WITH ” SPECIALS ” IN AMERICA
OUR outlook on sporting motoring in this country is very different from that which prevails in America. In this country our enthusiasts are staunch followers of the ” real motoring” creed, they were mostly brought up on ” tradition” and, personally, we are glad that this is so. Some people who barely remember cars like the ” Prince Henry” Vauxhall and ” 30/98 ” Vauxhall and 3-litre Bentley and side-valve Aston Martin were coming into being, have just recently been enthusiastically talking of the exploits of certain American speed wizards with cars which a contemporary terms ” tin-can racers.” When these British youngsters, who mostly have quite decent ideas about sports motor-cars, and who would never tolerate imitation racing numbers and dummy hub-caps on their cars, ask why we do not produce as good results with special cars in this country, an explanation seems to be clue. It appears that these so-called “tincan racers” are raced at meetings staged at Mojave desert, over a dry-lake course. Entries come in from twenty-eight clubs and may number several hundreds. Those who enter are mostly fairly hard-up and they do achieve some wonderful
results. For instance, if we can rely on reported performances, at one of these meetings a home-built four-cylinder car with a stock-type engine clocked 132 M.p.h., an £80 racer recorded nearly 190 m.p.h., a special model-B Ford achieved 111 m.p.h. and a virtually 929 Ford managed over 108 m.p.h. Lots of cheap and ingenious entries exceed 100 m.p.h. Entries are confined to cars with an American production engine as a basis and twin o.h.c. heads are barred. We are quite ready to grant the ingenuity of it all and hand it out to these drivers, who produce very sensational speeds from queer cars and who accept, it appears, free camshaft regrinds and other aids to increased speed in lieu of money prizes and trophies. But do not let us lose our sense of sane perspective. How many of these cars would satisfy the scrutineer at a British race or speed-trial ? They are cars built for a flat-out quarter-mile, flying start sprint. I doubt their reliability. ID this country our amateurs tune well known marques, or build special cars up from components having a wealth of tradition behind them, and incorporating well proven engineering principals. Moreover, they run in events calling for road qualities, such as good acceleration, safe braking, and correct road holding. Even cars built for sheer speed are required to last at least three full Brookland’s laps. Our home-brewed or home-tuned racing-cars not only look like motor-cars but they behave, and can be used, like motor-cars. Geared up for a quarter-mile sprint and timed only at full speed I am confident that lots of British sports-cars, costing very little to buy second-hand, would rival most of the American tin-can racers which the Southern Californian Timing Association lures to Mojave. And they would still be reasonably reliable for at least the duration of a Brookland’s race and he possessed of tiny engines by comparison. When you get excited about what S.C.T.A. members achieve, remember that their aim is the simple one of beating the watch over a _flying quarter-mile. Our own, more serious, certainly more classic meetings at Shelsley, Prescott, Lewes and suchlike venues, call for much greater deeds, both of driving and engineering skill. Even granting the flying quarter-mile and all that it permits in the way of freak tuning, gearratios and fairing, I should like to know more of McAfee’s 132 m.p.h. with a four cylinder car. 182 m.p.h. is fast and sensationally so from a basically stock motor of non-racing design that could not have been of much over 4-litres capacity,
if it was anything like as big. It is faster than most present-day outer-circuit cars, and it is almost as good as was the 8-litre Leyland-Thomas in its heyday a dozen years ago. For the rest, these tin-can cars do what they do by grace of the conditions under which they run and we need not hide away our M.G.’s, Austins, Altas and Rileys in shame. Wouldn’t you prefer your M.G. Car Club, and Bugatti Owner’s Club and Vintage S.C.C. and Kent & Sussex L.C.C. to the “Night Fliers,” ” Gophers,” “Sidewinders,” “Comets,” ” 90-mile-anhourers,” ” Idlers,” ” Road-runners,” and the rest ? Even if you had built a 2 to 1 top-geared Humber Snipe with a compression ratio that would make Bourne blush and Mr. 13arimar rub his hands with glee . . .