Mike Hawthorn’s Personal Transport
A Description and Road Impressions of his 2.5litre Tipo 212 Inter Ferrari Saloon
ACHANCE occurred recently to try out a Carrozzeria-bodied 2.5-litre Ferrari saloon, actually last year’s model, which the Modena concern have lent to Mike Hawthorn for his personal transport. Needless to say, an opportunity like this does not have to be proffered twice, and a meeting with the proud temporary owner and his potent vehicle was quickly arranged.
The first impression of the car is of its extremely low build and austerely business-like contours, chromium plate being refreshingly absent. The design conforms to standard Ferrari practice, the chassis being a cruciform structure of electrically welded oval tubing. The front suspension is independent, using double wishbones with a transverse leaf spring, while the rear is by the normal Fellipties. Hondaille dampers are used all round. Braking is taken care of by single leading shoes, actuated by the Lockheed system with one master cylinder. The under-bonnet view of any of the more expensive Continentals never fails to impress and this particular example is no exception.
The engine is a 00-deg. V12 with twin camshafts above each bank of cylinders. The camshaft covers, incidentally, are fitted with twin plastic lifter knobs, which seems such a simple and effective idea but is so rarely seen. Each bank of cylinders has its own coil and distributor, while three twin-choke Webers look after the carburation. A six-branch exhaust is used for each bank, leading into a single pipe which runs underneath the car on either side.
The high-pressure lubrication system (the makers state minimum pressure as 98 lb. per sq. in.!) uses gear-type pumps and a thermostatically-controlled oil cooler, while the light alloy finned sump contains seven litres of lubricant.
The gearbox, which is controlled from a short centrally-placed lever, has five forward speeds and one reverse. Considering that the box also incorporates its own pressure pump for lubrication, I suppose that there is some excuse for the large amount of room it occupies between driver and passenger.
The cockpit is all that one expects from a car of this nature. The instrumentation consists merely of two large indicators, one each side of the steering column, the left-hand dial showing r.p.n3. from 0-8,500 and the right-hand dial kilometres per hour from 0-240. Contained within these two dials are small gauges showing water temperature and oil pressure in one and fuel contents, with a small clock below it, in the other. In the centre of the dash are a starter button (which has a dynamo-charge warning light cunningly incorporated), combined ignition and headlamp switch, and a choke. Below the main dash on a sub-panel are four small switches for sidelights, interior light, spot-lights and windscreen wipers. The dipswitch is mounted on the steering column and is perfectly placed for the headlamp flicking beloved on the Continent. En passant, the headlights are the latest Marchals and give an astounding light, far in advance of anything I have ever previously driven behind. One of those intriguing average speed meters is an extra fitment, but unfortunately this was not working. Mike asserting that it depressed himl
A three-spoke light alloy steering wheel is fitted on the righthand side, the rim being of polished wood in the Bugatti tradition. The front seats are cloth covered, adjustable both fore and aft and in back-rest angle, so that an excellent driving position results.
To start up. one merely switches on and gives the starter button a quick jab, when the engine immediately responds with an exciting growl very similar to the 4.1 “America.” Choke is never needed, apparently, even in winter, which shows the very” unfussy ” nature of the power unit. A light pressure on the single-plate clutch allows first gear to be engaged, and, unless one is very careful with the throttle, the getaway is accompanied by two well-defined black marks. Actually, if one tries, it is possible to leave rubber behind in all the gears, including fifth ! A complaint could perhaps be levelled at the gearbox, which is definitely tricky until one gets used to it, and in spite of third and fourth being synchromesh, selection can be accompanied by anything but the silence of which the handbook boasts! Superlative acceleration through the gears, which seems to about equal that of a Le Mans Frazer-Nash, allied to a remarkable docility,
make the Ferrari an extremely useful car in traffic. As my first experience of the vehicle was in London, this came as a very pleasant and unexpected surprise ! It is possible to let the speed drop to about 10 m.p.h. in top and then to accelerate hard with complete smoothness and without protest from the engine. This flexibility is, I think, due to the 12 cylinders running on a lowish compression ratio, and a propeller-shaft torsion bearing. The high-speed performance is in keeping with the urge shown lower down the speed scale, and is all one hopes for from a manufacturer of this distinction. The suspension, although harsh by modern roller-coaster standards, really comes into its own at the higher velocities. That 120 k.p.h. (74i m.p.h.) showed on the clock along a narrow and bumpy (but straight !) country lane is perhaps all I need say on the subject. A short run to an aerodrome concluded the fun and games. Although it was not possible to find out the real top speed, as at no time was the maximum of 7,000 r.p.m. through the gears approached, the car comfortably exceeded 160 k.p.h. (over 99 m.p.h.) on several occasions. I should say that it would reach 125 m.p.h. given a decent run, which indicates that some
breathing on” has been carried out by Modena.
Throughout the test, wind noise was entirely absent, the engine note and tyre whine being therefore the more pronounced, but by no means unpleasantly so. The whine from the Pirelli ” Corsa tyres, incidentally, is nearly always present, but seems complementary to the nature of the car. On fast bends slight understeer is apparent, which enables the full enjoyment to be derived from drifting the car, which may, of course, be driven using a racing technique if the road permits. Braking from high speeds is good but not sensational, the best point perhaps being the absence of fade due to racing linings and copious light-alloy fins on the drums.
Although it might perhaps be regarded as sacrilege to criticise such an elegant vehicle, I do feel that the rather poor internal fittings and complete lack of head room in the rear seats calls for comment, considering the initial cost of the car. The seats are almost entirely cloth covered and slight wear and tear is apparent, while anyone unfortunate enough to sit in the rear seats has to lean forward between the driver and front passenger to avoid concussion. However, the accent has obviously been laid on the functional aspect and these are but small criticisms compared to the car’s many outstanding features. Certainly the combinations of light blue-grey exterior and dark blue interior trimming looks very pretty indeed.
Regretfully I handed the Ferrari back to its anxious driver. Michael is certainly a very lucky fellow to have such a delectable piece of transport, but no One deserves it. more or can put it to better use.—J. CROSSLEY.
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