Historic Preparation

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Unlike today’s Formula One teams, who have to begin preparation for the next season as soon as the present one is finished, those people involved in historic car racing have a clear period of some months in the winter to prepare for the next season. We paid a visit to some of the places where historic cars are being rebuilt or overhauled in readiness for “old car racing” in 1980, whether it be VSCC club events, or sponsored historic championship racing, and the colour section of photographs shows some of them.

There never seems to be a shortage of historic cars for racing, and as we hinted last month, if you cannot find one you can make one and then produce the letters, photographs, race reports and so on afterwards to prove its authenticity. If you are surrounded by sufficient unknowledgeable and gullible people and your story sounds reasonable you have an historic car that isn’t questioned. It is only if someone starts delving into the past that you are likely to be found out and even than it is surprising what a bit of bluff can do. Popular remarks are “. . . it is one of the best documented cars . . .” or “. . . history was very grey around that period . . .” or “. . . no-one really knows . . .”. Two cars that will be reappearing in racing in 1980 after long sojourns in museums are the Talbot-Lago and the Tipo B “monoposto” Alfa Romeo illustrated in colour in pages 68 and 69.

The 4 1/2-litre Talbot-Lago Type 26C is number 110007, of the 1948 series, and was raced by Louis Chiron for Paul Vallee’s Ecuric France, winning the 1949 French GP. It then went to Australia where Doug Whiteford raced it and came to England some years ago. After a time of rest in the Donington Collection it passed through various hands in the used-car trade until it went to rest again in the Midland Motor Museum in Bridgnorth. It has now been bought by Robert Cooper, of Swindon, who will be racing it this season. It is having a check-over by Nigel Amold-Forster at Bassett-Down Engineering and among the jobs to do is a modification to the cockpit side and the steering column to enable the tall Cmoper to get in and out more easily. Originally these cars had Solo, downdraught carburetters but at some time in its life this one was fitted with horizontal Weber carburetters.

The Tipo B Alfa Romeo is one of the classic “monoposto” models, so often erroneously called a P3 by casual journalists. This one belongs to Neil Corner and it has been sitting in the Donington Park racing car museum for many years, in fact, since the museum opened in 1973. It is number 5006 and was one of the first batch of cars built in 1932, but was uprated to comply with the new Formula rules that came into being in 1934. The Scuderia Ferrari, who were running these Alfa Romeos at the time, sold it to “Georges Raph” a French driver and in 1938/39 it came to England when it was bought by Mrs. Jill Thomas. It then passed to Anthony Powys-Lybbe who raced it in numerous Irish events and then it passed into the ownership of various VSCC members. The last time we saw it in action was when Peter Waller drove it for Neil Corner in VSCC races in 1972 so its reappearance in the hands of Vic Norman will be most welcome. It is one of the most original of the “monoposto” cars, though the engine had to be rebuilt using some sports-car components. It is now having a complete engine rebuild in readiness for the coming season and the chassis is seen awaiting this work to be done. It carries Scuderia Ferrari emblems on its bonnet as a legacy of the days when it was part of Enzo Ferrari’s team of Alfa Romeos.

The historic racing scene should be enlivened this year if we have Cooper’s car racing against the Talbot-Lagos of Paul Grist and Richard Pilkington in the post-war category and Corner’s Alfa Romeo racing against de Cadenet’s similar car and the Maseratis of David Black and Bill Summers in the pre-war category.

Although people have built replica Bugattis, Maseratis, Alfa Romeos, Mercedes-Benz and so forth, no one has yet produced a replica ERA, though one is said to be nearing completion and another is mooted! ERA history is very well documented and each car’s history is totally known, there are none of the convenient “grey areas” beloved of the restorers. R10B was the ERA bought new by Peter Whitehead in 1936 and raced very regularly by him and Peter Whitehead up to the war in 1939. It then passed to Graham Whitehead, Peter’s half-brother, who, ran it for a number of years. As with all ERAs it ended up in the ranks of the VSCC and is now owned by American member Joel Finn, who keeps it in England. It is undergoing a total rebuild by Tula Engineering and has been returned to its original black colour, having spent many years painted dark green. It was black in the days of the Whitehead/Walker partnership and was notable in those days for the way it was cornered on opposite lock with the tail well out of line and the rear wheels spinning, when Peter Walker was at the controls. As can be seen in our photographic feature the chassis and body are finished and it just awaits the engine and gearbox.

Among the many specialist activities at Bassett-Down Engineering is the rebuilding of vintage racing engines and she more complex and challenging the more they seem to like them. One that has just been completed and is seen ready to be put on the dynomometer is the 1 1/2-litre Eldridge-Anzani, dating from around 1923/4. Ernest Eldridge, a skilled engineer of the vintage years built his own Eldridge Special racing car and evolved this engine using a side-valve 1 1/2-litre Anzani engine as a basis. A twin overhead camshaft layout was devised, driving the camshafts by roller-chains from the rear of the crankshaft, with an aluminium housing dove-tailing neatly into the Anzani crankcase. The cylinder head was fitted with two sparking plugs to each cylinder and these were fired by twin magnetos mounted at the front of the camshafts. The vertical supercharger at the front of the engine was normal Anzani practice, the supercharged side-valve engines giving a very good power-to-weight output. The Eldridge twin-cam layout for this engine produced a very lively 1 1/2-litre vintage racing engine. The Eldridge Special itself seems to have been broken up many years ago and the engine was in a rather special Frazer Nash chassis some 35 years ago. The present owner intends to install it in a chassis built by Parry Thomas in the vintage year, to concoct a rather nice “period-piece”.

Another vintage “period-piece” seen in the background in the Talbot-Lago photograph is the Becquet Special, which Arnold Forster is hoping to get completed this year for himself. The Frenchman Becquet built his first special in 1920, using a 1914 Grand Prix Alda chassis, into which he put a V8 Hispano-Suiza aero-engine of c. 1918/1919. This very compact and light aeroplane engine had a shaft-driven overhead camshaft to each bank of cylinders and was of 100 x 150 mm. bore and stroke giving 9,427 c.c. Becquet built this special for French hill-climbs and any free-formula races that might be held.

In 1923 Delage built a 2-litre V12 unsupercharged car for the Grand Prix, but it was not successful and a totally new design produced for 1924, still using the V12 engine. In 1925 these cars were supercharged and became one of the landmarks in Grand Prix design. The 1923 car was abandoned and in 1925 Monsieur Becquet acquired it, less engine, and installed his V8 Hispano-Suiza aero-engine in it, throwing away his primitive 1914 chassis. He ran it in verious free-formula events, such as the Spanish GP in 1926 and in French races and hill-climbs. As a Grand Prix Delage the car had a rear fuel tank that formed part of the long shapely tail, but Becquet removed all this and fitted a bolster tank and crude bodywork around it. The car rested in Switzerland for many years and some time ago was acquired by Arnold Forster and with it came the original Delage fuel tank, so it has not been too difficult, having the scuttle and the tank to build a new-body as near to the original Delage one as can be seen by eye. Various small parts were missing off the Hispano-Suiza engine but another one came to light recently so Bassett-Down Engineering have the interesting job of building up this V8 engine. It is wider and slightly bulkier than the original V12 Delage engine, so that the cylinder heads protrude from the sides of the bonnet, but what is fascinating is that this 9-litre V8 engine weighs almost the same as the 2-litre V12 Delage engine. When completed this vintage “period-piece” will enliven the VSCC paddock, even if it doesn’t get as far as the starting grid.

The expression “. . . a total strip and rebuild .” is exemplified by Vic Norman’s 250F Maserati shown on stands in his workshop. At the time of calling it only needed the removal of the fuel tank-cum-tail, for the space-frame chassis to be laid completely bare. This is Maserati number 2527, which was the first of the famous trio of “lightweight” cars that formed the works team for Fangio, Behra and Schell in 1957. The first two cars, 2527 and 2528, were actually completed before the end of 1956 for they were then put on a boat and sent to South America for the Argentine winter races. The third car, 2529, was completed later, in time for the European season.

These three cars with lightweight chassis frames, the ultimate in Maserati drum brakes, five-speed gearbox and sleek, shapely bodywork are considered to be the best 250F Maseratis ever built. After these three Maserati built some V12-cylinder versions, that were never fully developed, and then the short wheelbase “piccolo” cars, one of which we illustrated last month, but none of these were so nicely balanced and forgiving as the trio of 1957 lightweight cars. Norman’s car is having a total clean-up and check-over and the gold-painted frame is being restored to its original silver colour. in readiness for another season of historic racing. The second car, 2528, is owned by Neil Corner, and 2529 is in America.

New to the historic scene this year will be a very interesting car, photographed at Crossland Engineering in Sussex. This is a 1960 Ferrari Dino single-seater into which the factory installed a 3-litre V12 sports car engine for wealthy New Zealander Pat Hoare. This was done at the end of 1960 for Hoare to use in the Tasman Races and in the recently published book by Doug Nye on the complete story of all the Dino Ferraris this car is illustrated on page 106. The photograph was taken on October 26th 1960 at the Modena autodrome when the car was on test. It was chassis 0007 with which Phil Hill had won the Italian GP, using the original 2 1/2-litre V6 engine, and Nye gives a complete story on the car in his excellent book “Dino: The Little Ferrari”. In 1978 Neil Corner acquired the car, by now converted into a sort of road-going GT car, and Dick Crossthwaite and his men have put it all back into pure Tasman single-seater form. Fortunately the Kiwi conversion did not destroy much of the original car and they kept all the body panels and old bits, even parts of the tubular superstructure of the chassis around the radiator, so the rebuild job has not been as bad as some. In Corner’s capable hands this interesting car will be worth seeing, especially when he comes up against Willie Green in Anthony Bamford’s 2 1/2-litre V6 Dino Ferrari, that performed so well last season.

Historic car racing in 1980 looks as though it is going to be very interesting and while some of the entries may be a his short on history and a little suspect as to origins, we have a hard-core of genuine historic racing cars that will give pleasure to everyone, drivers, mechanics and spectators alike. — D.S.J.

VSCC Frolics at Enstone

THIS YEAR the VSCC’s December DrivingTests again took place on the Enstone Airfield Complex near Oxford, mercifully in warmer weather than in 1978. We entered by a back lane, the various frolics to try drivers and cars had out on the run-ways, over which a glider soared at the winter sky. One wondered whether the cars had monopolised its landing areas, so that the pilot was hoping for sufficient thermals to last him until the last vintage car had departed. .

The entry numbered 46, a substantial two-dozen down on last year’s figure. Oldest car to undertake the ordeal-by-pylon was Reece’s 1911 Renault two-seater, which puttered happily about on its two 603 cc. cylinders. A star attraction, had the public been present, was Ian Young’s ex-MacMinnies’ 1918 Morgan Grand Prix three-wheeler, with side-valve, water-cooled JAP engine, an immaculate little car original even to its gas side-lamps and strap-secured one-man hood. It was driven to the venue and had the honour to start things rolling, carrying the unique competition number “0”, signifying that the Post office had lost Young’s entry. In this class entries ranged from the Renault as the only four-wheeled Edwardian to Angela Cherrett who had wisely come in the protection of her 1931 four-door 1750 Alfa Romeo saloon. In this class, too, Tom Threlfall and his wife were sharing their rare 1924 BSA light-car, its “radiator” completely blanked-off to try to get the oil circulating in the air-cooled too-twin engine, a crossed-guns mascot riding high above it all.

The girls had perhaps been attracted by an innovation on the part of the VSCC, a dinner-dance at Banbury afterwards. Anyway, Mrs. Harcourt-Smith was there in a nice 12-50 TE Alvis tourer, Janet Giles was giving Freddie a day off by conducting their TT Replica Frazer Nash (so ambitiously that she hit a marker under th.

A typical vintage light car at Enstone. Tort Threlfall’s rare 1924, au-cooled BSA, shared with his wife Di.

braking, at the conclusion of the third frolic), Mrs. Costigan was in the Ulster Austin, Mrs.

Hogg was going well in the Edwards’ Ulster Aston Martin, but Mrs. Doey retired early when the cam followers of the Coventry-Climax i.o.e. engine in her 1937 Morgan 4/4 came unstuck. Ian Taylor was getting good results from a well-known Austin Seven Chummy, a car in decidedly competition rig, which had arrived in an enormous van, the little Renault wore a label reading “This Side Up — Must Not Be Turned Over”. and it wasn’t, and we noted that fold-flat windscreens ranged from that on the Threlfall BOA, stripped of its spare wheel in the best racing tradition, to the one on Briscoe’s 1933 Alvis Firefly. Barry Clarke explained carefully to us his 1913 Singer, that inspite of its bolster tank, isn’t the TT Replica we thought it was but is simply a very spartan sports light-car. Peter Harris had forsaken his Bentley for a 30/98 borrowed from Brenda Rowley but wrong-sided at one pylon, Tony Jones demonstrated excellent anchorage in his 30/98, and Hill even more so M his Morgan 4,4, which stopped too soon in test-3. Marsh was content with his Oxford-engined four-speed Morris Sports. Another unpainted car, with bonnet-rivets as well, was Swann’s 3-litre Invicta. Horton’s Type 43 Bugatti gave us the authentic ring of engaging starter-teeth when he was ready to go, which unnerved the stop-watch, so he was given second stab at test-3, and Ash rode about in a very stark, pointed-tail Alvin 12-50 Special. Nice’s Ulster Austin was going well, tail out, as when Di Threlfall raced it, which caused her husband to pop stronger valve springs into their Ulster, and Lloyd, chauffeuring the aforesaid Renault, contrived to change-up in one of the tests, and the Co.stigan Austin Ulster actually

boiled. It is pointless to try to describe what happened

in the tests. except that Young bravely pushed his Morgan backwards when he had to. as no reverse was provided on this model; the engine was presumably running on Redline, from a can on the running-board. The results most speak for themselves, best performance, incidentally, being made by Joseland in his Frazer Nash Fast Tourer, just beating Hare’s Austin Ulster. — W.B.

1st Class Awards M Clarke :1.11 Singer Ten, S C Haney i1.35 Riley kn;A:c..,:, 1.26 Franc.Nash, Ci• M. Hare 1930 lid Class Awawls 12-‘517 Avis(1:,h17″. 13″ Iress”ftliffr119A13/1’lc6-“SrAC.!:Aj..1rn’isines’ 30-98 Vauxhall, A P Ciwtigan • MO Austin Cluert

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