Continental Notes and News, March 1938
Continental Note New
The Racing Car of To-day . . . .
Chief topic of conversation lately has been the Berlin Motor Show and the marvels of automobile engineering contained
therein. Everyone who visited the Kaiserdamm Exhibition Halls seemed to agree that technically it has been the most interesting motor show seen in Europe for many a long day. This year more than ever one could detect the influence of racing on the design of ordinary cars, an influence that has received impetus from the prolonged high speeds attainable by private cars on the Reichsautobahnen. The new 7-litre “
Grosser” Mercedes-Benz bore a close resemblance in many points to the racingcars of the same make, particularly as to its chassis and suspension layout. Judging by the way the featherweight racing.. cars hold the road on none-too-smooth surfaces at 180 m.p.h., this new ” Grosser ” Merc. ought to be about the safest thing on wheels ever made, even though it can do its 103 m.p.h. in full saloon form. But it is not so much in actual details as in general handling that German cars reflect the lessons of racing, although I dare say a keener and more discerning eye than mine would be able to point out features of design accounting for this, however slight. Take the little D.K.W., for example. This car is regarded purely as a utility model in Germany, and yet it steers and road-holds in the manner of
a thoroughbred sports-car. The point is, of course, that it is a thoroughbred, emanating from the Auto-Union stable. One can best appreciate the behaviour of the D.K.W.—and other German family cars—by coming to them fresh from a typical British saloon of a similar genre. Now before those of you who are dyed-inthe-wool patriots reach for your pens and dip them in vitriol, let me say at once that I am a staunch admirer of the British mass-produced small saloon. I have owned several of them, and have driven them in a variety of circumstances, including thousands of miles on the Continent, and in many respects they are
admirable. I like their smoothness, their power, their comfort, their gearboxes, their brakes and their general finish. But I hate their steering, their cornering, and their lack of road-holding (as distinct from comfortable riding).
Why is it that British cars, almost without exception, do not steer as well as their Continental counterparts ?
don’t think it can be the fault of the steering-gear, because after all the steering mechanism is very much the same on all cars. I am not a technical expert, but surely it must boil down to the right and wrong way of putting the bits together and locating them properly in relation to other parts, such as wheels, springs, and axles ?
Correct me if I’m wrong.
Making Unorthodoxy Pay
The second feature that was bound to impress the British visitor to the Berlin Show was the refreshing courage displayed by German manufacturers in including By AUSLANDER
unorthodox features of design in their products.
I know what the British manufacturer replies to this : he says that he is perfectly willing to depart from the unorthodox, but the Great British Public would not follow his lead. Well, here is a true story of a discussion I once had on this very problem with one of our biggest manufacturers, who was contemplating the production of a cheap and economical” baby” car. He himself was very keen to use a two-cylinder twostroke engine with front-wheel drive, so as to leave as much room as possible for body space. His trouble was that he had mentioned the idea to his main distributors, who had condemned it as
one man. They said that the public would never buy such a car. “Take our word for it, we know what the public wants.” The manufacturer told me that he had tried to compromise by offering to use a normal four-cylinder engine, while
retaining front-wheel drive. Still the distributors were adamant. ” The public will think that it’s an experimental job, and won’t buy it for at least a year.” The manufacturer reflected that, in order to get down to the desired price, he would have to lay down at least 10,000 units, and decided that in fairness to his shareholders he would have to scrap his own idea of what a cheap, economical car should be like and bow to the superior wisdom of his retailers. In Germany there are 232,000 twostroke two-cylinder D.K.W.s in use ; every car and every model save one has independent front-springing ; tubular backbone chassis are common ;
Benz are successfully marketing a Diesel Private car: and Adler and others find many motorists willing to buy ultrastreamlined saloons.
What can Britain offer in comparison ? Yes, I know the answer, which is that engineering progress does not matter two hoots so long as our existing cars are good enough to sell by the hundred thousand, and balance sheets are annually passed with enthusiastic unanimity by Philistine shareholders.
With the Racers
After this melancholy dissertation, let us turn to the brighter theme of Grand Prix racing. There is not much news to report. The Germans are living lip to their reputation for thoroughness by taking their time in perfecting their new season’s cars, and refusing to enter them for races until they are really -ready. This means that the Pau Grand Prix curtain raiser will probably be left to the French and Italians, and the first clash of all the makes will not occur until the Tripoli Grand Prix on May 15th. All of which goes to show the immense amount of work and time required to
bring a new racing-car into being, even when you have the unlimited resources of a concern like Mercedes-Benz behind you.
I am glad to hear that Seaman has renewed his contract with MercedesBenz. When he first joined the team I remember saying that it would take him a whole season to settle down properly, and that he would not show his paces until the following year. Since then he has had a variety of experiences, incidents and accidents, some of them not his own fault, and he should have benefited greatly thereby. Anyway, I repeat my prophecy, and say that I think that this year will see Dick Seaman come into his own as the great racing driver that be undoubtedly is.
Caracciola, Lang and Von Brauchitsch will complete the team of first-string drivers, with Hartmann, Balmier and Brendel as cadets training for next season. Kautz, the brilliant young Swiss driver, who finished third in the Monaco Grand Prix last year, has not yet renewed his contract.
It is good news that the Mercedes-Benz will not differ greatly in external appearance from the previous cars, which in my opinion were the most graceful and msthetically•pleasing racing-cars ever produced. The smaller engine capacity will permit the use of a low bonnet, similar to that of the 1936 ears. In weight they will also be similar, and their maximum speed should be in the region of 170 m.p.h.
No, this is a not a new political” axis,” but just my little way of saying that the Italian and French racing camps are in agreement that Grand Prix racing is going to be a much more open business this year, and that the Germans are not going to have it all their own way by a long chalk. (Can anyone tell me exactly what that phrase refers to : is it darts, billiards or shove-ha’penny ?)
In fact the French go so far as to say that the French Grand Prix is as good as won already ; the only doubt being as to whether -Talbot-Darracq, Delahaye or Bugatti will be the winner for France. The Italians are not quite so positive in their optimism, but they think they have a good chance.
I wonder whether we shall ever get to the state when motor-racing teams issue pre-race statements on their chances in the manner of heavy-weight boxers ? Imagine Herr Neubauer saying : “Our cars will lap the Talbots and Delahayes so quickly that it will seem as though there are dozens of Merce’deS in the race! To To which M. Lago would counter : ” We admire the courage of the Germans in entering for our French Grand Prix, but courage alone will not prevent their cars from being flagged off the course for getting in the way of our botides magnifiques 1″ Personally, I still think that the blown cars will prove the masters of the unblown, and I prophesy (this is becoming a habit with me) that the Grand Prix sport will
resolve itself into a battle between Mercedes-Benz, Auto-Union and Alfa-Romeo, with Maserati and Bugatti as potent outsiders. Alfas, by the way, are wisely concentrating on the eight-cylinder engine, a type with which they have had much
experience. The sixteen-cylinder unit has been put aside for the moment, but may be completed in the event of the ” eight ” being unequal to its German rivals. The French teams are well ahead with their preparations, and are going to try out their new Grand Prix engines in touring chassis in the Mille
There’s nothing like a spot of actual racing to show up any weaknesses. Dreyfus has been snooping round the long circuit in an effort to memorise some of it, and the Delahaye team will be strengthened in the race by the inclusion of Piero Taruffi., who may also drive in Grand Prix races later.
Personally, of all the French racing manufacturers, I fancy Bugatti to put up the best opposition to the Germans and Italians under the new formula, provided he can devote enough time to getting his blown 3-litre into good shape.
have the greatest admiration for Wimille as a driver, and would rate him on a level with Lang and Von Brauchitsch, with the making in him of a Caraccola or a Nuvolari.
A Million for the Kitty
There was welcome news for Delahaye, Talbot and Bugatti recently in the announcement that the French Government had donated another million francs to the National Fund for Motor Racing. It has not yet been decided how this will be allocated.
Previous gifts from the fund have been 400,000 francs to Bugatti for Wirnille’s road-circuit performance at Montlhery, a million francs to Delahaye for Dreyfus’s. ditto, and 15,000 francs to a M. Claveau for a treatise on racing-cars read to the Concours de Projets.
I wonder how a National Fund would go in Britain, with collections at every race-meeting, and an occasional gift from Dr. Burgin . . .
. . . Fastest on Earth
Rumours continue to circulate that Germany is building a car to attack the World’s Land Speed Record. It is true that the matter has been given careful consideration, but I can say that nothing
will be done this year. The death of Rosemeyer, even though it was caused by weather rather than road-conditions, has resulted in a general feeling that higher speeds should be postponed until the fifteen-mile stretch of 90 ft. road is finished in Prussia, which will be some time in 1939.
There is little likelihood of the Germans going to Bonneville Flats, as, national considerations apart, they believe that such conditions are so abnormal as to be valueless from the technical point of view.
Atoning for Monte Carlo
The dismal failure of British cars in the Monte Carlo Rally was to a certain extent atoned for by the success of British women-drivers in the Paris-St. Raphael Rally.
Best performance of all in this allwomen rally was that of Miss Betty Haig, wilts finished first in the Class A (Expert) general classification and won the 1,100 c.c. category with her M.G. Miss Haig has competed in the Paris-St. Raphael for several years, generally on a Singer, and her success this year is a fitting reward for her perseverance.
Other British cars to do well were Countess Moy’s Riley, which was second in the 1,500 c.c. class, Miss Riddell’s M.G., the winner of the 1,800 c.c. class, and Miss D. Stanley-Turner’s M.G., fifth in the general Class A placings. Both Miss Riddell and Countess Moy are annual competitors in the Rally.
In addition, two other British drivers. Mrs. Lace and Miss Amy Johnson, the aviatrix, finished second and sixth respectively in the Class A general classification on their Talbot-Darracqs.
At St. Raphael a Concours d’Elegance resulted in first prize being taken by Miss Amy Johnson, with Miss Stanley-Turner second. Miss Haig won her class. Miss Amy Johnson, incidentally, was feted by enthusiastic officials and spectators throughout the Rally. The route was from Paris to Vichy, Lyons, Geneva (where a halt was made for a day), and thence to Grenoble, Orange, Marseilles, Toulon, Draguig
nan and St. Raphael. Scattered over the route were a 500-metres standing start speed trial, a flying kilometre, a parking test, and a difficult hill-climb at St. Raphael.
Altogether a good show, and worthy of continued support from our capable British ladies.
Idea for Holiday
Talking of rallies, anyone who wants to combine motoring with a flavour of sport should consider the Liege-Rome-Liege affair in August. This represents 2,700 kilometres of varied route to be covered at 32 m.p.h., starting from Spa, and taking in Monte Cenis and a return through the Dolomites and over the Stelvio.
Ought to be good fun.
Forty-three cars are already entered for Le Mans, leaving seventeen vacancies before the total limit of sixty is reached. (Good at arithmetic, that boy.) Clifford and Snow, the Australian, are to drive the ex-” Bira ” Delahaye, likewise in the Belgian 24-Hours Race. Morgan to appear at Le Mans for the first time, driven by Miss Fawcett and G. White.
Protest by Le Begue and Mahe over disqualification in Monte Carlo Rally has been disallowed by A.I.A.C.R. The observer on the spot insisted that the Talbot’s wheels did not cross the line. Le Begue produced a cine-film to show that he did. The authorities decided to stick to the theory that the referee’s decision is final, and rightly so. Officially, their argument was that the only appeal they could consider was one challenging the interpretation of the rules, which was not Le 136.gue’s complaint. What he complained of was a fact.
If you want to know all about the Pau Grand Prix, regulations can be obtained from the A.C. Basco-Bearnais, Place Royale, Pau.
If you want to know all about the Tunis Grand Prix, I can tell you. It has been cancelled.
Can’t think of any more at the moment.