Historics are hysterical

At the end of last year we reviewed the Lloyds and Scottish Finance Company’s Historic Car Championship, and suggested that some of the cars had rather suspect parentage while others bore little resemblance to the car as originally raced when they were new. Lister cars that had begun life with Chevrolet V8 engines in them now race with Jaguar power units, the Cooper that was built to take a 2-litre ERA engine, now races with a British engine installed, ERAs that spent all their life as 1½-litre cars now have 2-litre engines, and in one case a 2.2-Iitre engine, and a Maserati accepted as pre-war has a post-war two-stage engine propelling it. The whole scene is very muddled, but at least all the cars are old and obsolete as are most of the components, apart from pieces that wore out or got broken. Most of the cars have a traceable history going back to the day they were built at the parent factory. In the case of the Donington Collection’s P25 BRMs, they were resurrected from the remains of the original cars, with the blessing of the BRM firm before its demise. Other cars have suffered major accidents while racing and the rebuild has often meant making an entirely new chassis frame to replace the bent one, but in most cases the continuity is not broken, even if the car is broken. In the case of one Talbot-Lago, it was crashed in 1954 and the driver was killed. The wreckage was put in its transporter and the lorry was left at the factory for four years untouched. The present owner salvaged the wreckage from the lorry and rebuilt it over a long period. 

In some cases there are gaps in the continuity of a car and some of these are very suspect, notably Bugattis, while in other makes cars have been made from spare parts, the resultant entity having no known history or continuity. As most people involved in the old car game are interested in the past history of their cars, especially if they were involved in famous landmarks in motor racing history, the general feeling is that all old racing cars should be given a certificate of authenticity, and this is done with a list of questions on an FIA form, which has to have the approval stamp of the RAC Historic Committee. Until now this authenticity has been pretty lenient and some cars have been given the benefit of the doubt as regards their past. 

Unfortunately certain people have abused this leniency and others have flaunted it in a despicable manner, quite against “the spirit of old car racing”, which is basically to preserve old cars and to run them in suitable events for the sheer fun of the thing. Whether this abuse has been engendered by enthusiasm or personal gain is hard to say, but being lenient once more, let us say it is “over” enthusiasm. As a result the FIA authenticity questions are being tightened up for 1981 and cars without a continuous traceable history will not be acceptable. Everyone in the old car game who wants to play at racing has 1980 in which to dig out the continuous past history of their historic car. 

In the VSCC the rules are pretty flexible and there is some small print which reads “at the discretion of the committee” which means that if the owner, the car, or both, conform to the spirit of the game by being a decent·chap, and the car is interesting, then they are -accepted for race meetings run by the club. There is nothing very serious at stake in VSCC events, apart from enjoyment and the love of “just messing about with old cars”. There are no Championships, no points to be gained, no kudos or acclaim at the end of the season, each race and each meeting stands on its own merit. It was in VSCC circles that it all began and VSCC meetings are still run for the same reasons and for the same cars. On a wider field the world at large and the FIA have cottoned on to old car racing, and at once there was an FIA Championship, with a Champion driver nominated at the end of the season, with a points scoring system as serious as the Formula One Championship, and this is where it all went wrong. The firm of J. C. Bamford, through a subsidiary, started a British Championship for old cars and last year this was taken over by the Lloyds and Scottish Finance Company. They are sponsoring it again this season, as we mentioned in the February Motor Sport, and this is tied in with the FIA rules as some of the rounds are being held at International meetings, such as the British GP and the RAC Tourist Trophy. Unfortunately the title Historic was given to this activity and the interpretation of Historic has caused a lot of trouble, and a lot of work for volunteers who have become involved in the organisation of the scene. Just as you have to have an official driving/racing licence to take part in FIA events, and a Medical Certificate before you can race, your old car has to have an identity form before it can race. Not to identify that it is an old car, but to identify that it is a genuine old car, and not one recently built. 

If you turn up without your Racing Licence or without your Medical Certificate the race organisers, following the rules of the FIA/RAC will stop you taking part. If your car does not have its official identity form it should also be stopped from racing. In Group 1 Saloon car racing, for example, this does happen. In old car racing the organisers have been known to overlook this rule for the car, but not for the Racing Licence and the Medical Certificate. At the first round of the Lloyds and Scottish Historic Championship at Silverstone on Easter Monday, run by the BRDC, a number of cars were allowed to race even though the owners could not produce their authenticity papers, which was a gross disregard of the rules. Some of the owners had merely forgotten to bring their papers with them, (though they did not forget their Racing Licence and Medical Certificate), while others had cars only recently acquired and had not had time to fill in their forms and send them off for authentication. In one case the car had been submitted for authentication the week before the meeting and had been officially turned down, yet the owner sent it along and the Stewards let it run, knowing full well that it had been refused authentication by the RAC Historic Committee. This car actually won the race, such as it was, and a lot of people with famous old cars were justifiably a bit incensed. 

The RAC Historic Committee have nominated a working group to advise on the history of old racing cars, and this group consists of Doug Nye, Duncan Rabagliatti and Denis Jenkinson, who between them probably have more information on old racing cars than anyone else. The “rogue” car in question at the Easter Monday meeting was the Dino 246 Ferrari driven by Stirling Moss. This is literally a brand new Ferrari, not made at Maranello, but made by David Clarke’s Graypaul Motors of Loughborough. Last year Anthony Bamford, the son of the JCB empire, produced a Dino Ferrari 246 which Willie Green drove with great aplomb and won the Historic Championship. This car was one that Enzo Ferrari had built up from the remnants of the 1960 Ferrari team, as a museum piece which he intended to present to the Ford Museum in Detroit, at a time when Ford were negotiating to buy a big interest in the Ferrari firm, before Fiat stepped in. Before the car arrived in Detroit Ferrari fell out with Ford and the car stopped at Luigi Chinetti’s dealership in New York. It stayed there for something like seventeen years, until Anthony Bamford negotiated to buy it. When Ferrari built the car it was purely a show-piece, with no legends or history with it, probably containing parts from most of the 1960 team cars. The engine was stamped 0003 and part of the bodywork had a 3 on it, so Bamford gave the car the identity 0003, for what it was worth. Another show-piece was built up by the Ferrari factory and presented to the Biscaretti Museum in Turin, and this was ostensibly 0005. A third of the team cars 0007 had a V12 sports car engine installed by the factory, for the New Zealander Pat Hoare and was sent “down-under” for the 1961 Tasman races. The remaining team cars were broken up, the bodies, chassis, tanks etc going to the scrap yard, and the engines, gearboxes and sundry odd bits being dumped in the factory morgue. 

Some years later Anthony Bamford negotiated to buy a lorry load of this scrap material from the Ferrari morgue, and he shipped it back to England on spec. The Pat Hoare car led a hard life in New Zealand and was eventually turned into a road-racing GT car, though all the bits that were removed, including the whole body and the tanks, were “put up in the loft”. Two years ago Neil Corner acquired the car, together with all the bits and pieces, and Dick Crossthwaite and his team at Crossland Engineering painstakingly rebuilt the car back to its 1960/61 condition, and we featured it in our colour section in January. Meanwhile the Dino 246 in Turin stayed there and Anthony Bamford hung on to the one he got from America. In the middle of last year he sorted through his lorry load of Ferrari scrap and found a nearly complete Dino 246 engine, the 2½-litre V6, with 4 ohc, as in his car 0003. He also found a rear axle/gearbox assembly and a steering box. He gave these three components to Graypaul Motors with the request that they create another Dino Ferrari. They stripped 0003 completely and used the chassis frame to make a jig, and on it they built another chassis frame, identical to 0003. The scrap-yard engine was installed, as was the axle/gearbox unit and the steering box; the rest they had to make from scratch. All the suspension members, the uprights, the hubs, the steering connections, the fuel tanks, the oil tank, the radiators, the exhaust system, the pipe-work for fuel and oil, the bulkhead, the bodywork, the brakes, everything, was made from scratch, using the original components of 0003 as patterns. It was a veritable work of art, and all the time there was no word from the Ferrari factory, no official blessing, no help whatsoever, merely total silence. When the car was finished it was a perfect copy of 0003, except that the welding on the chassis was much better and the chassis stiffness was improved, while it used separate water and oil radiators, whereas 0003 had a single unit combining both fluids. The oil tank was welded, and not riveted as the original one, and the fuel tanks were riveted for appearance sake only, the petrol being carried in modem rubber-bag tanks inside the fake shells. The instruments were different as they could only find production ones and not the genuine factory racing instruments. 

As the engine had 0006 stamped on it, this new car was offered for authentication as an historic car under this number, BUT — the original 0006 car that was broken up by the factory had a long wheelbase chassis, and 0003 had a short wheelbase chassis, for during 1960 the Ferrari factory were finding out about fore and aft weight-distribution and 0006 and 0007 were both long wheelbase cars. Doug Nye acquired this information, together with the appropriate measurements, from the Ferrari factory when he was writing his magnum opus on the Dino Ferrari, which was published last year. For a number of reasons, most of which are self-evident, the RAC Historic Committee told the Bamford organisation that the car was not acceptable as an Historic Racing Car. As a copy of an Historic Racing Car it is superb, and if 95% of the people playing at old car racing did not take it seriously, this new Dino Ferrari would be totally acceptable. Because this 95% have genuine old cars, preserved and maintained regardless of cost, they feel that the 5% should play the same game and not despoil it. If the making of historic racing cars continues it will turn the whole thing into a farce, and histories are hysterical enough at the present, without turning hysteria into comedy. — D.S.J.