RUMBLINGS, July 1938
THE visitation of the German team to this country last year has had a very far-reaching effect on enthusiasm in this country. Even those who were already well versed in motoring speed find that their interest in Brooklands racing and sprint events is now supplemented by a keen appreciation of the activities of Continental ace-drivers, and such folk find no difficulty now in associating Lang, Caracciola, Brauchitsch and Seaman with Mercedes-Benz, Sommer, Farina and Biondetti with Alfa, Varzi and Trossi with Maserati, Comotti and Dreyfus with Delahaye and Wimille with Bugatti. Whereas, at one time, they could never hope to name the individual teams correctly. But situations change mighty quickly on the Continent, which is why we are glad to be able to publish the latest news from ” Auslander,” who is held in high esteem as a Continental motoring correspondent. On the subject of Grand Prix racing, we like George Monkhouse’s open admission, in his great book ” Motor Racing with Mercedes-Benz,” that, however you may debate the value of racing, the fact remains that Continental cars control so very well, which is a feature sadly lacking in cars built in countries where they only race for one-third of a mile at a time, or under queer handicap schemes. As examples, Monkhouse quotes the 1.7-litre Mercedes-Benz, Lancia Aprilia, 14-litre B.M.W. and 14-litre Fiat. Which handle so differently from American autos, which he describes as having “tyres like roly-poly puddings, steering so under-geared as to resemble that on a steam-roller, and suspension so sloppy that if you put the brakes on hard the front of the car tends to assume a praying position ! ” That is certainly very different from the behaviour of Continental utility cars, as we have so tirelessly pointed out, albeit there is nothing to criticise in the handling qualities of the more thoroughbred small British sports-cars, such as H.R.G. and Frazer-Nash, or in the class of Britisher wherein all qualities are as nearly perfect as possible, such as the 41-litre Bentley and V12 Lagonda. Monkhouse, himself, favours a long-chassis 44-litre Bentley, remembering, of course, that handling qualities embrace steering and braking and driving position as well as road-holding. So there would seem to be every justification of building Grand Prix cars, when doing so endows a nation’s utility cars with very definite safety-first—one could well write “safety-fast “
characteristics. Incidentally, contrary to popular opinion, the Mercedes-Benz and Auto-Union teams do battle seriously amongst themselves and do not regard racing as a joint outing to demonstrate German engineering prestige, another point which Monkhouse emphasises. So we must all go on pressing for support for a proper British Grand Prix team. Meanwhile, we await as patiently as possible the advent of the 24litre G.P. E.R.A., condoling the E.R.A. people on their sad loss of poor Murray-Jamieson. When we have a Grand Prix team in active participation abroad, the daily and society papers may condescend to take a sane interest in this motor-racing. And then, maybe, more people in this country will appreciate motor-racing. At present, so many young Englishmen toss up casually whether to take the girl-friend of the moment to the Crystal Palace or to an Air Display on Saturday afternoon, or whether to go just to the dogs or a speedway in the evening . . .
Monkhouse got to know the leading drivers pretty well during his 3,000-mile tour with the MercedesBenz team, and some of his comments on the aces are of special interest.
Rudolf Caracciola he describes as the greatest figure in Grand Prix racing to-day. ” Caratch ” is not only extremely skilful at getting off the line very quickly, but he is a very calm driver and during the last three years’ racing, including practising, he has not even bent a wheel, let alone crashed. Of his cornering, Monkhouse says he has never seen him take a corner in anything but a perfectly controlled slide, so perfect that the car does not seem to be sliding. Tazio
Nuvolari, says Monkhouse, eternal cigarette dangling from the lips, seems to have lost much of his former vitality, but Tazio has a cornering technique all his own, getting through a difficult hazard faster than anyone, with the car in anything but a straight line, yet always under control.
Hermann Lang seems to model his style on that of Caracciola, and he has the benefit of having spent several years in the Mercedes Experimental Department before attaining the racing cockpit. Manfred von Brauchitsch, out of the cockpit, is a most charming, quiet and unassuming person, but the moment he dons his red helmet and goggles, he becomes dashing, carefree and distinctly excitable.
Hans Stuck, Monkhouse feels, is getting past longdistance work, though he can still go very fast for short periods. Muller is, we are told, likely to develop into a world-beater, when he commences to drive as he used to ride a motor-cycle.
Seaman comes in for a very fair meed of welldeserved praise, for Monkhouse recalls that he put up a very fine show in the Vanderbilt Cup Race, even to making the late Berndt Rosemeyer sit up.
The author concludes by emphasising that “the effort required to keep a modern racing-car on the road during a three-hour road race is enormous, and is not only physical, but mental as well. Failure to concentrate for even a split second may mean a crash.” Having diced just recently over winding roads in the wet behind the 120 b.h.p. or so of a sports bolide, we must emphatically lift our bats to Messrs. Caracciola, Nuvolari and Co. The author mentions that a real ace may cash in anything between 0,000 and £10,000 in a successful season. These are just a few observations taken from the enthralling book “Motor Racing with Mercedes-Benz.”
Insurance is, in some ways, funny business. For instance, attempt to obtain cover for a car built before about 1928 and you will receive polite refusals from the majority of brokers, no matter what your explanation and driving record. That is, until you produce an engineer’s certificate of your car’s impeccable conditions, when, without any real idea of who has appended his signature to the document, most insurance companies will commence to play. But, if you procure an incredibly ancient Austin Seven or similar baby car, very hard used, so that the anchors are negligible, the suspension devoid of any real stability, and the steering of the order that turns through any appreciable arc before actuating the front wheels, on a car of this sort, provided it was born around 1930, you will have no difficulty in obtaining cheap third-party cover—any small motor dealer will
arrange it for you. Moreover, insurance wallahs will frequently insure comprehensively, expensive modern cars which expert drivers handle like broken glass on slippery surfaces and not at all when they can help it, whereas these same gentlemen will not hesitate to tell you that any old Bentley counts as a sports-car risk and is no longer much good to anybody, anyway. I do not doubt that a little research would reveal that the gentry in question drive cars with the most flagrant radiator grilles imaginable and specifications complying with George Monkhouse’s description of an American automobile. At all events, wouldn’t it be more logical to insist on a rigid inspection of all cars costing below a three-figure sum, taking as a decent risk all that pass and rejecting all that do not, without questioning the age of the vehicle ?
If you are possessed of several bags of gold and contemplate an active season’s participation with a sportscar in club events you will probably consult acceleration charts before buying a car for Shelsley, Lewes and Prescott, make tests at Brooklands and buy another car for J.C.C. and M.C.C. high-speed trials, etc., and probably use yet another car for most of your main road motoring and rally-driving. But if, as is more than likely, you have only one big bag of gold, you will seek a really good all-rounder amongst truly high-performance automobiles. For this purpose we have thought up a day’s test, which goes as follows. Three consecutive laps of Brooklands at over 100 m.p.h., going straight out onto the Track without opening the bonnet, after driving down via London’s West End congestion and the patchy traffic of King ston’s By-Pass. Contemplate oil and water ther mometers thereafter. Then drive over a known give-and-take route of 130 miles, endeavouring to do the journey in not more than three hours. Take the acceleration figure from to 70 m.p.h. and compare it with that of other fast cars. Drive home after dark over the same route and note how much longer the
journey takes. A car that will satisfy on all these counts will be worth a very considerable quantity of gold. The V12 Lagond a is just now enjoying a furore of praise from the critics and we imagine it would make light of this all-embracing class of test. Certainly the number of genuine road-cars that will honestly exceed 100 m.p.h. is very small indeed and those that will do three laps at this pace on Brooklands on their touring plugs have been designed by men who can justly claim to be at the head of their profession. But the V12 Lagonda is not, of course, the first 100 m.p.h. standard car which W. 0. Bentley has created.
Major Gardner’s record-breaking M.G. is nearing completion.
Parnell’s M.G. Magnette now uses coil-spring independent front suspension.
J. H. T. Smith’s M.G. has a bronze cylinder-head and a Marshall supercharger. The engine is tuned by Bellevue Garage and the car weighs 12cwt.