Around and About, June 1975

Equipe POW

MOST MOTOR RACING has become so turgidly serious these days that it was good to meet a gang of amateur enthusiasts the other day who profess unashamedly to being in it for the fun and the booze as much as for the racing. After all, it did use to be fun didn’t it? Rejoicing under the name of Equipe POW, which initials denote the name of the trendy Princess of Wales pub in Dove House Street in London’s Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, not a club for ex-Colditz inmates, these enthusiasts’ interests centre round Willie, a pristine Wolseley 6/90. Now Willie was once the property of a vicar, when his badge declared him to be a Riley 2.6, but today WYL 800’s owners prefer to take him to racing circuits on Sundays rather than church. For Willie is one of the growing number of competitors in the Classic Saloon Car Championship.

At the last count ten Princess of Wales regulars had put £50 each into fostering Willie’s new career, for which they each receive a slice of the action by way of a drive in a round of the Championship (although there are only nine rounds, which could cause problems). Amongst them are a cousin of the Queen, “the odd Viscount” (their terminology), millionaires, stockbrokers, “down-and-outs”, Mrs. Jackie Caluori, the pub’s landlady, Patrick Murchison, the Chairman, and Ilona Uhl, a charming young German Baroness, who acts as secretary. There’s a thriving supporters club too, members of which get a chance to draw for free race tickets, transport to and from race meetings (to allow for serious drinking, no doubt), and a chance to drive the car on a circuit at the end of the season.

Willie cost the Equipe £75, including a worn-out engine. A new engine was built and the car prepared for racing by POW regular Anthony St. John Hart, brother of Aston Martin enthusiast Roger. Apart from stiffening up the shock-absorbers and fitting fat SP Sports little has been done to the suspension. The engine has been balanced and a decent camshaft and pistons fitted, but the carburetters are standard.

Why the long mention for the Equipe? It’s the least we can do since they dug into their pockets to entertain the Press at the POW, only to find that most of the journalists who had promised to turn up didn’t.

MG Anniversary—Out of Time?

BRITISH LEYLAND’S celebration of MG’s Golden Anniversary this year has upset practically every knowledgeable MG Car Club member and many motoring historians. The Company has persisted in believing its own handed-down publicity that the mis-named “Old Number One” MG, the Special with which Cecil Kimber won a Gold Medal in the 1925 Land’s End Trial, was the first MG sports car. In his “The Story of the MG Sports Car”, F. Wilson McComb proves that Kimber’s very first MG sports, a modified, Raworth-bodied, Morris Cowley chassis, ran in 1923 and that the famous octagon badge appeared in May 1924. McComb’s story is a complex one, too detailed to relate here, but MOTOR SPORT has no doubt that he is correct, certainly so far as 1924 production is concerned. You see The Brooklands Gazette, MOTOR SPORT’s forerunner, carried an advertisement for MGs on its outside back cover as early as October 1924, Would British Leyland like to argue with that? Yes, in fact they would, for to overcome the irate historians, they pull out their ace in a recent Press release, quoting from “MG—The Sports Car America Loved First”, a soon-to-be-published book by Richard Knudson. Knudson quotes a note from Kimber to Wilfred Matthews, his passenger in the 1925 Land’s End Trial : “To Wilf, my first passenger in my first MG”. But Old Number One was a one-off special for a sporting event and the MGs produced immediately after Old Number One (which was started in 1924 in any case) were exactly the same as the ones produced immediately before: Morris-based specials produced by Morris Garages and carrying the MG name and octagon! So far as we’re concerned, if they weren’t MGs in 1924 they wouldn’t have been called and advertised as MGs, would they? That surely has to be the logical answer, notwithstanding Knudson and British Leyland. Or has it? What are readers’ views?

To cut a lengthening story short, British Leyland are marking 1975 by producing 750 MG-B GTs specially finished in British Racing Green with black interior trim and carpets and a gold and black side flash with an MG Anniversary motif on each wing. All MGs produced this year will have gold MG bonnet badges. Now we’ve written that, in 2025 readers will at least be able to celebrate the Golden Anniversary of the Golden Anniversary MG-B GTs with certainty!

Gallic Mini Cooper?

FOR DEPRIVED Britons those ingenious importers are still trying to satisfy the British taste for a replacement to the old Mini Cooper. Leyland’s Clubman finds acceptance, but not the kind of enthusiasm that Renault’s latest could well engender. From June onward it will be possible to buy the 1,286 c.c. Renault 5TS. The latest twist to Renault’s adaptable 5 theme will cost £1,719.90, which puts it rather too close to the Alfasud Ti for the comfort of some British Renault dealers, as the Italian car is highly thought of inside and outside the trade.

The 5TS offers extremely well trimmed seating, a probable 35 m.p.g. and top speed that hovers around 100 m.p.h.: acceleration from 0-60 m.p.h. should occupy 12 seconds, or less.

Unfortunately we were only able to try a car briefly, but those impressions that we did gather included the fact that this is one of the classic “foot on the floor and row the gear-lever” cars if the extra margin of performance is to be somewhat noisily and harshly enjoyed. The 64 b.h.p. engine develops maximum power at 6,000 r.p.m. Hearsay suggests that the unit needs to cover at least 7,000 miles before growing mellow and willing to rev much beyond the maximum power point.

The 9 in. diameter front disc brakes and 7.1 in. diameter rear drums coped swiftly and efficiently with the extra performance, but the suspension system seems to retain much of the 845 and 956 c.c. model’s tendency to lean excessively by sporting standards. However, we were very pleased to note that a laminated screen is installed as standard equipment.

Sports road wheels (carrying spindly 145-section Michelins) and a rear window wash-wipe system distinguish the TS externally from its slower brothers.

Despite our mixed feelings over the car’s pricing and handling (the steering was surprisingly heavy) the 5TS is likely to achieve a social cachet as the car that doting parents give to their offspring, and that town-based enthusiasts donate to themselves, especially when equipped with the optional tinted glass and sunroof.

A New Big Triumph

A PRESS release from British Leyland informs us of a new, top-of-the-range saloon, the 2500S, a super-luxury version of the carburetter-fed 250TC. What it doesn’t inform us about is that the 2.5PI has been quietly phased out, Joe Lucas’ injection system seemingly not being appreciated too well by Triumph customers in these days of petrol economy.

The 2500S shares an uprated version of the carburetted 2 1/2-litre engine with a revised 2500TC model. Power output has been increased from 99 b.h.p. DIN to 106 b.h.p. DIN at 4,700 r.p.m., with an increase in torque from 133 lb./ft. to 140 lb./ft. at 2,750 r.p.m. The biggest changes are a change from twin l 1/2 in. SU carburetters to 1 3/4 in. SUs and revised camshaft timing. A viscous cooling fan has been added and a larger diameter exhaust system and improved exhaust manifolding reduces exhaust back pressure. These changes are shared by the 2000TC (the suffix being used for the first time), which gains 7 b.h.p., up to 91 b.h.p. DIN at 4,750 r.p.m. Torque rises from 100 lb./ft. to 111 lb./ft. at 3,300 r.p.m,

Overall gearing has been raised on all models, and larger section tyres (185 instead of 175) are fitted to the 2500TC, to which overdrive is now a standard fitment.

Overdrive, power-assisted steering with a smaller, simulated leather steering wheel, light alloy wheels similar to the Stag’s optional ones, head restraints and a tachometer are all standard on the 2500S. Those alloy wheels are wider than the 2500TC’s and the diameter is increased from 13 in to 14 in.; Michelin XAS tyres are fitted. Improved handling is said to result from these last modifications combined with the addition of a front anti-roll bar and the softening of the front springs to improve the ride.

Maximum speed of the 2000TC has risen from 96 to 102 m.p.h. and the larger models from 103 to 105 m.p.h. together with a claimed improvement in economy.

There is no mention, of course, that the 2.5PI in even its less powerful final guise gave 120 b.h.p. and at least 110 m.p.h.

Dodd’s “Rolls” Dies

W.B.’s FAVOURITE “Rolls-Royce”, the 575 m.p.h. example built by (or for?) John Dodd around a Rolls-Royce tank engine (not the Merlin which was claimed) and a Rolls-Royce radiator has succumbed to a fiery death on the way back from Sweden. There is no truth in the rumour that it was going so quickly that it disappeared up its own exhaust pipes, which is something that doubtless Rolls-Royce themselves had been hoping would happen, for a very long time.

Fison’s Ferrari Fan

SOME of London’s underground car parks, private and public, are Aladdin’s caves of interesting motor cars. That of Fisons Ltd., the International chemicals and pharmaceutical group, is a prime example. The company’s Chairman, George Burton, is a motoring enthusiast, which accounts for the interest in the car park and our reason for visiting the Fisons headquarters in Grosvenor Street, Wl.

Fisons are backing Martin Raymond in the European 2-litre Sports Car Championship in a brand-new Hart-engined Lola T390, the first car to this new design. Their intention is to gain better acceptance for the Fisons name across their European markets.

George Burton raced Frazer Nashes in JCC events at Brooklands. In later years he has become something of a Ferrari fanatic and the Fisons car park contains his new Berlinetta Boxer (preceded by a Daytona), a Superfast, one of the eight originally imported to Britain and a left-hand-drive 365 GTS, a convertible body on Daytona running gear fitted with the 4.4-litre twin-cam engine and one of only six built. There’s also a 1931-32 Charlesworth-bodied Alvis Speed 20 and elsewhere he has a rare Alvis Speed 25 tucked away.

But George Burton’s real vintage pride and joy is his pristine six-cylinder OM, an ex-works team car. It was one of six built for the 1929 Tourist Trophy, six being the qualification for the TT regulations; at some stage during the event this car ran out of brakes and when the driver climbed out to investigate he was struck and killed by a following competitor. This car also ran in the 1930 Brooklands Double-Twelve. It has been painstakingly restored by George Burton, even to its two-plug-per-cylinder ignition system (one set by Scintilla magneto, the other by coil) and is in regular use, for Mr. Burton is not a fan of concours cars.

Unmarked Police Cars

FOLLOWING our mention of unmarked police cars in the May issue, a Kings Lynn reader informs us that he knows of a yellow Mk. II Capri and a blue Mk. I Capri (both suspected to be 3-litre versions), a maroon Granada 2.5 PI and a white Triumph 2.5 PI in use with the Norfolk Constabulary.

A Buckinghamshire reader sends a warning for users of the A413 between Aylesbury and Wendover, “One of the most police-infested roads in the country, surrounded by both marked and unmarked police cars and also equipped with a regular ‘radar ambush’.” At each end is a police station, so there are plenty of commuting police cars as well as prowling ones. The unmarked cars to look for are bright-coloured Cortina Mk. Ills— only the aerials give them away—and MG-B V8s, two notorious ones being green and bright orange.

From a Sussex reader comes a cutting from a local paper reporting a court case in which an unmarked Cortina GT chased a Lotus Europa at up to 98 m.p.h. on the A23.

In Shropshire we hear that there are a number of dark green 1800s/2200s with only a tiny little perspex sign on the rear parcel shelf to identify themselves. There are pale green Rover 3500Ss too, with only body-colour-painted loudspeakers below the front bumpers to identify them.

The Assistant Editor only just escaped one of the Thames Valley Police Force’s MG-B V8’s while pottering through Thame one Sunday night. Fortunately the officers in the beige car had the decency to wear their hats.