Matters of moment, September 1963

Important technical developments

Three notable technical advances have been announced recently. The first is associated with the dispersal of power. American automobiles are accepted as offering effortless high performance by reason of large engines (which Autocar admits are sometimes quieter in cast iron vee-eight form than even our light-alloy Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III engine, and mated to smoother automatic transmission) and spacious interiors on account of large overall dimensions. They are more suited to American highways than British roads (although some of them are said to be better suspended than the modern Rolls-Royce), but more people would use them here if their brakes were not so universally prone to serious fade. Less pronounced on the “Compacts,” nearly all the 100 m.p.h.-plus full-size Yanks we have driven, suffer this distressing and dangerous shortcoming to a greater or lesser degree. Consequently, the announcement that Studebaker and Ford are using Dunlop disc brakes made under licence by Bendix is of particular significance to those who root for American cars but crave the security of good braking.

Studebaker offer Dunlop discs on all their 1963 passenger cars, vide a Dunlop Press Release, and have adopted them for their 132-m.p.h. Super-Lark and 140-m.p.h. Super-Hawk. models. Ford use Dunlop discs on their Falcon Sprints. Let us hope other American manufacturers will follow suit.

The next technical announcement of moment is concerned with increased power. The Volkswagen 1500 is now available in S-form, both as a saloon and estate car, with a twin-carburetter engine developing 66 b.h.p. (S.A.E.) or 12 more b.h.p. than the former VW 1500. The VW has many millions of admirers all over the World, so this is a development of great interest to a great many people. It will ensure a continuing high sales rate for a 1 1/2-litre car of quality which was becoming dated in its comparatively low power output. At the same time VW announce two-tone colour schemes for the 1500S and new air-permeable leatherette upholstery and a metal in place of fabric sun roof for the 1200 model, while the commercial vehicle range is available in 1,500-c.c. form and in one-tonner guise. As usual, Volkswagenwerk brought about these notable technical advances when the factory re-opened after its summer vacation.

The third technical aspect is that of applying power to the road. Far from being shelved, the Ferguson four-wheel-drive system was in the news when the G.P. car was flown to Indianapolis for tests, Jack Fairman lapping at 141 m.p.h. with a rather tired 2 1/2-litre Coventry-Climax engine.

A fine fuss is raging over the much-publicised Bluebird, which we have twice seen bowling round Goodwood, but which has not yet got anywhere near Land Speed Record velocity. Sir Alfred Owen wants a quicker return for his outlay of some £500,000; Donald Campbell claims the weather in Australia is against him and that no-one else is entitled to drive the monster.

We are not taking sides in the argument, except to say that we regard breaking the L.S.R. as very well worthwhile, however fast aeroplanes have flown since they exceeded the speed of the fastest racing cars many years ago. The bickering over Bluebird merely adds lustre to the late John Cobb and Reid Railton, owner-driver and designer, respectively, of the Railton Mobil that has held the fastest motor-car two-way record of 394.196 m.p.h. since 1947. Using out-dated Napier Lion aero-engines, this car cost comparatively little.

Breedlove’s tricycle which clocked a mean speed of 408.43 m.p.h. at Utah last month had only the drag of three wheels to contend with and no problem of transmitting power through its wheels, being jet-propelled.

Cobb’s 16-year-old record makes the exploits of Bluebird to date look puny. Thompson has exceeded 400 m.p.h, in one direction. It is certainly time that the brave Donald got cracking…

The Silverstone pits
Having drawn attention elsewhere in this issue to the confusion which has arisen following two fatal accidents at the dangerously-sited Silverstone pits, it is only fair to the B.R.D.C. to publish their explanation of what is being done. This reads as follows:—

Subsequent to the experiments and tests carried out at Silverstone on Wednesday, August 7th, with the assistance of Graham Hill, Jimmy Clark, Mike Beckwith, Tony Hegbourne and John Taylor, the General Committee of the British Racing Drivers’ Club has made the following decisions in respect of improvements to be made during the off-season to the Woodcote Corner/Pits area at Silverstone Circuit.

To enable these improvements to be carried out without the confusion of any other problems, it has been decided to postpone the Clubmen’s Championship which was due to be run on October 5th until the beginning of next season, and the British Racing Drivers’ Club is grateful to the individual clubs, to whom the organisation of this meeting was to have been delegated, for their immediate agreement and acceptance of this postponement.

“The physical actions being taken are as follows:

1. The Circuit will be re-surfaced from the Main Entrance through Woodcote Corner and right up to Copse Corner and any bumps which might have contributed to potential instability will be eradicated.

2. Move the pedestrian bridge 16 ft. towards the outside of the circuit to remove a visual bottleneck and prevent the creation of any bottleneck in future years through rising speeds.

3. Widen the circuit by 8 ft. on the outside of this area to provide a greater safety margin for drivers and cars of all types. This will leave a grass verge of 8 ft. beneath the pedestrian bridge, thus contributing to safety.

4. Make the safety ditch and bank continuous throughout the entire length of the Pits Grandstand area, at the same time making the bank higher, deepening the safety ditch and reinforcing the face of the safety bank to prevent natural erosion.

5. Move working pits away front Woodcote Corner towards the pedestrian bridge and erect extra pits at that end.

6. Erect an Armco barrier approximately 18 ft. from the front of the pit counter for the entire length of the pits.

7. Modify radius of Woodcote Corner to enable cars to leave this corner on a straighter, smoother and easier line.

8. Modify deceleration zone and pit entry road so that all competitors stopping at the pits will be inside the Armco barrier.

9. Erect additional warning lights from Woodcote Corner back towards the farm so as to give earlier and more complete warning to drivers approaching the corner.

“In the experienced opinion of the General Committee, which has been arrived at after consultation and agreement with the Competitions Department of the R.A.C., these are the best decisions in the interests of both immediate and long-term safety, and it should be stressed that the aspect of cost has not been considered at all in arriving at them.”

[And while all this is being done can we have a car-tunnel under the track such as is found at most of the leading circuits and which existed at Brooklands from 1907 onwards?—Ed.]

Ingenious driving gloves

It has become a fashion or a fad to wear racing-style string-back gloves when driving a fast or fast-looking car and there are all manner of these on the market, some of them associated with well-known racing drivers.

Now comes a different sort of glove, devised with rally drivers prominently in mind. John Hopwood, one of “Ecurie Cod Fillet’s” three founder members and a keen rally navigator, heard his driver, Jimmy Ray, remark that he could do with a chamois-backed driving glove so that he could quickly deal with the ever-present Mini trouble of a misting-up screen. Being in the chamois leather trade, Hopwood set about making such a glove. Jimmy Ray was delighted and collared all the first batch. Since then these gloves have met with the approval of Anne Hall, Tony Fisher, Derek Astle, Mike Sutcliffe and others and Hopwood has been encouraged to put them into production.

Known as Alpine Cleanscreen Driving Gloves, they are made from soft-grain Cape leather for palm fingers, and thumb and backed by absorbent chamois leather, the gloves being sewn with rot-proof Ferelene thread. They are available in black, red, green grey, tan, etc., in gents sizes 7 1/2, 8, 8 1/2, 9 and 9 1/2 and ladies’ sizes 6 1/2, 7 and 7 1/2. The price of 25s. per pair seems very reasonable. They are obtainable, cash with order, from Bury & Hopwood Ltd., Boardman Street Works, Hyde, Cheshire. Incidentally, Paul Frere, in his book on Competition Driving, quotes a chamois-backed glove as the best for racing in the rain, for wiping goggles or vizor, so it seems that Hopwood has something for racing drivers as well as the rally boys.—W. B.