of racing receives official sanction. We confess that our primitive instincts cause us to hope that Stock Car Shunting will not be halted by absence of “big names.”

Northampton And District C.C.
Following the outstanding success of the Grose Trophy Sporting Trial last November, the Northampton and D.C.C. announces a Spring Sporting Trial, to take place on February 21st. The start will be from the Market Square, Northampton, at 10 a.m., and the trials ground will be about seven miles from the town. Entry forms and regulations may be obtained from E. Holt, 41, Barrack Road, Northampton (Northampton 4418).

Number, Please!
In our last month’s feature “Light Engineering Facilities” the telephone number of Weldangrind should have been given as Renown 1121 and that of Precision Bearings, Ltd., as Perivale 6206.

Gran Turismo
A few additions and corrections bearing on last month’s leading article on Gran Turismo cars are:

We are informed by our Continental Correspondent that the 1900 Alfa-Romeo which lapped Montlhèry at 114 m.p.h. and afterwards idled unconcernedly in the Paddock was a 1900 TI not a 1900C, so its speed is all the more creditable. An Alfa-Romeo catalogue since to hand gives the compression ratio of the 1900C as 7.75 to 1, against 7.5 to 1 for the normal 1900, the respective power outputs being 100 b.h.p. at 5,500 r.p.m., against 80 b.h.p. at 4,800 r.p.m. The 1900C has a wheelbase of 8 ft. 2 1/2 in., or 1/2 in. more than was given in our tabulated data. Alfa-Romeo claim 96 m.p.h. for the I900C, 101 m.p.h. for the 1900 Ti and 112 m.p.h. for the 1900C, in closed form.

Due to an error the description of the Jensen 541 and Lancia Aurelia front suspension systems was jumbled. It is, of course, the Lancia which has “the age-old Lancia sliding members, now inclined slightly to provide centre-point steering,” the Jensen having wishbone suspension. The Lancia Aurelia has stud-attached wheels, not centre-lock as stated, and the Ferrari engine shown on page 27 is a dual-carburetter unit, not one with triple Webers as the caption, written in the absence of the illustration, states. — W. B.

Front cover picture: At Measham. — A vintage Bentley in action during the final tests of the V.S.C.C.’s popular winter rally.