Letters from Readers, July 1970

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In praise of the Scimitar

Sir,

I’ve had an awful lot of cars,

From ’46 To ’70,

Astons, Porsches and the rest,

It must be over twenty.

But now I’ve got a beauty,

Not as dear as some,

But a very nice design,

I think second to none.

It isn’t another Jaguar,

Nor anything like that,

It isn’t quite a fast back,

But the back isn’t flat.

Well it’s made of fibre-glass,

And certainly isn’t shoddy,

It’s a POOR MAN’S BREAD VAN,

According to Mr. Boddy.

Northowram, Halifax

John H. Farrar

* * *

Bruce McLaren

Sir,

I feel I must put pen to paper, I have just heard of the death Bruce McLaren. To say that I am sorry and to offer my condolences to family and friends would not be enough. I feel I must express gratitude for everything Bruce and his team did for me.

To me Bruce was motor racing, he was everything that was good and great in motor racing. For seven years I have followed every every race, and every project Bruce ever entered into. I bought magazines because Bruce was in them, and watched races for the same reason.

In 1964 I began to write to the firm and Bruce and his colleagues were good enough to write back and send me pictures, etc.

After a few letters they were good enough to invite me down the works.

It was there that I met Bruce, who was good enough to take time out from his Formula One project to talk to me and to express what that meant to a boy of fourteen is hard, but to say I have never forgotten is enough; it is a treasured memory and one I don’t think I ever want to forget.

Bruce McLaren was and still is an idol to me, and to thousands like me.

Motor racing has lost one of its greatest ambassadors, and to me the sport will never be quite the same.

Thank you Bruce for everything.

Penhill, Swindon

Paul Burch

* * *

Ghostly Sacrilege

Sir,

What a terrible fate being editor of a motoring magazine. For it is well known that all motorists are one-eyed. And who of that one-eyed crowd more purblind than the driver of a vintage Rolls-Royce? So for you to enter the lists against this powerful bigoted clique shows commendable but at the same time somewhat incomprehensible disregard of personal safety and reputation. Or are you deliberately inciting irate replies to swell the correspondence columns? Regardless of reason, sir, I accept your challenge – after all my subscription helps keep you in typewriter ribbon. But as it takes a long time for Motor Sport to find its way to these parts, I fear this will probably come too late and you will already have succumbed to the onslaught from local correspondents. In that case without pity I take up the matter with your heirs and assigns.

I refer to the article “A Day With a Silver Ghost”, your review of the Triplex replica 1924 Ghost. Having myself spent not one, but some 4,000 days with a 1924 Ghost I feel I can speak with a modicum of knowledge (albeit acquired and conveyed in a one-eyed fashion). And I fear these Triplex chaps should stick to their safety-glass. For surely they must have left something vital out of the engine. Or otherwise how could anyone get the impression that a touring 24 Ghost could be “sluggish” or, even worse, “pedestrian”? There is nothing leisurely about its gait – driven with the proper elan, panache, and haughty disregard it can show quite the nicest pair of gaitered and fully-cantilevered heels to the vast majority of lesser vehicles.

And as for the R-R governor being nothing more than “an outside hand-throttle” – this is heresy! It is one of the Ghost’s most charming accessories and far more than a simple hand-throttle. In the quietest possible aside I say “the Triplex apprentices have mucked it up”. For the hand-governor in a 1924 Ghost is an endearing link with an earlier age – of Stevenson, Trevethyck and of Brunel; a steam-age relic in the internal combustion era. In simple terms it will maintain the engine at pre-set revolutions. So when the gentle fore and aft pitching of the car – a characteristic once described as being somewhat reminiscent of the Mauretania bucking a slight head-sea – rocks the driver off to sleep, there is no cause for alarm as the governor will open the throttle wide when hills have to be ascended, and close it again when the peak is reached; and of course the Spirit of Ecstacy meanwhile will do her bit by keeping the car steadily on the left of the road (but how she manages to cope with American traffic is one of those Holy Mysteries).

And as for those tricks with gear-changing on the governor, I assure you they can be done. Except, of course, you must realise you are dealing with a very superior sort of car to whom any sort of vulgar display is anathema. So obviously any driver who sets out with a fine flourish of braggadocio is very smartly put in his place by the car’s complete refusal to engage gear. If he persists in his folly a very deep-throated grating (never “clashing”) will act as a deterrent to further boastful display. And this of course is what happened to the unfortunate Willie in his showing-off to you. And it can only be classified as unfortunate that he so upset the car that even your no doubt respectful attempts to engage gear met with no success, and led you to your unfortunate conclusions about the gearbox. It’s not difficult: it’s just intolerant.

And Triplex aren’t off the hook yet, for I must have a word about that photograph of the really immaculate engine compartment. The modern coil? Yes, under the circumstances acceptable. But the Bosch horn? This, I fear, is an attempt to simulate original equipment – which it ain’t. A 30’s Bentley fine, but not a ’24 Ghost. But if you look half right from this horn you will see on the fire-wall a slightly off-centre aluminium casting with protruding from it three studs – studs which mate exactly with the holes in the left side of the backing plate of a klaxon horn, which I am sure a well-known advertiser in your pages would be only too happy to provide.

And so, Mr. Editor (if you’re still around), do recant before it’s too late, and do please pass on to Triplex their several sins. I would hope by now someone from the Twenty Ghost Club has bundled you off, however protesting, and taken you for a trip in proper Ghosting fashion. And so I, and no doubt many others, will all look forward to reading in due course your no doubt enraptured report and public recitation of previous error.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Bill Fleming

* * *

World Cup Rally

Sir,

Having followed the recent World Cup Rally with great interest I am compelled to put pen to paper and write in protest about the many modifications which are apparently necessary to the various makes of car entered in these rally events to render them strong enough and roadworthy enough to be successful.

Whilst I do not begrudge the drivers being supplied with adequate safeguards such as roll-cages, screenwashers, extra lights and plenty of good tyres, I feel that what it comes to is the stage of having to fit special engines, transmissions, suspensions, brakes, etc., right down to more comfortable seats, then I think that it does not speak very highly of the standard production car. From what I can gather from the various motoring journals about, say, the Ford Escorts in the World Cup Rally the only standard parts on the cars were probably the door handles. and I have my doubts about even those. Furthermore, it would seem that even with all their modifications and strengthening Messrs. Ford can’t have been very optimistic as they had to ship lorryloads of back axles and goodness knows what out to South America to rebuild the cars with as they dropped to bits.

Why can we not have rallies where the cars must be in virtually standard trim and where repairs are restricted to the fitting of such spare parts as can be carried in the car? The car manufacturers might then begin to prove something and the general public would then be able to identify a little more with the cars in these events, which I personally feel would result in greater interest and enthusiasm from the public.

Carlisle, Cumberland

D. I. Osbourne

[On proper international rallies in the FIA calendar cars have to conform to specifications laid down in Appendix J of the International Sporting Code. True that certain modifications are permitted, and these are implemented by manufacturers’ teams in order (a) to give them a better chance of winning and (b) to assist in development work, the benefits eventually being passed on to the customer. But in the World Cup Rally (and in the London-Sydney Marathon before it) entrants were virtually given carte blanche to modify their cars as they wished. In this case, one can hardly plead development as a raison d’etre – Escorts will certainly not come off production lines with strengthening bars emerging from their wings and disappearing beneath their roofs. But there are plenty of rallies which cater for Group 1 cars, which are as near basic as the bounds of safety and survival will permit. There is the point, however, that a competition once started really has to keep going until its proper finishing time. If the participants in the World Cup Rally used cars straight out of showrooms it is very safe indeed to assume that there would have been no parade of finishers at all in Mexico City.—G. P.]

* * *

Sponsorship

Sir,

I hope that no potential sponsor will be put off by D.S.J.’s remarks in the June issue.

The motoring journals have expressed much concern recently at the increased cost of Formula One racing, and I would think that, as enthusiasts, we should welcome any sponsor who enables such private entrants as Rob Walker to keep a competitive car in Grand Prix racing. As for “the roots of sponsorship going deep into the sport”, the days of “The right crowd and no crowding” are long gone. Are we to refuse sponsorship from a firm unless the chairman of the Board raced at Brooklands?

I was amused to read of Denis’s concern that sponsors are being “conned”, but I assure him that firms the size of Brooke Bond Oxo, with their experience of marketing, know all about advertising and give money away only when they are reasonably sure of a return. Remember that the Brooke Bond Oxo Walker Lotus will be hearing the firm’s name at Grand Prix races all over Europe and in Canada and the United States.

So how do these firms benefit from their investment? As an enthusiast, I changed to Gold Leaf cigarettes as soon as I learned that they were sponsoring, Lotus! – and I can thoroughly recommend PG Tips!

Pontypridd, Wales

G. F. Turnbull