Matters of Moment, January 1961

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76

Saab Wins the R.A.C. Rally

The 1960 R.A.C. Rally, which determined the destiny of both the European Rally Championship (won by Mercedes-Benz) and the Ladies’ Rally Championship (won jointly by Pat Moss and Ann Wisdom driving B.M.C. products), was a generally well-run but not very exciting event ably organised by hard-working Jack Kemsley, who secured a bright but not vivid feather for the R.A.C.’s hat, except over the WoIvey to Brands Hatch Road Race, which is a disgrace the controlling body of the Sport in this country will find hard to live down when it seeks to suppress the exuberance of the small clubs.

The Rally was won convincingly by the lone Saab 96, so ably driven by popular Erik Carlsson and impeccably navigated by Stuart Turner. The performance of this Swedish 841-c.c. front-drive two-stroke, the smallest car competing, tuned to 42 b.h.p. and 90 m.p.h. in Group 2 form, was so outstanding as to render a full list of results of very little moment, so we will content ourselves with recalling that Austin Healeys were second and third, Sebring Sprite ahead of 3-litre, and that Anne Hall took the Ladies’ Prize with her Ford New Anglia.

SUCCESS OF THE MINIATURES

Last month MOTOR SPORT asked whether you feel surprise at the quick swing in this over-taxed country from ” Never Had It So Good” to the prevailing redundancy and short-time working in the Motor Industry. With sales of cars at a standstill it is ironical to discover that car models are selling in stupendous numbers. For example, the Lesney ” Matchbox” miniatures are selling at about one million per week and in the past seven years Lesney Products and Co. Ltd. have disposed of 200 million vehicles, which would make the manufacturers who comprise the entire British Motor Industry sit up and think very hard ! it might try to worm out of this by pooh-poohing the value of little cars costing a mere 1s. 6d. each compared to real automobiles selling for several hundreds of pounds; the fact is, however, that last year Lesney Products earned some £1-million in foreign currency. From a humble start fourteen years ago, using the war gratuities of the two partners to start a small pressure die-castings company, this London firm has moved recently to a new 110,000 sq. ft. factory and employs a labour force of 1,300, or nearly half that of the great Ferodo factory at Chapel-en-le-Frith, for example, merely, if this word can be pardoned, making motor-car and similar miniatures. Lesney celebrated its 200-millionth model by introducing that extremely fine “Model of Yesteryear,” the 1907 40/50-h.p. Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost described in this journal last November. Old-car enthusiasts will be delighted to know that Lesney were not afraid to have the full-size Silver Ghost present when they released this latest splendid miniature to the Press last month, the model, although very modestly priced (3s. 11d.), being sufficiently accurate to stand direct and critical comparison with its distinguished prototype! And it was a nice gesture to have a limited number of presentation models of this miniature cast in real silver and mounted on a handsome ash-tray for presentation to close friends of the company. MOTOR SPORT has publicised motorcar miniatures for more years than it cares to remember and will go on doing so, for these tiny replicas of real cars represent one of the joys and anticipations of this life. It all began before the war, when Meccano Limited, makers of that constructional medium that teaches embryo engineers the fundamentals of the game—the writer used to play with it and learn from it in the days before it became coloured, so that in time the strips and girders left rusty marks on youthful fingers—introduced their ” Dinky ” miniatures, which survive and flourish. Playcraft issue a continual stream of very fine “Corgi ” motor-car miniatures, and Triang with their ” Spot-On” 1/42nd-scale cars (are these still made ?) added to the wide variety of miniature motor cars that motor cars grace desks, mantel-pieces, study shelves and children’s playrooms up and down the land. Victory Industries brought out working scale models to run on their Roadways, Scalextric perfected the electric race game, and Wrenns’ have introduced this in a practical small gauge.

Whatever the fate or fortune of the British Motor Industry in 1961, the growing success of motor-cars-in-miniature is assured. Perhaps the Captains of Industry (full-size) should take heed of the initiative, skill and foresight displayed by those who have brought prosperity to the model-car trade.

APPEARANCE MONEY IN B.R.D.C. RACES

Thank goodness, when other bodies which control or direct motor competitions are often pompous and deadly serious, The British Racing Drivers’ Club (the only motor-racing organisation for which, with a few honorary exceptions, members need definite qualifications before they can join) is active and adventurous. This spirit stems from the personality of the popular B.R.D.C. Secretary, John Eason Gibson. There was his personal removal of a Club badge from the car of someone who had no right to display it and his acquisition of the ship’s bell from H.M.S. Howe for Presentation to the Club’s President, the Rt. Hon. The Earl Howe, P.C., C.B.E., V.R.D. (no connection with motor racing but a very nice gesture). Now comes the following sensible announcement, which sets an example :

” The Race Organising Committee of the Club is empowered, at its discretion, to pay up to 100% of the agreed amount of appearanee money to entrants whose cars and drivers have practised in good faith, but are prevented front starting through circumstances beyond their control.”