Rumblings, June 1950

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I.O.M. In addition to many valuable trophies, prize money of over £600 will be awarded in the British Racing Drivers’ Club British Empire Trophy Race, to be held in the Isle of Man on June 15th. This race is open to cars complying with the current International Formula governing Grand Prix racing throughout the world, i.e., supercharged cars up to 1 1/2 litres and unsupercharged cars up to 4 1/2 litres. The event will be run over a distance of 140 miles, 36 laps of the 3.88 miles circuit near Douglas. A shorter race, of 18 laps of the same circuit, will be run for supercharged cars up to 1,100 c.c. and unblown 2 1/2 litres for the coveted Manx Cup and many hundreds of pounds prize money. The continuing and rapid growth in popularity of motor racing has decided the Isle of Man authorities to run the British Empire Trophy and Manx Cup Races on June 15th this year, some three weeks later than in previous years, so that the vast crowd of holidaymakers who flock to the island for the summer season will have the opportunity of witnessing these two races.

All racing drivers acknowledge the debt they owe to their mechanics and now the B.R.D.C. has decided that the men behind the scenes will be rewarded for their efforts. In the regulations for their Isle of Man races, provision is made for cash awards to the chief mechanics of the cars finishing first and second in both races.

•  •  •

European Challenge Not only are British sports-car manufacturers likely to have to meet competition from the American Kurtis and Crosley, but makers of our utility cars must not overlook the bid for world markets F.I.A.T. is making with the new ” 1,400.” With a four-cylinder 1,395-c.c. push-rod engine of 82 by 66 mm., pulling a top-gear ratio of 4.44 to 1, the car must be virtually ” unburstable,’ for at its peak engine speed of 4,400 r.p.m., when 44.5 b.h.p. is developed, the piston speed is a mere 1,920 ft. per min., yet the F.I.A.T. is proceeding at a cool 70 m.p.h. As a matter of fact, it would have to reach 91 m.p.h. before the critical 2,500 ft. per min. piston velocity was reached.

Add to this seats well within the wheelbase of the essentially modern-looking saloon body, steering column gear-change, coil-spring suspension (independent at the front) and a four-speed synchromesh gearbox and the F.I.A.T. is seen to be a formidable competitor. Technical features of interest are the replaceable wet cylinder liners and light alloy head with replaceable valve seats. The “1,400” weighs under 23 cwt., does some 30 m.p.g., has a maximum speed of nearly 77 m.p.h., and reaches 50 m.p.h. from a standstill in 18.5 sec.

What is so interesting from our point of view is that concurrently with the announcement of the “1,400” saloon came other announcements from Italy of very beautiful high-performance versions by specialist constructors, marketed with the sanction of F.I.A.T., and obviously having been in process or quiet development, for a considerable time. One of these, by the Soc. Italia Auto Transformazione Accessories, is the usual two-carburetter, tuned-up job beloved by proprietary Italian firms. According to Motor Italia it develops 65 b.h.p., and has a claimed maximum speed of 150 k.p.h. in three-seats-abreast drophead coupé form. Then Balbo already offer a specialist coupé body on a normal “1,400” chassis. Now there are plenty of promising British utility cars which could equally well form the basis of attractive high-performance cars for which the first cost should be comparatively modest, and spares and service freely available. But we seem to take a long time to think along these lines and when we do so, often the resultant product weighs nearly as much when finalised as the car from which it takes its conception.

•  •  •

Le Mans The 24-Hour Sports-Car Race at Le Mans on June 25/26th takes on special significance. Now that it appears definite that the Belgian 24-Hour event at Spa will be abandoned due to lack of finance Le Mans draws all the attention. There is no other race quite like it, of course, but the results somehow tended to be linked with those of Spa and if you did badly at Le Mans you hoped to make amends later, in Belgium. Now all that is over and it is Le Mans or nothing. If Britain wins, prestige for her victorious car and her products in general will be boosted throughout Europe. If our cars do well, being placed high or putting up consistent runs, sales of the successful makes will soar ; equally, those who experience trouble or finish low down the results list will suffer adverse comment wherever cars are discussed, particularly in America and other far places, where a car that survives Le Mans is one to be trusted and vice versa.

Many of our sports-car manufacturers are taking the race pretty seriously this time. Aston-Martin have entered a team of six-cylinder Aston-Martin D.B. Mk. II aerodynamic coupés under the management of John Wyer. The long-awaited Jowett Jupiter will make its debut in this race and two 4 1/4-litre Bentleys are due to run—the streamlined saloon of H. F. S. Hay which was such a creditable sixth last year and Eddie Hall’s potent, yet deceptively silent, T.T. car. Rolls-Royce are helping quite a bit with their preparation, which displays confidence, considering that both are pre-war cars. The “atmosphere” of Le Mans, with its illuminated permanent pits and grandstand, its stalls and side-shows, its safety precautions, its indefatigable crowds, and the dust, the sand and the heat is an experience in itself, coupled with which the hospitality of the organisers and officials is immense. We shall expect a very big influx of visitors this year–after all, petrol isn’t rationed in France and a Bentley might quite easily win . . . Last year one enthusiast even rode there from England on his bicycle !

•  •  •

Raymond Mays new sprint car is expected at Shelsley Walsh on June 10th. It uses the 2-litre Zoller-blown E.R.A. and isn’t expected to be any lighter than his E.R.A., but will have better adhesion due to the chain-driven, independently sprung rear wheels, and engine set well to the rear.

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