Roger Crathorne and Land Rover

Roger Crathorne had already been with Land Rover 16 years when I met him on a windy hill in Kintyre. The best Land Rover driver in the world, he was there to endorse a full page advertisement in the Daily Telegraph claiming you could drive across the peninsula. I had failed. Crathorne’s assignment was to show how.
Roger now says he is retiring. It is surprising how much an individual can influence a company culture. Lotus had Colin Chapman. MG had Cecil Kimber. Rover had a handful of Wilkses; Jaguar Sir William Lyons and Bentley WO. Test and development driver, engineer, the cross-country pre-eminence of Land Rovers and Range Rovers owes everything to his skill and (I do not exaggerate) devotion. He has achieved it, furthermore, while remaining one of the most courteous approachable and unostentatious individuals in an industry where such virtues are rare. I was honoured when he agreed to a foreword in the 65th anniversary edition of my Land Rover book.
There are not many jobs-for-life these days, but it has been my luck to have had one of them. Land Rover has been my career; I have loved every minute of it, so I am delighted to introduce a new updated edition of a book that details what has been, in effect, my life’s work. Fittingly it celebrates 65 years of Land Rover and my 50 years with the company, describing every phase, every up-and-down and every important product to bear the name. The story of a stop-gap model that became a world wide success has been told in hundreds of books, some written not only about one model or series, but just about one particular car. The Land Rover File covers the entire span in one work of reference that answers most of the questions people ask. Departments and executives inside Land Rover rely on what Eric Dymock and his researchers have chronicled so as an independent author, we may not agree with him on absolutely everything. We use this book as a working document and I commend it as objective, truthful, packed with good pictures and down-to-earth detail. Roger Crathorne: Enthusiast and Technical PR Manager.
Retire? It is not in Roger’s nature. He will be fettling his own classic Land Rover. He will be advising, consulting in his quiet-mannered way. Royce was lucky to have Rolls for the practicalities, to perfect the imperfect, to work out ways and means. Land Rover was just as lucky to have Roger Crathorne.
Longest employee in the oldest Land Rover Roget Crathorne in HUE 166 (top) And with the Best 4x4s he created.

MG

More on MG history (TC above). Successive managements were probably right curbing MG works racing teams. Research recalled the follies of the British motorcycle industry of the 1950s, which believed all it had to do was win TT races to secure customer loyalty. Manufacturers like Norton were profligate on racing, penurious over developing new models, and while creating the best racing motorcycles in the world neglected road bikes. BSA, Triumph, AJS, Matchless and Norton made machines that vibrated and leaked oil. The Japanese produced better, faster, well-equipped designs that ran smoothly and looked great with oil-tight exquisitely cast engines. The British firms were bankrupted in the space of a few years.

The British refused to believe that the Japanese were ever going to make anything except small-capacity machines. A book by Bert Hopwood, “Whatever Happened to the British Motorcycle Industry?” published in 1981 by Haynes was a work of what seemed at the time an endangered species, an articulate motorcycle engineer. Hopwood spent a lifetime designing amongst other successful machines the Ariel Square Four and Norton Dominator. He recalled vividly how the management of Norton, Triumph, BSA, and Associated Motorcycles sat back complacently as their industry collapsed.

“By the early 1960s,” wrote Hopwood, “Honda and other Japanese manufacturers, having dominated world motorcycle markets in the small capacity classes, were adjusting their sights and marketing excellent machines of medium capacity. I shall never understand the attitude of Jack Sangster, chairman of BSA, and Edward Turner, the Triumph designer (Turner's great vertical twin, below), to the threat. They were sought after by the press for their reactions to the growing strength of our Japanese competitors. Turner made statements many times, that the British motorcycle industry could count itself fortunate in having the Japs selling large numbers of very small machines, for they were training young riders, many of whom would graduate to larger ones, which he made so well. They formed a lucrative market that had become the backbone of our industry. He said there would be no profit in very small motorcycles so there was no point in entering that market.”

Hopwood warned Turner, whom he disparaged, that any industry that could make small bikes profitably was clearly capable of making more money out of big ones. “I had bitter arguments with Turner. I could not understand why members of the Board did not challenge him.” Hopwood blamed the Triumph management for “foggy” product planning and a total failure to acknowledge the perils.

The analogy I was drawing was how the Japanese had been quick to spot a gap in the US sports car market when Lord Stokes rather stupidly axed the Austin-Healey (above), and refused to spend money at MG. Along came the Datsun 240Z and its successors to grab the dollars we seemed to be turning our backs on. The same went for the splendidly successful Mazda MX-5 following the collapse of MG.

Hopwood’s view on Turner was probably unfair. He was deeply admired by the astute Sir William Lyons, who proposed a partnership in 1944, and designed the V8 engine later adopted by Jaguar.

Four Wheel Drift


Pom liked analyses. This illustrated the forces working on a mid-engined Cooper-Climax
Road test cars in lurid skids are so 1950s. Only louts and motoring hacks drive cars sideways in clouds of smoke. Power slides, what Stirling Moss used to call four wheel drifts, went out with skinny tyres.  Jack Brabham was still “hanging the tail out” with the Cooper-Climax in 1960 but it now looks a quaint relic of a bygone age.

Up to about 1937 racing drivers tended to brake before a corner, go round on half throttle, and then accelerate. With more power they could spin the back wheels, skidding out the tail, keeping control by steering on opposite lock. When independent suspension came in wheels had more grip and for the first time understeered. In Design and Behaviour of the Racing Car (Kimber 1963) by Stirling Moss (left) and the late and much lamented Laurence Pomeroy, Moss says: “It was now possible to produce a halfway house between the trailing throttle and power slide techniques. At Rheims in 1938 spectators saw cars set up for right hand corners by turning the front wheels well to the right then feeding power into the rear wheels with such control that wheelspin, and a power slide, was avoided, but at the same time the cornering power of the tyres was so reduced that the tail came out without the wheels spinning. The car then went round, pointing well in-field, so that a photographer standing back might have it pointing straight at him. Thus was the four wheel drift initiated.”


Well, it’s different now. Any grand prix driver getting that far out of shape is either wasting time or having an accident. The fastest way through a corner is a precise line, yet surprisingly editors still like pictures of Ferraris, or any fast car it seems, in a tyre-screeching skid. It does not prove road testers are clever drivers. There’s no skill to it. But it makes me wary.  It looks as though motoring magazines are designed for juveniles and not for Ferrari-buying classes at all. Exemplary road test picture: Jaguar (right)

Sir Frank Williams

When Bernie was asked on the starting grid who he’d like to see win the Spanish Grand Prix, the hard-bitten old impresario said “Williams.” Winning for Sir Frank’s 70th birthday party seemed a long shot. It had not won since 2004. Like Manchester City’s last-minute triumph you couldn’t make it up.


I thought the bubbly, slightly devious but thoroughly likeable keep-fit fanatic we used to call W**k*r (rhyme it with Franker) Williams older than that. He had been in grand prix racing, it seemed, for ever and certainly most of the 1960s to the 1980s, when it was my job to cover it. I knew him as a hustler, a bustler always seemingly on the brink of financial disaster, who could sell sponsorship from a red kiosk owing, it was said, to a temporary anomaly over his domestic phone bill.

What a hero. Fidgety, mercurial, wiry, wide-eyed; we followed him from crisis to crisis, with unlikely sponsors and unlikely cars. You had to admire his cheek. He was up against the engineering genius of Colin Chapman, the cunning of Enzo Ferrari, the pragmatism of John and Charles Cooper and the stolid practicality of Jack Brabham. Well funded and well organised grand prix teams had come, with smooth-talking PROs - yes even then – and ignominiously gone.

Frank Williams didn’t need a PRO. He was available, loquacious even, in the paddock winning or, as often as not, losing. He once stopped me in my tracks with: “That was a nice piece you wrote about us in The Guardian.” Hardly anybody else ever did that. Graham Hill was one. None of the others read, registered or understood.

Williams’ setbacks were cruel and colossal. He had to come back after the bright star of Piers Courage was snuffed out at Zandvoort in 1970. He endured Ayrton Senna’s accident at Imola in 1994 to say nothing of the Italian police scapegoating afterwards. Frank’s own accident in 1986 one felt sure would paralyse his career, as well as him.

Well, it didn’t. Awards, such as the well deserved Helen Rollason for outstanding achievement in the face of adversity, and national recognition acknowledge as much. Congratulations Sir Franker; one of the motor racing greats along with Chapman and Ferrari. And if, who knows, Bernie does manipulate Formula 1 like some super telemetry Scalextric set, he couldn’t have written a better scene than this one.

Except maybe for the fire.

Duncan Hamilton


Duncan Hamilton was not so much economical with the truth as reckless with it. Jaguar historians don’t believe his story of how he and Tony Rolt won Le Mans in 1953. It is always a shame to let the facts stand in the way of a good story, but it seems the infraction that caused all the trouble was during Thursday practice not, as Hamilton tells it, the day before the race.

The ever-trustworthy Andrew Whyte noted that Lofty England “doesn’t go along with Hamilton’s version … of the incident,” and published a photograph showing that there were indeed two Number 18s in front of the pits during practice, - no big deal but against the rules. Sir William Lyons had to pay a fine for the infringement.

Norman Dewis, the Jaguar test driver told biographer Paul Skilleter how Lyons summoned Jaguar public relations executive Bob Berry in the small hours after Thursday practice, to compose an apology to the Automobile Club de l’Ouest. Lofty spent Friday sorting things out. So whatever prompted Hamilton and Rolt to “go on a bender” the night before the race, it wasn’t the threat of disqualification, which had been lifted.

Nevertheless Hamilton’s version prompted a review of the reissued book, which I have included in the new ebook Eric Dymock on Cars 1991, available to purchase on Amazon at an introductory £1.27.


The Sunday Times 20 January 1991

Racer who lived in the fast lane


DUNCAN HAMILTON is not so much economical with the truth as reckless with it. In an introduction to Touch Wood, his father’s reissued autobiography, Adrian Hamilton cheerfully acknowledges that when first published in 1960, “it just didn’t matter if in places it might be less than nitpickingly accurate — it captured the flavour of a bygone age in which sporting achievement alone was never enough without fun along the way”.

Duncan Hamilton’s idea of fun might not have been everybody else’s even in 1960. Boisterous to the point of delinquency on his own admission during service in the Fleet Air Arm, his high-spirited, perilous career continued after the war in motor racing.


He drove Talbots, ERAs and HWMs with great vigour and his victory at Le Mans in 1953 became the stuff of legend. Partnered by Major A P R Rolt* in the official Jaguar team, his car was disqualified the night before the race on a technicality and, in Hamilton’s own words, they “went on a bender”.

Reinstated the next morning, their only cure for a substantial hangover was the “hair of the dog”. They not only survived one of the world’s most arduous motor races, but won at a record speed, nearly 10mph faster than the winning Mercedes- Benz the year before and for the first time more than 100mph.

On a more practical note, the AA’s books on guiding motorists around Britain have set their own high standards. The latest series, Britain on Country Roads, includes one that helps drivers avoid main roads and encourages them to explore places bypassed by motorways and trunk routes. It describes 96 mini-tours of 50 to 90 miles, illustrating places of interest, and includes careful route directions. The maps are clear and the quality of production is exemplary.

*Anthony Peter Roylance "Tony" Rolt, MC and Bar (1918 – 2008) was more than a motor racing hero. Awarded the MC as a Lieutenant in the Rifle Corps in the defence of Calais, he was taken prisoner and after a number of escape attempts was sent to Colditz, where he planned to escape by glider. Hamilton’s book gained collectors’ status, the AA books have not. Some second-hand bookshops refuse to stock them; they take up so much space. So many were sold and then languished, mostly unread, on bookshelves throughout the land to accumulate on house clearances

Juan Manuel Fangio


When Juan Manuel Fangio drove for Ferrari in 1956, he accused it of skulduggery on a grand scale. He claimed he was given a car with no oil in the back axle, so that somebody else would win the Belgian Grand Prix. For the Mille Miglia mechanics cut holes in the bodywork to drench him in rainwater. They arranged a fuel gauge to fracture and spray him with petrol in the French Grand Prix.
As punishment for going off to drive for Maserati in 1957, Enzo Ferrari sent seductive women on the eve of big races to try and take the edge off Fangio’s driving. The rift between two of the greatest names in the sport became so much part of motor racing folklore that it was almost disappointing to find it no more, it seems, than a misunderstanding.
Fangio blamed it on Marcello Giambertone, his manager in 1956 when he won the fourth of his five world championships. The accusations were recounted in 'My Twenty Years of Racing', published in Britain by Temple Press in 1961. In a preface Fangio wrote, "It was Giamba (Giambertone) who finally persuaded me to write this book. Many people have tried, but I did not accept their offers."
Giambertone had demanded a personal mechanic for his driver then complained that despite winning the championship Fangio, alone of the team’s drivers, did not receive the customary gold medal. "Juan's title," he wrote, "was an exceptional performance which brought Ferrari 50 million Lire in prizes from the Italian Automobile Club alone."
Enzo Ferrari saw things differently apparently regarding Fangio as, "...a great driver, afflicted by a persecution mania," angrily refuting allegations of treachery and sabotage. It was a long running quarrel and the breach was never healed.
Ferrari died in 1988, and in 1990 Fangio produced another book, 'My Racing Life, also with a preface under his byline which said, "I have never before taken any direct part in any book written about me. This is the first book I have truly contributed to." He dismissed Giambertone's 1961 work as, ..."a book of which I appeared to be the co-author. In it, certain things were written that I did not agree with, and he was entirely responsible for. It was a responsibility I felt I did not share when Signor Ferrari asked for explanations."
Perhaps as a result of his experience, Fangio insisted that after tape-recording the material for the new book he would approve the contents, "In order to see that there was no alteration to the essence of what I said." The result was rather anodyne. The prickly relationship with Ferrari was effectively ignored, and although the rest was interesting and even entertaining, it added only ephemera to what we already knew.
Stirling Moss, who wrote a preface to both Fangio's books, told me the accusations were unworthy of both men. "Fangio was always the gentleman, and like me he had the greatest respect for Enzo Ferrari and all he did for the sport. They weren't exactly buddies. Nobody was that close to Ferrari, but I never knew of any animosity between them, and we both thought the world of Ferrari's cars. Nobody ever died in a Ferrari because the car broke, and you couldn't say the same about some other cars. I always thought Giambertone was a bit of a wheeler-dealer. A driver like Fangio didn't need a manager. He was above that." Juan Fangio died in 1995.
For collectors: Fangio: My Racing Life. Juan Manuel Fangio with Roberto Caruzzo, Patrick Stephens Ltd, £20.00 ISBN 1-85260-315-1. Picture, top:
Fangio signing copies of my book The Guinness Guide to Grand Prix Racing, Guinness Superlatives, 1980, on the starting grid at Brands Hatch. Copies are available from Amazon or ebay at around £15-£20. My Racing Life had various imprints. Pay £20-£35 for a good one. More for either with Fangio’s autograph.

Peter Kenneth Gethin (21 February 1940-5 December 2011)


Jenks was not always right. Motor Sport’s Continental Correspondent, Denis Jenkinson got carried away by what he saw as a win by, “a tough little Londoner,” on 5 September 1971. Peter Gethin, then 31, set a record in the history of world championship Grands Prix by winning at the fastest average speed of all the races that had counted towards the title since 1950. He won the Italian Grand prix at Monza at 150.75mph, with just over half a second between him and fifth, also a BRM, driven by Howden Ganley.
Jenks wrote: “It was interesting to listen to François Cevert and Ronnie Peterson explaining why they did not win, when they had started the last lap each confident that they had got it all worked out for victory. Peterson claimed that he could pass Cevert’s Tyrrell between the last corner and the finish. He had tried it several times during the last 15 laps. Cevert said he had a much more powerful engine than Peterson and could pass any time he wanted. His plan was to lead into the last corner then pass on the run-up to the finish. He did not want to lead in the last corner in case Peterson slipstreamed him and darted ahead on the line.”

Analysis paralysis. Jenks imagined motor racing was much more careful and controlled than it really was. He thought Peterson, “a charger with not too much racing intelligence,” and Cevert, “a beautiful young man who is timid and doesn’t want to get hurt.” He was probably right in supposing than neither thought Gethin or his BRM likely winners, yet constructs a last lap scenario too profound. What really happened was that Cevert and Peterson got over-excited about their clever plans and went wide on the last corner, leaving room for Gethin to get through. He could then accelerate his BRM away in its high second gear, taking the engine to 11,500rpm. He normally changed into third for the straight past the pits but this time remained in second until after the flag. Opportunism took him to victory. Motor racing was much less of an exact science than Jenks imagined.

P160 Yardley BRM on its press showing, 17 February 1971
Peter Gethin hung up his helmet in 1977 after a career spanning 15 years of Grand Prix, Formula 2, and Can-Am. He dominated Formula 5000, was European Champion in 1969 and 1970, and scored a remarkable double victory in 1973 by winning the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch twice, under different sets of rules.

He was born in Ewell (nearly London) into competitive sport. His father was Ken Gethin, one of the top jockeys and horse trainers in England, and started racing in 1962 with Lotus sports cars. In 1965 he moved on to single-seaters, then in 1968, into Formula 2, then still the training ground for top drivers. His opportunity in Grand Prix racing followed Bruce McLaren’s death in a testing accident at Goodwood but by the next year the team was in disarray, and Gethin moved to BRM.

The Monza race was only his second at the wheel of the V12 and by the following year the authorities introduced new corners to slow cars down. Slipstreaming, they decided, was too dangerous, so that while later generation of cars were faster, and cornered at higher speeds, race average speeds were lower. Alan Henry’s customarily well researched obituary in The Guardian relates how Gethin told him BRM boss Louis Stanley spent race weekend trying to lure Cevert into the BRM team. The previous evening, Peter was moved to the bottom of the dinner table to accommodate the French driver.

Yet 24 hours later, following his not entirely expected win (the lofty Stanley saw Gethin as “something of a lightweight”) he was swept regally out of the paddock in Stanley's Mercedes 600. His greatest day finished with him crouching by the side of the road back to Como, changing a wheel. It said much for Gethin that he saw the funny side.

Monza was Gethin’s only grand prix victory in 30 races. Bubbly, short 5ft 8in, with a winning smile and great charm, his record speed was only exceeded in 2003. His place in the history of motor racing was nevertheless still secure.

Yardley Team BRM press release picture, Europa Hotel, London. Motor racing publicity pictures had a long way to go. BRM mechanics are real.

WO: The collapse of Bentley Motors


“It was”, said WO Bentley, “the most distasteful and depressing episode in my life.” Yet recalling at the age of 70 what happened when he was 43 may have betrayed a selective memory. Some details in his autobiography, published in 1958, of what happened when Bentley Motors failed were contentious.

The main facts are not in dispute. Bentley Motors was wound up on 9 September 1931. Cricklewood’s closure and receivership ended the first chapter of Bentley’s 90-year history. The Autocar confidently predicted that selling Bentley to aero engine and former car manufacturer, Napier, awaited only formal approval. The receiver had approached WO, there were plans for a Napier-Bentley and even a price, £104,775.

If only it had been that simple. Bentley had ceased trading in June, when its monthly interest payment to The London Life Association Ltd, 81 King William St EC, fell due. London Life held the Cricklewood mortgage, but Bentley Motors failed to meet it and Woolf Barnato, who had been buying creditors off since 1925, had had enough. The end was nigh and the receiver applied to a court for confirmation of the sale.

The hearing was interrupted by the British Central Equitable Trust (BCET). A small London business house specialising in company negotiations, it stepped in with a higher offer, and said it would match whatever else was put up. Napier asked for an adjournment so that it could raise its bid. The court refused to act as auctioneer and demanded sealed tenders from the opposing barristers by half past four. The BCET’s offer was higher and, obliged to act in shareholders’ and creditors’ interests, the court had to accept it.

Headlines next day made depressing reading. “Bentley Motors – Purchase Surprise.” WO was taken aback. Napier tried to cheer him up and confirmed that they still wanted him to work at Acton but the newspaper report contained the reality of his dilemma. “The expected absorption of Bentley Motors Ltd by D Napier and Son Ltd will not take place. An unexpected last-minute bid yesterday afternoon secured the Bentley assets for a rival buyer. Nothing is known of the Trust’s intentions. Nor is any director apparently identified with motor manufacturing. It is therefore presumed that this financial corporation is acting on behalf of some firm as yet unknown.”

It was. “Days passed,” wrote WO in his autobiography. “I was in a state of acute anxiety. It was an odd and unpleasant situation not to know who now controlled my future and the firm that bore my name. I waited for an official word. None came. Napier could tell me nothing.” His future was controlled because he was contractually bound to Bentley Motors, so whoever had bought it, had also bought him.

Sloper carburettors - a Bentley classic.

WO claimed that one evening his wife came back from a cocktail party, where she had overheard a man saying that his company had recently taken over the old Bentley firm. This was Arthur Sidgreaves, managing director of Rolls-Royce.

WO’s account may not have been the whole truth. Malcolm Bobbitt, author of WO The Man Behind the Marque (Breedon Books Publishing 2003) points out that WO was estranged from Mrs Bentley, the former Audrey Morten Chester Hutchinson, whom he married in 1920. The wife in WO’s explanation may not have been Audrey at all, but her friend Margaret Roberts Hutton, with whom WO was conducting an affair. Audrey was about to issue divorce proceedings and in due course WO and Margaret married.

Bobbitt suggests that: “In the relatively tight-knit society of luxury motor car manufacturers, Audrey Bentley would have been known, and likewise she would have known Arthur Sidgreaves. Remarks made by Sidgreaves in Audrey’s presence would have been indiscreet, suggesting that it might have been Margaret, rather than Audrey, who attended the party.”

WO’s world was coming to pieces. Bentley Motors was lost. His first wife Léonie had died in the influenza epidemic following the First World War and now his second marriage, for a long time unhappy, was coming to an end. There had been rumours of WO’s other affairs and his handling of Bentley Motors’ day to day business had been rancorous. He was hopelessly self-indulgent. He was good at testing cars, which he enjoyed, but even at his prep school Lambrook confessed he didn’t persevere at things unless he liked doing them. He said, “I didn’t like doing the things I didn’t like, and that was that.” He didn’t like the business side of Bentley Motors so he didn’t do it. He loved organising the racing side at which, like Enzo Ferrari, he excelled.

The romance racing Bentleys. Le Mans by night.

It was with bitterness that he learned of the subterfuge under which Rolls-Royce, discovering Napier’s interest, had employed BCET to pre-empt it. WO wrote: “Eighteen months before Bentley Motors went into liquidation we were making a very good profit, due largely to the 8 Litre. The amount of work involved in making it wasn’t much more than making a 6½ but we charged a lot more. In fact we put on an extra £50 to make it more than a Rolls-Royce.”

Bentley among others had found that it did not cost a great deal more to make a big car than a little car. The sole advantage, reduced weight of metal, never amounted to much in terms of costs. Machining, construction, labour or the price of components meant there was in the end very little difference. It was always possible to leave complication off a cheaper car, although a manufacturer still had to go through the same processes for a car of any size.

“The 8 Litre gave us prestige and the price didn’t mean a thing to people who bought our cars. Shortly before we went into liquidation we were going to become a public company and the capital was practically underwritten. We were thinking about building a smaller car – down to 1½ litres perhaps – but then the slump arrived.” WO’s dreams were in vain. The trading loss for 1931 was £84,174 and Rolls-Royce bought Bentley for £125,175.

Major W Hartley Whyte's (the Whyte of Whyte and Mackay)8 Litre.

What really irked him, however, was not the takeover of his name so much as the realisation that he went with the office furniture. Among Bentley Motors’ 1919 Articles of Association was a clause that had far-reaching consequences. WO was paid £2,000 a year royalty for his patents on various aspects of the design of Bentley cars, but was forbidden to leave the company or compete with it. In 1925, when Barnato came in to keep the firm afloat, the shares were devalued from £1 to one shilling (5p) so most of the original investors lost money. More tellingly the new regime saw WO as vital, so although his financial interests were reduced and his salary halved, he remained under contract to Bentley Motors for life.

The contract worked both ways. There were times when Barnato and his nominees, despairing of WO’s indifference to realistic accounting, would gladly have seen the back of him, notwithstanding the difficulties that would have ensued. Many years later Barnato suggested that had WO been removed, breaching his contract might have been costly but outside the firm hardly anybody would have noticed. By the late 1930s under Rolls-Royce, WO’s input was not essential for production of Bentley cars; the make was well established.

Earlier days. WO at the wheel of a DFP.

WO’s position was, as Bobbit says, fragile and there were many differences of opinion between him and the other directors notably over the 4 Litre. He had been miffed when they went to Harry Ricardo to design its engine, although WO’s haughty claim to have had nothing to do with it at all do not stand up. His correspondence with Ricardo and visits to him at Shoreham suggest their relationship may indeed have been cordial.

By the time Rolls-Royce informed WO that his lifetime obligation to Bentley Motors remained in force, he felt embittered. Napier took his case up but lost and he had to sign up with Rolls-Royce for test-driving and tedious meetings, but no place on the design or engineering staff, and no seat on the board alongside Barnato. He had an unhappy encounter with the ailing Sir Henry Royce who gruffly forbade him from the premises. Royce wrote to Sidgreaves, “If we were to let him have the run of Derby designs, experiments and reputation, Rolls-Royce would teach him more than he would help us, and we should be making him more powerful to do us harm by perhaps in a year or two going to Napier or elsewhere.”

The pity was that had they thought it through the pair, as with Ricardo, might have had more in common than they imagined. As it was, Royce was in physical and mental decline, while WO felt frustrated and humiliated. Their spat left a Royce-Bentley a great automotive might-have-been.

Michael Scarlett

Testing with Audi, 1980, Eric Dymock (left) and the late Michael Scarlett

You trusted Michael Scarlett with your life. Often. We did thousands of miles together testing cars, spending the hours talking, conjecturing, gossiping. Congenial, memorable, Michael was generous with his knowledge. I owe him many debts for lucid explanations of technical mysteries. His deeply intelligent writing remains his memorial.

We drove with one another because it felt safe. Michael drove beautifully; fast, smooth, adventurous, sometimes mischievous. Wheel to wheel at 130mph with an identical Peugeot, he turned off our air conditioning. He knew how much horse power it was using and we pulled ahead at 133mph, deeply puzzling the other driver. We found our lap times in Ferraris round Fiorano matched as closely as our views on affairs of state, the way cars handled, or the skill of this or that engineer. His joyful, “I couldn’t agree more…” was said with a zest and enthusiasm to which people warmed. Scarlett was pure delight.

His happy conversations, alas, are ended save in those hearts and minds which, like mine, were enriched through knowing him.