Rumblings, June 1949
Down Watford Way
Visiting the Monaco workshops at Watford again recently, we were able to get further details of the three Le Mans H.R.G. cars which by now will no doubt be finally completed and ready for the race. The dry weight of these cars, according to the dreaded gasworks weighbridge opposite, is 12 cwt. and 21 lb., so that with driver aboard and a full tank of fuel they should go to the starting line at about 14 1/2 cwt.
This very desirable lack of weight has been achieved by an almost complete elimination of body framework. The body, which is very easily removable, is in two halves, each of which is supported from four flexible mountings on the chassis by means of two fabricated light-alloy “ribs.” A framework of 1/2-in. section square steel tubing supports the steering column and instrument panel, and the spare wheel is carried horizontally inside the tail with a light-alloy mounting on the rear chassis cross-tube.
With the body off, we noted that a 17-gallon light-alloy fuel tank is carried in a rubber-lined, flexibly mounted cradle above and in front of the rear axle. Twin fuel lines run, in the undershield, to a main/reserve changeover control on the driver’s-side floor (near the main brake adjusting control) and thence, via a large aero-type filter, to twin S.U. pumps on the chassis beside the steering box. The normal S.U. semi-downdraught carburetters are retained. The battery is sunk into the floor beneath the passenger’s seat, and there is a compartment of similar size beneath the driver’s seat for tools and spare parts. The Pye R/T set is carried just in front of the passenger’s seat, on the floor, where is does not inconvenience the passenger at all as his legs pass above it, and we were interested to note that the 1949 set is less than half the size, weight and electrical load of last year’s edition — surely a clear-cut example of progress resulting directly from participation in motor racing!
In the engine department a Lucas vertical magneto feeds Champion plugs, and a large Tecalemit filter-cooler looks after the lubricating oil. There is also a 3-gallon reserve oil tank on the bulkhead, and separate fuses for every electrical circuit as well as light-alloy holders for spare bulbs and sparking plugs. We were just examining and tracing the run of some most interesting external pipework from the water-pump, when a mechanic asked us to stand aside for him to put the body on. This operation, we must say, was even more interesting, as he performed it single-handed in about five minutes and we were then able to try the driving position.
With a road speed exceeding 23 m.p.h. per thousand r.p.m., these cars are an unusual mixture of large car and small car in the impression they create. The body construction is certainly courageous in the extreme and reflects great credit on all at Monaco who designed and executed it. How well it, and the cars, will stand up to two 24-hour races in quick succession remains to be seen. But we did hear a rumour that one of the cars had been rolled over, on test, and whilst this is hardly the way in which the constructors would wish to test their handiwork, the resulting damage was apparently very slight. The drivers of these cars at Le Mans will be Peter Clark with Mortimer Morris-Goodall; Jack Scott with Neville Gee; and Eric Thompson with John Fairman: if still in one piece they will carry on for the further 24-hours at Spa, using the same personnel except that Neville Gee’s place in No. 2 car will be taken by a Belgian driver, André Pilette. No. 1 car is a Rudge-Whitworth Cup finalist at Le Mans.
Some other interesting cars were encountered at Monaco, Ltd. The Healey which Onslow Bartlett is to drive at Le Mans was receiving routine attention and we came upon that excellent “K3” M.G. single-seater which Folland raced last year and which C. J. R. Willment has recently acquired. Monaco will service it for him.
It should not be thought, however, that Monaco specialises only in racing or ultra high-performance cars. Normal repair facilities are available, indeed, a special system of periodical servicing is in operation, carried out by skilled operatives. The building of modern-style bodywork is another Monaco speciality, either from the drawing-board onwards or to client’s own requirements. The body shells of the aforementioned Le Mans H.R.G.s are excellent examples of this work, each weighing a mere 50 lb., in spite of their rather complicated form. A very neat body has also been completed for R. O. Ayrton’s Monaco-Bugatti-Special, this being a road-equipped two-seater with E.N.V. gearbox and a cowling over the traditional Bugatti radiator. The latest Heenan and Froude equipment is available for bench-testing customer’s engines and a recent departure is a sales section specialising in high-grade used cars. At the time of our visit John Wyer and Dudley Folland had for disposal such delectable motor cars as two Type 55 “2.3” twin-cam Bugattis, one with an E.N.V. self-change gearbox, the ex-Darbishire Type 51 and a V12 Lagonda, apart from other excellent, if somewhat less rapid, vehicles. In the servicing department we came upon a Type 37 Bugatti, Holt’s special-bodied, semi-aerodynamic H.R.G. two-seater, two “30/98” Vauxhalls, an imposing Delage and a truly magnificent “blower 4 1/2” Bentley, with the last body — an elegant two-seater with rear tank — made by Van den Plas before they turned to non-custom construction. Owned by Victor Doland, this Bentley bears a plate on its blower cowl inscribed with a highly appropriate quotation from Byron. It was fitted some time ago by Monaco with a pre-selector gearbox having an inconspicuous r.h. control quadrant. This car, too, is for sale. Then in for routine servicing there were Rivers Fletcher’s M.G. Magnette, Folland’s evergreen 2-litre Aston-Martin which is to run at Le Mans, and James’ V12 4-litre Sunbeam, which at one time was to be converted to four-wheel drive but is now to be rebuilt almost to the specification of the Campbell era — we marvelled at the size of the self-change gearbox. They are certainly versatile at Watford Incidentally, methanol fuel is obtainable from Monaco, which will answer a query frequently met in the Motor Sport offices.
Naturally, while we were in Dudley Folland’s company the conversation turned to the 2-litre V12 non-supercharged Formula II Ferrari which won a race on its first appearance in this country at Goodwood on Easter Monday. Last month we inadvertently published a picture of Heath’s beautifully-proportioned and potent H.W. Alta, another Formula II car, and labelled it Folland’s Ferrari. A picture of the latter car is published in this issue by way of correction.
This Ferrari is a “works” car and it reflects great credit on Folland’s reputation as a driver and Monaco’s servicing facilities that it has been allowed to leave its native shores. It was brought from Italy in a van, accompanied by the Ferrari mechanic Boschi, but full sports equipment came with it and Folland hopes to drive it in the Daily Express Sports Car Race at Silverstone in August. It is, by the way, a catalogue sports model.
Very little preparation was required before the Goodwood meeting, beyond synchronising the accelerator pumps of the three dual Weber downdraught carburetters, tidying up the wiring, fitting British-made hose clips and repainting the car. The engine is, of course, a V12, with its cylinder blocks at 60 degrees, a single o.h. camshaft over each block actuating the valves, and the crankshaft running in seven plain bearings. It is believed to develop about 140 b.h.p. The compression-ratio is unknown but is in the region of 11 to 1 and normally a methanol/benzole/petrol mixture is used, although it is anticipated that petrol/benzole will be satisfactory if called for in sports car races. The carburetters draw air from a duct which protrudes from the front of the bonnet to provide a slight ram effect and to deliver cool air. The engine runs safely up to 7,000 r.p.m., but at Goodwood the car was over-geared and Ferrari Facts Folland did not have to use the highest ratio of the five-speed gearbox. The gear-change requires a light touch, being spring-loaded, and the car actually took two corners at Goodwood in neutral, as its driver was still unaccustomed to the luxury of so many forward speeds — nevertheless, a run-away win was secured
The tubular chassis naturally has i.f.s., but in place of the swing-axle independent rear suspension of the Grand Prix Ferraris, the 2-litre has a normal rear axle sprung on out-rigged, underslung 1/2-elliptic springs. The wheelbase is 7 ft. 10 in., and the weight comes out at a mere 11 1/2 cwt. The front wheels are shod with 5.50 by 15 covers, the rear wheels with 6.00 by 15, and when practising for Goodwood Folland discovered that the car bounced incurably on the older-type racing Dunlops, so that he was obliged to substitute Pirellis. If Dunlops can provide their latest diamond-tread racing tyres in 15-in, size, he will try them for the Manx Cup Race.
Two fuel tanks are available, that for sports car racing being specially shaped to accommodate the spare wheel. Fuel consumption appears to be in the region of 12-16 m.p.g. The engine has proved perfectly reliable and was not dismantled between the Goodwood and I.O.M. races. Indeed, on the Sunday following the Silverstone Grand Prix, Folland covered some 100 miles in the 2-litre at another venue by way of practice for the Manx event. The car handles well and is a beautiful-looking machine. Three axle ratios are available, 8/43, 9/44 and 9/40. At Goodwood the 4.9-to-1 axle was used, but the 5.4-to-1 ratio was to be experimented with for the I.O.M. race. Extra carburetter jets arrived by air from Italy in ample time. Watson is to race a 2-litre Ferrari this year.
It is interesting that the 1 1/2-litre supercharged Grand Prix Ferrari is a very different proposition, with its 7 ft. 1 in. wheelbase and weight of 10 1/2 cwt. Not only have the two that have come to this country proved extremely unstable, having, as Raymond Mays has said, no margin of safety, but in the matter of performance they do not seem to be a match for the B-type E.R.A.s and it is probable that their power output is some 50 b.h.p. below the figure they were expected to produce. This is of only passing interest to Dudley Folland, who shared Peter Whitehead’s Scuderia Ferrari car in the British Grand Prix, but it was an opinion freely expressed by the knowledgeable before that race had concluded. The engine of the Grand Prix car is supercharged with a single Roots blower, but at what pressure no one seems to know, as no blower gauge is fitted. Perhaps two-staging is the answer and, if so, Ferraris have already foreseen it, while the roadholding problem might, perhaps, be met by reverting to the 2-litre type chassis.
Incidentally, a rumour seems to have got about that the “Thinwall ” car, which G. A. Vandervell entered and which Mays drove in the British Grand Prix, had been converted from roller to plain bearings so as to act as a test bed for Vandervell thinwall bearing-shells. Actually, both the Grand Prix Ferraris in this country and also Folland’s 2-litre are plainbearing cars and all of them, apparently, use Vandervell bearings.
The Ferrari is a most intriguing car and it is to be hoped that the Grand Prix version will in due course be endowed with more power when its roadholding justifies it and that Folland’s 2-litre car will continue to win honours in sports car and in Formula II races.