Around and about, March 1977

Spring sporting new car fever

Better news from both Aston Martin and Lotus has been evident recently. Aston Martin seem solidly locked onto a programme that will produce that extraordinary Motor Show Lagonda, over £40,000 in deposits having already been lodged at Newport Pagnell. Aston have also introduced a really high performance variant of the V8, bringing back the old Vantage label, and performance claims that encompass a 170-m.p.h. top speed, 0-100 m.p.h. acceleration in 12.7 sec. Lotus are not quite in the same league of straight-line performance claims, but they are bouncing a little more with she introduction of the Eclat Sprint and £2.7 million in orders for 334 cars in America.

The Aston Martin V8 Vantage is quite distinctive from the exterior, and likely to appeal strongly to those who like their cars to have a fierce face to turn high street heads. All the items seem to have competition heritage behind them, including the inevitable front and rear aerodynamic appendages. However there is also a degree of aerodynamic work centred around a blanked-off grille, the intake for the radiator being within the front spoiler, and even the intake on the bonnet has been neatly plated.

Internally the engine has extensive revisions that arc said to result in “about 40% more power and 10% more torque”. The aluminium engine construction, based around the d.o.h.c. per built V8, boasts new camshafts, inlet manifolds, valves, inlet tracts and manifolding, plus a completely fresh air has and multiple carburation arrangement.

Counterbalancing this are some earnest attempts at improving both braking and roadholding, comprising more sporting settings for the Koni shock-absorbers, a larger diameter front roll bar and an increased resistance to body roll in the rear De Dion layout. The substantial production ventilated disc brakes receive a further helping hand in the form of radial grooving in the disc faces.

Aston Martin engineering director Mike Loasby says some fairly provocative things about the new car including, “we believe that this new car could out-accelerate any of its rivals to 60 m.p.h. and beyond.” For the present our promised chance to prove this has been delayed by an accident to the prototype car in the hands of another journal. Almost at the same time, the prototype Lagonda was involved in a road accident outside the factory, though we saw it had been repaired in time for Prince Charles to drive. Road testers will be particularly keen to get their hands on the V8 because all this performance (0-60 m.p.h. in 5.3 sec. is another claim) is said to be allied to an ability to accelerate from 18 m.p.h. in top gear “without transmission snatch”.

The Lotus Eclat Sprint is a far more straight-forward marketing operation around the 4 or 5-speed manual models, the 4-speed with the standard Sprint 4-to-1 final drive being the best bet for acceleration. Alloy wheels are included in a mainly decorative package that includes a black frontal stripe and a large Union Jack/Sprint rear decal beneath a blacked-out rear panel. An extra cost of £280 was being proposed for the Sprint at the time of writing, tho cost of the cheapest Eclat fixed, then, at £7,544.

Despite today’s use of a camshaft designed to give the best possible torque characteristics throughout the Lotus 2-litre engine range, the best torque figure of 140 lb. ft. is realised at 4,900 r.p.m. Best power output is delivered at 6,200 r.p.m., when the 16-valve units should deliver 160 brake horsepower. Lotus expect the Sprint to manage 130 m.p.h., accelerate from rest to 60 m.p.h. in less than 8 sec. and deliver 26-30 m.p.g.

Etonian apologies

Our staff numbers do not include any Old Etonians. That became increasingly obvious to a besieged D.S.J. when a surprising number of vintage people raised the matter; they are obviously scanning some of the current car tests with more than a passing glance. Cause of their consternation, and some gentle humour about cobbled hillsides in Eton, was the caption alleging that the boys surveying the Porsche Turbo on page 164 of the February issue were Etonians. They were not: the car was in Windsor, not far from the Castle. Our caption writer obviously deserved his failure at O-level geography!

Non-Championship F1

A small reminder that even those who do not care for Brands Hatch might do well to note. This year’s Race of Champions (often hilariously misprinted in the national papers as Race of Chumps, or Race of Chimps) is the only chance to see some of the F1 circus in action this year, whether in Britain or abroad, at an event that does not count for World Championship points.

To take place on March 19th (practice) and 20th, the race presently includes entries for James Hunt, but only Lotus have two entries, those for Nilsson and Andretti, John Watson, Tom Pryce, Jody Scheckter, Vittorio Brambilla and Ronnie Peterson are also expected to appear. New British entries for the European season are expected to include three debutants, Brian Henton (a private March at present), David Purley in the Mike Pilbeam-designed car that will probably bear his family business name, and Rupert Keegan, the British F3 Champion making his debut in F1 driving a new Hesketh sponsored by ATS.

200 m.p.h. Indianapolis?

Managing McLaren’s USAC effort this seasom Tyler Alexander is quoted in a recent press release are predicting lap speeds in excess of 200 m.p.h. during the May qualifying period. McLaren will be using the M24, a design that has much in common with the GP M23 model. However, it is powered by an expected 800 horsepower from its turbocharged Cosworth DFX derivative of the famous Northampton V8.

The M24 will be driven by Johnny Rutherford, who has won the event twice for McLaren, and finished second in 1975. Having already shown winning form Cosworth’s DFX turbocharged engine looks set for an interesting USAC season. The DFX should be tussling with the established four-cylinder Offenhauser and A. J. Foyt’s developed version of the Ford o.h.c. racing engine, both of which also rely on turbocharging.

More starters

The Brands Hatch Club circuit has now been approved by the RAC for starting up to 23 cars at a time, except where single-seaters are involved, where the number of starters remains at 20.

The RAC have meanwhile confirmed that their book of official regulations to cover all British registered Championship and formulae will not be issued until “mid March”, which is a rather sorry state of affairs! Competitors who want advance information can get it by sending their enquiry, together with an to the RAC Motorsport Division, 31 Belgrave Sq., London, SW1X 8QH.

Another note from the RAC sporting division adds the charming reminder that you cannot compete abroad these days without obtaining, well in advance, the requisite visa and compulsory medical insurance. Thus RAC approval must be obtained when submitting an entry overseas.

Polo versus Ford Fiesta

Volkswagen in Britain are certainly putting up a pretty strenuous fight against the announced virtues of the Ford Fiesta. You may have noticed the full page ad in the Sunday press with full-blooded attacks to assert that Ford have unsuccessfully imitated VW’s Polo, in one case backed up by magazine road test comments.

Behind the scenes VW have sent journalists a factual sheet to make sure that the poor benighted writers compare the right models to get a valid comparison in these days of multiple options.

Will W.B. once more be pressed into VW controversy when he publishes his thoughts on the Fiesta? At present our editor is quietly withdrawn on the subject, but our Essex-based colleagues say Ford swiftly sold 16,000 Fiestas in the first fortnight on the British market.

Leyland R&D

Research and Development should be the heart of any progressive motor manufacturer, so it is encouraging to hear that Leyland have applied for planning permission to establish a new R&D Centre in the Midlands. The location is adjacent to the junction of the M42 and the A34 Stratford to Birmingham trunk road and, if the application is successful, the first stage could be finished by 1981. Eventually the idea is to have nearly 5,000 engineers based on the site to bring Leyland a cohesive engineering centre by the mid-1980s.

Anyone for a cavalcade?

National Benzole and the Transport Trust are backing a Biggin Hill presentation of historical transport. As the title suggests, land, air and water vehicles are all eligible, assuming that the organisers wish to include them.

Entries are desired for display at Biggin Hill between May 13th-15th, the closing date for potential entrants set at March 18th. To encourage owners of interesting vehicles, the organisers are offering just 5 gallons of fuel per vehicle, a free lunch box for two and a commemorative plaque. A concours d’elegance and a period costume parade with separate prizes is also anticipated.

All enquiries should be directed to: Michael Milliken, Historical Transport Cavalcade, Biggin Hill Airport. Westerham, Kent TN16 3BN.