Last week I wrote about the movie Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen released in 1968. The chase sequence is still the best ever. McQueen was in the Mustang
and I asked what car the baddies were in, the size of the engine and the top speed, remembering too, that this was 33 years ago! The car was the Dodge Charger R/T with a 7.2
litre V8 up front producing 375 bhp and powering the Charger to 240 kph. Those were some real American muscle cars.
So to this week. This is easy for those with a sense of engineering history. What did Augustus Cesare Bertelli and Sir Arthur Sutherland, Bt., K.B.E. have
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to fax 427 596 or email [email protected]
Vale John Cooper
Most motoring enthusiasts would have heard that John Cooper died a couple of weeks back. The Coopers, father Charlie and son John, were the driving forces
behind the Cooper Car Company, a small firm that produced amazingly good race cars, the plans for which were generally drawn in chalk on the floor of the workshop. These guys
were practical engineers par excellence.
Cooper 500 with Stirling Moss
When you mention the word Cooper, most people immediately remember the
Mini-Coopers, the most successful variant of Sir Alec Issigonis’ Mini. It was John Cooper who had the idea to put in the front disc brakes and incorporate all the other
little bits and pieces such as twin fuel tanks, remote control gear shift and larger capacity engines. BMC, the manufacturers thought they might sell 1,000 cars in this form
and ended up selling 180,000.
But in the racing world, Cooper is more remembered for the F1 cars that brought two world championships to England, driven by that other practical
engineer, Sir Jack Brabham. Cooper built (rather than “designed”) the start of the post war rear engine F1 racecars, and has his place in history for that. Certainly Dr.
Porsche designed the fearsome rear engine Auto Unions before WWII, but the F1 championships per se did not start until after the war.
John Cooper will, however, also be remembered for being an all round “nice guy” who made friends for life. He will be sorely missed by many people, and
the record books cannot ever do him true justice. At 77 years old his engineering style was from another era, but his personal style was one we could all aim for today.
Vale Walter Hayes
It’s been a sad week for motor sport enthusiasts, with Walter Hayes also dying just before New Year. Hayes was 76, and responsible for the motor sporting
image for Ford.
Hayes joined Ford in 1962 and arranged for Colin Chapman to build the Lotus Cortinas. This was a milestone for Ford in that they were so successful. Hayes
used to tell the drivers to ease back once they had got in front of the Jaguars - so that people could see on TV that Fords were beating the once totally dominant Jaguars.
It was Hayes who committed Ford into backing Cosworth Engineering to design and build the 3-litre Ford DFV V8 in 1967. This was one of the “winningest”
engines ever in F1, and in those days cost, wait for it, less than half a million baht!
Hayes rose to be vice chairman of Ford of Europe, in charge of Ford’s global Public Affairs, and was eventually Henry Ford’s right-hand-man.
After compulsory retirement from FoMoCo when he was 65, he went to Aston Martin and revived the dying company, even getting Sir David Brown (the DB in DB
3, 4, 5, etc.) to return to the company, and between them they produced the DB7. He was Life President of Aston Martin when he finally accepted “retirement” in 1994.
Racing on a shoestring - someone else’s!
The piece on John Cooper reminded me about the Mini-Cooper S’s that were just so successful at the 1000 km Bathurst races in Australia, the premier
‘tin top’ event of the Oz racing year. It was at these events that the BMC works drivers such as Paddy Hopkirk, Rauno Aaltonen and Timo Makkinen found that if they joined
the three cars up, nose to tail down the straight, they made a 12 wheeled, triple engine monster that was 10 mph quicker than going down on their own!
In those days, too, the cars were supposed to be showroom stock - no modifications
allowed. Cooper S’s became very hot property and many were bought in the month before the big race. Many were also bought on hire purchase with miniscule deposits, which
led to the inevitable - after the great race, there would be abandoned Mini-Coopers in the paddock which had only 1000 kms on the clock and no traceable owners! After a
couple of years of this, motor vehicle retailers began to check up on potential Mini-Cooper purchasers before accepting their deposits.
In the 60’s and early 70’s, the concept of showroom stock vehicle racing caught everyone’s imagination. Here was a level playing field where you
could see if an Austin Lancer was better than an Isuzu Bellet. Unfortunately, these idealistic notions did not last long. The game of “tolerances” came next. In this, the
manufacturer would select the shortest engine blocks with the largest bores, largest diameter pistons, longest con-rods of the identical weight, smallest cylinder heads with
the largest inlet and exhaust ports - all within the manufacturers tolerance, of course. In this way you would end up with an engine that could easily produce 10 BHP more
than the “ordinary” variety - and still be “legal”. These were called ‘blue-printed’ engines. And only the factory had them and the privateers were finished.
Well, not quite. If the factory could use these tolerances, then the privateers, “re-manufactured” engines to within those tolerances. Not quite in the
spirit of the game, but within the ambit of the rules of measurement.
In 1971 I was engaged to race a Datsun 1600 for a privateer team under those regulations and the Datto was timed at 127 MPH on the flying eighth at
Bathurst. Stock standard? The fact that we were lapping quicker on Michelin road rubber than the works cars on racing rubber showed that by then, the privateers had got the
game fairly well sussed!
However, the predictable happened whereby the regulating authorities just gave up and made it open slather and the costs just blew out of proportion, and
the privateers were knackered again. It also meant that there was no longer any way of comparing “showroom stock” vehicles. But then, it was flawed right from the start.
All this sort of shenanigans (sorry Kim!) still goes on today, with the FIA saying that this year they will make traction control legal in F1 again. Why?
Because they don’t know how to find it in the maze of electronic gizmos in a modern F1 car.
Motorcycle Racing School
I have had a few requests on information about Stuart Green’s motorcycle racing school which he runs at the Bira circuit. If you want to contact him, the
best way is via email and the address is [email protected] Generally this school has been for overseas riders and includes air fares and accommodation, but I am sure
that he could work out a price for locals. It appears to very professionally run and I’m even thinking of having a go myself this year!