No small slow coach

Thirteen seconds to reach 60 sounds slow. A Fiat 1500 was “lively” when the likes of a Ford Classic took 25sec. Half a minute was by no means uncommon, so I was worried that the 1 litre Ford EcoSport might feel like back to the 1970s. Really it didn’t. It will do 112mph, 20mph faster than the Fiat and 30mph more than the Classic. It also does 40 to 60mpg, two or three times what they could, and with 125PS has more than twice their power.

The EcoSport is a mini-sports utility, or a compact crossover depending on what jargon you prefer. It is chunky, looks the part, high off the ground like a grown-up SUV. There was no chance to try it off-road but it will be fine on the grass at school sports days. It has a 10.6m (34.8ft) turning circle, real front and rear skid plates, 18cm (7in) ground clearance, a 22.1deg approach angle and 35deg departure and it can wade up to 55cm (21.6in). Ford says the full-size spare wheel is hung out the back to give more luggage room although it looks more ornamental for school run street cred. There’s a neat cover yet it does make the back door heavy.

It may be built in India on a Fiesta platform but EcoSport was developed in South America. A global Ford introduced in 2003, it is credited with creating the mini-SUV segment in Brazil, has sold more than 770,000 and will now satisfy the same trend in Europe. Ford expects all SUVs to go up nearly a quarter this year, and small ones like this to increase by 90 per cent by 2018.
It is well proportioned and looks cheerful although at £16,000 scarcely cheap. Good value rather than bargain basement, our EK14 XNM had the Kinetic Blue metallic paint at £495, rear parking sensors at £210 and something called SYNC with APPLINK giving voice control of smartphone apps. Useful built-in extras include ABS, electronic stability and traction controls, tyre pressure monitoring and smart roof rails for an all-in £16,500.

There is an alternative 112PS 1.5 litre petrol engine of 44.8mpg and 149g/km CO2, or a 90PS 1.5-litre TDCi diesel that does 61.4mpg and 120g/km. But with the clever little turbocharged 1.0’s 53.3mpg and 125g/km CO2 there seems little point in bypassing it unless you want an automatic. I wonder if they’ll do a 4x4 to challenge the established Orientals?
Stylish and practical with a short bonnet, raked front pillars, and five-piece chrome grille it has angular headlamps and LED light strips. The driver sits tall, on a seat height adjustable with a steering column adjustable for reach and rake. There is good headroom and legroom and befitting an SUV with outdoor overtones it has 20 stowage places, including door pockets with space for large drinks bottles, a drawer under the front passenger seat, and a cooled glove box that can take six 350ml cans.

Occasion for driving the EcoSport was the Association of Scottish Motoring Writers’ annual presentation of the Jim Clark Memorial Trophy. There was a certain poignancy this year following the fatal accident to bystanders on the Jim Clark Rally for its presentation to Dr John Harrington in recognition of his 30 years’ work, raising medical standards and improving safety at rallies in Scotland. Alisdair Suttie (right of picture), Association President, said: “At a time when rally safety is in the spotlight, we were pleased to present this year’s Award to a medically qualified winner. Dr Harrington demonstrates the planning and preparation in motorsport events, the high levels of expertise available to competitors and the professionalism that swings into action when required.”

Another COTY winner

COTY jurors aren’t voting for Car of the Year. They are voting to look Green. Why else would they have elected the Ampera in 2012? They surely can’t have expected it to sell more than a handful. They’re not that stupid. No, they are spooked, along with governments round the world, by what WS Gilbert called greenery yallery Grosvenor Gallery foot-in-the-grave young men. Or women.

Opel and Vauxhall dealers, who hadn’t a lot of choice perhaps, accounted for the first year’s 5,000 or so Amperas. That sank to 3,184 last year and collapsed to 332 in the first five months of this, of which only 46 were in its German home market. GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky vented frustration at Geneva: “All the governments in Europe said, ‘We want EVs, we want EVs.’ We show up with one, and where is everybody?” The answer is that they were off buying something else, real cars mostly.

COTY jurors are like governments appeasing Green voters with inglorious wind farms and wasteful subsidies. By any standards the Ampera was a disaster. Production is stopping and although GM will redesign the broadly similar Volt next year it won’t come to Europe.

There wasn’t much wrong with the Ampera. It was sensibly-sized and quite handsome, drove smoothly and quietly and as a hybrid didn’t have the range anxieties of milk-floaty plug-in electric cars, attracting complaints now about how costly they are to top-up. Apparently charging stations take money by the hour, without knowing how much electricity is actually being used. The cost can be just as much for a battery flat or near full.

I have said before that there is a FIFA flavour about Car of the Year. In 50 years COTY has never elected a Jaguar, Range Rover or Land Rover. It can’t be anti-British-ness. Munich doesn’t come off well either. There has been no BMW; a range that goes from Rolls-Royce to Mini has never made the grade except for second last year for the i3. It elected an electric Nissan yet COTY doesn’t do safety. Volvo and Saab never featured. Engineering excellence? Bentley has never made it. Production quality? There have been no Hondas. Value for money? No Skodas, no Seats but 9 Fiats, 6 Renaults and 5 Fords. I can’t understand why manufacturers get so excited by it.


All cars look alike these days. Well, that's not new. The 1948 Ford V8 Pilot (left) picked up styling cues from the 1937 Wanderer W24 (middle), as well as a contemporary postwar Lanchester 10.

Ford Incident Vehicle.

Fire trucks at RAF Scampton. The Red Arrows, who fly from there now, are better served than the Dambusters of 617 Squadron. Guy Gibson’s Lancasters, which took off from here 70 years ago this month, had truck conversions on Fordsons to rush, if that’s the word, to their aid if anything went wrong. The 1940 Ford WOA2 heavy utility was usually an upright rugged shooting brake on a reinforced Model 62 V8 chassis, with a military-pattern grille, a 30HP engine and many survived the conflict as breakdown trucks. In wartime some served as staff cars with a folding map table behind the front seats and some were made into open tourers for the desert. Production continued into the late 1940s and, long before the introduction of SUVs, they became general purpose vehicles often used off-road despite not having four wheel drive. Wide tyres with deep treads gave useful grip. Post Office Telephones Home Counties Division bought them for line maintenance and in 1946 added ex-military reconditioned war-surplus stock, some with two rows of seats and two more that tipped-up in the rear. The WOA2 was adapted as a 15cwt General Service truck known as the WOT2, like this survivor at Scampton, with the same bonnet and radiator. The forward control resulted in a narrow toe-board for the driver aft of the front wheel arch. The simplified cab had canvas top and no doors; some had individual small windscreens. Later versions with fully enclosed cabs evolved into proper trucks. WOT2s equipped as fire appliances were used by the National Fire Service.

Production May 1941-1947
Engine 8-cylinders in 90deg Vee; front; 77.8mm x 95mm, 3622cc; compr 6.3:1; 80bhp (59.6kW) @ 3500 rpm; 140lbft (190Nm) @ 1500rpm; 22.1bhp (16.5kW)/l.
Engine structure: side valves; centre gear-driven 3-bearing camshaft; aluminium detachable cylinder heads, blocks and upper crankcase unitary cast iron; engine weight 581lb (263.5kg); Stromberg 48 twin choke downdraught carburettor, coil ignition, camshaft-driven distributor; mechanical fuel pump; 3-bearing cast steel crankshaft; thermosyphon cooling, two belt-driven pumps, pressure lubrication by camshaft pump.
Transmission: rear wheel drive; 9in (23cm) sdp cushioned clutch; 3-speed manual all-synchromesh gearbox; spiral bevel final drive.
Chassis: steel X-braced frame with 4 cross-members; suspension by transverse leaf springs; 4 hydraulic lever arm dampers; mechanical drum brakes; worm and sector steering; electrically welded steel disc wheels.
Equipment: 6-volt electrics, body colours according to service
Production: 11,754
Dambuster film. Aircrew embarks from a WOA2.
See more in the Ford in Ford of Britain Centenary File, still available from good bookshops.

Classic book

Guild of Motoring Writers on a front line? A handful of founders in 1944 maybe but not many. Road tests can be written under fire from unhappy PRs, readers throw brickbats, but it’s a relatively safe business so long as you choose carefully who to drive with on press launches. Yet Mike Brewer was actually shot at doing an illuminating series on army vehicles in Afghanistan. Bouncy and enthusiastic, his publicist describes Brewer as TVs best-known car dealing expert, and now he has produced a book on buying and selling modern classic cars.

Brewer presents Discovery channel’s Wheeler Dealer series, which has been running for nine years and is shown all over the world. It illustrates what interest there is in classic cars and Brewer’s book is a useful primer. It covers buying, owning, selling, auctions and basics like giving a car a deep clean. “It never ceases to amaze me how little effort people make when it comes to tidying up their cars,” Brewer says. Quite right. I learned it long ago during a brief spell in the rough and tumble of the Glasgow motor trade. “If it’s looking a bit grimy get the engine steam cleaned, and don’t forget the painted areas like the inner wings.” Every motoring writer should have a spell selling cars. What makes people buy can be revealing, and it’s hardly ever understeer or oversteer or how many seconds it takes to 60.

Brewer’s experience in the trade was more successful than mine. See his Tales from the Trade. There is cogent advice on starter classics. He recommends Mark 1 Ford Escort and Vauxhall Viva HB - plenty of variants and spares are cheap. I was less convinced about his advocacy of the Triumph Spitfire although he does recommend later ones after 1974.

Sporting classics? MGA yes, Delorean definitely not – terrible car – a dishonest pastiche. Favourite modern classics? VW Beetle – OK. Ford Capri ? Maybe. Lotus Elan? Yes. Jaguar E-type, yes certainly although not the lugubrious V12. And Morgan? OK but probably not the Plus 8, which I always thought over-powered for the frail frame. As for the Citroën DS; well to say the complicated suspension and hydraulics aren’t for the faint-hearted is an understatement. I’d go for something more bullet-proof - an MGB maybe with a Heritage bodyshell – to fend off the Taliban.

Mike Brewer’s The Wheeler Dealer Know How! £16.99 ISBN 978-1-845844-89-9 everything you need to know about buying, preparing and selling collectable cars.
Top: Jaguar E-type. Ford Capri II. My sturdy MGB. Bottom - I tested military vehicles in my Gunner days. 8 (Alma) Field Battery Royal Artillery Daimler Ferret armoured car, like they used to build in what became the Jaguar factory in Browns Lane. That’s me in the turret.

Colin Chapman

Editing before re-publication to celebrate 50 years since Jim Clark won the world championship, our book has views on Chapman by Ford’s great director of public affairs, the late Walter Hayes: “Jim Clark had two centres in his life. There was Chapman. Not Lotus, - Chapman. And there was home in Scotland. He felt secure at home in Scotland, but he never quite felt secure with Colin, because when you would say to him ‘Well Jimmy if there’s something worrying you why don’t you sit down and ask Colin’. He’d say, ‘Well you know, it’s very difficult’. He admired Chapman. He had huge respect for him. In a way he loved him, but there was often a sort of nervous tension between them.”

By 1961 Chapman’s influence was overwhelming. The relationship was more than just that between the Lotus team manager and a world champion driver. He was essentially Chapman’s world champion driver. It became a close personal relationship in which they enjoyed each other’s company and, while drivers of other teams went out on their own of an evening after a race or a practice session, Jim would almost always have dinner with Chapman.

It was a symptom of the intense loyalty Chapman commanded. His leadership qualities transcended the creation of great racing cars, his enthusiasm was infectious, he brimmed with initiatives, but more than that he had a gift for persuasion. He put over his ideas convincingly. He was able to sell his philosophy his sense of style and his self-confidence on both sides of the racing world and when it came to it, on both sides of the Atlantic. It was a messianic quality.

Reflecting on his achievements, Chapman could say quite un-self-consciously: “A few of us have to achieve great things in life so that it gives hope to others who are striving to achieve.” He really believed that some people, like him, had to succeed extravagantly in order to light up the lives of others. If anyone else had said something of that sort it would have sounded arrogant. Chapman could say it so reassuringly that it seemed almost modest and quite self-evident. He had the natural vanity of a man who knew his ideas were better.

Walter Hayes was one of Chapman’s most loyal supporters: “He never was arrogant. He merely knew better than anybody else. He also knew more.”

Hayes as an editor, had taken Chapman on as a newspaper motoring correspondent: “I’d been told to reform the Sunday Despatch and cars were beginning to be the big thing. There was no popular ownership of cars in this country until 1955. Nobody owned a car unless they were a doctor or a lawyer or rich. There were governments after the war telling us that we shouldn’t have cars at all. Sir Stafford Cripps wanted to tax them pretty well out of existence.”

“I was looking for somebody who could encapsulate what I felt was going to be the age of the car, so I got hold of Colin Chapman who was beginning to be talked about. Chapman was willing to come along, because £5,000 a year was quite important to him. He was difficult because he loved road testing cars, but it was not easy to get copy from him on time.”

Hayes (above) was sensible to Chapman’s design flair. “He was not a particularly good engine engineer, he would sit in a restaurant with a paper napkin and he would draw a car, and when he got to the engine he would just draw a box and write ‘engine’ on it. I don’t think he knew much about engines. His mind was a ferment of ideas yet instead of saying we’ve got it now, let’s perfect it, he always assumed that there had to be something added for next year. If you look at all the things he initiated in motor racing, more than any other man of our day, you often find he never stayed with anything quite long enough.”

He compared Chapman with a later entrepreneur in a similar mould, Tom Walkinshaw, who also created a successful business building and racing cars. “Walkinshaw did everything he said he would do for me on the day and at the price better than I could have expected. The same went for Chapman, and I hear stories about him in which he is not recognisable. I know people are sometimes different with me. People are particularly nice when you hold the purse strings, but I went and got Chapman because I knew him and I trusted him.”

Chapman’s early trials cars were home-built, improvised and primitive masterpieces. His Austin was followed by a Ford-powered version, then a 750cc special for racing. He applied the same bent for engineering to them that he later applied to grand prix racing cars, a talent for innovation that blossomed into something approaching genius.

He was single-minded and obsessional at whatever he turned his hand to. He was an accomplished racing driver; he designed boats and flew aeroplanes, showing aptitude at all of them. His competitive spirit was acute. Chapman never accepted the old aphorism about what mattered was taking part not winning. He could never understand how anyone could want to do anything without winning, and his winning was done with style. He had a flair for appearance, a neat turn of phrase, and a gift for branding the Lotus identity firmly on all he did. His achievements were immense, and he made exciting, innovative - although sometimes exasperating - road cars.
A millionaire by his 40th birthday, he won five drivers’ and six constructors’ world championships, and was at the head of a £10,000,000 business and the controls of his own Piper Seneca two years before his 50th. He had charm; he could show patience, but anybody doing business with him needed to be important to merit much of either. He put in long hours at the factory, ran the racing team at weekends, and seldom stopped to wonder why others did not do much the same. Energy, drive, talent and success were his hallmarks.

So was his short fuse, which sometimes went off in public such as with an overzealous policeman at Zandvoort who arrested him in a trackside fracas. Despite Chapman’s valid pass, the heavy-handed officer refused to allow him to go where he wanted, provoking a well documented punch-up.

His credentials as a driver included a close race in 1956 with Mike Hawthorn at the Whit Monday meeting at Goodwood. Both were in Lotus 11s and Chapman won. Other gifts included an ability to read a rule book, decide what its compilers meant and then find a way to defeat them. He also had a powerful commercial instinct. Where other enthusiasts might have been content to dismantle or cannibalise their first car in order to work on their second, Chapman sold it.

Lotus Engineering grew on the premise that people would build their cars from kits, and went into business on January 1, 1952, in north London. Chapman made the firm his full time job in 1955, married Hazel Williams who had provided the initial capital of £25, and employed Mike Costin as his chief assistant. He developed aerodynamic sports-racing cars and hired out his talent as a designer to Vanwall and BRM. His self-confidence seemed justified when Lotus survived its first financial crisis, and a Lotus Formula 2 car with a Coventry-Climax engine was shown at the London Motor Show. The Elite road car appeared in 1957, a ground-breaking design in glass reinforced plastic of which nearly a thousand were made.

Chapman’s delight at outwitting the racing authorities over badly-framed regulations was only matched by the cavalier attitude he adopted towards customers. He was always careful never to become personally involved, but the sharp-practice manners of Lotus in its kit-car and early Elite period enraged buyers. Their dilemma was that no other car had the same appeal. No other car had the Elite’s combination of speed and roadholding together with purity of line and sheer raciness. Chapman held the technological aces.

Intrepid diver

The TV ad for the pillarless Ford B-Max is real. No tricksy photo-shopping. Bobby Holland-Hanton really did go head first through the 1.5metre gap of a suspended B-Max to show Life-Is-An-Open-Door. Viewers see him climbing stairs to the diving board. However he was really suspended from a crane for the stunt proper. Bobby works on Bond movies so, on this occasion, the only shooting was by the camera.

Of course, pillarless 4-doors are by no means new. They were relatively easy to make when any self-respecting Rolls-Royce or Daimler had a stout chassis to keep them from sagging when the doors were open. Their structure had the integrity of a railway carriage and your footman turned a stout handle to latch a door. One did not stoop; one preserved one’s dignity getting in or coming down.
But come cars with unitary bodies it wasn’t easy to make. Doors were getting smaller and not many were able to dispense with the B-pillar. Fiat had the pillarless Ardita in 1934, and persisted with pillarlessness until the 1100 of 1952. Triumph tried it in Britain and Licorne in France, but structures tended to wilt with age. They rattled and leaked; a middle pillar held the roof and floor together. Or apart.
MG K-types (top) came in two wheelbase lengths, 9ft, or 7ft 10-and three-sixteenths of an inch. It was not a monocoque. It had a chassis and bodywork that owed something to the ash-framing and bespoke panel-beating of the coaching era. Rods inside the doors fitted catches in the roof and floor and access was relatively easy, despite the car being barely 4ft 6in tall. A long 6-cylinder engine, even of a modest 1100cc, put a premium on passenger space, so reaching seats without dodging round a middle prop was vital. The engine was a Wolseley-derived cross-flow, you could have a Wilson preselective gearbox instead of a non-synchromesh manual, but suspension was by cart springs.

The Lancia Aprilia of 1937-1939 was a little masterpiece. All-independently sprung (sliding pillars in front, transverse leaf and torsion bar at the back) and a narrow-angle ohv V4 engine, it had hydraulic brakes and was good for 80mph. A striking looking car, some 15,000 were made before the war.
Ford’s B-Max has a rear door that slides. Mazda’s RX7 (below) has a small half rear door with a concealed handle, exact, precise graceful. It’s an ideal formula for a small, perfectly proportioned sporty car barely 4ft tall. Surprising, really, that Cecil Kimber never thought of that dinky back door.

see diver

Coalition car

Dual Controls on a Ford Prefect. Just the car for coalition partners. All they would need to agree on is what gear to be in. The Prefect only had three, with synchromesh on second and third. Steering left or right would depend on who was stronger. Easier if you wanted to keep to the middle ground. Designed for driving tuition, this car pre-dated David William Donald Cameron and Nicholas Peter William Clegg by some 18 years.

1945 Prefect E93A (from: The Ford in Britain Centenary File, £27.50 Dove Publishing, 2011)

Dagenham’s millionth car was an E93A Prefect. The rounded grille and so-called “alligator” front-opening bonnet lent it a vaguely exotic air when it was relaunched only as a 4-door. Tourers were unwanted interruptions to the serious business of resuming car production. With rationing still in force economy was important, even though low-quality Pool petrol was only 2 shillings (10p) a gallon, but Purchase Tax at 33.3 per cent raised car prices against those of 1939. An annual road tax based on cubic capacity had been proposed but it was not invoked until 1946. The distorted market reversed the pre-war position in which Anglia outsold Prefect. Now the 10HP car outsold the 8 by almost two to one, although both were virtually unchanged from 1939. The Prefect had a bigger dynamo, and the seats tubular frames, which were not only cheaper to make but also more comfortable. There were minor differences in trim and colour but by 1948 The Autocar was finding the Prefect noisy and the handling indifferent. There was body roll on corners and a lot of pitching. “The system of suspension,” it observed icily, “gives comfortable riding in the sense that it takes the shock out of poor surfaces, and allows the car to be driven over really bad surfaces, without causing one to feel it is being done any harm.” Post-war designs were appearing with unitary construction and independent front suspension. Even in a buyer’s market customers were becoming choosy.

Outpost of Empire. E93A Prefect overseas.

INTRODUCTION October 1938, production to January 1949.
BODY saloon; 4-doors, 4-seats; weight 15.7cwt (797.6kg) (1758lb).
ENGINE 4-cylinders, in-line; front; 63.5mm x 92.5mm, 1172cc; compr 6.6 x:1; 30bhp (22.4kW) @ 4000 rpm; 25.6bhp (19.1kW)/l; 97.8lbft (132.6Nm) @ 2400rpm.
ENGINE STRUCTURE side valve; gear-driven camshaft; cast iron detachable cylinder head and block; aluminium pistons; Zenith downdraught carburettor; coil ignition, and mechanical fuel pump; 3-bearing counterbalanced crankshaft;
thermo-syphon cooling; splash and pressure lubrication.
TRANSMISSION rear wheel drive; 7.375in (18.73cm) sdp clutch; 3-speed manual gearbox, synchromesh on 2; torque tube; spiral bevel final drive 5.5:1.
CHASSIS pressed steel channel-section frame with three crossmembers
and lowered central box-section; suspension, transverse leaf springs
front and rear with triangulated radius arms; pear-shaped Luvax dampers;
rod actuated 10in (25.4cm) drum brakes; Burman worm and nut steering; 7 gal (31.8l) fuel tank; 5.00-16 tyres; steel spoke welded wheels.
DIMENSIONS wheelbase 94in (238.8cm); track 45in (114.3cm); length 155.5in (395cm); width 57in (144.8cm); height 63in (160cm); ground clearance 8.75in (22.2cm); turning circle 36ft (10.97m).
EQUIPMENT 6 volt electrical system; fixed-rate charging; 10amps at 30mph; rear window blind; cloth upholstery, leather trim £7 13s 4d (£7.67p).
PERFORMANCE maximum speed 59.7mph (95.8kph) The Motor; 0-50mph (80.3kph) 26.9sec; 26.6kg/bhp (35.6kg/kW); fuel consumption 33.8mpg (8.35l/100km).
PRICE 4-door £275 plus PT £77 2s 9d, £352 2s 9d (£352.77p).
PRODUCTION 1938-1949 120,505 including 1028 tourers, 667 coupes. 10,163 Tudors, 37,502CKD.

1949 Prefect E493A

Bravery and bankings

Carlos Sainz seems to have braved the bankings on the old Sitges track. You-Tube videos show Ferrari and Porsche drivers accelerate like mad down the straights and pussyfoot the bankings, while last May Sainz took an Audi R8 round in 42.6sec for a Red Bull stunt. It looked a bit of an adventure, even for a twice World Rally Champion since the bumps and fractures in the 90 year old 60deg steep concrete sent the Audi bounding. Racing high on the bankings may have been all in a day’s work for Sainz, but hugging a low line suggests faint hearts in Ferraris and Porsches.

They have tidied the bankings since 1974, when I took the pictures with a road test Granada Ghia en route to the Spanish Grand Prix at Jarama. There were races at the Autódromo de Sitges-Terramar near Barcelona the 1950s, but it had been more or less derelict since its first season of 1923. A bit like Brooklands, but better built, it remains in surprisingly good condition.

Autódromo National SA was founded in 1922 to construct a concrete banked circuit for car and motorcycle racing. It took 300 days, and cost 4 million pesetas, for a 2km track in time for a meeting on 28 October 1923. Albert Divo won a race for 2litre GP cars in a Sunbeam, at 96.91mph, from Count Louis Zborowski in a Miller. There was no prize money and unpaid builders seized the gate receipts, leaving the organizers with nothing to pay the drivers. It was seven years before the birth of Bernard Charles Ecclestone.

The authorities forbade any more international racing. It was perhaps just as well; there had been complaints from drivers over the entry and exit from the bankings. They thought the change in camber from straight to banking and back again badly designed. It didn’t seem to upset Sainz. The local Catalunyan Automobile Club held races up to 1925 before the track was sold off in the 1930s. When I went there the surviving buildings, some beneath the well-made pillars of the banking, was a chicken farm.