Around and About, November 1979

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The Jones Collection

Alan Jones is more than just a brilliant Grand Prix driver, he is a real enthusiast for motor cars, on or off the track. Jones turned up at a mutual friend’s house whilst we were there the other weekend in his new Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 and by coincidence a Press Release arrived from Mercedes a few days later telling us about his acquisition and detailing the personal transport of the top 29 Grand Prix drivers, no fewer than 22 of whom drive behind the three-pointed star!

But the M-B list omitted to say that Jones is a “nut” for the very make which usurped the WorId Championship from him this season. He owns no less than three Ferraris, a 275GTS (the Pininfarina-bodied Spider), a 275GTB two-cam and a Daytona. The mutual friend is Victor Norman, whose Maserati 300S (now owned by Martin Colville) this writer drove in the Le Mans Historic Race last year and Norman’s firm, Rosso Ltd., Victoria Road, Cirencester, is rebuilding all three cars for Jones. We were able to see the GTS, now well on the way to completion. Jones is pretty confident that when Rosso’s work is finished he should have the best example in the world.

We were down at Rosso again a week later to see Colonel Ronnie Hoare, of Maranello Concessionaires, officially open Rosso’s new premises as Ferrari distributors for Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Somerset and Avon. One of Jones’ main ambitions is to re-acquire the Maserati 250F in which his late father Stan won the Australian Grand Prix in 1957. But chassis no. 2520, which Stan acquired new from Maserati, is firmly in the hands of David Llewellyn in the UK. Meanwhile Jones waits patiently . . and to encourage his enthusiasm further we sat him in the cockpit of Norman’s ex-Fangio lightweight 250F, chassis no. 2527. “It fits me perfectly”, he said, a gleam in his eye. “This is a proper racing car — I reckon it’s the most beautiful ever built.” Then he went on to recall in great detail the problems his father found with the 250F, the preparation that went into it and the differences between dad’s earlier 250F and the lightweight, memories from his schoolboy days following the Jones team round the Australian circuits.

Jones considers his new 6.9 Mercedes to be the best “everyday” road car he has owned. It follows on from a 450SL and a 450SEL. Much as he enjoys cars like his Ferraris for fun, for going places the Australian ace prefers something more relaxing. “When I’ve driven something like 1,000 miles in the Williams over a Grand Prix weekend, I want to climb into a quiet, comfortable and smooth automatic car when I climb out of the aeroplane.” Not that Jones then drives it like an old woman: “It cruises comfortably at 120 m.p.h.” Waxenberger, the Mercedes engineer latterly responsible for the factory rally cars, has lowered and tuned the hydro-pneumatic suspension and Jones declares that it handles fantastically. A small, leather steering wheel completes the modifications.

Jones is not alone as a 6.9 owner amongst his GP colleagues. Both Jacky Ickx and Jochen Mass favour them, as does James Hunt (Retd.). Other Mercedes-Benz fans are Reutemann (280E), Pironi (450SE, 600), Jarier (450SLC 5.0. 600), Lauda (450SE), Piquet (4505EL), Watson (450SL), Fittipaldi (280SE — what happened to the 6.3 he used to love?), Lammers (280CE), Daly (280E), Depailler (450SLC 5.0), Laffite (450SLC), Regazzoni (350SE, 280TE), Patrese (450SL), Rebaque (280CE), Rosberg (450SEL), Keegan (450SL). World Champion Scheckter runs a Ferrari 400i, the new fuel-injection replacement for the 400GT, presumably “on the firm”. — C.R.

Pirellis on Jaguars

After 11 years of equipping the XJ range exclusively with Dunlop tyres, Jaguar-Daimler are to begin dual-sourcing with the introduction of Pirelli’s new P5 radial. This 205/70 VR 15 high performance, steel and nylon belted, low-profile tyre is suitable for use across the range on six-cylinder and 12-cylinder saloons and the XJ-S. Three types of Dunlop tyre are needed to fulfil the same requirements: ER7OVR15 Sport on the six-cylinders; 205VR15 Sports Super with Aquajet tread pattern on the XJI2 and Daimler Double-Six and that tyre’s “chunky” tread version on the XJ-S.

Pirelli’s high-speed tests of the new tyre give an impressive indication of the performance available from the standard V12 Jaguar saloon. On Fiat’s eight-mile, circular Nardo track in Italy a fully laden Jaguar XJ12 covered a total of 1,745 miles, almost entirely at speeds over 100 m.p.h., building up to an incredible 55-mile stretch at a continuous 147 m.p.h.

The new Pirellis, to be built at Pirelli’s Carlisle factory, will be introduced initially on Jaguar-Daimlers for the North American market and should become an alternative on UK market cars next year. — C.R.

New Fiesta Racing Series

A lot of Ford Escorts have been bent in spectacular fashion since the very first all-Escort race — in which the Deputy Editor was an outclassed participant with a rally-prepared Mexico — at Rufforth in 1971. Now, after eight seasons of this competitive one-model series, in which Mexicos made way for Sports when Debenhams took over sponsorship in 1976, the Escorts are to be pensioned off and a Fiesta series launched.

The racing Fiestas will be powered by the 1,600 c.c., 87 b.h.p. Kent engines, currently only available in Fiestas for N. America and Japan and will be run to Production Car regulations save for the addition of specified racing tyres. With identical power to the Escort Sports, these smaller, lighter, front-wheel-drive Fiestas promise faster lap times and maybe even closer racing.

* * *

In a needle match between racing car and racing motorcycle over 2.15 miles of the Manx TT circuit during a Longton and District Motor Club hill climb, Longton Vice-President Brian Redman, driving the Tom Coughlan Racing Chevron-Chevrolet B32, came out victorious over eight-times Motorcycle World Champion Phil Read on Don Padgett’s 750 Yamaha. Redman took the honours with a best run of 64.13 sec., blasting through the speed trap at 164.83 m.p.h., while Read managed 72.82 sec. and a timed speed of 145.16 m.p.h. FTD in the hillclimb proper, a round of the Dutton-Forshaw Longton Sprint and Hillclimb Championship, went to Alister Douglas Osborn, whose Waring and Gillow Racing Pilbeam-DFV MP31, running in a special invitation class, shattered the outright hill record with a time of 61.79 sec., an average speed of 125.26 m.p.h. from a standing start. — C.R.

Bugattis and the Press

In connection with the forthcoming London Exhibition of Bugatti art and sculpture, and cars of course, the Bugatti OC decided that the Press should be allowed to discover for themselves what these specialised and very desirable motor cars are all about. It is not for me to question why this exclusive and highly enthusiastic one-make Club has to have sponsorship, although I confess it surprises me. Be that as it may, “The Amazing Bugattis” Exhibition (Royal College of Arts, until November 18th) is sponsored by The Observer and by Moet et Chandon, renowned for their champagne, and this publicity was in that context.

Thus the Press was introduced to a fine selection of Bugattis in Hertfordshire last month, and whether it was Frank Page, The Observer’s motor-man, or Hugh Conway for the BOC, who persuaded a number of members of that Club to submit their cars for driving by non-members of the select Bugatti circle, I do not know. Whoever it was, the greatest praise and the warmest thanks are due to these Bugatti owners, for letting us drive their cars, remembering the present-day value of such, the cost of replacement parts, and the time and effort involved in rebuilding a Bugatti, engine or chassis. As it happened, nothing dreadful occurred, but it might have done. So the gesture was a very generous one, much appreciated.

The Bugattis assembled for our delectation ranged from a Brescia to Type 57s, and a fine display they made, by the green at Chipperfield, a name one associated with a different sort of circus. Headquarters was “The Two Brewers” pub, another excellent choice.

There wasn’t time to try every one of the dozen Bugattis available, but I had my first go in Chairman Barrie Price’s 1925 Type 35 straight-eight non-supercharged GP. It proved surprisingly flexible for a “racer”, and very nice to drive, an old pair of my wife’s tennis shoes making it possible to manipulate the close-set pedals. I had remembered that the gear lever works in a “back-to-front” gate, 1st back from 2nd when starting off but confess it is difficult afterwards always to get the movements right, without some practice. As for a difficult gear change, nothing could be easier, because there seems little need to double-declutch too obviously when changing down and the upward shifts are just a matter of rapid movements of the lever — a steel lever devoid of anything so effeminate as a knob or hand-grip. Bugatti gearboxes stand any amount of crunched-in changes, or so our hosts courageously told us. Barrie’s car has Type 30 cylinder blocks and small valves, but it goes remarkably well, nevertheless.

We were using the disused Bovingdon aerodrome for the “racers”, which was no more rough than Brooklands. The next thrill was to be driven in, and to drive, Ian Preston’s well-known 1928 supercharged Type 353, Reg. No. MED 21, running on methanol and castor oil — all the finest scents! A few pumps of the Ki-gass, and it was warmed up on Champion K5-G plugs, changed for Champion K60-Rs for serious motoring. These suffice for Prescott but at Shelsley Walsh K-57s are needed; it’s a longer hill! Eight spare plugs are carried on the righthand side of the cockpit. Warming-up was done at 1,500 r.p.m., the Huile gauge showing “1” (the calibrations start at “05” and go up in single figures). Pressure is maintained by hand-pump. Soon all was ready and Ian took me up the runway. I had omitted to bring goggles, so could not observe the instruments, but I think we were getting over the “ton”, because at about 80 m.p.h. my eyes start watering behind my glasses and on this run, in this exciting motor car, I could see nothing at all. . . . It got to 4,700 r.p.m. in top gear, I am told. The cockpit is just pure engineering and no concessions to comfort: no trim, and the only upholstery is on the seats. I enjoyed that drive, too, without in any way being able to emulate the owner. In his hands the surge of power that comes in quite high up the rev.-range lives in the memory. . . As I left, Sue Baker of the The Evening News was going out in the Type 35.

On the road I sampled David Sewell’s 1924 Type 23, thought to be the last Brescia of its type sold as a new car. For some reason I found the gearbox more confusing than on the GP cars, but I enjoyed this nice little car, not least for its very protective windscreen — a shameful confession! The engine is again very flexible, the axle ratio of 3.467 to 1 being quite low for a Brescia! The splendid howl in 3rd gear was all in character.

Next I had a drive with Geoffrey St. John in his handsome Type 55 roadster. A power output of 145 b.h.p., and a top speed of some 120 m.p.h. from a catalogue-model in 1933 was impressive, as I remember from grand runs in such Bugattis before the war — before nasty people in Cortina GTs and the like wondered why you were hanging about. Driving this car, which was driven at Le Mans by Chiron and afterwards rebodied, reminded me of what a very nice long-distance touring car the Type 55 is. It was a bit confusing to find that it has a central accelerator, whereas the GP cars have r.h. accelerator pedals, and as the long gear lever is in the centre on the Type 55 the lower gears are positioned away from you, unlike those on a GP Bugatti, when 1st and 2nd, if the opposite in movement to ordinary cars’ gearshifts, are towards you. Again, the gearbox didn’t seem to call for much dexterity with throttle and clutch, the lever finding its way into the gears easily enough, if one was a bit brutal. St. John said he does it that way, too, but I think he was being polite. This delectable car is well braked, very comfortable and noisy only when in the indirect gears. He uses it quite extensively and gets about 13/14 m.p.g. from the 2.3-litre twin-cam supercharged engine.

Finally, to work up an appetite for lunch, I went out in Martin Dean’s road-equipped twin-cam, blown Type 51 GP — magnificent! It may not be much quicker than a single-cam 35B, at around 130 m.p.h., but the engine holds its tune longer and is easier to work on. Precision of steering, as on the Type 55, was very notable, but of course the GP is harder sprung. Dean does about 2,000 miles a year, in what must surely rank as the most delectable touring car anyone could wish for. — W.B.

The Motor Car and TV

The BBC-2 “Horizon” programme put over a good feature on the future of aerodynamic cars last month. There were shots of a Chrysler Airflow saloon running endurance tests at Utah, we saw Campbell and Cobb with their LSR cars and a Bluebird and the Railton Mobil in action, and Kaye Done was shown speaking of 240 m.p.h., from the cockpit of the Sunbeam Silver Bullet, which dismally failed to achieve this, for reasons fully explained in Motor Sport. The BBC also showed the shocking accident to the 3-litre Stutz Black Hawk that killed Frank Lockhart at Daytona, although the cause was tyre failure, not aerodynamics. One interesting snippet was to see a GP Sunbeam, The Tiger I think, being used to tow the Silver Bullet past the newsreel cameras. Which reminds me of another programme, in which there was a passing shot of Jean Harlow at Brooklands, seated in the Dunfees’ 3-litre Ballot.

Reverting to the Horizon “Race to Reshape Cars” programme, it included shots of the streamlined Mercedes-Benz at Avus, the Opel Rocket-Car running there in clouds of smoke, and normal pre-war GP Auto-Unions and Mercedes-Benz somewhat out of control on road circuits. The work of Jaray on streamlining was one leading theme, but the Rumpler “teardrop” wasn’t included, and it was surprising that the beginning of streamlining at Brooklands, circa 1910, by Sunbeam, Vauxhall and Talbot, etc. was omitted and that no mention was made of the streamlined Fiat Balilla saloons, of which Lord Brabazon of Tara ran FLY-1, on which low-drag experiments were conducted in the 1930s. But it was a good film, in which it was amusing to see two Burney Streamline saloons being driven in London, with Model-T and Model-B Ford trucks and a Unic taxi in the background. — W.B.

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