Britain, we are constantly reminded, has “never had it so good” and although her production and transport are not infrequently disrupted by strikes and middle-class slaves in the proverbial black coats are still savagely over-taxed, in general this statement is true. It certainly seems true of the whole British motor firmament. Production figures soar, we have a Minister of Transport who has realised that mobility is the first essential to pleasant motoring, our great new Motorway has been opened and remains free of a speed limit, and in the competition sphere British cars have won the Manufacturers’ Championship and the Sports-Car Championship, so that the names Cooper and Aston Martin mean something round the world.
A Racing-Car Show has been held in London – not the first, but the first on a commercial basis – and attracted over 40,000 visitors. Britain will be prominently represented in the new Formula Junior racing, and if Italian and German engines prove initially more powerful than the B.M.C. and Ford power units on which our constructors mainly rely, this should stimulate valuable research which may well be passed on to users of bread-and-Stork vehicles. Certainly in Grand Prix racing we have a magnificent engine, in the 2 1/2-litre twin-cam Coventry-Climax, which, deservedly, was awarded last year’s Ferodo Trophy. And, if you hold the view that Grand Prix racing should be contested not between “assembled” racing cars but by pure-bred machines using engines developed and constructed by the firm whose name they carry, Vanwall and Aston Martin have been pretty worthy British representatives. Indeed, so well in the lead is Britain in motor racing that Enzo Ferrari himself has paid gracious tribute to us, stating in Modena that Ferrari could not compete without the generosity and broad-mindedness of Tony Vandervell in supplying him with Thinwall bearings, of Dunlop for providing disc brakes and tyres, and of our metallurgists for contributing Nimonic, zirconium and titanium.
In the production-car field no other country quite matches British luxury cars of the calibre of Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Daimler, while at the opposite extreme our long lag behind Continental designs virtually ended when the British Motor Corporation weaned its sensational baby twins. Ford of Dagenham at last came to realise that you cannot continue to get away with a side-valve three-speed model as your sole small car offering in the year 1960, and Standard/Triumph introduced the all-independently-sprung “greaseproof” Herald with its easy-to-repair bodywork. In other categories Aston Martin challenges the fastest Italian sports cars with the DB4GT, and who offers better value-for-money in the high-performance field than Jaguar?
So far as sports cars are concerned, the Continent may build examples more exotic in appearance and more exciting in performance but British factories turn out the sort of sports cars that cost less, are as practical for driving to the office in a bowler hat as for competing in club rallies and races, and which, therefore, in the guise of Austin Healey, M.G., Sunbeam and Triumph, sell in impressive numbers. They are backed up by minor English concerns making sports cars as a West End tailor makes a suit – to measure – and with tremendous know-how – look at Lola, for example!
So it can be said that the outlook for the British Motor Industry is “set fair.” But let us not be too complacent. The Continental factories build very competitive cars, for which there will always be a clientèle in America and Britain. They understand rugged construction, reliability, good finish, excellent service. If ugly little clouds are not to mar the blue sky under which the British Industry is at present toiling it is essential that it does not forsake quality for quantity, that service is regarded as equally as important as output. Recently MOTOR SPORT’s correspondence has contained hints that this is not always so, that we may be slipping, albeit ever so slightly, back to the shoddy standards which disgraced some British firms immediately after the war. Brand new cars leak on wet days, their finish is suspect, workmanship shoddy, minor troubles develop, replacement spares are delayed. Such shortcomings must be stamped out, if the situation in Britain is to continue “so good.” Prices, too, must be held down; strikes increase cost to the customer because directors refuse to lower their own profits. In this time of prosperity and plenty it is regrettable that the price of tyres has recently been increased.
Competition in the years ahead will be intense. Success in competitions will be of vital importance and woe-betide those complacent P.R.O.s who proclaim that their companies are so firmly established that they can dispense with the publicity that Press and race track freely provide.
MOTOR SPORT went to Press as the Monte Carlo Rally commenced and the results were known a week before publication day. Consequently, the rally has to be ignored in this issue, but we offer congratulations to those who won through. There are those who pour scorn on this Rally, like Stirling Moss, who, in a book published recently by Cassell, wrote: “Another point that needles me about Le Mans is the over-blown publicity it gets and the attitude of the organisers . . . an exact parallel is the Monte Carlo Rally . . .”
Certainly there are rallies which are much tougher on cars and crews, moreover, two aspects should not be overlooked. First, the Monte Carlo Rally is run in winter, largely at night, so that electrical equipment is tested severely, in lighting the way for the drivers and because heaters, interior lamps and similar gadgets are deemed essential by present-day rally competitors who know nothing of the rigours faced by their forerunners in the ‘thirties, unless they have read the best book on the subject, that by the late Humphrey Symons. We are sure that Joseph Lucas Ltd. would be the first to acknowledge that the Monte Carlo Rally has taught them useful lessons, the benefits from which have been handed on to ordinary users of their lamps and electrical equipment. Tyres, too, are thoroughly tested in the Rally. The superiority of Michelin’s steeltread tyres no doubt led Dunlop to introduce the Duraband, which was used in studded form on some of the competing cars, while Weathermaster, Town and Country and other tread-patterns were in evidence. Then all manner of auxiliary equipment, such as heaters, defrosters, distance calculators, etc., come in for a thorough test, including such aids to human endurance as Lucozade, Ribena and Optrex.
Secondly, the Monte Carlo Rally is “bally-hoo-ed” in a very big way, in the daily and technical Press and over the air, which ensures loads of publicity for the makers of cars which get through successfully. From that aspect, a British victory is highly desirable.
Formula Junior Championship at Goodwood
British Automobile Racing Club plans for this season include a Formula Junior Championship meeting on a National scale which will be the concluding event of the season at Goodwood.
Designed to produce experienced drivers for future Grand Prix racing, Formula Junior will undoubtedly bring about unusually close competition and this final big meeting at Goodwood is intended to be a fitting climax to the many races for this formula which will be run at earlier B.A.R.C. meetings all over the country during the coming season.
The championship will be decided by a simple system of heats and a final, with adequate prizes, and it is anticipated that all the drivers who have had any degree of success in British Formula Junior races will compete.
Grand Prix Flights
In conjunction with the B.A.R.C. John Webb is once again organising a series of flights to Continental motoring events. This year there will be at least 36 flights covering all of the major events. Grande Epreuves covered include Monte Carlo, Dutch, Belgium, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Moroccan while flights will be arranged for Le Mans, Nurburgring, the F.2 G.P.’s of Syracuse, Caen, Clermont Ferrand and Rouen and the Monza 500-mile race. Should the response be sufficient trips will also be arranged for two Aintree meetings and the Senior T.T. on the Isle of Man. For those interested in Motor Shows there will also be trips to the Geneva and Paris Shows.
For the major events there will be at least two trips, one to take in practice which is very often used by the drivers, and one for the race only which either goes over on the same day as the race or on the day before. For Le Mans there will be three trips; from Liverpool, Birmingham and Gatwick.
These flights are much cheaper than normal airline flights, examples being, Monte Carlo G.P. 21 gns. return, French G.P. 13 gns. return, and Italian G.P. 22 gns. return. During most flights a five-course champagne lunch is included in the fare. The organisers can also arrange for cars to be hired, hotels to be booked and grandstand seat to be reserved. An instalment plan is also operated for accounts above £30. A brochure giving details of flights is available from John Webb Air Services Ltd., 62, Brompton Road, London. S.W.3.
The recently formed Southern Counties Sprite Club which caters for owners of the Austin Healey Sprite already has 55 members and applications are coming in fast. President of the Club is Sprite-owner Raymond Baxter, the B.B.C. commentator. A full programme of events is being organised for members. Secretary is Mr. D. Williams, 155, Village Way, Beckenham, Kent.
The National Farmers Union have approached the R.A.C. to try and obtain closer liasion between rally drivers and farmers. The N.F.U. are not against rallying but there have been many cases of cattle straying and so on which could have been prevented if the farmer had known about the rally beforehand. The N.F.U. suggest that all Motor Clubs and other bodies who run rallies should contact the Secretaries of the County Branches through which their rallies will pass. If this is done at least a month in advance all the farmers in the area can be warned. A list of Branch Secretaries can be obtained from National Farmers Union, Agriculture House, Knightsbridge, London, S.W.1.