Rumblings, January 1946
The New Alta
Geoffrey Taylor has left everyone else at the post. He has announced that he will soon be in a position to deliver a Grand Prix-racing Alta, in either 1 1/2 or 2-litre form. Apart from the fact that we have no circuit in this where such cars can cars can be exercised, this is splendid news. The new chassis displays several revolutionary departures from earlier Alta practice and, these days particularly, seems very much like a rather pleasant dream. All independent wishbone-type suspension is used, with rubber the shock-absorbing medium, controlled by piston-pattern hydraulic dampers. The rear axle is, of course, of De Dion type, each driving shaft having two universal joints. Braking is by Girling twin-leading shoe brakes in light-alloy drums having cast-iron liners. The shock-absorbers can be controlled by the driver and the brakes adjust themselves automatically to compensate for lining wear. The body is a single-seater, very reminiscent of a pre-1939 Mercédès-Benz, and fuel is carried in two tanks placed one on each side of the chassis. For sprint work these can be replaced, if desired, by a normal tail tank. The chassis is still a tubular framework, but has been somewhat modified, while the self-change gearbox has been discarded in favour of a single-plate clutch and 4-speed, synchromesh gearbox. Interesting features of the latest racing Alta are thermostatically-controlled radiator shutters with a driver over-ride, easily detached body panels, a tubular safety member by the instrument board to protect the driver should he turn the car over, a helical reduction-gear back-axle, and adjustable driving seat and steering wheel. The engine follows previous Alta design and construction and is a 4-cylinder, in two sizes – 78 by 78 mm. (1,485 c.c.) and 83.5 by 90 mm. (1,960 c.c.). It has twin chain-driven o.h. camshafts, 14-mm. plugs and a two-blade Roots supercharger drawing from an S.U. carburetter. Ignition is by a vertical magneto. The crankcase is stronger than before, the cylinders are in one block, not two, and the crankshaft is now fully counterbalanced. Separate oil pipes have now given way to duets in the crankcase and the pistons are oil-cooled. The water flow through the head has been improved and automatic replenishment of the sump oil can now be arranged. The new chassis has a wheelbase of 8 ft. 5 in. and a track of 4 ft. 5 in. and uses 5.25-in. by 18-in, front tyres and 6.50-in. by 16-in, rear tyres. The price of this most promising G.P. car will be £1,850, exclusive of purchase tax. It should prove a most intriguing addition to the very meagre list of our Grand Prix racing cars, and also have the effect of rendering future races highly interesting.
A 500-c.c. class at sprint events has been suggested many times in Motor Sport, notably by Kenneth Neve. Lots of “special” builders indicated that they were very keen to try their hands at this interesting aspect of the game, but obviously they were not prepared to carry their plans very far until one or more of the active clubs promised a class for such cars at their events. Until last month no one was bold enough to do this. Then the Vintage S.C.C. came forward with the announcement that in all their future speed events provision would be made for Class I cars. In order to gain some idea of the likely entries which Class I will obtain, A. S. Heal asks any amateur builders of such cars who would like to compete in V.S.C.C. speed trials and hill-climbs later this year to communicate with him — at Red Hill Cottage, Denham, Bucks. (Denham 2710.)
The 1/2 litre sprint car has two advantages over existing “specials.” It is an unknown quantity, which adds to the interest, and it should prove reasonably inexpensive, especially if alcohol fuel is allowed, as advocated by John Bolster. There is very little danger of these 500-c.c. “specials” proving painfully slow, nor do we expect them to resemble cinder-crawling midgets, for undoubtedly the majority of constructors will build in the G.N. tradition. It is all most inspiring, and we shall be glad to hear from builders of such cars, so that we can publish descriptions of their cars. This is the newest thing that has occurred in the Sport for a long time. We warmly congratulate Lowrey and Neve, who launched the idea in Motor Sport as long ago as 1941, and the Vintage Sports Car Club for its initiative in sponsoring events for such cars.
The Air Speed Record
Britain again holds the absolute air speed record. All our readers must be aware of this, but Motor Sport would like to add its praise of Group-Capt. H. J. Wilson, A.F.C., who flew the jet-propelled Rolls-Royce “Derwent”-engined Gloster “Meteor IV” and returned a speed of 606.25 m.p.h. as the average of four flights over the 3-kilo. course. This is a grand effort for British prestige. Can we hope to see it followed up by a successful team of G.P. racing cars?
Inspired by our new feature “Personality Parade,” No. 1 of which appears in this issue, the Editor humbly presents his “Card Index of Celebrities.” This one concerns none other than Rudolf Caracciola. “Rudi” was unquestionably one of the world’s great drivers. Born at Remagen in 1903, he commenced driving at the age of nineteen. A year later, in 1923, he won the Muennerstadt hill-climb with a 1 1/2-litre Mercédès-Benz. After this his victories came in floods. In sixteen years he gained more than 85 first places, and he has three times been champion of Europe, in 1935, 1937 and 1938. Caracciola was also German road-circuit champion in 1935 and again in 1937. His big victories include five wins in the German G.P. and first place in the Italian G.P. on three occasions, in the Swiss G.P. three times, as well as winning the Italian 1,000-Mile Race and our T.T. Mostly driving Mercédès-Benz cars, “Carach” nevertheless won the 1932 German G.P. with an Alfa-Romeo and was to partner, Chiron in a Bugatti in 1933 — when he crashed in practice for the Monaco G.P. and broke his hip. He still limps as a result of this accident. Outstanding when handling big cars, especially in the rain, Caracciola will for ever be remembered for his handling of the white “38/250” S.S.K. Mercédès-Benz in the 1929 T.T., which race he won over a soaking course. This versatile driver also broke innumerable records, notably the Class B flying start short distance records at around 270 m.p.h. and the 3-litre class records at not far short of 250 m.p.h. — both for Mercédès-Benz. Admittedly “Carach” had little mechanical knowledge or sympathy and minor “cockpit troubles” could influence his mastery. But for consistently fine driving of difficult cars over a very long span he was all but unbeatable. When Brauchitsch disobeyed orders and led him at Monaco, Caracciola got by in the end, even though he wrecked his engine to do so.
A New Venture
Bob Cowell and Pat Whittet have resigned their directorships of Continental Cars, Ltd., in order to start a sports and racing car business of their own. They are having a works built at Lightwater, near Bagshot, within easy reach of London, and hope to install a Heenan and Froude dynamometer in a special engine test house — so that deeds, not words, will count when they prepare clients’ cars. Diana Cowell, Bob’s wife, who is a B.Sc.(Eng.), will be there to lend tone, and Jenkinson hopes to be on the staff ere long. As Cowell says: “Naturally, the place is to all intents and purposes a lunatic asylum at the moment, but we have a lot of fun.” His transport at present is provided by a Jeep built from surplus ex-Army bits, but you will remember him as racing a 2-litre Alta and, since the war, owning a wide variety of very potent sports cars. Already there are a few cars in stock, including a blown “Hyper” Lea-Francis, a 402 “Le Mans” Peugeot and a “Montlhèry” M.G.. Midget.
Congratulations to Laurence Pomeroy, of The Motor, on securing the story of Germany’s 44 1/2-litre V12 Daimler-Benz-engined Mercédès-Benz land speed record car.