AT BROOKLANDS WITH LT. TORIN, R.N.

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36

AT BROOKLANDS WITH LT. TORIN, R.N. A TEST UNDER SEVERE WEATHER CONDITIONS OF THE EX-NUVOLARI MASERATI

RECENT discussion as to which is the most potent road-car has focussed attention on a group of not more than half-a-dozen high speed cars. One of these cars is the blown, straight-eight 2.9-litre twin o.h. camshaft, two-seater Maserati now owned by Lt. Torin, R.N. This car is perhaps the least familiar of the group and even its owner is not too certain of its history and exact identity. So far as is known, this ” 2.9 ” Maserati was the car with which Nuvolari won the 1933 Belgian Grand Prix, when for a while he was an independent. Afterwards it was owned by an enthusiastic Belgian and it has not long been in this country. It is not the ex-Whitney Straight car, as is popularly supposed. It was this car which., by kind consent of its present owner, awaited us in the Paddock at Brooklands one very wet Tuesday afternoon, and for which we were enabled to obtain some performance figures with the ever-ready consent of the B.A.R.C.—and nowhere else can one so conveniently extend a hot motor as on the Weybridge course. Definitely this Maser. is a road motor. Lt. Torin uses it daily and it runs on Champion R11 plugs both on the road and on the track. It has two small acro screens with a tiny mirror between, light cycle wings, small lamps, and a Brooklands exhaust system on the near side. The cockpit is narrow but quite roomy and not uncomfortable, the passenger’s slab of seat being quite adequate and the scuttle cowls well positioned. The whole car is blood red, and the polished brake drums and steering connections strike a strong contrast. The facia is delightfully simple. Tucked away before the passenger are three small dials showing water temperature, oil-pressure and fuel pressure. There is a very rigid fuel hand pump, used only for starting, the typically Italian ignition switchboard, a huge rev. counter reading to 10,000 r.p.m., a horn button, and precious little else. The central gear lever is quite lengthy, but has a short travel, and the outside handbrake is delightfully stark, while the steering wheel stands well up from the

cowling. The accelerator is central. The minor levers are in the steering column centre and brake adjusters, etc., on the floor. The exhaust note is definitely that of the racing-car and makes your sports-car sound stupid. Add to this the howl of the rear axle and a very evident whine from the indirect gears, and you have some idea of the sheer tonic-exhilaration of motoring fast beside Lt. Torin. Seldom has the writer been thrown about so much on Brookland_s, for the, cockpit floor is not much use for bracing oneself in, nor can one cling to the tiller cap in the tail, as it is too central and far forward. Consequently, with one’s right arm scrabbing over a tail slippery with rain water, the small under-cowl leather grip for the left hand is most welcome, especially as one is thrown high out of the seat at other places besides at the famous Members’ Banking bump. Preliminary experimentation showed that 4,000 r.p.m. or 99 m.p.h. in top was very easily reached, while it was possible to change into third at about this rate, which we did to assist braking for a litter on the Track which Vickers Ltd. did not tidy up until late in the afternoon. Unfortunately, the Maserati has no speedometer and the rev.counter m.p.h. calibrations are almost impossible to read at speed and in any case only apply to top gear. Thus we were unable to take the usual acceleration figures, but 100 m.p.h. from a standstill occupied about 29 secs. on an experi mental attempt. Thereafter we tried waving a coloured umbrella as a signal and successfully timed the standing quarter and half-mile runs from the side of the Track, the writer staying aboard with Lt. Torin merely as ballast—this method being vastly more accurate than cockpit manipulation of the watch, where super-fast cars are concerned. The figures came out at 16.4 secs. and 29.2 secs., respectively. The former exactly equals the figure we recorded last year for Lycett’s 8-litre Bentley, on a dry track, but the Maser, was 3 secs. down over the half-mile. Although it got off well and did not slew round, the soaking track must have resulted in appreciable loss of wheel adhesion. The tyres were

Dunlop Fort, size 6.00″ x 19″. Incidentally, Lt. Torin believes maximum safe revs, to be 6,000, but does not care to. go above 5,000, although during the half-mile run lie went up to about 5,300. Normally, he changed at 4,000-4,500. r.p.m. After these runs we ran very happily around to the start at 75 m.p.h., with frequent bursts at 95 to 100 m.p.h.., the car becoming stirringly “alive ” as speed mounted. The obstructions at the Fork made a flying lap impossible and in any case Lt. Torin will not use the car on the outer-circuit. It also made the flying half-mile none too easy, because we had only the Members’ Banking round which to accelerate, while you think a. bit about entering a slippery Byfleet at 130 per. In consequence we only timed. one flying run and it came out at approxi mately 104 m.p.h. The heavens then opened out more than ever over a deserted. Track and we decided to call it a day— we had discovered the cooling louvres in the scuttle cowl by reason of rainwater seeping through on to the handgrip Conditions were certainly not favourable to testing an ex-racing-car and that had. to be that. It had been brief but very enthralling association of a very exceptional motor-car and we are indebted to the owner for letting us experience something of its potency and allowing us to obtain_ some particulars about it, notably before the weeklies wake up to the fact that there are still a few real motor-cars about

which to write. And this Maserati is decidedly the real thing, and quite the starkest road-car we have yet encountered. It was due to run in two Mountain races. at the Opening Brooklands Meeting, so. you can judge for yourself. But remember that normally it goes touring every day with wings and lamps in place and on the same grade of ” candles ” as are used. for racing. It is cared for by a mechanic who used to work for Mercedes-Benz, and it is owned by a real enthusiast, whom we congratulate on his ability to enjoy and to drive a car which has everything there for a purpose and on which unnecessary aids. to comfort and easy manipulation are strikingly absent. There are all too few such car owners in the world to-day . . .