Letters from Readers
N.B. –Opinions expressed are those of our Correspondents and MOTOR SPORT does not necessarily associate itself with them. -ED
Many thanks for the piece published in the June issue of MOTOR SPORT, reviewing the QED BBC-1 programme that dealt with our 1981 World Land Speed Record Attempt.
Howeve,. there is a serious error of fact contained in the report to which I would like to draw your attention. In one paragraph you state “The crew were seen congratulating Noble on having exceeded Donald Campbell’s speed with a wheel driven car, but Project Thrust’s 420 m.p.h. with what its driver thought was 480 m.p.h. at one point, was done only in one direction, so is no kind of official record.”
On October 10th, the day in question, we made two runs in opposite directions through the course. The return run was made within the regulation 60 minutes — and both runs were timed officially by the USAC, sanctioning body for the event. The point was made in the commentary I did for the film that the speed of 418.118 m.p.h. was the average of both runs timed over the kilo.
The actual times and speeds were: 1, 5.696 secs. —.392.720 m.p. h.; 2, 5.004 secs. — 447.029 m.p.h. ; Average — 5.350 secs. —418.118mph.
Whilst recognising that this speed leaves us far short of our World Land Speed Record Objective of 650 m.p.h., this was the crucial turning point for the Project Thrust Team. Technically, we had at this point overcome the problems that had beset our attempt (Stability / Track / Parachutes etc.) — and proved that at high speed with full reheat the car is fast and stable enough to achieve our ultimate goal. We were confident at that point that with only a few more runs at progressively higher speeds, we could establish a new 650 m.p.h.
Donald Campbell’s Record of 403.1 m.p.h was an important psychological target for our team — and exceeding it was a great boost for morale — for it proved that we had built the fastest ever British car designed to run under LSR rules.
Twickenham, Middlesex RICHARD NOBLE
[I apologise to Richard Noble, that brave and tenacious man, for doing him out of one run over the timed kilometre at Utah last year. But that double run at an average of 418.029 m.p.h. was no sort of record. It did not break the speed at which Summers and Goldenrod hold the wheel-driven “LSR” at 409.277 m.p.h. over the mile, because Thrust 2 is not a wheel-driven projectile. There is no need to use the Utah speed as proof that Noble is the fastest British driver and Thrust 2 the fastest British car, as this combination holds the British “LSR”, at 259.74 m.p.h., set up over the Greenham Common ¼-mile. Nor can Noble claim the British f.s. kilometre record, because, to break this, the runs must be made on British soil and Britain has not yet taken over the United States. (Curiously, such a record could be taken by a non-national, say a Japanese driver in an American car, providing the course is on British soil.) When he did 403.1 m.p.h. at Utah the late Donald Campbell in “Bluebird” set a new “LSR” for wheel-driven cars. As Thrust 2 is a thrust-propelled vehicle using its wheels only for support, there is only one absolute record up to one mile that it can try to better, away from its country of origin, i.e. Gary Gabelich’s 630.388 m.p.h. in “The Blue Flame’, unless it could manage on three wheels and beat Breedlove’s 526.28 m.p.h.. in “The Spirit of America”! Incidentally, although there has been a tendencey in America to time the “LSR” over the two-way mile, Gabelich made his faster run over the kilometre, so the World’s f.s. mile is there to aim at, standing to this same driver and car, at 622.407 m.p.h. I hope this time Richard, who has unofficially gone quicker than Donald, succeeds and I wish him the best of British luck. — Ed.]
I found Mr. B. Simpson’s letter in the June edition of MOTOR SPORT extremely interesting as he marked two significant points, one intentionally the other not.
Firstly, we have seen in recent years that a competitive F3 driver can do a fair job in a Grand Prix car, e.g. Piquet, Boesel, Palmer. Mr. Simpson shows, through Charles Lucas, that a F3 driver might also have the flair to drive an historic GP car at competitive speeds.
Secondly, with such high speeds attained by modern single seaters and drivers having to contend with lateral forces of 3g through 150 m.p.h. corners, some might feel that the drivers of 30 or 20 years ago had a comparatively easy time. Especially when historic cars are frequently to be seen driven quickly by enthusiastic amateurs.
I do not believe this to be the case. Times time of 1 min. 44.2 sec., would have put Lucas on row 2 or 3 of the grid for the ’56 British GP, but Moss was on pole in a 250F with a time of 1 min. 41 sec.
My conclusion is that a star performer in a lesser formula will often be able to drive a GP car well, but that vital difference between a good time and an “ace” time has always been there and I hope always will.
As an aside, though driver ability probably hasn’t changed much with regard to out and out speed, surely today’s drivers’ are more careless than there of 20-years-ago? Look at the number of retirements at Long Beach and Monaco caused by accidents.
Horsham, Sussex. ALASTAIR B. CONNERS
I believe I saw the car pictured on page 722 of the last issue when it was being built in a garage in Boscombe, Bournemouth in the spring of 1939. At that time the owner of the garage (near Boscombe Arcade), whose name I cannot recall, fitted a Centric blower to my L-Type MG Magna and it was during visits to view progress on this that I saw the car.
It certainly had a supercharged Riley engine, but I don’t know if it was used before the war; if it was, it could only have been during the summer of 1939. I also recall that R.A. Waddy’s “Fuzzi” – the twin-engined device which he used to drive – was also at this garage. Was the supercharged car being built for Waddy to drive?
Bath, Avon. J.R. DAVENPORT
[Another reader has pointed out that the car in question was advertised by Onslow Bartlett in MOTOR SPORT for January 1947, when he was asking the then large sum of £1,000 for the car. The car was described as follows:
RILEY 1,100-c.c. single-seater, Zoller supercharged engine. Approx 150 b.h.p., road speed about 130 m.p.h. Weight approx.. 6 ½-cwt. Fully independently sprung all around. Porsche front axle, read swinging half-axles. Torsion bar controlled. Huge ribbed 16-in. alloy brakes. Lockheed leading shoe. Body alloy streamline copy of Mercedes-Benz, including spare engine, gearbox, brakes, etc.
Details of any subsequent history would be welcome. –Ed.]
Economy from a Rialto
I was greatly amused by your piece on the 750 Club’s Austin Seven Anniversary Run from John O’Groats to Land’s End (MOTOR SPORT, May 1982).
Because of its association with the Club (and with the Austin Seven for that matter) Reliants were invited to participate, which we did by sending along a 2-door Rialto three-wheeler crewed by John Bridgen (IPC staff man, motor noter, and enthusiastic 750 Club Member) and the writer. A further object of the exercise, apart from being there, was as a practise run to find out how the new three-wheeeler Rialto would behave if Reliant decided to try an observed run over this particularly well-known route. In the event we completed the near 900-mile course averaging 54.14 m.p.h. and 60.11 m.p.g.
Since I weigh 16 stone and we had baggage for three days and nights, two spare wheels, extra fuel and tools with us, we didn’t try too hard for exceptional m.p.g. figures, it was a promising result. But we were more fortunate than yourself because we did see Baby Austins at the start and finish and at numerous points along the route, motoring as well today as ever. Other than that the run was remarkable only for the fact that it was entirely devoid of adventures. Next time we will take a CB radio and tune into the chat between club members!
Tamworth, Staffs. MIKE BENNETT. Marketing Director, Reliant Motor PLC.
Mr. Green infers that he was quoted £12,900 for Continental delivery of a RHD 911SC. Given the minor effect of day-to-day £/DM fluctuations, this is (a) quite correct for the tax free price of this model in any country; and (b) more in line with the UK pre-tax price of £13,430 where Panasonic stereo system, free delivery, and free servicing for the first 6,000 miles are included in the standard specification.
Some simple mathematics, in conjunction with the now current exchange rate, will reveal that RHD 911SC to UK specification, purchased in Germany, will now be marginally more expensive once the car is imported into the UK and UK taxes are paid, and be without the above benefits.
As regards RHD availability, the current Porsche Factory policy is that, while they are unable to fulfil the outstanding orders for RHD UK specification cars, they consider it unfair to accept additional RHD orders from LHD markets at the expense of those UK customers who are awaiting delivery.
Finally, I can only regret that Mr. Green did not contact our Customer Liaison Department, who also handle tax free sales, and are more than adequately briefed to advise potential customers of the facts regarding world-wide Porsche pricing. Our belief is that facts are always the best basis upon which to make judgements.
Reading, Berks. P.T BULBECK, Porsche Cars GB Ltd.
Two Horrible Hondas
On November 7th 1976 I purchased a Honda “1500” Civic, the 1,376 miles Demonstration Car of Stonedene Garages Ltd., Forest Row, Sussex, at that time the nearest Main Agent. On November 30th 1976 I purchased from Stonedene a second Honda Civic, a “1300”.
Both cars have rusted abominably from the inside and it is evident that their condition was “terminal” from the word go. Both have always been garaged and have received their scheduled services. The larger car is now so bad that it is virtually unsaleable. I can knock holes in any of a number of places using only a pencil. Both front wings in particular appear to have in mind falling off as soon as possible. The condition of the bottom of the doors is a revelation.
I have complained to Stonedene; but net the impression that they “do not want to know”. When I first did so in December 1980 they told me that I should have complained sooner. My recent letter to Honda (UK) Ltd., enclosing photographs, has merely elicited a reply suggesting that the vehicles have been allowed to deteriorate. It is difficult to see how I could be accused of this, unless they expected me to go looking for rust inside the doors and in other sealed compartments before any reached the outside surfaces. Honda are now calling in both cars to underseal them!
Sevenoaks, Kent CHARLES ALLIX
Re the letter in your June edition from Brian Mucci on the MG “Metro”.
Its all been done before Brian! Many people, including myself, held out hands in horror at the insult to the old “Magnette” when they stuck an MG badge on a Wolsley 15/50. Now these cars are fully accepted in MG circles and club. There were some beautifully preserved tm restored examples at Silverstone recently.
BMC did the same thing some few years later with the Austin 1100 / 1300 range, one of which was actually racing.
On the subject of the “Metro”. BL ought to do what VW have done successfully with the “Golf ‘ — market a drophead. Plenty of those have been seen during the recent fine weather.
Stanmore, Middx. D. R. MILLS
I am trying to locate Bill James who rode with AFP Fane in a BMW in the 1938 Mille Miglia. I wonder if any of your readers know his current whereabouts, or could put him in touch with me. Mr. James worked for A.F.N. before the last war, joined Aston Martin’s just before war broke out and was a racing team mechanic with them them after the war. From Aston’s he moved to the Cooper works team and then emigrated to Canada. I believe that he is now living in New Zealand, but the source of this information is a few years old. I would be most grateful if anyone could help me to find him as I am sure he has a most interesting tale to tell.
Lingfield, Surrey JULIAN HUNT [Letters will be forwarded—Ed]
With reference to Mr. Bob New’s letter “Air-cooled 1958 ERA?”; it may be purely coincidental, but at the same time, the company I was working for, Alumasc Ltd., started on the design for low pressure die casting tooling for the crankcase of a Flat-6 air cooled engine, though the material was aluminium alloy.
There was no secret over our customer, it was General Motors, and the engine was for the ill-fated Chevrolet Corvair.
Reading, Berks D. E. GRAINGER
Reply to the VSCC
Due to tight production schedules I was unable to footnote the letter from Peter Hull, the VSCC Secretary, published last month, in which he defends Donald Day from the inference, read into my commment “Cynics among the onlookers suggested that only sponsorship (in this case by Haggar for a race at the VSCC April Silverstone Meeting) makes racing that close”, that this ERA driver was deliberately driving more slowly in a later race, the implication I made, as Peter sees it, being that there was then less prize-money at stake. It was never my view that the great sportsman Donald Day was driving any differently that afternoon in one race from another.
If anything, it could be that the Hon. Patrick Lindsay, having the faster car, played a bit with Day in the Haggar race, to provide between the two ERAs a more speculative result. As Peter says, sponsorship money from Haggar is used “for the furtherance of vintage racing for the benefit of everybody”, so it might well be seen as the decent thing to give the sponsors a bit of a show? However, I would never have thought of this on my own! It came from some of the spectators in the public-enclosure, passed on to me by D.S.J., and it is a reporter’s duty to report. Personally, I am sure that Donald Day was trying as hard as he always does in that later unsponsored race. The fact remains that Lindsay was able to lap a second quicker in the Haggar race, winning by 0.9 sec., and 4.1 sec. quicker than Day in the later race, In which Donald appeared to be driving as hard as ever and his car to be still as fast as before.
Had I known the VSCC’s views about cups and tankards being fur the competitors with any cash offerings preferably going to the Club, I might have made different arrangements when I directed the MOTOR SPORT Brooklands Memorial Trophy in the VSCC’s direction. It must be embarrassing for Peter to see both the Trophy (and replica cups, if they are lucky) and the cheques being presented to mere drivers at the end of each VSCC racing season, especially as the Club generously pays for the “bubbly” drunk from the Trophy . . . !
As I am writing a letter to myself, may I say that I am glad A. F. Rivers-Fletcher has defended his memory of drivers taking passengers with them in some pre-war speed events. I remember the same thing, although, as Rivers remarks, it seems surprising that anyone should have wanted the additional weight and wind-drag in a sprint contest. However, I recall Sydney Allard, when he had a good chance of breaking the sports-car course record at the last BOC Prescott hill-climb to be held before the war, saying as he waited near the start-line that he wanted more weight on the near-side of the Allard, perhaps thinking of Pardon hairpin. His wife showing little inclination to ride beside him on this occasion, he asked me to go. I was delighted, and the objective was duly achieved. The next day, at Horndean hill-climb, Allard again wanted more weight in the car, to reduce initial wheelspin. Tom Lush proved too heavy in the first run, and I was asked to take his place for the second attempt, when f.t.d. was achieved. The Allard slid into a bush after crossing the finish-line and overturned after hitting an obstruction, but we were both catapulted out unharmed. Even then, however, passengers were apparently an unusual adjunct to a sprint car, because as I got up intending to hasten over and commiserate with Sydney, I received a rebuff from the First-Aid crew, who told me in no uncertain terms to go away and give the driver a chance, as an accident had just happened! Later, for safety reasons, passengers were discouraged, as Rivers says. Thus it was a bit ironical to see them allowed again, often without crash-hats, in the cars that were making timed-ascents of Prescott in the RAC’s new “Golden-50” Rally, which however further highlighted the happy informality of this occasion.
Finally, I would like to remark on a further piece of ingenuity relating to how the Mercedes-Benz 500SEC offers its seat-belts to its front-seat occupants, as described by A.H. last month. Not only does it withdraw the belts if these are not accepted, as Alan explained, which takes some 30 sec., but should the “arm” have extended and a door be unexpectedly opened, that “arm” is immediately withdrawn. Veritably, this Mercedes-Benz is a paragon among coupés. . . .
London EC2 W. BODDY Editor, MOTOR SPORT