Readers' Letters, March 1995, March 1995

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TV Guide

Sir,

I wonder whether Max Mosley could be persuaded to improve the quality of television broadcasts of Formula One. Perhaps he could arrange pre-race briefings for the producers and directors who are responsible, for they plainly have no idea what is interesting and what is not.

I suggest the following guidelines:
Very Interesting:
any cars in close contention, especially if they are among the leaders;
– mistakes by drivers who are potentially in the points;
Quite Interesting:
– pit stops which may affect the relative positions of drivers potentially in the points;
– on-board camera view of the track ahead, but not a lot, please – a full practice lap is more interesting than odd shots during the race;
Not Remotely Interesting:
– on-board camera close-ups of the driver’s helmet;
– on-board camera view to rear with the nose of another car moving in and out of shot;
– any car circulating in solitary splendour, even if it happens to be in the lead;
– pit stops of also-rans;
– stationary cars;
– drivers walking back to the pits;
– Frank Williams looking at a monitor.

David Clarke,
Silsden, West Yorks.

New for Old

Sir,

After checking that it was not April 1st, I feel I must have missed something in the Historic Saloon track test in February’s issue. We all understand the underlying struggle between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’, and if Mr Hall wishes to spend a sixfigure sum that is of course his affair.

But how does anybody classify his vehicle as ‘historic’? Specially developed brakes with carbon-metallic pads, engine and gearbox in current production, go-faster bits still being developed nearly 30 years after the vehicle was produced…

Three cheers then for Mr Brown and his Cortina — much nearer originality, and he stuffed it to them by winning the championship to boot. So what do we read then — a new 2-litre twin-cam is available, and he plans to use a more modern rear axle. Your tester summed it up beautifully when describing the Camaro: “a very up-todate car in an ’66 shell.” So why not call it a Silhouette championship and preserve the term ‘Historic’ for vehicles to their genuine specification of 30-plus years ago.

Unfortunately, Joe Public attending the BTCC is unlikely to realise this state of affairs — but surely he will begin to wonder how a 30-year old vehicle can lap within a handful of seconds of the current BTCC champion’s pole time. Even better, what will the BTCC manufacturers say when we have the ludicrous situation of the Historics going quicker?

Now if I buy an Anglia and persuade Cosworth to fit a DFV… or an old jet engine — perhaps Richard Noble would oversee its development onto four wheels…

Michael Cameron,
Le Bourg-Village, France.

Cars in Books

Sir,

I’ve read most of Dorothy L Sayers’ detective novels, and have frequently wondered whether for once she was using her imagination rather than her knowledge. I had always thought that the Daimler Double-Six was undoubtedly a fine car, but ponderous. Majestic, but hardly the vintage equivalent of an Audi Ouattro. It is Wimsey’s only vehicle, although he seems to replace them rather frequently. As the marque had the cachet of being the choice of the Royal family, it would be entirely in keeping for Wimsey, with his wealth, aristocratic lineage and fastidious taste, to own one; but he chases about in them at a fearful rate.

In Five Red Herrings, first published in 1931, there is a good deal of automotive detail, which seems on the face of it to be fairly accurate; for instance, one of the murder suspects hitches a series of lifts, including one in a Riley (“…had just got the new car and wanted to see what she could do. Damn it, he did too. I was never so frightened in my life”). This fits in well with the Brooklands Nine, available from 1929. We also get corroborative detail, such as “I had to swing her over with the starting handle, and it was heavy work. Those Chrysler 70s have rather a big engine.” I think this is the first of her novels where motor transport plays a significant part. Wimsey’s own car, identified early on as a Double-Six, moves at dramatic speeds “Wimsey glanced at the speedometer needle, which was flickering about the 85 mark, and took the corner on a spectacular skid”. Later we get a brief description of “a large black Daimler car, with an outsize bonnet and a racing body”.

Later novels add little to this, but in Busman’s Honeymoon the car is described as ‘Mrs Merdle, the ninth of that name’. The name goes back at least as far as Strong Poison, but to my mind the odd thing is that Wimsey should get through so many cars, as he hardly ever bends them. In Murder Must Advertise, the Daimler wins a race at night over country roads, keeping up with a Bentley and a Chrysler which eventually leave the road together. An altogether pre-war disregard for drink-driving is shown in the scene in the Nine Tailors (which incidentally begins with Wimsey crashing the car on a blind bridge in the snow) when Wimsey and Bunter consume at lunch a bottle of claret and most of a bottle of port, with master instructing servant “be good enough to finish the bottle, Bunter, because it would be a pity to waste it and if I have any more I shall be too sleepy to drive”.

Anyway, back to my ignorance of the Double-Six. Could it do 85 at all, never mind accelerating rapidly? Were any racing bodies fitted? The Daimler was the car of Royalty and glided about gracefully; could it be drifted and chucked about by a driver who knew his stuff?

John Adams,
Kidlington, Oxon.

(When I started the Cars in Books feature more years ago than I care to remember, it commenced with cars in fiction and dealt with the Peter Wimsey Daimlers. The Double-Six 50’s top speed does not seem to have been disclosed, but a few special versions were made, including the low-chassis dh T&T coupe devised for a Capt Wilson at Brooklands around 1930, and which I later drove (see Motor Sport, November 1966, pp1121-1123). It may have been this car on which Dorothy Sayers based her Daimler; as a D6 30 with heavy body could do 75 mph, her 100 mph is not so improbable. WB)

Boxing Nights

Sir,

I read with great interest your article “Those Boxing Night Exeters”, as I took part in the 1955 event. It revived very happy memories of a wonderful occasion.

I have come across a back-copy of the Fiat Register Bulletin containing an article I wrote on that event. Your article brought back very happy memories of the carefree days of 1955 (would anyone leave an open car unattended in Staines market-place for five minutes in 1995? I doubt it). I have never owned a car which gave me greater pleasure than my Fiat 501, though in a different way my wife and I much enjoy our Rover 216GTi.

P J Mathew,
Monmouth.

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