Letters, January 1991



£500,000 Car In The Snow

I read with interest MLC’s rather negative interview with Gordon Murray about the forthcoming McLaren supercar. It surprises me that such a car, expected to cost in excess of half a million pounds, and intended to be the ‘finest car of its era’, will be better in its garage if roads become slippery. It is all very well for Murray to say: “If the owner wants to go out in the snow, he’s got an off-road vehicle in the garage.” Has he not heard of expensive supercars making long journeys, during which the weather can change, or of being used for periods away from base, when again, conditions can change?
When MLC referred to Murray emulating Henry Royce, Ettore Bugatti and Henry Leyland I thought for a moment he was paying a tribute to Parry Thomas and the Leyland 8; but I think he was intending to refer to the Cadillac, which originated with Henry M Leland.
Charles Soul, London
The remark about not driving the McLaren in snow was made by the author not by Gordon Murray and is not ‘quoted’ as Mr Soul suggests. Owners of Porsche Turbos and Ferrari Boxers tend to keep their cars in the garage, too, when snow has fallen. Unfortunately Henry Leland became Leyland at the typographical stage of production. MLC

The Word According to Jenks

Mr TG Wakeley asks in the December issue of Motor Sport if I will list my ‘greats’ among the top racing drivers. I do so with pleasure, but make no attempt to justify my choice or explain my reasons. It would take three full issues of Motor Sport to put it all down in words. I only deal with drivers I have seen racing and have known. They are date order: Alberto Ascari, Stirling Moss, Jimmy Clark, Gilles Villeneuve and Ayrton Senna.
They confirm and substantiate all the criteria I laid down on a basis 40 years ago. Fundamentally nothing has changed. They are all examples of man at his best in this mechanical world of wheels in which we live.
Denis Jenkinson (DSJ or Jenks) Crondall, Hampshire
(PS: Mike Hailwood was the greatest racing motorcyclist.)

Lies, Darned Lies and…

Whilst applauding the outstanding achievements of Senna and Prost in establishing new records in World Championship Grand Prix racing, it is revealing to look back at the results of 41 years of the Championship. If one accepts the premise that winning is what Championship Grand Prix racing is all about, the results show that only seven drivers have achieved an average win rate of better than one in five, and that these elite seven also hold most of the laurels for pole positions and fastest laps. The table gives the results, expressed as a percentage of Grands Prix contended:

Driver – % Wins – % Poles – % Fastest Laps
Fangio – 47 – 55 – 45
Ascari – 41 – 44 – 34
Clarke – 35 – 46 – 39
Stewart – 27 – 17 – 15
Prost – 26 – 12 – 19
Moss – 24 – 24 – 30
Senna – 24 – 47 – 14

Fangio’s mastery in each category is reinforced by two other results exclusive to him — 75% wins in one season (1954) and five World Championships in nine years. Incidentally, if his wins resulting from taking over another team car are discounted, he still tops the winners’ list.
It is tempting to speculate on Senna’s prospects of surpassing Fangio’s percentage of pole positions, but the arithmetic is not encouraging. Two of the more plausible scenarios are pole positions for the next 20 races or 36 pole positions over the next three years, either of which would surely tax even Senna’s undisputed talents.
Clearly Fangio’s pre-eminence is awe-inspiring, and those of us who were privileged to see him in action from the start of the Championship doubt that his mastery will be seriously challenged in our lifetime, if ever.
CG Martin, Stoke-on-Trent

Petrol Problems

In response to the letter in your December issue from Mr PL Glover, Chairman of the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs, I can agree with the analysis in his last paragraph regarding future supplies of leaded petrol, but this seems only to emphasise the need for urgent action. The rest of his letter appears to confirm my impression that the role of the Federation is that of a co-ordinator of the Clubs’ own efforts rather than that of a direct initiator. It was this difference which prompted my reference to a policy of non-involvement.
This is not underrate the importance of the Federation’s work in this and other fields, but I am not sure that all Club administrations have the necessary resources to initiate research. If permanent lines of communication are to be, established with the petrol companies, as advocated in my letter published in the, October issue, then of course we may speak with one voice.
The UK and French Governments has; made substantial grants towards the cost of research for the development of ‘cleaner’ engines and fuels and any further changes resulting may or may not suit our cars. In these circumstances, we need to establish immediately a rapport with the petrol companies as a form of early warning system and to provide a constant reminder to them of our existence in the market, not, I would emphasize, in an obstructive sense, but to assist us to adapt.
I trust the Federation will consider taking a more direct role in this particular field but, in any case, I am sure we would all wish to offer best wishes for the continued success in the many difficult matters with which the Federation in involved in these uncertain times.
Garnet W Wrapson, Cottingham, North Humberside

JB Mystery

About thirty years ago when a student Liverpool College of Technology on Byron Street I purchased a copy of the Motor Car Index and read with interest the entry of the JB car of 1926/1927. Jones, Burtor and Co Ltd, engineering factors, still had their office at 55 Great Crosshall Street which ran at right angles to Byron Street directly in front of the college.
Upon calling at No 55 and explaing that I was interested in the history of the car I was asked to wait a few moments while some of the older members of the firm were consulted. The story which then emerged was as follows:
The son of the owner (director?) Jones, Burton decided to build himself a motor car. He based his construction mainly on Hupmobile parts, but at some time during or after completing the car, decided to emigrate and, failing to sell the car, it was broken up.
In fact some of the parts had been stored in the attic at No 55! There and then a short search produced the rear screen of the car, the only remaining item knownto these kind, indulgent gentlemen.
I was most surprised to be given the screen and a letterhead from the Twenties advertising the JB.
Recent research in Liverpool has shed no light on the car and very little on the firm. Jones Burton withdrew from Liverpool Chamber of Commerce in 1970 (a ‘Board decision’) and ceased trading sometime subsequently.
Several questions remain unresolved my mind in connection with the above:
To where did the builder of the emigrate? Why does the letterhead incorporate the SMMT emblem? Does this indicate that JB intended to go into production? What engine powered the JB? No Hupmobile car in the Motor Car Index had the dimensions quoted for the JB. Flow was the JB advertised? (The Motor Car Index must have obtained the details from somewhere).
I would be most grateful if any readers could answer my questions or in any way add to what I find a very interesting fragment of motoring history.
J McLaughlin, Leeds.

French Memories

Having read the article on page 1108 of the October issue on the Turcat Méry with interest, I was reminded of a holiday in France in 1967 when my wife and I spent a night in a small hotel in a village called Longues between Nantes and Paris. Directly opposite our bedroom window was one of those huge painted advertisements covering the whole end wall of a house. This advert was for a local garage with agencies for Turcat Méry and Voisin — some agency forty years after Turcat Méry had collapsed!
We spent the following night in a remote spot in the Jura beyond Besanscon, and painted across the end of a barn opposite our window was an advertisement for Voiturette Lion — when did that marque become defunct?
John Langrishe, Woking, Surrey

The Rover 14/45


I found the article on the Rover 14/45 (November, 1990) most interesting as the father of my closest friend bought one for about £20 in 1931. It was a most impressive looking machine, but the engine would not run as it had no compression. As he did not know anything about engines he turned it over to his son and myself to get it going.
We set about taking off the cylinder head. Having removed everything which could possibly hold it down, we attempted to lift it, but it could well have been welded on. I remembered that some Talbots of previous years had head-holding nuts in the inlet ports, but no luck. Nor were there any in the exhaust ports either. After rigging up a lifting beam and differential pulley block, we almost lifted the front tyres off the ground before the head freed.
We found several valves stuck open, cleaned everything up and ground the valves in. After considerable difficulty we obtained a head gasket and re-assembled everything. After all that the engine started easily. It was very quiet and powerful for those days and the family used it for several years including towing a caravan.
I was a mechanical engineering student interested in Machine Tool design at that time. One of the leading machine tool designers of the day had an oft quoted maxim: “Every machine tool must be heavy enough to absorb its own vibration.” I wonder if he designed the Rover 14/45?
FE Greaves, Anglesey.

The Mud Plugger Sir

I was very interested to read the article on KBP 242 in September issue as my father WF ‘Bill’ Mead owned the car for several years in the late 40s early 50s, when the big-engined trials cars were king of the roost before the lighter, smaller Ford 10engined cars led by the Dellow knocked them off their perch. I last saw the Allard in 1951/2 when my father sold her and bought the third Dellow built by Messrs Delingpole and Low.
I was not aware that there were twelve ‘J 1 ‘s’ built, only that Sidney Allard [Correct spelling: Sydney Allard] had built several Trial Specials. The four that I knew of all had very different body work and all they had in common was the chassis and the Ford Mercury engine.
‘Bill’ Mead was well known before the war as a motor bike and sidecar trials expert, and after the war enjoyed a fair amount of success in cars. KBP 242 was run by him in a team of three with Geoff Imhoff and Bill Brown with their Trials Special Allards. (Although the J2 Allard was known as a ‘J2’, these other Allards were always referred to as ‘Trials Specials’, not ‘J 1 s’.
KBP’s original colour was British Racing Green and at the time my father purchased her, the rear wings were faired in cycle style, and the front faired to the body, similar to the later Dellow and it was very pretty. The Mercury engine had twin carbs and there were two slab petrol tanks, one holding 30 gallons and one 55 gallons for extra weight in Mud Plugging. The larger tank, when full, put just too much weight behind the rear wheels for safety for normal day to day road use, so before each event the tanks were changed over.
There were two sets of rear tyres: `knobblies’ (there were bolts through the rims of the wheels on this set to keep the tyres on when they were let down to 5 lb/sq in for the observed sections) and one for ordinary road use.
At the end of his first trials season with KBP my father had several modifications carried out. Although the Mercury engine had enough power for trials where speed was of little importance, it ‘waffled’ at low revs on take-off at the start of the observed section (despite the gearbox’s very low ratios), not delivering any power and in danger of stalling unless revs were built up before you let the clutch in and span the wheels, and in trials you do not induce wheelspin if you can avoid it. The twin SU’s just did not let enough air in at low revs so a Wade mechanically driven supercharger was fitted (by Bill Mead, not Geoff Imhoff as stated in the article) in combination with, I think, a 1¾” SU. I vividly remember as a schoolboy the car stationary at a set of lights on the way back from Wembley Speedway, and as the Allard delivered her `umph’ on the green, turning round to face backwards and waving to a couple of Vincent 1000 Black Panthers with the howl of the newly fitted blower making lovely music.
To ‘let the mud out’, the rear wings were cut back to the stubs shown in the photographs accompanying the article. The front wings were shortened a little, but they still were faired into the main bodywork and had a reverse curve at the back end. The car was resprayed a pale metallescent blue (similar to the Jaguar blue of the time) and a hundredweight slab of lead was put behind the seats, with a compressed air cylinder mounted on top of that, both for extra weight (and Bill Mead himself weighed in at around 18 stone) and to make life easy at the top of the observed sections when the tyres had to be re-inflated for the road section to the next observed section.
My father won many MCC premier awards and also had success in the Col more, Knott Trophy, Coventry Cup and many other events with her.
PW Mead, Lymington, Hants.

Silverstone Rally School

Prior to our move to our new site, opposite Silverstone Circuit, this business was run from a Silverstone office. The driving, however, has always been at Bruntingthorpe proving ground.
This is made clear on all our literature, and confirmations with sketch maps of how to reach there are sent to all clients.
During the five years that this system applied only three people ever failed to read their paperwork and arrived at Silverstone by mistake. Two cheerfully acknowledged their error and completed the 40 mile journey to the correct site where actual driving time was lost as a result. The third person, Mr Starkey from Coventry (Letters, July 1990) refused to undertake this journey despite the fact that it was a simple diversion from his return journey home. Although he acknowledged his error, his behaviour was completely unreasonable and no refund could be offered.
David Hardcastle, Silverstone Rally School,