It comes as something of a shock to sec Jenks ranged on the side of the stuffed-shirts and museum-minders, in opposing the reappearance of Romulus in active life. Perhaps he was just feeling a bit liverish in the August issue; on page 903 he tells us that the whole Grand Prix scene has gone to pot and is nothing like the Good Old Days, whilst on page 909 he tells us that we shouldn’t be enjoying the Good Old Days either.
Surely the important point about Romulus, which has not yet been raised, is that a motor car, and particularly a racing car, is a piece of machinery which was designed to work, and that if the onlooker cannot actually see it working and hear it working, then he is only seeing a pale and sometimes distorted image. It’s rather like looking at one of the photographs of the ladies in the rude magazines you sometimes write for—you get a good idea of the general layout and basic engineering, but it tells you very little about the performance, the sort of noise it makes, and even what it smells like!
Some years ago I had the opportunity to watch, and occasionally assist with, the rebuild of an eight-cylinder GP Bugatti. I admired the precision of the engineering, the tortuous ingenuity with which the designer had tackled various problems, and the sheer beauty of the various bits of metal. I thought I knew quite a lot about the character of the car—beautiful, delicate and precise. Anyone who has driven a GP Bugatti, or even stood near to one being used in anger, will know that it is in fact a brutal, Violent, exciting and exceptionally noisy piece of work, in addition to possessing the characteristics I had noted. A static piece of machinery only betrays a small part of its true character.
As Jenks rightly says, Romulus is a unique and historic vehicle, but nothing can take away from him his splendid record, and provided he is kept in original form, is properly prepared for races and not made to look foolish, there is no reason why he should not continue to be what he was made to be, a real live noisy racing car, and not a dusty museum piece, or a fading memory in old men’s minds.
Parkstone, Dorset ROGER RICHMOND
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