Rumblings, May 1973



Enthusiast. — Walking through the paddock at Silverstone, at the GKN-Daily Express meeting we came across an Alfa Romeo Montreal 2-litre V8, the latest GT car from the Milan factory, and the first we had seen in private hands. The BRDC badge on the front showed that it belonged to K. D. Evans and to the average person at Silverstone that probably did not mean very much, while keener-eyed ones may have seen that K. D. Evans was in the programme as Chief Flag Marshal for the whole meeting.

Those who know their motor racing history will know that Kenneth Evans was a very active racing driver at Brooklands, Donington Park, Crystal Palace and events abroad in the nineteen-thirties and immediately after the war in a number of events. Anyone fortunate enough to be a member of the Brooklands Society will have read about Kenneth Evans and his sister Doreen and brother Dennis in a recent issue of the Society’s magazine, wherein he tells the story of their racing and competition activities from the start in 1930/31, and how their father and mother instilled motor racing enthusiasm into them at an early age. He says “I cannot remember a time in my life when I could not either steer or drive a car, or when the main topic of conversation in the family was not of cars and how fast they would go.”

In 1925 or 1926 the Evans children were taken to tea with Parry Thomas and allowed to sit in the Welshman’s famous racing cars, which added fuel to the enthusiasm for racing already born in them by their parents. In 1937 when Kenneth Evans owned the Monoposto Alfa Romeo with which Nuvolari had won the 1935 German Grand Prix, the writer went to their Bellevue garage on his bicycle just to look at this magnificent car, and his day was made when K.D. actually let him sit in it!

From 1930 to 1939 the Evans family trio ran a very professional racing team of MGs in British racing, although they were essentially sporting amateurs whose hobby was racing, Dennis being the owner of Bellevue Garage in South London and Kenneth being in the family business of Chartered Surveyors, Auctioneers and Estate Agents. When Doreen married and went to live in America the family team divided, Kenneth going on to international racing and Grand Prix events and Dennis concentrating on sprints and hill-climbs.

All that was a long while ago, some 35 years in fact, long before most of the drivers at the 1973 Silverstone meeting were born, but Kenneth Evans has lost none of that early enthusiasm and he works as hard as all the other marshals and officers to make every Silverstone International meeting a success and fun for the drivers of today, just as people did for him when he was racing.

That one of the outstanding road cars in the paddock should belong to K. D. Evans is surely descriptive enough of the term “motor racing ensthusiast”.

JCB-Historic racing. – Great Britain must surely provide more opportunity for people to go racing than any other country and anyone aiming for stardom can set his sights on the World Championship from the moment he takes part in his first kart race round a mini-circuit of straw bales or old tyres. He can drive his brilliant way through karts, Formula Ford, Formula Super Vee, Formula Three, Formula 5000, Formula Atlantic, Formula Two, Sports Cars, Saloon Cars, club racing Formula and so on until he becomes a Stewart or a Fittipaldi, an Oliver or a Ganley. But if he just wants to drive racing cars for the fun of the thing there are an equal number of outlets in free-for-all club races, hill-climbs, sprints, autocross and so on, or if he doesn’t want to bother with the rat-race of the latest Ford tuning parts, Mini goodies, wide wheels, trick suspensions and so on, he can live in the past and do vintage car racing.

There is every possible outlet for anyone who wants to race. The Vintage Sports Car Club restrict their fun and games principally to cars of the 1920-1930 period, with a selected group of 1930-1939 admitted and a small group of old Grand Prix cars from 1946-1961 providing they are front-engined and historically interesting, single-seaters.

In recent years yet a further activity has grown in the racing of old cars in what is called Historic Sports Cars, these being cars of the 1945-1961 period which are outside the scope of the VSCC. They are in a separate world of their own, with no real reason for existence other than to have fun with old cars, that are more practical and less costly than the pure-bred vintage or PVT car, and while the vintage world may represent heavy engineering or the blacksmith’s art, vide Bentleys and Frazer Nashes, the Historics represent the “do-it-yourself” era of Lotus, Cooper, Lister, Lola and so on.

Talking to Anthony Bamford, the son of the manufacturer of JCB excavating machinery, a year or two ago we mentioned the ideal race as being one in which any driver could choose any car and not be tied by contracts, visualising a 1,000-kilometre race with Ickx in a Grand Prix Ferrari, Rodriguez and Siffert in 917 Porsches, Revson in a USAC car, Hulme in a Can-Am car and so on, preferably on a real power circuit like Spa, Nürburgring or Le Mans.

At the time Bamford was thinking about sponsoring a form of racing rather than an actual car, as he was doing at the time, and he got together with Nigel Moores, and they schemed up the JCB-Historic Championship open to cars built before 1961, either sports cars as accepted by the Historic Sports Car Club, or racing cars, as accepted by the Vintage Sports Car Club. The result was a series of happy events in which all sorts of people could play racers with cars ranging from ex-factory Grand Prix cars, to simple and crude Lotus Elevens. One outcome has been that a tatty old Lotus-Climax or Lister-Jaguar that could not be given away for £250 is now considered valuable and to be worth £2,500, but that is the trade problem.

Most of the people who joined in the JCB-Championship enjoy playing with their Historics without all the hysterics of say Formula Ford and none of them are out to gain fame and fortune or prove anything, they merely enjoy their hobby of “messing about with racing cars”. As a result there is a very happy club atmosphere among the cornpetitors and at some time or another everyone seems to be driving someone else’s car, and those with more than one lend them to unfortunates who suffer mechanical disasters with their own machinery.

From an entirely different direction, some of the members of the staff of Cock Russell & Spedding Ltd, of 35 Curzon Street, London, W1 were awoken to the fact that 50 years ago the firm of G. H. Mumm & Co. of Reims, makers of fine champagne, sponsored Raymond Mays to the tune of a supply of “bubbly” in exchange for him calling his Brescia Bugatti “Cordon Rouge” after Mr. Mumm’s best champagne.

Cock Russell & Spedding are the importers of this same champagne, and they thought they would like to get the name of G. H. Mumm involved with racing again, not to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds and the buying of a complete team, like John Player, Yardley or Marlboro, but in a small way that would be appreciated by the recipients. One Formula was discarded because the drivers all seem to drink milk or Coca Cola, another because the drivers would probably take the champagne and “flog” it in the local market, another because they only ever consume “cups of char and wads”, another because they probably would not know how to get the cork out of a champagne bottle.

It was getting difficult until their PR man got them together with JCB-Historics and the VSCC. Cock Russell & Spedding Ltd. thought this a splendid idea as “Cordon Rouge” was the same as it was 50 years ago and so were some of the cars, though not many of the drivers. A selection of JCB events and VSCC events were chosen and at each of these the winner gets a Jereboam of “Cordon Rouge” and all the finishers a bottle of the same excellent medicine. After the first event there were a lot of empty bottles to be seen for the JCB-Historic competitors are like the VSCC competitors and enjoy a good party after their gentle afternoon drive.

The endless search for more power, more speed, more road-holding, and more money, they leave to the “professional” racing drivers, who have to stay fully wound up from one meeting to the next in case someone gets ahead. In the JCB-Historic and Vintage world this worry does not exist, for even the newest and latest acquisition is obsolete and desparately slow by modern standards, but nevertheless fun for those playing and also fun for some of those watching. There are those to whom the sight of a 250F Maserati going round Silverstone brings tears to the eyes, just as the sight of a Bugatti or Bentley does at a Vintage meeting, but they overlook the fact that under the same conditions a 250F Maserati lapped Silverstone at 89.91 m.p.h. while a Formula Ford with Cortina engine and standard road tyres lapped at 91.15 m.p.h.!

If you just like old cars for the fun of it then JCB, the VSCC and G. H. Mumm & Co. are all on your side but you must keep your sense of proportion and remember that a Cooper-Bristol was a rather dreadful machine in 1952 compared to a Ferrari or a Maserati and a Lola or Lotus-Climax was not really in the same field as a D-type Jaguar or a Testa Rossa Ferrari, but they are all competition cars and really we love them all, good and bad.