Rumblings, September 1959



The Mini-Car Race?

The advent of the refreshingly new B.M.C. 850s causes us to wonder whether the time isn’t ripe — next year if not this year — for some enterprising organiser to stage a race for the babies. This would be a dull spectacle in terms of sheer speed, perhaps, but should make up for this in close-racing and the interest of spectators many of whom would be potential purchasers of the competing vehicles.

The B.A.R.C. could include a short Mini-Car Race at one of its bigger Goodwood Meetings, but a more valuable approach would be a full-scale endurance contest, say for six or even twelve hours, which should serve to eliminate the weaklings.

Possibly a race isn’t exactly what is wanted to publicise the possibilities of the babies, although if one were held it would help if the competing cars could be as standard as the scrutineers could make them, perhaps with a class for G.T. versions such as Abarth Fiats, Downton and Speedwell Mini-Minors and the like.

When small cars were in their infancy several tough trials were held for them, from the results of which prospective buyers could assess good and bad points. There was the J.C.C. General Efficiency Trial, the R A.C. Six Days Welsh Trial and stern small-car trials in Scotland. In each of these items such as reliability, petrol thirst, oil and water consumption, time taken to climb hills, tyres consumed, time occupied in repairs, speed, etc., were segregated and marks awarded towards the results. This was possible in the Welsh events by having an impartial observer in each vehicle, a scheme which has died out of modern competitions. Also, what was very tough terrain for the small cars of 1921-24 would not tax modern mini-cars so much and the trial would have to be run at high speed on the Continent.

Whatever the solution, we feel sure great interest would be aroused by a contest — race or trial — for cars like the Austin Se7en 850, Morris Mini-Minor 850, Fiat 500 and 600, Berkeley, Citroen 2 c.v., D.A.F., Fairthorpe Atomotor, Friskysport, Friskysprint, Goggomobil, Isetta 600, Messerschmitt TG500, N.S.U. Prinz, Renault 750 and Dauphine, Standard Eight and Unicar. The capacity limit might well be set at 850 c.c. The winner’s prize could well be a Ford Fairlane, Dodge Kingsway or similar American car — after many hours dicing in a mini-motor the victorious driver would deserve the change . . .


Panhard Improvements

Although we have not so far had a Dyna-Panhard for test we are pleased to learn that when it does come it will be a better car. For a new Dyna-Panhard PL.17 is announced, with synchromesh on overdrive, a stronger clutch, new alloy-drum brakes, a larger, better arranged luggage boot, more silent engine and detail interior improvements. The price remains at £999 17s. 6d. inclusive of p.t. Do you know why the car is called PL.17? The initials refer to Panhard Levassor, the figures to 5(c.v.) + 6 (litres to 100 km.) + 6 (seats)!


Six-Hour T.T.

The T.T. race at Goodwood will run for the full six hours, from 12 noon to 6 p.m., necessary to qualify it as a Sports Car Championship event. Somnolent types who recall last year’s T.T., which was so dull that many of us went to sleep in the sun, will rejoice at the prospect of a longer nap this year. However, they shouldn’t be too complaisant, because whereas in 1958 Aston Martin dominated an unexciting race, this time Ferrari leads in the Sports Car Championship by a mere two points from Aston Martin, three points from Porsche, and if a strong team of each is obtained a good scrap could result over the increased duration. The prizes are donated by the News of the World (£500 for the winner) and the race is divided into three capacity classes.

It is a pity that the changed date of the T.T. (September 5th) causes the race to clash with the Brighton Speed Trials, where Sydney Allard is due to make a bid for the course record with his new twin-Steyr-engined, air-cooled, four-wheel-drive sprint car, although the latest news of this 8-litre monster is that it may not be completed in time to do its ambitious driver-designer justice on its initial appearance.

Enthusiasts will have to decide which event to support. It will depend on the weather — whether you prefer an old-style seaside promenade speed trial with ozone blowing off the sea to mingle with the sound and smell of racing cars, or sports car racing over the compact Goodwood circuit.


M. of T. Relents

We are delighted to learn that the Ministry of Transport has decided to be lenient to cars built prior to 1915 when the compulsory old-car tests come into force. The relevant statement, which is to he highly commended, reads:—

“In connection with the proposed arrangements for the periodic testing, among other items, of the brakes of vehicles ten years or more old, a special problem has been brought to light affecting very old motor cars . . . Many of the machines produced before the first World War . . . either had no second brake at all or were equipped with a second brake which it would be difficult to bring up to a standard of efficiency which would pass the normal test to which other vehicles will be subject.

“Many of these vehicles are valuable museum pieces and in many cases use on the road is confined to various rallies and similar events. They have, however, to be taken on the roads at other times if they are to be kept in good running order. A few are in more regular use but these are driven by owners who are aware of their limitations and use them accordingly.

“The Minister has given an undertaking in Parliament that there will be no attempt to drive the older cars off the roads or interfere with the well-kept veteran car by enforcement of the test, and having regard to the circumstances of their use and ownership, and the difficulties of defining more precisely the occasions on which their use could be allowed with a view to giving complete exception from the test, the Minister proposes to relax the requirements for brakes on these vehicles.

“For this purpose additional provisos will be inserted in the regulations with the effect that a motor car first registered before January 1st, 1914, will require, apart from a parking brake, to to equipped with one efficient braking system acting on at least two of the wheels (one in the case of a three-wheeled vehicle).”


Congratulations to Donald Campbell on receiving the Segrave Trophy for 1959 in respect of his Water Speed Records.


B.R.M.s to Avus by Eagle Aviation’s DC6C 

Bank Holiday “rubber-necks” at Blackbushe Airport had the thrill of seeing the B.R.M.s which had run at Avus flown back, as they had been flown out, in an Eagle Aviation DC6C from Berlin. Ron Flockhart, the mechanics and personnel of the Owen Racing Organisation flew with the cars, which were unloaded into three B.R.M. transporters and a Rubery Owen open lorry in full view of the Blackbushe public enclosure.


Humber Register Trial (August 2nd)

On August 2nd the Humber Register held a trial in the Banbury area which replaced its former Gt. Witley Trial and which counted towards this year’s Inter-Register Contest. Proceedings opened with driving-tests at an eminently suitable disused aerodrome, with gliders performing fascinating evolutions above the cars. The quick-starting test saw a fine display of athletics on the part of Julian Berrisford (12/50 Alvis) and in a wiggle-woggle composed of exceedingly tight turns the owners of a well-equipped Fiat 501 from Portugal flogged the car’s transmission unmercifully. After this came a 60-mile navigational run embracing further tests, while before the start competitors had been subjected to a concours d’elegance judged by representatives of the five competing organisations Capt. Arman was responsible for the excellent organisation.


Best performance: W. J. Bowyer (Fiat 509A two-seater).

Best Humber Register member: T. Nicholson (Humber 9/20 tourer). 

Best Alvis 12/50 Register member: J. Berrisford (Alvis 12/50 duck’s back).

Best S.T.D. Register member:  V. Rawlings (Talbot saloon).

Best Bull-Nose Morris Club member: R. I. Barraclough (Morris-Cowley tourer).

Beet Team Performance:  Fiat Register.