All in a Year's Work

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In which the Deputy Editor reviews his 1978 motoring activities

Some loose reflections on my activities in 1978, preparatory to writing this by now annual review, recalled something of a grey year. In fact I was at the point where I would have gladly shelved the task completely had not the magazine deadline encroached and visions of empty pages goaded me on. Reluctantly, I sat down with pen in one hand and 1978 Rolls-Royce diary in the other – and suddenly the whole year sprang to life. Once again I had had my share of fascinating motoring experiences and sat behind the wheels of some of the fastest, most exciting cars in the world, current and past. There had been less test cars and less competition motoring than in the memorable preceding couple of years, although my annual mileage of 40,000 or so had been much the same. Quality had made up for quantity. My childhood ambition to race at Le Mans had been met, albeit not in the 24 hour race and I drove several of the cars which had fired my imagination in those contemporary D. S. J. and W. B. race reports read in Motor Sports thumbed surreptitiously beneath my school desk. Touch wood, I even acquired a clean driving licence for the first time in many years, very difficult to achieve in this business.

Yet despite all the apparent glamour it was something of a grey year for me and no doubt for many of us. What with petrol tanker drivers’ strikes, power strikes, strikes for this and strikes for that even the most exciting life must tarnish a bit at the edges. And while readers might assume that all the fast cars and travel image is the full extent of this occupation, in truth it is only a small part of this motoring journalist’s day-to-day labours, most of which are spent in production and the thousand and one other office-bound routines involved in the running of a magazine of this size and scope. Commuting the 25 miles to Standard House has become much more of a bind in the last 12 months. Traffic density seems to have risen dramatically in the area of the Capital and with it has come a deterioration in driving standards, especially on my own M1 route and, so my colleagues tell me, on the M4. Fast lane hogs at slow lane speeds are being bred intensively in the Home Counties and with them a new breed of hog, the overtake on the inside variety. It seems not so many years ago that personalities like Tommy Steele were singled out for disqualification for this offence after being reported by private individuals, yet every morning I see dozens of drivers risking their licences doing the self-same thing on the southern end of the M1. Either the law should be changed to allow an American freeway system in which overtaking is allowed on either side or the police should pounce on offenders. Overtaking on the inside is a safe enough practice when the driver being overtaken is expecting it, but few British drivers do, confirmed by the close side-swipe shaves I see daily. But this illicit overtaking is only the effect: it is time more education, and ultimately drastic action, was aimed at the cause, the slow hog in the fast lane.

With that little moan off my chest, so to happier concerns in 1978, which began, as most of my years do, thanks to the enthusiastic cooperation of M-B’s Erik Johnson, in the honest engineering of a Mercedes-Benz, this one a rather well-used 280E W 123. At which point, apologies for the incorrect caption on page 167 of last month’s issue, which described a 280SE as a 280E. We really do know the difference! This standard-looking 280E, used for tyre-testing prior to the Singapore Airlines London-Australia Rally, in which 280Es finished 1st and second, had a much more sporting demeanour than its conservative saloon shape suggested thanks to a delightfully slick four-speed manual gearbox (now a special order, no cost option in the UK), stiffer coil springs and Bilstein gas-filled shockabsorbers for the suspension. Although the sweet-revving and crisply responsive, Bosch fuel-injected, oversquare, twin-overhead camshaft, 2,746 c.c., in-line, six-cylinder engine remained standard, this solid saloon had admirable performance, very powerful standard brakes and delightful handling and power steering. The combination of stiffer suspension and hard M-B seats was a bit tougher on the bottom than normal, but a very pleasing motor car none-the-less. I liked too the two-door coupe version of the aforementioned, the Mercedes-Benz 2S0CE, which came to me later with standard suspension and four-speed automatic gearbox.

Friendly co-operation between German manufacturers ensured that waiting for me at M-B’s Brentford HQ when I returned the 280CE was one of my favourite cars of all, the Porsche 911SC Sport. This latest version of the long-running model produces 20 b.h.p. less from its 3-litre flat-six engine than the previous year’s Carrera 3.0. I didn’t complain, for the improved torque curve made this the happiest and most practical road-going Porsche engine yet. The old Carrera offered more performance and ultimate excitement, the latest 180 b.h.p. engine offers the perfect compromise for most conditions. Many other improvements were introduced with the SC model, including – to the horror of Porsche purists – servo brakes. The alarums were for nought, for the servo system loses little in sensitivity or progression, yet that remarkable stopping power is achieved for a lot less effort and makes the latest model a much easier car to drive in town. Front and rear spoilers, Pirelli P7 tyres and Bilstein shockabsorbers are included in the Sport package, which consequently has better high-speed stability, handling and roadholding than the similarly-engined SC. I adored this Porsche; even with unlimited financial resources it would be my personal choice of road car, yes, even at the expense of the 928 or Turbo (well, maybe …).

Yet the Porsche was not the most exciting current production road car to pass through my hands in 1978. The Aston Martin Vantage was head and shoulders above every competitor in turning on the adrenalin, a searingly fast and agile car that has no peers in most of the performance scale nor in the sheer exhilaration it offers the skilled driver. With over 400 b.h.p. from its four o.h.c., all-aluminium, 5.3-litre V8, driving through its five-speed ZF gearbox, it has to be the most powerful car currently in series production. From hand-stitched leather interior to hand-built aluminium coachwork and an engine painstakingly assembled by an individual master of the art the Vantage is a classic example of British craftsmanship at its best. It may be regarded as old-fashioned in some areas, yet to interfere with its brutal looks, its traditional interior would be to ruin a unique character. For a car of enormous weight and not inconsiderable girth its handling is nothing short of astounding, While the De Dion rear end and limited slip differential enable all those horses to be utilised with extraordinary efficiency. I was captivated by this remarkable car and only reasons of practicality put it second on my personal list to the 911 SC Sport, for this Aston is far too exquisite to be used as an everyday workhorse, untemperarnental though it may be.

Sandwiched between these spells with two of the world’s most famous high performance car names came an interesting little snowy diversion in the French Alps, courtesy of Volvo. Serre Chevalier was the centre for a couple of days of winter testing on snow-covered roads and a frozen lake in Volvo 244s, 245s, 264s, 343s and a lone 66. I have always thought the bigger Volvos to be cumbersome under normal conditions but their Scandinavian design shows through in beautifully-balanced handling on snow and ice. The smaller Volvos handle well inherently and I have always thought it unfortunate that they should be burdened with the Variomatic transmission. I shall be interested to try the 343 with its recently-announced manual gearbox option.

A thoroughly good car which already had a first-class manual gearbox came my way shortly after this snowy sortie: the Honda Accord, the little 1,600 c.c. hatchback which has won acclaim all over the world. This was one of a few cars which escaped a full road test for reasons of space so it deserves a few extra lines here. Its 80 b.h.p. engine has a single overhead camshaft, is mounted transversely and drives the front wheels. The suspension is McPherson strut all round and gave good handling with a very acceptable ride by Japanese standards, although the test car had clonking experimental rear shockabsorbers.

Easily controllable, with quick, light, rack and pinion steering, this little hatchback showed more front wheel drive reaction through the steering wheel than the VW Golf family, especially in slippery conditions, when the Bridgestone tyres showed a distinct lack of grip. Leyland could take a few tips from Honda about making a five-speed gearchange work sweetly in the layout which they pioneered. Although the test car had a mere 750 miles on its clock the neat and purposeful-looking, cast alloy engine revved quite freely and smoothly, if a bit buzzily at higher speeds, even in overdrive fifth. There was some body resonance, but little wind noise. Few cars in its class are so comprehensively appointed as the Accord, with things like four halogen headlights, intermittent and two-speed wipers, a hatchback release operable from the driver’s seat, automatic boot light, tachometer, illuminated ash tray, rear wiper and washer and radio. But with this specification in front of them the designers got carried away with gimmicks like a device in the instrument panel which serves as a reminder for oil changes, filter changes and tyre rotation and another which lights up the offending part of a little car diagram if a door is partly ajar or brake lights aren’t working. There are neat little touches like a fuse box underneath the facia which unclips and pulls down for access.

This is an airy car with a big window area and a particularly good heating and ventilation system. I would have appreciated better lumbar support in the front seats, but found this Accord to be generally practical, comfortable and good value. Its current price is £3,915.

Another example of excellent value for money from Japan is the Mazda Hatchback, a 1300 DL example of which was submitted for long-term assessment (see Motor Sport, August 1978). This Toyo Kogyo-built car has a conventional front engine/rear-wheel-drive layout. I found it a strong, reliable, comfortable, spacious and versatile little car marred by some body resonance at speed, but comfortable and with good performance. I loathe having to make long journeys in small cars, but this smooth running and endearing Mazda was quite acceptable for such work. This was a small car with the air of a big one and I felt that in many respects it set standards by which I now judge other small cars. Subsequently I bought the test car and was sad when a change of circumstances forced me to sell it.

There was more exciting Japanese motoring to come. The redoubtable Spike Anderson of Samuri Conversions re-purchased his original Datsun 240Z Super Samuri, road-tested by me in Motor Sport, July 1973. By now FFA 196L had had a very hard life and by way of rejuvenation Spike popped into it the engine and gearbox of the 240Z I had shared with Win Percy and eventually written off in the World Championship of Makes Six Hour Race at Brands Hatch in 1977. Not content with that he replaced the triple 45DCOE twin choke Webers with the larger choke 48DCOE variety, which lifted the power output another 8 b.h.p. to 223 b.h.p. The race car’s suspension went underneath, together with a limited slip differential and ventilated disc brakes with four-pot calipers at the front. Thus was born Anderson’s “Everyman’s Road-Racer”, as he termed it and this astonishing old 240Z warhorse went out to do battle in modsports races, travelling to and fro under its own steam. Anderson is very much “anti-trailer” – his big ambition is to prove that a car could be driven to and from Le Mans and run in the 24 hours – and he pretty well proved his point. Old FFA held third in class in a national modsports championship for most of the season, came third overall at Cadwell Park and lay third overall for most of another modsports race at Croft. In fact FFA in its various states of road tune has a pretty formidable racing record, with 38 modsports races and a season of RAC Hill Climb Championship rounds under its belt since 1973.

I confess that I did not do too many miles in FFA on the road in its latest racing guise, because the conspicuousness of appearance and noise seemed a certain licence loser. But what performance! 0-60 m.p.h. took in the low five second region. I suppose maximum speed must have been 150 m.p.h. or so and it went up to 120 m.p.h. like the clappers. Although we had trouble with the brakes in the Six Hour race they were well up to fast road motoring and so long as the race suspension wasn’t upset too much by bumps its roadholding and handling was magnificent. Quite entertaining!

The old, faithful Ford Capri 3000S, now in “III” guise was one of my favourite cars at any price in 1978 and undoubtedly represents the best value for money on the performance car market. Revised aerodynamics and one or two minor engine revisions seem to have given back this latest V6 some of the steam it lost in its later European emission Mk. II versions. A real character car, this, with that muscular, bellowing, unfussed engine as its lusty heart. Few cars could beat this Capri’s handling for entertainment value – a really, forgiving, predictable bundle of fun and fire. I enjoyed the light and direct Cam Gears power steering, though I might have not liked it so much had I not been locked in place by the optional Recaro seats, a very reasonably priced extra “must” to get the full value out of this marvellous long-legged Ford, which I rate as having the best ergonomics of all my cars in 1978. Undoubtedly a fine, cheap, versatile substitute for the Porsche or the Vantage when image doesn’t count.

An interesting newcomer to the sporting production car scene in 1978 was the Vauxhall Chevette 2300 HS, something of an homologation special, to ensure the eligibility of DTV’s rally cars, but available to the man in the street none-the-less. It’s a very rapid performer, as it should be with its 19 cwt. powered by a 135 b.h.p., sixteen-valve, twin-cam, 2,279 c.c. engine, its alloy head mounted on a slant-four, iron block. I first made acquaintance with the model at a Silverstone introduction; it understeered too much and faded its brakes under circuit conditions, but felt amenable on the road. Subsequently two were submitted for road test, but both coincided with periods when I barely had time to drive them and the first was plagued by misfire. I enjoyed the positive, light, Getrag gearbox, with first down to the left and nice ratios, but thought the overall gearing too low. Gerry Marshall’s modified car, which I also drove, benefited from a higher final drive and a limited slip differential. Roadholding was excellent on 205/60 HR 13 Dunlop SP Sports; this wasn’t a car to hurl sideways at a corner like a quick Escort, but it did respond best to having its thick-rimmed little steering wheel used with firmness, a “scruff of the neck” type touch. An interesting car which I would have liked to try for more miles.

For a touch of more esoteric motoring I furled back the hood of my Alfa Romeo 2000 Spider Veloce one sunny May morning and ambled down to Goodwood to watch the Ferrari Owners’ Club and Modena Engineering invitees at play. The old paddock lived again to the sounds of Ferraris, Astons, Jaguars, Porsches, Maseratis et al. The invitation from Ian Webb at Modena Engineering had intimated that there might be a chance to drive one or two of the cars, but how do you ask somebody sitting in his £20,000 and upwards pride and joy if you might please take it out and thrash it round the circuit? So I stood there looking longingly at Nick Mason’s Ferrari 250GTO until Nick took pity and strapped me into the left-hand driving seat. This is the ex-Ecurie Francorchamps car, third at Le Mans in 1962 and now one of the best 250 GTOs extant. Nick sent me out alone, trusting fellow, but the FOC members on the circuit entrance persuaded me to take with me an unknown and obviously unknowing, or simply brave, blonde, who tempered my style a little.

This 250GTO had once been owned by my good friend Vic Norman, whose 250GT SWB Berlinetta lightweight I tested on road and track in the November 1977 issue of Motor Sport. Vic maintained that the 250GT made a much better road car, though naturally the later 250GTO was much better on the circuit. I doubt whether I shall ever again drive a racing car so pleasing in every sense as this GTO, which Mason maintains in superb order. It was as if the whole car had been put together by a Swiss watch-maker, an uncanny sensation of complementary attributes, from quite the smoothest and sweetest Ferrari V12 engine have ever driven behind, through a crisp and so positive gated gearchange controlling five closely-spaced ratios to handling which felt sensationally well balanced and forgiving. It was easy to understand why the GTO was such a successful competition car and why currently they command such high prices.

Not so forgiving, in fact quite vicious with its tail at times, was Bobby Bell’s Ferrari Daytona, which I climbed into next. Bobby had been experimenting wish rear shockabsorbers which is why the handling may have been suspect. Otherwise this Daytona was in concours condition and in a fine state of tune. It was the first time I had driven the model, which seems to be acquiring the label of one of the finest and fastest production road cars of all time. Again that silken smoothness of power from another glorious V12; it really is impossible not to fall in love with the marque.

On the return journey from Goodwood to St. Albans an ominous rumble manifested itself from my Alfa Spider’s rear axle. The Alfa dealer in Hatfield wasn’t even sure which end of the car the noise came from. Alfa Romeo at Edgware Road thought it came from the differential and I agreed. Stephen Victor, the Alfa service dealers at Clapham Common, were authorised to change the complete axle assembly, but while so doing discovered that the fault lay with a collapsed wheel bearing. The same company also cured, at the second attempt, the variable brake pedal stroke, sometimes frighteningly close to the boards, which had bugged the car for most of its life. A new master cylinder and rear balance valve did the trick. Otherwise this classic, thoroughly enjoyable, soft-top Alfa has continued to give good service. But I wish it didn’t leak so badly.

Two days after Goodwood found me sitting behind half the number of cylinders in a very original, low-mileage, 1955 Jaguar XK140 DHC, which Dick Sommerin had kindly arranged for me to borrow as appropriate transport to a JDC meeting at Beaulieu. It was some time since I had driven an XK and after the Ferraris it felt somewhat agricultural. But I soon came to terms with the low-geared steering and indifferent drum brakes and had quite a bit of fun with what by current standards is pretty imprecise handling. It went well though, helped by a Weslake cylinder head and made me wish I could afford to finish my XK150 restoration. However, I did have my Jaguar 3.8 Mk 2 on the road early in 1978, mostly with a trailer on the back and after another long sabbatical it should soon be mobile once more. I also drove a 3.8 Mk 2 which Oldham and Crowther had built up from a new shell and mostly new parts.

The week before these Ferrari and Jaguar experiences I had done a little bit of interesting passengering in an Austin-Healey 3000 Mk 1 as a guest of the Austin-Healey Club, which was celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the marque. My driver? None other than former BMC works rally driver Peter Riley, now Paddy Hopkirk’s business partner, who recounted some fascinating stories of his experiences with rally Big Healeys as we wended our way in a celebratory procession of representative Healey models from Warwick to Meriden. There I was honoured to be a member of a forum panel with Donald and Geoff Healey, Peter Riley, John Sprinzel, Ted Worswick, John Chatham and Geoff Cooper, former liaison man between BMC and Healey, and a bit relieved that most of the questions were aimed at the two Healeys, for my Austin-Healey knowledge has sadly faded. John Chatham made a stirring sight with his famous racing Big Healey, DD 300, in the driving tests which followed.

I had a fairly inactive year on the competition front, racing only twice. I drove a “guest” car in the Debenhams Escort Challenge round at Donington Park in April, but didn’t stand a look-in with the quick regulars like Wayne Wainwright and David de Costa at the front of the pack and found a deficiency in performance even down the straights. I finished a poor tenth, but was pleased to have had an opportunity to race at Donington.

By coincidence I finished tenth in my one other race too, but this was more serious stuff; a round of the FIA European Historic Championship over seven laps of the full Le Mans circuit. The Championship has received a fair share of criticism in Motor Sport‘s correspondence columns recently, but whatever its general standing there was no mistaking the prestige of this particular round, held immediately before the start of the 24 Hour Race. My tool for the job was Vic Norman’s very beautiful 1957 Maserati 300S, the sports racing derivative of the 250F Grand Prix car, fitted with a 3-litre version of the famous straight-six, twin-cam, 12-plug engine of about 250 b.h.p. output. This was a thoroughbred which needed pandering to in the paddock, critical on its plugs and clutch and intractable at low manoeuvring speeds, a contrast to the untemperamental Jaguars which dominated the field. A bad start dropped me right down the field as we sped up the rise to the new Dunlop bridge. After that the limitations were caused by the 300S’s low gearing and consequent lack of speed down the Mulsanne Straight, down which the Jaguar engined cars and John Goate’s DB4GT had a 20-30 m.p.h. advantage. Although beautifully balanced and precise and quicker round the corners than its competitors the car needed more practice on my part (I hadn’t driven it before Le Mans) to gain confidence enough to drift it in the style the model used to demand. I don’t think it was set up quite as it should have been either and chassis sorting ought to be one of the priorities for this 300S’s new owner, Martin Colvill, who has entered it for this season’s Lloyds and Scottish Historic Championship.

The long stroke engine was a bit lethargic towards the 6,000 r.p.m. maximum revs I had been advised to use, yet back in England later I discovered that maximum power should not have occurred until 6,500 r.p.m. The four-speed gearbox with gated change had ultra close ratios upwards from a 70 m.p.h. first. Partway through the race oil began to spray around the cockpit, to the detriment of vision and eventually to tyre grip, which caused a couple of spins, exacerbated on one occasion by the imbalance of the temperamental drum brakes. Thankfully we finished, in tenth place and with a class win, but Stirling Moss’s overall win with JCR’s 250F was even more pleasing.

Pole position in that race had been taken by Bobby Bell’s immaculate Lister-Jaguar, which subsequently ran its bearings on the Mulsanne Straight and it was this car which was to provide me with another dose of exciting nostalgia later in the year. This is one of the quickest of all Lister-Jaguars, with close on 300 b.h.p. produced by its wide-angle, 3.8 D-type engine. As a novelty Bell offered to let me drive this racing car on the road and test its performance over the standing kilometre in the Brighton Speed Trials. As a road car it was astonishingly untemperamental and light to handle, with only the sharp take-up of the multi-plate clutch and the vagaries of the XK 150 close-ratio gearbox to cause concern. As for performance, the Vantage and Super Samuri were tortoises to this hare, which subsequently confirmed the potential it had suggested on the road with an elapsed time of 23.7 sec. for the standing kilometre and a terminal speed of 143 m.p.h., the fastest time ever recorded by a Lister at Brighton.

Yet more nostalgic memories were brought back by the lovely Aston Martin DB3S loaned for road test by the Midland Motor Museum. There was no opportunity to try the car in competition or to circuit test it, so the roads and hedgerows of Shropshire were made to reverberate to the sensational exhaust note from the 2,992 c.c., twin-plug head, straight-six. This was a former team car, DB3S/8 and although its authenticity was spoiled by a few details like a headrest, incorrect “eyebrows” over the front arches and the omission of additional air scoops in the nose, it was most beautifully restored. The engine was extraordinarily well-tuned and flexible. Indeed this famous racing car made a very fine road car, not too hard on its suspension for normal road surfaces, with mild, balanced oversteer at speed and beautifully responsive to the steering and throttle.

Rather more of a handful was the National Motor Museum’s supercharged 4½-litre Bentley which Lord Montagu let me drive in France during the course of the Rallye International des Voitures Anciennes from Paris to Turin. I mastered the control of the huge, string-wrapped wheel, the restricted view over the long, louvred bonnet, the heavy steering and the centre throttle relatively easily, but the inertia of the massive gearbox internals and flywheel and the use of the clutch stop were a different matter which only much more practice would have perfected. Bugatti was probably not far off the mark with that “fastest lorry” remark, yet this Le Mans replica-bodied car certainly had a unique and fascinating character.

The bulk of that journey across Europe was accomplished in a Lancia Gamma coupe, a saloon version of which I tried in England. Like the blower Bentley the Gamma relies on a large “four-pot” engine, though in this case horizontally opposed, grossly oversquare and with a more modest capacity of 2,484 c.c. A fast Cruiser, with excellent handling and outstanding, variable ratio, ZF power steering on the driven front wheels, the Gamma has many excellent features, but is disappointing in others, particularly in general refinement, of which scuttle/facia shake is the most obvious deficiency. The flat-four is a creditably flexible, responsive performer, a sporting engine of distinct character yet with an inherent lack of smoothness out of place in an expensive luxury car.

The same marque, but a very different concept, provided some of the ultimate in passengering enjoyment. I rode in the Chequered Flag Lancia Stratos with both Andy Dawson and Patrick Depailler in the Texaco Rally Sprint at Donington Park in October. Dawson, who was outright winner of this contest between Formula One stars and rally drivers, was a known quantity, after several co-drives for him on National and International rallies, including one with the previous Chequered Flag Stratos, so his performance came as no surprise. What did surprise was the ease with which Depailler adapted to this very difficult to handle, mid-engined rally car on a slippery surface, the smoothness of car control and gearchanging and the sheer relaxation of the man while setting a very competitive time. I have always thought that adaptability was the sign of a really good Grand Prix driver, but so few give themselves the opportunity to prove it today. Depailler certainly did in my eyes.

The most interesting production car tested last year was the much acclaimed Porsche 928, in a five-speed manual version of which I pursued the RAC Rally, followed later by the alternative model with the Mercedes-Benz automatic gearbox. As the road test appeared in Motor Sportas recently as January there is not much point in making many comments, save to say that the car is so sensationally good in terms of roadholding and quality of engineering that it loses that essential edge of excitement and fun offered by less sophisticated high performance machinery like the Vantage.

Many, many more cars spiced the year, of which some of the best were the Alfa Romeo Affetta 2000 and Giulietta, delightfully handling family saloons possessed of that classic twin cam engine, the little Volkswagen Golf Diesel, a great advance in the art of compression ignition, which W. B. hopes to road test soon and the outstanding Opel Senator and Monza, the road test of which appeared only last month. A Saab Turbo tried early in the year failed to measure up to the high standards promised, but another tried later was quite impressive. I was more impressed still by the new Saab 900s in their various guises which I tried in Sweden late in the year on tarmac, forest roads and Mantorp Park circuit. These longer wheelbase, much roomier and more refined Saabs handled exceptionally well under all those varying conditions and such was their stability that they were deflected from line not one inch when front tyres were burst deliberately under the gaze of Erik Carlsson. I have not been much of a Saab fan in the past, but this new model has already gone a long way towards converting me. I hope to write more about the 900 after what promises to be an adventurous trip from Finland into Russia with one later this month.

There were trips to Morocco to test the new Chrysler Horizon, where this eventual car of the year coped astonishingly smoothly and comfortably with some appalling road conditions and another to the South of France to try the new BMW 323i, fast but disappointingly noisy. A road test 323i tried at the end of the year was even noisier for less speed and BMW have promised to submit a new example, with the latest modified, quieter camshaft drive as soon as it reaches their fleet. That visit to the South of France gave me my one taste of motorcycling in 1978 on a BMW 100 RS Motorsport, the tarted up version with alloy wheels and works racing team stripes. It was so good to climb back on a motorcycle, particularly one of such beautifully engineered calibre. Another trip to Greece introduced us to the new Citroen Visa, a car in the Citroen small car tradition of comfortably supple suspension, door-handling cornering and astonishing roadholding. I enjoyed this model almost as much as the 2CV6, though it lacks some of the latter’s uniquely endearing character and versatility. The Special and Club versions have a brand-new, all-aluminium derivative of the familiar air-cooled 652 c.c. engine, with three main bearings and electronic ignition. I preferred this to the Visa Super, powered by a heavier, water-cooled, 1,124 c.c., transversely-mounted in-line four cylinder engine.

Of the many races I watched in 1978, the most disappointing was the Silverstone USAC round – I grew so bored that I left before rain stopped the race for the second and final time – and perhaps the most exciting was the August 6th round of the Historic Championship, won by Neil Corner in the BRM P25, in which Willie Green crashed the Monza-Lister in the appallingly wet conditions and Bobby Bell and Gerry Marshall, in conventional Lister’s, had a nail-biting scrap for second place.

All in all another fascinating year’s work.

C. R.