Rumblings, March 1959


Thanks to a reader in America, Mr. John Bornholdt, we have some interesting facts on their drag racing, or  “sprints” as we know them. In a great many places in America there are permanent “drag strips” of a quarter mile in length, with electrical timing, and a measured section or 132 ft. straddling the end of the quarter mile. Results are given in standard form of Elapsed Time, for the standing quarter mile, and Terminal Speed, the average over the 132-ft. section at the finishing line. Timing on the better drag-strips can be done to an accuracy of 0.0001 sec. but usual results are to two places of decimals.  The faster dragsters are very specialised pieces of machinery, using anything up to six litres of engine or more on a nitro-methane fuel, with everything concentrated near the rear axle, the driver in most cases sitting out behind the rear axle, while motor-cycle front wheels are becoming increasingly popular, and, or course, wide flat-tread rear tyres specially developed for acceleration are essential, these being known as “slicks.”

As an example of the results obtained at American drag meetings, Mr. Bornholdt quotes Don Garlits from Florida, whose car has a 6,430 c.c. V8 Chrysler engine, on nitro-methane fuel, direct drive to the rear axle which has an unlocked differential, a 3.23 to 1 final drive ratio, very large “slicks” on the rear, German Metzler motor-cycle racing tyres on motor-cycle front wheels, the engine mounted two-thirds back in the frame and the driver sitting behind  the rear axle in what is termed a “sling-shot  driving position. The wheel base is 9 ft. and it is not uncommon to see daylight under the front wheels as the car gets off the mark. Recently this machine  did the standing quarter mile in 8.61 sec., which gives an average of 1.1 g according to Mr. Bornholdt, and the speed of the car through the final 132 -ft. was 180 m.p.h. It is interesting to reflect that if the Garlits Special could go on at 180 m.p.h. to the end of a kilometre such as at Brighton Speed Trials, it would cover the distance in 16.3 sec!  Remember that the standing start kilometre which used to be held by Rosemeyer with an Auto-Union in 19.08 see, is now held by the American driver Cal Rise with his Chrysler-engined dragster in 18.1045 sec., while another dragster with a V8 Chevrolet engine did an official 19.213 sec. for the standing start kilometre. These are International Records, and the best motor-cycle over the kilometre is Milani’s 20.945 sec. with a four-cylinder Gilera. The best time at the Brighton Kilometre is 22.05 sec. by Rous on a Vincent Special, and that was impressive, so an American dragster at this year’s Brighton would be quite something. The only trouble seems to be that the really quick ones do not steer too well and have no hope of stopping in a hurry.

Some time ago tests were. done with a dragster that was recording just under 10 sec. for the standing quarter-mile, and it was timed at each 132-ft. mark from start to finish. It covered the first 132 ft. in 2.3 sec.  —  an average of 1.55 g, but  naturally this acceleration rate tailed off over the succeeding time-traps. A saloon Plymouth was also timed and did the first 132 ft. in 4.4 sec. an average of 0.423 g   —  averaged 78 m.p.h. over the line and took 17.6 sec. for the quarter mile, all of which sounds very reasonable.


R.H.D Karmann-Ghia 

The Karmann-Ghia Volkswagen will be available in this country with right-hand drive next month, which will be welcome news to those who crave one of these smart cars but consider that l.h.d. is not entirely suited to the traffic conditions and rule of the road in this country.

With a view to sampling a r.h.d. K-G  we borrowed the eye-catching red coupé which Mr. J. J. Graydon, Managing Director of VW Motors Ltd. in England, uses as his personal car and demonstrator. This Continental-shod Karmann-Ghia, with two Lumax spotlamps for coping with London fog, and American-style bumpers, completely captivated us.

Hitherto we have regarded the Karmann-Ghia-bodied cars as de luxe VWs and although they are certainly de luxe, because of their greater comfort and improved road-holding, they really should be regarded as in a category of their own. The lower build and presence of an anti-roll bar transforms the cornering properties, so that the Karmann-Ghia can be flung through corners with practically no roll or oversteer. There is plenty of room in the extremely comfortable separate front seats with adjustable squabs, which are luxuriously upholstered and hold the occupants firmly. The gear lever has been shortened and its positioning is just about perfect, while the foolproof synchromesh on the three upper ratios enables lightning gear changes to be made, although the action is not quite as smooth as on the ordinary VW.  The steering is slightly heavier than that of a normal VW which some people will probably prefer.

The direction–flashers stalk is shorter than on the VW saloon and the flashers self-cancelling. Particularly welcome are the wide doors for easy entry to the car and the extremely effective heating/ventilatory system. The latter has demisting of the big back window as well as of the screen and finger controls which enable cold air to be mixed with hot air as required. and, moreover, allows the passenger to enjoy warm air while thc driver refreshes himself with cold, or vice versa.

Behind the front seats is an exceptionally commodious luggage shelf, the front of which folds up to provide a neat, upholstered occasional seat for an adult or two or three children. When the car is locked the standard VW engine in the boot and the luggage, tools, spare wheel and petrol tank in front are rendered thief-proof.  Visibility from the K-G coupé is excellent and the sound-level is lower than in a VW saloon. There is some reflection in the screen, which could be obviated by painting the facia sill matt black, and slight air whistle past the driver’s window. Otherwise the well-constructed Karmann body is free from rattles and wind-noise and its interior upholstery, exterior finish and appointments are of high quality. The doors have effective “keeps” and possess pockets, supplemented by a lidded facia cubby-hole.

The makers claim a  maximum and cruising speed of 71 m.p.h. and certainly the speedometer will go to 70 along any short straight. True maximum is probably 75-80 m.p.h. and acceleration seems better than with a normal VW above 50. But the superb controllability makes up for any lack of power although sometimes the ability to make the tail break away with the throttle would be a further advantage. The car is commendably light, turning the scales at 15-3/4 cwt. with half a tank of petrol and the extras referred to.

Mr. Graydon’s car has a Vdo petrol gauge to supplement the invaluable VW reserve tap: this is of the float type and  far more erratic than the earlier Vdo electric fuel gauge which, with one lapse, has proved reliable and extremely accurate on the Editorial Volkswagen. The rheostat instrument lighting is retained, the speedometer is matched by a clock, and very neat is the combined half-horn-ring-cum-centre-horn-push.

The lines of the Karmann-Ghia VW need no praise beyond that already generously accorded to them. The car tested had an English r.h.d. conversion, the oniy snag with which is that the heater selector levers are still on the near-side, difficult for the driver to reach. The pedals are biased towards the near-side in r.h.d. cars due to the intrusion of the wheel arch but the driver soon becomes acclimatised.

Next month r.h.d. Karmann-Ghias will be imported from Germany, the price being about £20 above that of existing I.h.d. modelS. At some £1,255 this may make the K-G-VW seem comparatively costly, but befere it is dismissed as merely a luxury version of the ubiquitous German saloon,  VW enthusiasts should make a point of driving one. Judged in respect of beauty of line, the pleasure it imparts to the driver, its safe handling qualities and economy of running, this car is in a class of its own.  Like the writer, it is probable that those who try it will be completely captivaited.



Monoposto Register notes

The Monoposto Register, which exists to encourage inexpensive motor racing with individualistic single-seater cars (their formula was given in our January issue), will have its first official race meeting at Brands Hatch on June 28th, although the Register’s members will have had several opportunities beforehand, of racing their cars in sprints and at Snetterton on April 11th.

The Register, which has no connection with the 750 M.C. or the Special Builders’ Club, had an attendance of over 100 at its A.G.M. in January. Amongst the engines which may figure in the Register’s cars are Austin A35, Morris Minor,  Ford Ten,  linered-down Standard Eight and Ten, Renault 750 and Dauphine, Dyna-Panhard, D.K.W., Fiat 600,  linered-down Riley Nine, etc., which should bring welcome variety to club racing.

Those who wish to join’ should contact F. J. Tiedeman, 46a (rear), Station Road, North Harrow, Middlesex.