Around and About, November 1978

A sporting three-wheeler

Believing that there might be a market for a sporting three-wheeler, on the lines of the immortal but no-longer-produced Morgan, we are interested to hear that such a car is being built in Norfolk, and if the vicious Type-Approval regulations can be overcome, that it may go into production.

The builder is well aware that he may incur the wrath of certain people in the VMCC and the Morgan Three-Wheeler Club but the specification of this modern tricycle sounds attractive, to those not biased by nostalgia. The chassis and sporting body, the latter recalling that of a racing version of the Morgan Super Sports, consist of a sheet-steel welded backbone structure, with round and square-section tubes welded to the backbone. Front and rear bulkheads and the floor are welded into place, using suitable stiffeners, and as the aluminium outer-body panels are riveted to the outer-chassis tubes additional stiffening is achieved by this form of stressed-skin construction. Bonnet-top and beetle-tail are also of light alloy.

The back wheel is carried on a swinging-arm and at the front there are unequal-length wishbones for the coil-spring i.f.s. Twin coilspring struts, one on either side, look after springing of the back wheel. Steering is by rack-and-pinion and the wire wheels have 18″ rims. Hydraulic disc brakes are used for all three wheels, the front discs being 11″ in diameter. This prototype sporting three-wheeler is powered by an 850 c.c. air-cooled vee-twin Moto Guzzi motorcycle engine developing 59 b.h.p. and driving the rear wheel through a five-speed gearbox and shaft. The constructor of what on paper sounds a very promising return to the sporting three-wheeler is Tony Divey and Formula Fabrication’s have built the prototype. We hope to hear more. – W.B.

VMCC Saundersfoot

Tragaron Mountain Road, Sept. 16th.

Just as I like to include one flying-display in the annual Editorial repertoire (a Traction-Engine rally has eluded me this year), so I enjoy a vintage motorcycle event. Having been unable to fit in the classic Banbury Run I went to the more local Saundersfoot Run of the West South Wales branch of the VMCC. Run by D. Weekes and his wife, their Sunbeam-Talbot saloon in attendance, this year it attracted a record entry. All the well-known riders seemed to have supported it and leather-clad, former-Speedway champion 74-year-old Jorgen Nielsen had come from Denmark to ride a 1930 Scott Squirrel. Some riders were from Holland. The oldest entry was a 1909 single-speed Triumph and these, like a “Free-engine” 1911 Triumph and three 1914 machines, a Model-C Triumph, a James Lightweight, and a BSA Solo-de-Luxe, were allowed to go to Nantgaredig by an easy route, compared to the 63-mile slog taken by the others, which ranged down to modern-looking Harley-Davidsons and the like.

It was on the mountain road beyond Llyn Brianne Reservoir that I watched the enthusiastic cavalcade go by; after they had circled this artificial lake by the new scenic route; which is something tourists should see, and for whom parking platforms looking down onto the placid expanse of water are provided. The schedule of the Run seemed to be running late, after this long uphill grind, to the even steeper mountain road, by the time the German rider Uwe Traulsen and his pillion passenger footed their 1920 Gillet round the cruel corner. Next came Mason’s 1950 CII BSA, which had to shed its pillion passenger, and Ore stopped momentarily on his Super Sports Model-E Ariel. Hopes’ sleeve-valve 1921 Beardmore Precision, winner of last year’s Concours d’Elegance which follows the run at Saundersfoot on the Sunday, had no trouble.

We had parked the Rover in an interesting place, for a Dutch-entered 1929 FN required a push, his mate, Jack Brause on a 1930 4-speed S6 Douglas stopping to help, Glynne Owen paused while he selected another gear on his Model-B Ariel, and much pushing was needed to get Jenner’s smart water-cooled Aero Morgan to the top, so perhaps it was not surprising that Ken Evans had to push his 150-c.c. LE Velocette. Most of the others found it easy, Kingsley Davies standing up on the footrests of his 1938 Velocette. Hale’s interesting Victoria KR25S two-stroke didn’t seem to be revving very hard, a 1937 Sarolea from Holland, the “Belgian Norton”, purred up and Wess’ Square-Four Ariel sounded very healthy, as did Lewis’ 1926 Sunbeam Model-I which recently collected £2,300 for Cancer Research on a 1,000-mile sponsored-ride. Among many fine touring combinations Newell’s 1921 BSA 998-c.c. sidecar outfit was notable, with Rogers’ 1950 BSA Golden Flash representing the other end of the age-spectrum. Vic Morris’ 1927 Sunbeam had a crisp bark, Powell’s Model-26 AJS sounded in fine fettle, the Danish-built 4-cylinder 750-c.c. o.h.c. shaft-drive sports Nimbus with big Bender sidecar, on its 23rd Saundersfoot, coped well, and Ellis decided that his 1927 S7 BSA could make it without a gear shift. Haddock’s well­-laden 1929 CSD Triumph slogged up, Jordon’s 1923 Model-5 Raleigh was pulling well, and Edwards’ AJS Silver Streak accelerated away after the change-up. Thus they made their way to the overnight stop near Tenby, while we returned home after a cream-tea in Lampeter. – W.B.

Ladies only race series

“Really, we are not trying to exploit women. They have obvious publicity advantages, but we thought it was time somebody gave them the chance to drive throughout a season, instead of the odd celebrity race.” VW executive Guy Sinden was speaking at the close of a day in which he had introduced to VW dealers and the press, the concept of a ten round 1979 Volkswagen Golf Ladies Championship using 110 b.h.p. VW Golf GTis.

A £3,000 prize fund, the promise of a fully sponsored drive in the 1980 British saloon car championship, and the fact that the invited ladies should not have to pay the bills (the dealers do that) should attract at least the 20 cars per race that VW are hoping for.

Invitations had been sent out to 29 prominent lady drivers and nine had accepted a few days afterwards. Not participating will be the best known MCD-promoted trio of present or past years – Divina Galicia (Formula 2 only), Desiree Wilson (British Formula 1) or Juliette Slaughter (ret.). Georgie Shaw of the British Women Racing Drivers Club was present and making sure her members would receive their invitations, but we can also hope for an equal representation outside this organisation too.

The frustrated racing driver in the writer says it is all wrong that Britain is short of opportunities for our undoubtedly talented youngsters (be they male or female in straightforward competition) to progress while these ladies get such a marvellous deal. Equal Opportunities works two ways! Every year we get a surplus of fast UK drivers sprouting from the club racing ranks with nowhere to go – no Elf­-Renault nurtured progression for them, and most fade into under-financed obscurity.

Meanwhile the one-marque racing idea seems to get out of hand. Assuming they all carry on we now have Renault 5 (poorly supported), Ford Escorts (very rough), Celebrity Escorts (not for 1979, a new manufacturer), Porsche’s upmarket 924s, Leyland’s 3-class Mini series (excellent), BMW’s proposed 323i County series, and the VWs.

On the other hand the women are more decorative, and organisers say that virtually anything that brings more manufacturers into the sport, must be good for the sport.

Pond seeks pastures new

Tony Pond, for the past two years a Leyland works rally driver with Dolomite and TR7 derivatives, has left for Chrysler.

At first sight this may seem a strange thing for the 32-year-old professional to do. After all, he has just won the Manx International with the V8-engined TR7 and, as we recorded recently, this version of the TR 7 is acknowledged to be just about the fastest tarmac rally car in the World at present.

Next year, probably with a new sponsor (more of that elsewhere) Leyland were tipped to be tackling a programme consisting primarily of tarmac events in Europe, possible even trying for the European title.

So why has Pond left? Apparently he feels that TR’s loose surface handling cannot be made safe and competitive. He has competed the Chrysler Sunbeam twice and is delighted with the Lotus 907-engined hatchback. He feels it is capable of great things and Chrysler have announced a programme of five events in Europe and the same number in Britain.

The Sunbeam has a 2.2 litre version of the Lotus 16-valve engine presently yielding 230 b.h.p. upon carburettors. Lotus are entirely responsible for the engine work, Chrysler specifying what power and torque they require.

Running gear of the Chrysler is based on the Group 4 Avenger and includes a ZF five-speed gearbox, four piston lightweight calipers for the ventilated front disc brakes; a disc-braked live axle and thoroughly developed MacPherson strut front suspension and trailing arm/transverse rod located back axle, utilising the ubiquitous Bilstein gas-dampers with adjustable ride height.

New sponsors and drivers for Leyland

Tony Pond makes his last appearance for Leyland on this month’s RAC Rally: supporting in the other works TR7s will be Finlands Simo Lampinen and Norway’s John Haugland. The trio will be sponsored by a new and highly appropriate sponsor – British Airways.

With Pond’s departure the whole Leyland approach for 1979 could receive a new look. There is a good chance of retaining British Airways (if J.W.’s memory serves they did sponsor Bjorn Waldegard’s factory Ford Escort for an RAC once before) for a complete season in Europe. There is an obvious link in interests if Leyland contest a series of European events.

There’s just one fly in the ointment. Who will drive? That kind of conjecture makes better reading than cold facts, which are not likely to be released until after the RAC Rally. Emphasising the British angle there has been talk of Russell Brookes (a former Leyland employee) or even Roger Clark taking over: both these drivers might even be at a loose end for the RAC Rally if the Ford strike is unresolved! John Davenport also knows a lot about fast Finnish drivers, having sat alongside many of them, so any of the big names who are not yet signed for 1979 could also be candidates.

Sizing Avon up

More information came to hand regarding Avon tyre sizes after our article of this month went to press.

The Turbosteel will be offered, eventually, in seven sizes of SR-rating beginning with the 155 SR x 13. The Turbosport, an aggressive looking cover available for some time in 185 HR x 14 is joined by the 195 HR x 14 now.

RAC Rally entries

Les than a week remained until closing date for entries on this year’s RAC Rally, sponsored once more by Lombard and held between November 19 and 23, when this was written – yet the event had already attracted nine factory teams with more to come.

The most speculation surrounded the entry of Ford owing to their industrial dispute (which has affected the competitions department for the first time), but assuming everything was resolved they would have five Escorts trying for a seventh consecutive victory.

Dealer team Vauxhall had two Chevettes entered, Opel their single British Group I Opel Kadett plus another one from Germany; Team Datsun Europe reserved three entries from Andy Dawson’s UK operation and Toyota, Skoda and Wartburg were confirmed as coming too.

SAAB are sending two of the exciting and comparatively silent (so watch out when spectating!) Turbocharged 99 models. SAAB have a superb rally team and it will be very interesting to see how well they have conquered the problems of front wheel drive, turbo lag and so much power, a reported 240 b.h.p.

Another two marques look certain at the time of writing – Fiat and Lancia. Sandro Munari has wanted to bring the Stratos to Britain for another fling all season and the World Championship-winning Fiat 131 Mirafioris can also be safely expected.

This year’s event starts from the NEC in Birmingham; full details in our usual monthly calendar of events at the front of the magazine.

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Best performance in the Hants & Berks MC 462-mile Economy Run, held last September and involving some of Gloucestershire’s and South Wales’ hills, a number of towns to be negotiated, and 75 Motorway miles to be covered at an average of 50 m.p.h., was that by a Reliant Kitten. Driven by Joe Lowrey and G. Surguy, it returned 71.92 m.p.g. Other class-winners were an Austin Princess 2000HL with BL’s new O-series power unit, with 53.11 m.p.g., a Toyota Celica ST with 55.53 m.p.g., a Mini Clubman with 65.82 m.p.g., and a diesel-engined VW Golf LD that gave 69.46 m.p.g. The good fuel consumptions were helped this year by the re­institution of free driving methods, as when this event was first promoted by the Cheltenham MC in 1954 as an International Economy Contest, when a Citroen 2CV, driven by the Editor of Motor Sport and the late Holland Birkett, returned 83.7 m.p.g.

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The lsetta CC now has some 50 members and has acquired all the spares stocks held by the Concessionaires in this country. The Club’s Technical Adviser is Vic Locke, 217b, Chichester Road, Bognor Regis, Sussex.