Towards the end of November, as the winter evenings became settled, I found I had a tendency to fall asleep as soon as I sat in a comfortable chair, and looking back on 1965 I began to see why. Apart from watching and reporting on most of the important races during the season, travelling about Europe to the various circuits, and writing many thousands of words for Motor Sport, I had a most active and interesting personal year, doing things involving speed and competition in a variety of forms, and the following pages illustrate just a few of the more outstanding moments of 1965.
The Editor looked at the overall height of the Marcos 1800 and the tiny cockpit, and said, “You test that one,” which I did with great pleasure, finding that the cockpit had so much leg-room that I had to have an awful lot of packing delivered with the car. This was a car I liked very much and enjoyed every minute of driving it, so much so that I went out of my way to look up numerous friends whom I knew would want a “demo,” even into the early hours of the morning. This four-day test coincided with the first week in March, which was a week to remember and a foretaste of the rest of the year, although I had already had a variety of motoring and some enjoyable times during the first two months of the year.
There was the day out on a Greeves 250-c.c. Moto-Cross bike, a day with two friends who both had Lotus Elans, a three-day trailer-towing trip with the Editor collecting and delivering a 1920 Leon-Bolide to wildest Wales, a meeting with Alfred Neubauer and Stirling Moss to celebrate the passing of 10 years since our Mille Miglia associations, and an interesting visit to Coventry-Climax to see the ill-fated 16-cylinder Grand Prix engine. This Coventry trip was one of those typical days of varied motoring, setting off in a Morris Traveller, transferring to a Rochdale Olympic to be taken to a colleague’s house to join him on the trip to Coventry in a road-test Singer Vogue. Then “hitching” a lift in the back of a Lancia Flavia coupe back to London, catching a ‘bus to Victoria to attend a motorcycle meeting; after which a taxi to Waterloo enabled me to catch the last train back to Hampshire, where I picked up the Morris Traveller again and drove home. A typical day that started at 7.30 a.m. and finished at 1.30.a.m., with hardly a break, except for a nice sleep for the whole length of the M1 !
The Marcos test week was somewhat similar, spending two complete days working non-stop on my new sprint motorcycle, including a 14-hour stint on final engine assembly. The whole plot was finished just before dark on Sunday and it then snowed, which prevented me from pushing it down the lane to start it! However, on the following Tuesday I was able to start the sprint bike, which was most satisfying after nearly 12 months of sparetime work, designing, making and building the whole thing. After returning the Marcos to Bradford-on Avon the Editor brought me home in a Giulia TI and I collected a brand new 4.2-litre E-type Jaguar, to replace the to-year-old Porsche that had served so well.
The end of the week saw me at Brands Hatch for the first F1 race of the season, and on the Saturday evening when I got home I loaded the sprint bike, tools, equipment, etc., on to my newly acquired VW transporter, then went in the E-type to the Editor’s house to swap it for a road-test Sunbeam Tiger; off to join a party that was in full swing, to lend the Tiger to a friend who had just bought a Triumph 2000. He took me in the Triumph back to the Editor’s house to pick up the E-type, and after a few hours’ sleep I was off again, this time in the VW transporter to Huntingdonshire for a British Drag Racing Association’s test day and the first rides on my new sprint bike, as well as putting the Sunbeam Tiger through its paces on the quarter-mile. This was one of those enjoyable multi-vehicle convoy trips, in which we all changed cars at various points during the journey, so that everyone had a chance of driving everything. The bike was a roaring success, doing a best time of 12.42 sec, for the standing-start quarter-mile on its first outing, and steering and handling beyond all expectations. It was well into Monday before there was time for sleep, but it ended a memorable and satisfying week.
Just when I was thinking of packing a bag and preparing to set oft for the first of the Continental races there was a last-minute opportunity to take part in the Mobil Economy Run, and some frantic ‘phone calls and some splendid improvising by Alec Mosley of Mobil, and Alan Powell of Rootes, saw the provision of a Singer Vogue at Harrogate ready for me for Sunday morning, March 21st. Racing enthusiasts will not need reminding that the day before, Saturday, March 20th, was the day of the disastrous Silverstone Meeting that was washed out. Leaving the quagmire that was a car park, in the still very new E-type, I set off in a wet and soggy state to drive up to Harrogate ready for the MER. While cars were being towed out of the mud by tractors the E-type puttered away in 2nd gear on tickover, the “Powrlok” differential proving to be a boon for this sort of thing. The Economy Run was an interesting exercise and took me into parts of the north that I otherwise would not visit, while it also warned me to keep away from places like Lake Windermere during the summer season. The main reason for taking part in the MER was the chance of driving round Oulton Park for an hour, and that was fun. Observing the 30-m.p.h. limit through towns, with an observer in the car, was absolute hell, and almost dangerous, while descending hills without using the brakes really was dangerous, and struggling up the other side at tickover in top gear was an absolute menace to tractors and farm carts that wanted to overtake!
Hardly had I got used to using an accelerator pedal once more, and cruising at a reasonable speed, than I was off to Cheshunt to borrow an Elan and drive to Sicily and back, all of which has already been written-up in Motor Sport. After the fun of the Elan on Continental roads I started Continental E-type motoring, and realised I had moved into a different world, a world where 100 m.p.h. was a comfortable cruising speed and every petrol pump visited called for a fist-full of money; actually 18-20 m.p.g. being the order of the day.
The beginning of May saw me back in England, where so much more seems to be happening these days and there is hardly time for eating and sleeping, whereas trips on the Continent seem to provide those two commodities in abundance. A Friday evening saw me at my local club’s A.G.M.; next morning there was a pre-dawn start for Oulton Park, for the Tourist Trophy; back south again on Sunday, in time to look-in at another local club’s motorcycle trial, and then to a party that followed the Motor Club’s annual driving-test meeting. Monday saw a 4.30 a.m. start in the Jaguar on the annual pilgrimage to Sicily for the Targa Florio, and the nice way the E-type would put over 500 miles into a day’s motoring without strain was very impressive, although it was a bit gormless when trying to hurry through the Calabrian mountains. Of course, autostrada motoring was a delight, and while cruising into Rome at 116 m.p.h. I saw Graham Arnold, of Lotus Cars, going the other way at 100 m.p.h. in 796 TAR, the Elan I had recently borrowed. He was on the return leg of a London-Rome-London attempt in 24 hours, an attempt that unfortunately failed almost within sight of the finish when a hub gave trouble. On the return journey from Sicily I stopped the night near the southern tip of Italy and was joined by the Scuderta Ferrari mechanics in their big Fiat transporter. Next morning they had gone long before I awoke, but at seven o’clock that evening I caught up with them just as we left Naples. I had done enough miles and was stopping at a motel for the night, but they had just had a meal and were pressing on to Modena, where they reckoned to be by 2 a.m. This meant some 700 miles non-stop in a big diesel transporter carrying three Ferraris, the first 300 having been through the Calabrian mountains, and if you haven’t experienced them you haven’t motored in Europe.
There was a brief visit back home, which soon saw the regular English routine, of varied motoring and long days, including visiting the local Stock-Car Stadium to keep a sense of proportion on close racing and skilled traffic-driving, and then it was back to Nurburgring and Monte Carlo, after which a visit was made to Modena. Needless to say there was a national holiday on the first day in Modena and out at the Autodromo there was a gymkhana about to take place. For a change I went out to the circuit on a trolleybus, with a friend who lives in Modena. and had hardly put my head inside the circuit when I found I was “entered” for the gymkhana and loaned a right-hand-drive Maserati 3.8-litre GT. It was a good event, involving the usual party tricks, but also calling for some high-speed dicing between the numerous tests. That pleasant day ended with a party not far from the Ferrari factory and a 3 a.m. return to Modena. Staying in Modena for a few days having a look round various establishments, such as Lamborghini, de Tomaso, Maserati, Scaglietti’s and other “special”-building firms passed the time pleasantly. Sitting outside a bar at midday at a Supercortemaggiore petrol station I was a bit staggered to hear a helicopter flying very low, and more surprised when it landed on the huge forecourt! It was on a crop-spraying demonstration and was using the car-park as a base, the service van being round the back of the garage.
It was July before I was able to get back home long enough to take part in a motorcycle sprint meeting, having got the bicycle finished and ready to go in March. The month started with time off to attend a Vintage Sports Car Club gathering at one of the local inns, giving my 328 B.M.W. a rare outing, and then I competed in a Drag Meeting at Swindon, the bike going well in its first competition. The following week-end saw the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, so it was up there on Thursday and Friday for practice, returning home on Thursday evening to prepare the sprint bike for its next outing, which meant a 2 a.m. session in the workshop. After the Friday Silverstone practice it was back home again to finish off the fitting of high-compression pistons and better valve-timing, and then to a local lake to join a boat-launching party just as it got dark. This was for a friend’s racing sail-boat which he had just completed, and as it didn’t sink this meant a return to his house for a small celebration party before turning in for a short night. Saturday saw an early start for Grand Prix day, but even so we had to queue for 40 minutes to get in, even with Press passes. The day after it was a crack-of-dawn start after loading the sprint bike onto the VW transporter and setting off for Cambridgeshire to ride in a sprint meeting, this time on the kilometre. These four days saw me a bit clapped out, so it was not surprising that two days later, when I caught influenza at the top of the television tower in Rotterdam, that I flaked out for ten days. Due to this I missed the chance to ride a very fast supercharged 650-c.c. Triumph racing motorcycle, that now holds the standing-kilometre records, and flying-quarter-mile at 144 m.p.h.
Convalescence was taken in Germany, at the Nurburgring for the Grand Prix, and, fully recovered, I was back in England on the “old routine,” a typical day being an early trip to the far end of Kent to visit a sick parent, then back to South London to collect some wheels for a dragster some friends were building; across to Slough to spend the evening working on the car with them, and finally home after midnight. The next day if was away early again for Silverstone for a demonstration ride on .a racing sidecar outfit with Eric Oliver at the B.M.C.R.C. Hutchinson “100” meeting. It was wet but great fun, though I found it hard work after a lapse of twelve years, and four laps would have been enough, but Eric pressed on for six. The next day was very restful, going to Prescott with the Editor to watch the V.S.C.C. annual hill-climb. The next week-end was a bit strenuous, starting on Friday morning by preparing the sprint bike for the week-end meetings, then joining my dragster friends and working with them right through the night to get the car finished, and driving the transporter up into the Midlands for the car’s first outing. That night we motored across to Cambridge for the night and on the Sunday I took part in a National Sprint Association meeting, at which we did standing-start quarter-miles in the morning, standing-start kilometres in the afternoon, and during the kilometre we were timed on a flying quarter. On straight petrol and without streamlining I managed nearly 120 m.p.h. on my 650-c.c. Triumph Special, which was very satisfactory.
After a day at home there was another interesting journey in the transporter, taking a vintage Morgan 3-wheeler to its last resting place; a motoring day that saw us on the road from 6 a.m. to nearly midnight, and then it was down to Brands Hatch for the Guards Trophy. During practice I was lucky enough to talk Colin Chapman into letting Jim Clark drive me round the circuit in the brand new Lotus 40-Ford V8 sports car. This was an interesting run, but not as good as I had hoped for, due to Brands Hatch being all-starting and all-stopping, having no fast straights or fast corners. It did give me a chance to appreciate Clark’s uncanny judgment, sitting at close quarters, and I don’t think the car was pointing straight for more than a second at a time. Afterwards someone suggested that I must be mad, going out in a brand new untested Lotus, virtually on its maiden voyage. My reply was that if it was good enough for Jim Clark then it must be good enough for me. The chance of this ride came up rather suddenly, So I was unprepared and had to borrow a crash hat from Dan Gurney and goggles from Jackie Stewart. The next interesting trips were planned in advance, the first being some amusing dicing round the Hockenheim circuit in Mercedes-Benz cars, and then a brief trip in the power-boat “Blue Moppie” powered by two Ford V8 Galaxie marine engines. Unfortunately I must have put a jinx on the boat for it misbehaved all day, whereas it had been going extremely well the day before, and the day after, during the Offshore Power-boat Race, it went better than ever, finishing sixth.
Work intervened for a little while, this including the exciting Italian Grand Prix at Monza, but after that it was back home at high speed for some high-pressure work on building a new 650-c.c. Triumph engine for my sprint bike in preparation for the Drag Festival. I had previously been running on petrol, but now rebuilt the unit to run on methanol, which involved a lot of work on barrel, pistons and cylinder head, as well as valve and ignition timing, and it is amazing how the hours are absorbed when assembling and checking things in a racing engine where near-enough is not good-enough and only 100% can he tolerated. Before the Festival there was a practice day, and this proved to be a 5 a.m. to 1.30 a.m. session, travelling the 200 miles in the transporter, running the bike and two small-engined dragsters. Before the first Festival week-end there was a trip to Cheshunt to see the new Lotus Elan, but somehow I missed actually seeing it as I found that Jim Clark was about to fly to Snetterton in his newly acquired Piper Comanche, ex-Jack Brabham, and as there was a spare seat I didn’t hesitate. The point of going to Snetterton was to see one of the Indianapolis Lotus-Ford V8. cars in action, doing tests on Goodyear tyres. This was the third of the 1965 cars which had been set-up as a hill-climb car, with equal-length suspension units, and which ran at two Swiss hill-climbs in August. On a bright sunny afternoon the flight from Panshanger to Snetterton was most enjoyable, following the incredibly straight A11 road, but it would have been much more exciting doing 185 m.p.h. along the road in a Lotus 40. The Indy Lotus was well worth going to see, for when that 4.2-litre V8 four-camshaft alcohol-burning engine starts up you’ve got a real racing car—one that makes you take a step backwards.
The Drag Festival turned out to be a hit of a personal fiasco as far as the bike was concerned, the methanol 60-b.h.p. motor going extremely well but bringing a string of troubles in its train, including a broken frame and a burst gearbox. The week between the meetings saw the whole thing stripped to its basic components, and again the following week in order to run at the final N.S.A. meeting of the season.
At long last the 1965 season seemed to be over and there was time to look through the mountain of post, read the magazines, and do more gentle things, such as go to Earls Court, attend club meetings, committee meetings, film shows and other winter activities. However, it was not quite over, for there was an interesting day at Brands Hatch in the E-type, driving round on the British School of Motoring’s High-Performance Course. This involved driving the “wrong” way round the circuit with other traffic coming the opposite way, which is easy enough for anyone not knowing Brands Hatch, but difficult when reflexes automatically put the car on a “racing line” into a corner. It was also very instructive to “play bears” with the E-type on the B.S.M. skid-pan; it is not a car that enjoys being at 90 degrees to its direction of travel.
To end an interesting year there was a day at Goodwood driving a Ford GT40 coupe, which was a very pleasant car as well as exciting, but much more instructive was to he driven fast round the circuit by John Whitmore. I find I can appreciate the true value of a very fast car much better from the passenger seat when someone like Whitmore is at “nine-tenths,” than being at my own “nine-tenths,” which is about “four-tenths” for him, if you see what I mean. As an example, I took St. Mary’s corner in 3rd gear, reached 6,000 r.p.m. just before braking for Lavant Corner, and then went down into 2nd. Out of Lavant managed to reach 6,600 in 2nd and 3rd, and took 4th gear on the kink leading on to the straight. In the same car, with Whitmore driving, we took St. Mary’s in 3rd gear, changed up into 4th before Lavant, back into 3rd for Lavant Corner, peaked in 3rd and 4th, and took the kink on to the straight in 5th gear. While I thought I was doing well to get round Madgwick at fairly high r.p.m. in 3rd gear, Whitmore was using 4th gear. The only thing we had in common was to take the chicane in 2nd gear. A really fast car like the GT40 needs a racing driver to demonstrate it, not an enthusiast or a journalist. To complete the day Whitmore took me for some fast laps in a Lotus-Cortina racing saloon. I say fast laps, but by comparison with the GT40 it was slow, and though acrobatic it was truthfully a bit boring, which is just how I view saloon-car racing. I just don’t see what the spectator gets from such unscientific and unruly cornering on three wheels, but no doubt it is great fun for the driver.
As the last days of 1965 ticked away there was a Porsche 911 for road-test, the 2-litre flat-6-cylinder car, and the Editor said “You do this one.” Fortunately for me he doesn’t like getting down on his hands and knees to get into GT cars, but I enjoy it, so the year went out on yet another enjoyable piece of Motoring. “What 70-m.p.h. limit, officer ? ” it has been quite a year, no wonder I tend to fall asleep….D.S.J.
A little bit of Sunbeam racing history came to light in an unexpected place, while we were reading an adventure story in the period style of Conan Doyle or Agatha…
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