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The Scribe Muses on the Meaning of Life...


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#1 Don Capps

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Posted 03 October 2000 - 16:06

This Forum has given me heart.

The wonderful discussions on the various topics we currently have going make me feel very good about the direction this Forum is heading. We seem to have a good mix of the general, the specific, the obscure, and the obvious along with a pleasant ambiance that encourages discussion.

I always hoped we would be able to attract a variety of folks to this watering hole. The casual historian -- an Enthusiast seeking more about the sport, and the dedicated Enthusiast turned hard-core historian -- with all the shades in-between as well as just the fan who is curious, need to co-exist and have a place to mingle easily. Oh, they can peel off into some arcane discussions about a particular subject -- the Ferrari F2 thread is an excellent example -- where much or little is accomplished, bit the focus always returns to the business at hand: discussing motor racing history in an open and friendly manner.

I have learned much from the many folks on this Forum. I have revised my thinking about something I thought I knew more times than I can recall!

The good Michael M has given me pause with the following which are from a discussion which just happens to be on the Ferrari F2 cars, however the topic could any number of issues:

Although Sheldon’s books of course are very valuable and informative is seems to be a fact that they contain a lot of mistakes, especially concerning chassis numbers. To fix chassis numbers by your own decision due to lack of any other reliable information only creates confusion, and in my eyes should be avoided. If such numbers are not known, then this should be accepted as a fact.


The chassis number game is not only difficult, but also dangerous. General opinion is that all 3 1948 Ferrari monoposti disappeared, but based on our investigations there are signs now that c/n 06C is still in existence today, although as F2 (it was in fact converted to F2 in 1949). If the “guess” that 06C was the prototype is spread publicly, it soon will be converted to “theory”, somewhat later the word “reasonable” is added, and next step is “probably is”. If such car will appear at an auction somewhere in future, catalogue then will read “many well known historians confirm that this is the first ever Ferrari monoposto built”, a statement which for sure will increase value. Therefore chassis numbers should only be published – and this forum is public - , if they are proven and confirmed.


Michael is, of course, correct in his concerns. Which is why I have the quotations from Wilde and Keynes on my signature. As an analogy, I used the characters from the wonderful TV series The Prisoner. Number 6 is always asking the question, "What do you want?" Number 2 is always stating the answer, "Information!" Indeed, that is what the Forum is all about: information.

Michael is 100% correct about the possible use and mis-use of information such as chassis numbers. Recall that at one point three different museums or collections claimed to possess the 250F that Fangio drove at the 1957 German GP -- and it turned out that none of the machines were the correct one!

While the issue of accuracy is always first and foremost among historians, the discussion is based upon the open and "free" access to the materials by those involved in the discussion -- or debate should it evolve in that direction. In motor racing, the problem is that much of the information is controlled by a relative few individuals or not generally available. Some of this has to do with commercial reasons, naturally: we are "free" to purchase information in the form of books or periodicals. This well and good and is as it should be -- even historians have to eat! However, when the ante gets upped to cover particular machines or the books are marketed for hundreds of dollars, then it becomes a slightly different kettle of fish.

I am an information radical to a larger extent than I thought. I fully agree with Michael and yet I also have to diverge slightly from his opinion on the matter. I happen to think that discussion -- even when the terms "probably" or "possibly" or (one of my favorite terms) "betcha" are used - is healthy, even if the consequences of that discussion may be misconstrued by those of the Gordon Gekko Gang.

Look at the case of the Maserati 250F. For many years, the chassis logbook of Denis Jenkinson was taken at face value and accept as gospel. However, as time went on some started to question these allocations. Barry Hobkirk is still working on his massive project of tracing every single solitary 250F from cradle to grave or garage as the case may be. He has amassed a huge collection of photos of the cars and uses this as the means to check the "shoulds" "coulds" "is" and "isn'ts" of the cars -- visual information compared to written information. I arrived at the many of same conclusions independently, but in a more modest manner, sticking to the GP/F1 events after the others drove me to distraction and nothing made very much sense -- and I had a day job to boot...

I was influenced to persevere because of the work Hobkirk was doing. I was frustrated and stymied most of the time I worked on the project, which spent as much time sitting on the shelf as being worked on it seems -- for almost the entire 10 years it was a real project and not to mention the previous 20 years that I thought about it.

My deepest thanks to Michael for surfacing this issue. While I may depart from some of what he says, it is only because I think that we should not hold ourselves hostage to those who seek only to use our information for the purchase of increasing their personal wealth. Yes, we need to hold ourselves to the highest degrees of accuracy, but that can only be truly achieved by open discussion.

Nothing is ever easy, is it?

For those of you who have little or no interest in chassis numbers or other such items, bear with us. Remember, most of us are the same types that watch movies and cringe in horror as we see how wrong the uniforms are that the soldiers are wearing and/or the weapons they carry or the used-looking '58 Chevy turning up in a movie set in 1955 or so forth and so on.

And one thing Michael and I fully agree upon: there are some things that will simply be mysteries. Period. We shall never know some things despite all our efforts to find an answer. But, then, out there on the Forum there just might be that someone with the clue...


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#2 Ray Bell

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Posted 03 October 2000 - 21:58

So what is the meaning of life?
To be totally absorbed in the quest? No, you even admitted you have to eat!
What of Hobkirk? Does he not fit into a niche that could have him entering his thoughts on this forum too?
This forum is the most wonderful exchange of information, both the gloss and the undercoat, that I have ever found. It certainly means something in my life... I've learned here about the deceit of Neubauer about Tripoli, been led to think more deeply about the weight of paint, been reminded of so many things I had lived through myself but forgotten.
The new contributors have been staggeringly significant in the past few months. If we can keep this group together and draw in a few more (I wonder what we'd do with Eoin Young here, when it comes to Amon and McLaren, especially) we will learn even more, while Hans and Barry and Felix and Marcor and a few more ... Dennis, yourself, the list goes on ... have such libraries, such a history of their own research that we have on tap the most wonderful source in the world here.
Now, with all the changes that have taken place, the people who have come in, I just wonder if the question that got me here originally, can be accurately answered...
Here goes... Why did Jano split the drive on the P3? And nobody, please, try to tell me it was to get the driver lower...

#3 fines

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Posted 03 October 2000 - 22:19

Why not indeed, Ray?

But I understand that by using the triangular system he could do away with universal joints and use pinions on either propshaft.

#4 Ray Bell

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Posted 06 October 2000 - 01:54

Okay, we've got something new here... where were you a year ago?
Is there no Uni Joint? I'd have to go back and look at the drawings... which are hard to find now I've moved... but is there any advantage, anyway?
BTW, while you're contemplating this, consider the binding up the contra-rotating thing had to endure in cornering...

#5 Hans Etzrodt

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Posted 06 October 2000 - 09:24

Originally posted by Ray Bell
...Is there no Uni Joint? I'd have to go back and look at the drawings... which are hard to find now I've moved...


I checked the drawings: No universal or any flex joints, Ray.

#6 Ray Bell

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Posted 06 October 2000 - 10:09

Still no real advantage there. Perhaps a complication, when it's all boiled down, bevel gears moving in arcs...
Anything further?

#7 fines

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Posted 06 October 2000 - 12:45

Sorry to disappoint you, Ray, but I'm not exactly a mechanic let alone an expert on roadholding or transmission issues. I'm more or less ignorant to the actual benefits.

#8 Hans Etzrodt

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Posted 06 October 2000 - 19:14

Ray,
As far as I know, Jano's inspiration on the "V" drive shaft layout for the type B came from the type A, which also had two drive shafts.
The advantage of the "V" drive shaft layout enabled the driver to sit lower, which would not have been possible with a central drive shaft. Secondly, this "V" design saved quite a bit of weight by eliminating the heavy life rear axle, which contributed to the car's low weight.

As far as I remember, the Type B Alfa Romeo was at its time the epitome of a grand prix car.


#9 Ray Bell

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Posted 08 October 2000 - 10:01

These are the things I've eliminated, Hans... the driver sat no lower, probably because his feet had to be above the driveline... the weight of two crownwheels and pinions and two driveshafts and torque tubes could not have been any lighter overall, and were probably heavier, and closer to the wheels so that they must have been (in my opinion - only supposition) more of a problem as far as unsprung weight goes.
Please check my earlier comment about the Tipo A suspension binding up...

#10 Hans Etzrodt

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Posted 08 October 2000 - 23:25

Originally posted by Ray Bell
... Why did Jano split the drive on the P3? And nobody, please, try to tell me it was to get the driver lower...


Ray,
I will read up on this topic and shall return. Like my famous hero Griff pointed out, the "V" arrangement probably was a spinoff from the Tipo A, which had two drive shafts.

#11 Hans Etzrodt

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Posted 08 October 2000 - 23:56

Originally posted by Ray Bell
consider the binding up the contra-rotating thing had to endure in cornering...

Ray,
Didn't the differental, between gearbox and prop-shaft bevels, compensate for that?

#12 Ray Bell

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Posted 09 October 2000 - 09:11

The point here, Hans, is that the two torque tubes were rigidly fixed to the same axle, so in cornering (and over uneven surfaces, whenever the axle was not horizontal in relation to the chassis) the torque tubes were forced to fight each other. It's not the drive per se binding, but the locating tubes.
The contra-rotating shafts, however, had to help with traction because of their self-cancelling nature.

#13 Hans Etzrodt

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Posted 09 October 2000 - 10:19

Ray,
Do you know what accounted for the many drive shaft problems with the later models? Did the drive train brake under the increased engine torque? At the 1935 German GP for example, Nuvolari's unmercily driven Type B lasted the race and he won, whereas Chiron's and Brivio's Type B's, driven much slower, broke their drive train. How do you account for that?

#14 Ray Bell

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Posted 09 October 2000 - 12:38

Maybe they didn't have time to break!
No, honestly, I never knew they did. One would assume that Nuvolari used the bigger engine... perhaps they upgraded the drivetrain in his car... or perhaps it was at least renewed while the others had old stuff in there.
But I sure hope nobody quotes me on these things. I really have no idea.
How much slower were they?

#15 Hans Etzrodt

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Posted 09 October 2000 - 13:06

Well, Nuvolari was fastest after Caracciola and Brauchitsch during the race by at least 10 seconds, I guess. But lap times were not published since the grid was assembled by ballot.

#16 Ray Bell

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Posted 09 October 2000 - 13:14

Hard to conceive, isn't it? Today you've mentioned grids assembled by ballot and by predetermined number order... or in fact in the order of receipt of entries!
Good thing there was overtaking back in those days...