The 31st Exeter Trial

If the Motor Cycling Club’s Exeter Trial ever ceases to be held, England, by gad, sir, will not be the country she was ! Fortunately there is no sign of a demise in this classic winter event, now in its 45th year. It has changed its date and place of starting, the route has been stiffened up from time to time by the inclusion of new hills, the finish has been moved from Staines to Exeter and the competing cars have become more reliable and weatherproof— but the ” Exeter” is still the “Exeter.” It is essentially a trial in which ordinary cars can ‘have a go” and you compete, not against one another but against “Jackie” Masters. The M.C.C. Trials “specials” are definitely not “Exeter” wear, but those anxious to secure first-class awards (traditionally, they should get real gold medals!) enter Dellows in increasing numbers. Scroggs, however, still does it in his Trojan.

This year, with starting points at Virginia Water, Launceston and Kenilworth, the route converged at Honiton, and riders and drivers took an easy restart on Pin Hill before breakfast (traditionally) at Deter’s, in Exeter. Pin Hill caused no real trouble, except to a non-competing Hillman Minx Press car, which stalled its engine and did its best to block the hill.

Windout, the first hill after breakfast, was also easy, and Fingle Bridge in a decidedly lenient mood.

At Fingle we observed Badman’s B.S.A. combination being towed up by the tractor, and R.R.Jones’ Triumph sidecar outfit fail, but J.F.Bray’s B.S.A. combination came up confidently; S.Morris’ A.J.S. sidecar managed it but found it none too easy, while the girl in M. J.Clarke’s Royal Enfield sidecar nearly got her coat involved with the chain as they ascended strongly.

The first car to appear was Slocombe’s Doretti, which failed two bends from the top but managed to complete the climb with some assistance. Then McDonald’s H.R.G. made a splendid ascent. Nicolls’ Ford Ten raised smoke from its tyres, Hay’s Lotus-Ford was brilliant, making the climb look child’s play, and Denyer’s old Lea-Francis never faltered, almost smiting a bank, Challands in the passenger’s seat bouncing manfully. Davis’ Ford Ten was excellent, so was Inderwick’s Batten V8, the driver quickly correcting tail slides, and the duffle-coated occupants of Mead’s blown Dellow had an easy ride. Betteridge’s Mk II Dellow and Walsh’s Dellow imitated Mead’s for strong climbing.

Scroggs had no difficulties in his vintage Trojan, Huxham’s Morgan thought it was at Prescott, Shaw’s S.V.Morris Minor came. up magnificently, while Kendrick’s Ford Popular showed that Fingle need not demand an expensive car. F.P.Barker did it properly, screen flat, in his blown Dellow, Read’s Dellow was fast, and Alderton’s Ford Ten-powered P.S.M. got up well. Turner’s early open Ford Prefect with a large boot just managed it, M.J.Baker’s H.R.G., with girl passenger, nearly failed through wheelspin, hit the bank, but recovered, Smith’s A.R.M. ascended steadily, driver’s door swinging open, while Westropp’s Ford Ten-powered Morris Minor tourer struggled up, passenger bouncing on the back seat. John’s o.h.v. Morris Minor took a long time to come up, the passenger causing amusement to the spectators by violent bouncing in the back. Goddard’s Triumph TR2 caused its driver some toil but got up, direction indicators winking.

Faber’s little Renault 750 saloon made a very neat ascent, Rutter’s TR2 was handled sensibly, driver controlling the power, and Warren’s Standard Vanguard made a model ascent, easily, neatly and spin-free. Parsons’ Dellow had no trouble at all, climbing fast. Tucker-Peake’s mysterious Olympic 1,500, with Ford grille and Morris body, was good but hardly outstanding. The other (H.W.) Tucker-Peake made a blipping Prescott-like ascent in his I-litre Tucker-M.G., cornering wide, Goldthorpe’s Dellow-like Pelican with dual outside exhaust pipes was quick, Cleghorn’s Dellow tended to lose power but got up. Robins, in his shirt-sleeves, came steadily past the snowclad banks on a splendid climb in his Standard Vanguard, and Caldwell’s I-litre Riley saloon found it very easy. The occupants of Kingwell’s Ford Prefect employed a grand bouncing action and climbed easily, Dr. Havard’s Renault 750 stopped momentarily at the” S “when he missed the change from second to first, but restarted so quickly it may not have been observed, and Hocquard’s Renault 750 looked like stopping, being in second gear, but pulled away well.

Bruce-White’s early 850c.c. M.G. Midget four-seater stopped beyond the “S” through lack of gee-gees, Benin’s Dellow made a racing ascent, Denison’s Dellow wasn’t so fast, while Martin’s modern 2-litre Riley saloon died away in the S-bend. In contrast, Lowrey’s Hillman Husky came up well, as did Day’s TR2-engined Morgan Plus Four, Norgard’s Morgan, Ahern’s Morgan and Leech’s M.G., while A. G. Norgard’s H.R.G. made just about f.t.d.!

Having seen that Fingle Bridge was proving no great saver of awards, we went on to look at the notorious Simms, which is a very steep, slippery ascent rising straight up between fields after a righthand bend at the foot. It was in a wet, difficult condition on January 8th. Divided into sections, clean ascents, while we were present, were made by Dennis (H.R.G.), Gregory (Ford Ten Special), Oliver (Ford Ten L.R.G.), Ackland (L.R.G. Ford Ten), which was exceedingly fast, Bale (Dellow), Woolaway (Dellow), who shot up, Kirkland (Ford Ten Special), Pollard (Austin-Ford Ten Special), Roberts (Ford Ten Special), who just managed it, after a fine effort, Gould (Morgan), Lewis (Morgan), Spare (Morgan), to whom we award f.t.d.!, Parsons (“chain-gang” Frazer-Nash), Mansell (Dellow), Barford (Dellow Mk.I), Wood (G.W.8), whose Ford V8 engine just got him over the top, Goodall (Morgan), who was terrific, Blick (Dellow) in a determined attack, Scott (H.R.G.) in a pre-war Meadows-engined car, and Newey (Bold Special) a very stark motor car. This is not the total of clean ascents, of course.

Naturally, normal cars couldn’t hope to do so successfully. Ivey-Mollard’s Riley Imp stopped at the start of Section 3, Rogers’ Morgan, in spite of sliding the bend, also failed here, Briginshaw’s Triumph Special got beyond the Section 3 notice, whereas Ali Khan’s Ford New Anglia failed before this, as did G. R. Cox’s Ford New Prefect, which had a badly-damaged off-side front wing. The Hillman Husky didn’t get very far, Tucker’s Austin A90 fluffed out in Section 3, P.G.C.ox’s Ford Utility stopped low down, and both Harris’ Dellow and Willson’s Dellow couldn’t reach Section 3. Gear did very well to get his Ford Popular into Section 3, especially as Bekaert’s noisy Aston Martin DB1, with Firestone “Town and Country” rear tyres, failed at the same point. Cruickshank’s VW didn’t get quite so far, but Stevens’ Ford Ten Special stopped near the summit. Crossley-Meates’ 328 B.M.W. just died quietly away after an impressive start, Wallas’ early Vauxhall tourer, which looked like a Morris and had discs with imitation knock-off hub caps on three of its wheels, died away low down, as did Herbert’s TD M.G. Midget. A.C.Hobbs did splendidly to get his Renault 750 well into Section 3, and K.W.Hobbs got a shade higher in his Renault 750, whereas Ford’s Austin A30, with 55 more c.c., stopped before Section 3, as did Hewin’s 21-litre Vauxhall.

Good bouncing took Hough’s TC M.G. well into Section 3, and the Morgan Plus Four coupés of Moore and Hall got almost to the top but couldn’t emulate the sensational, clean ascents of nearly all the open Plus Fours. Leigh’s H.R.G. also failed right at the top. Thompson’s bedecked Alvis Silver Eagle tourer got nearly to Section 3, Butterell’s much later TC M.G. Midget got just into that section, but Swallow’s Ford Prefect failed early. Morley’s blown Austin Seven Grasshopper—how nice to see it again !–almost managed the entire hill, Allen’s Triumph Mayflower got almost into Section 3, Woldridge’s Buckler got well into this section but Casstles’ Ford Old Anglia stopped round the bend and Shepherd’s o.h.v. Morris Minor tourer hardly saw the hill.

Failures were ably dealt with by the tractor, and a very good tractor it must be for it pulled the 3-ton Army lorry to the top after this vehicle, which was accompanying the Army motor-cycle entry, had developed trouble which even Sellotape couldn’t cure 1—Not the best of advertisements for the transport section of the British Army in a publicly-supported event.

So the long line of competing motor-cycles and cars wound their way over the route, tackling Stretes, Waterloo, Meerhay, Kuowle Lane, Cockknowle and Lotion Gwyle, finally to check in at Bournemouth. [A week after the Trial concluded no results had been announced. —ED.]

The trend of racing-car design

Gordini, Vanwall, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Maserati are content to have large tanks forming the tail of the car, supplemented by tanks in the cockpit. Ferrari 553, Lancia, and Connaught all use a small tail tank, with the main bulk of the fuel in pannier tanks within the wheelbase. Ferrari uses a bulbous body line to cover the tanks, Connaught cover everything with a fully-enveloping body and Lancia have made the daring experiment, for a racing car, of hanging the tanks on outrigger struts. With dry-sump lubrication universal the positioning of the oil tank, which may contain anything up to 10 gallons of lubricant, calls for much planning. After abortive attempts to carry the oil alongside the engine Maserati use a tank in the extreme tail of the car, hung on the rear of the fuel tank. This position is also used by Mercedes-Benz, Lancia and 625 Ferrari. Gordini has a system of tanks under the driving seat, the Ferrari 553 mounts the tank above the rear suspension, Connaught use one side of the cockpit and Vanwall is alone in having the oil reservoir under the engine cowling.

In this review of design trends one could continue to dissect the modern Grand Prix car down to the smallest nut and bolt and find individual thought, but we must content ourselves with the major components, though in closing we might have a brief look at some lesser components.

The worm-and-sector type of steering gear is almost universal, being used by Ferrari, Gordini, Maserati, Vanwall, Mercedes-Benz and Lancia, only Connaught and B.R.M. using rack-and-pinion gear. The positioning of the steering box is usually decided by available space, but it is worth recording that Mercedes-Benz and Ferrari 625 mount the box in front of the engine, on the left of the chassis frame, Vanwall on a similar position on the right, all three using universally-jointed shafts between box and steering wheel. The Ferrari 553 mounts the box in the centre of the front crossmember. Maserati and Gordini mount the box at the rear of the engine with a long drag-link, the former on the right and the latter on the left of the engine, while Lancia go one better and mount the box on the rear of the instrument panel with a drag-link passing down the vee of the engine.

Piston-type shock absorbers are becoming increasingly popular, being used by Connaught, Mercedes-Benz and Lancia. while Ferrari, Gordini, Vanwall and Maserati continue to use vane-type units. In no case is the shock-absorber used as part of the suspension, though Gordini attaches his front ones direct to a suspension-arm spindle, and Connaught mount their front ones inside the vertical coil-springs.

Two outstanding design trends are illustrated by Mercedes-Benz and Lancia, in the disposition of that major component, the power unit. Lancia carries on the practice of setting the engine at an angle to the chassis centre-line, in order to run the propellor shaft to one side of the car at the rear. This has been done in the past to allow the driver to sit lower, but in the case of the Italian car it is to mate up the drive with the transverse gearbox mounting. MercedesBenz have started an entirely new idea in engine mountings, for their unit is lying on its side, in an almost fully-horizontal position. This gives a low bonnet height and the great width occasioned by this move can be accommodated by a fully-enveloping body. Apart from structural problems that this type of mounting involves, a major one, that Stuttgart would seem to have overcome, is that of lubrication in an engine so placed; but just as the aeroplane designers overcame the problems of the inverted engine, so the car designers can overcome the problems of a flat engine. Whether this move by Mercedes-Benz will lead to further new thoughts about engine mounting is not known, but apart from the successful Auto-Unions with their engines at the rear there has been a rather depressing uniformity of opinion about placing the engine vertically in front of the driver.

This review of design trends applies to the position, as known, at the close of the first season of the new Formula, but already further details are appearing of 1955 models and by the time these words are in print the first of the major Grand Prix races of 1955 will have taken place. If the amount of interest in design work continues through the coming season as it has during the past season, then the beginning of 1956 will call for a further review of the situation, instead of waiting until 1957, which the normal policy of MOTOR SPORT would call for.

With the possibility of ten different makes of Grand Prix cars participating during 1955, designers are going to have a very busy time and the larger and more organised firms will probably produce new ears before the season is finished, so that one day we may arrive at the ideal situation of having a different design of car for each type of Grand Prix circuit.—D. S. J.