Around and About, June 1977

Unique Aston at bay

The Silverstone Six Hour race was remarkable both for the number of people who came along to watch a profit making £14,500 rewarded the BRDC “purist” loyalty in promoting a British long distance sports car event -and for the long-heralded Aston Martin V8 fielded by the Robin Hamilton team.

Unfortunately Hamilton has been obliged, in the pursuit of his dream to run the car at Le Mans, to employ the extensive use of publicity people, so ones hopes for the car were really beyond reasonable expectation for what is essentially an amateur team.

Quotes attributing the car with a 200 m.p.h. Mulsanne capability and a reliable 520 b.h.p. led to hope for a little more than lap times approaching 20 seconds a lap down on a works twin turbo Porsche. In fact the gap in best lap speeds was 17.69 sec. during the Aston’s troubled debut.

The Aston appeared in the freer Group 5 guise, the team feeling that the freedom to attach rear spoilers and extended front end aerodynamic aids would be vital for safety and speed. A ZF five speed gearbox and special Salisbury PowrLok limited-slip differential are employed: in the race the differential blew its oil seals and the car had to be delayed for a long time before continuing to run at a further reduced pace.

The Lockheed braking system and the use of 19 in. diameter wheels are ideas in common with Ralph Broad’s interpretation of Group 2 for Jaguar. Quite naturally much the same Dunlop low profile rubber is fitted as well. With these features in common it was not surprising that some Silverstone onlookers were comparing the two projects, something which we understand has also been the case for Midland TV audiences.

Apparently the Jaguar project has been the subject of some disparaging remarks compared to the Aston, on the basis of cost and speed. To be fair to Broadspeed it must be said that they have shown winning, race leading form every time they have appeared (three pole positions as well) and that their long distance coupe has proved capable of times about 12 seconds a lap faster than the Aston at Silverstone.

It is good to see someone trying to wave the flag, but the cold facts do not leave much room for International success hopes for this Aston Martin as yet.

Chevette progress

Athough there’s still no news when Vauxhall will actually sell their high performance Chevette 16-valve, the development of the rally car continues apace to the point where it scored its first International victory on the Welsh.

Naturally others want to build Chevettes, and the first full replica specification, non-DTV 2.3 Chevette was nearly completed in time for that Welsh event. This car will be driven by George Hill/Roger Jones for the Martins Group. Meanwhile a statement from Bill Blydenstein at Shepreth says, “some complete rally cars (Chevettes) may be built during the Autumn for delivery early 1978.”

What we would appreciate is some illuminating comment from the RAC and/or Vauxhall on how one can compete with a Group 4 car for over half a year without offering it for sale? Do the regulations now mean that all you need to do to allow a car into Group 4 is produce proof that the factory have actually made that number of cars? Is selling them just a luxury beyond that point?

High ratio Midget

Leyland St have announced a number of additions to their offerings for the sporting Leyland owner this month. From rather exotic phosphor bronze ball joints for the hard driven Sprint’s steering to TR7 wheel spats (rear to cover up to 8 in. rim width) is a long step, but it gives a fair idea of the workload at Abingdon these days.

Probably of more general interest will be the 3.55-to-1 final drive for the Midget 1500. This takes advantage of the bigger engine’s lazy torque (replacing the production 3.9 to 1) to reduce engine r.p.m. at 70 m.p.h. from 4,270 to 3,870 r.p.m. At a cost of £29 this modification may well find favour amongst those wanting more frugal motorway cruising, and slightly “longer” intermediate gear speeds.

Foreign spares deal from AE

The often vexed question of foreign car part availability and price is brought to mind by a recent release on behalf of Associated Engineering Ltd. They have set up AE Imported Vehicle Parts Ltd. at 24 Trading Estate Road, London NW 10 7EG (tel: 01 .961 0130) to deal with the speedy import of well-known foreign car spares.

Judging from the press statement the company’s primary business will be directly with garages, rather than the public. The man in charge, Geoffrey Butchers says, “we believe our operation will be of vast importance to all involved in car servicing or repair. To those who hold specific franchises, we can probably offer cost and delivery advantages.”

Let us piously hope that such advantages can be realised and passed on to the public. We fancy the number of phone calls to Motor Sport’s London offices that begin “have you any idea how much a window rubber is for a …” has increased sharply of late, especially if the product is of West German origin.

Can-Am contestants

After a Winter’s discontent, the Sports Car Club of America have finally been able to organise their return to the big Can-Am Sports Car concept. An idea that has far more appeal to Americans than the F5000 single-seaters, on which the 1977 Can-Am contenders are largely based.

Sponsored by First National City Travelley Checks, the revived Can-Am series got under way in June. Amongst the contenders were the new Wolf Dallara for Chris Amon, joining the old 5000 hands (clothed in single seat sports car bodywork!) like multiple SCCA Champion Brian Redman (Haas-Hall Lola 333CS) the two-car Shadow team of Dodge-powered DN4s for Jackie Oliver and Randy Lewis, and many others using the sports-bodied Lola 5000. Amongst them, two such cars for Count van der Straten’s VDS equipe, driven by Warwick Brown and Peter Gethin. F1 Shadow driver Alan Jones was also expected to appear, together with an unspecified driver for the NART Ferrari team.

That anyone should want to revive Can-Am is a bit puzzling in itself, remembering those years of McLaren and Porsche turbo domination, but anything that might promote interest in big fast sports cars has an attraction now that European Group 5 and Group 6 have diluted the World Championship of Makes series.

Name change

Owing to American enforcement of anti-trust laws Bendix have now sold off all their automotive interests. Since early last year the Bendix fuel pumps distributed in this country through Motor Books and Accessories have been branded Facet after the Wisconsin based American company of that name.

In fact only the name is new, for Facet was a public company floated as of April 1st, 1976, to independently do the job as previously, when the original Bendix Corporation had emerged from a link with Fram.

More details of the Facet electric pumps from Motor Books and Accessories at 33 St Martins Court, St Martins Lane, London, WC2.