Matters of moment, October 1981

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Into top gear again, is it?

As we said last month, we are glad we are not saddled with the task of trying to explain the mysterious day-to-day workings of politicians and financiers to the lay-public. For example. how does one explain the fact that only the shortest time ago British Leyland was said to be losing millions of pounds of the tax-payers’ funds that subsidise this unhappy Company and that we were being battered into the ground by the might of Japanese car imports, but now we are informed that there is a new-car sales bonanza, with the Ford Motor Company leading the other giants along the road to recovery. We only hope this happy trend will continue.

At all events, the Daily Mail, the newspaper that has always shown an encouraging interest in motoring and aviation, had banner front-page headlines announcing this prosperity early last month — but some days before that it had used headlines almost as large to announce that 7,000 runners (1,753 non-starters) had run a 26-mile marathon round Greater Manchester (should, one wonders, a Birmingham Grand Prix motor race be sponsored by the Mail?). The truth appears to be that Ford-of-Britain broke Company records with an output turnover of 72,869 vehicles for August, to the delight of Ford Chairman Sam Toy, and that British Leyland experienced a sales-increase of 5,000 cars that month, compared to the 1980 output. Ford captured 30% of the 244,795 August new-car sales, selling 13,000 more cars that month than in August last year. Talbot, too, claim to be on the upturn-bandwagon, with 10,500 August sales. Yet there have been recent price-increases for certain models from BL, BMW. Fiat, Opel, Renault, Vauxhall, Subaru, Peugeot and Mazda (but the RX-7 remains at £8,699).

It isn’t surprising that Ford — that sporting make — is top-dog and showing others the way. From the one-model policy of Model-T times, Ford GB now offers an enormous range, with some 115 different models for their 1,238 UK dealers to promote. As these models range from the Fiesta Popular to the very-recently-revised Granadas and embrace the exciting new 1,600 cc Fiesta XR-2, the very excellent fuel-injection Capri 2.8, and these latest Granadas, along with the best-selling Cortinas, and as Ford got its front-wheel-drive New Escorts out before Vauxhall had cottoned-on to fwd for the Cavalier, with the sporting Escort XR-3 for the enthusiast, it is obvious why Ford leads. Especially with the employment of the fine 2.8i engine in the new Granadas, of which the handling and road-holding and other aspects have been even further improved. When we drove the previous version of the Ford Granada we were deeph impressed by its excellent cornering and general handling qualities and referred to it as a “sports estate-car”. That Ford’s technicians sought to improve on such cars is certainly gilding refined gold! And how anyone, faced with this great range of such very good cars, can feel that the name “Ford” carries with it any stigma is quite beyond our understanding — the days of the Model-T are long gone (as a production job, we hasten to assure the Model-T Register!, and anyway, that was also a mighty fine automobile . . . One facet of all this new-model activity, in which VAG are well in the running with their new 1.9-litre five-cylinder VW Passat worries us. Ford have spent — or, as they say, have invested — £50,000,000 in making the Granada even better than before. That seems an enormous sum of money to us! We remember being amazed many years ago, on hearing that putting synchromesh on the Cortina’s bottom gear cost Ford a cool £1 million. The Motor Trade, knowing the profit a manufacturer makes on each car sold, will be able to work out how long it will take to recover a £50 million investment. We just find ourselves wondering what such mods would cost done by a smaller engineering concern, like Cosworth say, given Ford’s gear-cutting, foundry and other facilities . . . ?

However, do not let such silly thoughts mar the apparent improvement in Britain’s Motor Industry economics. What with an Automatic Mini-Metro, Jaguar’s new economy cylinder-head (and that great make’s new-found independence), and the rest of the good news, let us smile, smile, smile, as old soldiers were instructed to do, after packing up their kit-bags! Rover, far from being always behind the 3-litre Ford Capris as was the case when we last referred here to the Tricentrol Saloon-Car Championship, are now winning such races, and the need for ordinary car-customers to be convinced of the merits of turbo-charging for family-type saloons such as the Renault 18 Turbo by hearing of more Grand Prix victories by turbo-charged cars, as we emphasised recently, has been ably met since by additional F1 wins with the Renault-Elf RE30-V6 Turbos, those with the money usually get results in the end! So smile, smile, smile, while most of the news is rosy and while the word “recession” recedes.

The Veteran Car Run to Brighton

Note that that unique British spectacle, the Veteran Car Run to Brighton, from Hyde Park, organised by the joint efforts of the RAC and the VCC, takes place this year on Sunday November 1st. The first veterans, made before the turn of the century, should begin to chug out of Hyde Park around 8 am, and the faster of these pre-1905 machines will probably get to Brighton’s Madeira Drive around 10.50 a.m. to 11 a.m. By all means go to watch and photograph them, but do please give these ancient motoring heirlooms a free passage. While everyone competing is required to have passed the MoT condition-test, their brakes do not stop them as quickly as those of modern cars, nor is their steering always as accurate.

So do not cut-in when hoping for a close look at these brave old motors; it is really a very good idea to park off the road, as you can do at many places along the route, having obtained the official programme, and watch this fantastic cavalcade of automotive history, with those taking part coming from all over Europe and even as far as from America, go past. Brighton becomes very congested by mid-day on “Brighton Sunday” and there is nothing more frustrating than to be held up in seemingly interminable traffic-jams on a veteran that has gone splendidly up to that point; even worse, if it hasn’t! Some recommend you to watch the Run from somewhere along the route, unless you are prepared to get to the finish well before the first of the veterans is due in. And our thanks in advance to all the policemen, policewomen and special constables who so ably man the route and endeavour to keep it clear for the often rather breathless old-timers. The Editor of Motor Sport expects to be driving the National Motor Museum’s 1903 Daimler (No. 160) on what will be his 30th active experience of the Brighton Run since his first in 1936.

Motorfair

IN the absence of a motor show at the NEC this year, Earls Court is to play host to “Motorfair” between October 21st and 31st. Most manufacturers will be exhibiting as well as rnany of the leading accessory producers and the theme this year is strongly biased towards economy. Mercedes and Volkswagen both unveiled project cars at the Frankfurt show during September (both called Auto 2000 coincidentally) while Ford and Renault both have similar projects up their sleeves. One most interesting exhibit will be the William Towns designed “Microdot”. It is smaller than a Mini, seats three and is driven by a hybrid petro-electrical system claiming 150 mpg at 30 mph! On the Mercedes stand will be the new coupes, which are completely new cars, not just re-clothed versions of the familiar SLs and SLCs. Volkswagen will be showing the new Passat range as well as the Santana and Porsche will have the 944 on display. The Tickford engineering and coach building offshoot of Aston Martin Lagonda will be exhibiting their wares for the first time, amongst which will be the Metro based Frazer Tickford, Toyota Sunchaser and Lancia Hi-Fi. The Leyland stand should be enhanced by a new model, which press embargo dates prevent us describing in this issue, while Ford’s exhibits will include the new Granades, up-rated Fiestas as well as the new XR-2 and the high performance 2.8 injection Capri.

With the BRMs on display prior to their auction during the show, a visit will be well worthwhile.

Obituary: Kaye Don

THE well-known racing-driver Kaye Ernest Don died at the age of 90 on August 29th. To Brooklands habitues Don was part-and-parcel of the Track-scene, winning a great many races at the wheel of a 5-litre Sunbeam, the 2-litre GP Sunbeam “The Cub” and the identical 4-litre Sunbeams “Tiger” and “Tigress”, and later in the tricky 4.9-litre Bugatti “Tiger II”. In fact, his competition career began with motorcycle trials before the war. Don was educated at Wolverhampton Grammar School and on leaving he went into the tyre trade. He joined-up with the Army Service Corps at the age of 24, was discharged on medical grounds, but managed a transfer to the RFC and served as a pilot over the Western Front.

After the war Kaye Don drove for Deemster, Wolseley and AC, gaining many race successes and records with ACs, with which he was the first driver to lap Brooklands at over 100 mph in a 11/2-litre car. By 1922 Don was driving the 113/4-litre Wolseley-Viper of Capt Alastair Miller, being faster than anyone in this fearsome monster, his versatility proved when he also handled the little 1926 Avon-JAP racing car, and the 495 cc Jappic in record-bids. Don had by now returned to the Avon Rubber Co and I believe they acquired the Wolseley-Viper for tyre testing, before its mysterious disappearance.

At this period Don’s versatility at the Track cannot have been in question, for he rode motorcycles ranging from a 147 cc Excelsior, through AJS, Zenith, Massay-Arran, Diamond-JAP, Norton and Harley-Davidson, to a 998 cc Indian which was used for the celebrated one-and-only 500-Mile race and he competed with cars such as Miller’s 200-Mile Race Talbot, a Crouch and a Bayliss-Thomas. Don then concentrated on the Sunbeams, taking the Brooklands lap-record to 131.76 mph in 1928, improving this to 134.24 mph in 1929 and setting it at 137.58 mph in 1930 during the duels with the Sunbeams against Sir Henry Birkin’s blower-41/2-litre Bentley single-seater, a car that eventually took these honours, before Cobb took over. Don had won the first of those memorable Ulster TT sports-car races for Lea-Francis in 1928 (on Avon tyres), just ahead of an FWD Alvis, and he then turned to 1,500 cc Alfa Rowena for this class of racing, having a narrow “scare when his car overturned and caught fire during the 1930 TT, just after making fastest lap time in its class. Don also shared Alfa Romeos in the long-distance Brooklands sports-car contests. In 1930 there was the bitter setback when the twin-engined 4,000 hp supercharged Sunbeam “Silver Bullet” failed to get near the LSR at Daytona. But Don had better fortune with the Water Speed Record in the “Miss Englands”, doing over 120 mph on Loch Lomond in 1932, the first to exceed two-miles-a-minute on water, and competing in the Harmsworth Trophy races in America. Although Don did not figure in Continental events as much as some British drivers, he helped with record attacks at Montlhery in Marendez Special, Chrysler and Delage cars, and with the 4.9-litre Bugatti “Tiger II” which Don drove so courageously at Brooklands.

In 1934 Don was involved in an accident in a racing MG while practising on unclosed roads in the IoM which resulted in the death of his riding-mechanic K Taylor from the MG factory. He was imprisoned on a manslaughter charge, which many regarded as unfair, and on his release was given a celebration dinner by fellow racing-drivers, but his career was virtually over. In recent times he lived at Chobham in Surrey with his second wife Valerie, making rare but appreciated appearances at motoring events. W.B.

Obituary: WB Scott

WB “Bummer” Scott has died in hospital after a long illness and a series of tricky operations, so bravely endured. He was one of the best-known Brooklands personalities, having permanent premises in the line of sheds on the Aerodrome side of the Track, now alas demolished, and he raced some very exciting cars there. Long after that William Berkeley Scott remained a staunch enthusiast for Brooklands and he was a keen member of the Brooklands Society. His life-story appears in Motor Sport for December 1976. Among the cars he raced, commencing before he came of age, were a 5-litre Indianapolis Sunbeam, various 2-litre GP Bugattis, one of the “flat-iron” Thomas Specials, an Amilcar Six and, of course, his 1924 2-litre GP Sunbeam. Scott’s young and very attractive wife Jill (later Mrs. EM Thomas) raced as well, and she was indeed the first lady-driver to officially lap Brooklands at over 120 mph in the Sunbeam. Then there was the straight-eight 11/2-litre Delage with which Scott beat Malcolm Campbell in a similar car in the exciting 1930 Gold Star race at Brooklands, one of his most enjoyable days he always said, and with which he had adventures in the BRDC 500 Mile Race, and broke records. Scott drove in Continental speed-trials, and ran the Delage in the 1931 French Grand Prix at Montlhery with his friend Armstrong Payn. He was a noted “Bentley boy” and drove an Austro-Daimler in the first Ulster TT. They also had one of the big Leyland-Thomas cars, driven for Jill by John Cobb.

Apart from all his motor-raing and record-breaking, and his spirited appearances in the Inter-Varsity speed trials, WB Scott, in spite of his weight, was a great all round sportsman. He played rugby for his University at Twickenham, after winning his rugger-blue at Cambridge, and was Scottish Squash Champion. He also raced some dangerous, fast motor-boats and kept motor yachts at Hamble and Cowes. WB.

Club news

Morgan Three-Wheeler Club

With this most sporting of clubs, any competition is bound to produce some keen rivalry. In the case of the straight line sprint due to be held at the Long Marston airfield, near Stratford on Avon, on October 17th, this rivalry will be heightened by the presence of other “proper” three-wheelers (ie those with two wheels at the front) and some motorcycles as well. Entries have already been received from owners of BSA, Berkeley and Messerschmidt three-wheelers as well as the Tri-King, in current production. Information about the event can be obtained from NH Lear, 7 Acres Street, Tottington, Bury, Lanes, BL8 3DR.

A30 & A25 Owners Club

Commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the launch of the A35, twelve standard A30s and A35s will drive a 350 mile route on 29th and 30th of October. One of these cars will be driven by Joe Lowrey and will be observed by Leslie Webb, one time assistant chief engineer of the RAC, and the intention will be to better the 53.7 mpg, 31.6 mph average figures they obtained during a 524-mile run carried out at the time of the launch in 1956. The rules of the run has attracted significant support from TI Crypton (who will be tuning the engines before departure), Avon Tyres, BL Heritage, Wadham Stringer Garages and Commercial Union Insurance.

Historic Sports Car Club

THE HSCC has had another successful season of racing, and plans published in their new-look, printed monthly newsletter indicate that they intend to keep up the standard for next year. The Seldon Classic Sports Car Championship continues with the same sponsor, while Atlantic Computers have added their name to the Historic GT Championship. Races for HSCC cars are planned at no less than 21 meetings, including the Grand Prix and the club will be running three meetings of its own.

Bristol Owners Club

There were 41 entries tor the Club’s annual Concours, which took place at Bagley Hall, Alcester, at the beginning of September. Examples of all models were on display, ranging from the 400 to the current turbo-charged Beaufighter and 603 models as well as the unique Zagato bodied 406 two-seater. The cars were judged by a panel of well known motoring personalities and the winner of the premier award was Ian McDavid with a 402 drophead.

Hagley and District LCC

THE Loton Park Hillclimb features very strongly in the activities of this thriving Midlands Club, but is by no means the only venue at which the Club promotes events. For instance, on September 20th, they ran the finals of the BTRDA Autocross Championship at Hagley Hall, and on October 10th they are due to promote the K Wharton Memorial Trophy driving tests near Kidderminster. One of the problems which faces the officers of the club is the shortage of volunteers, both in the long term (they need an editor for their newsletter, and in the short (they are desperate for marshals at many events), but they always manage somehow.

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