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ERA reflections


Whilst the recent article by Paul Feamley about ERA R7B (August 2004 issue) was reasonably accurate, I would take issue with him over a few items mentioned.

The first is where he states that, “while Felice Trossi made the most of two extra cylinders and independent front suspension on the new Maserati 6CM…” Forgive me, but the 6CM Maserati has six cylinders, as does an ERA.

My second point concerns the Porsche-type i.f.s featured on ERAs. This allowed for more travel at the front so that it was possible to steer the car over the bumps, particularly at Brooklands. However, it caused the problem of roll oversteer. This was incorrectly diagnosed by ERA, which then shortened and stiffened the arms on the i.f.s. This did not help the situation one bit. Yet this is how the suspension appears on the subsequent E-types and V16 BRM — and on my R12C. The E-types and the V16 BRMs used de Dion rear suspension as well as i.f.s so they did not suffer from the same roll oversteer problem that the ERAs with the solid back axles had. The latter have two ways of getting around the problem: make thicker torsion bars for the i.f.s, which in effect turns them back into beam-axle machines, and/or fit an anti-roll bar to the front suspension, as is the case with R4D and R8C.

The C-types were also fitted with Zoller blowers, as pointed out by Mr Feamley, but he missed the point that they were fitted with twin leading brake shoes, front and rear.

Incidentally, I knew Arthur Dobson in his straitened circumstances post-war. He used to come round to my garage in Lancaster Mews in London, and as I was reminded at VSCC Prescott in August this year we managed to get him along to an ERA dinner many years ago. He was very good value even then.

Bill Morris. Leafleld, Oxon

While happy to bow to Bill’s far superior knowledge on all things ERA, his query concerning the Maserati 6CM stems from some confused syntax on my part. My point was supposed to be that the car had gained two extra cylinders and independent front suspension over its 4CM predecessor and, as such, was a greater threat to the ERAs. Ed


Bridging a Gulf


The article on the Gulf Mirage M6 (August 2004 issue) rekindled my curiosity about an acquaintance from my childhood: Grady Davis.

Grady was a Texan oilman who was also a motor racing enthusiast, and it was as a result of his influence as its executive vice-president that the Gulf Oil Company entered into sportscar racing in the late 1960s.

My interest in his career stems from my early years in Venezuela, where my father was as an oil tanker captain for Gulf and my family became good friends of the Davis family. Grady at this time was, I believe, vice-president of the Mene Grande Oil Co, a local subsidiary of Gulf.

We lost touch after we returned to the UK (my father died in 1958), but due to my interest in motorsport I kept finding references to Grady. We did meet once more at the 1972 BOAC 500 at Brands Hatch, where Grady told me he was not particularly interested in Formula One as he found it somewhat boring without pitstops.

I subsequently learned a great deal about his effect on motorsport from reading John Wyer’s autobiography, That Certain Sound. This excellent book tells how Grady, who had been competing as a driver and an entrant in SCCA meetings in the USA with a pair of Corvettes, had approached Wyer in 1966 in order to purchase a customer Ford GT40 from Ford Advanced Vehicles in Slough. Grady and Dick Thompson successfully competed in this car, and the subsequent friendship with Wyer led Grady to offer Gulf sponsorship to the JW Automotive team which Wyer and his colleagues had created following the dissolution of Ford Advanced Vehicles in ’67. JWs book ends in 1971, which is when he retired and John Horsman took over as MD of Gulf Research Racing.

I had no further news of Grady’s career until reading your article on the Gulf Mirage M6. That led to me being able to contact John Horsman via e-mail, and I was delighted that he was able to give me further information on Gulf Racing’s history: Grady retired in 1974, sadly missing the Mirage’s Le Mans victory of ’75, and he and his wife relocated to Florida, where they both sadly died about 15 years ago.

I would be interested in any further information or reminiscences that your readers may have about Grady or his family as I feel that his contribution to the sport should be better recorded.

Gordon Lang. Bedfordshire


Not so Fabi-less


Preston Lerner, in Nothing but the Holbert Truth (August 2004 issue) mis-stated the effect of Al Holbert’s fatal plane crash in 1988.

He wrote: “Porsche’s Indy programme died with hardly a whimper.” But he’s overlooked Teo Fabi’s 1989 record for the Derrick Walker-managed team: two poles and nine top-five finishes, including a dominant win at Mid-Ohio and second places at Elkhart Lake and Michigan. Fabi finished 11 of 15 Indycar races, scoring 141 points, good for fourth place behind Emerson Fittipaldi, Rick Mears and Michael Andretti.

But 1990 was another story, indeed, nearly a whimper. Without Fabi, John Andretti struggled to two fifths and finished just eight of 16 races for 51 points.

George Jasberg, Hempstead, NY


Condor moment


What an excellent surprise to see a photograph of my Condor PV01 Formula Ford as ‘Mystery Car’ in the July edition of Motor Sport. I know how Motor Sport likes to get the details right, so here are a few additional snippets of information.

Mike Blanchet was indeed testing the car at Snetterton on a cold day in early 1982. I think it was actually in February, rather than March.

Abbey Farm Racing’s Bob Juggins helped me with the final build, but it was the eternal Formula Ford driver Dave Morgan (not the F3 and F2 racer from the early 1970s) who drove the car in selected rounds of the 1982 Esso and local Donington Formula Ford series.

Peter Vennick, Romsey


Wings: first flight


In his bid to correct your August edition my near namesake, David J Coles, has himself made errors on the subject of aerofoils.

The Ferrari team did indeed take three cars (one a spare) with wing fitments to the Belgian Grand Prix in 1968 but only Chris Amon’s car, along with the two Brabhams, used one in the race. So your photo of Jacky Ickx must have been from practice. Those first Ferrari wings were moveable — but only in the pits, under the watchful eye of Forghieri!

Both Ickx and Amon used wings at the very next race, the Dutch GP, and these were now moved forwards over the engine. Ickx then scored the first ‘winged’ victory in F! in the French GP at Rouen. But the team didn’t switch to hydraulically operated aerofoils until the Italian GP.

Matra, meanwhile, had produced its complex wing system with its electric motor at the ‘Ring one month earlier, so DSJ’s Continental Notes column (the first version which appeared in September 1968 before the Italian Grand Prix) was right.

Now turning to Nigel Roebuck’s Legends British GP feature, I don’t recall being “appalled” by the antics in qualifying this year but I did say, “This is getting bloody farcical” to nobody in particular.

David Cole, Oakham, Rutland


Blind is best


The Lombard RAC Rally was unique because the route was secret —we didn’t know much until reading the preview in Motoring News that week, too late for any practice!

Here’s hoping the revival rally organisers continue to keep things close to their chest. The mystery until November makes it fairer for all, and far more like the real thing, surely? Roger Clark would approve of this — he liked no practice, no notes. Driving blind gave every corner one best effort only.

Tony Evans, Newmarket, Cambs