Letters, May 1986

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Opinions expressed are those of our correspondents, and are not necessarily those of MOTOR SPORT.

Pilbeams in Hiliclimbing

Sir,

I read Mr John Brown’s letter with great interest. Though I would not take major issue on his painstaking research, on one matter I can provide some small correction and amplification.

The MP40 chassis that Martyn Griffiths drove in his 1979 Championship year was not the chassis used by James, and his father Jim, Thomson. The 1979 MP40 was sold by Martyn Griffiths to Rob Turnbull at the end of the 1979 season as a rolling chassis. Turnbull rechristened it “MP41” Griffiths having purchased a new MP40 for the 1980 season. It was the second MP40, with which Griffiths finished second in 1980 to Chris Cramer, that was sold to Jim Thomson and is still owned by him, although with a newer, updated monocoque which was fitted in 1984.

The original MP40 was sold by Rob Turnbull to Ted Williams, the Bristol hillclimber (now Historic circuit racer with the March 707 CanAm car), who drove it in partnership with Richard Fry in 1981 and 1982, back to its correct MP40 designation.

At the end of the 1982 season, I bought this original (1979 Championship) car from Williams and fitted the 2 7-litre Hart engine that was the forerunner of the 2.8 litre engine. This 2.7 had been used by Cramer at the end of 1981 in his Toleman. I drove the car with only modest success in the first half of 1983, when overseas work stopped play.,/p>

In 1984, I drove It only three times, Shelsley, Channel Islands, and Wiscombe. It was at the latter RAC round that I hit a tree stump, and wrote off the monocoque.

The car was rebuilt by David Slater on a brand new Pilbeam monocoque to the original design, and later (1985) sold to Brian Walker, the Lancastrian hiliclimber, as a rolling chassis. He hilIclimbs it with a 2.8-litre Hart.

The 2.7 Hart engine was sold to John Hunt and used by him and Alister Douglas Osborn, mid-1985, when their methanol engine failed. The original engine in “my” MP40 was a 2 4-litre Hart, sold to David Garnett and used in his ill-fated Pilbeam MP43 Sports racer now recently resurrected by Peter Kaye. This engine is, I believe, currently advertised for sale. Cleeve Hill, Glos TONY BROWN

Connaught-Climax

Sir,

Writing of the Coventry Climax FPE (Godiva) V8 engine in his article “If— A story of what might have been”, M.L. states that whereas Cyril Kieft had a car built and ready for it, “Cooper, Connaught and HWM merely made plans and did not commit themselves to metal”.

At Connaught Engineering, while Rodney Clarke and I were designing the “J” type rear-engined car expressly around the Godiva engine, a prototype monocoque for it was also being built, and Robert Clerk was designing and having made for us, to our specification, six five-speed pre-selector gearbox final drive units (transaxles). These were intended for the Godiva-engined car. When Coventry Climax decided not to proceed with the engine, we stopped work on the J type, as it was designed around the V8 Godiva, and laid it aside until a suitable engine should come available. We then designed the B series from scratch, very very quickly, using the Alta 2 1/2 litre as the only available engine, and the good old ERA type preselector gearbox, as used on the A series Connaught, but with modified lubrication system.

The combination of Godiva engine and B series chassis is a nice thought, but if Coventry Climax had built the engine we would not have had to produce the B series! It was only intended as a stop gap, and the design was rushed through with the intention of showing a complete car at the 1953 Motor Show. This gave us three months from when I laid the first line on paper. When the SMMT said we could not show, we decided to build the streamlined body, which took a long time, but the urgency was gone anyway.

The Robert Clerk gearboxes, intended for the rear-engined cars, were completed and delivered, one being fully assembled, the other five in their component parts. As far as I know that gearbox was never installed in a chassis, and I believe that the six units still exist, but no one knows where they are.

The comment on the SU fuel injection system reminds me that it was initially fitted to the Alta engines when we received them, but it was not very satisfactory, as you say, it was designed for aircraft and more or less constant throttle settings. When we carried out the first B series testing at Silverstone, we had to fully enrichen the system before we could begin to obtain any reasonable response. Hence the eventual change to Weber carburetters.

Woking, Surrey C. E. JOHNSON

Alta

Sir,

I was most interested to read your article on Alta sports cars in the February 1986 MOTOR SPORT, and as the owner of Alta No 70 (KMP 977) for the past 25 years I felt that I should correct a few minor errors for the benefit of future historians.

No 70 was built for Harold Booth Townsend (not Townshend) who sold it in 1958 to Peter Mew. He disposed of a in 1960 to Chiltern Cars. I bought it from them a week after arriving in the UK in June 1960 (after seeing their ad in MOTOR SPORT), and ran it in various hillclirnbs and VSCC events, toured England and even slept in iron several occasions before sending it home to Australia in 1963 after over 10,000 relatively troublefree miles. The car is currently registered and used on the road.,/p>

No 70 was built as a 1 1/2-litre unsupercharged car (your photo caption says it was supercharged) but was returned to the works by Townsend in 1953 and converted to 2 litres. It did not appear at Prescott in the 1970s as it was in Australia then, I ran it at Prescott in 1962 when it came third in the up to 3,000 cc sports car class.

I visited Geoffrey Taylor at his home in 1963 and he loaned me his pre-war works records and scrapbooks which I copied and have since spent many hours since trying to identify the six 1 1/2, 2-litre sports cars. This seemingly minor task is made difficult by the fact that Geoffrey Taylor only stamped engine numbers on his cylinder heads and not on the block or chassis (the chassis numbers assigned in his records were the same as the engine numbers).

Four of the cars are now garaged within 20 miles of each other here in Melbourne and are as follows; Cylinder Head No 54 This blown car has a pointed tail and was brought to Australia by Tony Gaze in the late 1940s. The current owner has had it since 1952. Cyril Posthumus in Autosport March 21st, 1952 claimed it was the John Heath record breaker shown as registered number EJJ 703 in 1947. From the cylinder head number I have always assumed this to be the Dr Williams Beadle car FF 4515. Do you have evidence to show that FF 4515 had the spare wheel mounted outside the tail, as did EOY 8?

Cylinder Head No 52 is fitted to the unblown pointed tail two-seater from the Black Collection and, at least since the early 1960s, claimed to be the W. W. S Bennett car No 55 (registration number DPG 167 and not DP 4167 as shown in your article).

Cylinder Head No 66 fitted to the smooth rounded tail two-seater GPL 3 sold to K. Cannon (not Gammon). This car was rebodied with a pointed tail prior to shipment to Australia in the late 1970s after being owned by Dan Margulies.

Cylinder Head No 70 titled to smooth rounded tail two-seater KMP 977 built for H.B. Townsend and owned by me since 1960.

The other sports cars built were Car No 64 built for Fritz Kilgorow of Berlin in 1937 may not have gone to Berlin MOTOR SPORT in June 1946 reported that W O R P. Wingfield had acquired a 1937 Alta which appeared to have been used for three months and then stored Registration number was EGP 903. The Kilgorow left-hand drive car has recently been rumoured to be in North America.

Car No 63 sold to “Hunt” Minden Garage, London. Is this the car you refer to as sold to C J Pink? In 1957 it was sold to Bowerings Garage. Peterborough, according to the works records.

Which of the above was really EOY 8? When owned by Heath it had the spare wheel externally mounted on the tail, and the driver’s side scuttle was higher than on the passenger’s side. (Photo Autocar May 30th, 1947).

MOTOR SPORT May 1981 shows a two-seater car with spare wheel on rear but equal height scuttles and registration number finishing —45.

We therefore have two pointed tall cars and two smooth rounded tail cars all in Melbourne (one of the latter rebodied in recent years with a pointed tail as described previously). There is pictorial evidence to show that two cars with spare wheels on the tail were built. All of the above six cars were right-hand drive. The left-hand drive “Berlin ” car then makes seven! Geoffrey Taylor’s records showed no entry for car No 60 which I have been unable to explain but have at times wondered if it was a seventh two-seater car may be EOY 8.

Mt Waverley,Victoria MICHAEL BISHOP

The Irony of War

Your excellent “Mercedes-Benz in Britain” feature in March MOTOR SPORT will doubtless generate a wealth of interest and attendant historical elaboration, their Hayes, Middlesex based parts division being just one example of historical links with the past.

In 1971 this, then, modernistic giant grey box structure was raised on the former Fairey Aviation site at “Fairey Comer”, a prominent local landmark in North Hyde Road Fortunately, total demolition and clearance of old factory buildings and hangars did not Include the small 1930 style main reception office area. In our enlightened age this solitary structure overshadowed by the three-pointed star of Mercedes-Benz must surely serve as an ironical reminder of the fickle fortunes of war. Indeed a secondary development houses the Japanese Hitachi company. I would unconditionally accept this particular choice of location by Mercedes-Benz, and Hitachi, as a purely commercial decision based on site availability. But would also sympathise with any bemused expression on the face of a former Fairey employee should they have occasion to round Fairey Corner and look up at the three-pointed star.

Bix, Oxon P J DOYLE

Mercedes-Benz in Britain

Sir,

I was interested in your article on Mercedes in the UK and was reminded of my findings concerning the radiator badge which) reported in my book (p.781 and which you may feel worthwhile putting on record for your wider readership. I quote:.

“The radiator badge (on my 1910 29/50PS Mercedes) was in the form of a circular medallion bearing the name Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft round the Periphery and ‘Mercedes’ across the centre. Dr Schildberger (then curator of the GB museum at Stuttgart) could not understand why the car did not bear the three-pointed star which came into use in 1909. and we did not discover the reason until a knowledgeable member of the Mercedes-Benz Club said to me, I see your car is an English delivery. He than explained that he knew this by the circular radiator badge, which was fitted to all Mercedes delivered In this country at that time, because the Star Motor Company objected to the use of the three-pointed star. My informant went on to say that if I prised off the badge I would find the three-pointed star underneath. Not wishing to do any damage to satisfy my curiosity, removed the radiator cap and peered hopefully into the radiator. Sure enough, the star was embossed on the radiator just where the medallion covered it. I spent quite a time after this examining files and letters at the Patent Office and, although finding nothing to show that anyone had objected to the use of the threepointed star in England, I feel sure that the covering up of the manufacturer’s trade mark rnust have resulted from something of the sort…

I found that the three-pointed star was, and still was in 1964. registered as the Trade Mark of Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft, thus:

Under Class 6 on August 3rd 1909. No. 315,327 and under Class 22 on November 28th 1910, No 328.867.

I also established that the firm of Patent Agents who acted for DBG — Jenson & Son, of 77, Chancery Lane, London, WC2 — were still in existence and acting for DB (in 1964)and said that, if asked by Mercedes-Benz to do so, they would search their files —it still in existence — to see if there are any letters which might indicate that the manufacturers of the Star car did object to, or obtain an Injunction, against DMG using the three-pointed star at that time. I passed this information to Dr Schildberger but do not know if he followed it up.

Cobham,Surrey STANLEY SEDGWICK .

1941 Prescott

Sir,

I have today received the attached letter from my old friend the Commendatore Michele Lorenzo, who was quite fascinated to read your belated report on the 41 Prescott meeting.

I have done my best to translate from the original Italian One or two of Lorenzo’s native Sardinian cliches are literally untranslatable. but I am sure the meaning will be clear. would almost be prepared to swear that your illustration of Dennis Stanhope at the wheel is. in fact a rare shot of Lorenzo in action My recollection of Dennis is that he was — perhaps still is — a short man with a notable beard. which he used to try and keep short by leaning out of sidecars and rubbing it along the road surface or vvas that someone else?

Tonbridge,Kent IAN DUSSEK

I was amazed that the Prescott story has at last been chronicled. I had hoped that Dussek would have included this greatest HRG success in his recent book, but he tells me the PM herself slapped a D Notice on it I applaud your courage. Of course, the event was top secret, so much so that Friday 3191 March 1941 was a Monday Of course the English aces were there. but the event actually changed history Naturally. Mercedes and Auto Union were invited but unfortunately some dumkopf at the reichstag got confused and hence it wasn’t Rudolph Hasse but Rudolph Hess who arrived by parachute to drive the Spandau Ballot. I put in ltd due to a language problem. I asked Stanhope which was the fastest part of the course Not understanding my imperfect English. he replied. Pardon”, which I duly took in lop gear. Hal out After Prescott. Dennis’ HRG was requisitioned and developed in 1945 as the ultimate reply to the V2 menace and successfully piloted by Enola Gay H. R. Godfrey’s invention of the imploding stub axle was never properly recognised at the time. However, when after the war IbecameTransportMinislernn the brief Nolte Fraschini administration, I ordered several HRG chassis as personal transport for the engineers on the Autostrada del Grotti. The lac, that they have children testifies to the smoothness of the surface You mention the prize For 40 years I have treasured that lin 01 50 Players, but for your bravery in revealing the truth, I send you the actual tin, unopened. You may not know that the sailor on Me label is in fact a heavily disguised Signor Carlaventi Ors, who is still building Maserati 250Fs here in Repplica, hopefully quickly enough to keep your article going for the next 20 years.

Repplica, Italy MICHELE LORENZO

Driving Standards

Sir,

Mr Swan’s letter in your March issue claims that I “seem to miss Ore point” of the IAM’s teaching that much signalling is uneccessary, and that in Mr Swans words, advanced drivers “are able to decide it a signal would benefit other road users”, I did not miss the point — I rejected it for the following reasons

Fewer than 10% of drivers in this country could sensibly be classified as ‘Skilled’ or ‘advanced’ — but probably more than 700, of males would individually claim to be! The value of any driving instruction addressed to the advanced driver must therefore be judged by its effect not only on the highly skilled. baton all who believe themselves lobe so skilled. however incompetent. Thus) believe that leaching that much signalling is unnecessary or even undesirable lends spurious legitimacy to the inconsiderate and dangerously low standards of signally, on our roads. If, in effect, you say ‘Good drivers do not need to signal as much as bad drivers’, you do not improve standards of driving but merely reduce standards of signalling.

Mr Swan’s thesis is in any case Illogical, because the advanced drivers he advises not to signal for fear of misleading others are the very ones most likely to give clear and helpful signals. Further, it is necessary to weigh any possible advantages of reduced signalling by Inc few most skilled drivers against the disasters caused by the many less skilled who follow their example. I believe Ito be beyond dispute that the human and financial costs of accidents arising from failure to signal outweigh by a hundred to one the trivial costs of unnecessary signalling. I would welcome confirmation from any policeman. ambulance man, lawyer or coroner that we need more signalling, not less. Opinions expressed by scrapyard proprietors will be disregarded Haw, driven perhaps 300.000 miles in drop-head cars which allow rear vision varying seasonally from the unrivalled to the impenetrable I am perhaps more aware than most of the possibility of making the occasional mistake. This acceptance of the possibility of error (and willingness to learn from such errors) is as much a part of driving skill as looking in the mirron. and should mean Mai any responsible driver will always indicate his intentions even on what he believes to be a clew road — my original point

However advanced the driver, however many times he has been “able to decide if a signal would benefit other road users” , he is just as dead when he gets it wrong, even for the first lime. When I wrote that I considered that IAM should teach People to “signal in good time and at all times”, I did not feel it necessary to add correctly and not misleadingly”, but I happily do so now if it makes my meaning more clear

I find the examples of misleading signals quoted by Mr Swan to be rather strange. 1 I often find it necessary to signal “right” when overtaking a parked vehicle — but always do so briefly and follow it with a brief “left” if there is any danger of the first signal being interpreted as an imminent right turn. To do otherwise is inconsiderate to following drivers and potentially lethal to the looming overtaker 2. To pull out from the kerb (when there seems to be time and space to do so) without a brief signal is equally inconsiderate and equally dangerous if the speed of oncoming traffic has been underestimated. Does Mr Swan advocate pulling out from the kerb without signaling or just pulling out without signalling when the road seems clear, But what about the hidden driveway the speeding motorcyclist, the other car pulling out from behind a parked truck’, Are those road users not entitled to eve, Possible warning of your intention, whether you have seen them or not? Or are you going to stand in the dock and say As an advanced driver I felt lhal no other road users would have benefited from a signal”,

3 There have been many occasions when I have found it necessary to use the right indicator when passing an exit from a roundabout—to have failed to do so would have risked having a faster vehicle ram my offside. presumably in the belief that as an advanced driver I had simply felt it unneccessary to indicate my intention to exit to the left. How else would Mr Swan warn the other driver he was mistaken? Let’s have no more pretence that “intelligent positioning.’ will always work — not all drivers would recognise an “intelligently positioned” vehicle until they hit it if then! 4 My original letter was prompted by a report that the IAM downgrade drivers who “heel and toe” I have not advocated that this technique should be forced on anyone. or earn bonus points on a score card. I iust believe that it is a logical, useful and smooth

technique practised by many drivers and should not be derided. Mr Swan slates that heeling and toeing is no less smooth than the ‘on-off-on method. I agree—but suspect that he meant “no more smooth” Anyone who believes that removing the brakes and re-applying them has no effect on smoothness of movement will believe anything. except perhaps Newton’s Third Law of Motion!

Alton, Hants, IDRIS FRANCIS

Fakes

Sir,

As you have quite correctly Pointed out during recent months one of the greatest problems currently facing the historic car movement is that of replica and fake cars being confused with the original.

In many cases Club authentication and dating schemes have been responsible for this confusion.

When the experts will not differentiate between the original and the fake it is no wonder that the less scrupulous amongst us are having a field day.

Epping, Essex A SMITH

Pity the Poor Historian

Sir,

With reference to Mr Scheel s letter in your February issue on von Brauchitsch’s burst left rear tyre in the German GP of 1935. I feel that only two of the reference sources quoted are clearly correct. To me, and probably to a great many other people, the term “near side” is not immediately conclusive. Firstly, it took me years to learn, without thinking twice what is meant by “near side”. It could be construed from the driver’s point of view as being the side he or she, is sitting on in the car, meaning right-hand side in a rhd car. However, I know now that by “near” in this instance you British, mean near to the road side. From this follows that near side in left-hand traffic means the left side. Now comes German GP of 1935. What is near side in right-hand traffic Germany? Right-hand road side? So to anyone unused to British terminology living in a right-hand traffic country “near side” would be if not incomprehensible, at least confusing. Which leaves only two immediately correct references. Tragatsch and Hull Slater

Back to the aim of Mr Scheel letter — how many more inaccuracies do we live with which have not been spotted or pointed out by erudite readers. one wonders?

Hovas, Sweden LENNART W HAAJANEN

Citroen and MG Memories

Sir,

I was most interested to see the photograph of the 10.4 hp Citroen at the head of “MOTORING AS IT WAS” on page 298 of your March issue. I immediately delved through my old negatives, set up the vintage enlarger (S/H in 1937) and ran off the enclosed print “Why all this feverish activity?”, you may well ask It was on account of the fact that it was on a left-hand drive version of this model (Reg No. Y750) that I learned to drive (by permission of indulgent parents) in mid I920 at the age of 12 1/2!

My father did not start to drive until he was 53 in 1917 and never really liked motoring although my mother was a great enthusiast. So, perhaps that had something to do with my good fortune. Be that as it may from then on I drove regularly around the Dorset lanes during the school holidays aided and abetted by a trilby hat on the top and a cushion under the bottom. This combination preserved me from any interference from the local constabulary until I could drive legally when I was seventeen. Both cars and coppers were pretty thin on the ground in those days!

Referring to the photograph, taken on Christchurch quay, my mother and father are in front and it will be seen the occupants got the full fresh-air treatment. I should imagine the rather fierce-looking lady in the rear (identity now unknown) must have had some trouble with her somewhat voluminous headgear even though the “old man’s” cruising speed rarely exceeded 25 mph. No doubt a good supply of hatpins did the trick. The car was completely reliable and entirely gutless which made overtaking quite a dicey operation. I never towed anything with it, in the snow or otherwise, this was to come later when I towed a toboggan with my 14/40 MG on various occasions.I took a Print of this car at the same time as the above in the hope it and a short description would be of interest to your readers.

This was one of the original bull-nosed models of 1926 vintage (Reg, No TN 3748) which I owned from 1928 to 1933. I believe only 113 of this model were made, being superseded in 1927 by the square radiator, type. The bull-nosed cars had plain aluminium body panels whereas the later ones were “engine turned”. Bonnets and wings were either dark red or dark blue. My car was obtained from H F Edwards of Great Portland Street for, I believe £120. It was rather special as it had Dunlop Magnum wheels and the new “balloon” tyres in place of the standard disc wheels and HP tyres. Other quite advanced features were vacuum-servo brakes which were excellent (a red triangle on the offside rear wing warned lesser mortals to keep their distance) and Barker dipping headlamps. These were operated by a pseudo gear lever on the RH side and were a great boon in poor visibility as one could arrange the height of the beam exactly to suit the prevailing conditions. Another excellent fitment was the silent-chain driven dynamotor which provided a completely silent start without the clonking and whirring from which modern cars suffer.

About 1930 I fitted an aluminium Ricardo head which improved the performance quite a bit (about 60 mph) but shortened the life of the splash-fed big ends. They rarely lasted 10,000 miles, say a year but were easy to replace and cheap!

This was a really excellent car which gave very little trouble though used for a few local trials and many long hard-driven cross-country runs. Incidentally the negatives for the prints were taken on a Kodak Vest Pocket (V.P K.) camera obtained in a “swap’ for a mouth-organ at school!

Lyme Regis, Dorset E.S.TAYLOR