Readers' letters, January 1985, January 1985

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Opinions expressed are those of our correspondents, and are not necessarily those of Motor Sport.

Stuart Lewis-Evans

Sir,

I would like to thank you for publishing such a splendid article on my son, Stuart Lewis-Evans, in December’s Motor Sport, it is faultless.

I can, of course, add a little although you have covered so much.

I wonder if you know that in the 1957 Le Mans, Stuart drove the Ferrari for 16 of the 24 hours. How about that for stamina?

There is also a connection between the 1958 Portuguese GP and Stuart’s accident at Casablanca. Stirling Moss was leading in Portugal by nearly a lap from Mike Hawthorn, whose brakes were fading, and Stuart whose engine was fading. Stirling lapped Stuart almost on the finishing line which meant Stuart’s race was over. On his last lap, Mike spun and finished backwards on the pavement (it was a road circuit) and on his run-in lap, Stirling found Mike trying to beat off spectators who wanted to help him restart. Mike got the car going and finished second and Stirling later helped him to avoid disqualification.

Had Stirling not lapped Stuart, Stuart would have finished second with Mike third and Stirling would have gone to Casablanca needing only to win and set fastest lap to become World Champion, regardless of where Mike Hawthorn finished. Stuart would then not have had to have been kept in the race while he was signalling that his oil was practically at boiling point. David Yorke should have ordered Stuart in, he would never have gone in of his own accord. As we know, Stuart’s engine seized, his car left the track and caught fire. There were more Arabs with guns around the circuit than fire extinguishers.

I was at the Casablanca GP and the day after the accident, Tony Vandervell and I stood outside the hospital gates at about 6 am waiting to be let in. The French surgeons reckoned they knew all about burns and they took it as an affront that Tony wanted Stuart looked after in England. It was not until I said that I wanted him treated by the McIndoe burns unit at East Grinstead that they agreed to our flying him home. Miraculously, he recovered from the shock but the following Saturday died of blood poisoning for he had inhaled the flames.

Stuart left two children. His son, Stephen is now thirty and a sergeant in the RAF — like me he joined when he was 17, I was a pilot in the RFC in 1917. Stuart’s daughter, Helen, is two years younger, married and living in Gwent. His widow, Margaret, re-married and she and her husband keep the Railway Inn at Great Whyte, near Huntingdon. I need hardly add that it was a shattering blow to my wife, three sons and daughter and myself when we lost Stuart. Your article describes him exactly.

Enclosed is an amusing picture of Tony Vandervell with Stuart. I’m not sure where it was taken, but I think it shows Tony’s regard for him.

Herne Bay, Kent Lewis Lewis-Evans

Foreign Failings

Sir,

Criticism of the British Motor Car Industry is a popular activity, particularly its after sales service. Recently however my impression that the industry in other countries might be no better, and possibly worse, was confirmed.

I have given my son our aged Renault 400 the basis that he rebuilds it and I pay. Now I have no complaints about the Renault as a car — we have had it for seven years and it has withstood a great deal of mistreatment very well. It does however have its idiosyncrasies and, whilst to some extent these contribute to its charm, two are particularly annoying, the need for special drifts to remove the drive shafts and for a special socket to remove the cylinder head. The first of these has now been remedied but why on earth was the detail designer allowed to get away with the second? The Renault is not a sophisticated motor car intended to be distributor serviced, quite she reverse. It was designed as a peasant’s car and still sells well throughout the world on this basis. The instruction book tells me that a special socket is available at low price from my dealers. Not so. In fact they tell me that their fitters do not buy them but grind down standard sockets for their own use. I find this quite easy to do with a suitable grinder but what do you do when the head gasket goes in the middle of the bush armed only with your standard socket set? The drive shaft punches are not available either and must also be made up.

My main reason for writing however is not because of design failings but because of the difficulty in obtaining even mundane parts. When we asked for valve springs we were regarded with some amazement by the distributors as “these never wear out, we just put the old ones back”. Crankshaft bearing shells were available off the shelf but they were different from the ones in the car and there was no information about whether or not there had been a design change. It took several telephone calls to sort this one out. Crankshaft thrust bearings were not available and after some days we are now told that these have to be specially ordered from France.

In the past I have been highly critical of the British industry’s after-sales service but I shall be less so in the future. I run a 1973 PS Rover Coupe as an every day car together with an MGB Roadster of the same year. Both these are out of production boson far I have had no difficulty in obtaining the normal replacement parts for either.

I cannot help but feel that as a nation we tend to be far too critical of our own products and too forgiving of the failings in others. Perhaps this is the reason why the proportion of imported cars on our roads is greater than for any other car producing country in Europe, if not in the world.

Betley, Cheshire P. A. Vincent

Moonraker

Sir,

Your article on Archie Butterworth was fascinating and if I cast my mind back to the mid sixties, I may be able to cast some light on either the whereabouts of the AJB / Kieft / Norton or an answer to the Australian theory.

I have not seen or heard from Ian Richardson since those days when he ran my local garage in Lapworth, Warwickshire, now named Willpower Garage, from the engines that Will Sparrow used to build there. Ian was a real character and when we first met he was cutting a Berkeley B95 in half to widen it by six inches which should allow the insertion of a full Blydenstein VXJ4/90 engine. He was literally cutting it with a hacksaw and when finished the vehicle was quick even if the roadholding and handling left something to be desired on the way to the Cock Horse Inn. It was probably the first of the point and squirt vehicles built in this country, unfortunately once squirted you couldn’t point it! I’d love to know if it still exists.

Whilst Ian was definitely the design genius behind “Moonraker” — I say that as it was the fastest bike at Santa Pod establishing records if my memory serves correct — and all credit is due to him; many of us were involved in bolting bits and pieces to it on his instructions. Pete Allan, a local publican’s son, rode the beast — the fact that he lived in a pub may have helped — as well as Ian and eventually bought it off him. It was certainly engineless at this stage as we promptly set about installing two Triumph 650 twins running as a four and supercharged through an old Shorrock for good measure! Renamed the Lapworth Flyer, it did, and Pete certainly established national and international records with it. I can’t remember what we ran it on, alcohol I think but not from the pub, but I can remember Bill Martin-Hurst’s anger when we first started it on the car park of the Boot at Lapworth at around midnight. It must have woken the whole village, he was the only one who complained. As an employee of the Leyland Motor Corporation Public Relations Department at the time, I was worried as we had just taken Rover over and I thought he might tell my boss!

Pete emigrated to Australia and took the bike with him in the form described above, which may give rise to the Australian rumour. I say this as at the time it was the “Maclaren” of sprint bikes and consequently attracted a lot of attention and publicity. We even got Pat Mennem on it once!

To my knowledge “Moonraker Lapworth Flyer” is still with Pete in Australia. By the way we always referred to the engine as the Butterworth Norton, Keift never came into it.

Super magazine. More features on the old personalities and what they did. How about one on Rupert Instone and the “DJIN” saga? So named because they drank so much whilst building it but felt that the correct spelling would give people the wrong impression!

Evenjobb, Presteigne Robin Penrice

Static

Sir,

Your magazine of course reaches us here without fail. Recent letters about static electricity generated in cars reminded me of experiences when I was an apprentice with the Daimler Company in Coventry in the mid-Fifties.

When wearing the standard “Gear” for young fellows — corduroy and crepe soled shoes —I found that a large spark could be generated at will if one slid out of the wide Daimler seat, while holding only an insulated part of the car, such as the steering wheel. When one then turned to close the door, a spark would always precede actual contact providing the weather was warm and dry. I found that the cure in this case was quite simple. All that was necessary was to hold a conducting portion of the car while actually getting out.

On the same subject, we had a customer of the service department who showed dogs. This lady had an earth strap fitted to her Daimler Consort. She assured me that this entirely prevented her dogs being sick. I was told that on an occasion when the strap became detached the dogs became sick again quite quickly. Replacement cured the problem. This would seem to deal with the frequently stated conviction that the earthing strap is of purely psychological value.

Finally, should this be published, I would be interested to know if anybody has knowledge of the Challenor Special. I sold this to a gentleman from North Wales or Holyhead in 1952. It contained parts from Lancia, Ford, Armstrong, and Sunbeam vehicles, and was powered by a huge straight eight 4.4, yes, four point four litre engine of Alvis manufacture, fed by four large SU carburetters. The story I recall was that the engine was made for the designer of the 4.3 and that about six were built. It was certainly of Alvis design, since I was able to get parts from the factory that fitted! I would love to know the true story behind the power unit.

Kindest regards to all your staff, who one feels, are old friends after years of reading the best magazine.

Papua New Guinea, Vincent Freedman

Swallow Doretti

Sir,

I have read your October article on the Swallow Doretti with great interest. At the time that I raced the Doretti for the works I had a TR2 and there is no doubt that the Doretti was a much superior car in suspension and usable performance.

The article was slightly incorrect in that I had two races at Silverstone, both 100 milers, and my only brief was to beat the Austin Healeys which, much to the de of the Doretti M.D., I did. Unfortunately, after these two races the works decided to give up official racing — which was a great pity.

The “Light-hearted” race that you mention at Silverstone, in which Bill Boddy and I beat the opposition, was not quite so light-hearted; I can remember well John Bolster alongside me at both Copse and Becketts at ninety degrees to the track on both occasions.

The article brought back many memories of a very good motor car.

Walsall Don Truman

Top Gear V12s

Sir,

Browsing through the February 1984 issue, on page 148 signed W.B., I see a comment that the 1927 Double Six Daimler climbed Fish Hill in top gear. The question is raised, would the modern 12 cylinder Jaguar do the same?

It’s a long time since I climbed Fish Hill on a Scott and I don’t remember much of it.

However, a friend of mine a year or two ago had an E-Type V12 Jaguar Coupé and I have ridden with him a few times over the Cairn o’ Mount road from Fettercainin Kincardinshire north to Banchory and Deeside.

On two occasions the Jaguar had a clean run and made no fuss at all, in top all the way. The two hairpins mean that you must have pulling power and how much the Jaguar had left I don’t know. We came over the top past the cairn in the high ’70s lifting off so as not to go charging down the far side. We started, by the way, over the Clatterin’ Brig at the bottom at 30 mph just to see how she would pull away up the first steep part. In the event we had power in hand.

Fish Hill forsooth! Small beer. My old friend Arthur Nicoll, once mechanic at Parkside Garage in Coventry didn’t think much of the Daimler Double Six which he drove from time to time. Said it wouldn’t pull pussy from the hearth rug!

Angus D. W. Berry

Congratulations

Sir,

I would like to inform all of your readers that they are indeed fortunate to be receiving so much motorsport news for such a relatively small amount of money. I am an American “Motor Sportsman”, to quote D.S.J., who has been reading your magazine for 35 years for both racing and vintage news. I have marvelled at the quality and effort expended for such a realistic price. I now am forced to pay £3.30 per issue here in Saudi Arabia but still never regret the expenditure. A wish for full health and long life to all the “initials” following the articles so that we can all continue to enjoy your reporting.

Saudi Arabia Herb Jones

(An airmail subscription would be cheaper, Mr Jones! – G.C.)

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