Letters from readers, July 2004



The future starts today


With regard to FIA HTP and Heritage Certificates, I believe we will look back on this period as a golden age of historic racing. With back-up from the historic racing industry most cars should be able to race for years to come — but what of the long term?

I remember when my husband Vin Malkie began racing a Chevron B19 in 1978; the HSCC started a series for historic cars at least seven years old, which led to races such as Gp4. It may be hard for us oldies to comprehend it, but all those Caterhams and Radicals will also become historic. Will the cars we run now be viable for this younger generation who never saw them race in their heyday, think they are too expensive to maintain and repair when crashed, and don’t love them the way we do now?

This is relevant because we have to look way ahead. It’s vital to have the technical document (even though it’s not perfect) as this will probably be the only point of reference for many in the years to come and we must try to stop too much ‘creepage’. Even so, with safety in mind, unavailable parts have to be replaced and better materials used.

What about the Heritage Certificate? The FIA papers we have at the moment became prostituted to the value of the car and the fact you couldn’t race without them. With a more open system, the market will decide which cars have a good history and which are known to be remakes. I don’t like the FIA’s monopoly, but I also know that if we don’t have something most of us won’t bother to try to keep full and good records, and buyers will become satisfied by verbal statements rather than facts.

Perhaps a Heritage Certificate should be the norm for any car from day one of its racing life.

I believe there is room for technically correct new cars, with a good tagging system from the moment of inception. Perhaps new cars should only be produced by the original manufacturer on the original jigs with a new continuation chassis number.

We must debate all areas thoroughly. Nobody wants to end up in litigation; a more open system has to be better. But if I were lucky enough to own a Bugatti would I bother to bring it out if somebody could race a new model which looks exactly the same but costs a lot less? Probably not.

Helen Bashford-Malkie, Cheshire


Jenks saw it coming


Your June editorial and the subsequent news story opens a major can of worms. Some years ago Jenks wrote a piece about an overheard conversation in the pub (fictitious) that, in essence, was the story of a man building an original Bugatti from the cast-off bits of a car being rebuilt for racing. The man in the pub was finishing up with more of an original 1920s car than the `racer’.

Were current historic racers to be totally honest, many of their cars would be described (at most) as having only an original chassis plate, history and, maybe, chassis.

Any car that has raced continuously for 60 or 70 years has had virtually every major component changed, either because of damage, in search of higher performance or safety — who is going to race on cracked or suspect suspension components?

Ask one of the historic front-runners how much of their car is original as manufactured and fitted to the car when it left the factory. Ask him also if he has kilos of the original bits stored somewhere. Monocoque ? Suspension? Block? Pistons Rods? Rims? Brake discs? I could go on.

This is not an attack on any individual. I just hope someone might give you an honest answer to an unanswerable question: when is a car original and when not? When it has the original chassis? Or 20 per cent by weight? Or 50 per cent by ‘importance’?

Let the discussion roll! But keep thrilling us with historic cars — or perfect replicas — being used as they were intended.

Stephen Goss OBE, Delray Beach, Florida