Letters from readers, February 1975

Connaught Engineering


Further to my letter concerning some of the details and comments in the article on Mike Oliver (unfortunately this must have gone astray—Ed.), I must make further comments on the letter from Rodney Clarke.

In your article “Looking back with Mike Oliver” you state that Connaught and their history are well documented. This I doubted, and so it seems does Rodney Clarke.

Our memories are not reliable; I queried some of the statements in the Mike Oliver article, and I query some of the statements made by Rodney Clarke, hearsay though it may be.

I certainly do not query his comments on the handling of the L3 beam-axle cars, which can be supported by your own road test (1949 or 1950?), nor on the excessive weight (20 cwt. 2 qr.), but we should confirm the numbers of 1.3 cars made and of L3/SR i.f.s. cars, just as we should be accurate about the number of A series cars made as opposed to chassis made. I seem to remember only two L3/SR cars were made, and we had to add a knuckle between the king pin and the lower wishbones to raise the front roll centre, similar to the A series, because they didn’t handle too well. Ten A series chassis were made, but only nine cars were built, including Al the prototype, which Kenneth McAlpine usually drove. A2 never was more than a chassis, A3 went to Ken Downing, then to Rob Walker when Downing gave up racing. It was the only car with an aeroscreen.

The B series was designed as an interim quickie until we developed the J series rear-engined car. (This car, in my biased opinion, was years ahead of anything else). The B series design took three months, at the end of which we had a chassis ready for engine. It was designed for the body later known as “Syracuse” and in its form raced by Flockhart at Monza was within 2 per cent of its estimated weight and used the original designed springs, shock-absorbers and roll bar settings.

It was designed to become a two-seater, with hopes of racing a team at Le Mans.

There was much more; I was only involved in design, but I think that so much went on at Connaught Engineering, we influenced Grand Prix racing just as much as BRM and Vauxhall and, as R. E. C. states, with far fewer finances.

I agree with Rodney Clarke that someone should write a definitive, properly researched history of Connaught Engineering and Connaught Cars before it is too late and memories become stale and confused. A history can be simple facts, or it can deal also with the human background and emotional background behind the facts.

I would like to suggest that such a history be written now, preferably under the auspices of MOTOR SPORT and the most suitable author, the only author possible, is Denis Jenkinson. My wife says repeatedly that I should write Connaught’s history, but I think it should be professionally written and D.S.J. is the only man writing on motor racing, its cars and its men with the correct attitude and feeling.

A suggestion only, but so much is written about the trivialities of motor sport, is it not time that we had a book dealing with an important part of its history?

Woking C. E. JOHNSON

[The history of single-seater amnaughts was well-documented by D.S.J. annually from 1950-1957 in his “Racing Car Reviews”, now out of print.—Ed.]

An Earlier Closed Circuit Race?


With reference to your article in the January 1975 MOTOR SPORT “The Subtle Art of Fast Cornering” a reference is made to the “first circuit race ever, the Circuit des Ardennes in 1902”.

In some research I did a few years ago into the history of electric traction I found a reference in 1896 to a race between three vehicles round a track at Narragansett Park, Providence, Rhode Island. I would think that this might qualify for the “first circuit race ever”.

Out of interest the vehicles were a Riker Electric, another electric vehicle made by the Electric Carriage and Waggon Co. and a Duryea Petrol wagon. The Riker won in a time of 15 min. 1 sec. closely followed by the Electric Carriage and Waggon Co’s. entry at 15 min. 14 sec., the Duryea completed the circuit in 18 min. 47 sec. The note also contained a reference to the weights of the vehicles, the two electrics weighed between 2,200 and 2,500 lb. and the Duryea 1,200 lb. Also as the Riker was said to be capable of covering 1 mile in 2 min. 13 sec. comparing this to its winning time gives a circuit length of approx. 7 miles and an assumed average speed of 27 m.p.h.

Unfortunately the date of this occurrence was not given.

Southampton J. C. MAYCOCK

[Interesting, but what Jarrott meant was the first run over a closed road-circuit. He had himself competed in track races on motor-tricycles, etc.—Ed.]

First British Effort at Indianapolis


I refer to “Two Sides of the Coin” by A.H.—January issue of MOTOR SPORT.

Surely the enterprising man who took the major step of taking on the Americans at Indianapolis was John Cooper, with the 2.7litre Coventry-Climax-engined Cooper, driven by Jack Brabham, which I believe finished eleventh, a couple of years previous to the Lotus effort?

Kettering J. C. ORPIN

BMW 1600—Cooking Version


In view of some of the petrol consumptions mentioned in “your”—or should I say “our” —excellent journal, I felt I must comment regarding the above car.

Last September I set off with my wife to the Lakes. The journey from Southampton to Cheltenham was deplorable with flooded roads and heavy rain so cruising speed was not much over 40/50 m.p.h. However, I eventually got to the M5 and up on the M6 to Penrith, and then to Maryport. I cruised on Motorway around 75/80 m.p.h. and my average speed, including stops (374 miles) front Southampton to Maryport was 39 m.p.h. and excluding stops 53 m.p.h.

I concluded a 1,700-mile tour, weather not excellent, with undoubtedly low touring speeds together with Motorway driving most of the way home at an average petrol consumption if 35/36 m.p.g.

What annoys me is the Government edict of speed control over preservation of fuel consumption. If a car is driven with thought, once it is rolling you can conserve fuel even at high speeds.

Of course, just town driving reduces my consumption to about 26 m.p.g. and what hurts more is my Partner’s BMW 2002 Tsi which regularly gives over 30 m.p.g. cruising at high speed with comparatively low percentage of continuous town work.

Regarding seat belts—never compulsory. I believe they are effective at low speeds. A Chief Constable in the Midlands (I believe) considers they are beneficial at high speeds but not at low speeds.

My wife cannot bear to wear them and if I insisted, she would have an agonising journey thinking that at any minute there would be a crash!

So let us be faithful to our own considerations for as yet those who believe cannot fully convince others that they are right and even may not be so.

Again many thanks for your excellent journal.

Southampton GERALD L. ADAMS