Letters from readers, October 1985

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Alexander-Turner 

Sir,

May I offer some belated corrections and information on ML’s excellent article on Jack Turner. Belated because my July copy only arrived today after reminders to your distribution chaps!

I refer to the last two paragraphs on page 731 regarding the Alexander-Turner link and the “one-off’ car mentioned. As I was very much involved the facts are as follows ….

Following several successful seasons racing Elva-Climax, MG “A” and running and racing Team Sprite, I teamed up with Michael Christie to race an Alexander-Turner for 1961; he was most cooperative and helpful and allowed me to make full use of his facilities at Haddenham. The first car was a Mk2 with a 948 cc BMC unit prepared by Fred Hillier and his chaps (of whom more anon) and myself, we also enjoyed the use of the Alexander Transporter. This car was very successful in the Autosport Trophy (in which we had done very well previously with the MG “A” and Team Sprite), National and some International events, only not being placed in two out of 16 races and these due to minor mechanical problems. The worst being the Irish Holmpatrick Trophy, lost four laps from the end by a holed radiator, the Turner being timed at 108 down the back straight, the second losing an Autosport trophy class win by a broken throttle linkage at Silverstone. At this time closed GT cars were the “IN” vehicle so we sold the Turner and I designed a closed, streamlined GT body for the latest Mk2 chassis. This was approved by M Christie. We also thought that Jack Turner would take it up as a new project, but he was not interested, later of course coming out with his new 2×2. As we were “with Shell” Keith Ballisat of Shell Comps backed the project and, after further titivating by M Parkes, the design was given to Williams & Pritchard who made a beautiful miniature “GTO”. Initially powered by another 948 cc BMC unit this car was very successful, as ML comments; later fitted with an uprated FWA 1,098 cc (encouraged by Pat Ferguson in Gordon Unsworth’s FWA powered “Tatty” Turner) it was again successful. As Jack Turner was not interested in it we sold it.

The point I wish to make is that this “one off’ was conceived by myself, originally designed by myself and raced by myself … not by any fictitious Wing Commander “Alexander”! [Just testing -ML]. We then went for a Mk2 chassis with one of the first 1,600 cc Cosworth Ford engines, not a twin-cam; this was a superb little car, highly competitive in the “up to 2,000 cc class”, very successful indeed, utterly reliable, except in the 1963 “TT” when well placed, after a couple of hours, in the class, a half­shaft went at St Mary’s; nevertheless we finished 14th overall after changing it! A veritable “giant killer” on short circuits …. average lap times being around: Mallory 60 sec, Brands (Long) 2 min, Goodwood 1 min 41 sec, Silverstone 1 min 57 sec, etc. Unfortunately I was posted overseas again in 1963 and that was that. Meantime Motorway Sales were extending their successful involvement with “Tatty” changing hands to Warwick Banks and extending their team to include two more BMC powered cars and Tatty had been uprated to 1,147 cc and John E Miles got going great guns in late 1963 into 1964 with his 1,650 Ford powered Turner but the competition was getting too strong with Elans, Divas, Ginettas etc. Those of us who raced Turners, of whatever mark or power, enjoyed some classic sport, safe, reliable and competitive (all with very limited means and no sponsorship as such exists now). We took a pride in immaculate presentation (yes, even “Tatty” in latter days!). The late Fred Mathews once said to me at scrutineering “Well, Mac, I suppose I can eat my breakfast off it as usual”. We can look back with nostalgia, a sense of achievement, a little sorry that Jack Turner did not support us more positively perhaps, regret that the Turner car was not more commercially successful, it deserved to be, but glad that Jack recovered and is in honourable retirement.

Finally, regarding the many letters relating to the Halton Tojeiro, Fred Hillier was both a power behind the development, and a driver, of this car when he was stationed at Halton. Now running the Alexander Hillier Garage at Haddenham I am sure he could complete the history of the car for you, if asked.

Thank you, as usual, for a magnificent magazine.

KW (MAC) MacKENZIE, DFC, AFC, (ex-Chairman RAF Motor Sport Association etc) Paphos, Cyprus

 

A Fairer Formula

Sir,

So the mighty Regie Renault are pulling out of Formula One racing and I’m left wondering how long it will be before Alfa Romeo follow suit. And with these mighty state-financed teams out, what of the lesser teams such as Spirit, Ram and Osella, not to mention Minardi, Zakspeed and Toleman? Will the next few years see a return to the situation in the fifties when only a handful of works teams contested the World Championship with only native hopefuls filling the grids as the circus wends its way around the globe? Of course, the cars of the eighties are infinitely more expensive than the cars of the fifties, but what is there to stop drivers campaigning old cars as used to happen in the Aurora AFX Championship and to a lesser extent in the current F3000 Championship? Maybe drivers of the calibre of Thackwell, Danner, Pirro and les freres Ferte will have a fighting chance of proving themselves instead of being frustratingly ignored whilst lesser drivers such as Martini, Alliot and Rothengatter are able to have lucrative drives bought for them. Maybe the proposed Hungarian GP will interest others in the Eastern Bloc and we might see competition from east of the iron curtain. Let’s face it, there must be some drivers of World Championship status over there. Maybe some time in the future, teams will become teams and constructors will become constructors so we end up with a situation not unlike that in CART where many drivers have identical machinery. Then we might see just who the best drivers in the world are and not who is driving the best car. Maybe FISA will introduce a new turbo engine capacity limit of 1,200 cc and also ban wide, slick tyres. Whilst they’re at it, they might ban any event from the championship which isn’t the national PP of that particular nation, and also limit the championship round venues to circuits which have been in proven existence for five or more years. We might even see drivers’ salaries limited which would mean them participating in other types of racing to earn a living.

We might see all these things happening; we probably won’t, which is a great pity because today’s ultra-slick, high-tech Formula One racing is missing a great deal. Or maybe I should be following F3000!

TJ Honeybone, Wheatley, Yorks

Advance or Retard

Sir,

I have read with interest comments in Motor Sport August-September regarding the apparent views of the police, the IAM and others on the technique known as heel and toe.

As an IAM member for the past 1/2 million miles, I feel I am qualified to add my points of view before the topic is put to rest.

Firstly, the police, it is said, discourage the heel and toe technique on the road. Let it be clear, there is no law against it and I can only suggest your readers make up their own minds, as my opinion of traffic police is tainted by two experiences. One of which goes back 20 years, when I was stopped by a police officer, who felt I had been a bit over­enthusiastic whilst negotiating a round-about, and proceeded to order me to remove the full harness seatbelt I was wearing, as apparently “I could not possibly be in proper control of my vehicle strapped in like that”. The other recent experience, when traffic police parked on a bridge above and ahead of me allegedly, according to the summons, recorded me by Vascar travelling at “96 mph whilst braking”. Whether they thought I was practising heel and toe at the time I don’t know, but I do know that the alleged offence was incorrect, and no manner of reasoning or correspondence was to avert my eventual conviction, and a fine in line with three late-night muggings and a mid-afternoon Granny bashing.

Of the IAM I can only say I have passed two of their tests, cars and commercials, without the necessity to discontinue during the tests my regular practice of heel and toe. The technique, I think your readers will agree, lends itself to balanced control under braking, a technique which sensibly used does nothing to impair braking distances. In conclusion, I feel I should admit to other motoring habits regularly used by me, where vehicle and circumstances are appropriate. I have employed cadence braking as far away as Poona in a monsoon, left foot braking in the depths of winter in Prudhoe Bay, double de-clutched in Kano and regularly used heel and toe for 23 years, wherever I have been. To avoid the IAM seeking my resignation, I have already decided not to renew my membership, and as far as the police are concerned, I suppose I will have to grow a beard, shave my head and go on the run, “ON MY HEELS AND TOES OF COURSE”.

Robert Fenn, Great Bedwyn

Questionable Values

Sir,

I am delighted that ML has drawn attention (in his road test of the Toyota Corolla GT) to the questionable value of manufacturers’ 0-60 acceleration times. Useful as these are as a basis for comparison, they have little practical significance for most people -I don’t know anyone who has ever tried to match them in his own car and I certainly wouldn’t dream of subjecting either my MG Metro or Morgan 4/4 to such uncivilised treatment.

Perhaps more to the point in today’s crowded conditions is the way in which a car moves off and reaches 30/40 mph; my former Renault 11 automatic had an official acceleration time of over 17 seconds, yet it was well able to hold its own in traffic, and in the most agreeable manner.

As a member of the IAM I firmly believe that maximum revs, dropped clutches, wheelspin and other extravagant techniques have no place whatever in everyday driving and belong strictly to the realm of road testers (preferably OFF the road) and all those people who do such appalling things to their cars on television while pursuing, or being pursued by, others similarly crazed.

Thank goodness Motor Sport’s road test reports invariably reflect a mature assessment of the cars examined by you, with no suggestion of the excitability to be found in other magazines’ reports.

AK Bennett, Wanstead

Hillclimb Points

Sir,

As a close follower of the hillclimb scene from 1962 to 1972 I was interested to note that WB reported the presence of Tony Marsh at the recent 80th anniversary celebrations at Shelsley Walsh.

Regrettably I no longer have my detailed records but I am certain that Tony Marsh last “drove in anger” not in 1967 but at the June Shelsley meeting, 1968. The 4WD Marsh Special was not BRM-powered – it used a 4.2-litre V8 described variously during 1966/68 as Oldsmobile, Buick or simply GM.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn of the existence of the Marsh Special as a still­-effective sprinter. Following Marsh’s predictable departure from the hillclimb circus the car next appeared early in 1969 in the hands of Geoff Rollason. The most obvious feature of the “Rollasonisation” was that the mechanicals had been clothed in a Lotus 41 (?) body. In 1970 the car was compaigned by Jack Maurice and the last I heard of it was that bits of the car were adorning a motor sport-orientated bar in the Imperial Hotel in Newcastle upon Tyne.

There was, in fact, a Marsh Special with a BRM engine. This car was 2WD and appeared in 1962. The car was very successful and recorded FTD in the RAC Hillclimb Championship rounds at Prescott, Wiscombe, Bo’ness and Rest and be Thankful: unfortunately after his FTD run at Rest a later attempt on the hill resulted in a dramatic off course excursion on the lower slopes after landing badly on one of the “airborne” sections for which the venue was famous. The badly damaged car was never repaired, the engine returning to the T48 BRM from whence it came.

The eagle-eyed hillclimb enthusiast will have wondered what happened to the Marsh BRM at Shelsley -missing from the events listed above. The answer provides a pleasant little anecdote in this year of celebration for the MAC and Shelsley. Tony Marsh in his 2.5-litre Marsh BRM made a demonstration ascent which was faster than the official FTD man (Ray Fielding, 2.5-litre BRM T48). Tony (Hillclimb Champion 1955, 1956 and 1957 -and a local lad), the then current champion Arthur Owen and the champion-­elect Peter Westbury all had their entries refused because they missed the official closing date for entries. The result was an entry of less than 100. Whilst none of those concerned was very pleased about the attitude of the organising club can you imagine the effect in this day and age? Needless to say, all the sluggards had their entries in plenty of time for the August Shelsley.

With my thoughts back in 1962 and centred on Tony Marsh and BRM it is interesting to digress that whilst the official BRM team were hard pushed to provide cars for their grand prix stars, Graham Hill and Ritchie Ginther, to drive in the world championships events (the car used by Ginther in the Dutch and Monaco GP was an interim P48/57 originally intended for a customer), Tony Marsh’s garage contained an interim P48/57, a 1.5-litre Climax-­engined P48 and the 2.5-litre Marsh BRM -more ready to race cars than the works!

The P48/57 BRM was not one of Marsh’s best buys -nor for that matter was the similar car used by Jack Lewis and raced under the Ecurie Galloise banner. We know that Marsh was present at Shelsley, whatever happened to Lewis?

Finally, MAC and Shelsley, keep up the good work so that we can look forward to a splendid Century of Shelsley in 2005.

Ken Hammerton, Sunderland

[An interview with Tony Marsh will shortly appear in Motor Sport. -M.L.J  

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