A Poor Man Goes Motor Racing

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Arthur Mallock writes about an aggressive but not warlike (Formula Junior) U2

The Ultimate in Low-Build. ― Other Formula Junior cars tower above Arthur Mallock’s U2 on the starting grid at last year’s B.R.D.C. British Empire Trophy Meeting at Silverstone. The body is 23 in. high at the uppermost point. How does a Lotus Twenty compare?

Readers may recall from my article in Motor Sport of October, 1959, that that year had marked several significant steps forward in my search for no-cost motor racing. My 1172 Formula car had been reliable and winning consistently, which had two most desirable secondary effects. Firstly, a little bit of prize money was coming my way, which more than paid for mechanical replacements, so that the “kitty” was not permanently empty and most important of all, I was able to sell the car at the end of the season, so that for the first time in a dozen years I had some real money with which to build a new car. The other important fact was the advent of Formula Junior, which looked like being the best chance for the amateur constructor to break into International racing since the early days of Formula 3 in about 1950.

Many “Special” building projects arc still-born, because the builders have no very clear idea of what they are trying to achieve. Before starting, therefore, it is best to carry out an “appreciation of the situation” in the best military tradition. The “object,” then, was to build a Junior, for about £400, which would not disgrace itself in International competition, with the ultimate aim of making my racing pay for itself. The “method” was to analyse the different factors which go to make up a good Junior and then try to incorporate them in the design: —

Weight. — Having been born with a spring balance round my neck there was no great problem here. By keeping the basic design some ½ cwt. below the limit, ballast could be added at undertray level to help keep down the c. of g. and also allow the weight distribution to be altered to suit the circuit.

Drag. — Anything approaching “lamina flow” is impossible, on an open-wheeled car, so the object should be to keep down the overall frontal area and minimise air disturbing projections. In 1960 Coopers proved that cutting down the body width doesn’t help a lot, their “full width” Formula 1 car having a lower drag than the much narrower Lotus. The U2 has a 23-in, scuttle-height and 44½-in. track, giving a lower frontal area than any 1960 design. Exhaust pipe, wishbones, and suspension units were all enclosed.

Transmission-line loss. — The live rear axle with straight prop.-shaft has a lower loss than any other system.

Selection of gear-ratios. — By using a B.M.C. gearbox and differential, four sets of gearbox gears and five or six final-drive ratios are available, to give almost any desired combination. In 1960 many of the rear-engined cars were none too happy in this respect.

Cornering power. — A study of 1959 race results and lap-speeds showed that, on tricky circuits such as Brands. Hatch and Oulton Park, the 1172 Formula cars were about as fast as the Juniors, e.g. the Brands lap-records were about the same and at a combined race at Oulton Park in October the first two cars were 1172s. The faster 1172s mostly used live rear axles, swing-axle i.f.s., and asymmetrical weight distribution. Compared to the all-round-independent suspension by wishbone, popular with the Juniors, this arrangement appeared to make up for the deficiency of some 12 to 15 b.h.p. in power output. From the above analysis, the following design was derived:

Chassis frame. — Similar to my 1959 1172 but with the side-members now extending to the full width of the body, i.e. a space frame using mostly 18g. square-section tubes. Experience gained on the very conservative 1959 design allowed a weight saving of about 20 lb.

Body structure. — As in 1959, this consisted of single curvature duralumin panels secured directly to the chassis tubes. Duralumin has a tensile strength of at least 24 tons, i.e. is two or three times’ as strong as alloys used in conventional body construction, so that 24g. panels do the work of 18g. Chassis depth was reduced 2 in. and the undertrav dropped 1 in., lowering the scuttle height to 23 in.

Rear axle. — The Austin Seven rear axle had proved very satisfactory for 1172 use, but the choice of ratios was a bit limited and I wanted an offset differential, so a Minor 1000 axle which retails at £30 was used, with one side shortened 6½ in. I used Austin Seven rear springs and had hoped to use a torque arm, but I could not see any way to mount it and in the end I settled for trailing arms à la Sprite, which worked very well.

Wheels. — Sprite 13-in, wheels with 5.25-in. tyres were the obvious choice for the rear, but for 1961 I am using the ex-Gilby Climax wheels with wider (4½-in.) rims. Cooper 500 front wheels fit straight on to the Ford stub axles, and save 20 lb. of unsprung weight. They look a bit queer, however, with 13 in. rear wheels, so I have gone over to 13 in. Condor wheels for 1961. These drop the front end by 1 in. Ground clearance was corrected by chopping ¾ in. off the sump.

Front axle. — This is basically as 1959, i.e. Ford swing-axle. A Standard Eight steering box replaces the Austin Seven layout and the castor angle is reduced from 6 deg. to 4 deg., which completely cured the rather heavy steering of the 1172.

Suspension. — Lotus Eleven Series I suspension units replaced the original leaf spring, saving 12 lb., and the two swing-axle pivots were made concentric to reduce the track without shortening the half-axles. Having spent a whole evening making up short track rods, I discovered that 100E rods were exactly the right length!

Gearbox. — I had intended using a Ford 100E gearbox, but when I discovered it weighed 70 lb. against 39 lb. for the A30, decided against it and bought a secondhand A30 box for £7 10s.

“It’s Quicker by Road.” — John Harwood spins away his lead during the Trio Meeting at Brands Hatch.

Engine. — This was the biggest problem. I never had any doubt that the 105E was the answer, but how to get a good one cheap was a problem. A professional tuner might well charge the full amount of my £400 budget and, in any case, by Christmas no one was really making any progress. Jack French came to the rescue and offered to build me two engines at a non-professional rate. This took care of the price, but what of the power? I had a lot of faith in Jack’s ability as a tuner, but felt that here was an engine which must be developed on a brake. Jack agreed and plans were laid for the installation of such a device. Unfortunately, it never did materialise and this was where we slipped up badly.

In the autumn of 1959; My friend Capt. John Harwood wrote from Cyprus that he was to be posted to Europe in June 1960 and wanted to do some serious racing. By going on a diet of beetroot sandwiches and not having his hair cut too often he reckoned he could save £40 a month out of his pay, so that with disturbance allowance, etc., he should have about £500 by midsummer. I suggested that junior Formula was the coming thing and that I help him to build a replica of my car. The plan was to order two of all “bought out” items and to have any special bits copied by semi-professionals, and that John would put the finishing touches when he came on leave in May. Unfortunately I got diverted into building a trials car and a go-kart, so that with one thing and another, there was not much more than a collection of bits when John started his leave.

Some six weeks later the car was ready to race and we tried it out at Silverstone the Friday before the A.M.O.C. Silverstone Meeting at the end of June. Apart from a chronic weakness, which we cured by the rather brutal method of dropping the S.U. needles in., it ran very well, but just before we packed up it went sour. Investigation showed a bent valve, and a scored bore due to circlip trouble. Overnight, my engine was installed and at 6.30 a.m. we started to run it in at the track.

John drove in the Junior race and finished a rather ignominious last. “Oil surge,” he reported, “I had to nearly stop on every corner.” I remembered Keith Duckworth’s advice about overfilling the sump and this made a complete cure so that in the Formule Libre race I was able to lap in 1 mm. 15 sec., which we calculated would have given us sixth place in the junior race.

The following day John went to the Trio meeting at Brands and in spite of chronic overgearing and our queer carburation he lapped at 21 sec. outside the then-current junior lap-record and finished third after spinning off whilst in the lead.

“D.S.J.” wrote in Motor Sport that: “The amateur constructor/tuner could not hope even to get an entry on the Continent, let alone collect any prize money.” We were agreeably surprised therefore, to be accepted for Reims on July 3rd and Nurburgring a week later, the first two events entered. After that, organisers actually wrote, asking to us enter and John twice finished “in the money,” as we shall see.

John’s engine was rebuilt in the rather short and hectic week between Brands and Reims. It was run in by the simple process of driving the U2 most of the way from Calais to the circuit.

There were 36 entries and 25 starters, so the problem was to qualify for the £75 starting money without blowing up. This John managed quite easily, in eighteenth position, ahead of most of the Continental cars. In the race John retired about three-quarters of the way through the first heat, when he lost his radiator cap. The carburation trouble was traced to a leaky manifold and as we had nothing to lose, we decided to ignore the principle of not racing on an untried mod., and cured the leak with the help of B.R.M. and fitted some better needles, borrowed from the Fitzwilliam racing team. The gamble paid off and John finished the second 50-mile heat going much better, lapping constantly at 96 m.p.h., and was classified fifteenth overall.

A week later at Nurburgring the circuit was much more to our liking and this time John qualified in eighth place (out of 36), with only British cars in front of him.

During the winter of 1959/60 there had been something of an alarm and despondency campaign in the Motor papers suggesting that Formula junior was not for the poor man. One suggestion was that to have any hope of success you must lash out some £500 for a Stanguellini-Fiat or Mitter-D.K.W. engine. At Reims, therefore, we were rather amused to see the Fitzwilliam Team replacing one of their Stanguellini engines with an S.U.carburetted Ford unit in a successful attempt to restore some measure of performance. At Nurburgring John also had a little chuckle when he passed Mitter’s D.K.W.-engined Lotus; allegedly developing 93 b.h.p. He was then running seventh when he suddenly lost 500 r.p.m. Trying to make up time on the downhill section he “lost it” and bent the front end pretty extensively. Power loss was traced to a slipped cylinder liner.

The Services seem to have a lot of exigencies in the late summer and John never had a chance to get the U2 really raceworthy again, but he finished “in the money,” eighth, at the next Nurburg meeting and finally, on October 16th, again at Nurburg in appalling weather, he gave the U2 its first International win. True, the British contingent were absent, but against this, his engine was well down on power. (It developed 58 b.h.p. just after the race.)

In spite of the gloomy prophecies, therefore, John could fairly well claim to have achieved “Poor Man’s Motor Racing.” He had built the car mostly himself, paid for the bits from his salary, won an International race, and in what was really only his first full season, his starting money and prize money had more than paid for all his competing and travelling expenses.

Back in England, the second U2 was slowly nearing completion. On August 26th at Oulton Park the great day dawned. The weather was foul. I had never driven the car in anger until I started from the back of the grid, but before I could say “Live axles give chronic wheelspin,” I found myself going into the first corner (Old Hall) in fifth place. I was pipped by Fenning’s Lotus by inches for third place, 6.8 sec. behind the winner, and made fastest lap on the one tour on which I wasn’t breathing someone’s spray. If only the scrutineer had allowed me to practice! I was getting 7,000 r.p.m. in top, with a 4.875 axle-ratio; I was using Webers (compared with John’s S.U.s), home-made cam, and standard inlet valves.

For Rufforth, two weeks later, I changed to oversize (1.400-in.) inlet valves and got 7,400 r.p.m., but was still being left hopelessly on acceleration. A Cosworth cam was fitted for the Peterborough Silverstone Meeting and now we really started to “cook with gas,” getting 8,000 r.p.m. in top with lap times down to 1 min. 12 sec. We netted our first win and a most acceptable £25 for the kitty.

At Mallory, the following day, we reckoned that on form we might have picked up a couple of seconds (£50), but it was not to be. Trying to save £3 by using Triumph motorcycle push-rods, we did some £15 worth of damage to the engine and lost all chance of any prize money.

A very hurried rebuild saw us at Oulton Park five days later for the Gold Cup. Unfortunately, Standard push-rods produced a period at 7,000 r.p.m., just where we were getting our most useful power, but at least we had a troublefree run and finished both 50-mile heats without otherwise missing a beat.

In the Empire Trophy, my penny-wise policy failed again. I had been using home-made close-ratio gears and in the foul weather conditions I had to use third gear most of the way round; after 18 laps this packed up, so that we didn’t even qualify for our finishing money. It was the same story at Brands. We had reckoned to fit a steel centre-main-bearing cap in the “off ” season, but Brands was one Meeting too many. We wrecked the engine to the tune of about £20 without even getting a race. After a very late start to the season, we had raced the poor U2 into the ground with seven meetings in seven week-ends, but apart from engine and gearbox trouble, not a nut had come loose. By 1172 standards, we had had a troublesome season. Only in one race had we really hit top form, but the significant part about it was that in spite of this, prize money and starting money had covered our running expenses, so that we were racing at no more than spectator cost.

Between October 14th and Christmas we had plenty of time to get the car properly prepared for Boxing Day and we made no mistakes. A visit to Ted Martin revealed that in 1960 we had never had more than a very peaky 62 b.h.p. A few minor changes and we soon had 72 b.h.p. showing at 7,000 r.p.m, but still with very little torque. (Maximum torque and maximum power were coincident, at 7,000 r.p.m.) but this extra to b.h.p. transformed the U2 and for the first time we came within striking distance of the fast boys. Our 13-in. front wheels worked out very well and our second place netted a very useful £15. Having got the bugs out of the design, only detail changes are planned for 1961 — better back brakes, a better gearbox, a bit more streamlining and, most important, some real power from the engine. I hope to get at least 85 b.h.p., combined with good torque.

At the moment, there are no more U2 Juniors being built in England, but there are two 1172s and one 1,000-c.c. sports car nearing completion, and a Junior is being built in Canada. Production difficulties on replica chassis/body assemblies have now been overcome, so if any “poor men” wish to make their motor racing pay, there is still a chance for this season if you get cracking. In conclusion, I would like to say that I have found the “Anti-poor man alarm and despondency campaign” to be entirely without foundation. The Ford engine, which is one of the cheapest, has proved to be the best. Certainly, by 1960 standards, quite remarkably few expensive modifications are required. Standard crankshaft, con-rods, oil pump, rocker gear, big-ends, flywheel and clutch have all been used successfully and even push-rods, pistons, distributor and main bearings can be used at a pinch. The “expensive special bearings” which are quoted as being essential cost, in fact, £4-a-set retail, and the only really weak feature is the centre-main-bearing cap. Up to 75 b.h.p. and 7,500 r.p.m. reliability has been outstanding and I know at least one Cosworth engine which has done a whole season without being touched. You certainly can spend £2,000 on a Junior if you wish, but as to whether this is essential for a reasonable degree of success, I very much doubt.

I recall a comment by “D.S.J.”, I think in the 750 Club Bulletin, that the average 750 and 1172 enthusiast has a far greater genuine technical “know how” than his more senior equivalent. Ask a 750 owner his third gear ratio and he will quote it to four decimal places. I asked several Lotus Junior owners this question and none of them had the faintest idea. The chap who builds, tunes and prepares his own car must surely start with an advantage from the “over-the-counter” customer.

Formula junior is marginally more expensive than 1172, because you need a dynamometer-tested engine, but with a bit of luck you may make up the extra cost in your first season. With Formula junior virtually replacing Formula 2, 1961 looks like being a bumper season, so “have a go” chaps and let’s see a bit of variety on the starting grid.

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