A Sprint In Hong Kong
The Motor Sports Club of Hong Kong staged a speed trial on March 17th over a standing kilometre. The event was held on the runway of an airstrip in the New Territories — the part of the Colony on the mainland which is leased from China. The strip is built along a valley in country reminiscent of North Wales but the paddy fields around the perimeter quickly dispel the illusion. It is in fact within seven miles of the “Bamboo curtain.” For a colony with only 450 miles of road, much of which is urban, and 20,000 private cars there is considerable enthusiasm for the Sport, as is shown by the fact that there were 85 entries.
The organisation proved efficient and a good day’s sport was enjoyed without delays. It was unfortunate that electric timing apparatus which had been promised did not materialise but the Army produced a complex system of telephones and stop-watches which worked well.
Practice runs were made in the morning and lunch was provided by N.A.A.F.I. in the garden of the Officers’ Mess of the 48th Gurkha Brigade whilst the Brigade’s pipers countermarched on the airstrip with a degree of precision and bearing which would have made many a Scottish regiment envious.
There are many interesting pieces of machinery in the colony and most were participating. Most of the cars are European, but a sprinkling of the latest American land-wagons adds interest—and colour!
The honour for f.t.d. went to motor-cyclist Bob Ritchie riding a 500-c.c. Velocette, who covered the standing kilometre in 34.4 sec.
The cars produced a tie between George Baker’s impressive Ford Thunderbird which participated in the Macao Grand Prix, and Gordon Boyce in an Austin-Healey, both recording 36.8 sec., but in the run-off to determine the winner of the Far East Motors Trophy George Baker clipped a further 0.2 sec. off his time to record 36.6 sec. This performance of the Ford Thunderbird should provide food for thought in the British Sports-Car Industry. The Macao Grand Prix-winning Mercedes 190SL, owned by W. Sulke and driven by himself and Doug. Steane, could not better 39.0 sec. Great hopes were held for Bob Houper’s locally-assembled “Special ” — widely known as “The Beast.” This attractive car with fibreglass body suffered ignition trouble with its Mercury power unit and was withdrawn after its practice run.
In the small-car class the entry of K. Osborne’s Minor 1000 caused much interest, but its best time of 53.0 sec., though 8 sec. faster than the fastest A30 Austin, was 5 sec. slower than Doug. Steane driving W. Sulke’s D.K.W.
In the 1,001-1,500-c.c. saloon class first two places went to W. A. Shea’s 1,089 TV Fiat, but R. B. Owen’s Hillman Minx coupe produced more speed (and noise) than its makers ever intended to take a commendable third place.
Of the larger saloons, Neville Fullford’s Chevrolet was only 0.4 sec. slower than R. J. Newton’s winning Jaguar Mk. VII, which recorded 41.4 sec.
There were eight Triumphs entered and as each was divested of its ornamentation (and exhaust systems) so rivalry intensified, and it was left to Alistair Stewart in an overdrive TR3 to record the fastest in the class at 37.6 sec.
The ladies’ class was won by Mrs. Hardwick in a TR2 at 40.0 sec., followed by Miss Parkinson (M.G. MGA) and Mrs. Sulke (Mercedes 190SL) tying for second place in 41.0 sec.
Thus ended a well organised day free of incident and as we made our way back to the city we reflected on the advantages of motoring in Hong Kong where petrol is only three bob a gallon! — R. W. H.
Straws In The Breeze
Straws blown across the “herring pond” point pretty strongly to an awakening of American interest, by which we mean manufacturer-interest, in sports cars and competition motoring. Chevrolet have introduced an S.S. version of their sports Corvette. Our respected American contemporary Road and Track estimates that this competition Chevrolet will be capable of 138 m.p.h., and acceleration in the region of 0-50 m.p.h. in 6.3 sec., 0-100 m.p.h. in 17.5 sec. and a s.s.¼-mile in 15.2 sec. The Corvette S.S. differs from the normal version in having the 283-b.h.p. fuel-injection engine, a single-plate clutch, four-speed gearbox with 2.2, 1.66, 1.31 and direct ratios, a limited-slip differential, metallic brake linings, air-ducted finned brake drums and modified suspension. Its estimated performance is well below that of our Jaguar XK-SS in spite of the V8 engine being 1,197 c.c. larger. Nevertheless, a straw all right!
Moreover, Chevrolet have the Corvette 3/21 research-project. This gives over 300 h.p. and, with a space-frame having a wheelbase of 7 ft. 8 in., weighs 16½ cwt. dry, using a magnesium-alloy coupe body. The specification includes de Dion rear-end, vacuum-servo gravity-controlled braking and coolant/oil heat-exchanger.
Coming to American manufacturers’ interest in entering for competition events, we have the Ford Thunderbird and Chevrolet Corvette entries for Le Mans. The two 5.1-litre Thunderbirds and three 4.8-litre Corvettes (probably the 3/21s) are not entered by Ford and General Motors; but it is known that American manufacturers are becoming increasingly interested in racing and finance small speed shops to prepare and enter their cars. So far this applies only to the National Speed Weeks at Daytona but with Ford and Chevrolet taking an interest in Sebring and Le Mans and Pontiac rumoured to have a sports model on the stocks, well — there you have more straws. However, at Sebring the Ford Thunderbirds didn’t start and the Chevrolet Corvettes were not impressive.
The Wall Street Journal revealed earlier this year that Bill Stroppe and Associates of Long Beach will run nine cars for Mercury. Plymouth has rented three garages at Daytona for its fleet of 18 cars, Chevrolet seems to have several “outside” teams of competition cars, headed by Southern Engineering & Development Co. of Atlanta, Pontiac have hired Ray R. Nickels, Ford has a team of at least seven drivers headed by De Paolo, Oldsmobile has “made available” three 88 two-door saloons and two convertibles to stock-car champion Lee Petty, and Plymouth have Ronnie Householder to look after racing. It is thought that Ford’s racing budget is 2½ million dollars, that Chevrolet has allocated 750,000 dollars to racing this year and that the total spent by American factories may rise to 6-7 million dollars this year compared with 4 million last year. This applies mainly to Daytona drag-races and stock-car contests but it all points to American interest in sports-car racing.
Meanwhile, British sports cars sell for dollars and we must strive to keep it that way. Road and Track recently summed up America’s opinion of our sports cars. It seems that U.S. enthusiasts regard the Jaguar as “terrific value” but consider it needs new styling, while a 2.4-litre roadster is sought by those quite unable to afford an XK-SS. M.G. heads sports-car sales but “two years lost in vacillating over a much-needed model change can never be made up.” The M.G. MGA has amateurish styling and needs a substantial weight reduction. The Austin-Healey 100 Six is placed second with Jaguar in popular esteem and has been received with enthusiasm, with, however, a sigh for the change in appearance and eyes open for more performance. The Triumph TR3 is close up on Jaguar and Austin-Healey on sales and the chassis is liked but the appearance “would certainly stand modernisation.” To be fair, they also criticise their own Corvette — the fibreglass body isn’t welcome and dealers too indifferent — and the Continental fast cars. Thus they want longer, lower lines for the Simca, which is second best and ahead of M.G. on import sales. Mercedes-Benz they find “wonderful but too d—d expensive,” and the 190SL is wanted with 220S engine. Lancia, they consider, needs to he more compact. Alfa-Romeo is too expensive. D.K.W. is praised generously but requires restyling, because it looks “absurdly high and awkward” alongside a Karmann-Ghia coupe. Porsche has a “second-to-none reputation and sell all they can build in spite of the price,” but the Speedster “needs a top and a more graceful rear deck.” So now you know. Who will be first to give the dollar-customers what they want — Coventry, Abingdon, Warwick, Detroit, Paris, Stuttgart, Turin, Milan, or Dusseldorf? — W. B.