Rumblings, March 1957

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52

The Economics of Motoring

The cost of motoring (when such is possible) is uppermost in many people’s minds at the present time. Before the war the writer proved in these columns that it was possible to legally run and maintain an  Austin Seven, and do quite a reasonable amount of motoring in it, for 15s. per week, excluding a permanent garage.

In 1957 such a figure is an absurdity. The only comforting thought for those who see their motoring diminishing to zero on account of rising living costs is that, so far as petrol is concerned, if they have been able to operate a car doing 20 m.p.g. they can, by exchanging it for one capable of 40 m.p.g., continue to go as far at lower cost, or for the same cost should the price of petrol jump to somewhere in the region of 10s. a gallon. When the price of petrol reaches £1 a gallon an 80-m.p.g. vehicle would be needed to replace the former 40-m.p.g. machine and, alas, even minicars do not seem to average more than about 50/60 m.p.g.

So it would then be a question of either drastically curtailing mileage or sharing the seats out amongst “fare-paying” fellow enthusiasts.

Here the clubs could institute a valuable service, and quite apart from the question of cost-sharing, it will be necessary for seats to be shared if a reasonable number of spectators is to attend the races which are being planned to take place during the petrol famine.

For example, if the V.S.C.C. is to have a decent attendance at Silverstone and the B.R.D.C. an adequate “gate” for the British Empire Trophy at Oulton Park, on April 6th (can the R.A.C. explain why fixtures still clash in spite of the present big blank spaces in the racing calendar?), enthusiasts will have to fill every seat their cars possess. It is strictly illegal to transfer petrol coupons but the point we are trying to make is the rather obvious one that where one car will suffice, no longer will two or more be justified. The chap who fills his tank to convey a full load to a race meeting on April 6th can then expect to be able to sit back in state as a passenger and not part with any petrol coupons when he wishes to go to the next race meeting, assuming, as we fear you should, that rationing will continue during the summer.

Instead of selfishly reserving your four-seater for yourself and your girl-friend, you true-blue followers of the Sport should form all-seats-booked stag-parties to Silverstone and Aintree—after all, that slinky “popsie” you yearn to teach all about motor racing, however interested she pretends to be, and however much you fail to notice her boredom, is really waiting, patiently or not so patiently, for the drive home, the meal and the drinks, and a warm settee before the fire. So give her a break and ask your club secretary to set about organising all-enthusiasts parties right away. Not that we shan’t miss the girls as a picturesque background to the racing scene . . . And maybe we have misjudged the fair sex!

Anything New?

Yes, we know, we know. There’s nothing new under the sun. Once upon a time, if you hadn’t the wherewithal or the skill to become a racing driver you could contemplate setting a record from England to some far place. Now that form of motoring endeavour has been squeezed dry, because there are practically no trans-continental “records” the ordinary car and driver has the remotest chance of beating. However, the thought occurs that a new class in such attempts might well be introduced, dependent on the car being in catalogue condition and carrying no outlandish spares. Strengthened road springs, a metal-shielded sump, increased ground and mud-guard clearances and the like would be banned.

Under these rules new “records” could be attempted, inspired, perhaps, by recent travel books in which Land Rover, VW Microbus and Citroen 2 c.v. successfully undertook considerable marathons. With so many Englishmen emigrating to lands where petrol is plentiful, cars reasonably taxed, roads comparatively empty and no parking-meters, the idea of making the journey by car should appeal to many of them.

A long motor journey is always an anticipated adventure, even that from London to John o’ Groats (and just at present even the prospect of driving from London to Brighton would thrill us to the marrow!), and a first-time overland escapade to the Cape, Australia or New Zealand, for instance, has enormous potential appeal. Done in a quite standard vehicle, in a reasonable time, such journeys would rank as notable achievements (though naturally scorned by the Papes of this world) and an excellent advertisement for the successful cars.

The Cooper School for Racing Drivers

If the queue of would-be racing drivers seeking the advice of Motor Sport does not quite reach out of our second-floor waiting-room, down the stairs and as far as Moorgate Station, we certainly have ample evidence that the young man of today wants to be, not an engine-driver, but a racing driver. The problem for practically all of them is to know whether or not they possess the necessary exacting qualities. The only real solution until recently, to buy a racing car and “have a go,” is beyond the means of most of these 100 per cent. enthusiasts.

What is needed is a training-school from which it is possible to hire a fast racing or sports/racing motor car at a track where it can be driven under the tuition and supervision of racing drivers.

There is nothing new in the idea. In the past, people like Tommy Hann and D. B. K. Shipwright tried to institute this sort of thing at Brooklands. They didn’t get very far because neither of them had any very suitable racing machinery to offer their customers (Hann being confined to a small Mercedes coupe converted to resemble faintly the 1911 Lanchester he had raced years earlier, and Shipwright to a rather sick G.P. Ballot), but the latter did get as far as preparing a plan of Brooklands decked out with tiny flags to indicate the bumps scholars should try to avoid.

Later the Junior Racing Drivers’ Club got going on a much sounder basis, with headquarters, a badge, the blessing of great names, the enthusiasm a Klemantaski, and use of the ex-Oliver Bertram 130-m.p.h. V12 10½-litre Delage so ably driven at Brooklands by demure Kay Petre. They held training sessions and beginners’ races at the Track in the evenings but although the thing was propelled along with great gusto somehow finances went wrong, perhaps because someone did something naughty. “Klem,” discouraged, took to cameras with the splendid results of which we are all aware, and that was the end of the J.R.D.C.

Since the war we have heard of what sounded to be a very effective “racing-drivers’ college” in Switzerland, and in England someone had the idea of hiring out a Cooper-J.A.P. (was it?) at Brands Hatch.

None of this got very far, we believe, but at last, enthusiasts, the millenium has arrived—Cooper Cars, who require no introduction, have decided to operate a racing-drivers’ training school, supervised by well-known racing drivers and using a 1957 sports Cooper-Climax, two 1957 F2 Cooper-Climax racing cars and a transporter. The idea embraces a £5 Ss. subscription to cover costs and a charge of so much a lap while training is being undertaken, but, apart from the pleasure and benefit this should give to would-be racing drivers, the Cooper Car Company state that successful students will be offered places (limited in number, admittedly) in their works teams. Millenium?

John Cooper is himself no mean racing driver, while who better than his father, Charles Cooper (who was riding beside Kaye Don in the giant Wolseley-Viper when you were just a twinkle) to act as “headmaster” and interview the too-enthusiastic in his “study”? We can imagine Roy Salvadori making the lower fifth write out “I must not disregard flag-signals” a thousand times and “Professor” Sammy Davies being very strict with luckless novices who have repeatedly spun off at a corner!

Joking apart, l’Ecole Cooper should be a splendid institution, providing it is taken seriously. A standard of tuition only slightly, if any, lower than that prevailing at civilian flying-schools should be aimed at. One fatal accident could have very serious repercussions and consequently full supervision will be necessary the whole time trainees are driving, and proper flag-marshalling and other facilities would seem essential. It must be remembered that whereas pilots taking an “A” flying licence are usually content to fly non-competitively and often take “refresher” courses, a learner racing-driver, after “passing out,” will be employing personal skill in realms beyond the control of tuition from others. Although we hope that, if the Cooper venture flourishes as it deserves to do, the student-drivers will be a gay band of enthusiasts with their own haunts, language (which they might copy from the “school-terms” used by the Bentley boys at Le Mans) and badge, etc., we also wish to express the sincere hope that on the track training will be taken seriously by instructors and drivers alike. Cooper is looking for driver-talent and that will be the quickest way to finding it. Selected trainees will be given a racing lesson as passenger in the sports Cooper driven by one of several famous drivers and will be able to train at the wheel of either or both school Coopers in the next five months, states the Cooper announcement.

We reserve judgment on the scheme in detail until we have seen the syllabus and been told at which circuits training will take place. In the meantime, if you want to be a racing driver you should write for the prospectus and application form to The Cooper Car Co., Ltd., 243, Ewell Road, Surbiton, Surrey.