Matters of moment, September 1976

Another anniversary

The good motoring life has been punctuated just lately with anniversaries, which, indeed, are convenient things, which can he manipulated, unlike Jubilees, to fit circumstances. There is Daimlier’s 80th, commemorated by a special colour-feature in this issue of Motor Sport and we have commented on several others, such as the Riley 9 Jubilee, while last year we were as. surprised as we were pleased to ind that this journal had itself completed its half-century.

Now we are reminded of yet another notable date which will, we are sure, be duly celebrated—namely, the advent, seventy years ago, in October 1906, of the Silver Ghost Rolls-Royce. Strictly only one car, that which came so successfully through that 15,000-mile RAC observed trial of July/August 1907, should be referred to as “The Silver Ghost”, all the rest as 40/50. side-valve Rolls-Royces. But the name was, and is, used for all these great Edwardian-type R-R Motor carriages.

There is reason to celebrate the arrival of such an epoch-making car, because this 40/50 set the seal to Rolls-Royce eminence in terms of dependability, quiet-running, and elegance. And to Rolls-Royce Britain owes a very great deal. The name, of the car built at Derby and afterwards at Crewe, soon became the univeral symbol for complete excellence and Satisfaction in any field, e.g.—the “Rolls-Royce of girl friends”, and such cannot be bad for the Nation producing such a product. Then in both World Wars a notable contribution to British freedom was made by the reliability and good power/weight ratio of Rolls-Royce aero-engines, and the ruggedness of R-R armoured cars, in the inflammable deserts. Today, Rolls-Royce Motors share with Ford-of-Britain some of the most successful current selling of cars, in an Industry that has been having a very hard time and has in most other factories failed to support itself with its own finance. Cortinas are selling just now better than any others in the family-car class and the demand for Silver Shadows is proof that Rolls-Royce magic, and the quality and dignity of this make from Silver Ghosts days onwards, has never been held in higher esteem.

All this British prestige stemmed from that 40/50 model; of which 6,173 were Derby-made between 1907 and 1925. The writer of this Editorial has been among those who have criticised the Rolls-Royce, right up to the Silver Cloud III. Any car classing itself as the World’s best and owned by effluent, affluent people is hound to attract criticism as well as praise. The fact remains that from 1906 onwards the bulk of those who could afford to motor regardless of cost regarded the Rolls-Royce as the car they wanted; and the position has not changed one iota in 70 long years. Point out, as some did, that the Ghost’s 7-litre L-head engine was untidy externally and only performed as it did by reason of its decidedly generous swept-volume. The fact remains that this model made the name of its painstaking manufacturers pre-eminent for ever more.

There is a lesson in this, namely that a family’s preference for a given make of car can extend over the years and generations, resulting in useful orders. Thus it is folly to kill-off famous makes, even when these have been debased by badge-engineering, as British Leyland have done to Riley and Wolseley. It was Anthony Gibbs, son of Philip Gibbs who wrote those hyper-patriotic novels, whose book “A Passion for Cars”, although not serious motoring literature, is damned hard to put down, who remarked that it only that V12 engine (designed by Walter Hassan and Harry Munday) had been put behind a proper Daimler radiator as the Double-Six and Leyland had resisted the temptation to install it in Jaguars as well, “that would have gone some way to restoring the most fainous name in motoring to its proper place”.

Well, there is a modern Daimler Double-Six, the excellence of which we pay tribute to elsewhere in this issue. Daimler and Rolls-Royce have, between them, done much for Britain’s motoring image. They may not be your ideal, or ours, but the fact is untarnishable. Others, Lincoln, Cadillac, Pegaso, Lamborghini, have professed to make the top-quality car to lead all others but only Rolls-Royce, here and in America, ever properly succeeded . . . The foregoing sentiments touch both the past and the present. One of the amusements afforded to historians is how things repeat themselves. For instance, we have just heard that Fiat (England) Ltd. have entered the hire-car business, with fleets of Fiat 126s-£2.50-a-day and 2 1/2p-per-mile. Well, there used to be Daimler Hire, so in a way here we have come full-circle, although in this particular comparison the circle may be of more democratic circumstance! Then we recall that although the new 40/50 RollsRoyce appeared at the 1906 Motor Show it wasn’t until the following April that Press representatives were permitted a trial runjust as, today, we await an invitation to roadtest the Ford Fiesta, which is said to be a prestige package for less well-endowed people . . .

Nothing really new, of course, under this endless 1976 sunshine, and we might add that they haven’t forgotten the Silver Ghost anniversary down at Beaulieu, where the NMM is staging a special display of this R-R model, on October 9th.

A New LSR Car

A new British car is being built to attack the Land Speed Record of 630.388 m.p.h. held by Gary Galbelich since 1970. The new bid is scheduled for August 1977, at Utah. The car concerned, called the “Blue Star”, is the responsibility of James Fairley & Sons Ltd., and will be powered by a Turbine Technology TTX hybrid gas-turbine/ rocket motor, developing 15,000 lb. thrust, the ploy being to accelerate the car to 350 m.p.h. on the turbine and then light the liquid oxygen/kerosene rocket. The “Blue Star” will have a width of about 3 ft. and be around 38 ft. in length, of wind-tunnel devised outline. The driver will sit in a Granfield Safety capsule at the aft end, ahead of the tail-fin. It seems that the soft suspension will be damped by stiff shock-absorbers and that aerofoils and perhaps a suction pump will he used to keep the car on the ground. It is intended to supplement disc brakes with special pad material with side-opening air-brakes and parachutes. The driver is named as David Purley and it is said that Valerie Stack has her eye on the “Blue Star” for an attack on Mrs. Breedlove’s unofficial 308.56 m.p.h. record achieved in her husband’s Sonic 1.

New Stop-Watches from Smiths

Smiths Industries are producing three new Astral stop-watches, made by their Clock and Watch Division. There are pure stop-watches, which is good news, for these are much easier to read than a stop-watch combined with a normal time-keeper. All three of these new stop-watches have a jewelled movement and chromium-plated cases and Sell at highly competitive prices. The SWM 105 records for up to 30 min. and is clearly marked in one-fifths of a second. The SWM 205 runs for 60 min. and the SWM 110 is split down to one-tenth of a sec. and runs for up to 15 min. The recommended retail price for each model is as low as £9:95, inclusive of VAT. A watch with simple control buttons, very easy to read, with a big dial, for less than £10 and with a six-months’ guarantee must be good! I have, in fact, been using an Astral SWM 110 and on recommend highly this new British stopwatch-W.B.