Archive for the ‘Icons & Iconoclasts’ Category

JYS loads up into the Chaparral 2J at Watkins Glen in July 1970 (LAT)

Apart from the Chaparral 2J Chev, name another car raced in 1970 that looks as edgy now as it did way back then?

I still remember flicking through Automobile Year 18 in Camberwell Grammar’s library in 1971 and flipping-my-14-year-old-lid at the sight of the 2J. My oldest mate remembers me saying, “Look at George Jetson’s car!” The only things missing were Jane, Judy, Elroy, and of course ‘rAstro!

John Surtees, Chaparral 2H Chev at Riverside in October 1969
2H butt at Riverside in October 1969. Of note is the world’s biggest fabricated aluminium De Dion rear axle and one of the worlds biggest radius rods. ZL1 Chev has a crossover inlet manifold to get the fuel injection trumpets out of the airstream, ditto routing of extractors. Enormous wing fitted in this shot – you can see the vertical support – which is not installed in the shot above, remember too that this car was originally designed and built with the driver fully enclosed inside, something John Surtees pushed strongly against

Jim Hall has gonads the size of pineapples.

His outrageous 1969 offering, the wedgy, door-stop, knee high, De Dion rear-ended 2H was a complete flop. It’s driver, John Surtees, thought Hall had been smoking wacky baccy at Woodstock rather than working with clean-cut Nixon supporters at GM’s Skunkworks to design a new car.

Ever the poker player, Hall doubled his bets and concepted a machine so advanced and fast it was banned after only four races.

The Phil Hill/Mike Spence winged Chaparral 2F Chev looking lonely on the Daytona banking in 1967, DNF (Getty)

Chaparral had been giving the rest of the racing world aerodynamics and aero-technology lessons for five years or so to that point.

By 1970 the aluminium monocoque chassis was passe, so too was the aluminium block 650bhp’ish Chev ZL1 V8, even Chaparral/GM’s semi-automatic three-speed transaxle was a bit ho-hum.

Legend has it the inspiration for the 2J was a child’s fan-mail drawing to Hall of a sports racer being sucked down to the road by giant fans extracting the air underneath.

Whether it was ‘Elroy Jetsons’ sketch, an extension of previous Chapparral/GM R&D work, or divine providence, GM’s Paul Von Valkenburgh and Charlie Simmons, and Chaparral’s Don Gates started modelling the possibilities on Chevy R&D’s Suspension Test Vehicle.

More of a test-rig than a car, it enabled them to play with roll-centres and stiffness, ride height, pitch axis, anti-dive/squat and lots of other stuff; this rig became the 2J test mule.

“Gates worked out a fan and skirt infill defence system while Don Cox, Ernie DeFusco and Joe Marasco engineered a chassis to match,” Doug Nye wrote.

(sportscardigest.com)
(sportscardigest.com)

The resulting tricky bits were the slab-sided, fully-fenced bodywork and Rockwell JLO 247cc two-stroke 45bhp snowmobile engine which powered two rear fans nicked from an M-109 Howitzer Tank. That combination could move 9,650 cubic feet of air a minute @ 6,000rpm, creating negative pressure equal to 2,200 pounds of downforce. Unlike other racing cars, the downforce was independent of the speed of the car.

For three-quarters of its footprint the car was ‘attached’ to the ground via skirts made of General Electric’s new, trick, Lexan polycarbonate. The skirts moved up and down with the movement of the car via a system of cables, pulleys and machined arms that bolted to the suspension. On the smoother Can-Am venues the seal was good, with the fans on the car hunkered-down by two inches.

The net effect of all of this was that the car sucked itself to the road, thereby creating immense cornering power and traction.

Stewart on the Watkins Glen grid, Chris Ecomomaki in front looking for a mike (J Meredith Collection)
Vic Elford togs-up at Riverside. The car in front is Peter Revson’s Carl Haas entered Lola T220 Chev, Revson is sitting on the pit wall to the right of the Lola’s rear. His performances in that car propelled him into a works-McLaren M8F Chev with which he won the 1971 Can-Am Cup – F1 followed (B Cahier-Getty)

During the 2J’s build Jim Hall was smart enough to give SCCA officialdom a look at the car to ensure it was kosher in the almost-anything-goes Group 7/Can-Am world. The crew-cut mob deemed it hunky-dory to race.

While the car was first tested at Rattlesnake Raceway in November 1969, the complex machine missed the June 14, 1970 Mosport season opener and the following Canadian round at St Jovite. But 2J-001 finally arrived aboard a modest ute (pick-up) at Watkins Glen in mid July.

It’s driver was reigning World Champion Jackie Stewart in a one-race deal supported by GM (weird given the Ford sponsored Cosworth engine which powered his F1 cars). JYS had plenty of sportscar experience, including Can-Am cars, but nothing prepared him for the 2J.

“The car’s traction, its ability to brake and go deeply into corners is something I’ve never experienced before in a car of this size and bulk,” he wrote in Faster! “Its adhesion is such that it seems able to take unorthodox lines through turns, and this, of course, is intriguing.”

Jackie Stewart during practice at Watkins Glen, and below, a wonderful race day panorama (LAT)
(LAT)

Stewart, and Vic Elford, retained by Hall to drive the car for the balance of the series, experienced the same other worldly, steep learning curve – retraining the brain about what was possible – as Mario Andretti encountered with Peter Wright and Colin Chapman’s Lotus 78-79 ground-effect cars in 1977-1978.

In a practical sense, half the problem was keeping the auxiliary engine alive – remember it wasn’t designed for this application – in its new harsh environment with all the trackside detritus the fans sucked up from the bottom of the car and regurgitated out the back at speed. Not to forget the skirts and their support mechanisms. The engineering challenge of this lot was mega.

Stewart qualified the brave-new-world 2J third behind the dominant orthodoxy, Denny Hulme and Dan Gurney’s new Batmobile-Beautiful McLaren M8D Chevs. Jackie closed on Dan during the race before being forced to pit, then went out for another seven laps – 22 in all – he bagged fastest lap before braking problems ended his race.

2J-001 at rest in the Watkins Glen pitlane. Sole sponsor decal is for GE-Lexan. Porsche Salzburg 917 of either Vic Elford or Dickie Attwood behind (LAT)
Stewart blasts past Attwood’s third placed Porsche 917. While Hulme’s McLaren M8D Chev won at Watkins Glen, the next six placings were taken by Group 5 enduro cars, not the Group 7 cars for which the race was run. Said Porsche 917 and Ferrari 512S’ had already done the Watkins Glen 6-Hours the day before, most without an engine change between the two races. The JW 917 of Pedro Rodriguez/Leo Kinnunen won (unattributed)

Context is everything. The Glen’s Can-Am round was always topped up by Group 5-6 World Endurance Championship cars which were also in town for the Watkins Glen 6-Hour.

The dominant 1970-71 endurance racer was the swoopy-rounded, spaceframe, 4.5-4.9-litre flat-12 engined Porsche 917. Alongside the 917 the 2J looked like a Sci-Fi film prop!

The Texans missed the next three rounds at Edmonton, Mid Ohio and Road America to further develop the car before rejoining the circus at Road Atlanta in mid-September.

Elford recalled his impressions of the car to MotorSport, “Drving the car was just out of this world. The start-up procedure was a bit like an aeroplane I suppose, you didn’t just jump into first gear and drive away.”

“I put my left foot hard on the brake to make sure it didn’t go anywhere, then fire-up the little engine which immediately started to drive the two monster fans at the back, sucking up the air underneath. When I did this the car would literally go: ‘Shhhp!’ and lower itself down to the ground by about two and a half inches.”

Such was the suction of the turbines, the 2J could tootle off on its own at up to 30mph if the brakes weren’t applied.

At Road Atlanta Vic popped it on pole and finished sixth after ignition problems with the snowmobile engine.

“You get to the stage of thinking it’s just not possible to go around any corner at that speed, and adapting to it mentally is the most difficult approach because no other car has ever gone around a corner as fast as this one,” Elford recalled.

“Another great thing about the suction is that it doesn’t allow the cars’s handling characteristics to change as you go through a corner. Whichever way it’s set it remains that way at all times, whether its a fast corner or a slow swerve – it remains absolutely constant.”

Come race day Elford was always impacted by the three speed semi-auto transaxle, rather than the four of the LG600 Hewland equipped competition, that wasn’t the problem at Road Atlanta though, it was the subsidiary engine.

Laguna Seca followed a month later. There, Elford was the only car to go under a minute, a smidge less than two seconds quicker than Denny Hulme, despite never seeing the place before…

“I went around Laguna in 59 seconds and it was about five years before the next car managed to go under a minute, and that was an Indycar!”

He didn’t get to start from pole as the Chevy popped a-leg-out-of-bed in the warm-up early in the day, and there simply wasn’t the time for the Midland boys to pop in a new engine. The complexity of an engine change involved pulling much of the car apart and reassembly, a days work. It was an immense bummer for the Californian crowd.

Beautiful Laguna Seca profile shot of Vic Elford shows the unmistakable slab-sided lines of the car and operation of the skirts which appear to be riding the bitumen pretty well (unattributed)
Imagine being showered by fast moving trackside shrapnel at 170mph, Dyson have nothing on this vacuum-cleaner! Elford in the Road Atlanta pitlane

The final Can-Am round was at Riverside a fortnight later. There, Elford was again well clear of Hulme in qualifying, this time the gap was a little over two seconds, these are huge margins folks.

“At one point we came into Turn 9 with Denny Hulme just in front of me. I was right up against the wall and I probably didn’t even change gear. I drove all the way around the outside of Denny in third gear. He went straight off, went into the pits and took his helmet off, sat on the pit wall and sulked for the next half hour!”

This time the Rockwell engine didn’t play ball, breaking its crank. The team managed to patch it up and take the start but it inevitably failed on lap two.

And that was it, the howls of protest were loud and long.

Not that there was any way known the 2J didn’t bristle with illegal ‘moveable aerodynamic devices’! No way can the SCCA officials who saw the car pre-season could have thought it otherwise, but – bless-em – they probably thought “Let ‘em run, the crowds will be huge and we’ll see what happens from there.”

In the process of banning it, the SCCA ripped the soul out of Can-Am in that Hall and his boys walked away.

Can-Am’s attraction was its anything goes nature which invited innovation. Anything goes was great, unless, it seems, it threatened the dominant orthodoxy. To me there was Chaparral-Can-Am and Post-Chaparral-Can-Am and the former was vastly better than the latter, with all due respect to Porsche and Shadow.

Elford in front of one of the Papaya-M8D-Terrors at Laguna Seca. Hay bales still very much around in 1970 (H Thomas/Getty)
Brian Redman, Jim Hall, the Chaparral crew and their Lola T330/332 Chevs were the dominant US F5000 force from 1974-76. Here the duo are in the Elkhart Lake pits in 1974, Lola T332C Chev

Still, Hall kept his core team together running Lolas in the US F5000 and single-seat Can-Am championships, then had the joy of watching Lotus carry the ground effect torch forward, not that Chapman ever gave any credit his way, our Col never did that to anyone.

Hall then returned with the John Barnard designed ground effect Chaparral 2K Cosworth which won the CART championship and the Indy 500 in 1980 with Johnny Rutherford at the wheel.

Lone Star JR on the way to a win at Indy in 1980, Chaparral 2K Cosworth (IMS)

That Automobile Year 18 I prattled on about at the start of this masterpiece was hugely influential in stimulating my interest in cars and racing. Six of my Top Ten cars I first saw in that tome; Ferrari 312B, Lotus 72 Ford, Ferrari 512S, McLaren M8D Chev, Ferrari Dino 246GT and of course the Chaparral 2J. The Ferraris and McLaren are all about sex-on-wheels, the 72 and 2J are a tad more cerebral.

This article made me consider what the most influential racing car in my lifetime is? Its ‘gotta be a toss-up between the Lotus 25 Climax and 2J.

All monocoque racing cars are related to the 25, the first modern monocoque. The aerodynamics of racing cars since the Lotus 78 are related to the 2J. Let’s toss the coin as to which is the more influential, let the debate begin!

PS…

I ‘spose you think I’ve forgotten John and Charlie Cooper, but they were doing their mid-engined thing way before I was born, so, I’ve dodged that debate at least. In any event, Auto Union’s mid-engined missiles won GPs pre-war.

May 1967
Thinkin, always thinkin. Jim Hall at Riverside in 1966 (B D’Olivo-Getty)

Credits…

MotorSport Images, sportscardigest.com, Indy Motor Speedway, Getty Images, J Meredith Collection, Harry Hurst, Sports Illustrated, Sportscar Digest, MotorSport November 2020 article by James Elson

Tailpieces…

“Aw come on Jim, it’s years since you raced in F1, time to return and give things a bit of a shake up.”

Jim Hall and Jackie Stewart pre-race at Watkins Glen. “Just make sure you have your left foot on the brake when we fire it up or you’ll mow down half the paddock!”

Note the fan-covers missing at Watkins Glen but present in subsequent races.

Jim Hall’s British Racing Partnership Lotus 24 BRM during the 1963 Dutch GP at Zandvoort, eighth in the race won by Jim Clark’s epochal Lotus 25 Climax. Carel de Beaufort’s ninth placed Porsche 718 in the distance (MotorSport)

Finito…

(bilsportarvet.se)

Ronnie Peterson in the style which made him a famous crowd favourite ahead of a gaggle of other karts at Laxa, Sweden circa 1965.

3,000 people watched the Laxa Motorstadion’s – Sweden’s first Kart track – first race meeting in 1961, a venue that can take some of the credit for Sweden’s seventies and eighties motor racing successes.

Ronnie regularly practiced and raced there together with his father Bengt ‘Bagarn’ Peterson, a skilled car builder/fabricator. His competitive instinct was there from the start, but Laxa pit-pundits bet on Ronnie hitting the straw-bales on either lap one or two in his early days.

Prize presentation at Laxa circa 1964 (bilsportarvet.se)
Ronnie, Robardie Parilla circa 1965 (federicascarscelli.com)

By 1964 Ronnie had made a clean sweep of Laxa events, two years later, in September 1966 he place third in the World Kart Championships at Kopenhamm, Denmark in front of Toine Hezemans and one Keijo Rosberg.

While all the hotshots raced Parilla powered Tecnos and Birels, Ronnie’s Robardie was built by his dad. Bengt’s Robardies were good enough to win world kart titles for Tomas Nilsson in 1968 and Francois Goldstein in 1968-69.

By mid 1966 Peterson father and son had progressed to Formula 3, racing the Swebe Ford (most references have it as Svebe but the name on the original steering wheel says Swebe) which was built by Bengt and engineer Sven Andersson. It was essentially a Brabham BT15 clone fitted with Brabham like suspension, uprights and other components.

Ronnie’s best result in a half-dozen mid-year Swedish events was a third at the Dalsland Ring (below) in July.

Ronnie’s car control was legendary from the very start. He was never the best at working with the engineers to get the best out of a car, preferring to just drive around the problem
Ronnie, BT18, on the grid of the Danmarksmesterskab final at the Jyllandsringen, Denmark in October 1967 – second behind Reine Wisell’s BT18

By the Karlskoga meeting in October Ronnie raced a Brabham BT18 Ford in advance of a full campaign at home in 1967. He was fourth in the Swedish F3 Championship won by Reine Wisell, Ronnie then took back-to-back titles in 1968-69.

The 1969 F3 win which vaulted him into consideration for Colin Crabbe’s privately run F1 March 701 Ford in 1970 was victory over Europe’s cream-of-the-racing-crop at Monaco in May.

That field included fellow future F1 drivers Reine Wisell, Jean-Pierre Jabouille, Tim Schenken, Patrick Depailler, Howden Ganley and Mike Beuttler. Ronnie won his heat and Wisell the other, with Ronnie nine-seconds in front of Reine in the final.

Happy and exhausted, Peterson after winning the 1969 Monaco F3 GP, Tecno 69 Ford Novamotor (LAT)
Quayside at Monaco. Tecno 69 chassis #TO334 won 16 F3 races in 1969 in Sweden, Italy, France and of course Monaco (unattribured)
SuperSwedes both; friends and rivals Ronnie and Reine Wisell at Anderstorp in June 1969 (LAT)

Even more impressive was that all of his F1 compatriots, with the exception of Howden Ganley, raced works or quasi-works cars, while Ronnie’s Squadra Robardie Tecno 69 Novamotor was spannered by Ronnie and his mechanic.

The world was on notice.

Nascent March Cars co-owner Alan Rees chased Ronnie’s signature at Crystal Palace the following weekend to drive the very first March, an F3 machine designated 693.

Ronnie at Karlskoga, Tecno Ford on the way to a win in May 1969
(MotorSport)

In September Peterson had his first F2 drive for Roy Winkelmann Racing (above) in the Albi Grand Prix.

Ronnie finished fifth aboard the unfamiliar Lotus 59B Ford FVA, in front of him were GP drivers Graham Hill, Johnny Servoz-Gavin, Jochen Rindt and Henri Pescarolo. It was his first Lotus drive, but far from his last!

Ronnie was on his way, and the rest, as they say, is history…

Credits…

‘Laxa-The country’s first Go-Kart Track’ Anders Bjork, bilsportarvet.se, olaussonphoto.com, federicascarscelli.com, LAT, MotorSport, F2 Index

Tailpiece…

(MotorSport)

So often Ronnie had his cars all cocked up well before the apex of a corner, as here at the Osterreichring aboard his March 721G Ford in 1972.

It wasn’t always the quickest way of course but car control exhibitions like this was the best part of a weekend for many spectators.

He ran as high as third from Q11 in Austria, finishing 12th. Colin Chapman liked what he saw, Ronnie had a Lotus seat in 1973 and gave Emerson Fittipaldi, the reigning World Champ a serious run for his money. Emerson won three GPs, and Ronnie four, which gave Lotus the constructors title but Jackie Stewart won the drivers championship with five wins…

Finito…

James Hunt and Jochen Mass, McLaren M23 Fords, Fuji 1976 (MotorSport)

We all have favorite Grand Prix seasons, for me 1976 was an enchilada with the lot.

It was a technically interesting year filled with pathos, drama, politics and a cast of personalities the spreadsheet jockeys who own F1 this week can only dream about.

Early in the season Ferrari appeared likely to take back-to-back titles. Mauro Forghieri’s 1975-76 3-litre flat-12 engined 312T/312T2 machines were amongst his best work in a long career with the Scuderia. Reigning champion Niki Lauda won in Brazil and South Africa, then his teammate, Clay Regazzoni prevailed at Long Beach.

Lauda and Fangio, two of the bravest of the brave at Fuji (MotorSport)
Mount Fuji during the 1976 race weekend, not a race-day happy-snap mind you (MotorSport)
Breakfast of champions for James, while Barry Sheene, World 500cc Champ that year on a Suzuki RG500, looks on. Fuji 1976 (MotorSport)

James Hunt had been threatening from the get-go. Starting from pole at Interlagos and Kyalami, he finally won at Jarama with the big-league Marlboro McLaren outfit.

He’d been racing for the Boats-Bolly and Big-Boobies Hesketh outfit – Silverstone International Trophy and Dutch GP wins duly noted and admired – and got his chance in the majors after Emerson Fittipaldi committed F1 suicide by leaving McLaren for his brother’s Fittipaldi Automotive outfit.

Stuff brotherly love, I’ll take a competitive car every day of the week.

That Jarama weekend was notable for the first race-appearance of Ken Tyrrell and Derek Gardner’s absolutely wild P34 six-wheeler, and because Hunt’s win was swiped from him. His car was measured as being too wide in post-race scrutineering.

McLaren appealed on the grounds that this was due to the expansion rate of the tyres during the race. Two months later the appeal was surprisingly upheld, after all it’s up to the team to manage the width of the car in accordance with the regs knowing full well the behaviour of its Goodyears.

When Lauda won in Monaco he had a massive 33 point lead in the drivers championship from Regga and Hunt.

Teddy and ‘Kojak’ – what is the name of the mechanic with the wild and woolly hair? – and Alistair Caldwell look after Hunt’s M23. Gotta’ be amongst everyone’s favourite GP designs, long-lived as it was? (MotorSport)
The usual witty McLaren mechanic’s missive to their pilot, Hunt’s raceday message (MotorSport)
Ermanno Cuoghi and crew attend to Lauda’s Ferrari, Daniele Audetto, team manager at right. The 1975-1979 312T-312T4 were fast, reliable jewels of cars driven by some of the worlds best (MotorSport)

Who can forget the stunning shots of the P34s opposite locking their way around Anderstorp’s constant radius turns on the way to a history making one-two; Jody Scheckter from Patrick Depailler.

Hunt won from pole at Paul Ricard but only after Niki’s Tipo 015 525bhp flat-12 went pop while in the lead.

Niki Lauda took pole at Brands Hatch from James, then came Mario Andretti who again reinforced the growing pace of the Lotus 77 Ford. Colin Chapman, with Andretti’s developmental help, was finding his mojo again after a year or so in the wilderness.

The British GP controversy started when Regga tagged Lauda after the start and took out Hunt as the Swiss spun. In contravention of the rules, Hunt, Regazzoni and Jacques Lafitte started in their spares. Lauda led the restarted race until halfway, then slipped back with a gearbox problem, then the hometown boy was through and took a hugely popular, well merited win…for a while anyway.

Despite starting Regga in their spare, Ferrari, Tyrrell and Fittipaldi appealed against Hunt being allowed to start in McLaren’s spare. Two months later, amid great controversy Hunt was disqualified gifting Lauda the win.

I thought this was, and still do think this was a bum-deal. I would have pinged the organiser for allowing three teams to start drivers in their spares, but allowed the results to stand.

It looks jolly enough, and I’m sure it was, but laced with no shortage of tension as well given the stakes. James, Niki and Ronnie at Fuji as officialdom rubs its Chrystal Ball as to the likely weather patterns for the balance of a Fuji Sunday (MotorSport)
Slightly soggy Fuji start…Andretti on pole, Lotus 77 Ford, Hunt alongside in his M23, Niki behind, Ferrari 312T2, and John Watson’s Penske PC4 Ford by the fence. The other car in the distant gloom is Carlos Pace’ Brabham BT45 Alfa Romeo. Goodness gracious, all that variety, three V8s and two different makes of flat-12, something Liberty Media’s Q-Department only have in their wet-dreams (MotorSport)
This shot of Ronnie Peterson retiring his March 761 Ford without completing a lap due to engine problems further reinforces the staggering amount of water on circuit (MotorSport)

Then it was off to the Nurburgring where Hunt put in some scintillating laps to start off pole from Lauda who was nine-tenths adrift of his British buddy.

Niki’s terrible, lap two accident on the left kink before Bergwerk was probably caused by rear suspension component failure. Were it not for the efforts of Guy Edwards, Brett Lunger, Harald Ertl and Art Merzario to get Lauda out of the car – in advance of the arrival of marshals – he probably would have been fried alive there and then.

Instead, the staggering Lauda, having been given the last rites at the Ludwigshafen Hospital trauma unit, showing indomitable will of human spirit, returned two races and just six weeks later at Monza.

While Lauda set about the business of survival and recovery, Hunt won the restarted German GP, and the Dutch at Zandvoort. John Watson (Penske PC4 Ford) took a well deserved and very popular win for Roger Penske on the Osterreichring in between Hunt’s victories.

Lauda out of the car, content with the decision he had made to stop. Regga was fifth (MotorSport)
(Gloomy isn’t it. Hans Stuck out with drowned electrics, March 761 Ford (MotorSport)
Battle for second between Mario Andretti and Vittorio Brambilla, aboard Ford Cosworth powered Lotus 77 and March 761 (MotorSport)

When Niki Lauda appeared at Monza he stunned everyone, not least Enzo Ferrari who had hired Carlos Reutemann to drive in his place.

In great pain, his burns not fully healed with balaclava and skin enmeshed in blood, the crazy-courageous Austrian finished the race in fourth place behind Ronnie Peterson’s March 761 Ford, then Regga second and Jacques Laffite, Ligier JS5 Matra V12, third. Hunt collected no points having spun on a charge up the field.

In the week between Monza and Mosport James’ British GP disqualification was made. So, with three races to run – Mosport, Watkins Glen and Fuji – Hunt had 47 points to Lauda’s 64. It seemed and was a tall order for the British babe-magnet.

Undaunted by the Mosport challenge, James took pole and led from lap 10 having made a typically tardy start, while Niki ran fifth but faded with handling issues.

It was then well and truly game on, Lauda’s margin slimmed to eight points, there was plenty of debate globally between racing mates about which of the drivers you wanted to prevail.

I was in Niki’s camp, his sheer bravery and dogged – cussed – will to go on and win was and still is an outstanding moment of human spirit in any sport.

Andretti’s Fuji winning Lotus 77, look at the volume of water early in the race, Hunt below looking similarly soggy (unattributed)
(unattributed)
Brambilla dived down the inside of Hunt on lap 20 but James anticipated the move so the Italian didn’t take him out in the process (MotorSport)

But Hunt kept on coming. Watkins Glen was one Grand Prix racing’s great challenges, he popped his McLaren on pole – his eighth of the year – and won the race after a duel with Scheckter’s six-wheeler while Lauda bagged the other podium spot.

As the teams travelled to the orient, Niki’s margin was down to three points, it was a showdown that either racer could win.

I remember trying to follow events at Fuji over the weekend in those far way pre-internet days with shithouse international motor racing coverage in the local Melbourne ‘papers, the sporting coverage of which extended to footy (Aussie rules), cricket (a British insomnia cure), donkeys and dish-lickers (greyhounds).

I negotiated with my father captaincy of the TV set at my nana’s place. There was a family celebration at her joint, at all costs I wanted to watch the scratchy Channel 2/BBC (?) coverage of Fuji. Do you (Australians) remember that we only got colour-telly in March 1975?

Such were the dramas that year that many non-racing folk were interested in the Japanese Grand Prix with most I knew rooting for that plucky Austrian.

The Fuji weekend was ruined by the tropical Sunday rain, Mario Andretti’s Lotus was on pole from Hunt and Lauda.

There was intense, long debate about whether the race should start at all, such were the challenges of fog, rain and vast amounts of running water all over the track. But the decision was to race, the majority of drivers didn’t disagree.

Hunt led from Watson and Andretti, then Watson went down an escape road on lap two, on that lap Lauda pulled in. Larry Perkins completed one lap, Carlos Pace seven, and Fittipaldi nine. The Brabham duo came in, I think, on the command of Generalissimo Bernie. In all of the circumstances who could blame Niki. His courage was not in doubt.

McLaren pit – sixth with 3 laps to run and 4 seconds adrift of Depailler, James’ task is clear. Teddy and Alastair Caldwell at right with 6 to run, 45 seconds in hand and tyre stop pending (MotorSport)
Hunt’s critical tyre change on lap 68 of 73 laps – you can see how shot the discarded left-front is (unattributed)
Patrick Depailler’s Tyrrell P34 Ford when running second (MotorSport)

James still needed points, he had to finish no lower than third in immensely difficult conditions, no pressure…

He continued to lead, by lap 10 his margin was greater than eight seconds. For a while local boy, Kazuyoshi Hoshino’s privately run Tyrrell 007 Ford was running third, from grid slot 21! He failed to finish after one of his Bridgestones (yes Martha) failed.

More worrying for Hunt was the second place contest between Andretti and Vittorio Brambilla, March 761 Ford. Vit was pretty-pacey in the wet – remember his ’75 Austrian GP win – soon passed Mario and on lap 20 challenged for the lead but spun. Anticipating/seeing the move, James gave him room then cut-back inside the hapless Italian.

Hunt then seemed set for the win, his team mate Jochen Mass was second with Andretti slipping back, but Hunt lost ground as the track began to dry.

He took no notice of pit signals to cool his soft-wets by seeking out the still watery sections of the track, as Mass was. Andretti picked this up, cooled his tyres and never pitted, while Mass closed on his team leader, then spun on lap 36.

By mid-race Merzario, Watson and Brambilla had succumbed to mechanical dramas, Stuck to drowned electrics, Hoshino with tyre troubles, while Mass’ car was damaged after his spin.

Trance like, Hunt continually stuck to his dry line, his choices then were to pit for new tyres or tough it out and hope others wouldn’t run him down.

His choice was settled on lap 68 when both left-hand tyres deflated due to excessive wear. He scraped into the pits and endured a long pitstop – the well-drilled pit-stoppers were nearly a decade away – then emerged in fifth place with four laps to run and needing third to win the title.

For two laps he didn’t progress, then with two to go he passed Alan Jones’ Surtees TS19 Ford on the exit of turn one, only Regga was in the way now.

The tough, swarthy, experienced Swiss normally would have been a big, probably insurmountable problem, but he’d already been sacked by Ferrari for 1977, so when Hunt’s intent was clear, Regga all but waved him past. Faaark Ferrari team orders/expectations he not unreasonably thought.

Hunt endured a nail-biting two final laps, but with third place points he snitched the title from Lauda

It wasn’t all bad for Ferrari though, they won the Constructor’s Championship, meanwhile Mario Andretti, somewhat forgotten a bit in all of this melodrama, won the race in a portent of what Lotus had to come, with Depailler a very well deserved second.

Even Liberty Media couldn’t have written a script like this. And yes, I know Ron Howard, or rather Peter Morgan did.

What a year and race it was…

At the end of the race James remonstrates with Teddy Mayer thinking he had fallen short, he had not! (MotorSport)

Credits…

MotorSport Images

Tailpiece…

(MotorSport)
(MotorSport)

Finito…

Lake Como view from the Mandello del Lario ferry terminal (M Bisset)

My recent European Safari included a trip to the Moto Guzzi Museum, a marque about which I knew very little. This piece is not an exhaustive history of the century old company but rather a skim across the top of the waves of its long, fascinating competition and corporate past.

The Italian paradise of Lake Como has been a sought after holiday location since Roman times.

It seems the most unlikely place for motorcycle manufacture. But there, below the rugged Larian Triangle Mountains near the shores of the deep, glacial lake in Mandello del Lario, Moto Guzzi commenced operations in 1921.

A century later the company still operates from Via Emanuele Vittorio Parodi. These days it’s a subsidiary of Piaggio rather than the Societa Anonima (a type of limited company the Italian Government replaced by Societa per azioni – S.p.a in 1942) Moto Guzzi shipowners Giorgio and Emanuele Parodi, Giorgio’s cousin Angelo, Gaetano Belviglieri, another Parodi family member, and Carlo Guzzi incorporated in Genoa on March 15, 1921.

(M Bisset)
(unattributed)

Giorgio Parodi (1897-1955), Giovanni Ravelli (1887-1918) and Carlo Guzzi (1889-1964) concepted the business while serving together in the Corpo Aeronautico Militaire (Italian Air Corp) at the Miraglio Squadron near Venice during World War 1

Parodi, son of the wealthy Genovese ship-owner Emanuele Vittorio Parodi, and Ravelli, already a motorcycle racer, were pilots, Guzzi was their mechanic.

In essence Parodi provided the capital and ongoing management and entrepreneurial skill, Ravelli was to promote the venture, with Guzzi bringing mechanical and engineering skills. Then Ravelli died days after the war’s end in an aircraft crash at San Nicoletto naval base due to the engine failure of his Nieuport 11. He is commemorated by the eagle’s wings that form the Moto Guzzi brandmark.

Carlo Guzzi, Stanley Woods and Giorgio Parodi after the 1935 IOM Junior TT victory (Moto Guzzi)
Stanley Woods again, 1935 IOM victor in both the Senior 500 (here) and Lightweight 250 TTs (shot above) aboard Moto Guzzis (Moto Guzzi)
Statue of Carlo Guzzi in Mandello del Lario (I Gordon)

Carlo Guzzi was born into a wealthy Milanese family, they had a weekender at Mandello del Lario. Guzzi loved the area and convinced his backers to locate the business there.

He immediately set to work; his first engine design was a horizontal single that dominated the first 45 years of the company’s history in various forms.

The business’ earliest bikes were branded G.P. – Guzzi-Parodi – seventeen, all painted green were made in the first year. The machines were soon called Moto Guzzi, the Parodi’s wanted to avoid confusion about their focus on their core shipping business.

Carlo Guzzi received royalties for each motorcycle produced, initially he wasn’t a shareholder of the company which bore his name until later. In 1946 Moto Guzzi was incorporated as Moto Guzzi S.p.a. with Parodi as its chairman and Guzzi a shareholder.

The nascent marque raced their products to improve their quality and promote the brand, the first victory was taken by Gino Finzi aboard a G.P.500 at the September 1921 Targa Florio.

Further wins followed at the Circuito Del Pave, Treviso (M Cavedini), and in the Coppa Ravelli 1000km at Brescia (C Marazzani/M Cavedini) in 1922.

From early in its history the company offered generous benefits to employees to attract them to the area and retain them. These included subsidised housing, a medical centre, library, canteens and a rowing club. So good was the factory-eight that they represented Italy in the London 1948 Olympics, winning gold medals!

The first G.P (Guzzi Parodi) – note the name on the fuel tank – prototype was built in 1919 with the assistance of Giorgio Ripamonti, Guzzi’s pre-war employer. It’s very little different from the first production bikes – see next photo but one (Moto Guzzi)
Carlo Guzzi’s office is part of the museum display (M Bisset)
The first production G.P. 500 aka Moto Guzzi 500 (Moto Guzzi)

Carlo’s brother, Giuseppe ‘Naco’ Guzzi, added significant polish to the brand when he rode a GT Norge on a 6400km 1928 Arctic Circle raid to test the first motorcycle rear swingarm suspension; Guzzi is a company not lacking innovation throughout its long life.

Motorcycle travel was limited by the lack of effective (read comfortable) rear suspension. The Guzzi brothers’ solution was an elastic frame using a sheet-steel box enclosing four springs, together with a swingarm in tubes and sheet metal.

After the successful four-week Arctic test the elastic frame rear suspension was introduced on Guzzi production machines.

By 1929 the 300 square metre factory was producing over 2,500 motorcycles per year

Guido Mentasti won the 500cc class of the (first) European Motorcycle Championships in 1924, while Irish ace (29 GP wins) Stanley Woods won both Lightweight and Senior TTs on the Isle of Man in 1935.

Until the mid-1940s, the four-stroke, single-cylinder 500 engines were fitted with one overhead and one side valve. The side valve was deployed for induction and the overhead valve for the exhaust. One hairspring valve spring closed the exhaust valve. Moto Guzzi’s race team and privateer racers used bikes with varying higher performance overhead cam and multi-valve configurations.

The architect of many of these racers was Giulio Cesare Carcano, a Guzzi employee from 1936 to 1966, he was joined by another key engineer, Umberto Todero in 1939.

Post-war the company returned to racing, capturing the Italian title in 1946. Italian and European titles followed in 1947 (500cc/250cc/sidecars), and Italian, Swiss, French and European titles in 1948 (500cc/250cc) in a run of success which ended only with Moto Guzzi’s withdrawal from racing at the end of 1957.

Factory activity during the 1950s (Getty)
Moto Guzzi Galleto among the mid-1950s mass of bikes in Italy (fondazionepirelli.org)

Commercially, the period after World War 2 was as difficult in Mandello del Lario as elsewhere in post-war Europe.

Guzzi’s solution to this challenging market was the production of inexpensive, lighter cycles. The 1946 Motoleggera 65cc lightweight became popular, while the 1950 four-stroke 175cc Galletto scooter was also a hit.

While modest machines by the standards of their racers, the bikes continued Guzzi’s commitment to innovation and quality. The step-through Galletto initially had a manual, foot-operated three-speed (160cc) configuration then later a four-speed (175cc) set-up. The engine grew to 192cc in 1954 with an electric starter added in 1961.

But competition was very tough, their fellow Italian manufacturers didn’t tolerate incursion by the Mandello del Lario boys into the scooter market as motorcycle sales fell.

Guzzi’s first large-wheeled scooter wasn’t a direct competitor to Piaggio (Vespa) and Lambretta, but Guzzi’s prototype small-wheeled scooter was. Lambretta retaliated with a prototype small V-twin motorcycle. The Mexican stand-off was resolved by Guzzi never producing a small-wheeled scooter and Lambretta never making the motorcycle…

Moto Guzzi wind tunnel in recent years (S Piotin)
A duckbill-fairing being tested in the tunnel here, and raced by Enrico Lorenzetti in 1953 below (Moto Guzzi)
In 1953 Lorenzetti was fourth and second in the World 250/350cc Championships (Moto Guzzi)

The commercial challenges were great, by the early 1950s Mandello del Lario’s largest employer had 1,500 employees on a factory site then greater than 24,000 square metres in size, it was a lot of mouths to feed.

Despite these difficulties, or more likely because of them, Guzzi built the world’s first motorcycle wind tunnel in 1950.

There, La Galleria del Vento tested prototypes in full size, allowing riders to assess conditions and optimise seat and body positions at racing speeds. It was a huge competitive advantage for race and production bikes alike.

In prototyping, the airstream around the motorcycle could be assessed allowing development of an envelope of still air around the rider, the reduction of frontal area, optimisation of air penetration and maximisation of fuel economy.

Naco Guzzi’s wind tunnel design was of the open-circuit Eiffel-type comprising three sections. Air is drawn into the Air Duct, with an aperture of 8.2 metres, airspeed increases as it is passed through smaller and smaller diameters reaching maximum wind speed in the Test Chamber with a diameter of 2.6 m, and finally is exhausted through the Outlet/Discharge duct containing the fan mechanism – a three-bladed variable speed propeller driven by a 310hp electric motor.

Dual Moto Guzzi mounted British World Champion (350cc 1953/4) Fergus Anderson’s account of the operation of the facility’s operation published in the May 1951 issue of The Motor Cycle explains in wonderful detail exactly how the wind tunnel was used to optimise the aerodynamics of Guzzi’s products in the Etcetera section below.

Duilio Agostini, Ken Kavanagh and Dickie Dale with a new 1955 Moto Guzzi 350 outside the wind tunnel (R Zehringer)
Ken Kavanagh, Junior TT IOM 1954, DNF misfire on lap 3 having run up-front with teammate Fergus Anderson who also retired (TT Race Pics)
Moto Guzzi 350 Monoalbero 1955. Four-valve DOHC single (M Bisset)

The competitiveness of their products enhanced, in the 1950s, Moto Guzzi, together with Gilera and Mondial led the Grand Prix world. Giulio Carcano’s durable, light 250cc and 350cc bikes dominated the middleweight classes, the factory won five consecutive 350cc World Championships from 1953-1957.

Two Australians raced for Moto Guzzi, Melburnians Ken Kavanagh from 1953-1956, and Keith Campbell in 1957.

Kavanagh raced in Europe from 1951 and graduated to Guzzi in 1953, winning three championship 350 GPs and one 500 GP. His 1952 Ulster GP 350 win was the first road-racing championship win by an Australian rider. His best championship result was fourth in the 1954 500cc title chase.

He raced a privately entered Maserati 250F in F1 races amongst his bike commitments in 1958-59 and lived in Bergamo, to which he shifted when racing for Guzzi, and lived for the rest of his long life (12/12/1923-26/11/2019)

Moto Guzzi 500 GP Otto cilindri V8 (M Bisset)
Otto Cilindri drawing (Moto Guzzi)
Moto Guzzi 500 V8 fitted with the dustbin fairing it usually raced (rideapart.com)

Giulio Carcano sought a 1955 knock-out 500cc blow with a V8 engined bike conceived together with Enrico Cantoni, Umberto Todero, Ken Kavanagh and Fergus Anderson just after the 1954 Monza Grand Prix.

The two-valve, water-cooled engine drawn by Carcano had a bore and stroke of 44.0 mm × 40.5 mm (1.73 in × 1.59 in), a 350cc version was developed as well but was unraced. Power was circa 80 bhp at 12,000 rpm, about 10-15bhp more than the MV Agusta and Gilera fours.

The bike and its engine were (and still are) extraordinary. Its top speed of 172 mph was reached thirty years before the speed was consistently achieved again in GP racing. But the Otto Cilindri was difficult to ride, complex, and expensive to build and maintain.

The machines suffered broken cranks, overheating and seizing – great dangers to those brave enough to race them. By 1957 there were two bikes available but the riders were unwilling to race them without further development so it was withdrawn.

Keith Campbell aboard the Guzzi V8 during 1957. Out of a ride after the withdrawal of Moto Guzzi from racing at the end of the year, he died racing a Manx Norton in the non-championship 500cc Cadours GP, near Toulouse, France in July 1958 (Moto Guzzi)
Carcano’s 500cc V8 masterpiece (M Bisset)

Keith Campbell commenced racing in Europe in 1950 aged 18. He provided the last GP racing hurrah for Moto Guzzi when he won three of the five 350cc championship rounds – Assen, Spa and Ulster – to win the ’57 title.

Moto Guzzi, Gilera and Mondial then withdrew from racing at the end of the year citing rising costs and declining sales. Its competition CV included 3,329 race wins, eight World Riders Championships, six Constructors Championships and 11 Isle of Man TT victories.

By 1964 the company was in deep financial strife, the Japanese onslaught of the global motorcycle market was in full swing – the annual output of Kawasaki, the smallest of the Japanese Big-Four was greater than all of the Italian manufacturers combined – as generational change within the company was underway.

Emanuele Parodi and his son Giorgio had died and Carlo Guzzi was in retirement. Direction of the enterprise passed to Enrico Parodi, Giorgio’s brother. Carlo Guzzi died on November 3, 1964, in Mandello.

In February 1967, SEIMM (Società Esercizio Industrie Moto Meccaniche), a state-controlled receiver, assumed its debts and took over ownership of Moto Guzzi.

It wasn’t the first time this enlightened form of Italian insolvency laws saved an Italian icon, Alfa Romeo springs readily to mind; both companies were critical within their communities and as global Italian ambassadors, they were simply too big and important to fail.

SEIMM shifted the company’s focus to lightweight mopeds including the Dingo and Trotter, and the 125cc Stornello motorcycle.

It was also in this period that Guzzi developed the 90-degree V-twin engine, designed by Giulio Carcano, who left Guzzi shortly after the new regime took control. His engine, somewhat of a parting gift, became iconic of the make. Of all its engines none symbolises Moto Guzzi more than the air-cooled 90° V-Twin with its longitudinal crankshaft and transverse heads projecting prominently into the breeze either side of their handsome bikes.

The air-cooled, pushrod V-twin began life at 700cc and 45bhp and was designed to win an Italian government contract for a new police bike. The sturdy shaft-drive machine won, giving Moto Guzzi valuable ongoing, reliable cashflow.

The ‘67 Moto Guzzi V7 with the original Carcano engine has been continuously developed into the 1,200cc, 80bhp versions. 

Lino Tonti redesigned the motor for the 1971 Moto Guzzi V7 Sport, this engine is the basis of the 750cc, 1,100cc and 1,200cc Guzzi motors. In 1971 Moto Guzzi sold 46,487 machines, an all-time high.

These Denver coppers look happy with their new mounts in July 1970. The order of 12 machines was a nice earner for Guzzi who sold a lotta police bikes…
The Polizia Stradale out on their Guzzi 500s in some force on the occasion of the 102nd anniversary of the formation of their force; in the Parco di Milano 1954 (Moto Guzzi)
Moto Guzzis have continued to contest production type events down the decades, here at the Le Mans 24-Hour in 1972 (unattributed)

Alessandro De Tomaso’s De Tomaso Industries Inc. purchased SEIMM and with it Moto Guzzi, Benelli and Maserati in 1973. Moto Guzzi returned to profitability despite only limited investment of funds in the company.

In November 1975 Guzzi released the 850 Le Mans at the Milan Show, the successful bike spun off four models from the Mark II to the 1990s Le Mans 1000 or Mark V.  

In 1979, a small-block version of the air-cooled V-twin designed by engineer Lino Tonti – who joined the company in 1967 to replace Carcano – was introduced as the V35.

Radical when introduced, the design featured horizontally split crankcases and Heron heads which allowed more efficient mass production and cut the weight of the contemporary 850 T3 (249kg) to the (175 kg) of the V35. The power of the original V35 at 35bhp was competitive with engines of comparable displacement, but later, versions (V50, V65, V75) were outclassed by competitor’s water-cooled engines. The Breva and Nevada featured a descendant of Tonti’s V35 engine, the 750cc V-twin, rated at 48bhp.

The V-twin’s power was increased in the mid-1980s when four-valve versions of the small block series were made. The 650cc and the 750cc engines produced 60bhp and 65bhp respectively, these engines ceased production in the late 1980s.

#1 is a 1979 V7 750 record breaker, #43 a 1977 Bol D’or machine (M Bisset)
Machine at right is a 2010 V12LM on display in Tokyo (Getty)
Circa 1985 Le Mans 1000 (Moto Guzzi)

In 1988 Benelli and SEIMM merged to create Guzzi Benelli Moto (G.B.M. S.p.A).

By 1999, the lakeside complex included one, two, and three-story buildings of over 54,000 square metres. Between 1988-2000 the company built 3,300 and 6,275 (1999) machines a year.

Aprilia S.p.a acquired Moto Guzzi S.p.A. on April 14, 2000 for US$65 million. Their plans included Guzzi’s ongoing Mandello del Lario presence while sharing Aprilia’s technology, R&D capabilities and Balance Sheet.

Then Aprilia got into financial trouble due to troubled diversifications and new Italian laws requiring helmets, in addition, higher insurance premiums for young riders softened demand and profits. Cost cutting plans to move the operation to Monza were scuttled after mass protests from the Mandello del Lario workers, the local community and Guzzisti. Aprilia completed significant renovations to the wonderful Mandello Moto Guzzi factory costing US$45 million in 2004.

The production line closed for a short while in March 2004 until Piaggio & C S.p.a acquired Aprilia in December 30 2004. As part of Immsi S.p.A. Investments Moto Guzzi had/has access to capital which allowed the release of new bikes in quick succession including the retro-themed 2008 V7 Classic.

The current range includes the 850cc V7 Stone E5 and V7 Special E5 roadsters, the on/off road V85 TT E5 and special Guardia D’Onore Edition and V85 TT Adventure, and Travel E5 and retro V9 Bobber E5 and range topping V100 Mandello.

A century after Guzzi, Parodi and Ravelli made their plans the marque survives and thrives, Moto Guzzi currently employ 250 to 300 employees making over 10,000 bikes a year.

Moto Guzzi V7 Stone release at Lecco, Lake Como in March 2012. This bike was an evolution of the 2007 V7, based on the 1967 original (Getty)
The winningest of Moto Guzzi riders (47), Omobono Tenni outside the works, post-war at a guess. He died during practice for the 1948 Swiss GP at Bremgarten. Raced for Maserati in 1936-37 (Moto Guzzi)
This undated panorama of the Moto Guzzi facility shows the proximity of the factory and lake (Moto Guzzi)
Omobono Tenni display. These 1933-1951 Guzzi Bicilindrica 120-degree, circa 56bhp 500 V-twins won 64 GPs from ’33 to the mid-1950s and took the Italian Championship seven times (M Bisset)

Postscript…

A visit to Guzzi’s Mandello site is a must for any car or ‘bike buff, even a fringe bike person like me. So too is a visit to Lake Como. The middle-lake towns of Varenna and Menaggio are hard to beat as places to stay in their own right, and in terms of their ease of access to other parts of the lake by ferry or train.

Via Emanuele Vittorio Parodi remains home to the company’s headquarters, production facility, wind tunnel, library and the museum. The place oozes patina that can only be provided by age.

It has displays from the company’s history, over 80 ‘bikes, engines and prototypes. Book online though, there are strict limits on the number of punters in the two-storey building at a time to ensure you enjoy it, rocking up in the warmer months is risky without a ticket.

Etcetera…

(The Motor Cycle)
(The Motor Cycle)
(The Motor Cycle)
(The Motor Cycle)
(Moto Guzzi)

Italian Air Corps photographs of Giorgio Parodi and Giovanni Ravelli, below.

For more on the amazing life of the multi-facetted Parodi; aviation, manufacturing, shipping, sport, philanthropy and a whole lot more, see here; Home (2) (giorgioparodi.it)

(Moto Guzzi)
(unattributed)

Works racer Enrico Lorenzetti rides one of the first 1921 G.P. 500s outside the EICMA (Milan Motorcycle Show), Mechanics Pavilion, Milan in 1952. This machine was restored in 1994 and forms part of Guzzi’s museum collection.

Lorenzetti raced a Guzzi Albatross 250 and Condor 500 pre-war. He won the 250cc World Championship in 1952, was third in 1956, and second in the 350cc 1953 title chase in a pro-career with Moto Guzzi from 1949-1957.

(AMCN)

Keith Campbell aboard a Guzzi 500 V8 at Assen during the 1957 Dutch GP weekend. These machines were raced with Dolphin fairings rather than the more familiar Dustbins on three occasions. The machine first raced at Imola in late March 1956.

(M Bisset)

Rear of the bike – which is surprisingly compact – with its battery of exhausts. Below is a cutaway drawing published in the Motor Cycling April 1956 issue. Jack Crawley is the artist; the top-inset shows the gear selector mechanism, the bottom one shows details of the plain main-bearing construction.

(Motor Cycling)
Works Moto Guzzi pilots Bill Lomas and Keith Campbell in November 1957 (S Scholes Collection)
Dickie Dale on the 350 leads 500 Moto Guzzi mounted teammate Bill Lomas at Bandiana Army Base near Albury-Wodonga (oldbikemag.com.au)

Moto Guzzi energetically sought export markets including Australia, but had been unsuccessful despite Fergus Anderson’s 1949 Tour.

Off the back of Geoff Duke’s Gilera Down Under races in 1954-55; Geoff Duke, Gilera 500/4, Australia 1954… | primotipo… George Lynn, the tour promoter, organised Englishmen Bill Lomas (350cc World Champ on Guzzis in 1955-56) and Dickie Dale to bring their factory 350cc and 500cc singles out over the summer of 1955-56.

They rode with much success at meetings in Perth, Adelaide, Bandiana, Mount Druitt and Fishermans Bend. Lomas flew to Bathurst to inspect Mount Panorama at the end of his trip, but, sadly the green Guzzis were already crated and on their way to the Imola European season opener.

The photograph is of 1954 350cc World Champ, Fergus Anderson (B King Collection)

Moto Guzzi’s Libro D’Oro (golden book) 1954 is what appears to be an annual ‘corporate brag book’.

Bob King’s edition is beautifully designed, bound and printed for its day. The 74 pages include many on the company’s sporting success – every single race win and record from 1921 to the end of 1954 are listed – with plenty of photographs of the ’54 season, a piece on the wind tunnel and other recent factory innovations and eight pages of what today would be termed the Corporate Social Responsibility report. It’s pretty amazing for its day.

(B King Collection)
(B King Collection)

There is no financial information of any sort. It’s a happy-clappy type of document aimed at staff, key suppliers and other interested parties rather than a corporate document with all of the (necessary) formality and (unnecessary) boredom that implies.

(B King Collection)

The two buildings shown on the left of the above page are Moto Guzzi’s hydroelectric plants built at Zerbo and Pioverna (actually Valsassina) post-war.

Zerbo is 120km, and Valsassina 20km away from Mandello del Lario. This type of capex gives one a sense of scale of Moto Guzzi and its financial and political clout. In post-war Italy the necessary power must have been costly to make this kind of otherwise non-core investment. Perhaps Marshall Plan dollars was involved? Time to buy a Moto Guzzi book methinks!…

(B King Collection)

Reference Credits…

‘Moto Guzzi: Libro D’Oro 1954’ from the Bob King Collection, Motoguzzi.com, Wikipedia, Chris Stops, The Motor Cycle, Sergio Piotin, Piaggio S.p.a, Pirelli Foundation, Moto Guzzi Archive, Raymond Zehringer, TT Race Pics, AMCN-Australian Motor Cycle News, Iain Gordon, rideapart.com, giorgioparadi.it, oldbikemag.com.au, Moto Ciclismo via Stephen Scholes

Tailpieces…

(Moto Guzzi)

All set for the off in the 1953 Milan-Taranto race – who are these fellas? A record 426 bikes started this race on ‘the classical course’; Milan-Bologna-Firenze-Roma-Napoli-Bari-Brindisi-Lecce-Taranto. Duilio Agostini won the 1300km race on a Moto Guzzi Dondolino 500 in 11 hours 51.10 seconds at an average speed of 109.7km/h. I’m not sure how our friends on the outfit fared.

Agostini (no relation to Giacomo) was a local favourite, he was born in Mandello del Lario and met Guzzi executives and race riders working at his parents hotel overlooking Lake Como (now the Giardinetto, coincidently we had a fabulous degustation lunch at this place before our museum tour – highly recommended).

Duilio Agostini about to jump aboard his Moto Guzzi Dondolino 500 during his victorious ’53 Milano-Taranto ride (unattributed)
Looking across Lake Como to Oliveto Lario from the Giardinetto Restaurant/Hotel in Mandello del Lario once owned by Agostini’s family. Do make the effort if you are in the ‘hood, it was outstanding tucker (M Bisset)

He joined the factory post-war and soon graduated through the Client Service section, road-bike tester, then a test role of the race bikes in the Experimental Department. This led to racing a Guzzi Condor 500 (the company’s first successful customer racer first built in 1938 and revamped as the Dondolino – rocking chair – in 1946) either loaned to him or won in a competition.

The Milano-Taranto victory on a Dondolino sealed a place in the factory race-squad; he was regarded as a factory employee rather than a full works-rider by some. Despite often having second string machines Agostini won an Italian 250cc title beating works rider Lorenzetti, and the 1956 French 350cc GP.

While contesting the 1955 Belgian Grand Prix he met an Australian, Margaret Ward. They soon married, Duilio retired from racing after the factory withdrew to establish what became a major service and sales facility in Mandello del Lario ably assisted by daughters Alis and Lindy. He died in 2008.

Finito…

(S Dalton Collection)

Bluebird Proteus CN7 and its little brother, Elfin Catalina Ford chassis #6313 during the 1963 unsuccessful attempt to set the Land Speed Record at Lake Eyre, South Australia…

The driver of the Elfin Catalina is Ted Townsend, a Dunlop tyre fitter. The car was built by Garrie Cooper and his artisans at Edwardstown, an Adelaide suburb for Dunlop Tyres to use on the Lake Eyre salt to assist in determining certain characteristics of the tyres fitted to Donald Campbell’s Bluebird during 1963/4.

The Elfin Catalina’s normal use was in Formula Junior or 1.5-litre road racing events. In LSR test application it was fitted with miniature Bluebird tyres and driven over the salt to determine factors such as the coefficient of friction and adhesion using a Tapley meter.

“The Tapley Brake Test Meter is a scientific instrument of very high accuracy, still used today. It consists of a finely balanced pendulum free to respond to any changes in speed or angle, working through a quadrant gear train to rotate a needle round a dial. The vehicle is then driven along a level road at about 20 miles per hour, and the brakes fully applied. When the vehicle has stopped the brake efficiency reading can be taken from the figure shown by the recording needle on the inner brake scale, whilst stopping distance readings are taken from the outer scale figures.”

It’s generally thought the Elfin was running a (relatively) normal pushrod 1500cc Cortina engine with a Cosworth A3 cam and Weber DCOE carburettors for the Bluebird support runs.

And yes, the number of Elfin’s chassis was 6313. Was Donald Campbell aware of this? Certainly that could explain to the deeply superstitious man how on earth torrential rain came to this vast, dry place where rain had not fallen in the previous 20 years.

Dunlop’s Ted Townsend aboard the company Elfin Catalina. Car fitted with 13 inch versions of the 52 inch Bluebird wheels and tyres. Photo at Muloorina Station perhaps (Dunlop)
(S Dalton Collection)

Australian motoring/racing journalist, racer and rally driver Evan Green project managed the successful July 1964 record attempt on behalf of Oz oil company Ampol, who were by then Bluebird’s major sponsor. He wrote a stunning account of his experience that winter on the Lake Eyre salt which was first published in Wheels April 1981 issue.

His account of Andrew Mustard and his teams contribution to the project is interesting and ultimately controversial from Campbell’s perspective.

Andrew was Dunlop’s representative during the 1963 Lake Eyre campaign, he returned in 1964 as a contractor with the very large responsibility for the tyre preparation and maintenance of the circa 22 km long salt track.

Green describes the incredibly harsh conditions under which the team worked “…Mustard…spent weeks with his men on the salt, working in the sort of reflected heat that few people could imagine let alone tolerate…Men frozen at dawn were burned black at midday. Lips were cracked and refused to heal. Faces set in leathery masks, creased by the wrinkles of perpetual squints.”

Evan Green picks up the challenges the track team faced, “The maddest thing is what’s being done to the track,” said Lofty Taylor, the gangling leader of the refuelling team. Lofty worked for Ampol, and I’d known him since the Ampol Trial days. l had enormous respect for his opinion. He was practical, versatile, prepared to move mountains if asked and yet able to detect the faintest whiff of cant at long distance.

He admitted he knew nothing about grading salt but pointed out that neither did anyone else, for the science of building record tracks on salt lakes was in its infancy. And he reckoned he knew as much about it as anyone else.

“They’ve been cutting salt off the top all the time,” he said. “All that grading and cutting is weakening it, and bringing moisture to the top.”

“What would you do, Lofty?” “Leave it alone for a while. Let the crust heal and harden.”

The track squad was ruffled. The problem, they said, was due to the constant interruptions to their work. They couldn’t get the surface right with the car (Bluebird) running every other day and cutting grooves in the salt. So runs were suspended. Andrew Mustard’s team would pursue their theories and have a clear week to try to bring the track up to record standard. Donald took some of the crew to Adelaide, for a few days break and all seemed calm. In fact, a major storm was brewing.

Massive 52 inch wheels and Dunlop tyres, the weight was huge, note the neat hydraulic lift to allow their fitment (unattributed)
(F Radman Collection)
Andrew Mustard aboard the Elfin on the salt- note Catalina’s rear drum brakes (Catalina Park)

“Mustard had brought an Elfin racing car to the lake. It was fitted with tyres that had scaled-down versions of the tread being used on Bluebird. He drove it to test such things as tread temperature and the coefficient of friction of the salt surface at different times of the day.

He usually drove the little single-seater down the strip before Campbell made a test run. On one occasion, he was driving the Elfin up the strip when Campbell was driving the Bluebird down the strip and the world’s highest speed head-on collision was avoided by a whisker, with a sheepish Mustard – spotting the rooster tail of white salt spray bearing down on him – spinning off the track.”

“One day during the lull, Ken Norris (Bluebird’s designer) and I went to the lake to see how the track work was progressing. To our astonishment, we found the CAMS (Confederation of Australian Motor Sport) timekeepers and stewards assembled at their record posts,” wrote Green.

“Andrew’s going for his records,” one of them said, and, seeing our bewilderment, gave us that ‘don’t tell me you don’t know about it look’. It seemed there had been an application made for attempts on various Australian class records for categories suiting the Elfin. Neither Ken nor I knew anything of it. Nor, it seemed, did Campbell, and when he returned that night there was an eruption. The track squad was sacked and Lofty Taylor given the job of preparing the strip.”

“What do you suggest?” I asked Lofty. “We should all go away for a couple of weeks and let the salt alone.”

Enjoy Greens full story of this remarkable endeavour of human achievement, via the link at the end of the article, but lets come back to Mustard and the Elfin, he wasn’t finished with it yet!

When the 1964 Bluebird record attempts were completed, Mustard, of North Brighton in Adelaide bought the Elfin from Dunlop.

It was in poor condition as a result of its work on the Lake Eyre salt, with the magnesium based uprights quite corroded. It was repaired over the end of 1963-64 and a single Norman supercharger fitted.

The car was then raced at Mallala race and for 1500cc record attempts in 1964 using the access road alongside the main hangars at Edinburgh Airfield (Weapons Research Establishment) at Salisbury, South Australia. The northern gates of the airfield were opened by the Australian Federal Police to give extra stopping distance. By then the specifications of the Norman supercharged Elfin included;

• a single air-cooled Norman supercharger driven by v-belts developing around 14psi. The v-belts were short lived, burning out in around thirty seconds,

• four exhaust stubs, with the middle two siamesed,

• twin Amal carburettors,

• a heavily modified head by Alexander Rowe (a Speedway legend and co-founder of the Ramsay-Rowe Special midget) running around 5:1 compression and a solid copper head gasket/decompression plate. The head had been worked within an inch of it’s life and shone like a mirror. The head gasket on the other hand was a weak spot, lasting only twenty seconds before failing. As runs had to be performed back-to-back within an hour, the team became very good at removing the head, annealing the copper gasket with an oxy torch and buttoning it all up again inside thirty minutes.

The Norman supercharged Elfin, operated by Mustard and Michael McInerney set the following Australian national records during it’s Salisbury runs on October 11, 1964:

• the flying start kilometre record (16.21s, 138mph),

• the flying start mile record (26.32s, 137mph), and

• the standing start mile record (34.03s, 106mph).

This was not 6313’s only association with Norman superchargers. The Elfin was later modified to have:

• dual air-cooled Norman superchargers (identical to the single Norman used earlier), mounted over the gearbox. The superchargers were run in parallel, with a chain drive. The chain drive was driven by a sprocket on the crank, running up to a slave shaft that ran across to the back of the gearbox to drive the first supercharger, then down to drive the second. The boost pressure in this configuration had risen to 29psi,

• two 2″ SU carburettors (with four fuel bowls) jetted for methanol by Peter Dodd (another Australian Speedway legend and owner of Auto Carburettor Services),

• a straight cut first gear in a VW gearbox. The clutch struggled to keep up with the torque being put out by the Norman blown Elfin, and was replaced with a 9” grinding disk, splined in the centre and fitted with brass buttons, it was either all in, or all out!

In twin Norman supercharged guise the racer was driven by McInerney to pursue the standing ¼ mile, standing 400m and flying kilometre records in October 1965. Sadly, the twin-Norman blown Elfin no longer holds those records, as the ¼ mile and flying kilometre (together with a few more records) were set at this time by Alex Smith in a Valano Special.

The day after the 1965 speed record trials (Labour Day October 1965), McInerney raced the twin-Norman supercharged Elfin at Mallala in Formule Libre as there was insufficient time to revert the engine back to Formula II specifications. The photo above shows McInerney at Mallala.

The car was used for training South Australian Police Force driving instructors in advanced handling techniques, and was regularly used at Mallala and other venues (closed meetings for the Austin 7 club, etc).

It was sold by Mustard to racer/rally driver Dean Rainsford in 1966, by then without the Norman supercharger it ran a mildly tuned Cortina engine. In the ensuing 26 years it passed through nine more owners before Rainsford re-acquired it in 1993. After many years of fossicking he found the original 1965 Mustard/McInerney supercharged engine but sadly without it’s Norman supercharger.

The Elfin is retained by Rainsford and is often on display in his Adelaide office. The car made a rare public appearance at Melbourne’s 2014 Motorclassica to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of Campbell’s land and water speed records set in Australia. The car was amongst other Campbell memorabilia.

Evan Green: ‘How Donald Campbell Broke The World LSR on Lake Eyre’…

https://www.whichcar.com.au/features/classic-wheels/classic-wheels-donald-campbell-and-his-bluebird-car-world-speed-record

Etcetera…

Credits…

Article by Evan Green originally published in Wheels magazine April 1981, Andrew Mustard thread on The Nostalgia Forum particularly the contributions of Stephen Dalton, Fred Radman, Theotherharv and Mark Dibben. Stephen Dalton, Fred Radman and Catalina Park Photo Collections, Dunlop

Tailpiece: Elfin Catalina Ford ‘6313’, Motorclassica 2014…

(Pinterest)

Finito…

sebring e type

Sebring 1970, marvellous composition by Bill Warner

(more…)

Gurney in Lotus 29-R1 Ford at Indy in March 1963. Here with symmetrical suspension, raced with offset

A bit like Chris Amon, there is no such thing as too much Dan Gurney.

I’ve been researching an article on Lotus’ 1963 Indy campaign and have discovered a few Dan shots too good to waste.

Gurney’s mind was blown, just like everybody elses, when the Lotus 25 Climax was rolled out of the Team Lotus transporter at Zandvoort in 1962. That monocoque design was an Indy winner; as a Californian he was keen to drink the Indy Winners Milk.

He said as much to Colin Chapman and flicked the Lotus supremo a free air ticket to watch him contest the ’62 event in a Mickey Thompson Spl; John Crosthwaite’s mid-engined, spaceframe powered by a Buick stock-block V8. Dan ran in the top ten until the transaxle was hors ‘d combat. Importantly ole-chunky was on the hook.

I promise your slice of the pie will be no less than that Daniel! Colin Chapman and Dan Gurney at Indy in 1963
Lotus 29 Ford’s first test at Indy in March 1963. Gurney aboard chassis R1, which is fitted with symmetrical suspension, wobbly-web wheels rather than the Dunlops it raced with and stack-exhausts rather than the megaphones which followed (unattributed)

Gurney was a Ford man, his teenage hot-rod exploits were all Flattie-Ford powered. He raced a Holman Moody Ford Fairlane NASCAR at Riverside in early ’62 and used a couple of Ford heavies he met that weekend to set up a meeting between he, Chapman and the-right Ford execs at Dearborn in July.

By March 1963 the Lotus 29 – call it a fat-25 – powered by a 350-375bhp, 255cid all aluminium pushrod variant of the 260 Windsor Falcon/Fairlane V8 was being tested for the first time by Jim Clark at Snetterton.

At Indy Clark ran second to Parnelli Jones’ Watson Offy Roadster for the last 20 or 30 laps. Jones was dropping oil, but was not black-flagged as other cars dropping lubricant throughout the race had been.

The Indy Establishment, led by Chief Steward Harlan Fengler – who had the black flag power – shafted Lotus, Ford, Chapman, Clark and Gurney. Revenge was sweet in 1965 when Lotus Fords occupied the front row driven by Gurney, Clark and AJ Foyt – and Clark won.

Gurney was seventh in 1963, his engine wore a cam-lobe, so he wasn’t able to press hard in the same manner as Clark. Check out my Auto Action feature on the 1963 race here; Auto Action #1823 by Auto Action – Buy through Issuu

Clark and Gurney, in his Yamaha sponsored 29, Indy 1963 (unattributed)
Gurney during the Milwaukee 200 in 1963 (unattributed)

Keen to reinforce the point about their speed, Clark and Gurney raced in the Milwaukee 200 three weeks after Indy, Clark won with Gurney third.

In 1964 the same duo raced the evolved Lotus 34, the most critical mechanical change of which was use of Ford’s Quad Cam Indy V8; this fuel injected, four-cam, two valve V8 produced circa 400bhp.

AJ Foyt’s Watson Offy won the race – the last by a front-engined car- which is primarily remembered for the horrific seven car, lap two accident and conflagration which cost the lives of Dave MacDonald (Thompson Ford and Eddie Sachs (Halibrand Ford). Coincidently, Sach’s Watson was the last casualty of ‘Fengler’s oil slick’ the year before, when he boofed the fence on lap 181, and then copped a punch-in-the-nose the following day when he fronted Jones about his win.

Gurney’s Lotus 34 quad-cam in 1964, Chapman alongside (D Friedman)

Lotus were contracted to Dunlop in F1. Chapman used hard Firestones in ’63 and sought the performance , and no doubt, commercial advantage of softer Dunlops in ’64. One of Clark’s (from pole) tyres failed after 47 laps taking out the left-rear corner of the car. Gurney retired after 110 laps with excessive wear…FoMoCo were not amused as Clark’s failure happened on the entry to the main-straightaway (front straight) providing an exciting – and oh so public – epic-fail in front of 150,000 or so spectators.

Needless to say, Ford took control of tyre choice in 1965, an all-Ford year.

Indy front row 1965; Gurney, left and Clark in Lotus 38s and AJ Foyt on pole, Lotus 34 Ford (AAR archive)
Gurney, Lotus 38 Ford, Indy 1965 (unattributed)

AJ Foyt’s Lotus 34 Ford took pole while Clark’s Lotus 38 won, having led 189 of the 200 laps, from Jones Lotus 34 Ford, a young Mario Andretti’s (Brabham based) Hawk Ford and All Miller’s Lotus 29 Ford. Poor old Dan started from the outside of the front row but was a DNF after 38 laps with timing-gear failure in his Lotus 38.

While his Eagles won plenty of Indy 500s, Dan never did take one as a driver, a great shame!

Etcetera…

(MotorSport)

The business end of Gurney’s Lotus 29-R2 in 1963.

Gurney and Chapman pitched a 4.2-litre pushrod engine to Ford. They figured, based on Dan’s 1962 experience, that a 350 pound, 350bhp petrol fuelled Ford V8 would do the trick. As it did…

Clark’s Lotus 34 Ford in 1964.

Lotus 29 and 34 were bathtub-monocoques, the 38 was a full-monocoque. Note the offset suspension to the right, and Ford quad-cam 4.2-litre V8.

Credits…

Getty Images, David Friedman, AAR Archive

Tailpiece…

(AAR archive)

The boys fire up Dan’s Ford V8 in 1967. His beautiful, dual purpose F1/Indycar design, in Indy spec designated Eagle 67 Ford was designed by Len Terry, the same bloke who drew Chapman’s epochal Lotus 25 F1 car and 29/34/38 Indycars.

He started from Q2, led 2 of the 200 laps but was out after 160 laps with piston failure. Better would come, Bobby Unser won in an Eagle 68 Offy in 1968, and Dan was second in an Eagle 68 Gurney-Weslake-Ford.

Finito…

(C Moran Collection)

Yes, ok, I probably am a tad obsessed with Bluebird and Donald Campbell, and his very large support team’s world land speed, 403.10mph record run at Lake Eyre, South Australia on July 17, 1964.

The problem is that every now and again one of my countrymen pop up another batch of photos on social media, in this case Colin ‘Sporty’ Moran’s collection. What makes the photographs a bit different are the wheels-off suspension stuff – which are pretty rare.

Donald Campbell in the centre, any takers for the other pair? (C Moran)

I rather like rock-star F1 designer Adrian Newey’s perspective on Bluebird’s place in the ‘racing car’ pantheon published in Racecar Engineering in 2012:

“I think in terms of one of the biggest advances made, although it was not strictly speaking a racing car, was Bluebird. Arguably for its time it was the most advanced vehicle.” The Bluebird Proteus CN7 was the Ken and Lewis Norris designed car that Donald Campbell used to set a record of 403.1mph in July, 1964, the last outright land speed record car that was wheel driven.

It was a revolutionary car that featured an advanced aluminium honeycomb chassis, featured fully independent suspension and four-wheel drive. It also had a head-up display for Campbell. “It was the first car to properly recognise, and use, ground effects. The installation of the jet turbines is a nightmare, and it was constructed using a monocoque working with a lot of lightweight structures. It was built in a way that you build an aircraft, but at the time motor racing teams weren’t doing that.”

The car featured a Bristol-Siddeley Proteus 705 gas turbine engine which developed over 4,000bhp. It was a two-spool, reverse flow gas turbine engine specially modified to have a drive shaft at each end of the engine, to separate fixed ratio (David Brown made) gearboxes on each axle. It was designed to do 500mph, but surface conditions, brought about by adverse weather in 1963 and 1964, meant that its fastest recorded time was nearly 100mph short of its hypothetical capability.

(C Moran)

Look at the size of those uprights! Suspension by way of upper and lower wishbones front and rear and oleo-pneumatic struts, huge (420mm) Girling disc brakes are inboard and out of sight. Those mega Dunlop split-rim disc wheels are 52 inches (130cm) in diameter to give you a sense of size perspective.

Love the high-tech axle stands, lovely sense of backyard mechanic about them little jiggers!

(C Moran)

Another rare reveal.

The man re-loading the braking parachute (wonder what speed Campbell could pop that?) is Ken Reakes. That gorgeous, high stabilising fin was added after Campbell’s massive 360mph Daytona shunt in September 1960. He fractured his lower skull, suffered a contusion of the brain, broke an ear drum, had cuts and abrasions and most critically, his confidence was shattered big-time. The car was rebuilt by 1962, as was his mental health, a process aided by gaining his pilot’s licence.

We get a nice glimpse of the Motor Panels, Coventry, chassis honeycomb inside that inspection/access panel, note also the exhaust ducts for the Proteus gas-turbine engine. Motor Panels was a subsidiary of Sir Alfred Owen’s Rubery Owen Holdings Group, which also included the BRM F1 manufacturing facility and team.

It could only be…(C Moran)

That is a timing beam, and a blue line, so we are lined up for a practice run.

Etcetera…

(C Moran)

The utter desolation of ‘Camp Campbell’ on the vast Lake Eyre salt, 700km north of Adelaide – a most inhospitable and inaccessible place, to say the least.

(C Moran)

Likely lads at Muloorina Station, a 4000 square km sheep and cattle farm on the edge of Lake Eyre; two chaps, Colin Moran and Ken Wain, these lads are/were from the Maffra/Sale area in Gippsland, Victoria.

Campbell’s entourage of about 500 technical, support and media people were accommodated there in 1963 and 1964.

Credits…

Colin Moran

Tailpiece…

(C Moran)

Only 4064kg to push around, too easy. The nose erection is the cockpit canopy, which of course pivots to the rear.

Finito…

After World War II, interest in gas-turbine power was intense, who would be the first automotive manufacturer to harness engines which had revolutionised aviation?

I chanced upon this topic searching for information about Carlo Salamano, the pre-war Fiat Grand Prix driver and winner a while ago researching an article I published in 2019 about Fiat’s twenties GP cars, see here;

https://primotipo.com/2019/11/22/fiat-806-gp-1927/

More recently I came across this Australian ‘Wheels’ magazine cover, the spark to ignite my interest in writing about Fiat’s amazing turbine powered car came from those two sources. The difficulty of this topic for me are the technicalities of these engines for my ‘humanities’ brain, but Karl Ludvigsen has come to the rescue in a beautifully written Hemmings article titled ‘Turbine Speed with Style’. Initially I thought I would just use the magazine cover and a link to Karl’s article but in 4,000 words he has only two piccies- not enough for us. So…

I’ve truncated his article in part- and as you will see, very substantively quoted him especially in relation to the technical elements, quotation marks will ensure you can see when it’s one of motorings finest writers verbatim and what is me truncating and in some cases expanding upon his original prose. The full Hemmings piece is here; https://www.hemmings.com/blog/article/turbine-speed-with-style/

Off we go.

In March 1948 Rover announced that it was working on a gas turbine for cars making use of wartime intellectual property gained while building some of Frank Whittle’s first jet engines.

Karl Ludvigsen wrote that “The Autocar published a shrewd speculative drawing of the gas-turbine car of the future, a provocation if there ever was one. Several other gas-turbine programs dated their launches to 1948. One was that of General Motors, followed in 1949 by Chrysler. Another for whom 1948 was a decisive year was Italy’s Fiat. Proud of its great engineering heritage and eager to exploit new technologies, Fiat too would assess the turbine’s potential.”

“I was afraid that in the race for progress that had been speeded up by the new wartime technologies, we might well have been overtaken by others,” recalled the brilliant Dante Giacosa, technical director of Fiat’s automobile arm since 1945. “I remembered what had happened to piston engines in aviation, suddenly superseded by jets.” It was Giacosa’s role to protect the future of Fiat by exploiting the opportunity or discounting it as a ‘blind alley’ in automotive terms.

“Fiat weren’t starting from scratch, one subsidiary was producing the de Havilland Ghost jet engine under license, another was building large industrial gas turbines. However, there were two reasons for not troubling these experts with Fiat’s turbine-car ambitions. Giacosa determined not to involve those with some expertise as they were already fully committed with aeronautical development work, he wanted to ‘see for himself’ and he wanted to develop the technology without undue pressure from inside the huge Fiat organisation- keep his and his team’s heads down until they were good and ready.”

“Vittorio Bellicardi was chosen by Giacosa to lead the project, together with a three-man team he commenced studies of the state of the turbine art. They examined the latest in aviation-turbine design, compressors, constant-flow combustors, red-hot turbines and high-speed shafts and bearings to name a few. ‘A firm grasp of the theory of fluid dynamics was needed to cope with the unique conditions prevailing inside these engines” Ludvigsen wrote.

Dante Giacosa in the mid-sixties (unattributed)

Fiat 8001 Turbina general layout (unattributed)

Work began in September 1950 on an engine which Giacosa said “envisaged the turbine as an integral part of the automobile” rather than a stand-alone unit which was then hooked up to a car, which was the direction of some other competitors. Fiat’s project 8001 combined its power generator and its final-drive gearing into a single assembly purpose-built for car use.

Virgilio Borsattino and a colleague then commenced design of the engine whilst Giacosa considered test equipment: “We had to take measurements of the behavior of air and gases passing through the various sections of the engine, perfect the combustion chambers and the shape of the turbine blades, the choke tubes of the two-stage compressor and the turbine, the injection mechanism, regulator and so forth. We also had to make sure that the impellers turning at 30,000 rpm could stand the centrifugal strain. This meant we needed a pit inside which we could set them spinning until breaking point was reached, without danger to the observers.”

The research work promised to be noisy and expensive but Bellicardi found a solution right under their noses at the top of Fiat’s famous, fabulous five-story Lingotto factory in Turin. An isolated sixth-floor work area, ‘Traversa D’, wasn’t being used so Bellicardi struck a cheap rent deal which was billed to Giacosa’s car-development unit. Using surplus equipment discarded by other parts of the empire they updated their laboratories with all of the specialist items they needed- with no mention of exotic gas turbines.

By May 1951,  Project 8001 turbine drawings were allocated to Fiat’s workshops for fabrication, the assembly drawing of the complete unit was dated November 8, 1951. It showed a power unit unique amongst automotive turbines in terms of its integration with the final drive and differential as well as its layout, “which was not unlike some of the early post-war aviation gas turbines”.

“One of the two basic elements of most automotive gas turbines is a gas generator that has a turbine wheel or wheels that drive a compressor, which delivers air to a combustor. Hot gas from the combustor drives the turbine that keeps the compressor going. There’s plenty of gas left over to drive the other basic element, another turbine wheel called the power turbine, which drives the car. When starting up, the power turbine is at rest until it starts to turn under the impact of the hot exhaust from the gas generator. Fiat used this method, in which the relationship between gas generator and power turbine acts as an automatic transmission, in its 8001.” Karl wrote.

In general arrangement, the Fiat turbine had similarities to a Rolls-Royce aviation turboprop unit, the Dart. Exploiting its wartime work on Merlin engine superchargers, Rolls used a two-stage centrifugal compressor in its Dart. This gave a high pressure ratio, the equivalent of a piston engine’s compression ratio. Although they faced their paired impeller entries to the rear instead of forward, the Fiat engineers used a similar compressor in the 8001 to get an exceptionally high pressure ratio of 7.0:1 for maximum performance and efficiency.

Caselle Airport, Turin 23 April 1954 (Fiat)

Turbina engine- if it looks heavy it is, circa 570 pounds. Output circa 200bhp according to ‘Wheels’ in-period but not more than 150bhp used. A turbine speed of 22,000 rpm produced a road speed of 120mph (Fiat)

“While an aviation turbine like the Dart had multiple combustion chambers around its shaft, the Fiat had three at the top and sides of its central shafts. Three were, in fact, two more than most automotive turbines. Triple burners were chosen by the Fiat team in the belief that they would give higher efficiency. Angling inward toward the rear of the engine, the combustors required a long shaft from the compressor to the pair of turbine wheels that drove it. Impressively, Fiat itself made all these vital rotating parts of the 8001, including the forged-aluminum compressor wheels and the turbines, which had blades of Jessups G32 alloy copy-machined individually and attached by fir-tree joints to wheels of similar alloy.”

“At the engine’s extreme rear, just inside its circular exhaust duct, was its power turbine. This drove an output shaft that went all the way to the front of the 8001 through its hollow compressor shaft. Both coaxial shafts were made in two parts joined by splined sleeves. From there it drove a set of reduction gears that went down to a shaft that ran backward, through another pair of gears, to a spiral-drive ring and pinion and the differential. The main reduction gears were duplicated on the driven shaft to provide two subtly different overall ratios, selected by a dog clutch when the car was at rest, for experimental purposes.”

“The complete unit had a dry-sump lubrication system with two scavenge pumps and one pressure pump. Delivery from the latter was high-pressure to all the engine’s plain bearings and gear trains. A reducer cut the pressure back for delivery to the high-speed anti-friction bearings. The oil reservoir was behind the passenger seat, and an oil cooler was in the nose, fed by the upper portion of the car’s air inlet. Engine output was controlled by a variable fuel-metering valve, while starting was by a truck-type starter motor on a 24-volt system. Firing up at 5,000 rpm, the gas generator became self-sustaining at 10,000 rpm.”

Back at Lingotto’s Traversa D, Bellicardi and Freilino, the engineer charged with running the tests, subjected all the engine’s key components to trials in their various rigs in January 1953, they were able to run the complete unit. Weighing 570 pounds, it was designed to be rubber-mounted at four points of a chassis and installed only in a rear-engined car, those with a keen sense of Fiat history will recall that Fiat were on track for the launch of the 600 in 1955.

“Meanwhile, other gas-turbine efforts were surfacing throughout the world. In March 1950, Rover demonstrated the world’s first turbine-powered car, which in 1952 was driven to the first gas-turbine speed record of 152.9 mph. In 1951, French truck maker Laffly showed a chassis powered by a Turbomeca turbine, while in the same year, a 36-ton Kenworth semi-trailer rig was completing a test with Boeing turbine power. Closer to home for Fiat, at Paris in October 1952, a handsome turbine-powered sports coupe, the SOCEMA-Gregoire, was placed on show.”

Paris Car Show October 1954 (Getty)

(smcars.net)

Fiat were not alone in their exploration! In 1953 more substantial funding for the 8001 project was provided by senior management. Design work on the car itself began led by Oscar Montabone with the ongoing support of Bellicardi. The type of car was determined by the powerful engine. Whilst a low-power turbine would be in line with Fiat’s mainstream cars, the bigger the turbines the better in that that the necessary clearances between its rotating parts and static walls become proportionally smaller in relation to the size of the engine. Large clearances mean loss of efficiency. With this in mind the engineers scaled the 8001 to deliver a nominal 200bhp – about the same as Ferrari’s contemporary 4.1-litre Type 342 America! And so an exciting sportscar it was to be.

“Fiat was developing its V8-engined 8V sportscar, whose new independent suspension- a parallel-wishbone design with a single upper link actuating a coil spring/damper inside an oil-filled housing was lifted for use in each corner of the 8001 chassis. Roll bars were used at front and rear, drum brakes were Fiat ‘FB’ pattern with beautiful Borrani wire wheels wearing Pirelli’s 6.00 x 16 Stelvio Corsa tires.”

“Giacosa’s chassis was a multi-tubular steel structure reminiscent of his Cisitalia sports cars of the 1940s. Of semi-space-frame design with truss-braced side members, two 13-gallon tanks were attached to carry the car’s kerosene. The turbine was in the rear, while up front three six-volt batteries were carried on each side, adding weight which increased the car’s polar moment of inertia and therefore its stability. The lower section of the nose inlet delivered air to a central tunnel that fed it to the hungry compressor. The car’s wheelbase ‘was no more than the classic 2,400mm, 94.5 inches, the same as Fiat’s front-engined 8V sports car. The track was also similar to the 8V’s at 51.0 inches.”

Fiat 8V (Fiat)

The lucky man chosen to style the 8001 was Fabio Luigi Rapi. As much an engineer as stylist, Rapi had been vice director to Giacosa since 1949 and in 1952 took over responsibility for special coachwork. His CV included experience of powerful rear-engined cars with Isotta Fraschini, for whom he styled the marvellous 8C Monterosa. Its rear mounted 3.4-litre V8 gave 120bhp and bettered 100mph.

The sports version of Isotta’s Monterosa used substantial stabilising fins, which Rapi used in his 8001 two-seater coupe. It had chrome trim around its nose and along its flanks, a deeply curved windscreen and had side windows fixed in rear-hinged doors that curved into the roof to aid access and egress.

“Although the 8001’s rear wheels were designed to be enclosed, the car was styled to look good with its pants removed. Its high, squared fins were functional for stability enhancement at the speeds of which it would be capable. That its drag would be low was suggested by tests of a one-fifth-size model in the Turin Polytechnic’s tunnel that showed a drag coefficient of only Cd=0.14. A fitting touch was a chrome-ringed central exhaust for the turbine, emblematic of the jet age. Completing the ensemble was a red-on-white paint scheme as extroverted as the automobile itself. Its overall dimensions were 172.0 inches in length, 63.4 inches wide and 49.4 inches in height. For a car considered to be purely experimental, no need was envisaged for headlamps or running lamps.”

The cars test nature was expressed in its interior which had only the basics. The driver had two pedals, one to go and one to stop but faced a bank of instruments, many of which were there for technical observers. There were two tachometers, one for the gas generator and the other for the power turbine. Temperature readings were given for oil, bearings and combustion gases, while pressures were shown for the fuel and for the engine’s two lubrication circuits.

(smcars.net)

Carlo Salamano eases himself into the Turbina cockpit at Caselle Airport 23 April 1954

Work on the 8001 proceeded over the 1953-54 winter. By the end of February, the chassis was completed and handed to the in-house carrozzeria for body fabrication. On March 15th, its final engine was installed, and on April 10th, the car was considered completed. On the 14th, it was wheeled out of Traversa D onto the Lingotto rooftop test track. Settling himself behind its Nardi wheel was none other than pre-war Fiat Grand Prix winner Carlo Salamano, the by then veteran tester whom Giacosa described as “the conscience of Fiat.”

“That first test on April 14th had its humorous aspect. Salamano joked that since he had no idea how the car would react when he pressed the throttle (this being a completely new form of motive power), he should wear a parachute while testing it on a track 100 feet up in the air! In any event, the test went smoothly; the car went through its 15-second starting sequence flawlessly and, accompanied by the doughty Freilino, Salamano took it for baptismal laps of Lingotto’s rooftop track.”

“Turin’s automobile show opened on April 21, the turbine car had the potential to be a huge sensation for Fiat. It was only a rumor when the Italian president opened the show at 10:00 a.m. that Wednesday, but on Thursday evening, the closely held secret was revealed by Bono and Giacosa in talks at a meeting of Turin’s Rotary Club. A more appropriate venue could hardly be imagined.”

“By Friday the 23rd, the freak April snows had melted away, and Turin’s Caselle Airport was bathed in sun as Fiat executives and journalists convened to see the 8001 in the flesh and in action. Two days earlier, Salamano had tested it there and posed for press photos while finding all in order. Nevertheless, the turbine’s settings were conservative, power being held to some 150hp and power-turbine revs to 22,000, equivalent to 120 mph. The gas generator was running to 27,000 rpm, 10 percent less than its planned maximum.”

Fiat’s unveiling of its Turbina was impeccable in its timing in that It was the first public demonstration of a turbine-powered car in continental Europe- the SOCEMA-Gregoire of 1952 was never shown in operation. Fiat were the second manufacturer to display a running gas-turbine car. GM first ran its Firebird I in autumn 1953 but the media weren’t invited, while Chrysler’s first turbine-engined Plymouth, displayed in New York on April 7-11 of 1954, waited until June 16 for its running debut before the press and public. In July 1955 Austin demonstrated its first turbine-installed in a Sheerline.

Mauri Rose, thrice Indy winner pilots the GM Firebird 1 on a deserted road in the Arizona desert. The ‘engineering and styling exercise’ was potent having a circa 370 horsepower ‘Whirlfire Turbo-Power’ turbine engine was located in the back of the car and drove the wheels through a two speed gearbox. Rose reached 100 mph- more than that was impossible due to tyre traction problems- the tyres could not cope with the torque (GM)

Salamano and the Fiat CEO?, Caselle amongst an admiring throng of press and Fiat staff (unattributed)

“No one could take more satisfaction from the Turbina’s demonstration at Caselle, and its appearance on the Turin show floor the next day, than Giacosa. ‘It was a festive occasion for me and my co-workers’, he said, “with the shrill whistling of the engine providing the high point of a bright spring day…a festive throng of the leading representatives of the city, journalists and Fiat executives, from the president down…an event that caused quite a stir all over the world.”

“With Fiat justifiably in the limelight, Giacosa could reflect on this spectacular result of his daring decision six years earlier to begin research on a radical new prime mover. Most important to Giacosa, however, was that the Turbina showed “that the motor vehicle design section was also capable of producing a small turbine, that our design engineers were on a par with those in the aeronautical division and, if needed, they could enable Fiat to compete with any foreign manufacturers in the small turbine field. The automobile was there as a concrete testimony to the abilities of the team of young men who had thrown themselves with enthusiasm into this far from easy task. For Fiat, it was precious experience gained. It showed that the turbine was not yet suited to the private automobile-nor may ever become so-but it should still be thoroughly perfected and studied for other uses.”

“After the hubbub of Turin in April 1954 had abated, Giacosa’s engineers got down to serious development of their 8001 turbine. They found many flaws. The compressor housing, originally of silicon-alloyed aluminum, deformed at high heat and rubbed against the rotating impellers. A change to an exotic magnesium-zirconium alloy gave the added strength needed without increasing the housing’s weight. The power-turbine casing had to be redesigned to keep it from sagging under its own weight. Key ball bearings were fitted with little centrifugal exhaust pumps to accelerate the flow of cooling oil through them. Forged brass cages and silver-plated surfaces were needed to extend ball-bearing life.”

“With compressor efficiency crucial to turbine performance, Bellicardi’s team built and tested many different configurations and sizes of the impellers and their connecting diffusers and ducting. Combustion chambers too were redesigned and retested. Stiffening components allowed closer running clearances throughout the engine, a boon to better performance. The ability of the gas generator to accelerate from its 10,000-rpm idle to full 30,000 rpm-a key index of engine response-was measured at five to six seconds, with most of the time taken to reach 20,000.”

(Italianways)

Caselle Airport, 23 April 1954 (Fiat)

“The engineers’ efforts over several years spectacularly improved the 8001’s performance. It now attained its target 200hp at 18,000 power-turbine rpm with the gas generator running at 29,000 rpm. With the gas generator at 30,500 rpm and the power turbine at 20,000, output rose to 295hp. At 29,000 power-turbine rpm, it was still producing 250hp.”

“This was impressive output. Fuel consumption was heavy, on the order of twice that of a comparable piston engine, but that didn’t trouble Carlo Salamano, who saw a chance for some glory behind the wheel late in his career. With that kind of power, he was sure, the Turbina would easily break the Rover turbine’s speed record of 152.9 mph, dating from 1952. He urged Giacosa to prepare the Turbina for an attempt over the flying kilometer.”

“In September 1956, they were getting ready to attack the record when they heard bad news from Utah. At Bonneville, Frenchman Jean Hebert set a new turbine-powered record at 191.8 mph in Renault’s “Etoile Filante.” Power from its Turbomeca Turmo I engine was akin to the Fiat’s: 270hp at 28,000 rpm. The car, however, was a purpose-built record-breaker with a sleek, low, single-seater body. The Turbina had no chance of matching its speed, let alone exceeding it.”

Though it never went record-breaking, Fiat’s Turbina did make more public appearances. It was tested at Monza in 1954 and then, on June 6th, turned laps of honor before a non-championship Grand Prix at the Castelfusano circuit on the coast at Ostia, near Rome. The Eternal City’s mayor joined other dignitaries to see and hear what Fiat had wrought. Now the Turbina rests in Fiat’s collection, occasionally loaned to exhibitions. It deserves to be accompanied by a recording of its engine’s keening whine, that exciting sound of the future that enraptured us all half a century ago.

Renault Etoile Filante (Shooting Star) on the Bonneville Salt Flats before setting a Land Speed Record of 308.85 km/h on 5 September 1956- driver/engineer Jean Hebert is at the wheel (Renault)

Contemporary automotive turbine perspective in September 1954…

It is interesting to look at the Wheels article, it has no writers byline unfortunately, and the future of turbine powered cars as anticipated then.

Wheels predicted “Turbine cars will be on the market in quantity from six to ten years. Commercial vehicles may be here in less’. Had the initial pioneers, the Rover Company of England had the backing of their government or the assets of General Motors they would have had as substantial lead now over the rest of the world in ground turbines as Britain had with jet aircraft in the air.”

Initially the technology would be applied to large cars from the US, ‘wealthy mens waggons‘ because the efficiency losses in small turbines indicated the industry would commence with bigger cars in which fuel economy is not important.

Advantages touted after a summary of the initiatives of Rover, Chrysler, GM and Fiat were outlined included simple transmissions with no gearbox, smooth vibrationless running, simple lubrication and practically no oil consumption, small dimensions and practically no oil consumption, small dimensions and low weight, no cooling system and easy starting regardless of weather conditions.

The challenges the technology at the time needed to solve were primarily complex metallurgical problems of service, manufacturing difficulties and the need for mass production to much tighter tolerances than was typical then.

It was thought that piston engine evolution to ‘fight back’ may focus on fuel injection and two-stroke diesels, both of which happened and of course the continual refinement of our old favourite has ensured its omnipotence to the present at least…

Etcetera…

(Italianways)

(Italianways)

(Italianways)

(Italianways)

(Italianways)

(Italianways)

(Italianways)

Credits…

‘Turbine Speed with Style’ by Karl Ludvigsen in Hemmings, smcars.net, Getty Images- Louis Klemantaski, Italianways

Tailpiece…

(Getty)

Mass production of the Turbina after all!

Finito…

Stan Jones and his mechanic, Charlie Dean, pose for a Mobil photograph out front of one of Stan’s ‘Superior Motors’ dealerships in inner-Melbourne during 1956. Note the babes in the slips-cordon. Look at that aluminium work, love the neat fillets or scoops to allow some air into the rear tail section, surface cooling of the oil-tank.

Jones acquired his Maserati 250F, chassis ‘2520’ that year. The machine succeeded the Dean designed and built Maybach’s 1, 2 and 3. To be more precise, Maybachs 2 and 3 were built by Charlie and his merry band of artisans at Repco Research (RR), Sydney Road, Brunswick.

Charlie was appointed Repco’s chief automotive experimental engineer in 1954, general manager of Repco Research in 1957 and joined the board as a director of Repco Ltd in 1960, a position he held until his retirement.

I’ve done these two blokes to death, here; https://primotipo.com/2014/12/26/stan-jones-australian-and-new-zealand-grand-prix-and-gold-star-winner/ and here; https://primotipo.com/2016/01/08/stan-jones-agp-longford-gold-star-series-1959/

Jones in Maybach 1 from Ken Wharton’s BRM P15 Mk1 V16, Ardmore 1954. Interesting to see the way Repco used Maybach to plug its other products

The Repco/Maybach/Dean/Jones partnership ended when Maybach 3 went kaboomba at Gnoo Blas in the summer of ’56- the last of Repco’s stock of the German straight-sixes was carved in half after a major internal haemorrhage.

Of course they could have acquired another motor, but Stan said ‘Fuggit! I’m gunna buy a 250F’. So he did. And a 3-litre 300S engine as a spare, as you do.

The Maserati was initially prepared at RR. When Reg Hunt retired in 1956 Bib Stillwell bought his 250F and Stanley bagged Otto Stone, who had prepared Hunt’s A6GCM and 250F.

Stone was both a very capable racer and engineer. Stan’s most successful years followed. Notable wins included the 1958 Gold Star and 1959 Longford AGP. Jones’ mechanical sympathy was not rated ‘in period’. Stone prepared a robust car well. In addition, my theory is that Otto gave Stan a few ‘chill-pills’. That is, calmed him down a bit. ‘You have to finish races Cocko, just learn to read the play better. Play the percentages rather than win or bust’. I suspect he also called a few of those plays.

Jones and Stone shake after Stan’s 1959 Longford win. He finally bagged the win he deserved. John Sawyer in cap, Alan Jones sez ‘cheese’ (unattributed)

I am hopelessly biased in relation to Kevin Bartlett, Alec Mildren and anything and anyone related thereto (Rennmax, Merv Waggott etc, etc), Frank Matich, Elfin and Garrie Cooper, Repco, Stan Jones and Charlie Dean. So you should read what follows with due caution.

It’s hard to think of a more significant, resident, figure in Australian motor-racing from 1950 to 1976 than Charlie Dean.

His fingerprints were on Maybachs One to Four. Lex Davison’s 1953 Monte Carlo Rally Holden 48-215 was prepped by Chuck. He aided, abetted and developed Jones. Jones and Maybach 1’s 1954 AGP win was the first international GP won by an Oz car. Stan’s job behind the wheel was matched by Dean’s with the tools the night and day before.

Dean hired Phil Irving at RR, together, the Holden-Grey Repco Hi-Power head was theirs. Think of how many race and sportscars they powered. Many of the Holden (48-215, FC, FE etc) race developments were made by RR and then sold to all and sundry. In that sense Repco was in on the ground floor and assisted the explosion of touring-car racing from the mid-fifties.

The Maybach and Repco Hi-Power programs were critical incremental steps which led to Repco’s F1 world championships in 1966-1967. Frank Hallam’s early-sixties Coventry Climax FPF maintenance program was another.

Charlie Dean was not the Director in charge of Repco-Brabham Engines Pty. Ltd. Managing Director, Dave McGrath appointed Bob Brown. Charlie did provide Board level support throughout though. Critically, he was asked by McGrath who should design the first V8 engine which became known as ‘RBE620′- he recommended Phil Irving, the 1966 title was the result. Dean was made responsible for RBE Pty. Ltd. after Frank Hallam was shunted sideways in late 1968 as the F1 program was wound down.

Charlie saw F5000 as a cost-effective ANF1 and the means for Repco to remain in racing. When CAMS dithered about 2-litre/F5000 as Oz’ next F1 Dean invited CAMS President, Donald Thomson, to Repco’s St Kilda Road HQ for a long-lunch in the wood-panelled boardroom during which CAMS’ finest was re-programmed. I’m not suggesting the Repco heavies were the only lobbyists to ping CAMS around that particular pin-ball machine.

The Repco-Holden F5000 program followed. Dean and Malcolm Preston brought Phil Irving back from the Gulag to knock that engine together with the assistance of Brian Heard. Several AGP’s, an NZ GP or two, Gold Stars and plenty of individual race wins resulted.

Most of the Repco-Holden’s internals formed the basis of the Holden Torana L34 and A9X donks. There were several Bathurst taxi-race wins there I guess. And an Australian Touring Car Championship or three.

Dean was a man of many parts. Trained as an electrician, he started and sold his business to Repco, raced at elite level including the 1948 AGP, was VERY adept as a hands on engineer and rose through the corporate ranks to become a long-time director of one of Australia’s biggest public companies. And the rest.

Sure, he had Repco’s cheque book in a ‘golden era’ for the industry. The point is that he used it parlaying his influence to the benefit of Repco- and the sport.

Happy to hear other views to my biased one. It will have to be a good argument to knock him over in the period defined however!

David McKay, yeah-yeah, but nup.

Jones and Dean with Maybach 2 in 1954 (unattributed)

Credits…

Many thanks to David Zeunert for another great shot from his archive.

Tailpiece…

(unattributed)

Jones and 250F at Albert Park circa 1956.

Finito…