Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Williams FW07

Williams FW07

The FW07 put Williams firmly on the F1 map! Its precursor - the FW06 - had guided 'Williams Grand Prix Engineering' into motorsport's big league. Patrick Head was chief designer. Key to the FW06 was 'ground-effect' ... the technical wizardry Lotus had first introduced. Aerodynamic skirts 'sucked' the Lotus 78 to the tarmac. Ground-effect was a GP game changer. It made the '78' nigh on unbeatable. But, Lotus had a chink in their armour. The 78's structural strength - or lack of it - limited the amount of down-force that could be used. The new Williams - the FW07 - featured a monocoque chassis. It could take as much 'vacuum-suck' as the venturi could chuck at it!

The '79 season was well under way by the time the FW07 was launched. It did not take long for it to get up to speed. Come the mid-point of the campaign, and the FW07 was flying! Clay Regazzoni took its first win. Fittingly, for Williams, it was at Silverstone, England. Alan Jones added a further four wins to the tally, by season's end. Next time round - in 1980 - Jones took Williams' first World Championship. He pipped Nelson Piquet - in his Brabham - to the F1 post.

In '81, it was more of the same. Carlos Reutemann - in the FW07 - topped the podium for most of the season. 1982 - and the final act for the FW07 was staged at Long Beach, California. Keke Rosberg finished second - giving Williams another world title. Ground-force - in the guise of the FW07 - had generated more than just traction. It administered Williams' first - but not last - dose of F1 dominance.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Indian Powerplus

Indian Powerplus

The Powerplus was a cut above other motorcycles ... at least, so far as Indian were concerned! Their customers clearly did not disagree. Sales-wise, the Powerplus was a soaraway success. Between 1916 and '24 - the span of its production run - slight modifications were all that were needed.

The Powerplus gave up 18bhp - from its 998cc engine. The result was a top speed of 60mph. Indian entered the Powerplus in the 1911 TT. It vanquished all comers - a clean sweep of places being duly snatched. Indian were breaking long-distance records, too. In 1914, 'Cannon Ball' Baker shot across America. It took him 11 days, 12 hours, 10 minutes ... which was precision-timing, back then!

The Powerplus looked superb - in its mantle of Indian red. The fuel tank was embellished with the 'Indian' script. The swept-back 'bars were a vintage delight. Old school engineering is in artful abundance. Indeed, hours would be required to fully take in the Indian Powerplus!

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Excelsior Manxman

Excelsior Manxman

Excelsior was the UK's first motorcycle manufacturer. The company's best-known bike, the 'Manxman', was named for the TT - or, Tourist Trophy - the devil-may-care road-race, on the Isle of Man.

After Excelsior won the Lightweight TT - in 1933 - people began to sit up and take notice. The bike was was the so-called 'Mechanical Marvel'! Keen to capitalise on their success, Excelsior conceived a 'racing replica' roadster. At the last, though, the project was cancelled. Excelsior feared its engine would prove too complex for 'Clubman'-level 'tinkering'.

While that change of heart was a loss to amateur racing, it was a boon to road riders. Instead of the 'race rep', Excelsior served up the Manxman. Its single overhead camshaft engine came in 250, 350 and 500cc guises. Light tuning sorted it for the track. Standard, it was more than adequate for country lane heroics. The Excelsior Manxman, then, was a product which pleased everyone. The finest hour of an historic marque!

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Jaguar D-Type

Jaguar D-Type

In the mid-'50s, the Jaguar D-Type dominated the motor racing scene. It won at Le Mans in '55, '56 and '57. In '57, five D-Types took the first six places. And they were all privateers. It is safe to say that Jaguar 'targeted' the famous French circuit!

Jaguar's C-Type had paved the way. 'C' was for 'Competition'. Jaguar took their XK120 sports car - a proven success, on both road and track - and grafted on a race-spec body kit. William Lyons - Jaguar boss - opined that pure production cars could no longer cut it, at the race-track. A Jaguar motorsport division was required. The C-Type won twice at Le Mans ... and, in so doing, demonstrated that disc brakes were the way to go.

The D-Type, then, was Jaguar's first dedicated racer. It hit the grid in '54. From the get-go, it was clear that Jaguar had been busy! The flowing curves of its bodywork came courtesy of Malcolm Sayer. The stabilising fin at the rear looked like it had been lifted from a land speed record car. Underneath lay a 'monocoque' chassis. Disc brakes were fitted all-round ... jointly developed by Jaguar and Dunlop. A front-mounted 6-cylinder motor fed 250bhp to the rear wheels. Top speed was 175mph. In the '54 Le Mans race, a D-Type pushed Ferrari all the way to the flag. The Ferrari, though, had a much bigger engine. Jaguar, no doubt, chalked that up as a moral victory! The D-Type was still available to privateer drivers, and race wins were recorded around the world. Coventry, England - Jaguar HQ - was well and truly on the automotive map! The D-Type first bridged the gap between road and track. To that extent, it changed motor racing. No longer would 'competition cars' be within easy reach of the average driver. Motor racing, generally, would become less accessible. Whatever the verdict on that, few cars have moved motorsport on more radically than the Jaguar D-Type.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Lotus 25

Lotus 25

The Lotus 25 was all about innovation. It was designed by Colin Chapman - charismatic top man at Lotus. In a quest to lower the nose of the car - in the interests of aerodynamics - Chapman envisioned a one-piece chassis. The previous car - the Lotus 24 - had been built around space-frame steel tubing. That was the standard, in '61. The '25', though, allowed its aluminium shell to act as the frame. Not only was the 'monocoque' lower and narrower - it was stronger and lighter, too. Frame flex was substantially reduced. That also let the suspension function to better effect.

Chapman boxed clever! The '62 season started with the old Lotus 24 on the grid - complete with its space-frame chassis. Early, non-championship races were a perfect opportunity to pull the wool over rival teams' eyes. Come the Dutch GP, though - and the Lotus 25 was revealed! With master craftsman Jim Clark at the wheel, the new Lotus quickly established itself as the class of the field. It would have won the World Championship at the first time of asking - were it not for last-round reliability issues. The following season, though, saw no such slip-up. A record-breaking seven win haul saw Lotus take its first world crown. They would repeat the feat, in '65 - with the wider-wheeled '33'. That was a great year for the Norfolk-based team ... Lotus also won the Indy 500!

The synergy, then, between the 25 and Clark was an automotive marriage from heaven. They lit up the F1 1.5-litre era. Colin Chapman - the arch-innovator - had done it again. Chassis and frame technology had morphed into the modern era. GP cornering would never be the same again!

Williams FW07

The FW07 put Williams firmly on the F1 map! Its precursor - the FW06 - had guided 'Williams Grand Prix Engineering' into ...