The Sixteenth "Rembrandt"

Formerly A.F. Rivers Fletcher organised his “Rembrandt” meetings on behalf of motoring enthusiasts stricken by the war : on February 14th he organised another of these gatherings, for motoring enthusiasts staggered by the Peace. It took the form of a buffet-lunch and a most enjoyable Brains Trust with Rodney Walkerley as Question-Master and “brains” composed of Peter Monkhouse, Cecil Clutton, Maurice Olley, Peter Berthon, Leslie Johnson, John Bolster and John Dugdale. Earl Howe took the chair at lunch and Raymond Mays was also present. The brightest brain was undoubtedly Maurice.

First of the Brains’ Trust questions was -whether racing drivers should ignore all pit-signals. General opinion was that they should not. Someone queried, should ladies be allowed as pit-attendants? Johnson thought yes, provided they were the right type, and recalled that the wives of Continental drivers did good work in this capacity. Olley sagely suggested that surely you need the right type of ladies at all times . . . To the question what is the most important attribute of a racing driver ? Clutton thought outstanding judgment of time/ space, Monkhouse self-discipline, and Berthon knowledge of the limit of one’s own -capabilities, while Bolster observed that a driver is hired to keep the car on the road. Then Berthon explained that mechanical exhaust extractors are not used because their efficiency is good at one speed only and high temperatures play havoc with their internals, although Monkhouse thought F.I.A.T. had used them on a 1 1/2-litre V12 around 1924.

On the subject of whether G.P. racing is more beneficial than T.T. type racing to the production car, Monkhouse said no, because sports/racing cars are closely akin to production models, and Olley said G.P. racing develops high-speed bearings, fatigue testing, etc., and encourages us to raise the standard of performance rather than teaching design-lessons. Thus even in the States engines now run up to 5,000 r.p.m. Berthon agreed, citing two-leading-shoe brakes. Peter Clark’s query as to why Mercedes and Auto-Union appeared to hold opposing views about weight distribution resulted in Olley saying that engines of ordinary cars have crept forward until the gearshift has had to jump on to the steering column and soon a separate engine-trolley out in front, like a horse, will be necessary, unless engines suddenly reappear at the rear-end, the point being that you can move an engine forward gradually, but cannot reverse this process ! Weight should rest slightly more on the rear than on the front wheels, which is why Olley dislikes forward-mounted power units. Berthon added that Auto-Unions were slightly unstable as they were light at the front, whereas Mercedes had 55/45 distribution.

The “brains” did not think that closed cockpits were likely for road-racing cars and to a mysterious question as to why a particular British racing car has stiffer front than rear suspension (the questioner wouldn’t give the make, but said the car originated about 1938, using Porsche front and de Dion rear suspension) Colley said : “Don’t ask me, for I was the guy who was responsible for not doing that sort of thing on American passenger cars.” He remarked that in cars built the old way the dowager on her throne-like seat at the rear used to give her chauffeur the best possible ride, because she acted as a sort of harmonic balancer.

I.f.s. by swing-axle caused a lot of discussion. Olley likened the wheels on a beam front axle to mischievous children who egg one another on to further and further misdeeds. I.f.s. is the nurse who cheeks such goings on, but not in swing-axle form, which builds up shimmy. Clutton went to great pains to explain how swing-axle i.f.s. alternates between over and under-steer, so that just. when you expect to go through a hedge backwards you go forwards. Imhof then asked had any of the “brains” had experience of this form of i.f.s. ? Johnson said yes, and it works remarkably well [he was referring to the Allard ; he has a coupe on order], but Clutton still persisted that “at real speed the swing-axle invents its own corners”—which fell flat when Johnson said he found it satisfactory at 87 to 90 m.p.h. The age-old one about which is the better car, “30/98” Vauxhall or 4 1/2-litre Bentley ? didn’t get us very far, although the “brains” seemed inclined to favour the former, a member of the audience the latter [at least the Bentley fetches higher prices these days.]. Berthon explained why exhaust megaphones don’t figure on cars, saying weight (of separate pipes, etc.) is against them, but Bolster “hit the nail” by mentioning that the 10 per cent. power-gain they give high up isn’t worth the loss of low-speed acceleration. A question involving Formula racing brought out the interesting fact that 500-c.c. was taken as the limit for blown engines in Formula II to stop Alfas coming along with half an Alfette and wiping everyone’s eye ! [But why was Formula II termed Formula B, which was not only confusing but incorrect ?]

Olley was again brilliant in praise of i.f.s., saying that, as with the old woman who liked suet pudding because she could “feel it a’nourishing of her,” you can always tell when a car has a front axle. He also said he thought motor racing would become as popular as any other sport when cars become really popular (in the States the automobile was seven-league boots for the working-class families, the poor saps who couldn’t afford railroad fares) and people realised that racing improved these ordinary cars. But Clutton thought all you needed was a tote, for since the war people have become far more motor-minded. Dugdale said new cars, not the same ones all the time as on a dirt-track, help to increase interest in racing. The final question was : Should one take advantage of loop-holes in regulations? Dugdale said you now have to do so every day of your life. Bolster said he would ask other competitors what they proposed to do. Johnson said taking advantage was unfair and embarrassing for organisers who were doing their, best to please. Berthon believes in taking advantage of all the loop-holes so as to steal a march on others, and Monkhouse wanted to follow suit, without cheating. Whereupon the Question Master closed the meeting by remarking that a friend of his once said that a competition begins the moment you receive the regulations.

The Marquis Camden was given a truly difficult task when called upon to thank Earl Howe for attending, for his Lordship does so much for the sport in so many ways that mere words cannot thank him adequately—this last speaker also thanked Walkerley and his “brains” and Mr. and Mrs. Rivers Fletcher for a most entertaining afternoon.—W. B.