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Knowing Max - Lister Jaguar


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#1 Tony Lethbridge

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Posted 04 December 2008 - 10:06

First let me make it clear that this thread has nothing to do with the higher echelons of the FIA, and I apologise if this query should be in the 'book' thread. 'Knowing Max' is a very good 2000 novel by James Long which opens with a crash at the Brighton Speed Trials involving a Lister Jaguar. Later in the story it is implied that the car was rebuilt and used in a motor racing film made in Wales (The Green Helmet maybe?) and also involved in some shady dealings. Does anyone know if there is any element of truth in this, or if it is pure fiction? Reading it some years ago I felt it triggered some distant memory. I never saw the 'Green Helmet' film but read the novel written by Jon Cleary. The car involved was a Jaguar powered special which won the Mille Miglia, and I understand the film, made around 1959/60, used the mountain roads of Snowdonia rather than the Futa Pass.

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#2 Allan Lupton

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Posted 04 December 2008 - 10:15

Doug Nye, in "Powered by Jaguar" tells us a lot about the "Green Helmet" cars and their history - mainly subsequent. It's too involved for me to repeat here.

#3 Tony Lethbridge

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Posted 04 December 2008 - 10:31

Many thanks, Allan. I had completely forgotten the references in 'Powered by Jaguar' having read it way back in the eighties. Have just taken it down off the shelf and naturally Doug has got it all there, even the scrap yard mentioned in the novel. I now know where Mr Long got his inspiration. Must read both books again.

#4 Paul Parker

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Posted 04 December 2008 - 14:42

As an aside I seem to remember that Vivian Lewis (?) had a fatal accident driving a Tojeiro Jaguar during practice on Madeira Drive in 1963 and this was the car used in the Green Helmet I think. Have not got my books to hand here so apologies if this is wrong.

#5 Tony Lethbridge

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Posted 04 December 2008 - 16:14

Thanks, Paul. This was clearly the accident that Long incorporated into his novel. His driver character was also the wife of the car owner, and the car ended up, on fire, in the children's play area exactly as Doug Nye describes Mrs Lewis' accident. By an odd coincidence when I visited the site a couple of years ago while staying with my daughter who lives close by the Madeira Drive, I discovered that the old children's play area had been partly demolished, and the remains used for an outdoor project by a community art group. My son in law had taken part and painted a large representation of their ginger cat on some of the remaining tarmac. It was still there the last time I looked. Sadly he is not a motorsport enthusiast otherwise it might have been racing car.

#6 Doug Nye

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Posted 04 December 2008 - 18:45

I recall Vivienne Lewis's accident as having been by some way one of the most shocking I have heard of...probably because the victim was a lady, and secondly because it was absolutely not worth dying in such a pipsqueak event... But then how many times could we say that of a motor sporting fatality? All very sad in any case.

I would have thought an author would be in some danger when basing a novel so closely upon reality...dependent upon what he had his characters do there is a real possibility that disgruntled readers who featured in reality could claim that they are identifiable as the fictional characters, and seek redress for any dodgy dealings then portrayed. John Surtees is a prime example of winning a court case involving defamation by association, against MGM, John Frankenheimer and the 'Grand Prix' movie.

DCN

#7 Paul Parker

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Posted 04 December 2008 - 22:08

Long time Jaguar racing guru and engineer John Pearson told me about the Vivian Lewis tragedy years ago when I was writing the Jaguar at Le Mans book.

His opinions on and comments thereof concerning period Tojeiro-Jaguars were not complementary. This of course was when the event was held over a standing start kilometre, unlike the latter day quarter mile course so terminal speeds were much higher even for the slower machines.

Those that are unfamiliar with the way things really were can have no idea just how potentially lethal such events could be in cars with no belts made out of flexible small bore tubing, minimal structural strength, alloy panels, no fire protection and helmets that were better suited for riding a moped.

It is a wonder that more people did not die as mistakes/mishaps could always be fatal even at relatively low speeds let alone doing 140 mph on a bumpy promenade road with accompanying roadside features.

#8 JtP1

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Posted 05 December 2008 - 11:55

Originally posted by Doug Nye


I would have thought an author would be in some danger when basing a novel so closely upon reality...dependent upon what he had his characters do there is a real possibility that disgruntled readers who featured in reality could claim that they are identifiable as the fictional characters, and seek redress for any dodgy dealings then portrayed. John Surtees is a prime example of winning a court case involving defamation by association, against MGM, John Frankenheimer and the 'Grand Prix' movie.

DCN


Slightly off subject, but did Jim Clark not also sue John Frankenheimer for including film of him while not putting him under contract like most of the actual drivers that appeared in the film. Jim Clark having signed for a parrallel film being made at the same time, but which was never completed.