The latest from Eric's blog
Fresh posts, best read in a comfortable chair with a wee dram of scotch close at hand.
Guessing where cars are heading has preoccupied generations. Every motor show I remember had concept cars. Some of General Motors’ predictions from the 1938 Buick Y-Job to the 1951 Le Sabre were more than flights of fancy. HG Wells predicted aircraft, tanks and texting yet he was hazy about cars. He imagined motorways like railways connecting cities, decanting people on to bicycles in town. Some 30 years ago Prometheus sent me driverless on test tracks to show that ingredients for autonomous controls were already here. Now the Royal College of Art’s Intelligent Mobility Design Centre and the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design is presenting Driverless Futures, Utopia or Dystopia? At the London Transport Museum
Car launches were the staff of motoring correspondents’ lives. Still are. They had moments such as with the Peugeot 605. Co-driving with the late and much missed Michael Scarlett (below), technical editor of Autocar - we trusted each other with our lives – we raced across the Egyptian desert. It was blisteringly hot. The entire cavalcade of 4-valve 3 litre cars had an identical top speed of 146mph but mischievous Michael would turn off the air conditioning, releasing a few precious horsepower enabling us to pull ahead. Seemed innocent at the time although maybe not what you would confess to in a serious newspaper motoring column.
Ted Lee drew up the MG octagon. He was a 1920s accountant with Morris Garages that was selling spruced up Morris Oxfords. Undergraduates wanted sporty cars but couldn’t always run to £1475 Bugattis or £1975 Bentleys, so Lee’s pale small manager with a limp saw an opportunity. Cecil Kimber was good at selling £140 Morrises until he found that fancy bodywork in bright colours could make that £245.
If you wanted to portray a great American you would create somebody like Dan Gurney. Lean, tall, talented, good-looking, lit with a broad Californian smile he personified all the best of the country. His All-American Racers of Santa Ana, founded with another great, Carroll Shelby, inspired the Anglo-American Eagle that in 1967 won the first victory for an American grand prix car since 1921. American as baseball and apple pie, Dan embraced Britain and its racing car engineering from rural Rye, Sussex next door to Harry Weslake. Britain embraced Dan.
There was nothing modest about Renault’s own description of its new Grand Sport series. In a word, it was hyperaérodynamique. The steeply-raked radiator grille blended into smooth wings with the headlamps faired in between them. The original styling clay buck shows the lamp units set into the front of the wings. This was the first Renault to do away with running boards. A centre pillar on saloon models separated the halves of the flat windscreen, which was raked back to match the lines of the radiator. Spats enclosed the rear wheels. At the front the chromium-plated bumper blade curved down in the centre to provide access for a starting handle.
Royal Air Force centenary celebrations must include Bentley. Better remembered now for cars than aero engines, at its creation on 1 April 1918 Lieutenant Walter Owen Bentley Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) became Captain WO Bentley RAF among all 50,000 Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) personnel transferred into the new service. A lot of its 2,500 aircraft were equipped with engines for which in 1919 the Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors granted WO £8,000 [£156,000].
Our latest releases and new editions of classic works.
Out of print for twenty years, the 2017 edition of Jim Clark: Tribute to a Champion is newly revised and expanded and completely redesigned in colour throughout. This classic of motor racing celebrates the life and achievements of Jim Clark (1936-1968).
Newly revised and expanded, this complete history of Vauxhall includes great Edwardian sports cars like the 1911 Prince Henry and the 1920s 30-98 up to the 2007 VXR8. Over 170 individual models are fully illustrated, with a 200-word description plus a full technical specification.
The definitive Jaguar resource. Includes concept cars, one-offs, race reporting, design methodology and specifications for every landmark Jaguar made: racing Jaguars and road cars such as the Mark 2 saloons and the one-off XJ13, failures and successes right up to the XF and XJ
The Complete Bentley is the only single volume with an accurate comprehensive model-by-model guide with details, specifications and pictures of every Bentley made. It starts with the notable rotary aero engine of World War I and describes all the collectors’ classics, including a fully-illustrated chronology of the company and its racing since 1919.
Land Rover File: 65th Anniversary Edition is a must for any 4x4 enthusiast's bookshelf. A treasure trove of models, photos, diagrams, specifications and anecdotes, the book covers every Rover model since 1948. Evoque, Defender, Range Rover, Discovery, Freelander, and Range Rover Sport are all included to bring the book bang up to date.