Bill Boddy

More than a Merc demonstration

Demonstartions of pre-war GP cars at present-day race meetings can be a big attraction. I’ve mentioned Tony Brooks and Peter Collins driving a W125 and a W154 Mercedes-Benz during the VSCC Oulton Park meeting of 1958. And in 2001 Auto Union displayed their resuscitated 1937- and 1938-type C and D cars at Donington; had the late Michele Alboreto, the Ferrari driver, demonstrated them as intended, they might have been more impressive.

Such demos are not new. In 1927 Segrave did a few tail-sliding laps in pouring rain before the Brooklands’ spectators in the 200mph 44-litre LSR Sunbeam, using only one of its two Matabele engines, and later Sir Malcolm Campbell showed off his LSR ‘Bluebirds’ there.

The most powerful pre-war GP car was the Mercedes W125, with a straight-eight supercharged 5.6-litre developing 646bhp at 5800rpm. In 1937 they won at Tripoli, Avus and in the German, Monaco, Swiss, Italian and Masaryk GPs, driven by Rudi Caracciola, Hermann Lang and Manfred von Brauchitsch. The mid-engined 6-litre C-type A-Us scored in the USA, Spa, at the Eifel races and at Donington Park, handled with skill by Bernd Rosemeyer and Ruth Hasse.

Colin Crabbe actually raced his W125 Mercedes at VSCC meetings in the 1970s. It was said to have been found in very poor condition in East Germany in 1968 and was rebuilt by Mercedes-Benz, being original except for W154 brakes and the supercharger, which with SU carb gave 8-10lb boost instead of 12.

After a test outing at the previous meeting, Crabbe won the Historic Seaman Trophy race at the VSCC’s 1971 Oulton meeting at 82.20mph, using only about 5300rpm on the very wet track, having on the last lap overtaken Martin Morris and Neil Corner, who were on the absolute limit in their ERAs, in spite of losing some 500 yards when Corner spun R4D in front of the Merc. Morris was second, Peter Waller’s P3 Alfa Romeo third.

Then at VSCC Silverstone that year Crabbe finished second behind Corner in the very fast R4D, again in the rain, holding off the A-type Connaught of Alan Cottam and, among others, a 250F Maserati, in the Hawthorn Trophy Race.

In the VSCC Thruxton 10-lap Allcomers’ Race, Bill Wilks’ Lotus 16 outbraked the Merc into Club Chicane, but in a wheelspinning finish Crabbe was a mere 0.6sec behind the Lotus, which won at 86.68mph.

The following year Crabbe and the W125 won the Historic Seaman Trophy race again, at 84.67mph, and set a new pre-war lap record of 87.5mph. Surely a performance to be remembered?


Brooklands Reunion

The 37th Brooklands Reunion began after a superb vintage Bentley had been flagged off for the Test Hill climbs. The programmed Fiat and two OMs, Ballot and Rally represented the occasion’s ‘Red, White and Blue’ theme.

The Napier-Railton and Keith Schellenberg in his 8-litre Bamato-Hassan gave popular demonstrations, the drivers working hard on the restricted circuit available.

Other ex-Brooklands machines included Neil Tuckett’s recently rebuilt 1911 Model-T which won the all-T race at the track in 1912, Julian Taylor’s ex-Maj Frank Halford Alvis which finished sixth in the 1924 JCC 200-Mile, the Marendaz Special of Graham Skillen which set records at Brooklands and Montlhéry, and Len Battyll’s Amilcar which Porter and Brian Twist of The Autocar raced.

In addition there were Geoffrey Radford’s Double 12 MG Tigress, another C6 Amilcar, that of Bernard Harding, with which drivers such as Gardner, Humphries, Monkhouse, Oats and Clayton had all competed, JJ Wood’s Rally which J A Driskell had driven in the JCC High-Speed Trial and in an LCC Relay Race, P Sowle’s 2-litre Lagonda, plus Tim Ely’s Riley 9 Ulster Imp which gave 1958 F1 champion Mike Hawthorn his start in the sport.


New book dissects Big Cats

The title of Jeff Daniels newest technical book. Jaguar — The Engineering Story (Haynes. ISBN 1 84425030X. £25.00). sums it up. so is a worthwhile purchase in spite of so many books about these famous motor cars, of which I must have reviewed at least 20 in comparatively recent times.

Bill Heynes’ XK design was one of the best production twin-cam power units ever, and the V12 Jaguar was another landmark. Daniels dissects them all, up to the present, with engineering drawings to supplement the photographs.

This high-class 234-page study of Jaguar design. including a chapter on its racing technology, covers a great amount of ground in clear language. right up to what happened after Ford’s acquisition of the Coventry company.

I read the racing chapter and all the other major references to the development of the XK120 to the C- and D-types with special interest the author, as an ex-Autocar road-tester, knew what MIRA was like and what it could prove.

So add this to your other volumes if you are a Jaguar enthusiast. Even if you are not, this book might be able to persuade you otherwise.


Leslie Ballamy — an engineering saga

The long-awaited book about the life, times and motoring career of Leslie M Ballamy, Out In Front by Tony Russell, has now been published by MRP (ISBN 1 899870 69 5, £19.99). Another character, LMB was a very ingenious engineer with many varied interests. In this well illustrated account, with over 200 pictures, his innumerable designs are describ. His trials driving and the building of improved Fords of all sizes are a part of it, and Leslie also produced and drove sprint cars, in some of which I rode, including his supercharged Ford V8.

The late LMB had so many ideas, which are explained with diagrams where necessary: his divided-axle independent front suspension, his supercharging, and his many other inventions including carpet-tufting, a motor car for polio sufferers and a golf-trainer.

Bellamy had contacts with Sydney Allard, Giulio Ramponi, Whitney Straight, Colin Chapman, Dick Seaman, etc. The author, who met LMB only once, has made a fine job of the saga, from the 1920s to 1991.

LMB’s i.f.s. and Allard’s similar system provoked interesting comment. But what Seaman thought of the i.f.s. Bugatti at Brooklands does not quite match up to my memory of the episode, nor can I confirm that LMB “ran this Bugatti in several Brooklands Handicaps”.

All recalled in a readable style, don’t miss this one.


Whitehall: hatching a plot?

An adventure at London’s Bank junction began for me when my 1924 Rhode was halted by a policeman.

“Turn the engine off,” he called. “It’s making too much smoke.” “If I do I shall need a push-start,” I called back.

“Then I had better let you go,” he said, and waved the traffic across.

The next time was when I thought it illegal to stop on a hatched piece of road and so stopped before turning right at the same busy crossing, incurring hoots from those behind me in the right-hand lane, whom I was obstructing.

I later read in The Highway Code that it was permitted to occupy the marked area if the right turn was blocked ahead, although it stopped traffic coming towards one.

Now I read that to block oncoming traffic this way can incur a £1,000 fine if, through no fault of your own, the traffic on the road ahead being temporarily stationary, you’re obliged to occupy the forbidden area.

Is this part of the war on us arising from inadequate roads and parking facilities in the Metropolis?