SOJOURN IN ENGLAND
ACCRI,ERATION.—Hagon leaving the start line at Santa Pod in a cloud of wheel-spin smoke on one of his under-so-second runs. In the nose-cone is the fuel tank, feeding direct to the Phillips injector on the supercharger at the front
of the engine. I AM a great believer in ” leaning with the wind ” for there is seldom a dull moment in life, and more often than not there is too much to do and see. I am constantly finding that there are at least six interesting alternatives to choose from, whether it be a question of where to go; what to do, or which way to go, or who to See, so I tend to take the easy way and ” lean with the wind ” knowing that whatever happens, it will be enjoyable, and life is too short to enjoy everything. Every now and then I find the wind is blowing in a direction I had not given much thought to, and the result has been most satisfactory. Last year the August wind blew me into Germany, and I found myself with time to ‘spare and the opportunity to do unscheduled things and visit unscheduled places. This year the August wind seemed to be blowing towards England and I found more than sufficient to fill the time. I had planned to have my ” summer holiday ” at the V.S.C.C. Silverstone race meeting, where the Editor was closely following the racing and I could just stand .about and talk cars to people, and not interest myself in who won, and who did not win. It worked out well. Somehow during August I kept finding myself at English meetings, from Club races to Internationals and friends kept greeting me with ” Still on holiday? ” and I suppose they Were right, especially as I found plenty to cid between these meetings which was also enjoyable.: A friend in the Midlands having reached the ripe old age of 50 years was haying a celebration, so I headed the E-type for Coventry to help him enjoy his ” half-a-hundred anniversary ” as Ernest Hemmingway used to say, and while there went to see Jaguar. As the E-type has passed the 60,000-mile mark I thought it was time I checked the tappet clearances, or something, but the Jaguar people said ” Why?,” so I shut the bonnet and put the car in the car park. They said ” Would you like to drive something different? ” So, thinking in terms of a mid-engine, flat-12-cylinder, torqueconverter drive, centre driving scat Le Mans entitle, I said I would. We went along to the Daimler factory, which is part of the Jaguar empire, and they produced the latest in Daimler Roadliner commercials! The Roadliner is a chassis for bus Or coach bodywork, built to the maximum size regulations, with the driving cab at the front and all the mechanical components at the back. The Wheelbase is 18 ft, 6 in. and the overall length is 36 feet, with a width of 8 ft. 21 in. Andrew Whyte, of Jaguar arranged A meeting with Peter Windsor-Smith, the Daimler Commercials chief engineer, and we were soon driving is single-decker bus up and down the factory roads in a rather nervous and apprehensive manner. WindsorSmith made it all look too easy. talking ;thorn the Metalastik rubber
suspension, the Cummins V6 diesel engine, the Daimler fluid drive; the pneumatically controlled epicyclic gearbox and the various bodywork styles, as he whisked the whole 36 feet in and out of forklift trucks, similar size vehicles, Daimler employees, maintenance vehicles and so on, at 35 to 40 m.p.h. I took my first turn up and down the factory at a teetering 18-20 m.p.h., not feeling very confident, until I was faced with a 180-degree turn with some maintenance people just where I wanted to go. Having ” got round in one,” more by luck than judgment, I realised that this Daimler WaS really rather controllable and not as big as it first seemed, so we went out on the public highway, and I infuriated a number of Coventry people by not stopping at the Bus Stop when Signalled. When I was -a small boy at school all my friends wanted to be engine drivers, but steam never interested me, it was always the petrol or the diesel engine that fascinated me, and my desire was to drive a big commercial chassis ” On test,” sitting high up at the front in splendid isolation with all that machinery following along. I mentioned this desire and Windsor-Smith produced a brand new Roadliner chassis straight from the assembly line that was ready to go out on road-test. ” You will like this one ” he said, ” it looks a bit like a Brabham, as it has got big fat Goodyear tyreS on the back instead of the normal commercial twin-tyres.” It seems that experiments are going on with the use of wide-tread single rear tyres on commercials. in place of the more orthodox twintyres, in the search for economy of running for things like local buses. This new and shiny Daimler Roadliner chassis had the ” sports ” Cummins V6 engine at the hack, giving 196 b.h.p. on diesel fuel at 2.600 r.p.m., with 444 lb.-ft. torque at 1,600 r.p.m. and there* is more than ten feet of overhang behind the rear axle, while the driving seat is nearly six feet in front of the front axle, so that the relationship of driver to engine is -a bit extreme, unlike the GT ears of tomorrow where the engine is in the driver’s back pocket. The engine is controlled by an hydraulic accelerator pedal, there is no clutch pedal with the Daimler Fluid Drive, and brakes are operated pneumatically, as is the gearchange, the epicyclic fourspeed and reverse gearbox being controlled by a hefty but short lever on the left. To see that all was well Dick Hirc.1, of the experimental department, came along as ” riding mechanic ” and we set off into the Warwickshire countryside. Somehow this hare chassis, with its iron ” test load,” seemed much bigger than the single-decker bus, perhaps hecause it was so much more livelier with the ” sports ” engine. Amongst the Minis and private car traffic I felt ” King of the Road,” knowing that they could not fail to see me, and would almost certainly stop or move out of the way, but
out on the A45 1 suddenly found myself in amongst things my own size and at 45-50 m.p.h. there seemed to be one ” helluva ” rat-race going on between Daimler, A.E.C., Leyland, Ford, Guy, Bedford and even a Mercedes-Benz. The controls were simplicity itself, so that I could concentrate almost entirely on the width and length and I found it remarkably easy to deal with, probably because I had plenty of experience with a Volkswagen pick-up truck, which is the same principle but about a quarter of the size. You sit out in front, with a horizontal steering wheel, entirely remote from the engine, knowing that you go round the corner before the front wheels, and that the front needs to be taken out very wide so that the rear wheels do not clobber the kerb, and bearing in mind that the ten feet of overhang could easily Clout a shop window across the width of the pavement; and you juit hope that bicycles yon have overtaken will react to the selfpreservation instinct and move. In heavy Coventry traffic it was bicycles that gave me more trouble than anything when going through gaps; for with an eighi-toet width, every inch counts and the width of a bicyCle niade all he. difference between ” 0″ and ” no go.” However, front my lofty height out in the open air I was able to give a cry of warning to cyclists who were in the way in front of me. Visibility on this bare chassis was superb arid you could thread our way through traffic remarkably easily, but the expressions on the faces of private-car drivers were splendid, for you could see that they did not believe it possible to place this 30 -foot monster to vi;ithin six inches of their front wingS.Jn coach form these Daimler goadliners are good for over 70 m.p.h. and one Commercial Magazine Road Test described it as ” The Coach Driver’s Dream Vehicle.” I only took this chassis up to 55-60 m.p.h., which seemed quite fast enough for me sitting out in the open, but it was a most enjoyable vehicle to drive and whm CT-type motoring is banned in this enlightened country of ours I shall give serious thought to getting a 36-foot Roadliner and Continuing to enjoy motoring in a different form. Having got the taste for large vehfcles with big, slow-revving engines, I was delighted when Ronald Barker, the President of the V.S-.C.C., suggested that I accompany him for the weekend of the Vintage meeting at Prescott. He was travelling from Weybridge to Cheltenham on his 1908 Napier car, and taking part in the hill-climb, so once more it was open-air motoring in a very different form. The plan was to leave on Friday evening, spending the night with friends near Oxford, travel on to practice on Saturday, staying with further friends that night and return on [he Sunday after the meeting. The 1908 Napier is one of the ” great ” cars of the Vintage movement, and is the real reason that the Committee invited Barker to be their President. The Vintage club like to have a significant car as the Presidential vehicle, past Presidents owning ‘tab, Fiat, Hispano-Suiza, Vauxhall, Bentley etc., so that the Napier was more than adequate for the role, Barker rebuilt this great car from scratch, having acquired it in a dismantled state and in a sorry condition, and I had a certain feeling for it, as it was one of those chance remarks I made many years ago that led to its discovery. I was staying with an old couple in a small Hampshire village and they mentioned a ” great Napier car ” that used to fill up at the local garage some 30 years before. Barker at that time had two Napiers and this chance remark started him searching about and the 1908 car came to light in an old shed not many miles from where I was living. It is a car that you sit ” on ” rather than ” in,” with the sideyalve M-litre, six-cylinder engine enclosed by a vast bonnet, and no bodywork from the bulkhead rearwards, just
two well-padded bucket seats and a platform behind carrying spare wheels. I am not well-versed in Edwardian cars, but they have a strange ability to start their engines by no visible mechanical means. You prime the cylinders with neat petrol through brass taps, turn it over on the handle to suck air in, switch on the ignition and it
starts, just like that Something to do with Edwardian ignition systems and valve-timing, or something, hut all very impressive. We spent our first evening with a 1913 Lands and a very beautiful 1922 Tarp ‘Florio Mercedes-Benz, and next day stayed. with a 1924 Alvis 12/50 and the 1908 Itala, completing the weekend with supper in company with a 1938 Lancia and a 41-litre Bentley. It was a memorable weekend and motoring on the Napier was magnificent, for this great car will out-perform most normal cars, and Barker drove with an ease and superionty that was a real joy. It will cruise happily at 65-70 m.p.h. all day, with a faint whisper coming from under the bonnet, the engine being geared at 54 m.p.h. per 1,000 r.p.m. and it had a maximum of well over 80 m.p.h. while the ride was the equal of many modern cars. It must have been the E-type jaguar of the EdWardian days of motoring, and it gathered speed in the 500 to 1,200 r.p.m. range in a remarkable manner, while the steering and cornering were effortless. On this fine car you live in a different world, and at One point a red E-type came towards us and I thought ” Oh look, tn E-type Jaguar ” and then I thought ” Surely rye got one of those ‘somewhere” and I had to give conscious thought to what I. had done with it, until I remembered that I had put it away in the Napier’s motor-hriuse, while we were living in the past.
Mid-week I was down in Sussex with the Editor, nosing around the Chichester area in search of an old Brooldands car, when we heard the sound of what might haYe been a low-flying aircraft coming from the direction of the Goodwood racing circuit. The Signs now say ” Goodwood Aerodrome ” but the noise was rising and falling and sounded much more like a Chevrolet V8, so we headed the road-test Austin Healey Sprite towards the old racing. circuit and the paddock was full of familiar faceS. The Firestone and Goodyear tyre service vans were there, with their crews, and John Surtees was just loading his latest Group 7 Lola-Chevrolet V8 onto a trailer, and was about to drive away in his Mini-Cooper. ‘This waS odd, for only the day before I had been reading the Ford Magazine which said that he drove about in a Zodiac Executive! The noise that had attracted our attention was still circulating and turned out to be the latest McLaren-ChevrPlet V8 two-seater, which was being driven by Denis Hulme, and it was lapping at 1 min. 13:4 sec. very consistently. It was not so long ago that races were run at Goodwood at 1 min. 25 sec. to the lap, so it: was clear that these new Group 7 cars for the -Can-Am races were fast. The McLaren M6A and kindred vehicles for this Amera:an-type racing are supposed to have some connection with two-seater Sports cars, but with nothing in the way of road equipment., and minimal cockpit space, they might just as well be pure single-seater racing cars. The new McLaren even dispenses with an alternator and battery charging systeM, relying on a vintage-type Scintilla Vertex magneto for ignition, and hope and faith in the battery being able to start the engine twice before it is flattened. [Doesn’t it also have a Ki-Gas for starting, like vintage ears used to have?—lio.1 With its allenveloping glass-fibre bodywork it seemed rather it pointless vehicle, apart from earning dollars for McLaren Racing Ltd., but had it been an open-wheeled single-seater in Indianapolis style, With 6-litres of Chevrolet engine in the back it would have beep very fascinating.
After watching this highly efficient device circulating for a while we motored away feeling that a great deal of effort and ingenuity is going into American-style Group 7 racing, but that it is really heading up a blind alley. Had this been the prototype of a car that was going to provide a strong challenge at Le Mans, Nurburgring, Monza, Taiga Florio [and the I.o.M. Tourist Trophy?] and so on, we should have been much more enthusiastic. However, we learnt later that it won the first Can-Am race at Elkhart Lake.
During our Sussex searches we called at a garage run by a keen reader, whose interest in motoring spread from an early flat-twin Rover to a Formula Two Stock-Car, with Weber-carburetted Triumph Herald engine, and a Mini body cut-and-shut sideways to make it into a single-seater! It so happened that a couple of days later I was to go to the local Stock-Car Racing Stadium, and for six-bobsworth of fun and amusement on a weekday evening it wants a lot of beating. The number of cars competing in each race on the quarter-mile oval has to he seen to be believed, and the fast drivers are all on the back of the grid, which makes for some splendid dicing. The had old days of Stock-Car Racing being ” bash ” and “crash ” are long since dead, and nowadays the Champions are masters at traffic-driving, weaving their Way in and out of slower cars tn a fine demonstration of skill and dexterity. Unlike R.A.C.-type racing, where circuits are knee-deep in marshals and flags, the Stock-Car boys are on their own once the race has started and it’s up to the drivers to keep out of trouble. If a car stops you have to drive round it, there is no question of it being moved until the race is finished. The action in a 20-lap race is fantastic, and is often wild and unruly, but somehow this seems all right on a quarter-mile speedway-track under floodlights. On a proper road-racing circuit in the cold light of day it seems all wrong. There are some Saloon Car racers who would do well to have a go at Stock-Car racing; not that they would be much good, but it would give them something to think abbut. I came away refreshed. In complete contrast to this was a quiet and gentle day at Silverstone at the Bentley Drivers Club race meeting, which STP were sponsoring, Which seemed incongruous when you think of the STPPaxton Turhocar, which so nearly won Indianapolis. Presumably the STP people are a bit like MoToit Sgotur in that almost anything with wheels and an engine is of interest, be it old or futuristic. For variety this type of meeting cannot he beaten, for you never know what type of car is going to appear round the corner next, and whereas the racing cars of today all corner with efficiency and precision, which to some people appears boring, the Bentley meeting had cars cornering in the most impossible manner and made me thankful that ” we don’t build them like that today,” and did the Le Mans Bentleys of 1927 really go so slowly? The great thing was the leisurely pace in the paddoek and the nice people to meet and talk to, and everyone seemed happy ” just messing about with cars.” The 24-1itre Napier-Railton of the Hon. Patrick Lindsay was sitting sadly in the paddock, fin the R.A.C. scrutineers had refused to accept it as race-worthy. Among many things, they wanted a ” protective cover ” over the propshaft and flywheel, in spite of
the fact that these components are of such size that it would need 2 in. thick armour-plate to he effective. -I here are still readers who ask what I mean when I talk about this age of milk-and-water racing officialdom, and the old ladies of Belgrave Square.
With the Guards Trophy meeting taking place on Holiday Monday I stayed to the east of England, and spent one day in the thick of the standing-start sprint world. At the Santa Pod Dragstrip, near Newport Pagnall, there was a car meeting and at Duxford, near Cambridge there was a motorcycle meeting, so both of these were visited. Drag Racing in Britain is still in its infancy, but is gaining ground steadily, and this was my first visit this season, so that the progress made was very agreeable. The entry was large, varied and very competitive, and a wander round the paddock showed a wide variety of ideas, which is one of the fascinations of this sport. There is no cut-and-dried list of rules and components, like there is in racing, it is all free-for-all and you can use your ingenuity and imagination, especially in the ” funny car ” category, or Competition Altered Division as it is called. Jaguar 3.8-litre engines are popular and have been squeezed inu> all manner of unlikely vehicles that do the standing quarter-mile in 14 seconds or less, which is quite exciting. The pure Dragster category did not seem so well supported. for this involves making a chassis frame and axles, and is a much bigger project altogether. Even so, the dozen or more that were there were very representative and Tony Densham in ” Commuter,” a long supercharged 7-litre Ford V8 powered ” slingshot ” did a stirring run in 9.195 seconds. Of course, you don’t have to build a special car for this sport, as there are classes for every type of vehicle down to production saloons. This racing activity really does bring out the special-builders and those not content with a standard production vehicle.
For me the day was made by watching Alf flagon do a demonstration run on his supercharged, nitro-burning, 1,300 c.c. yee-twin J.A.P. motorcycle. For some time Hagon has been close to breaking 10 seconds for the standing-start quarter-mile, and this Summer he achieved it, and repeated it, having got everything down to a very fine art. The bicycle has no gearbox, merely a box containing a layshaft for the clutch to run on so that it is direct drive once the clutch is home. He starts it up on a pair of motor driven roller: under the back wheel, takes it off the rollers with the clutch pulled out and then his mechanic hooks a trolley under the rear wheel spindle, which lifts the wheel clear of the ground. Letting go the clutch lever, so that the engine drives the rear wheel, and the clutch is not being slipped they wheel the whole device up to the starting line. Flagon gets on, settles himself, pulls the clutch lever and his mechanic drops the bicycle off the trolley. flagon holds everything for the five second ” count down,” lets go the clutch and disappears in a cloud of smoke from the spinning rear wheel. It is pure Dragster stuff, relying on the spin of the wheel to provide the variable gear between the engine r.p.m. and road speed. His sense of balance as he rides this projectile with its rear wheel spinning furiously, has to he seen to be believed, and is most impressive. The time for the quarter-mPe was 9.768 seconds and his speed over the finishing line was 151.52 m.p.h. It is worth going a long way to see Mr. Hagon in action, not only as a spectacle but as an examnle of logical thinking and shrewd application to a problem. On his second demonstration run there was a big bang, and the crankshaft broke! But that is another story.
Leaving Santa Pod enveloped in the smoke of wheelspin and the sound of highly tuned engines running to free-formula where anything goes, I motored across to Duxford, where the N.S.A. were running a sprint meeting over a standing-start kilometre. The simple difference between drag-racing and sprinting is that in the former you go when the light system says so and the first at the other end is the winner, in the latter you go when you are ready to go and it is the elapsed time that counts towards Fastest Time ot the Day. Motorcycle sprinting has been going for many years now, and the entries and turnout get bigger and better every year. The machinery in the paddock was truly wonderful and remembering that all these sprint bikes are made by amateurs as a hobby, for you cannot just go out and buy a sprint bike, the standard of workmanship was equal to any Grand Prix paddock. Anyone who thinks that real craftsmanship is dead in Britain should go to an N.S.A. meeting and have a look round the paddock, it is heartwarming. There are no restrictions in sprinting and supercharged Vincents, supercharged Triumphs, supercharged Nortons, twinengined machines, and every size from 125 c.c. to 1,300 c.c. abound, and everyone is doing it as a hobby and spare-time activity, spending all their hard-earned money on this mechanical sport.
Before heading off for foreign parts again there was a quick trip up to Norwich for a. luncheon party with Colin Chapman and his Lotus lads. It was meant to be a quick trip, but the lovely long straight roads marked on the map turned out to be full of ” creepycrawlers ” travelling to and from the East Coast holiday resorts, and it seemed to take all day to cover 200 miles. In the afternoon the new Lotus. factory near Wymondham was officially opened and 1 came away full of admiration for Colin Chapman and those fellows oho have worked so hard with him since he started building Lotus cars in a small shed behind a pub in North London. After spreading to three factories in Cheshunt, and out-growing them, Lotus bought a complete airfield at Hethel and are now completely self-contained, with ample factory space and their own private test-track way out in the wilds of Norfolk. At this official opening was also announced the new Lotus Elan Plus 2, a slightly longer and larger Elan with small seats behind the front ones, and a changed bodyshape which is apparently very efficient for this new car does 125 m.p.h. with its 1,600 c.c. twin-cant Lotus-Ford engine.
The return run down those long straight roads was much better, everyore seemed to have got to where they were going, and 5.500 r.p.m. came up in top gear on a number of occasions on the clear reads. AS Sentember came along it occurred to me that now that a lot of tourist traffic was returning from Europe it might be a good time to set off across France for Italy. There are times when it is not a had thing to he out of step with everyone. The only drawback is that it can become noticeable at times.—D.S.J.