Unofficially, I’ve driven le Circuit de la Sarthe
One of the great duels at the classic 24 Heures du Mans was between the Ford GT40 and Ferrari 330, which the Ford won in 1966, 1967, 1968, and 1969, beating the Ferrari which had been victorious every year from 1960 to 1965. The Ford was called the GT40 because its roof was 40 inches from the road.
Of British cars that won at le Mans, the Bentley Speed Six won 5 times between 1924 -30, and the Jaguars C and D types won 5 times between 1951 and 1956. Even with the new kink half-way down, the 3.7 mile Mulsanne Straight is terrifying, especially when you reach the hard right at the village of Mulsanne.
The Circuit du Sarthe is eight-and-a-half miles long in all.
Sadly, Steve McQueen never raced there, although he did race at Sebring.
Bentley Speed Six Le Mans
there’s nothing wrong with the car, except that it’s on fire
Back in the great days of motor racing, before it became a procession of ugly electric slot cars, the iconic commentator and pundit on the BBC was a chap called Murray Walker ~ famous for getting it all wrong at the best time. The music for the opening credits for the Grand Prix show on TV was The Chain by Fleetwood Mac.
This is the short version.
Murray Walker passed away about a year ago. He loved this lotus 72 as driven by Emerson Fittipaldi
To Hell with safety, all I want to do is race. ~ James Hunt
Niki Lauda and James Hunt
Motor Racing is inherently dangerous. Since 1952, 53 drivers have died as a result of incidents while driving Formula 1 cars. Many more famous drivers have been killed driving at Le Mans and in Formula 3 cars.
The Legendary Austrian driver Niki Lauda has just died aged 70, after a period of ill health. Lauda had a terrible crash at the Nurburgring in a Ferrari in 1976, where his car burst into flames. Lauda’s helmet was dislodged in the crash, and he suffered horrific burns to his head. Although he came back to motor racing his health was never the same after the accident, and he eventually had both kidney transplants and a lung transplant.
Lauda was Formula 1 World Champion in 1975, 1977, and 1984.
there is a great movie; Rush
about the rivalry between
Niki Lauda and James hunt
Caterham has launched a ‘new’ Seven, the ‘Sprint’ with retro ‘swinging sixties’ styling reminiscent of Colin Chapman’s original Lotus Seven, clamshell wings, steel wheels, chrome hubcaps and all.
The Caterham Seven Sprint is largely based on the entry level Caterham Seven 160, and uses the same little 660cc, 3 cylinder Suzuki engine, albeit with dohc, 4 vales per cylinder, and fitted with a turbocharger to give 80bhp and 79 foot pounds of torque. That’s a lot more power than the 39bhp of the very first Lotus Seven, but in today’s terms, it’s pretty puny. It isn’t a good looking engine bay.
The Seven Sprint is also fitted with a live axle, which is fine in its way, but there is such a thing as taking nostalgia too far. The last Caterham I owned used a very sophisticated de Dion rear end, and even that was very prone to power oversteer. Every live axle car I’ve ever driven has had ‘interesting’ roadholding and handling ~ I’ve no reason to suppose the new Caterham Seven is any different in that respect. Still, it all adds to the terrifying fun.
I have built, owned, and driven a Caterham Seven with clamshell wings, and they are a mixed blessing. On the upside they are so much better looking than cycle wings, on the downside clamshell wings have the aerodynamics of a box-kite. Given a couple of Sevens with otherwise identical specifications, a car with flared clamshell wings will have a lower top speed and much worse acceleration at higher speeds, than a Seven with close-fitting cycle wings.
However, there is no doubt that the new Seven Sprint is a pretty little car in those retro colours, flared wings, and with a brilliant red leather interior. As a driver’s car it will be utterly brilliant too ~ you haven’t driven a sports car until you’ve driven a Seven. But in comparison with other Lotus / Caterham Sevens available, it’s sort of the runt of the litter. Pretty but lacking in spirit.
There is one huge problem with the Caterham Seven Sprint ~ prices start at £27,995, which is a stupid amount of money to pay for this particular little car. Mind you, Caterham Cars aren’t the remotest interested in what I think of the Seven Sprint, the limited production run of 60 cars sold out in a week.
I have a sneaking suspicion that not many of the 60 people signed up to buy a Caterham Seven Sprint will be driving it much, if at all. It seems to me this is a Summer Sunday afternoon car to take for a short drive to the country / beach / pub. Or even worse, a lot of the buyers could be ‘collectors’ who will stick this Seven in their heated Motor House under a dust cover, and mostly leave it there.
Would I recommend a Caterham Seven 160 / Sprint to a friend? No.
the BRG and yellow car is my last Caterham Seven
these opinions are mine and mine alone
YOU’RE NOT A NUMBER
The second most fun you can have.
A Caterham or Lotus 7 is one of the most insane cars you can drive. Only real men need apply
words and pictures by jack collier
EVERYONE WHO STILL LIKES THE STONES OR THE BEATLES ON VINYL HAS PROBABLY OWNED A MINI
In a poll of 10,000 readers of Autocar magazine the original Sir Alec Issigonis designed 1959 Mini has been voted the best car ever to be manufactured in Britain. In a bizarre headline the results of the poll are said to show that; Original Mini voted best British-built car of all time. For those of us who have lived with a Mini, (including one of its various siblings, Wolsey Hornet, Riley Elf, Cooper, Moke, Van, Traveller, Pick-up, K, Innocenti, & etc…), that headline is a bit of a joke. The original mini was an incredibly well thought out little car, but owning one could be a nightmare. Everything on a Mini went wrong, all the time. When the little coolant pipe between the head and the block failed you were in for some fun. The electrics went wrong if you drove through a puddle. Then it all fell to pieces. Meantime, any Mini was simple fun.
The original Mini famously starred alongside Michael Caine, Benny Hill, and Noel Coward in the 1969 caper movie, The Italian Job. The film shows three Mini Cooper S’s running rings around Italian police cars among the streets of Turin, (and a tunnel, river ford, & etc…). Which is how it would have been. On tight roads and city streets the Cooper S was one of the fastest point to point road cars of the time, (of all time?). Introduced in 1961 the Mini Cooper S won the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964, 1965, and 1967. (The Cooper S also placed 1st 2nd and 3rd in 1966 but the Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys got their judges to disqualify them because of a dimmer switch in the headlamp circuit. The eventual ‘winning’ Citroen DS also had non-regulation headlights, but they were French headlights.)
If anyone is thinking about buying an original Mini Cooper S, then don’t. It will cost you a fortune, especially if it has any competition history. The investment value of classic cars all depends upon fashion. The Mini Cooper S would have been a very good buy 20 years ago, these days I’m not certain that I wouldn’t be buying at the top of a trend.
The Cooper S was very little different to the standard Mini of the time, other than a tuned 1275cc four pot A-series engine and twin fuel tanks. And, by all the Gods, they are noisy little beasts inside. Your Lady will not like wearing her best Little Black Dress in the thing because they leak rainwater through various holes in the floor. The smell of hot coolant and oil can pervade the interior, the seats are middling uncomfortable, and getting in and out of a Mini in a short frock is a lost art. (Unless the young lady in question is trying to show a lot of leg.)
For those with any mechanical engineering expertise, (and if you don’t know what 1/2 inch AF means you shouldn’t even think about owning an original Mini), then you can build yourself a perfectly good Cooper S replica using a new body shell from British Motor Heritage. That will set you back about £6,500. The rest of the bits are very available and about as basic as they come, including a tuned A-series engine and gearbox. The A-series was first used in a car in 1951. It’s a three main bearing, five port, cast iron unit and in 1275cc form with twin SU carburettors can be made to reliably produce 78 bhp and 78 ft pounds of torque, still with decent fuel economy. For road use I would not recommend fitting a close ratio gearbox, but wide wheels and some decent brakes are a good idea.
While even a fast Mini will struggle to top 100 mph, the original brakes were tiny drums. Front discs are available as are special cast alloy rear drums. The best wheels are still the original Minilite, although you’d be looking at aluminium rather than magnesium alloy. First port of call Minspeed http://www.minispeed.co.uk
The BIG thing about Mini’s is that they are small and light. The whole car was only 120 inches long, 55 inches wide and 53 inches tall. It ran on ten inch wheels. (The spec called for a complete car that could fit in a 10 x 5 x 5 feet box, allegedly.) At the kerb, even a hot Mini would only weigh in at 1,400 lbs. A new Mini could be had for £679. In comparison a brand new BMW-Type Mini Cooper S hatchback has an high-technology 2 litre engine, weighs in at over 2,500 lbs and will cost upwards of £20,000. The New Mini is not a good comparison against an original Mini. A Citroen C1 is far similar to an original 1961 Mini than is a new (BMW) Mini Hatchback.
For those classic car enthusiasts the rest of the Best of British top 10 from Autocar are;
- McLaren F1
- E-Type Jaguar
- Range Rover
- Yamaha Motiv.E
- McLaren P1
- Jaguar XJ220
- Aston Martin DB5
- TVR Griffith
- Ford Escort Mexico
The full Top 100 Autocar list of the Best of British is at http://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/motoring/top-100-best-ever-british-cars
Of the above, anyone with any ounce of sense would only consider owning the; Mini, E-Type, Earlier Range Rover, Ford Escort Mexico. Of these I would consider building myself a Mk 1 Escort. I am informed that original manufacturers Gartrac ( http://www.gartrac.com ) can make you a new bodyshell, I have no idea what that would cost. Crossflow engines and 5 speed gearboxes are readily available, in states of tune up to 150 bhp. A more modern Ford Twin-Cam engine could also be made to fit. However, the more work that’s done on any classic car, the quicker enormous bills are run up, and the less original the car becomes. Some collectors prize originality, but for real road use I’d want as many new, (and more modern), parts as I could afford.
The Yamaha Motiv shouldn’t be on this list as the Gordon Murray designed car hasn’t even gone into production. I would replace it with no. 14 from the Autocar list, the even more brilliant Lotus Elise.
The bottom line is; The original Mini is a brilliant little car, if you want to experience anything like it, then buy a Citroen C1, (Peugeot 107)