Continental Notes, June 1966

While in Milan recently I was doing some servicing and maintenance on my E-type Jaguar in a side street near the Hotel Auriga, when I became conscious of a small boy hovering around, not the usual scruffy urchin on the scrounge, but a neatly dressed small boy of about 10 or 11 years of age, and he was taking a great interest in the E-type. After some while he said “Molto veloce, vero?” to which I replied “Yes” and after another long pause, during which time he scrutinised the Jaguar from all angles, he approached again and said “Bella macchina, vero?” to which I could only reply “Yes” once more. After this he disappeared for a short while and when he returned he was carrying two scale model E-types and was carefully counting the louvres on the bonnets, then he counted the louvres on the bonnet of the real E-type and announced that one model was correct and the other model was one short. He continued his close scrutiny of the car and the models, muttering to himself that this one was right and that one was wrong and I watched all this with interest. I then opened up the bonnet for him so that he could study the mechanical detail, and joined him in his researches as he checked the number of carburetters, the radiator, header tank, heater and fan, camshafts, battery and so on. We then turned the models over and I checked for him the underside details such as suspension, radius arms, exhaust system and in every way one of the models was not only accurate but also lavish in detail, while the other one was one short in its bonnet louvres, the headlamps were the wrong shape, certain under-bonnet details were missing and underneath the sketchy details were vague in the extreme. Both models were to the same scale, about 2 3/4 inches long and the good one was made in Denmark, but imagine my chagrin when I found that the poor one was made in England by a very well-known firm!

My srnall Italian friend was not too worried, but he knew which model he preferred, and he told me he was a Jaguar enthusiast, having further models of D-type and Mark X. This was the first E-type he had seen close to and when I suggested that he ought to be a Ferrari enthusiast he brushed the remark aside, telling me that there was a Ferrari round in front of the hotel and the lines were nothing like as sleek and smooth as the E-types. He didn’t like the vertical Ferrari headlamp glasses, they spoiled the lines, and he preferred the sunken lights of the Jaguar. When I said “What about the Ferrari GTB?” he agreed that the headlamps were all right but the body shape was not good. After verifying from me such facts as the price, the speed, the fuel consumption and the engine capacity of the E-type he disappeared again and returned with a copy of that magnificent Italian book “The World Car Catalogue” in which all the cars of the world are illustrated and described, and proceeded to compare facts and figures for the E-type and various Ferraris. I made vague attempts to introduce other interesting cars into our conversation, such as Porsche 911, Lamborghini, Maserati GT, but he was not impressed, he was a Jaguar enthusiast. I was going to suggest to him that it was a bit odd that a small boy in Italy should be enthusiastic about English cars, when I remembered the numerous Ferrari enthusiasts in England, and even in Coventry, so I didn’t say anything. During our conversation I discovered that he intended to be an “Ingegnere-mechanico” and was hoping to go to technical college when he grew up.

After all this there was only one thing I could do, and I offered him a ride around the block. We didn’t have the opportunity of going much over 60 m.p.h. amongst the trains and taxis, but when we returned he thanked me profusely and disappeared indoors clutching his “World Car Catalogue” and I felt certain that another enthusiast had taken a great step forward in life.

The very wet 1,000-kilometre race at Monza and the wet Targa Florio drew attention to the way drivers have to depend upon windscreen wipers. Ferrari has been having a lot of trouble recently, with blades flying off as well as complete wiper arms, and also with driving mechanisms packing up. At Monza it was interesting to see the different mechanisms in action as the cars raced past the grandstands at anything from 110-160 m.p.h. The Porsches, the Alpines and the Matra-B.R.M. all had slow-moving wipers, the single arms making long steady sweeps across the screens. The Ford GT40s and the Ferraris all had very fast action wipers. single arms in all cases, but giving the impression of frantic “flip-flap” in an arc in front of the driver. The Alfa Romeos had a mechanism giving a very efficient-looking parallel motion, the wiper blade appearing to have a horizontal motion across the screen, rather than an arc. The little Lotus Elan suddenly looked incongruous with its touring, layout of double wipers. When the large single wiper of the coupe Ferrari P3 packed up I expected Parkes to slow up quite a bit, but it did not affect lap times, and when Surtees took over it appeared not to worry him. The windscreen on the P3 is very sloping and very curved, so it is quite likely that at high speed the air flow practically blows the water off the screen. It seems strange that in this day and age we still rely on a mechanism that wipes water off the screen with a rubber blade. I would have thought some other way of keeping the screen clear might have appeared by now. Perhaps, after the recent spate of wiper trouble, some new ideas might be thought up. On the Formula One Lotus cars Colin Chapman evolved a double windscreen that formed a funnel to force air at very high speed over the driver’s head, so that he could look over the screen without suffering from wind-buffeting. The Formula Two Matras have a similar system, a double skin on the body scuttle forming the high-speed venturi to “squirt” air over the cockpit. From the experience of Surtees and Parkes with the P3 Ferrari it would seem that a system of high-speed air-flow might be used to clear windscreens of water.

It does not seem so long ago since the Association of Drivers was complaining about the high windscreens that the F.I.A. demanded for sports cars, and later prototypes, and we had the sight of them practically standing up in the cockpit trying to see over the top in the way they had been doing with the Perspex screens on sports cars. Windscreens were improved and the drivers sank down out of sight and learnt to look through the windscreens, and coupes quickly followed, so that there is now no question or argument about windscreens on sports and prototype cars running under Appendix J regulations.

In this issue are reported three motor races in which John Surtees finished first twice and second once, with the possibility of yet another win at Monte Carlo, but these notes are being penned before that race. Surtees made his return to racing at Monza in the 1,000-kilometre race sharing a P3 Ferrari with Mike Parkes. This return was following his long winter convalescence after his accident in Canada last autumn, when he crashed in a Lola 70-Chevrolet sports/racer. At the time his injuries were much more serious than was generally realised, but once on the mend he recovered pretty quickly and when he turned up at Modena to try driving a racing car again Ferrari put the V6 Tasman car at his disposal and he proceeded to reel off lap after lap at Modena, completing a full-length race distance without any apparent effort. Before he started the Monza race he knew within himself that he was not only physically fit again, but that he was properly tuned-in mentally, to high-speed driving, which was the most important thing. He did not make any fuss about Monza being his first race since his accident, and had it not been for the daily paper newshounds buzzing round him like flies round a jam-pot, it would have been hard to have believed that he had spent most of the winter months in hospital. John Surtees is made of pretty rugged material, but more important he has the right mental outlook to keep him at the top of the racing world. It is always pleasant to be able to record the return to racing of a good driver after an unfortunate accident and Italian enthusiasts were particularly pleased to welcome Surtees back to Monza, and with a victory as well.

Once again the loose wording of F.I.A. regulations allowed a strange situation to arise, in the result of the Targa Florio this time. Nobody expects all competitors in a race to keep up with the leader, but equally no one expects a really slow car to be allowed to qualify for a prize if its performance is pathetic compared with the winner. Regulations allow the non-winners to be classified providing they have completed a reasonable distance while the winner is winning. This is often two-thirds of the race distance in a Grand Prix event and it was nine-tenths in the Targa Florio, it being felt that while the winner was completing 10 laps the also-rans should at least be starting out on their ninth lap. Although the regulations did not say so, I am sure they meant that the slower cars should then complete their ninth lap and receive the chequered flag before being classified as finishers. Because nothing was said in the regulations about finishers getting the chequered flag, Ford-France felt justified in claiming their derelict GT40, lying broken by the roadside 12 kilometres from the finish, as being classified at nine laps, having given up on its tenth lap. When it started its tenth Iap, or, conversely, when it finished its ninth lap, it was leading its class and had lapped its rivals, the LM Ferraris, but while it lay stricken by the roadside the Ferraris went by, completing their ninth laps, but it took them longer in time than the Ford had taken, so the Ford was judged the class winner on its performance for nine of its total of 9 3/4 laps. Had Ford-France known their car was going to collapse on the last lap they could have stopped it at the pits and still won the class, saving themselves a lot of trouble!

At one time, not so long ago, every finisher in the Targa Florio had to-complete the full distance to be qualified, but this meant that the race dragged on for too long after the winner arrived, so the distance percentage system was introduced. There are many pros and cons concerning this system, but until the regulations state clearly that finishers must receive the chequered flag after the winner has finished, we shall go on getting these anomalies of broken and abandoned cars winning their class. One day it will happen in a time rather than distance race for the overall winner and then perhaps something will he done about it. D.S.J.