A matter of opinion
Some years ago we of Motor Sport set down our views on instrument panel layout and the disposition and function of minor controls, after forming certain opinions and fancies in the course of road-testing a considerable number of different cars for this paper. We were reminded of this by the paper, entitled “A Study of Dashboard Instrument Development,” which D. Bennison Browne, Chief Engineer of the A.C. Sphinx Sparking Plug Co., Ltd., of Dunstable, read before the Institution of Automobile Engineers at the Royal Society of Arts on May 5th. We quite realise that the author wrote his paper from the viewpoint of the modern motoring manufacturer, who, in turn, thinks in terms of the ordinary car user. We found the historical survey of the subject and the description of various instruments most interesting, and have no wish to criticise the the author’s findings. But, as enthusiasts see things, some of his observations are a thought startling. For instance: “The revolution indicator (more accurately an r.p.m. indicator) is almost useless except for the enthusiastic devotee and should not be incorporated in the ordinary popular car.” Or: “The oil thermometer, while interesting to the driver with an engineering turn of mind, may cause more worry than it is worth.” Again: “The ignition warning light can take the place of the ammeter. Elimination of the oil pressure gauge in favour of an oil pressure warning light may not be always received favourably by the more exacting driver, but if set to a reasonably high limit can be quite a satisfactory indication…. Such items as battery level indicators, radiator water level indicators, and other frills are much better left possibly to a few made-to-measure cars, rather than be considered for the more popular ones.” Indeed, Mr. Bennison Browne pays the enthusiast a compliment rather than the reverse, for there is no doubt that the gulf between the ordinary car owner and the enthusiast is widening, and this is nicely emphasised in dashboard equipment. The author suggests that the chronometric type of speedometer is probably one of the most accurate ever devised, and on the subject of accuracy in commercial speedometer limits he says that most manufacturers are content to have instruments supplied which have a tolerance of 5 per cent. at full scale reading, and at the accepted critical speed limit point the accepted tolerance is usually 1 to 1 1/2 m.p.h. With additional time taken on calibration still greater accuracy can be obtained.
A racing driver writes of flying
Yet another war-time flying book has reached us, and one of especial interest, as written by none other than T.H. Wisdom, the well-known racing driver and motoring journalist. It is “Wings Over Olympus,” published by George Allen and Unwin, Ltd., at 9/-. In it Wisdom tells simply and effectively the story of our Royal Air Force in action in the Middle East. As a Squadron Leader in the R.A.F.V.R., Tommy Wisdom worked and flew with the R.A.F. in France, Greece, Crete, Iraq, the Western Desert and Cyrenaica. His story of what he did, or more particularly of what he saw, is brisk and invigorating. We meet again heroes from other books which, collectively, paint the picture of our air successes since war began; books which we are so fortunate to have. Tommy found those raids on which he went dull and confesses that he could seldom spot the target – that is until enemy machines closed in, when we find the description of the ensuing few minutes until cloud cover was reached some of the most exciting lines we have come across. It is so very pleasing to find references to Tommy’s old love – motor racing. He compares the approach of zero hour before a raid with zero hour before a big race, he recalls Monte Carlo Rally scenes and his handling of the big Leyland-Thomas on the Brooklands banking with places revisited, and sensations arising from his tasks in uniform. He has a good deal to say about P/O. L.S. Delaney, young brother of the “Brooklands” Delaneys, who called his aeroplane “Bloody Mary,” after John Bolster’s famous sprint car. “The Duke,” as Delaney was known, was killed in a forced landing near the Albanian frontier, after his Blenheim had been shot up by Macchi 200 fighters. It is to him, and other such gallant young men who died in Greece, that Wisdom dedicates his book, and one is pleased that he was spared to write it. Only once does he mention his wife, whom we all remember as a very fine driver of really fast cars, and his small daughter, but his thoughts must have been with them out on the job. We have long thought of Thomas Wisdom as a “young man about town” who is a little tougher than most of his kind and always ready to try his hand and take his part in any undertaking presenting itself to him, either in his professional capacity or as a motoring enthusiast. In “Wings Over Olympus” the photographs show glimpses of a new Tommy, in uniform, looking very efficient, but his writings are of his friends’ war-time undertakings rather than of himself. A good book.
It is with bitter regret that we announce that Johnny Wakefield and N.G. Wilson have been killed in action. Wakefield drove his Alta, Maserati and E.R.A. cars remarkably well, after motor-cycle experience. His successes numbered first place in the last Albi Grand Prix with one of the latest 1 1/2-litre 16-valve Maseratis, at 93.52 m.p.h.; first place in the 1938 200-Mile Race with an E.R.A. and second place with a Maserati in the 1937 International Trophy Race. Cheery, ruddy-faced Johnny Wakefield joined the Fleet Air Arm when war came and had reached the rank of Lieut. The B.R.D.C. was represented at the funeral by Charles Brackenbury and Charles Follett.
N.G. Wilson was also a motor-cycle rider before he commenced racing an M.G. Later he bought Fairfield’s 1,100-c.c. E.R.A. and drove this car determinedly and consistently, although outclassed by 1 1/2-litre cars. He went to South Africa for the winter racing in 1937-8, was third in the 1938 International Trophy Race, and ran the E.R.A. in the Donington Grand Prix of that year.
We are very sorry, too, to hear that Flt.-Lieut. W.B. Castello, R.A.F., is reported missing – he will be remembered as the driver of the rebuilt Austin “Mrs. Jo Jo” by Brooklands habitués.