Matters of moments, November 1974
The motoring outlook
With another Election over, and the Socialists in by that slender majority, our newspapers and TV screens may return to normal, allowing us to look more calmly at the motoring scene. Although Harold Wilson said that things are less black than previously painted while he was busy culling the votes, he now joins with the Opposition in telling us that Britain is facing the worst economic crisis since the war!
So, with the expected further increase in the cost of petrol, with money which it is so much easier to print than to mint rapidly losing its ‘Value, together with the unhappy prospects of rising unemployment and galloping inflation, the outlook is grim both for those who manufacture cars and those who enjoy owning them. Nevertheless, what we must fight for in this age of ever more expensive cars, less finance to spend on road improvements and ever-increasing motoring legislation, is the threat to our motoring freedom. The outlook is serious enough, without the factors of compulsory safety-belts, lowered speed-limits, elevated fines for non-criminal motoring offences, and Big Brother regarding we over-taxed mobile members of the community through radar screens and from helicopters.
There are many more important things to do in tidying up this stricken country than to hound innocent drivers who exceed antiquated speed restrictions by a few m.p.h., and we suggest that there are items such as rear-window heating (so well done by Triplex), substitute means of working defunct screen-wipers (do you recall how Simca once tackled this problem ?), improved anti-dazzle devices and the like, which are as important as, if not more important than accepting the probability of accidents by strapping oneself to one’s motor dlr.
It is always difficult to convince the timid of such things. But it seems significant that in France it is still permissible for young riders to go about on autocycles without tax and insurance and sans crash helmets—and we defy anyone to say that human life is less sacred in France than in Britain. It is also significant that Germany is free from speed-limits on her Motorway network. The right to take reasonable risks is something the timid fail to appreciate and it is almost impossible to put this over to them. It is really a question of refusing to become the all-alike, standardised fossils that a Communist/Socialist regime strives to make us. Those who race cars and motorcycles, fly private aeroplanes, climb mountains, enjoy the ski-slopes, go places in boats, and who do not regard ordinary motor cars as lethal possessions will understand! Whether it is a case of resisting compulsion in the operation of ordinary cars or looking sideways at the way in which modern motor-racing embraces Armco barriers, “space-suit” driving attire, slow-down chicanes, bans former circuits as unsafe and is stopped if rain falls, the philosophy of the Savage (you and me) in Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” surely applies. You will remember that when confronted by his Fordship the Controller of Human Life, who stood for doing things comfortably, the Savage queried whether there wasn’t something to be said for living dangerously. He went on to remark that he didn’t want the comfort of conformity but preferred God, poetry, real danger, freedom, goodness and sin. To which he was told by his Fordship, as the representative of standardised safety and security, that he was claiming the right to be unhappy. And the Savage retorts, all right then, he was claiming the right to be unhappy, not to mention the right to all the ills and anxieties of mankind. “I claim them all”, he concluded.
The moral of which is that if we remove all the interest and adventure from motoring, or from life in general, we may be supremely safe but we will have sacrificed all enjoyment. This must be borne in mind by all those of us who drive for pleasure and own cars for enjoyment, as distinct from those who motor only because they have to and derive no more pleasure from a car than they do from a cake of soap or a dog kennel. Moreover, it might well be remembered that although Huxley devoted his novel, written in 1931, to the test-tube World of AF (after-Ford) 632, he said in 1946 that far from “Utopia” being as he had predicted 600 years ahead, it now seemed quite possible for the horror to be upon us within a single century. It is in such things as compulsion of unrealistic speed-limits, dubious safety measures, age-limits for driving, the banning of private cars from city centres, etc., that the tip of an unpleasant motoring iceberg exists. . . .
Fortunately the outlook is not all that bad. The World fuel shortage has receded. There is a full motor-racing fixture-list and more or less unrestricted road motoring for those who can still afford it. Britain continues to make excellent cars, from Mini to Silver Shadow, with no neglect of poterit sports models. From the Continent, too, come cars of great technical merit and individuality, from sophisticated Citroëns to covetable BMWs and Ferraris, etc. The success of that best of all economy towncars, the Fiat 126, has apparently prompted Citroën to re-introduce the 2cv., diametrically opposed as it is to the little Fiat in size, engine location and cylinder disposition. If anarchy and Communism do not eventually undermine this tough little Island, those of us who get fun from the motor car, even in AD 1974, need not be too despondent.
In one of his lesser-known books T. H. White wrote: “When London Bridge has tumbled down, and the sewers of the hive have ceased to pollute the waters, there will be salmon opposite the Imperial Chemicals building, but no Imperial Chemicals building opposite the salmon.” Yes! But before that happens, if we are vigilant and fight for our harmless rights as private motorists who actually like our cars and are not afraid of them, there should be quite a lot of good motoring still to do.
We know our readers appreciate the great effort that has been made to keep price increases to a minimum-your thousands of letters have said so!
However, further rises in production costs (paper used for Motor Sport has increased 110% in twelve months) have made it imperative to raise the price to 25 pence per copy. The new price will commence with the publication of the December issue on the 29th November; 1974.
D.S.J. Corrects Himself
D.S.J. points out that he made an error in his Letter to the Editor (page 1229) referring to his experience with Stfrling Moss on the Mille Miglia in the Maserati 450S. Their starting time was 5.37 a.m., not 5.34 a.m., an important point to historians studying photographs of the event, for the Starting time provided the competition number, 537. Thus it was 5.43 a.m. when the brake pedal broke so dramatically six minutes from the start, not 5.40 a.m.
Roland King-Farlow, who died in August after a long illness, was the doyen of British timekeepers. Trained in this activity at Brooklands by the famous A. V. Ebblewhite, K-F became Chief Timekeeper at Crystal Palace when that circuit was opened. After the War he gave up timekeeping for a while, returning to it later as Assistant Chief Timekeeper for the BARC. When the BARC moved to Thruxton, K-F was appointed the Club’s Chief Timekeeper, He was also a member of the RAC Timekeeping Sub-Committee and Appointments Panel.
An eminent motoring historian, Roland King-Farlow had accumulated possibly the finest collection of Brooklands material and was an active member of the Brooklands Society. He had competed at Brooklands in such cars as Riley Nines and married Miss Victoria Worsley, the well-known Brooklands competitor, to whom the staff of Motor Sport extend their deepest sympathy. C.R.
We were shocked to hear of the untimely death of Geoffrey Coles, killed when his familiar blue MG J4 crashed at Russells. Corner, in a race at Snetterton.
Geoff Coles’ racing career began with an MG 12 at Brooklands and Donington in the early 1930s. In the years after the War he became a well-known figure at Goodwood, other fledgling circuits and hill climbs in a variety of cars including a very rapid special which he constructed around an MG J4 engine, and an XK120. But in the last decade Geoff had become synonymous with MG J4s, of which he had two pristine examples of the nine built. His first example, the red car, Chassis number J4004, with which Dennis Mansell finished second behind Freddie Dixon’s Riley in the 1933 Mannin Beg Race, was acquired in a decrepit state in 1962 and restored painstakingly by Geoff into a condition which is generally acknowledged to be probably the finest of any restored historic MG. But he gained much admiration for ensuring that this MG did not become a static concours exhibit : between 1964 and 1972 it won no fewer than 150 awards in racing, hill climbing, and sprints as well as concours.
In 1966 Geoff acquired J4006, the blue car, as a pile of bits and meticulously reconstructed it, returning it to properly competitive motoring at the beginning of last year after earlier troublesome forays. By means of running a higher supercharger boost pressure and other modifications this car was by far the fastest of the two and with it Geoff Coles, at the age of 65, was lying second in the Motor Sport Brooklands Memorial Trophy at the time of his death.
Always a spirited driver and an engineering perfectionist, Geoff Coles will be sadly missed on the motoring scene, particularly in the VSCC and MGCC, in which organisations he had been such a stalwart member and an inspiration to others-C.R.
Support Donington Park
Motor Sport readers might help secure the future of Donington Park motor-racing circuit by turning up in force at a public enquiry into Tom Wheatcroft’s planning application, to be held on November 27th. Details of the time and place can be obtained from Leicestershire County Planning Depa Oinffifocremr. Mr. D. L. Sabey, the County wishes to be more specific in their support and “appear or make representations”, should planning rtment, County Hall, Glenfield, Leicester, LE3 8RH (Leicester 871313). Anybody who
British Leyland inform us that contrary to their original information, which W.B. has quoted in his road test of the Dolomite Sprint on page 1197, it is the ordinary Dolomite, not the Dolomite Sprint, which has had its insurance rating reduced from Group 5 to Group 4. The Sprint remains in Group 6.
An association of ideas with the suspension adjustment arrangement of the CX, which he was writing about at the same time, caused C.R. to muddle his description of the GS 1220 Club suspension. The lowest not the in middle, position is the normal setting, the middle position is for bad ruts and potholes and the third position, high, is for “negotiating floods; deep snow, steep ramps with sharp changes of angle, and prior to using the jack when changing a wheel” (when presumably low or intermediate has to be used to lift the wheels off the deck).