RACING WITH A 43-YEAR-OLD CAR
The Story of the 1908 G.P. ITALA
THE 1908 G.P. Rs ” Floretta ” has been written up many times in the motoring Press; by various people and from various points of view but generally from the technical angle. I don’t think much has ever been said about its history and the trials and tribulations which have inevitably occurred through the years. It is, I believe, the oldest P.P. car which is still regularly raced, and, What is more, is always driven to and from every meeting on the road in the ordinary why. That this is so just goes to prove what a very fine design it was in the first place, and what great fun it is to drive, especially in this age of terrifying tinware.
The car was built in 1908 as one of a team of three Which raced in the 1908 G.P. on the Dieppe circuit. This was the car driven by Cagno, which finished eleventh. The Rains were the heaviest cars in the race, and though this may have had something to do with their not finishing in the money in the G.P., it also may be some part of the reason for my specimen having survived for so long ! Soon after the G.P., the car was bought by Mr. Young, the brewer, of Wandsworth, who brought it to England and took it to Vincents, of Reading, to have the present four-seater body installed.
by G. A. EWEN
This is quickly detachable by undoing four bolts, when one can walk away with everything aft of the scuttle : very convenient for attending to the transmission. Various single-seater shells were constructed to go on in place of the touring body, for racing purposes, but unfortunately none have survived. The driving and maintenance of the car were entrusted to the works manager Of the Bala works in England, a Mr. Wildegose, who is still very much alive today, and to whom I am eternally indebted for much of my information, both technical and historical. He drove the car constantly at Brooklands before World War I and eventually achieved a lap speed of over 100 m.p.h. [101.80 m.p.h.—En.] with what he calls a “wind-cheating cowl” attached to the radiator. He also confirms that its present performance with the four-seater body is just about the same as it was in those days, which is gratifying.
During the 1914-1918 war its fate was unknown, though I have heard that it was, used at some time by Dunlops for testing tyres. However, in,fainiary, 1921, it was (unfortunately) registered under the Roads Act (1920), which fact has prevented me from being able to register it to qualify for the 110 flat rate. The R.A.C. rating is 60 h.p., so that means 175 per annum, which means also that I -Cannot afford it !
I don’t think the car was used at all in the later ‘twenties, but it was discovered in a barn at the back of an hotel in Norfolk by a Mr. Pole, who was then at Cambridge, sometime in the early ‘thirties. [Pole was a great enthusiast, who later raced a vast Mercedes at .Brooklands. During the war he saw me towing a 1911 Renault with my ” )./50″ Alyis and leapt from a trolleybus, deserting wife and children, to look at it.—En4 He eventually persuaded the owner to sell, and he took it back with hint to Ilford, where he repainted it and cleaned it up. The engine went perfectly, and he entered it for :a few events in 1935 or thereabouts. At one of these meetings Sam Glutton saw it and immediately demanded that Pole should sell it to him, which he did with hardly a struggle. Its career. in Sam’s hands before the war is common knowledge, I’m sure : suffice it to say that it was this car and Sam’s perseverance which contributed. more than anything to the recognition of the fast F.dwardians as aforce to be -reckoned with and as a magnificent spectacle.
Another war Caine along in 1939 and the ‘Raki, was rusticated in what. was hoped to be a safe Spot. However, the barn in which it was stored caught fire, and it was dragged out only just in time, slightly scorched. It suffered a bit from exposure, but really came to surprisingly little harm. At this point I took a band in the matter, because Sam asked mein 1945 if I would like to take a half-share with him. I was lucky to have garage and workshop space so I agreed readily, and proceeded to get it in running orderagain, ready for the first Shelsley Walsh meeting after the war, in June, 1946.
At this time I had never driven the car, and I knew nothing of its mechanical details, so the first job was to inspect all working parts and find out how it was screwed together. The low-tension ignition system was new to me, but proved to be much less trouble than expected. The chief -snag is the necessity of timing the striker for each cylinder separately, and I ‘blind this could be done most easily by wiring up a battery and bulb in series with the striker and seeing where the light went out on turning the engine. The flywheel, being very exposed, makes the checking of timing very easy, as it has legible marks on it. The engine proved to be in very good fettle. pistons, bearings and bores being but little worn. The clutch, a multiplate affair with 72 steel plates, was very