Rumblings, March 1950
Midgetitus—The “TQ” Disease
Midget car racing—that is cinder-shifting or, if you like, dirt-track racing by four-wheelers—has failed singularly wherever it has been promoted in this country. Nor has it had a very bright time in America. Now, however, the disease has broken out again in the States. If you hear an American visitor talking about “T.Qs” don’t be alarmed, well, not unduly alarmed. This is the code-sign of the new epidemic. It stands for “Three-Quarter.” Three-quarter? Yes, ¾-midgets, built to race under the rules of the Three-Quarter-Midget Racing Association, who prefer their events to happen on one-sixth or one-ninth of a mile circuits, indoor and outdoor, but who have often to use existing tracks converted to a lap-distance of one-eighth of a mile.
“T.Qs” must not have a wheelbase of less than 4 ft. 6 in. or of more than 5 ft., the track has to fall between 2 ft. 8 in. and 3 ft. 2 in., and wheels between 5.00-6 and 5.00-9 in. The entire vehicle has to weigh not less than 350 lb., not more than 650 lb., and engine sizes are varied cleverly according to type. Thus a side-valve unit may be of up to 750-c.c. capacity, but a push-rod o.h.v. unit must not exceed 615 c.c., while a twin o.h.c. four-stroke or a two-stroke engine is limited to 500 c.c. All cars must be offered for sale after a race for 2,000 dollars apiece, this rule being intended to exclude costly cars.
The first “T.Q.” race took place on November 26th last year, in Lincoln Park, 21 cars turning up. A Feuerhelm-J.A.P. won the three-lap race at 46.48 m.p.h., this car having a plastic body, all four wheels independently sprung and a rear-mounted J.A.P. engine. The appearance—well, no doubt you’ve seen a dodgems-car? Another car used a V-twin Harley-Davidson 45 engine. This “T.Q.” disease is obviously infectious, for 150 of these midgets are being built in Southern California-rather as “Flying Fleas” were built before the war in England but seldom took the air.
Builders seem to favour Harley, Indian, Norton, Triumph, J.A.P., F.I.A.T., Austin Seven, and sleeved or destroked Crosley engines, not forgetting 30½ cu. in. outboard boat motors. Austin, American Bantam and Crosley axles, hubs, springs and brakes are pressed into service, and Ruxstell, Willys, Austin, F.I.A.T., Ford and Crosley rear axles are popular.
Now we never have liked racing that is staged purely as a public spectacle, but the reason we draw your attention to “T.Q.s” is because “hot-rod “specialists are already beginning to offer special parts for them, and if the tuning of engines of up to 750 c.c. becomes as specialised as is the “hotting-up” of Ford V8, Mercury and Chevrolet units for “hot-rod” work, then exponents of Formula III in all countries may learn from the Yanks; or even suffer at their hands.
As a matter of fact, the Americans are quite aware that our 500-c.c. cars are far removed from “T.Q.s.” They admit they purposely keep the wheels of a “T.Q.” abnormally small to encourage them to break away and develop wheelspin, to please the onlookers. They use dog-clutches where we think of close-ratio, quick-change gearboxes, and they trouble little about brakes, whereas our Formula III exponents dream of ribbed, light-alloy drums and racing linings.
But even the Americans believe that the specialised equipment that even now is being offered to “T.Q.” builders may raise the eyebrows of “500” folk, So you had better keep an eye on what they are doing . . .
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Turning to the cars that are being prepared for racing in this country, at the beginning of each season there is much exciting speculation as to how people’s plans will materialise, and thoughts turn easily to the pleasure we shall derive from watching as yet unfamiliar cars in action, whether they are successful or not.
The Frys have great plans for making their Freikaisemagen, which holds the Shelsley Walsh car record, even more potent than it was last year if you can imagine anything more potent than this very astonishing and creditable air-cooled racing car! The plot is to add a third cylinder to last-year’s V-twin engine, putting up the power output appreciably, with little increase in the avoirdupois. We believe, too, that Joe Fry will have a self-change cog-box to enable him to swop ratios more certainly than he could before.
Then there is Sidney Allard’s wonderful new four-wheel-drive sprint car, which was described in the January issue of Motor Sport. We believe its appearance may be delayed somewhat, and presume that, until it does appear, Sidney will defend his title of Champion with his old Steyr-Allard, if it has not been sold in the meantime. Raymond Mays will look to lost sprint laurels with his so-far “hush-hush” new special, which is thought to have a Zoller-blown D-type E.R.A. engine in a fresh chassis in which suspension and weight distribution have been very carefully thought out, the final drive being on the chassis, with short roller chains running to the independently-sprung rear wheels. Good luck, Ray!
Dennis Poore will continue to run his 3.8-litre Alfa-Romeo, now satisfactorily supercharged by twin Wade blowers, at Prescott and elsewhere. We are glad, because this big car is a grand sight at speed and is always driven with a high degree of courage and skill, in about equal proportions! Poore also has a “sleeveful” of something new, for Formula II racing, but as “these” or “it” may not be ready until the 1950 season is well advanced, he isn’t saying anything we can publish, at present.
In a recent trial of the new J.A.P. V-twin 1,100-c.c. Cooper at Silverstone, the engine behaved splendidly and Stirling Moss managed a lap at 82.84 m.p.h. Miss Betty Haig is likely to be amongst the drivers of these cars this season. Then Kenneth Downing is hoping to add a dozen carburetters to the old 1925 2-litre V12 Delage Grand Prix engine and install it in the chassis of the Brooke-Special, while Tony Rolt is disposing of his 3.4-litre Alfa-Romeo to concentrate on racing modernised 1927-type G.P. Delage cars in conjunction with R. R. C. Walker.
Over and above everything else, of course, will be the advent of the B.R.M., which everyone sincerely hopes will make an auspicious debut in the European Grand Prix at Silverstone on May 13th.
Interest in Continental racing is enhanced by rumours that Gordini-Simca may build an unblown 4½-litre Formula I car and a 2-litre V8 for Formula II racing, and that this year the Milan will use a new engine and chassis, in place of the Maserati chassis used as a temporary expedient last year. Then, apart from the O.S.C.A., a new 1,100-c.c. Italian sports-racing car, the Leone, front Turin, is likely to make its appearance. And Fangio and Campos intend to continue their meteoric careers, fielding two Maseratis, two Ferraris and a couple of Gordini-Simcas this time, busy men!
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The Comminges Grand Prix has been cancelled and the date of the Penya Rhin Grand Prix has been moved from September 17th to October 29th. On May 14th the Mons M.C. of Belgium is holding International Formula III and Formula II races. The classes for the Mille Miglia on April 23rd are announced as: all sizes of touring cars, sports cars up to 750 c.c., 1,100 c.c., 2 litres and over 2 litres, besides which there are national touring-car classes of up to 750 c.c., 1,100 c.c. and over 1,100 c.c., and a team category for members of the Italian A.C. Entries already include Austin and Healey cars.
An E.R.A.-Javelin is entered for Le Mans, where Trevoux will drive for Simca, and a Cadillac-engined J-type Allard may run.
The B.R.D.C. announces that its Isle Of Man meeting will take place on June 15th, not June 22nd, as originally announced, so that it will not clash with the Le Mans race. it is likely to comprise the Formula I Empire Trophy race and Manx Cup event for small cars, and those planning holidays should note that the evenings of June 10th and 14th will be devoted to practice.
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In response to many inquiries we can now state that Boddy has practically completed the manuscript of his third volume “The Story of Brooklands,” covering racing at the famous Track from 1933 to 1939. This work is something of a record in authorship, for the entire history runs to some 300,000 words, all of which have been written by Boddy in long-hand, a pretty formidable task, coupled to his Editorship of Motor Sport and certain free-lance duties. This third volume of his book deals with that era of Brooklands racing when cars like the Napier-Railton, Barnato-Hassan, Duesenberg and Bentley-Jackson thrilled the Weybridge crowds. Racing on the Outer, Mountain and Campbell circuits is described in detail and accounts are published of the long-distance classics, such as the 500-Mile Race, International Trophy, Relay Race, Three-Hour Sports Car Race, etc., etc. The book is illustrated by many rare photographs, and orders for it should be placed next month, either through booksellers or direct from the publishers: The Grenville Publishing Ltd., 15, City Bond, E.C.1 (13s. post free).