Matters Of Moment, May 1956



The Skill of Archie Scott-Brown

Those who were at Goodwood on the occasion of the B.A.R.C. Easter Meeting were able to witness the great duel between Archie Scott-Brown in a works Connaught and Stirling Moss in a works Maserati. On this epic occasion Scott-Brown displayed outstanding skill and judgment, and it is apparent that he ranks with Hawthorn, Moss, Brooks and Collins as one of Britain’s drivers of Grand Prix calibre. He led Moss for half the Richmond Formula 1 Race, until erratic brakes forced him to slow, and a lap later the engine of his Connaught — which was known to be “tired” before the race, the best engines having been out in the Syracuse entries — broke up and he spun off. Even then this astonishing driver came to no harm and displayed no emotion; in action he had given a remarkable demonstration of driving, controlling his car from impossible-looking slides and giving Moss much to think about! This ability is all the more creditable because Scott-Brown has only been racing for three seasons and in sports cars, his first race in a G.P. car being at Brands Hatch in the rain on Boxing Day, so that Goodwood marked his first real debut in this exacting sphere of the Sport. True, he over-revved his engine in practice, which may have precipitated its “blow-up” in the race, but he wasn’t alone in this, for Moss made the Maserati suffer likewise, as our report in this issue will show.

In recording our appreciation of Scott-Brown’s driving we would add our admiration for Connaught, who had three cars at Goodwood and entered two for Syracuse, whereas B.R.M. had only two cars running on Easter Monday, neither B.R.M. nor Vanwall being ready for the Sicilian race.

The S.M.M.T. President on Rear-Engined Cars

Dr. F. Llewellyn Smith, of Rolls-Royce Ltd., President of the S.M.M.T. got himself into the headlines of the Daily Express recently when he replied officially on behalf of his Society to an earlier article by Harry Ferguson, in which the great tractor manufacturer expressed he opinion that the basic fault in British cars is poor traction, to cure which he had advocated rear-engined, rear-drive designs.

Stating “I’m on your tail. Mr. Ferguson,” Dr. Llewellyn Smith called Ferguson’s views on engines in the tail “ill-informed,misleading and a red herring.” To justify these remarks he said he was sure that Mr. Ferguson knows as well as anyone else “the disadvantages of steering a car which is tail-heavy,” and continued, “Rear-engined cars usually have chronic oversteer characteristics which are particularly noticeable on sharp corners in wet or icy weather. Exceptional care is also necessary when braking on downhill corners, particularly when the surface is slippery, because weight at the rear causes the tail of the car to slide. Apart from the noise and the tendency for rear-engined cars to spin in wet and icy weather, there is also the problem of where to put the petrol tank. If the tank is at the front there is always a big risk of fire, whereas on front-engined models it can be placed out of harm’s way at the back. These facts have been proved by searching tests.”

From these comments it must be concluded that the President of the S.M.M.T. has never had the pleasure of driving a Fiat 600, a Renault Dauphine, or the latest Porsche. Indeed, Dr. Smith has apparently never studied the desigin of the Renault Dauphine, in which the petrol tank is in the least vulnerable position of all, beneath the back seat, and which possesses outstanding handling qualities although the power is in the tail.

Dr. Smith makes another remarkable statement, viz.: “Before the war a famous German rear-engined racing car design was abandoned for these very reasons.”One can only presume he is thinking of the experimental Benz of 1923, because Auto-Union had success after success with their rear-engined Grand Prix cars right up to the outbreak of war. True, the weight distribution was altered, as it has been on the Porsche, during the lifetime of these cars, but the engine was always positioned behind the driver, and Nuvolari won the last pre-war Grand Prix in an Auto-Union, at Belgrade, at an average speed of 81.21 m.p.h.

All in all, it seems as if it is the views of Dr. Smith which are ill-informed, misleading and redolent of herrings.

Air or Water?

Mr. C. G. Norman, the Citroen and Austin agent, was quoted Iast month by a contemporary as saying that nearly all the cars they towed in last winter with frozen engines had an anti-freeze label on the windscreen, and most of those labels had been there for twelve-months or even more.

The moral is that anti-freeze can evaporate or get diluted, but we also know of cases during the past hard winter where the recommended dose of a reputable anti-freeze liquid failed to stop the radiator freezing within a matter of days. Moreover, anti-freeze not only costs money in itself but it can corrode vital parts of the engine and so cause big repair bills. As a garage-friend observed while the freeze-up was at its worst: “I put anti-freeze in for them in the autumn and back they come in the spring for a replacement engine”!

So Mr. Norman may feel inclined to go in for a distributorship in air-cooled cars, which does not mean necessarily the “people’s car,” for apart from the Citroen 2 c.v. he already represents, there are the Dyna-Panhard and Porsche. It is really a choice between hot air or iced water . . .