Thursday, 30 September 2010

What to do if your Mini Cooper S isn't fast enough ? The Castle Combe variations.

Although designed as a motorised shopping basket on wheels the Mini platform provided incredible handling characteristics and soon became the target of highly respected performance companies, none more so than John Cooper who's cars Jack Brabham had taken to successive Formula One Championships in 1959/60.

John Cooper was friends with Mini designer Alex Issigonis but still had to go behind his back to appeal to the BMC management direct inorder to get the go ahead to develop the Mini Cooper into an extremely popular performance model. It was also extremely competitive winning the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964 '65 & '67 and was famously disqualified after winning in 1966!

Budding entrepreneur and custom car aficionado Geoff Thomas thought he could improve the Mini Copper S by producing a lighter Mini Cooper variant with a seemless body 3 inches shorter than the original.

One day in 1965 Geoff was at Castle Combe Circuit and met fellow racer Neville Trickett who prepared his own lightweight Mini racer with extensive engine modifications, impressed with the quality of Neville's work Geoff discussed his idea for manufacturing the Minisprint and after a 'ridiculously brief discussion' Neville agreed to work for Geoff and the production of Minisprints began eventually settling at Rob Walkers Garage Nr Warminster, Wiltshire.

The model shown above is registered in France, and might possibly, with the emphasis on possibly, belong to Normandy resident Neville Trickett himself ? Notice this vehicle is fitted with highly unusual triple screen wipers.

I am not sure where the square headlights idea came from nor where they were sourced ? They were not part of the original spec, but seem to have been introduced before production of Mini Sprints moved from Wiltshire to Stewart & Arden in London.

Like Cooper, ERA came form a racing background, primarily known for it's pre WW2 voiturettes powered 1.5 litre 91 CUI supercharged Riley 6 based engines. By the late 1980's ERA were primarily engaged as consultants to the motor industry.

In 1989 The ERA Mini Turbo, ERA type M (?) was conceived as a replacement for the Mini Cooper S which was out of production between 1971 and 1990. The interior of the car featured unparalleled levels of refinement including Connelly hide seats.

The fastest ever production Mini ERA Turbo used a 1300cc /79 cui Mini Metro Turbo engine capable of being serviced at regular Austin Rover Mini dealers. The suspension and brakes were also upgraded using many parts from the Metro, surprisingly the cars handling characteristics were first tested and tuned at Castle Combe prior to going into production.

Finally I'd like to welcome all new readers to this blog who are now coming from UK, USA, Canada, Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Croatia, Saint Kitts and Nevis (!) and Sweden.

Wishing you all a fabulous day where ever you are, 'don't forget to come back now ! Hear !'

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

On the Origins of Brands - Riley & Wolseley

Today I am looking at two storied brands Riley & Wolseley born out of industrial diversification which were woven into that DNA of the nationalised merger British Motor Corporation in 1952.

From 1961 - 1969 they marketed top end 3 box versions, featuring wood veneer dashboards, of the Mini known as the Elf and Hornet respectively.

In 1896 William Riley jr purchased the Bonnick Cycle Company of Coventry which was born out of the cycling craze that swept England in 1890 and renamed it Riley Cycle Company.

Williams son Percy secretly built his first car, featuring an engine with the the worlds first mechanically operated inlet valve, in 1898 aged just 16.

Percy who also patented the detachable wheel went into business with his brothers forming the Riley Engine Company in 1903 supplying motorcycle engines and in 1905 they built their first car.

During restructuring in 1918 Riley car manufacture was transferred to Riley Motor Manufacturing which went into receivership in 1938 and was absorbed into the Nuffield Organisation along with Morris and MG, which in 1952 would merge with Herbert Austin's companies into the nationalised BMC.

By 1947 Riley had ceased manufacturing it's own designs and became a top end brand for shared designs in the Nuffield and later BMC organisations.

The Riley brand is easily identified by its blue diamond badge originally designed by Harry Rush with the strap line 'As old as the industry, as modern as the hour', was discontinued in 1969 and currently belongs to BMW.

Between 1961 and 1969 30,912 Riley Elfs were built.

In 1896 Herbert Austin working for the Wolseley Sheep Shearing Company made a copy of a Leon Bollee vehicle that he had seen in Paris. By 1899 he had built a Voiturette that went into production in 1901 with Herbert Austin in charge of the Wolseley car division that had by now been spun off as an independent concern.

In 1905 Herbert Austin left to set up his own Austin Motor Company.

After several mergers and changes of ownership the Wolseley Motor Company came into existence in 1914 in the hands of Armstrong Siddeley. At this time operations were started in Toronto and Montreal which became British and American Motors after WW1.

In 1918 Wolseley started a joint venture with Ishikawajiama Ship Building and Engineering for the production of Wolseley models under license, in 1947 this venture became Isuzu.

In 1927 William Morris (Lord Nuffield) purchased Wolseley outbidding his rival Herbert Austin and General Motors using his own money.

Woseley became another top end brand for shared designs after WW2 and would become part of the merged BMC a combination of the assets of William Morris and Herbert Austin who between them had been responsible for the rise of much of the British motor industry.

The brand disappeared in 1975 the last model being a wedge shape forerunner of the Austin Princess which was in production for just 7 months.

Today the brand is owned by Nanjing Automobile Group along with the assets of the MG Rover Group. The Wolseley Sheep Shearing Company is today known as Wolseley plc.

28,455 Wolseley Hornets pictured above were built between 1961 and 1969.

Hope you have enjoyed today's post, don't forget to come back now !

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Why does the sight of a little Mini Moke make every body rock ?

Today's blog is dedicated to Rowdy Mini Moke fan club member 'Archidude' of Brevard NC, who sent me a link to this interesting Mini Moke video.

Designed as a vehicle with military applications in mind the Mini Moke made use of BMC Mini mini parts bin, including the engine, drive train and 10" wheels which rendered the vehicle useless for military off road purposes because the Moke did not have much ground clearance.

However the vehicle produced between 1964 - 1993 did find a niche as a recreational vehicle in the sunny climate of many former British Colonies and was the first vehicle ever used on Pitcairn Islands, of HMS Bounty Fame, becoming the remotest vehicle on earth.

Correction Edited 29 09 19 The above vehicle is an AMC Andersen Cub not a Moke. Thanks to Dean and every one at who helped me correct this error.

Of the 50,000, Mokes made in Britain, Australia, and Portugal some have a competition history which includes Hans Tholstrup and John Crawford who nursed their Moke from London to Sydney in the 1977 Marathon and most unlikely of all Charlie Smith and Barry Seaton who gallantly jumped in their Moke to take on a field of Ford GT40's and Ferrari 250 LM's including winner Andy Buchanan,seen here , co driven by none other than Jacky Stewart at Surfers Paradise in 1966.

Finally Mini Mokes were used as Taxi's in the surreal television series the Prisoner, a catch phrase of which was; Be Seeing You !

Monday, 27 September 2010

Mini SUV's

On Saturday I went to the 'Mini Festival' at Castle Combe Circuit 20 miles outside Bristol.

Drivers of a variety of models were offering rides round the track to raise money for the Jay Ryles Fund, in aid of rehabilitating Jay Ryles 18 year old Jay Jyles who collapsed with Brain Damage after a school rugby match earlier this year.

Amongst my favourites, all being driven with great gusto was this circa 1980 Mini Pick Up. Just 11' long nose to tail and weighing in at just 1500 lbs (680 kg) with a full 6 imperial gallons of fuel ! Optional extras back in 1961 included, recirculatory heater, passenger side sun visor and seat belts. 58,179 of these are thought to have been built.

Also being driven with great joie de vivre was this Mini Van coincidentally also a circa 1980 and like the pick up above fitted with a grill from the passenger car version. The van had a 1/4 ton capacity and was a popular alternative to the passenger car because as a commercial vehicle it carried no sales tax. 521,494 examples of this model are known to have been built.

Off topic observations.


Jimmy Johnson took the win at Dover leading most laps blah ! blah ! blah ! back in contention in the drive for five blah ! ! Congratulations to the #48.

If you want to know why I am indifferent to His Majesty Jimmy Johnson, NASCAR is built on drivers infinite patience with their fans except now one man seems to have run out of patience with a 'return all fan mail unopened policy'.

It was great to see AJ Almendinger leading the first half of the race, shame a flat tyre forced him to stop early.

Racing on concrete is good at Dover because the cars are always loose on the edge of over steering into the wall calling on drivers to display immense car control skills, several drivers likened it to driving on ice towards the end of longer runs.

It was a less than stellar day for my man Happy Harvick, I expected nothing more after the playground silliness displayed on Friday, to wit my man of the meeting award goes to Coach JD Gibbs who seems to have called his man 'Denny four Cups Hamlin' to order over the remarks he made that set Kevin off in the first place.

Formula One

Fernando Alonso took a well judged win in the Singapore GP last night, Sebastian Vettel had absolutely nothing for him, Mark Webber came in 3rd with a good recovery drive after an early pit stop.

McLaren drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton appear to be slipping out of contention for the World Championship both now 20 points behind with 4 races to go.

An hour into this race I found my self cutting the lawn despite the amazing night landscape in which the race was run.

Hope you have enjoyed todays blog and that you'll join me again tomorrow.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Sunday Best - Triumph Vitesse

Yesterday, like to day, there was no racing going on locally, but it would have been criminal not to go out and enjoy the fresh autumn air and unbelievably bright sunshine that turns the world of photographers such as my self into a super illuminated paradise.

So I headed out to my local track Castle Combe where there was an event billed as a 'Mini Festival', there were hundreds of the cute critters in a variety of states of tune to be seen and I'll post pictures of them in due course, because the vehicle that leapt out at me as the subject for today's blog was this convertible Triumph Vitesse MKII.

The 1968 - 71 Triumph Vitesse 2 originally featured a 104 hp 6 cylinder 2 litre / 122 CUI engine with two carburettors which gave it a 0 - 60 mph performance time of 11 seconds. As can be seen above this 1968 model has been upgraded with triple carburettors.

The Vitesse was outsold, in the UK, by its smaller 4 cylinder sibling the Herald, at a rate of 10 to 1, and was no match for the cheaper Ford Mustang in the US, however as is the way of these things the Vitesse has a strong following amongst aficionados of performance convertibles.

Slightly off topic, I tuned into JTV to watch the Nationwide NASCAR race at Dover last night just in time to see Kyle Busch taking his victory bow in a cloud of smoke of his own making, congratulations to Kyle on winning his 11th Nationwide race of the season thereby beating the Sam Ard's record of 10 wins which he set in 1983.

Further off topic, I see Kevin Harvick took the NASCAR 'have at 'em' policy to heart during practice for the Dover Cup race ! Much as I'd like to see Kevin take the Cup home at Miami Homestead, these actions do not inspire me, sitting in the peanut gallery, with confidence about his chances.

These play ground antics probably make great headlines and are sure to provoke a further on track response from "Dangerous 'I am owed four cups' Denny" Hamlin, I just hope they are not a distraction from the real job in hand for Kevin, which is to make sure he beats Jimmy Johnson in the infernal #48 to the big trophy at the end of the season.

Looking forward to tonight's race at Dover hope to catch some of you on Rowdy Chat.

Look forward to to hearing from you all, 'y'all come back now ! Hear !

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Perfect car for a wedding #1 - Citroen Traction Avant

I don't propose to post photos of cars used at Weddings every Saturday but I thought I'd give today's blog a topical theme, though I suspect the summer wedding season is probably already over.

Most of the photo's I have taken of cars used at weddings are not even taken on a Saturday, this is because just down the row of buildings from my city centre bank is an old court house that has been rebranded as a Registry Office. The City centre location is of course used for weddings 6 days a week though as can be seen from these photo's the location is not without a few 'parking issues'.

The Citroen Traction Avant is probably most famous as being the car that the cartoon detective Tintin used in the, now deemed less than politically correct, series of stories by Belgian artist Georges Rémi who published his work under the nom de plume Hergé.

The Citroen Traction Avant Garde was a revolutionary vehicle for it's time, which spanned 1934 -1957, it was the worlds first front wheel drive steel monocoque production car, setting a trend that is almost ubiquitous for passenger vehicles 76 years later.

The construction without the hitherto universal separate chassis was available with a variety of 4 and 6 cylinder engines from 1.3 litres / 79.5 CUI up to 2.9 litres / 176 CUI which sit behind the gearbox driving the front wheels, optimising the weight distribution on the independently sprung wheels.

There were plans to build a 3.8 litre / 231 CUI V8 version of the Traction Avant featuring an automatic transmission with a torque converter, similar to that later employed in the GM Dynaflow transmission, however after 20 prototypes had been built Citroen had gone bankrupt and Michelin who bought the company to primarily test its tyre and other rubber products cancelled the project.

In 1954 a Traction Avant was used to test the self levelling hydropneumatic suspension of the later equally revolutionary Citroen DS which would eventually replace the Traction Avant series in 1955. 759,111 of these vehicles were built in Paris (France), Forest (Belgium), Cologne (Germany) and Slough (England)

Best wishes to anyone who is getting married to day, hope you have enjoyed my first week as a blogger as much as I have, I look forward to to hearing from you all, 'y'all come back now ! Hear !.'

Friday, 24 September 2010

Maserati 250 F

I apologise to all my Rowdy friends who will have seen this car before on but I have expanded on that original post in this blog in honour of Canadian artist Paul Chenard who very kindly helped me out with another project I am working on. If you like drawings and paintings of old racing cars you'll love his gallery linked here.

The 250 F was first raced in 1954 by 1951 world drivers champion Juan Manuel Fangio who took a maiden outing win in Argentina and then won again, having missed the 1954 Indy 500, at the following race in Belgium.

Juan then went on to become Champion in 1954 driving for Mercedes Benz for the rest of the season. With Mercedes at the height of their power in 1955, Maserati were locked out of the top spot in Formula One but in 1956 the 250 F was again driven to two victories by Fangio's former Mercedes team mate Stirling Moss.

Having been crowned world champion from 1955 - 56 the now four time world champion Fangio returned to Maserati for 1957 and promptly won four of the eight championship races to set a four peat world championship record that stood until 2003.

In that 1957 season Fangio drove one of the races of all time during the German GP, having failed to out fox the Ferrari team after a disastrous pit stop, Juan Manuel set 7 consecutive lap records on the 14 mile Nurburgring Nordschleife making up over 48 seconds before taking the lead from the Mike Hawthorn's Ferrari with a lap to spare and record the 250 F's 8th and final Formula One Championship victory.

Fittingly JMF drove his last ever race in a 250F at the 1958 French GP coming 4th, winner Mike Hawthorn sportingly refraining from lapping him on the final lap.

The 250 F continued to appear ever more uncompetitively until 1960.

This 1957 250F is the last of the 26 built. Complete with a six cylinder 240 hp engine.
This car is differentiated from most by a short wheelbase Piccolo chassis.
The 250 F is recorded as being the most forgiving of the 2.5 litre (152.5 CUI) F1 cars by Willy Green who has driven every type of 2.5 litre F1 car competitively in historic races.

Hope you enjoyed today's post and will join me again tomorrow.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Was one of these Fraser Nash BMW's an antecedent of the AC Cobra ?

At the August VSCC Prescott meeting one of the things that stood out was that the car park was almost as interesting as the Paddock.

For example pictured here in the car park is what I believe to be a Fraser Nash (UK BMW importer and assemblers amongst many other things for those not in the know) BMW 315/1.

Amazingly the car above is also a Fraser Nash BMW 315/1, dating from 1935 according to the VSCC programme, but the bodywork stuck out like a sore thumb amongst the traditional VSCC fare in the paddock at Prescott.

My first thought was that it might be a Tojerio body or AC Ace body, or at least a copy of either of those two vehicles dating back to 1952 and 1953 respectively, I also wondered how this car could possibly qualify to run in a VSCC event which generally caters for pre WW2 vehicles.

Thanks to Tim Murray at the TNF Forum I found out what the story behind the aluminium (English pronunciation please) bodied BMW 315/1 special, though there are many question marks around this vehicle, not least who actually commissioned it in the first place ?

It turns out this vehicle was originally supplied with body work by Abbots of Farnham and then after the War turned up, sans body, in the hands of a chemist who took it to Williams & Pritchard of London, a small sub contracting bodywork shop before WW2, a Spitfire fuselage workshop during WW2 which returned to doing repairs and bodywork after WW2.

The owner of the chassis took with him a pile of motoring magazines and sat down with Williams & Pritchard and pointed out all the features he wanted incorporated into the new bodywork for his old BMW.

When did this happen you may well ask ? 1965 ? 1960 ? 1955 ? after the Tojerio and AC Ace had been around ? 1950 ? none of the above amazingly the aluminium body work dates back to 1948 four years before the Tojerio which famously morphed into the AC Ace !

The Fraser Nash BMW 315/1 is allowed to compete in VSCC events because the body sits on a prewar chassis.

More information on Williams & Pritchard and the story of this car can be found here.

Hope you enjoyed today's blog and will join me again tomorrow.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Things to do if you have to get up at an unholy hour to take someone to a Midlands airport on a summers Wednesday morning. Visit Mallory Park !

A couple of weeks ago I had to take a very good friend to a Midlands airport for a 6 am check in one sunny Wednesday morning.

The upside was I had a lovely little black one year old 3000 mile (!) KIA to whizz around in for a week.

I heard that there was testing most Wednesdays mornings of the summer for mostly historic vehicles at Mallory Park and since my day had been written off I went along to see what all the noise was about.

I have not been to Mallory since the late 1980's when my mate Sven was racing a Class D 105 production Alfa 33 and this was my first opportunity to see any action at Mallory Park from anywhere but the pits.

I recommend stopping of for a hand made BLT at the Cafe just by the competitors entrance I had one at 10 am and it kept me going 'til i got back to Bristol at 4pm !

Here are a couple of snaps that I took after my Breakfast feast. I am afraid I can't tell you who all the drivers are if you know any of the answers please drop me a line and put me out of my misery :-)

Above a Mini Cooper at Shaw's hairpin,

A better than new Lotus 23

Cobra Coupe

Barry (Whizzo) Williams extreme right, Ford Zephyr MK11, 1956/62

Former British F 5000 champ, sometime F1 and CART driver Ian Ashley in his immaculate 1972 Elden MK8 FF 1600, which goes like stink round corners with Ian at the wheel who, totally randomly, was born 14 miles from where I was some 11 1/2 years earlier.

Mike Wrigley in Jackie Stewart's 1969 World Drivers Championship winning Matra MS80, JYS signed the bodywork between the shoulder height cockpit air scoop and bottom of the roll hoop at Goodwood last year I believe.

One of two Maserati 250 F's I saw this one driven by a gentleman that goes by the name of Alberique I believe

Finally a Kevin Musson at the wheel of a pretty 1961 Formula Junior Lola MK3

After the lunch break a variety of bikes were due out including side car combinations unfortunately I was called away and missed them.

A couple of weeks ago a well known Indy & CART champ was in attendance so you never who you might bump into, for a fuller flavour check out this thread with over 1000 contributions by race fans.

Well worth a trip Wayne Pearson is the man in charge in the control tower worth popping up to have a look if you ask after him.

Hope you enjoyed today's post and that you will join me again tomorrow.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The Tao of being a 'Happy' Fan !

Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet Impala SS, Talladega, April 2009.

I missed the first 3rd of the first round of the NASCAR chase at New Hampshire.

When I came in Happy was in '13th going forward' which sounded good. Soon after we had a round of pit stops and Happy was not so happy to find himself down in 16th or 17th place.

I usually love it when Happy gets mad with his pit crew but yesterday was different this was the chase where statistically you need a better than 6th place finish to be a contender.

As the expletives flowed like the rivers of Babylon, my mind was cast back to the down powered Jimmie Johnson sat patiently in his car at Texas while his crew rebuilt the car almost from scratch all around him, in the chase last year after the Sam Hornish Jr had all but wrecked Johnsons #48.

The chase is no place to loose ones cool for even the remotest of spectators like myself, I hope the #29 team can hang together this morning and have a laugh and a joke about it because as it happened it was probably just as well Kevin dropped back some after a fumbled pit stop when, I think, 10 or so Chasers were sitting in the top 12 spots at the time.

Thanks to a latter accident which took half a dozen chase competitors right out of the top 10 all together.

As it turned out Kevin in his less than top ten car pulled on through, thanks to a calming word from Mr Childress and wound up finishing behind just two other chase contenders in 5th safely inside the magic top 6 required of a chase contender in the first round !

Not bad for a car that was obviously not in the same league as his team mates and not bad for a guy who lost the plot for a couple of laps back there.

The right result for all the wrong reasons, ain't that what JJ and the #48 have been good at capitalising on over the last 4 years ?

I hope for the sake of his crew Kevin learned something from yesterdays experience and stays calm when it all goes, Pete Tong, as it surely will at some point over the last nine races and simply hangs in there and brings home the cup Richard & Delana so richly deserve :-)

On the subject of JJ I'd still say he is the man with a target on his back if anyone can come back from his poor chase start it has to be JJ.

If JJ does win is Dangerous Denny going to feel like he is owed 5 cups ?

ps Great to be back in Rowdy Chat again last night :-)

Go Happy ! Go Harvick ! Go #29 !

Originally posted on which seems to be experiencing a few technical difficulties, hence reposting here.

Thanks for joining me on this Tao edition of 'Gettin' a li'l psycho on tyres, I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don't forget to come back now !

Monday, 20 September 2010

Happy 100th Birthday British and Colonial Aeroplane Company, Ltd !

What better way to celebrate the start of my blogging career, than with a centenary celebration in honour of the company that started my local exclusive vehicle manufacturer, The Bristol Car Company.

Unfortunately I missed the celebrations at Filton this weekend where 200 odd Bristol's, nearly 5% of all Bristol's ever made, were on display but have already made arrangements to be at the 101st birthday party.

Above is a photo taken at the Prescott VSCC meeting back in August of what I believe to be one of the 487 Bristol 400's made between 1947 and 1958.

The Bristol 400 featured a 1971 cc ohv straight 6 which, along with the chassis and bodywork, was based on the pre war BMW 327.

Some great snaps, by my friend Tim Murray, from the centenary celebrations can be seen at The Nostalgia Forum here.

Hope you enjoyed my first blog and as they used to say on one of my favourite TV show's 'y'all come back now ! Hear !'