NEW ZEALAND CLASSIC CAR AUTOMOBILIA Collectible Models / Lifestyle / Book and DVD Reviews – Edited by James Black TIMELINES
Once again, Graeme Rice looks back on the motoring worlds of 100, 75, 50, and 25 years ago For an expanded version of this month’s Timelines, visit www.classiccar.co.nz and search ‘Timelines’
Francis Birtles, champion cycling and long-distance traveller, left Sydney for his overland trip to Port Darwin. His first supply depot was in the north-west tip of New South Wales. That took him across to Alice Springs. Halfway between Ayers Rock and Port Darwin he was met by a camel team with fresh supplies. In total his trip was planned to take two years … by car?
Wartime desperation for iron and steel threw up a novel suggestion from the New Zealand Automobile Association. “Why,” asked its spokesman, “are we the only country outside Great Britain currently rationing petrol, when we import iron at around £33 a ton from Great Britain and £40 a ton from the USA, then waste around 100 tons of it making new number plates for the 307,000 vehicles on our roads? Why are we forced to go without petrol yet are the only country wasting iron on replacing perfectly good number plates with new ones?”
Enzo Ferrari’s workers were on the verge of completing what would, in normal circumstances, have been the first Ferrari sports cars to take part in a race. Unfortunately, after Enzo’s dismissal by the Alfa Romeo bosses in 1939, albeit with a generous severance agreement, he was prevented from building cars in competition to the 29-year-old Milanese firm. However, Enzo didn’t take too much persuading when approached in December 1939 by 21-year-old motorcycling champion Alberto Ascari, and his friend the Marchese Lotario Rangoni Macchiavelli di Modena, with the idea of building a new Italian car to compete in the 1940 Mille Miglia. The deal was done on Christmas Eve 1939 and the resulting cars, named Tipo 815, were finished ahead of schedule, ready for testing prior to the race on April 28.
Triumph reworked the Spitfire, relaunching the popular little rag-top as the MKII. Basically nothing much had changed, but the number of alterations and refinements made the new car a far more effective machine. Over two seconds was sliced off the time to accelerate from rest to 100kph, and the standing start quarter mile took a second less. Two optional extras impressed the testers, the Dunlop wire wheels and the overdrive stalk protruding from the right side of the steering column.
Supply of 3.0-litre engines for the new Formula One cars was proving something of a headache. Coventry Climax showed its impressive FWMW 1.5-litre flat 16 engine said to develop 220bhp (164kw) at a fearsome 12,000rpm. It was just 2.5cm longer and 4.5kg heavier than the old V8, but though Lotus and Brabham developed chassis that would take the new engine, they stuck with the old and still successful V8 design. Despite the interest, Jag boss Sir William Lyons hinted that 1966 would see an end to Coventry Climax Grand Prix engines.
Most potential engine builders were hinting at prices as high as £10,000, so BRM suggested it would make its engine available to other GP teams for £7000.
It was a strange sensation, apparently, road testing a four-wheel-steer car, as the Otago Daily Times tester Graeme Purches found out when testing the Honda Prelude with four-wheel steering. Initially the steering felt far too direct and too skittish, even the smallest movement of the steering wheel caused the car to generate an almost instantaneous repositioning of itself on the road. Turning the steering wheel through 13 degrees put the front wheels on nine degrees with the rear one on two degrees in the same direction. You kept turning the steering wheel to the point where the front wheels sat at 18 degrees, and then the rear wheels were parallel. When the front wheels were on full lock the rear wheels turned to 18 degrees, but turning the opposite way. This mode was ideal for parallel parking, or turning in tight circles almost within the car’s own length!
Ford’s new drop-top Mazda 323–based Capri had been seen here in limited numbers, the basic version selling at just $32,995 and nicely undercutting the Mazda MX-5 and Peugeot’s delightful 205 cabriolet. Just as it was gaining a foothold, with the basic model looking a very attractive proposition at just $32,995, about $6000 less than the MX-5, Ford announced it was changing over to lefthand-drive production for the rest of the year. So the 101 parts suppliers needed to achieve the Aussie requirement of 70 per cent local content were going to be fully occupied making bits for the Capri to succeed in the American market.