THE FIRM of Specialised Mouldings do exactly what they say : manufacture special glass-fibre bodies for racing cars. They are a
Small firm, efficient and highly regarded, and as much a part of racing as the names of Dunlop, Lucas and Coventry Climax. Yet the handful of people employed in this sphere are delving into a subject about. which little is known, streamlining of racing cars.
Peter Jackson, the Managing Director and co-founder with his brother, David, thinks that designers are about to make a breakthrough. Sports-racing and Prototype cars have been covered with stabilizers to stop them aviating on the track, but Jackson’s ideal would be to eliminate these fins altogether, finishing with a smooth, unimpeded line which covers the whole of the car. The much-heralded Lola T7o GT, styled in conjunction with Eric Broadley, is the nearest thing Jackson has seen to this ideal but there is still a long way to -go. For
example, one of the Lola-Aston Martins which appeared at Le Mans featured a different tail section; this was less successful and the original design has been re-adopted. Jackson thinks that a lot of nonsense is talked about aerodynamics and racing car design. Pure aerodynamics, he Says, cannot be applied to a racing car, where moving wheels are in contact with the road, creating problems unknown to aircraft designers. But what is this break-through which will create an almost uniform shape for Proto
types ? Jackson is not sure, but he knows that the nose will come close to the ground to stop air getting under the car and creating lift. The Chaparral features this, as do the latest sports-racing Lolas and McLaren-Elvas for the Ca/3Am series. What happens ro the air stream after the nose section, though, is still a big mystery. Peter Jackson speaks with a knowledge which was gained the hard way, through experience. A decade ago he was an upholsterer in South London, and then went into a brief partnership with a friend producing children’s glass-fibre pedal cars. It was about that time, eight years ago, that Jackson teamed with Broadley to produce .the bodies for the successful Lola-Climax Mk. I. Specialised Mouldings
had been formed, and since that time the two firms’ links could hardly have been closer. The Mk. I Lola was just a start, and since then Specialised Mouldings have done bodies for all Lolas as well as Brabham, McLaren, Cooper, Ferrari and some of the newer makers like C. Lucas Eng. (Titan Formula Three) and Chevron.
In producing these bodies the firm have only one thing in mind, to produce the best possible product. This sounds just like a piece of sales talk but what Jackson means is not just the most effective article but also the best looking. He believes appearance, and that includes the colour, arc all-important. It is becoming increasingly difficult to make a distinctive F.3 body shape, for they have made the Brabham, Lotus, Titan, Lola and now the Chevron, which %vas in the full-scale stage when we visited Specialised Mouldings in Huntingdon recently.
In Formula cars, where exposed wheels create drag factors so great that actual body shape is not so critical, it is becoming difficult to
create a distinctive shape, something which all manufacturers specify. The Titan has achieved this to some extent, while the latest Chevron is extremely narrow and should be easily spotted. Specialised Mouldings are not entirely responsible for their body styles. Some are done in close co-operation with the manufacturer, a prime example being Lotus who wanted—and got—a ” bread van ” tail section for their 47/Europa. The customer, as they say, is always right, and John Frayling, the Specialised Mouldings man on the
project, had to re-think his ideas. Other manufacturers, like Chevron, simply supply a chassis, engine and gearbox and let Specialised Mouldings get on with the job, which is how they would prefer it.
In producing a racing car body a quarter scale model is made and if the customer approves a full scale model is made in wood, wire, etc. Modifications can be done at this stage, after the quarter-scale model
has been wind-tunnel tested by the manufacturers. Most firms have access to these although some like to keep quiet about where they do it. This full-scale model has female moulds put around it and it is from these that the actual panels, both interior and exterior, are made. Obviously great care has to be taken at this .stage, for a shoddy piece of workmanship can necessitate a new section being made. With the
help of a template bridge accuracy of in. is achieved with glass-fibre. which is good for a production run. But it is not too difficult to have the body section altered, as we saw when a smart built-in fin was being applied to the tail section of the works McLaren-Elva for the CanAm. Such work as this is all part of the development, for McLaren found
the car particularly unstable without the rear fin. All mouldings are pigmented to the customers’ requirements—in McLaren’s case to a bright orange on to which is painted a green stripe. Many people have suggested that Specialised Mouldings are way ahead of their rivals in production methods. If this is the case, Jackson says, it is not because of any special method they use; it is more in the standard of their workmanship. It takes a whole year to train a laminator and staff are highly thought of. Their present staff is 31, of
whom to are local people and the rest who made the big upheaval when the firm moved from their dingy premises in Crystal Palace last January. They moved to Huntingdon along with Arch Motors, who make racing car chassis, notably for Brabham. The two firms are next door to each other which they find very helpful because of all the work they do together. Sometimes transport creates a problem, which is why a great many racing firms cluster around the Heathrow AirportLondon area. Jackson is convinced that plastic is the medium of the future. He sees an enormous, untapped opening for its use and believes that in a few years’ time it will have replaced steel as the bodywork of practically all production cars, not just racing cars. He gave a list of glass-fibre’s advantages—weight saving, non-rusting, Consistent shape, ease of repair (simply cut off the old section and mould on a new one), safety factor (glass-fibre ” breaks away,” rather than caves in) and the need not to paint the bodywork if the mould is pigmented. Talking in
such terms Jackson is extremely convincing. —R. I.