Matters of Moment, September 1979

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Bunk or Not…

The late, great Henry Ford is alleged to have said that history is bunk. In fact, he had a great respect for the past, witness his remarkable Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village at Dearborn, Michigan, where, incidentally, the car exhibits include a 40/50 Rolls-Royce as well as Fords from 1896 onwards. What Mr. Ford probably intended when he made his oft-quoted remark was that, in business, it is more important to look forward, to those 15-million Model-Ts perhaps, than to worry about past happenings. Today, as a result, Ford’s name is prominent in rallying, racing, and on a wide range of practical cars and commercial vehicles.

The Motor Industry in general certainly cannot be said to ignore history. There has been the quite widespread retention of early make-names, to the extent of “badge-engineering”, seen so very recently in the revival by Peugeot-Citroen of the Talbot marque, with its complicated background, for what were formerly Chrysler products.

The impact of history goes far. It has spread to the world of publishing, with many books, and new magazines, catering for those who derive enjoyment from looking back to the past. This reminds us that Motor Sport was continued throughout the last war largely by concentrating on motoring history, then far less developed than is the case today. When war came in 1939 the Proprietor was about to say goodbye to the Editor “for the duration” when the latter said he thought it should be possible to continue. “But,” retorted the Proprietor, ”this war may go on for twice as long as the 1914-18 conflict. How would you find sufficient material?” “History,” replied the Editor. And it was so, with much appreciated help, from the readers, scattered all about the world on Service pursuits. An emergency issue was put together in some haste (the Editorial headed “It Is War”) and we ran without a break for seven long. virtually-petrol-less years.

It was mostly history, with the important difference that whereas we were, and are, concerned with what cars were, and are, like to drive, race, and work on. there is now an obsession with what are termed “collectors’ pieces”, “appreciating assets”, and the toting from one auction-sale or autojumble to the next of cars and parts, by way of financial speculation. We prefer to think in terms of only two classes of “collectors”, those who amass historic vehicles for the pleasure their possession and use gives, and those who gather together old hulks in order to prevent them being scrapped, hoping eventually to restore them.

Museums are different again, but one is reminded that when Richard (“Mad Jack”) Shuttleworth began his search for old cars and aeroplanes before the war, which has led to the present admirable Shuttleworth Collection, he did this not for financial gain but with the idea of getting his ancient machines back on the road or into the air, as the introduction to that fascinating book “From Bleriot to Spitfire” (Airlife Publications) emphasises (review next month). So transport history is perpetuated in various worthwhile ways. In this context, the Bentley DC has its private museum, the Royce Foundation is in process of being formed, and the VCC has moved its library to its country headquarters. Many motor manufacturers have museums of their own, notably those of Daimler-Benz, Renault, BMW, NSU, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, etc., and British Leyland’s Historic Car Collection has been given a fresh lease of life under Peter Mitchell’s guidance.

If the petrol famine ever returns, or the cost of motoring rises steeply, history may be all that is left to us! Curiously, after the cost of petrol had risen the chronic shortage disappeared. What has presumably gone for ever is the all-day, late-evening, all-night, on-Sundays opening we used to be able to rely on from many service stations. This is something of which the great oil companies, having made rather a lot of money out of motorists along the years, should be ashamed . . . .

The need to conserve the precious fuel will, we think, start quite a cult in the smaller cars, which need not be too dull. Indeed, to give but one example, driving a Renault 5 Gordini isn’t in the least dull! This compact 93 b.h.p. package is quick enough to be very good entertainment in a straight line or round corners, yet used thus it will give some 38 or more m.p.g. It is also a comfortable and docile little car. Although even its makers warn that it is “a high-performance vehicle to which any driver without the necessary experience must allow himself time to adapt” (mustn’t girls drive ’em?) and one report has called it “quite an infernal device”, this Renault-Gordini is actually, like the late, lamented Jaguar E-type, surprisingly docile, as well as quick, accelerative, and very good fun. It follows in the tradition of such cars as the 4CV “1064”, Dauphine-Gordini “1093”, and a family of other Gordini-Renaults.

It is significant that it is produced by a Nationalised Company that won Le Mans last year, the French Grand Prix this year, which promotes the “Gordini Challenge” for young drivers racing standardised Fives, and which should be in International rallying by 1980. It is a theme other manufacturers might well copy.

* * *

Brighton Speed Trials

Britiain’s oldest and sole surviving kilometre sprint motor sporting event, the annual Brighton Speed Trials, takes place on the Madeira Drive on Saturday, September 8th. Sponsorship this year comes from Chandlers, the Brighton BMW dealers. Entries range from 250 c.c. motorcycles to a 24-litre racing car, presumably the Bentley-Napier. The Speed Trials start at 9 a.m. with practice events, the competition events start at 11 am., and the meeting ends at 5.30 p.m.

* * *

Nilsson Pro-Am Tennis Tournament

Eight leading Grand Prix drivers, including Scheckter, Hunt (Retd.), Watson and Regazzoni plus four times Wimbledon Champion Bjorn Borg, and Vitas Gerulaitis will be amongst the stars doing battle in the last major event for the Gunnar Nilsson Cancer Treatment Campaign, the Avis Formula One Tennis Trophy, at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham, on Monday evening, September 24th.

Page and Moy Ltd. have chartered a special train on behalf of the organisers to take spectators from the South of England to the NEC. The train will leave Euston at 5 p.m. on its 90 min. journey and arrive back at 12.45 a.m. Second-class return tickets will cost £5.70 each, first-class return £14.70 (reduced rates). Tickets are available from Page and Moy Ltd., 136-138 London Road, Leicester LE2 1EN or Dial-a-Train on Leicester 552521, asking for Mira. Tournament tickets are available from the same sources (at £3.50, £4.50, £6.00 or £10.00) or direct from the NEC booking office on 021-780 4141.

All monies received in excess of Page and Moy’s Costs will be donated to the Gunnar Nilsson Cancer Treatment Campaign.

* * *

The Great Moth Rally

It seems that we did Squadron Leader David Cyster and his wife Cherry an injustice in the caption for the Great Moth Rally in last month’s issue, written prior to the availability of the full results. Far from being passengers in a Dragon Rapide, the Cysters in fact won the event overall, and the Tiger Moth class, in Tiger Moth G-ANRF. Second and third overall were Tiger Moths too, G-AZDY flown by Brian Mills and George Payne and G-AIRI flown by Mike and Ted Vaisey.

* * *

All About Talbot

With the re-emergence of the name Talbot it would seem opportune to remind readers that the bible on the marque, Anthony Blight’s “Georges Roesch and the invincible Talbot”, remains available from booksellers, price £8.75, or direct from the publishers, Grenville Publishing Co. Ltd., Standard House, Bonhill St., London, EC2A 4DA at the same price plus 99p postage.

* * *

Lost Camera

A Motor Sport staff member lost a Konica S2 Auto camera, No. 451804, we think, in a black leather case, at the British Grand Prix. Any information relating to it would be gratefully received.

* * *

Surer F2 Champion?

Brian Henton had only to finish ahead of Marc Surer in the Donington round of the European F2 Championship on August 19th to clinch the title (see Formula 2 Review, page 1310). And he was doing just that, his Ralt-Hart RT2 lying second to Daly in the race with only three laps to go when he spun off, letting Surer’s March BMW through to second. If Henton’s appeal against his disqualification at Enna is upheld, he could still be Champion, but meanwhile it looks like being Surer’s year and March’s fifth Championship. – C.R.

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