Letters from Readers
N.B. — Opinions expressed are those of our Correspondents and Motor Sport does not necessarily associate itself with them. — Ed.
I have read with great pleasure your report on the 1978 Italian Grand Prix. Let me congratulate you and underline your unique discretion in this excellent report. Nowhere else have I found such decency in reporting poor Ronnie's unfortunate death. I really lived the event in all its horror — on my TV set which is an excellent grandstand for such events — and was appalled at the press reports following it. Papers and magazines yelled about responsibilities, accused people left and right; enough to make one sick! But your correspondent showed respect for the event and all its participants. Congratulations!
While I am at it, may I also say how much I enjoyed your reports on the two recent events organised in Montreux, Switzerland: the 1977 Retrospective of the Montreux Grand Prix and the 1978 Paris to Turin Rallye.
As a member of the Veteran Car Club of the "Suisse Romande" (VCCR) and the MGCC — I own a 1954 MG TF — I had the honour to act on the organising committee of the 1977 Retrospective. My duty was to organise the exhibition and get the cars on — and off — the track. The exhibition was unique since we were able to show some one hundred veteran and vintage cars which belonged to private collections. Nowhere was it possible to do so before. As for the event itself, we never expected so many people on such a rudimentary track, even with a list of drivers such as Fangio and Hermann Lang! I'll never forget the worries of my friend and Chief of the Montreux Police as the day went on. He was crossing all his thumbs and fingers, hoping that no accident would happen — as his whole career was at stake! I must admit, we were lucky. The crowd was separated from the track by simple ropes stuck on metal posts. Children were even sitting on the kerbstones, inches away from roaring pre-war racing cars. But my, it was wonderful!
Like you, I felt that the 1978 event in Montreux during the Paris-Turin Rallye was not up to scratch. In fact I refused to collaborate this time. It was too soon after last year's immense success and its quality reflected this. I fear that my feelings were shared by many ... not withstanding the magnificent cars on the Rallye. I now hope that Montreux will wait a few years and thus be in a position to repeat the wonderful 1977 event. You bet! I'll be on the organising committee again!
Corseaux, St. Verey, Switzerland
I was most interested to read the letter from "Taso" Mathieson in your October issue and learn how the 28/95 Mercedes has been wrongly credited with a victory in the 1921 Coppa Florio by highly respected motoring writers over the years due to an incorrect photograph caption on Page 984 in The Motor of 6th July, 1921.
It is instructive to try and trace how similar "howlers" have originated, and perhaps I should start with one I myself perpetrated for many years in books and articles on vintage Alfa Romeos, namely that the fitting of a supercharger to the front of the engine on the 6C 1500 Alfa Romeo necessitated moving the engine 15 inches further back in the chassis. When he reviewed David Owen's book "Viva! Alfa Romeo" in the Spring, 1977, VSCC Bulletin, Allan Cherrett, who has had a lot of practical experience with these cars, pointed out that the myth had once more been repeated, and the actual distance is 200 mm. or 73 inches. And the origin of the myth? Page 356 of Motor Sport for September, 1949, in which the incorrect distance was given by none other than F.W. Stiles, late Managing Director of Alfa Romeo British Sales Ltd., whose firm was responsible for preparing the 6C 1500 team cars which won the 1928 Double Twelve race at Brooklands and also the Coupe Boillot race at Boulogne that year.
Regarding Boulogne, I was puzzled to read in both David Thirlby's Frazer Nash books that R.C. Gallop driving a Frazer Nash in the 1925 Boulogne GP "on the opening lap broke all records for the circuit" and later left the record at 67.72 m.p.h. when over the same circuit in 1923 Gamier had averaged 70.91 m.p.h. to win the Georges Boillot Cup race in an Hispano-Suiza. The Autocar report of the Boulogne GP (page 400 in the issue of September 4th, 1925) mentioned Gallop as "twice breaking the lap record at 67.6 m.p.h. and later at 68 m.p.h.", but the origin of what surely must be a mis-statement seems to come out in The Light Car report which said "In addition an official with a megaphone announced items of news from time to time and these, for once, were intelligible. It was from him that the crowd got the first intimation that Gallop beat the record for the course on his first lap and it was from him also they learned he had beaten his own record on the second lap." At one time I thought Gallop might have beaten the lap record for the Boulogne GP races if not for the Coupe Boillot, but Segrave in the Talbot-Darracq put up a record lap of 72 m.p.h. in the 1923 Boulogne GP race which he won at an average of 67.22 m.p.h.
This seems to be another case where the author of carefully researched books has been misled by a mistake in contemporary race reports and since then, to my knowledge, this same error has been repeated in the Frazer Nash section of at least one other carefully researched book on vintage cars!
A Leyland Myth
I was surprised to see, in your report on the Leyland vintage lorry (Motor Sport, October), that you perpetuated the carefully nurtured myth that the Leyland heavy vehicles subsidise the car manufacturing operations. Now that facts are available, following the latest "shake-up", it can be seen that the heavy vehicles only break even, but the cars make a profit. Leyland cars have enough problems without people in such influential positions as yourself "talking them down".
In the Forties or early Fifties the model compression-ignition engine came into wide use.
Should any of his students refer to this engine as a "diesel" my thermodynamics lecturer would fly into a great rage saying that in the true diesel engine combustion took place (at least in theory) at constant pressure whereas the model c.i. engine burned its fuel as a constant volume engine.
Using this as the definition then the engines of Akroyd-Stuart and Rudolf Diesel may be described as diesel-type engines.
However since the engine used today is of the high compression (or as the aforementioned thermodynamicist would have it "high expansion") type, and thus has a high thermal efficiency, we must surely accept that Rudolf Diesel is the inventor of the original diesel engine. The method of ignition is incidental.
Keith B. Smith
(This correspondence is now closed — Ed.)
In a recent ITV "World in Action" programme a very disturbing report was shown on the dangers to health of radiation leakage from microwave ovens, included in this report were interviews with men who had worked on radar installations for some time and had developed vision, hearing and nervous system defects.
As I am sure no one would like to see the police force put at risk perhaps it would be safer if they ceased to use radar speed trap equipment — maybe someone should inform Jim Jardine.
R. T. Hinton
Aceca, not Cobra
I read with interest your report on the BDC August meeting at Silverstone in October Motor Sport and notice you credit me with driving a "Cobra". Much as I would like to own one of these vehicles they are unfortunately well outside my price range. The car in fact was a 1959 AC Aceca Bristol purchased some years ago for £350 and used regularly since. It is the only Aceca now used regularly on the track and in standard form is not competitive. However the adjective used in your description is very true and all my Motor Sport is purely for fun. "Happy" is what it is all about in these financially depressing times.
Thanks again for an excellent magazine.
The FIA Historic Championship
I was amused to see that Michael Bowler chose to try and defend his and the CSI/FIA position by making inaccurate puerile comments about my — a fellow competitor — performances. I have sent him details of my entries/results for this year and am sure he will apologise when enlightened as to the true facts. The bones of the issue may be simplified as follows: —
1. The FIA published late in 1977 a set of rules — which I complained about and said wouldn't work due to lack of entries.
2. A half-hearted compromise was made — that also didn't work — i.e., unless of Bowler's "loophole" the whole Championship would have been cancelled, i.e., four rounds undersubscribed. I now feel sorry I protested in the first place as the whole matter would now be a dead issue. I think Bowler should thank the "protesters" for keeping the Championship alive.
3. The idea of the Championship encouraging entries has had on at least one occasion a negative effect — specifically P. Renault, also a CSI sub-committee member, withdrew his entry from one race meeting on learning that he couldn't get any points (due to a lack of the required number of starters) even though he and his cars were already at the circuit - racing for fun? Or is this the kind of sportsmanship the FIA wishes to promote?
I would now like Bowler to again put pen to paper and say what changes he is proposing for next year as we both at least agree further changes are still required - together with his objectives so that the CSI/FIA can be measured by its own yardstick.
(Michael Bowler, to whom a copy of this letter had been sent, retorts that he will be happy to clarify the changes for next year - after the new regulations have been published. He cannot anticipate the Committee's decisions. -Ed.)
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Thank you very much for your excellent magazine I always read from cover to cover. In the August issue there was quite an interesting letter by Mr. Chris Draper about the FIA Historic Championship. For the first time, a real enthusiast dared argue about these stupid rules concerning this championship. In the September issue, we saw a reply by Mr. Michael Bowler who, as well, writes in a certain "dealer's publication". The arguments developed by Mr. Bowler seem a little weak and need some comments:
a) The FIA Historic Championship rules stop the fun in the vintage type race meetings, because very few people own the correct cars with which to compete, even if certain admitted cars are only copies, like certain Listers, which have been built less than three years ago by an English specialist, or "special" cars like Jaguar XK120SS (?) fitted with over-capacity engine and four-wheel disc brakes . . .
When Chris Draper raced at Montlhery on October 18th, 1968 the FIA was not involved and the rules written since brought nothing. During this meeting, the 120 starters came for nothing else but fun . . . and there were no "so and so" championships! It was a great success.
About stories of Draper's cars, I did not read any remarks about them in the August letter. What about the stories of Bowler's cars in "his" professional magazine?
b) When the FIA rules were introduced on December 4th 1977, the assistance was so surprised, that Philippe Renault had to repeat them again. Such amazing rules . . . for what, but chiefly for whom?
"To get the quickest cars," was answered . . . Nonsense. All the quickest cars in France are in museums gathering dust and idle, except the ones in the hands of the people who make the rules.
It must not be forgotten that these rules were written by Mr. Philippe Renault, who is a member of the CSI sub-committee. Why not sports cars under the 2-litre capacity? Because the little Lotuses, Lolas, and other Porsches are too quick for the big Listers and other "underdragsters" . . . This is not serious at all. What are the results now?
How many single-seaters did we see during this season? In England, at Brands Hatch, ten were on the starting grid, but all these cars appear regularly, every year, so the Historic FIA Championship brought nothing. In France, at Montlhery, Philippe Renault came with two cars and withdrew them when it appeared there were not enough cars entered for him to be able to score points for the FIA Historic Championship. What a sporty and fair gemleman! In Belgium, at Zolder, nothing. Maybe because nobody in the CSI is thinking that Belgium is existing.
In Germany, at Nurburgring, it is a "Mercedes-BMW-Opel-etc.-paid show", and the "interesting cars" received starting money from the organisers, not the other cars. Certain of these organisers advised the German pilots not to go to the Zolder meeting; they have to conserve the cars for their own show, because Zolder took place one week before the Teutonic demonstration. Mr. Bowler must not complain about the fact that there are too many races: the annual calendar for races is known at the beginning of the year, so any driver knows how to plan his race programme.
c) About Le Mans cars running at 140 miles an hour without driving them without fireproof overalls, Mr. Michael Bowler did not wear any when he raced in June in a "140 miles an hour car". (Oh yes he. did! - C.R.)
d) The homologation form . . . what for? When Mr. Bowler is speaking about "hot rod" models, why not give examples like: The Jaguar XK120, "very original", of Oldham & Crowther for instance?
The "homologation form" is a paper which allows such fantasy to continue. It will be a paper giving a touch of truth to copies of pseudodragsters built most of the time by the people who wrote those famous rules.
e) About the future of the Historic Races? I think it is actually going quite well, without the need for a championship. The rules already written in order to be under the "protection" of the CSI have brought absolutely no benefit to us.
Most of the Club meetings do not need the CSI or the FIA, or other administrations to have fun, even if the cars are "more than a 140 miles types" like Ferrari and AC Cobra. When Mr. Bowler is speaking about safety, why, why are the L type tyres not allowed? Maybe because they cannot fit his car . . . He finished his letter saying that: "none of the competitors are racing for reward . . . " What about the withdrawal of Mr. Philippe Renault at Monthlery in June?
Another point, most of the English starters asked for money to pay for the cost of the ferry and transportation . . .
No, Mr. Bowler, the FIA rules for Historic Vehicles are not good in general, and, in particular the FIA Historic Championship. We accept them because, in France, we cannot discuss, we are just allowed to pay.
BRM and the Fastest Grand Prix
In his article in the October edition of Motor Sport, the Deputy Editor states that the BRM P153/02 is owned by Bell & Colvill. I was always under the impression, and this is supported by Paul Sheldon in his fine book "Milestones Behind the Marques", that this car was written off in a crash during practice for the 1970 Dutch Grand Prix when being driven by Pedro Rodriguez. Perhaps the Deputy Editor would care to substantiate his claim? Also, would he care to comment on the fact that the Italian Grand Prix of 1970 was won by Peter Gethin at an average speed of 150.75 m.p.h., making the Italian Grand Prix the fastest ever Formula One event.
(Right, Mr. Hull. I'm afraid I misinterpreted Bobby Bell when we were discussing his BRM: apparently he was talking generally about the BRM P153 as a type having won that Spa race, not his own car. This is in fact 04, not the Spa winning 02, which you quite rightly say was written off by Rodriguez in the Dutch Grand Prix 1970. 04 was new for the Monaco Grand Prix that year, as a replacement for 01, which had been burnt out in Oliver's crash in the Spanish Grand Prix. Oliver drove 04 in all its subsequent outings that year except Watkins Glen, where Peter Westbury failed to qualify it in the US Grand Prix. Oliver's best Grand Prix result in 04 was 5th in the Austrian, though he also took it to third behind Surtees and Rindt in the Oulton Park Gold Cup.
I wasn't the only one in the office to recall that Spa race, won at 241.308 k.p.h. (149.95 m.p.h.), as the fastest ever Grand Prix! It held that accolade until the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in 1971, not 1970, which Peter Gethin won in BRM P160/01 at 242.615 k.p.h. (150.75 m.p.h.).
Unfortunately, a printing error also transformed Bell's Maserati 250F into the wrong car. His is 2526, the semi-lightweight car, not 2523. - C.R.)
More About Parry Thomas
I was much impressed by the prominent position of the photograph of R.C. Morgan and me with the Hooker-Thomas engine in "Green Pea" in 1925, in the October Motor Sport.
Just to keep the record straight I should like to explain that I was Mrs. Agnew in our racing days, as Bobby Morgan and I were not married till later. My first husband - invalided out of the Army towards the end of World War I - was still alive and was R.C.M's best friend. No mechanic - a cavalryman - he always enjoyed the excitement of a race and especially the JCC 200 or Boulogne races, where he took charge of our pit, keeping plugs, spanners, spares etc. neatly set out in good military order.
An amusing sidelight on the sex-discrimination of those days, was that no woman was allowed in the pits either at Brooklands or Montlhery. I therefore always entered the car for those races, as the owner could hardly be barred. Brooklands accepted this, but Montlhery fought hard to keep me out and in fact only gave way just the evening before the race as I threatened to withdraw my car if I were not allowed in my own pit. However they begged me not to appear in too glamorous clothes! I retorted that I should be in overalls like most people in the pits - and they were satisfied.
I am so enjoying "More about Parry Thomas" and thrilled to read of Mr. R.H. Beauchamp who is doubtless considerably responsible for that large bundle of drawings I still have of our motor car that in the end never happened.
Marion Morgan (Mrs.)
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True or not, what a delectable thought it is that "Babs" may have been named after the tiny Truly Scrumptious - no doubt as enchanting then, as she is now. I seem to recall that you, Sir, were a little cool towards Flemming's flying motor car, but I venture to think (from what has been written about him recently) that Thomas would certainly have approved, not only of the car itself but very much also of Jeremy and Jemima, who were instrumental in its rescue. The characters of Jeremy and Jemima were created on film by Adrian Hall and Heather Ripley, exemplifying the inspired casting which hallmarked the film and which must have contributed hugely to its success at the box office.
(Is the lady old enough? -Ed.)
The Summers Maserati 6C
I was astonished to see my car on the cover, and to read the generous remarks inside your latest number! I am most appreciative, but wonder if you could find space to mention those who actually did the hard work! Alistair Templeton has already suffered enough mechanically, without the idiot owner upending the thing. His efforts are beyond praise. Ron Footit did a lightning job on the crankcase and bearings - he regards me as quite mad, and his comments on the crankcase layout are entirely unprintable. Gordon Allen did a survey, investigation in depth and light grind of the crankshaft in less time than it takes to write, and Rubery-Owen produced an even straighter chassis in the two days before their annual holiday. The extensive minor irritations on the bodywork were put right by that panel artist John Buckly of Shaw in Lancashire trampling rough-shod over his other customers!
The car goes as never before and recent events must be some reward to the happy band of whittlers and fettlers who try to keep me going.
Countess Zborowska - Flying a Flag for Lancia
I was most fascinated by your last article enlightened by Mr. Ben Mills, chauffeur to the great driver's wife, as only recently I received a letter from a previous owner of the two-seater Lambda, who told the story of being chased and stopped by Mr. Mills, who driving his motorcycle in 1950 recognised the Reg. No. EN6911 and stopped the Lancia to tell Mr. Gilling, that Count Louis Zborowski took his wife to the Milan Motor Show, where the two-seater Casaro-bodied Lambda stood on the Lancia Stand in 1924. It must have been the last show day as he was able to purchase the car and drive back to Monte Carlo, and on to England in it, leaving the chauffeur to follow with the Rolly Poly and the luggage.
FN6911 is of course a Canterbury registration as also the Hispano Suiza FN7403 from the Highams Park home. Mrs. Alexandra Konody of 26 New Cavendish Street owned the car for ten years in London from 1927, and its existence today is entirely due to a Mr. Oliffe Richmond, sculptor, who cherished and restored the car himself over a period of 20 years from 1955 in Chelsea. I became the owner after his death last year and it was this two-seater Lambda you reported having climbed the Test hill at this year's Brooklands Reunion meeting.
It is interesting to note that many great motor racing drivers chose Lancia cars to drive as their personal transport including Nuvolari's Augusta and Hawthorn's Aprilia.
The MoT Test
In reply to your reader's letter (N.J. Fuller, Norwich) regarding the MoT test and detailed schedule thereof, I run a qualified MoT testing station based in Scarborough, Yorkshire, and find that many people, like Mr. Fuller, are often curious to know, in more depth, just what their vehicle has failed on. The VT29 check list which is issued with each MoT test, has all the possible failure points listed, and is used, in conjunction with the MoT Tester's Manual which is obtainable from Her Majesty's Stationery Office. I have also found that this manual is available at Scarborough library, so would assume that it can be found at other libraries throughout the country. The manual details each item of failure under the sections and sub-sections of form VT29.
I hope that this will be of some help to your reader, whom I feel, like most of us, has become rather disenchanted with the do's and don'ts of motoring today.
PS: As a matter of interest we have recently acquired a 1923 Morris Bullnose Chummy which we understand is the earliest Chummy in existence. We are in the midst of restoring it to its original condition. (Those were the days when motoring was a pleasure.)
The car was found in a barn near Scarborough and had not moved since 1937.
So now motoring books are to follow old cars in becoming sought after collectors' items. The prices you mention in the September edition have been typical of a Certain Dealer for some time now. The interesting thing is that vastly different prices are charged by different people, as is highlighted by a tour of dealers at an Autojumble. For example, at Beaulieu in 1977, one dealer quoted "about £45" as the value of Bradley's "Targa Florio" or "Motor Racing Memories". Certainly they are rare but I found and bought a copy of each for £4 and £7 respectively, on another stand at the same sale.
To most people a good book retains its value. For a second-hand book it is reasonable to pay the same price you would pay for an equivalent new one. It is not necessary to pay more than a pound or two extra for rarity yet! The same comments apply to old copies of Motor Sport.
There is a way to prevent prices ever taking off and I am surprised that publishers do not leap at it, because the demand must be there. This is quite simply to reprint the most valuable authors Pomeroy, Rose, Bradley, Jarrott, Mathieson. Similarly, how about a compendium of D.S. J. race reports (with Continental Notes), which would blunt the edge of Motor Sport prices, as well as providing Standard House with some pocket money? This would leave the Motor Sport market to people who, like me, must own pictures of W.B. in Tamplin cyclecars.
May I say "Thank You" publicly to all the USAC personnel who flew over for the two meetings in this country.
I am sure that there will be those who regarded the whole exercise with contempt. If so, they have missed many essential points. While it is of course true that the track layout differs greatly between the US and the UK, it is impossible to deny that this undertaking was carried out in a most professional manner and a great deal of thought must have been applied to it. The cars, engines and gearboxes etc., were beautifully made, and they were all turned out to a very high standard indeed, considering they were racing only 96 hours earlier in the US. Surely the Formula One brigade could learn something about the absolute discipline of the drivers under the yellow flag, which resulted in high speed, drama-free motoring. The ease with which drivers and cars managed to equal and break outright lap records gives some hint of the performance available. I tried to imagine Peterson in a USAC car at Silverstone.
Despite the bitterly cold wind there cannot be one of your readers who would not have been electrified by the spectacle of the cars streaking down Hanger Straight at over 200 m.p.h. into a headwind, so we were told, on Friday 29th afternoon. There was just a blur in front of the eyes followed by a great scream from the rear of the car. Unhappily there was only a handful of people watching and Hanger Straight needs to be one full mile longer.
All the drivers and teams were most friendly and approachable aided by having their names printed on their VW Microbus and Passats.
So I say "Come back Yanks as soon as possible". But next time let us have a 500 mile race at Silverstone or MIRA (surely the least the British motor industry could do would be to make this circuit available for two or three days. It would be worth three motor shows as a 200 m.p.h. lap average must be on the cards even to drivers unfamiliar with our tracks), held earlier in the year, and we British will see if we can improve the catering facilities at Silverstone.
The standard "cutting remark" delivered to any young South African driver by his contemporaries, should he be unfortunate enough to muff or grind a gearchange, is "wait for next year's model it may have a rubber gearbox!"
Thus, while reading the report on the French GP in the August Motor Sport, I was intrigued to note that Jody Scheckter's Wolf WR5 was fitted with a Goodyear gearbox. How long before this boon to incompetent drivers reaches the production lines, I wonder?
On a more serious note, many thanks for an excellent magazine, which I can assure you is enjoyed by many readers in this country.
Upington, S. Africa.