Rumblings, January 1941

More Economics

FOLLOWING our attempt to offer some observations on the cost of running a sports-car and using it in mild competitions (“Economics— and a Possible Case for the Amateur-Built Special” December, 1940), some interesting figures have been submitted to me by K. N. Hutchison, well known for his exploits in trials with Allard-Special cars, and whose motoring career formed the subject of an article in the issue of January, 1940.

Hutch considers that the actual expenditure of the ordinary trials enthusiast may be set down under the headings of subscription and entry fees paid to two clubs, say, his local club and the N.W.L. M.C. or similar body, trials entry fees, hotel expenses, fuel and oil expenditure, tyres and expenses. He sets £4 down for the clubs, and £9 in entry fees for twelve events, four of them classics; this, he points out, averages a trial every other week during the season, which he guesses is about sufficient for the average entrant. He adds £2 to £2 10s. 0d. for hotel bills on each long-distance event involving a night away from home, and £1 for a snack, tea, beer and cigarettes on each of the remaining day events. That gives a total of £18. Estimating the “season’s” competition mileage at 3,000, assuming each day trial to involve 200 miles in all, and taking a reasonable average fuel consumption under these conditions for a big-engined car and a blown small car alike as 20 m.p.g., the fuel bill absorbs £15-£20, with a margin included to permit an occasional change of sump oil. Hutchison next comes to the cost of tyres and, never having been in love with the ban on “comps.,” he suggested buying six such tyres to have two spares always available. As many people considered that the use of ordinary covers for trials resulted in the need for more frequent replacements than formerly, and allowing that good quality covers were essential, his figure of £20-£25 for the season’s tyre bill, varying according to size, applies to whichever type of event the R.A.C. permits us after the war. The total is now, on the average, just over £70, and Hutchison wisely suggests setting some £30 aside as proof against emergency repairs and parties—I gathered the latter to include those of the sort you might recklessly throw after a big event. So you find your twelve trials have cost you rather more than £8 each. My economist pointed out that he does not feel that the purchase price of the car, additional repairs and tuning and tax and insurance should be added to the “competition” amount, and in any case they are variables. But he bears me out in saying that a car like a Ford V8 should be less expensive in respect of repairs than a supercharged job, albeit tax, insurance and fuel may, collectively, be a bigger item. I was most interested when he suggested that a secondhand Ford V8 costing £30-£40 should constitute quite a useful trials car and still not cost a lot for repairs. So far as his own expenses are concerned, Hutchison told me that in 1938, when he ran with Sydney Allard and Guy Warburton in the famous Allard-Special “Tailwaggers” team, in all twenty-six trials, eight sprint events, two rallies and the L.C.C. Three Hour Sports-Car Race and a Southport race were covered either by the team or part-team. Excluding the Brooklands and Southport entries, entry fees alone absorbed £51 18s. 0d., and the mileage was 27,000. Taking fuel consumption as 20 m.p.g., the fuel bill is around £101, or an expenditure per member of £51 in all, or £1 8s. 0d. per event, regardless of overheads and hotel bills. Actually, as all three members of the team did not run in every event, the figure would be a little higher for each individual member. In addition, Hutch joined fourteen clubs in the course of that season and his colleagues a like number. They ran in nearly every county in England, covering a large area of Scotland and Wales in addition, and being away from home for about thirty nights during the season. Over and above this, Allard and Warburton ran as independents in a number of other events. The “Tailwaggers” competed together in all the classics of 1938, the Colmore, Gloucester, Highland Two-Days, Sunbac Team Trial, Laurence Cup, Experts, Vesey Cup, Thatcher Trophy Trials included, as well as at Lewes, Prescott, Wetherby, Brighton and Poole speed events. They used the black touring Allard, Hutch’s white V12 Allard, a four-seater grey V8 Allard, and the well-known V8 and V12 pointed-tail two-seater Allards. Only once did one of these cars fail to return to the stable under its own power, and that is a remarkably fine record for competition reliability. In all, thirteen best performances, twenty-one trophies, thirty-five team awards, eighteen first-class awards and seven second-class awards were taken, the individual scores being :— Allard, 4, 2. 12, 7 and 1 ; Warburton, 4, 4, 8, 5 and 2; Hutchison. 5, 15, 15, 6 and 4. Hutch was emphatic in saying that he does not grudge a penny or a minute of the money and time he has spent on the Sport, and he counts the companionships, the experiences and the travel that have resulted very adequate recompense for the drenchings, weariness and occasional disappointments that dicing an open motor car in such a large number of competitive events has entailed. Like so many-others, he is only awaiting the end of war to start-in again, perhaps with a new trials-special, his Allard being for sale. Incidentally, continual participation in trials need not be counted as a home-breaker, if the “Tailwaggers” may be safely taken as an example. for Mrs. Kitty Hutchison, Mrs. Warburton, and Mrs. Allard have nearly always accompanied their husbands in the navigator’s seat.

And More About the Models

Nothing has been done, so far as I know, about racing models in this country, although you would have thought that many folk would have had lots of time in which to construct the necessary tracks and would find it easier to produce petrol in pints for models than in gallons these times. Meanwhile, over in the States this new pastime is going right ahead. There is a letter in the correspondence pages from the Ormond Model Midget Raceway which gives us a whole lot of useful information. Some good pictures came with this letter, and it has been found possible to reproduce some of them herewith. When you realise that the Americans ran their models on circular concrete tracks of up to one-sixteenth of a mile, and that speeds of 60 m.p.h. are now commonplace, so that stout hedges are desirable to prevent injury to spectators should a car run wild, you begin to like the idea more and more. It seems hard to believe that 75 m.p.h. has been attained, but I believe that a flash-steam power-boat reached 50 or so years and years ago, so on land the model speed record should, as with the real thing, he appreciably quicker. Our correspondent takes me to task for criticising these American models as being all the same and based on the midget dirt-track cars. His photographs sure do show (sorry!) that there is wide variety in body styles, and apparently Miller and Maserati are reproduced, but it still seems that tiny wheels are universal, giving the impression that the designs have been based on cinder-track prototypes. And why the “Midget” in the title of his track, if this is not so? In what little car-modelling I have done I have found that to keep true to scale a distance of from 2¼ to about 2⅞ths the diameter of the tyres should be preserved between the rear edge of the front tyre and the leading edge of the rear tyre. American constructors appear to favour a figure for this dimension of over 3. If the pastime ever gets going here, there seems no reason why replicas of famous track cars should not run. I do not think speeds would suffer. In this matter cars score over boats and aeroplanes, for the boat can be little more than a hull full of engine, and the plane nothing but a non-prototype faired shell.