Motor Sport’s regular readers are enthusiasts or presumably they would not be reading this magazine. But what sparked off their interest in cars and motoring sport? Here the editor and staff recall the cars and races which influenced their future interests and careers
The Editor, remarking that whatever “formative years” are, it was a long time ago for him, remembers having a 36/220 Mercedes-Benz demonstrated to him along the Barnet by-pass which Mercedes-Benz then used as their test track, when he was still wearing a school cap. It just about did “the ton”, supercharger wailing, when the driver had to lift off because another of these great cars was turning ahead of it and about to cross their bows. At the age of 14, this car left a profound impression… Then there were those exotic Bugattis, Types 49, 57, 57SC, and the like, in which the late Col GM Giles took him out just before the War — their performance, road-holding, the sounds they made, their under-bonnet perfection were ahead of anything else — although since surpassed by things like E-types and Lotus 7s!
But no! The accolades must go to that wonderful 8-litre Bentley in which Forrest Lycett took him for fast drives on the road and round Brooklands, also before the War. The memory of it is of the animal-feel of this lithe, living machine on the track and how it overtook pedestrian tin-boxes under the brakes as its ever-cautious conductor tucked it into a gap in the traffic stream…
Racing cars? The Editor says the W125 Mercedes-Benz definitely! For never, before he saw these in full cry at Donington in 1937, had he seen such brute force and speed, smelt such smells, seen drivers (boyhood heroes) working so hard, or met more efficiently awesome organisation. Real motor racing, says the Editor, before the “bull” engulfed this sport.
It wasn’t a real car, but a 4s11d toy which the Assistant Editor recalls as the first influence in his formative years. A Mini-models Ltd Scalex, pressed steel, clockwork (one of those you pushed along the ground to wind it up) model of a bright-red XK120, complete with that famous number 7 on one side, presented to him in 1952. Though he already owned a similar model of an Aston Martin DB2 it was this XK120 roadster which captured his imagination and turned him at an early age into something of a Jaguar fanatic. He scanned avidly the Motor Sport’s bought by his elder brother for visions of the magnificent sportscar, even though in those days the British Racing Green and Eciuie Ecosse Blue were transformed into black and white.
Racing Jaguar saloons also had their influence upon him, particularly his boyhood hero Mike Hawthorn in his 3.4 Mid and later the likes of Graham Hill and Sir Gawaine Bailey in 3.8 Mk2s, an influence which caused him to buy a 3.8 Mk2 a few years ago, recently joined by a 51,000 mile-old 3.4 MkI. His XK150 is a substitute for that original toy X.K120, but never is he likely to achieve his ultimate ambition of acquiring a D-type!
There is no question of which was the single-seater racing car to make its mark on this patriotic young boy in those formative years. Vanwall, a name which still conjures up more magic visions for him than any other Formula One marque of its day. Moss, Brooks, Hawthorn, whoever was in those green cars, had his intense support and one of the greatest disappointments in his motoring life is to have missed the Grand Prix & Europe when Moss won in Brooks’ car at Aintree in 1957. An altercation with big brother made the latter refuse to take him to Aintree and the youngster was forced to remain at home to watch the television coverage of this Vanwall dominated race.
D-type or Vanwall, they were great cars and great days and no car since has had such an impact on him as those two classics of his formative years.
For most of my friends in the first half of the 1960s, Jim Clark was certainly the great hero. At the time we used to complain amongst ourselves that he was too good; we’d feign boredom at his runaway British Grand Prix victories, but inwardly we treated him with all the respect of a schoolboy star. For me it was Clark in the skinny-tyred Lotus 25 with its 1.5-litre Coventry Climax V8 motor which provided the greatest thrill as a young enthusiast.
Perversely I suppose we all wanted Dan Gurney or Graham Hill to teach him a lesson. Secretly we tried to convince ourselves that it would happen but inevitably we stood and watched the little green car with its yellow stripe and its blue-helmeted driver calmly out-run its strongest opposition. Somehow the Brabham-Climaxes looked too dumpy while the old spaceframe BRMs looked drab although they were quick. That Lotus 25 and its driver looked as one, in total sympathy all the time.
As far as road cars are concerned, one’s imagination is often sparked at the immediate pre-driving age. I was counting the days to my 17th birthday when at the 1961 Motor Show I first saw the E-type and couldn’t believe it. It was locked on the stand, I remember, and even touching it made me feel self consciously guilty. How, I wondered, could anyone produce something as striking as that And it would do 150 mph! AH
My two choices are very easy to decide upon and are etched firmly on to my memory. The first, the racing car is the 4.5-litre Ferrari competing against the Alfa Romeo 158s at Reims in 1951. The sight of Ascari in the Ferrari pulling out to pass the Alfa of Fangio and both of them passing on either side of Etancelin’s Talbot on the Thillois Straight was both frightening and impressive.
Although having tried most of the fast sports cars of the last two decades, the one that set the blood boiling at a time when I was most susceptible was the Mercedes-Benz 300SL. The drive round England and, in particular, the run from Glasgow to Fort Augustus in driving rain at night makes this car stand on a pedestal well above its performance. MJT