Rumblings, March 1974

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Ferrari Revived. – In the accompanying photographs we see a 1.1/2-litre V12 Ferrari supercharged Grand Prix car as it was in 1951 and as it is in 1974. This is car number F1 /114 and it was built in 1950 as one of the factory team cars. In 1951 it was bought by Peter Whitehead, who ran it in Grand Prix racing as a private entrant, although the works gave him some assistance and it was prepared and maintained by Whitehead’s mechanics in the “customer shop” at the Modena factory. The 1.1/2-litre V12 engine had single overhead camshafts on each bank of cylinders, with a supercharger mounted on the front of the crankcase, feeding mixture to the cylinders by way of a large inlet tract along the vee of the engine. Whitehead had a 2-litre V12 engine as well, this being unsupercharged, and it was readily changeable with the supercharged unit, so that he was able to take part in Formula One and Formula Two races at the time. The upper photograph shows the car being wheeled out of the paddock to the starting line for the Italian Grand Prix in 1951, with Stan Elsworth in charge and enjoying having his photograph taken, and Whitehead’s team manager David Yorke walking beside the car. It is interesting that both Yorke and Elsworth later joined the team of Mr. G. A. Vandervell and were with the Vanwall team right up to their World Championship in 1958. In recent years David Yorke was team manager for the John Wyer Gulf team, with Ford GT40s, Mirages and Porsche 917, throughout their successful years. When Elsworth left Vanwall he “mechanic-ed” for various private owners, finally retiring to a small business of his own, and died rather suddenly a few years ago.

The first single-seater Ferrari Grand Prix cars were built on a very short wheelbase and were absolute pigs to handle, Whitehead having one of the first production ones, which he battled with during 1949. Subsequently Ferrari redesigned the chassis, with a longer wheelbase, and the car became quite a reasonable proposition. After the Whitehead long-chassis car had served its purpose in European racing it was sold to an Australian driver and was raced “down under” until it was no longer competitive, when the supercharged 1.1/2-litre engine was removed and used in a speed boat. It was remarkably successful in this activity and ran regularly. Meanwhile a Chevrolet Corvette V8 engine was installed in the Ferrari chassis and the front was altered to make it look a bit more contemporary.

In 1964 the car was advertised for sale and was in immaculate condition, painted bright red, and Tom Wheatcroft bought it unseen and in good faith that it was as advertised, “… the Peter Whitehead Grand Prix Ferrari. . . no mention being made of the Chevrolet engine. When it arrived in England it was certainly in good condition, but it was hardly a Grand Prix Ferrari with its American V8 engine. Undeterred, Wheatcroft used it for a bit of fun on private test days, finding the V8 had more than enough power to spin the whole lot off onto the grass, though the handling was not as originally intended. As the rest of the car had not been “butchered” Wheatcroft felt it was worthwhile looking for a Ferrari engine to put back in the car. He was put on to the speedboat owner, but the Ferrari engine was performing so well there was no hope of prising it out of him. Another early V12 Ferrari engine turned up, but was a bit dubious and too high-priced, so F1/114 continued to sit in Wheatcroft’s garage with its American engine in place. As the owner began to collect other interesting old Grand Prix cars, some of them a bit derelict and others immaculate, the makings of an exciting collection began, and as various Grand Prix cars were restored to originality the poor old Ferrari began to look more and more embarrassed. In 1973 Wheatcroft had collected together sufficient interesting Grand Prix single-seater racing cars (there were actually 50) to feel justified in opening his Collection to the public, which he did in a fine group of buildings at Donington Park. The poor old Ferrari, with its “bastard” engine, was left behind in the store-shed as it was not deemed to be fit company for the thoroughbreds in the Donington Collection.

At no point since 1964 had Tom Wheatcroft given up hope for the Ferrari, and while the search for an engine continued he was always chivvying up the speed boat owner, but always the reply was the same: “No sale, the engine is running too well and the boat is still being successful”. Finally the speed boat owner terminated his racing career and the engine was available, and in no time at all the V12 power unit was on its way to England. During last summer F1 /114 was stripped down, checked over and the chassis repainted its original grey and made ready to receive its original engine once more. The V12 engine was checked over and found to be in good order, and it was a great day in the Wheatcroft workshops when the engine, with F1/114 stamped on the crankcase, was lowered into the chassis which also had the original marking F1/114 on the frame member in the cockpit. John Cole, who does all the panel beating and bodywork on the Wheatcroft cars, made a new nose cowling, complete with “potato chipper” grille, a new bonnet, and refurbished the body back to the Whitehead condition as regards scoops, louvres, fastenings and so on, and the car was repainted Whitehead green.

The lower picture on this page shows F1/114 in all its new glory standing outside the Donington Collection buildings, where it now lives proudly alongside a Maserati 4CLT/48, a supercharged 1.1/2-litre Alta, and a 4.1/2-litre Lago-Talbot from its own period of Grand Prix racing.

A COMPLETE REVERSAL – In 1949/ 50 the works racing team of Norton Motors Ltd. of Bracebridge Street, Birmingham, were ruling the roost in motorcycle Grand Prix racing with their 499-c.c. single-cylinder double overhead-camshaft engine. One of the directors of Norton Motors Ltd. was G. A. Vandervell, managing director of Vandervell Products, who was running a Ferrari racing car and contemplating building his own Grand Prix engine. Racing was heading towards a 2-litre capacity limit and Tony Vandervell thought that it must be possible to put four works Norton 499-c.c. engines together to make a pretty good 2,000-c.c. car engine. Basically this is what he did to produce the first Vanwall engine, which was subsequently enlarged to 2,500 c.c. for the 1954 Formula of Grand Prix racing. He used piston forgings made to Norton drawings by the same manufacturer who made them for the works Nortons, and the same valves, while the Vanwall cylinder head was designed around the knowledge passed to him from Norton Motors Ltd. on port shape, valve angles, inlet tracts and so on. From this basic design information the engineering team at Vandervell Products developed the Vanwall engine into Britain’s first successful Grand Prix winner, culminating in the Manufacturers’ Championship in 1958 with six Grand Prix victories to its credit in one season. From that day on Britain never looked back in Grand Prix racing, and Cooper and Lotus, together with Coventry-Climax, carried on where Vandervell left off. Subsequently Coventry-Climax withdrew and Cosworth Engineering took over at the top, producing the DFV engine for Ford, and Lotus, Tyrrell, McLaren and others have used the Cosworth V8 to keep Britain in the forefront of Grand Prix racing.

In the late fifties the great name of Norton dwindled and died and was bought up by Associated Motorcycles, and it was not long before AMC also died. Dennis Poore, who used to race Connaughts, Aston Martins, and other cars in the fifties, bought AMC Ltd., through his firm Manganese Bronze Ltd., and salvaged the name Norton. He moved the firm from Plurnstead, in south-east London, to Wolverhampton, where he had bought the Villiers Engine Company, and the Norton Commando was born. The success of the rejuvenated Norton motorcycle led Dennis Poore to launch a new Norton works racing team, and then John Player & Sons weighed in with some hefty financial support and the John Player Norton team have upheld British prestige in motorcycle racing, especially in the recently founded Formula 750. The Norton vertical-twin engine was reaching the end of its development as a racing unit, and recently Dennis Poore was casting around for a replacement, various firms offering him engine designs, but he decided to go to the best and start from scratch. A deal has been made with Cosworth Engineering and Keith Duckworth and his design team are building a 750-c.c. engine for the works Norton team. One cylinder of the successful Cosworth Grand Prix engine is 375 c.c., so a twin-cylinder will be 750 c.c., and as the DFV gives 460 b.h.p. it means in round figures that each cylinder develops 57.5 b.h.p., so that a twin, in theory, should give 115 b.h.p. In 1950 the works Norton engine was developing around 45-50 b.h.p. and the 2-litre Vanwall engine gave an instant 165 b.h.p. and subsequent 180 b.h.p., so it is reasonable to suppose that the new water-cooled twin-cylinder 750-c.c. Cosworth-Norton engine should give an instant 100 b.h.p. with more to come. This in a new rnonocoque Norton frame should produce a bike for 1975 which will take on allcorners in its class.

The complete reversal of activity over 25 years is interesting; our most successful racing motorcycle engine sired our first successful Grand Prix car engine, and now our most successful Grand Prix car engine is going to sire what we hope will become our next successful motorcycle engine. In the fifties it was a co-operative effort to help the British beat the Italians at motor racing, now it is a similar effort to help the British beat the Japanese at motorcycle racing.

The 1974 Lotus Grand Prix Car

In the middle of February the John Player sponsored Team Lotus unveiled the latest Formula One car from the design team of Colin Chapman and Ralph Bellamy. The Lotus 72 which the team have been using for the past four years has come to the end of its development, and new ideas that Lotus have been experimenting with over the past two years were getting to the point of being impossible to incorporate in the 72 design. This new car is an extension of all the good points of the 72, together with many new ones, and while the overall concept bears direct descendancy to the 72 the team now have a wholly new design, designated JPS/9. In effect it is number R9 in the 72 series, although it is no longer a 72 and at the moment does not carry a Lotus type number.

Powered by a Cosworth DFV engine and driving through a five-speed Hewland gearbox, the car follows its predecessors in having radiators mounted on the sides of the monocoque, inboard brakes all round, torsion bar suspension all round and an overall wedge shape. In the continuous search for faster cornering Lotus have been experimenting with a control system whereby the driver can use his left foot for braking and keep his right foot on the throttle, thus holding the car in a stable condition round a very fast corner such as Woodcote at Silverstone. This principle of driving with both feet stems from the Lotus turbine car, in which the throttle had to be kept open through a corner, so the left foot was used on the brake pedal to control the cornering speed. Similar thinking was developed with the four-wheel-drive experimenting that Lotus did, especially with application to the fast corners at Indianapolis.

On the new Lotus the brake pedal is split into a Vee, with a pedal pad on each leg of the V and the steering column running down between the two pads. Thus the driver can use the conventional system of braking with his right foot, or he can develop the unconventional system and brake with his left foot. Alongside the right-hand pad is the normal throttle pedal and alongside the left-hand pad is a normal clutch pedal, but it does not end there. So that the driver can change gear while having his left foot on the bifurcated pedal, there is a button on top of the gear-lever which when pressed operates the clutch by an electro-hydro-mechanical system designed by Automotive Products of Leamington Spa. The button on the lever at the driver’s right hand operates a solenoid which causes the starter motor to revolve in the opposite direction to normal, thus preventing the Bendix from engaging, and on the back of the starter is a pump which pressurises a reservoir on top of the rear drive unit and another electrical switch passes this pressure to the normal operating mechanism of the Borg and Beck clutch. The pedal in the cockpit operates on the clutch by normal hydraulic means, so that the driver starts off in the normal way and can continue driving normally if he wants to, but can operate the clutch by means of the button any time he wants to, such as when he is braking into a corner, using his left foot. This special clutch operating mechanism developed for Lotus by Automotive Products does not give any particular advantage on its own, but does allow the driver to develop a left-footbraking driving style, like the ace rally drivers utilise. The sudden change from full throttle to the over-run at the approach to a corner tends to upset the balance of a racing car, especially with soft long-travel suspension, and the left-foot-braking technique, with the power kept constant, can make the car more stable through a fast bend, and in tests Peterson has found he can leave corners quicker by this method, even though the actual cornering speed may not be improved. Unfortunately this new system of the Lotus has been described as “two-pedal control” and the idea has been given that the car has two separate brake pedals, which is not so.

For the rest of the new Lotus there are many new ideas, among them a conventional rear suspension layout, except that it is upsidedown, with the single transverse link at the bottom and the parallel links at the top. The rear shock-absorbers are anchored at their top end to the rear of the cylinder heads of the Cosworth engine; the oil tank and catch tank are concealed within the mounting for the rear aerofoil, which is on top of the gearbox, and there are two rear aerofoils one above the other, it being possible to run with both or just the upper one. At the front the suspension is similar to the Lotus 72 but the complete anti-roll bar assembly is located by quick-release pins, which will make changes possible in a few seconds. The Magnesium-Elektron wheels are Goodyear shod, 12-inch diameter at the front and 13-inch at the rear. Wheelbase is 101 inches, front track 58 inches and rear track 62 inches, while the overall length is 180 inches.

At the time of viewing the new Lotus only one car was complete, and had been on test at Silverstone, but a second car was nearing completion. By the time the European season starts there should be four cars, two for Ronnie Peterson and two for Jacky Ickx, and it will be interesting to see how they adapt themselves to the new style of driving that the car permits.—D.S.J.

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