MATTERS OF MOMENT, October 1961

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THE AGE OF THE SMALL CAR

Some readers may wonder why MOTOR SPORT publishes occasional small-car topics. We hasten to remind them that from the earliest days small cars have taken a prominent part in competition motoring. Races for voiturettes received support from famous manufacturers and are the subject of an erudite book by Kent Karslake. The early J.C.C. 200-Mile Races at Brooklands, the Bol d’Or marathon in France and countless other contests have stepped up the efficiency and reliability of engines of modest size and cars of up to 1½-litres have gone indecently quickly when attacking International records.

We suggest that this is the Age of the Small Car, stemming from the everrising cost of living in this land of savage taxation, for petrol bills, garaging fees, servicing charges, shipping costs, insurance premiums and the cost of spares and tyres rise with increase in engine capacity and wheelbase.

In the ‘twenties there was lively controversy as to whether the light-car top limit should be 1,600 or 1,500 c.c. The latter was universally adopted and with the 1961 1½-litre Forrnula One working out so successfully this would seem to be a suitable swept-volume for most of us. The modern 1½-litre car can do most things more than adequately, and with commendable economy. Of the British “Big-Five,” B.M.C. make a number of good engines of under 1,500 c.c., so do Ford, Standard-Triumph’s Herald is well under this limit, and the Rootes Group Hillman Husky qualifies, and will soon be joined by the smaller rear-engined air-cooled ” Apex ” from their new factory in Scotland. The Vauxhall Victor is but 8 c.c. oversize. Europe’s biggest manufacturer, Volkswagen, always has made engines of under 1½-litres.

Small cars gain further merit from their practicability on our congested roads and the forthcoming Motor Shows will reveal the concentration of attention which the World’s designers are devoting to cars economical in respect of fuel and dimensions. It is pleasing to know that both Ford and B.M.C. recognise the value of Formula Junior racing in developing the popularity of their production 997-c.c. power units.

Even in the field of high performance there is not much need to look beyond Alfa Romeo, Abarth, B.M.W. 700 or Lotus Elite, while at the opposite extreme fully automatic transmission is available on a 750-c.c. vehicle, the Dutch D.A.F. Small cars excel in technical variety, in the form of front-wheel-drive, rear-placed power units, two-stroke engines, independent rear suspension, air-cooling, sealed-liquid cooling, rotary power packs and divers arrangements of cylinders and valve gear, etc.

Everything points to 1962 being recognised as the Small Car Age and the advent of the remarkable B.M.C. Cooper Minis, of which a road-test report on the Austin-Cooper appears in this issue of MOTOR SPORT, endorses the very adequate performance of even the smaller of the economy-car tribe.

PHIL HILL—WORLD CHAMPION

We tender warm congratulations to Phil Hill and to America on the outcome of the 1961 Drivers’ World Championship.

In doing so we mourn deeply the loss of von Trips who lost his life at Monza. There is little to be said about this sad accident, which the vultures of the sensational Press have dealt with in their usual disgusting and callous manner, often with complete disregard for the facts and invariably with no regard for decency. That spectators died with von Trips is most unfortunate but the motor-racing public is advised that attendance is at their own risk and to couple the word ” ban ” to this sad disaster is as ridiculous as using it at the World’s airports, in hunting stables or in the huts of mountaineers —or, one might add, at the entrance gates to football stadiums. . . .

THE B.A.R.C.’s JUBILEE

It is said that one of the reasons why the 1962 British G.P. is to be held at Aintree under B.A.R.C. organisation instead of at Silverstone by the B.R.D.C. is because the R.A.C. is sympathetic to the Jubilee of the former Club. As we see it, the B.A.R.C. originated as the Cyclecar Club late in 1912 and came into prominence with its ambitious 200-Mile Race at Brooklands in 1921, when it called itself the J.C.C. Its racing jubilee therefore falls in 1971 and although its Jubilee Book is called ” From Brooklands to Goodwood ” we still prefer our suggested title of ” From Belts to Blowers.” And surely a fitting Jubilee race would be a 200-Mile F.1 race at Goodwood, with F.J. cars representing the 1,100-cc. section of the original ” 200 ” ?

It’s really a question, or should be, of what does the public want? Do YOU prefer Silverstone to Aintree? Do YOU feel the B.R.D.C. has been robbed? Would YOU vote for the next four British G.P.s to be run at Aintree? Make your views known, now, or it may be too late.