Matters of moment, January 1971
We have recently published criticisms of the BLMC, for which we do not repent. But, having discussed these editorials with Lord Stokes in his eyrie on the sixth floor of Berkeley Square House, fair play demands that his views should be stated. This easy-to-meet Leader of Industry is so supremely confident that he can save the British Motor Industry that perhaps, like Cliff Richard, he should be singing “Congratulations”, which so nearly won a Eurovision Song Contest…
He still thinks anyone in this country who buys a BMW or Mercedes-Benz in preference to a Triumph 2.5, for instance, needs his or her head tested. His aim is to compete with Mercedes-Benz and he regards the Triumph 2.5 PI as having excellent potential. Lord Stokes excuses the demise of the V8 Daimler engines on the grounds that they were “hand-made”, so too costly to produce, and the delay in giving the XJ Jaguar a V12 engine as due to the problem of finding tooling space (which may explain the demise of the Austin 3-litre and some older BMC models).
He makes two-seater Austin Healey, MG and Triumph sports cars mainly for America, and believes in competition, if confined to production-style cars. He points out that GM does not race, that Ford of America has pulled out, and that probably Ford of Britain would like to do so, in view of the prodigious cost, now that the sweet smell of competing against BMC has ended. He dislikes glass-fibre cars, so would doubtless have chopped the Daimler SP250 anyway, admits the original Maxi was an error (but recommends you try the new version), and takes responsibility for Stag, which was developed as a V8 convertible on his orders. In the completely-new ADO 28, when it appears, Lord Stokes has complete confidence. BMC had to be taken over or it would have ceased to exist, leaving Britain open to the full might of American opposition. Economy truly caused the closing of the Abingdon Competitions Department and the demise of High Road, says Lord Stokes.
In view of this very serious outlook one cannot but wish Lord Stokes every possible success, in a situation where the imperceptive workers who refuse to back-Britain, acting now like naughty children, are making things far, far worse and moving us closer to Communism. (Writing this in the middle of a most exhilarating December drive in a Ford RS 1600, the new British Leylands had better be good…!)
The RAC Rally aroused the usual great spectator interest, judging by the number of onlookers we encountered who were ignoring a filthy wet night to watch happenings at the Machynlleth Control. By this time Stuart Turner had gone home, because all the “works” Fords were out. Elsewhere we give a make-by-make resumé of this surprising rally. It is significant that Ford, having found all the power needed, from cross-flow push-rod, Lotus 8-valve Twin-Cam and Cosworth 16-valve Twin-Cam engines, had complete disaster in getting this power to the road wheels. However, it is this unpredictability that makes the game so fascinating.
What solution will Ford adopt? Or will Lancia, a Company which may have made a few mediocre cars but never a bad one, and a great many great ones from the Lambda onwards, with the present Lancias amongst the nicest cars in the World, continue to win, as they did the RAC Rally (just!), with Opel snapping at their heels? Incidentally, both the British Leyland and Dunlop service vans were out on the RAC Rally, a pleasing reminder that neither of these great organisations has entirely forsaken the Sport.
After the war the only place where we in this country could race was Silverstone airfield. Since then much motor-racing history has been made there and, although it has taken time, the amenities have arrived, in the form of a proper pit-road, a bridge over the outer circuit, a resurfaced Paddock etc., while the excellence of the Silverstone Club building compensates for impermanent grandstands. For a time rumour said that Silverstone might be confiscated, motor racing giving way to Jumbo Jets. So the news that the BRDC has secured the circuit is altogether excellent, meaning that racing of all kinds, from Formula One to Formula 750 and VSCC racing will continue to take place at Britain’s premier circuit.