I have been reading all your articles with much pleasure, my father was C.T. "Tommy" Atkins, (High Efficiency Motors) and as a child I was a great fan of many of the drivers you write so well about. I was always too young to go into the pits during the races but could get in for the practices and enjoyed every one that I was able to attend. I still have all my autographs of the racers and remember the cars, and drivers very well. I lost track of everyone after my Dad died in 1965, I also lost interest after Bruce McLaren was killed and motor racing changed totally from what I had grown up with.
Recently with the interest and publicity over the vintage racing car circuit I began to wonder if any of my Dad's cars were still around and began to use the Internet to do research. I also subscribed to Motorsport Magazine and have bought as many books as I could without much much luck in finding information on either my Dad or his cars. Then, a friend at work mentioned he had got onto the Google search and had found a lot of sites with information and through them I found your articles. Your articles have helped me sort out his involvement and for that I really want to thank you.
I will continue to read and enjoy your articles, they are great and really capture the time you are writing about. It was a lot of fun and a totally different atmosphere to the current F1 racing scene. I had wanted to go to Goodwood this September and had actually made it to England with that in mind, however, I got caught in the fuel strike and was unable to make it. I have since found out that my Dad's 1964 Cobra (which is owned by Grahame Bryant and was driven by Bill Shepherd) came in 4th. I remember meeting Caroll Shelby at Goodwood at a meeting when my Dad had the Cobra entered, I don't remember the race or year but I do remember the man!
I have contacted Rod Jolley in England (who owns a Cooper and races in some of the vintage races) who provided me with information to contact Neil Twyman who has one of the Formula 2 racers and a Ted Rollason who may have some information on some of the cars, which are in New Zealand, and who also knows my Dad's mechanic Harry Pearce. I have already written to Harry and hopefully he will be able to write to me and provide some more insights.
Good memories, thanks so very much. If you might have any other information or can direct me to other good sources I would really appreciate any help you could provide.
Ursula Dickeson (Atkins)
C.T. 'Tommy' Atkins (High Efficiency Motors)
Posted 01 January 2001 - 22:11
Posted 01 January 2001 - 22:48
- The Inter-Continental Cooper T53 driven by McLaren in 1961 and then in Tasman racing in 1962.
- The Cooper T62 (reported to be chassis number CTA/BM/2) used in Tasman the following year.
- The Cooper T70s used by McLaren in Tasman in 1964 to win the championship - but I'm not sure how much Atkins was still involved by that time.
- The T79 from 1965 - but ditto.
Posted 01 January 2001 - 23:08
Posted 02 January 2001 - 08:52
Posted 03 January 2001 - 10:17
The car then was entered by Davison's Ecurie Australie for Rocky Tresise, who drove it for about six or eight months before his fatal crash at Longford, where gear selection problems was a part of the mix that led to the crash.
There was a mention of the T79 on another thread in the last few days (use search), and the T70 left over after Mayer's fatal crash at Longford was the car used by Hill in 65, going on to Patterson for John McDonald to drive and then to Dennis Marwood, I think.
Posted 03 January 2001 - 16:44
Close but, for once, no cigar.
The 61/62 car was the Atkins T53 and that went as follows: Tommy Atkins(UK) 1961 for Bruce McLaren in Intercontinental - Bruce McLaren (UK) 1961 for 1962 Tasman races - David McKay (Australia) 1962 for Australian Gold Star - Bill Thomason (New Zealand) 1963 for New Zealand Gold Star - Feo Stanton and Ian Rorison (NZ) 1964 or 1965 and rebuilt as Rorstand Sports with 2.7-litre Climax ... Danie Lupp (NZ) 1970 ... Bob Moore (NZ) with 4.5-litre Oldsmobile and then 2-litre Vauxhall Victor ... Kerry Pennell (NZ) - Ted Giles (NZ) by late 1980's. Believed retained mid-1990's still in Rorstan Sports specification. (That's a straight cut from http://www.oldracing.../Cooper-T53.htm.)
The Davison/Tresise car was McLaren's 1962/3 Cooper T62 (see pos above). The T70 (also see above) did indeed go Hill - Patterson but this was not the same car that Marwood later had in New Zealand. That car was Cooper T66 F1-6-63.
Posted 03 January 2001 - 21:43
Posted 03 January 2001 - 23:12
On that day Tony Hill won a race in a Mini... it was first race of the day, therefore the first race I ever saw.
During the main event, McKay took a lunge at Stillwell on the still-damp track at Polo Corner. Polo is rather exposed, right out there in the middle of the horse track at the edge of the Polo field, so a toilet of rather temporary nature had been erected for flaggies in the area to use.
David's lose was therefore more disastrous than it would have been without its presence...
After the meeting, remembering there had been a long pit stop for Davison, there was much chalking of messages on the wall at the back of the tote building... one went:
"Davo's in the pits and David's in the ...."
Now, what kind of memory do I have? I don't remember any of the other inscriptions!
Where my memory used to be good was at lap records... at that time, for instance, Bruce McLaren had the outright time with 1:37.5, while Moss had done 1:36.4 in a Lotus in practice. But today I hardly remember any other than John Martin's 1:42.3 in the Lola sports car... but it stood for about ten years, so one would have to remember it!
Posted 09 March 2001 - 07:26
My Dad started out as a motorcycle racer, he was a development engineer for Douglas motorcycles in the late 1920s and early 1930s. He had two Brooklands Gold Stars:
1930 Class "D" 750cc
1931 Class "C" 500cc
In 1931 Tommy Atkins was awarded the Holiday Cup at Brooklands, when he averaged 94mph on a Douglas racing model. In early 1932, H.J. Bacon decided to put up a trophy for the first private owner to cover 100 miles within the hour, on a motorcycle. On April 21, 1932, at Brooklands, Fergus Anderson won the H.J.Bacon Trophy at an average speed of 100.52mph on a 500cc JAP which was prepared for the record breaking attempt by Tommy Atkins in just four hours.
At the end of September, 1934, Claude Temple announced his intention to attack the World's Motorcycle record. He would use the same Zenith that Joe Wright had used to establish the World Record earlier. The rider would be Tommy Atkins. The bike was tested at Montlhery and taken to Venheyden in Belgium. Attempts were to be made between October 8th and 12th. The gearbox mainshaft broke at 140mph during a practice run and the attempt was abandoned. Ernst Henne raised the World Record to 152.9mph soon after, in Hungary, on October 28. Further attempts by Temple and Atkins were abandoned because of bad weather and bad luck.
At the start of the war, Tommy turned his garage into a factory making machine tools. Harry Pearce started working for him in 1940 and started riding in Motor Cycle competitions in 1942. In 1948 Tommy asked him if he would like to ride in the Isle of Man and bought Harry a bike to ride in the Manx Grand Prix, which he did. He then helped Harry with his motorcycle knowledge and use of his shop. He also bought a 1951 Norton for Harry to race in the 1952 Manx Grand Prix. From 1953 through 1955 Harry rode for Angus Motor Cycles until the late 1950s when Tommy persuaded him to retire from motorcycle racing while he was still in one
piece. Dad also entered a lot of hillclimbs/speed trials in various cars, I remember one day when I was very young, watching Dad on television with Mum, she was horrified to see him spin off the track, I went over to her and said “don’t worry Mummy, Daddy just went to pick you some daisies”, I think that was when Mum then convinced him that he should stop racing and he decided to begin sponsoring cars instead.
Harry Pearce remained with him and from 1958 until 1965, Harry built cars (mostly Coopers) for him each year, drivers included, Roy Salvadori, Ian Burgess, Bruce McLaren, Jack Fairman, Ron Flockhart, Jack Brabham, and Chris Amon. He also had some “hairy” sports cars (as I believe someone mentioned earlier), at least two Gullwings, Aston Martin DB3S/5, a lightweight E-Type, a Cobra, plus many others. Unfortunately in late 1964 my Dad contracted a serious lung condition and after suffering a very long and debilitating illness, from which he found he would not recover, he ended his life in 1965.
After this my interest in motor racing was abruptly curtailed and after Bruce McLaren died in 1970, I lost interest. I don’t follow the current F1 scene at all but was introduced to the Nostalgia Forum by Don Capps when I started to research my Dad and his cars. My thanks to the many people who have contributed information about my Dad, I have a small mountain of data which I will begin to put into some kind of “book” for my sister’s kids, who never knew their grandfather.
Posted 09 March 2001 - 07:46
Once you have it all sorted, take it along to one of the motor sport book publishers. You may get a nice surprise.
Posted 09 March 2001 - 07:52
Posted 09 March 2001 - 08:09
Posted 09 March 2001 - 22:00
Posted 10 March 2001 - 07:47
Posted 10 March 2001 - 08:53
And make sure you get all the details from Harry, there sounds to be so much to find out.
Posted 10 March 2001 - 09:18
Speaking of driving without using brakes (another thread)....a personal favorite technique of mine when driving in the winter....why on earth would you want to apply the brakes on ice? I have always driven stick-shift cars, no interest in automatics. I didn't learn to drive until I reached the U.S. and then learned on the freeways of Los Angeles. The main danger during the winter up here are moose, they can do some really ugly damage to a car being just at the right height to come right through the windshield and end up in your lap.
Anyway, more about "hairy" sportscars later. It's getting too late to converse intelligently.
Posted 11 March 2001 - 08:48
At the end of the book he speaks of retirement and how important he feels it is for racers who retire to give back to the sport. I think this gives me an insight into why my Dad took Harry Pearce under his wing and helped him with his career. Theirs was a very long friendship that started when Harry was a young boy hanging around my Dad’s shop when he was racing motor-cycles:
“By means of this attitude of “giving something back to racing”, the motor-cycle world is in far healthier state than the car world, for amongst the two-wheeler lads a vast number join the motor-cycle trade, dealing in new and second-hand machines, even while they are racing themselves. Because of this their businesses often flourish, especially if they become successful riders, for the average motor-cyclist if he is buying a new Triumph or Norton gets satisfaction from buying it through an agent who has just won a T.T., rather than from an agent who doesn’t even know what a T.T. is. When these riders retire, and build up their businesses into strong concerns, many of them will finance an up-and-coming rider and enter him for the big races, often supplying machines, mechanics and transport, as well as paying expenses. One can say that the ex-rider turned businessman is gaining by free advertising, especially if his protege wins or does well, which is true, but it means laying out over 1,000 pounds for somebody else to reap the enjoyment, or so it would seam. In actual fact the retired rider gets just as much enjoyment as the newcomer who is being supported, for it keeps him right in the thick of the game, and some men, fortunately, will never grow up. Their love is racing, and they like to stay in right to the end, even if it only means being the owner of a winning machine. Naturally, such actions are not taken solely for sentimental reasons; they are handled with a certain amount of business acumen, but I do insist that the underlying reason why so many retired racing motor-cyclists continue to support up-and-coming youngsters is their true love of racing. This sort of thing does happen to a small extent in motor-car racing, but nothing like as much as in the motor-cycle world, which is a pity, and it is one of the reasons why I always feel that the spirit of comradeship in motor-cycling is much stronger than in motoring. It is probably closely tied up with some of the psychological reasons why people race at all, which I have dealt with already, but none the less anyone who has experience behind the scenes in motor-car and motor-cycle racing will, I think, agree that it is so.”
Still working on the sports cars and photos.
Posted 11 March 2001 - 09:50
Posted 12 March 2001 - 01:41
A bit on the Cooper Monaco V8 "hairy" sportscar:
Cooper Monaco (Maserati V8) - 1964 Salvadori
5/2/64 Sports Cars, Silverstone (2nd fastest lap of 100.16 mph)
5/18/64 Sports and GT cars, Goodwood (1st) 96.15 mph (fastest lap of 98.35 mph)
7/11/64 Guards Trophy, Brands Hatch (3rd)
Photo is from my collection but is also in the Nye Cooper book on page 229, “Silverstone May meeting. The car was brand-new and still unpainted. The vented bulge on the nose-top housed the regulation usable size spare wheel, while the Italian 5-litre 4-cam V8 engine’s intake trumpets reside under the mesh bubble on rear deck. Roy Salvadori Driving, A.F. Rivers-Fletcher, Sir Alfred Owen’s PA at BRM strolls by in the wellies, Keith Green of Armstrong dampers in the holey cardigan, and Tommy Atkins in the rally jacket”. Apparently a disappointing car, Roy retired from racing during this year. The “ultimate Monaco is preserved today in Germany in the collection of Peter Kaus”. Does anyone have any information on where this is located?
Another picture of Harry Pearce and Gordon Whitehead, Dad's mechanics, with the Monaco, I believe this is the Goodwood paddock area at the May meeting..
Autosport article about the car:
Posted 12 March 2001 - 02:37
And this one for a one-off!
Posted 12 March 2001 - 07:00
Posted 12 March 2001 - 07:18
Here's a bit on the Cobra, missing quite a bit of race information here but found a bit on the more recent history also which may interest.
AC Cobra, HEM6 (reg GPG46) - 1964 Salvadori, Amon, now Graham Bryant, UK
7/11/64 Ilford Films Trophy, Brands Hatch (3rd) Salvadori
8/64 (?) Guards Trophy, Brands Hatch (6th) Amon
8/29/64 RAC Tourist Trophy, Goodwood (DNF) Salvadori
1965 Entered in the TT at Oulton Park by Chequered Flag
1965 Tourist Trophy, Goodwood (Lost wheel!), Roger Mac (Chequered Flag)
2000 Saturday Goodwood Revival Race (4th) Bill Shepherd
This car was a right-hand-drive leaf-spring Cobra built by AC cars for European racing in 1964. It was built to full FIA spec, with cutback doors and FIA wheelarches and sold, less engine to race entrant “Tommy” Atkins. It was raced by Roy Salvadori at the 1964 British Grand Prix meeting (see above), to 3rd place in the GT race, and was also driven in British events by Chris Amon during 1964, latterly also being road registered. It has had a very active racing career ever since, nowadays, of course qualifying as a historic racer. I notice that this car now has a cab, originally I remember it as an open cab in my Dad’s original green/white livery. This livery changed to the red and gold colors in 1970 when Shaun Jackson scored 10 wins in a season.
You will notice two small spoilers on the car in this photo taken at the Goodwood meeting, according to Roy Salvadori's book the car was brand new and untested, it was understeering unlike most other Cobras, towards the end of practice they tried the spoilers which made a tremendous difference. By the end of practice he lapped in 1 min 28.0 sec matching Jack Sears time and only slightly slower than the works Daytona Cobras of Phil Hill and Dan Gurney. The car was retired with clutch trouble.
Posted 12 March 2001 - 11:18
Speaking of Amon, of course.
Posted 12 March 2001 - 12:55
This was just before the car was put up for auction by its then owner Peter Agg, it sold for £166,500.
The article also had a brief history of the car:
'In 1964 prolific sports car entrant Tommy Atkins ordered a new MkII Cobra in full race spec, turned out in his team colours of pale green with a red nose band.
Atkins' usual driver, Roy Salvadori, was third first time out at the European Grand Prix meeting at Brands behind Jack Sears and Jackie Stewart, and in the Guards Trophy in August Chris Amon had an electrifying battle with Sears in the Willment Cobra, finishing 1.4s behind on bald tyres after an hour and a half's racing in tremendous heat.
In the Tourist Trophy at Goodwood, against Clark, Surtees, McLaren, Gurney, Hill P., Hill G., Ireland and Ginther, Salvadori drove an inspired race, leading the GT category until the clutch went after two hours. In October Amon finished third in the Autosport 3 Hours at Snetterton.
In 1965-66 The Chequered Flag ran it in their white-with-black colours for several rising young drivers, notably the very talented Roger Mac, who won first time out at Goodwood on Easter Monday, and qualified second fastest GT for the TT at Oulton Park, only to lose a wheel in the race. The following year Mac set a new Brands Hatch GT lap record in the Cobra, and Bob Bondurant, fellow American Roy Pike, Chris Irwin and Mike Beckwith all raced the car with some success.
Then, as the GT40s spelt the end of the Cobra's international GT career, it was sold to club racers Keith and Wendy Hamblin. They painted it silver and campaigned it for two season, with Mrs Hamblin having a famous accident at Brands Hatch when she made a forced landing on top of a Ginetta.
By 1969 it was eligible for Modsports, and was taken over by a very rapid young man called Shaun Jackson. Now turned out in red with a gold stripe, the old warhorse came into its second lease of life, and in 1970 it scored 10 wins, five seconds and two thirds. Its Modsports career was carried on for three more seasons by Mick Smith.
In 1974 it was well into its third lease of life as a valuable historic racer, and Martin Hilton campaigned it with enthusiasm until he sold it to Peter Agg in 1977. After a Silverstone shunt, the car was painstakingly rebuilt into its current flawless state.'
Posted 18 March 2001 - 07:18
This is OT but may be of interest to some:
Mercedes-Benz 300SL, 1955 Steel, Tommy Atkins,
Mercedes-Benz 300SL, 1956 Alloy, Tommy Atkins, Speed Trials, Ramsgate, Brighton, Gosport, Stapleford, actually I wonder if there were more than two cars as I note different license plates in the photos, SLR 1, MAP 424 (perhaps before the personal plate?), and one car had a blue(?) bonnet paint job, I don’t know if this was an addition or a different car, of course the plate remained the same so it’s hard to tell.
Empty car w/door up at Goodwood 1956
I think this was Stapleford (anyone?). If this is Stapleford I have the Autosport article of October 26, 1956 mentions that “the over 2,700 cc class contained an assortment of XK Jaguars and C.T. Atkins’s 300 SL but was topped by George Burton’s amazing vintage 4-1/2 litre Bently, the Merc. taking second place. Another blow for the “arthritic pantechnicons”!” He also ran a Connaught (A3?) in the 1,501-2,500 cc class and had the fastest time.
Brighton Speed Trials September 1, 1956.
Class 2 Series Production over 1,500 cc, 1st C.T. Atkins 28.80; 2nd Miss Patsy Burt (Aston Martin) 29.71; 3rd P.M. Salmon (Jaguar) 30.54; 4th K.N. Rugg (A.C.) 30.71. By the way in the Class 16 Racing and Sports Cars, unlimited, Lady Drivers only: 1st. Miss Patricia Burt (2.5 Connaught 25.46 New Class Record; 2nd Mrs. Angela Abecassis (H.W.M.-Jaguar) 28.18; 3rd Mrs. Pauline Brock (Cooper-J.A.P.) 28.37. Just thought you might enjoy that.
Dad with trophies and Merc
Yes...I am standing on top of the car!
Ramsgate Speed Trials1956. To go with the picture of Rob Walker and Tommy Atkins at Ramsgate Speed Trials 1956. An Autosport magazine article of August 31, 1956 says:
“Although the Maidstone and Mid-Kent M.C.’s Ramsgate Speed Trials last Sunday were held in sunshine, a strong, gusty wind did a great deal to disturb the running of the event, by causing pieces of paper, seaweed and even grains of sand to trigger off the rather too sensitive electronic timing device. But despite many re-runs, everyone had two drives along the course, the best time of the day falling to John Ogier and his attractive, fast, Jaguar engined Tojeiro, while C.T. Atkins (Mercedes 300SL) beat Rob Walker’s similar car in Class G by .35 sec., additionally making third B.T.D”. (2nd B.T.D. was B.H. Clinkard - Alvis). Rob Walker was the winner in the runs at Saloon class C.
These cars I do remember, one of them gave me a black eye when I was pretty little! Those doors could be a killer if you aren’t paying attention. Lots of riding time in them.
Rob Walker and Tommy went to the Mercedes factory together to pick up the lightweight cars. Rob was gracious enough to write to me a few years ago to recount this trip as a chance he had to get better acquainted with Dad. I also have a rather beautiful champagne stopper and holder/coaster (can’t think of the correct term for this) that Mercedes gave to Dad, actually these items are on the bonnet of the Merc in one of these pictures:
“Herrn C.T. Atkins fur erfolgreiche Teilnahme an motor sportlichen Veranstaltungen 1956"
Any translations from our fluent German speakers? My Mum was Swiss and I spent most of my summers in Switzerland with my grandparents so my German is OK but pretty basic. My Mum’s maiden name was Benz, I always wondered if this was one of the reasons Dad married her!!
Also have some type of cup:
“Ehrenpreis - Grosser Preis von Deutschland 1958, Deutsch Dunlop Gummi Compagne A.G. Hanau” Obviously some type of advertising thing since I know he used Dunlop tyres for a long time?
I have no idea where these cars are now, I have some really good memories of them, they were my favorites. If anyone has any suggestions on tracking them down (books or Internet), I would appreciate the help. I have got onto the Mercedes web site and sent an inquiry but never received an answer.
Thanks for looking.
Posted 18 March 2001 - 11:06
"To Mr. C.T. Atkins for successful participation in motorsporting events in 1956"
“Herrn C.T. Atkins fur erfolgreiche Teilnahme an motor sportlichen Veranstaltungen 1956"
"Honorary Prize - Grand Prix of Germany 1958, German Dunlop Rubber Company PLC, Hanau"
“Ehrenpreis - Grosser Preis von Deutschland 1958, Deutsch Dunlop Gummi Compagne A.G. Hanau”
Posted 18 March 2001 - 11:42
Rob Walker wrote an article for Motor sport april 1956 about his, and your father's trip to pickup their cars. this is an extract:
"1 would strongly recommend this trip to the Daimler-Benz factory to any car enthusiast who is contemplating a short holiday abroad. It is very inexpensive as you can fly there for £16, and most enjoyable, but to get the full pleasure you must buy a 300SL for the journey back or, better still, take a friend with you and buy two.
Our visit took place because the factory had just made two 300SLs with special lightweight bodies, 176 lb. lighter than normal, special camshafts and harder racing springs and shock-absorbers. One was offered to Jack Atkins and one to me, at the normal price, although I believe they cost the firm quite a bit more to produce. We were both already enthusiastic SL owners, and 1 think this was why we had the first offer. As far as Jack Atkins was concerned, he told me that he had very few vices, he did not drink, nor smoke, and he only had one wife at a time, but he did love beautiful motor cars, and if they were sufficiently good then he liked two of them, so he did not take any time to make up his mind and say yes. Personally I only had one minor problem before 1 made my decision, and that was how to pay for it. 1 thought 1 could raise enough by selling my first 300SL, and if this did not work all 1 had to do was to mortgage the house, sell my wife's jewellery and borrow all her money, and then all 1 would have to pay would be the alimony that the judge would award if it came to the Divorce Court. So it took me a good five minutes to make up my mind and accept the offer."
Please give us more of these memories. I, for one, don't mind if they're slightly off-topic.
Posted 18 March 2001 - 18:45
Fines, thanks so much for the translation also, that's about where my version had arrived at also. I wonder if the champagne items came with the lightweight? Probably.
I had forgotten that my Dad was also known as "Jack", thanks for that reminder.
Posted 15 April 2001 - 19:59
Smudge Across the Landscape
For a decisive judgement on this time/distance aspect of the “Two wheels or four?” questions it would be nice if we had the sort of Beau Ideal of the Grand Sprix to turn to. Have we? Lives there a man who not only owns but does justice to a car and a motorcycle whose maximum speeds, added together, would make three miles a minute plus?
Yes, as it happens, such a one lives and has his being in the county of Surrey. Daily he almost passes my door. Sometimes he goes by in the likeness of a silver-grey blurr: that’s when his XK (its top, by the way, invariably furled, no matter what the climate is up to) is carrying him. Other times he makes a narrower, harsher-voiced smudge across the landscape, and we know he is giving his Black Shadow an airing. Intensely alert, thickset, muscled like a Brahma bull, this character never wastes a second or a yard anywhere, and at 47 is, I should say, as perfectly coordinated as any living man outside the racing game.
His name? C.T. Atkins, former T.T. and Brooklands rider, the burly boffin who once designed, built and personally tested a full team of T.T. machines–Douglases to wit–in the shortest time in history. But will he talk? More to the point, will he write? I doubt it, for Tom Atkins, unlike your proliferating correspondent, isn’t the talking or the writing kind. He just gets on with it, courteously, but man, how fast!
I do know that Dennis was a good friend of my fathers, the last paragraph just about sums up my Dad, he always refused to “push” himself as far as publicity was concerned. I regret that very much but by the same token, if he had been a different man and more publicity seeking he wouldn’t have been the man I remember would he. It's made it harder to find information on him but I continue to be amazed at what is out there and the hunt for it is half the fun.
Anyway, I’ve been busy for awhile studying and taking an exam (getting too old for this), I have still been acquiring information and have also managed to finish the Doug Nye Cooper book. I also acquired a copy, from Milan Fistonic, of a wonderful 1962 article written by Bruce McLaren about driving my Dad’s cars. I will excerpt that as I know a lot of you will really enjoy it. Bruce DID write and he was very good at it, his self-deprecating humor comes through so nicely and his natural style is unassuming and unpretentious. It’s a long article so I will split it up into a couple of parts over the next few days. I’m still having a lot of fun and am pleased to say have booked my tickets for Goodwood in September, where I will be joined by Harry Pearce which should really make the experience memorable.
Posted 15 April 2001 - 21:03
"Year-old Atkins Cooper is Well Groomed by Bruce McLaren
This New Zealand series of races will put just one year’s racing under the wheels of my light green Atkins Cooper. In eight races it has been four times fastest in practice in pole position of the grid, and every time on the coveted front row, twice the only British car to have the distinction.
I am sad to say it has won only one race, and that was when we lent it to Jack Brabham to race in England while I was racing at Sebring America! But for all that it has not been disappointing. When I returned to England in February I found Coopers had decided to compete in only the Formula One work championship races and the Indianapolis 500. This left me without a car for some perfectly good races, Silverstone, Goodwood, Oulton Park, Brussels, Syracuse and more.
I took my problem to Tommy Atkins. Tommy had been running a small racing team for years; he runs a precision engineering company and with an excellent and industrious chief mechanic, Harry Pearce, the cars he had prepared for drivers like Salvadori, Jack Fairman and Ian Burgess were always top-notch.
It transpired that Tommy was hoping I would approach him and, within a day, work had started on a car.
Naturally it was a Cooper but both the Atkins crew and myself had a lot of new ideas we wanted to incorporate, so only the basic parts were procured. This is the sort of setup a driver dreams about: as driver; s well as a substantial works driver, good private owner backing, and apart for the English races, I had a car that would be ideal for the new Zealand and Australian season.
Three weeks went by before we turned up at Goodwood for our first test runs.
The day was very successful; by Harry Pearce’s timing we had a machine a full second faster than the lap record.
The car had been entered for a race at Snetterton and we were looking forward to its first outing. The only problem was that Briggs Cunningham, the American sports man, asked me to drive in the Sebring 12-hour sports car race the same weekend, an offer I couldn’t turn down.
Jack Brabham’s 21/2-litre Cooper had not yet arrived from the New Zealand-Australia season so he took the opportunity of the entry and won the race against little opposition.
Goodwood, where we had done our initial testing, was the scene of our next meeting. It was raining during practice day but we had the fastest lap.
Race day and it was wet again. I was a bit apprehensive about how the car would handle in the rain. In all our testing and development I had been aiming at reducing the amount of slide, making the car look and feel as though it was on rails. It is generally thought that a car like this, especially in wet conditions, is prone to being perfectly under control one moment, then going backward or sideways the next. As it turned out it wasn’t bad at all. I had a monstrous dice with Stirling. He had made a bad start but caught me by three quarter distance. I missed a gear change in the heat of the moment, just losing enough to allow Stirling alongside. We entered the next corner side by side. I was on the inside, so I though to myself “bad luck mate”, but I had forgotten it was Stirling alongside me, and instead of backing off he just kept station outside and by the next corner was in front.
A lap or two later he made one of his rare mistakes and I sneaked into the lead again. Coming out of the chicane I glanced in my mirrors to see where he was and just got a back wheel on the grass. In the fraction of a second it took me to lift my foot, straighten up and get it back down again, he was back in the lead.
I enjoyed that race. As Stirling said afterwards, “I made one mistake, but you made two.”
Belgium and the Brussels Grand Prix for 11/2 litre cars was the next race. The German Porsches were the big opposition. In practice they had the fastest times. There was a fairly long straight, so I suggested to Jack Brabham that we “tow” each other round. By a system of passing and slipstreaming two cars can work up to a maximum speed slightly higher than one car by itself, and this nose-to-tail procedure is often used to improve lap times. According, Jack and I went out 10 minutes before the end of practice. I followed Jack over the start-finish line first lap, then passed him on the straight and led him over the line, next lap.
Out of Petrol
The theory was that he would do the same to me next time round, so gaining the benefit of the tow down the straight. He shouldn’t have cut it so fine. He ran out of petrol and left me with a lap time better than the rest of the British cars and only fractionally slower than Bonnier’s fastest lap Porsche. A state of affairs that caused the Porsche chief engineer to inquire, “How many horse powers you haff?”
It was the lone British car on the otherwise Porsche front row. Chances looked bright again but in the race the low gear packed up and as there were three hairpin bends where it was needed I was slowed considerably and lucky to finish second to Jack Brabham, Stirling Moss had carburettor trouble.
The Atkins Cooper in its ex-BRM transporter was whisked back to England. The gearbox had to be rebuilt and the 21/2-litre engine installed for the May Silverstone meeting.
The first day went quite well and led to one or two modifications. On the second day we found John Surtees testing the Vanwall, it wasn’t going particularly well.
Race day came and Tommy Atkins really amused me. “You can keep the prize money, but I would like to put the trophy on my shelf,” he said.
Thanking him for his optimism, I mentioned about the chickens and hatching, etc. Ten minutes before the race the heavens let go and it poured.
Moss leapt into the lead, closely followed by Jack Brabham and myself. The race settled into a pattern. I was content to sit behind Jack. I could tell where the slippery patches were by watching his car. Then, in a flash, I lost it. On a pool of water on one of the fast bends I spun completely around. With a horrible sinking feeling, I tried to control it, but without success, and I ploughed rapidly backward into the bank. My first thought was to leap out and get behind some protection in case somebody also decided to join me in the ditch. The car was pretty badly bent. I was feeling rather upset. I could imagine what Tommy Atkins and Harry were going to say when they saw the car. I was upset too because it was the first time I had “shunted” a car.
When I reached the pits, Tommy, after checking that I was OK went straight home. The rest of the crew retired to the bar, and soon it was all a joke."
More to follow, I shall have to put a note on the Stirling thread to refer to this article, I loved the story of Bruce and Stirling battling at Goodwood. I think Stirling's comment about mistakes is a very good insight. I also thought the bit about reducing the amount of slide and "making the car look and feel as though it was on rails" was rather interesting also.
More later, the rest of the article is a bit more than this. I will post later today.
Posted 15 April 2001 - 21:44
Sequel to Story
The story had a sequel. About a month later at Brands Hatch in one of the works Coopers a slower car pulled across in front of me just before a corner. We got a bit tangled up and I ended up on top of a bank with another bent car. It didn’t worry me too much, but John Cooper was in fear and trembling waiting for the third one.
By the next Silverstone meeting, the Atkins Cooper was like a new pin and going as well as ever.
But this time John Surtees was back in a Cooper, and the three Coopers of Brabham, Moss and Surtees were all set up much like our car.
I didn’t do a very good job that day. I eventually ended up fourth. Solitude near Stuttgart in Germany, was the next race for the Atkins Cooper. The Porsches were made in Stuttgart and Solitude is their home circuit. This was one race they were out to win.
They fielded four works cars and a private one against three works Lotuses, Jack’s personal Cooper, our Cooper and the rest. The German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring was only a fortnight away, so Ferraris were giving it a miss.
Once again, like at Brussels, there was a fairly long straight. Jack was shy about slipstreaming this time, but it happened that a Porsche driver was keen to drive our Cooper on a later date when I was going to be otherwise engaged. I suggested that I could put in a good word with Tommy Atkins if during the last practice session he could neglect the fact that a light green Cooper was slipstreaming him. We are pretty good friends, anyway, so it was easy to arrange.
Came the last few laps of practice, and this particular Porsche chose just the right occasion to try and break the lap record, when I was on his tail!
Not expecting much this time, Tommy Atkins had stayed in England. What a shame. He missed the best race of the year. Five of us battled for the whole 150 miles in a group so tight you could have just about spread a blanket over us–Innes Ireland, Bonnier, Gurney, myself, and Brabham really had a race and we finished in that order.
The revelry among the Lotus crew that evening was worth seeing.
Two laps from the end Bonnier in his Porsche was firmly established in the lead. The commentator gave Bonnier’s life history and the German flag in honour of Porsches was hoisted over the finishing line. The German crowd cheered loudly. Then what a shocked silence as the green Lotus with a very determined Innes Ireland plunged out of the pine trees. Bonnier just missed catching him by the finishing line. As the Union Jack went up the British pits cheered themselves hoarse and the crowd of 125,000 trudged home in silence.
Start a Shambles
The 21/2-litre engine was reinstalled and Brands Hatch was the next race. After practice the order on the front row was Moss, myself, Surtees and Brabham. We had all been so used to our 11/2-litre F1 cars that the starts was a shambles. We all had too much wheelspin and weaved and slithered our way to the first corner more by good luck than good management. Masten Gregory shot through from the third row and settled himself between Surtees, Moss and Graham Hill and myself. More than anything Graham and I wanted to get past Masten and stick with Moss and Surtees. Graham dived past on the outside of one corner and I dived inside on the next. Unfortunately, Masten has just had his nose in front. He got a bit sideways, I was going a bit quick, and we locked wheels. Third time, I thought, as we bounced over the curbing. Masten’s car was right sideways on and being pushed along by my car. We were heading for the bushes. I got further down in the cockpit and waited for things to stop happening. Suddenly they did. I looked up and somehow our cars had disentangled themselves, and I was just rolling slowly along on open grass.
I selected a gear and roared back onto the track and left poor Masten, who car was in about three pieces, to make his own arrangements.
I called at the pits to check and Harry Pearce opened up the somewhat closed and distorted radiator opening in the nose. I’d only lost a lap so I thought it worthwhile to try to catch up.
The truth was I wanted to make up for my misdemeanors before Tommy Atkins decided to find another driver. I just missed catching Graham Hill for third place, but at least we took home a cheque for the lap record.
By now we were starting to talk about the New Zealand season, and instead of having the buckled nose rebuilt to the original shape, we allowed for some extra cooling. While the engine was being put in a state of readiness we decided to do one more race with the car in 11/2-litre form. Oulton Park. It was a good chance to check and run in a set of new gears that we wanted for New Zealand. We thought the chances of a long-awaited result were high. Moss was to drive the Ferguson so we could discount him, we thought. How wrong we were. Lotus’ had told us they would be using their last year’s cars because the new ones were being prepared for the American G.P. so we figured there was only Jack Brabham, Surtees, Salvadori and the BRMs to worry about.
We went to Oulton Park a day before official practice. Dunlops had developed a special tyre for the rain and wet.
Innes Ireland had used these tyres in the dry at Solitude, with excellent results. The wear was high but they gave a higher cornering speed. I wanted to see just what the difference was and whether any other changes were necessary to take full advantage of them.
In official practice we just managed to get fastest lap, but what really shook us was that Moss in the four-wheel-drive Ferguson was second fastest, only one-fifth of a second slower. We knew the Ferguson was good in the rain, but on a dry road, as it was, this was remarkable. It started to rain only a few minutes before the race, and smile on Stirling’s face got bigger and bigger.
Although Moss didn’t make a very good start it wasn’t long before he came sailing past. He passed me on the inside at a corner and actually had time to look back and grin as though to say, “see how easy it is with four-wheel drive.”
Behind Stirling, Jack Brabham, Graham Hill and myself had quite a dice but uppermost in my mind was the thought that “if I bend it now we will never have time to straighten it out again before New Zealand.” And I cursed the rain that had followed us that whole season. I ended up third.
Since then the whole car has been completely stripped and rebuilt under Harry Pearce’s expert hand. Harry was once a top-line motorcycle rider, with the reputation for having one of the best
prepared machines on the track.
For the New Zealand season I have taken the Atkins car over, and Harry has flown out to look after it. I hope this time it doesn’t rain!”
I hope you enjoyed this article as much as I did, thanks again to Milan Fistonic for sending it to me.
Posted 22 April 2001 - 00:45
May 8, 1962 Motoring Page by Bruce McLaren
Stirling’s Accident Still Is A Mystery
As I write this, Stirling Moss is lying unconscious in hospital having been in a coma since his smash in the Lotus V8 at Goodwood on Easter Monday.
At the moment the main topic of conversation in Britain is “what’s the latest news on Stirling?”
But the concern is not limited to the motor-racing fraternity.
Everyone is discussing Stirling’s accident–the man in the street, people in bus queues, boys on bicycles.
Everywhere I have heard one person asking another: “How is he?”
News on Stirling has had priority in the newspapers and on radio and television, and to a whole nation’s relief hospital reports say he will recover.
People are also asking how it happened.
For Stirling to go off at that point on the circuit there must have been a mechanical mishap of some form.
It has been confirmed that the brakes were working, and the second suspect factor of a sticking throttle has also been discounted.
However, a sudden ignition failure or a transmission breakdown which could have made the car unstable, are possible causes.
We’ll probably never know what triggered off the accident.
I usually take that corner in the top gear of my six-speed gearbox at about 115 miles an hour.
Graham Hill, who was leading Stirling immediately before the accident, said that just before he entered the slight right-hand sweep Stirling suddenly appeared, traveling very fast on the grass to his left.
This leads me to believe Stirling either had trouble with the brakes or had the throttle stick for a second and instantly steered to the left, on to the grass, to avoid ramming Hill who would have been braking in front of him.
An action of this sort by a driver and sportsman of Stirling’s calibre would be no surprise to me.
I had a good day, considering that I had a 1961 car with a four-cylinder engine to compete with the new works BRM V8s, the new Lola Climax V8, and Moss in the Lotus Climax V8.
Once again close co-operation between C.T. Atkins and the Cooper factory has resulted in a good car.
The car I drove was last year’s team car, prepared and run by Atkins.
Until the new factory Coopers are ready–which should be in a fortnight, I hope—I will be racing this four-cylinder under Cooper colours.
The suspension has been modified to 1962 factory specifications and it is basically a mobile test bed for the new Formula One car.
I finished second behind Hill’s BRM, a lap ahead of Innes Ireland in a four-cylinder UDT-Laystall Lotus, Roy Salvadori in the Yeoman Bowmaker four-cylinder Lola, Masten Gregory in the other UDT Lotus, and New Zealander Tony Shelly who finished sixth and held his own in international company with his four cylinder Lotus.
Shelly is making a name for himself in Formula One racing in Britain after only a couple of races with his Lotus.
In the Lavant Cup race for four-cylinder cars, spectators were treated to the sight of two New Zealanders on the front row of the grid—myself in pole position, Tony beside me, and John Surtees on the outside of the Lola.
To the delight of Tommy Atkins, John Cooper and myself, I won the race comfortably, from Tony.
The Cooper handled well, and I think when we get a V8 Climax in the new chassis we will really be in the hunt this season.
Hope you enjoy these.
Posted 01 May 2001 - 19:35
This was an experiment to see if I could get a photo to post, it is one of my favorites anyway so I thought I'd share. My Dad on the left, John Bolster behind the car in the middle and of course my favorite racer, Bruce McLaren in the car. John Cooper on the right. The mechanic on the left is Wally Wilmott (sp), not sure on the other guy. Anyone have any idea what meeting this might have been taken at, I think it was 1961 based on Bruce's articles? Since it goes with the articles I thought it was appropriate.
Posted 01 May 2001 - 21:10
Posted 01 May 2001 - 22:40
Posted 03 October 2001 - 19:10
In "Les Sports" dated from September 29th, 1934, I've read those lines: "C.T. Atkins gets ready to break the World's Motorcycle record which is hold by the German Ernst Henne* on BMW with a speed of 242.092 km/h. He will use a two-cylinders Zenith motorbike with a supercharged JAP engine. He will made his attempt at Bonheiden** in Belgium. The motorbike is prepared by Claude F. Temple, a former World speed record holder. The bike was recently tested at Montlhéry. C.T. Atkins has a good Brooklands reputation."
In "Les Sports, October 10th: "The Atkins attempt to break the motorbike speed record is planned for tomorrow, October 11th."
In "Les Sports, October 13th, there's a more long article titled "C.T. Atkins fails because of a mechanical breaking". The article includes two pictures of C.T. Atkins on his machine. I've not yet read this last article. I'm sure the story was not finished. So now I can say: To be continued !!!
*Ernst Henne was also included in the Mercedes-Benz team in 1934, mainly as Junior and reserve driver.
**: Bonheiden is near Antwerpen - Anvers.
Posted 03 October 2001 - 23:03
Posted 24 December 2001 - 19:47
April 14, 1965
I rang Lower Hook 3000 today to find out how things were going, and what you were planning for this year, and was very sorry to learn that you have been ill for some weeks and are still in Midhurst. As a matter of fact I have been carrying the two pictures enclosed around in my bag for about three weeks, intending to drop in at Hook Road; one day I stopped and knocked, but got no reply so imagined you had gone home, and two or three times since have gone by in the usual hurry, and wondered why there was no M.G.B. or E-Type or other exotic motorcar around. Now I know, and I’m jolly sorry to hear it, Tommy.
Well, you’ll have to get better soon ‘cause motor racing needs your sort around. Roy isn’t having much luck with that great Cooper-Cobra thing, and Bruce’s cars haven’t won anything much yet. I see that the Chequered Flag stable are coming back to racing with an A.C. Cobra (Dad’s), and that Roger Mac is expected to drive for them. Does this mean he won’t be driving for you? If not, and you still intend to have a go with something, may I suggest a very worthy young bloke is Peter Gethin, who comes from Epsom. He won the Guards Trophy contest for 1964, and in that very wet Silverstone a few weeks back came second in the Formula 3 race—his first outing in a single-seater, on a very sticky track. He’s about 20 and his father is the well-known ex-jockey, now trainer.
But maybe you’ve decided to give it a miss for a season? It wouldn’t hurt you to take a break, though racing would miss you. I was down at Brabham’s racing shop in Byfleet this afternoon, and Denny Hulme and Tim Wall were saying how the Atkins stable is always one of the best turned out. They had the F2 car there, but the Honda engine had been whipped out and flown back to Japan for mods to the throttle linkage and a general tweaking. On the floor was a Honda six-speed gearbox, a beautiful looking bit of work, but the wrong shape to fit in the Brabham frame, so they have to stick to a Hewland. But Jack says it is superbly made inside, while the engine is a cracker. 139 bhp they say; Jack broke the F2 lap record at Snetterton with it last week, anyway, and was leadin the race very nicely when the throttle fell apart. But, they’ll get it right, then we’ll see things happen. And when they get the V12 Formula 1 car right, I think we’ll see even more, for the Japanese mean business.
And what do you think of the Dutch (me own race!) building a racing car and using their Variomatic transmission in it! Well, not their own car really—it’s an Alexis actually, with a Holbay Ford motor, but they’ve put their own transmission in it, and are very satisfied with the tests so far. Very interesting.
I found the motorcycle photos in the files here. What a lovely Duggie; it has the gearbox high up, like the dirt bikes, and the frame looks like a dirt one too. And its got hand change! Surely Douglas had foot change by 1931—or did you prefer the other kind? My next door neighbor has a 1913 Douglas which he ran in the Pioneer Run to Brighton, together with another local boy on a 1914 machine. This bloke also has a 1929 Model CSI Norton o.h.c., which he let me ride around the block here. It was beautiful, and made me want to rush out and buy the 1928 ‘cammy’ velocette I’m after. This bike is in Sutton, and I keep dithering—shall I? Shan’t I?—though my wife isn’t very keen on the idea!
Will pipe down now, Tom, but if you want anything that can get, just say so. I wish I was doing Goodwood on Easter Monday—I’d like to come down and see you, but Phillip Turner is doing it, and I’ve got Brands Hatch for my stint that day. Anyway, I would like to come one day soon, if its poss. Don’t forget, if you want anything---I’m not that far away. And get better soon.
All the very best, Tom.
Posted 24 December 2001 - 21:44
Posted 24 December 2001 - 21:51
Posted 27 December 2001 - 15:18
Echoing DD, my thanks to you for sharing this letter with us. Your father is not only still remembered by so many of us, but the tenor of the times is kept alive with letters such as this.
Posted 28 December 2001 - 14:38
Nice of him to think like that, I reckon. And, as mentioned already, a nice snapshot of one man's appreciation of an era we all love.
Posted 28 December 2001 - 16:29
By the way, at Thanksgiving I went to Denver to visit some old friends and while there went to the Carol Shelby Cobra collection. I was highly amused when I asked one of the guys there if he could look up my Dad's car, when I told him the chassis number was HEM-6 (High Efficiency Motors) he flatly told me that Cobra chassis numbers didn't run like that. When I insisted he looked through the book and found the car! After that he said he'd never forget it and would talk to Carol when he next saw him and see if he remembered Dad. I will have to give him a call and see if he did that. I watched the third part of the Goodwood Revival coverage on Speedvision this weekend and was pleased to see the Cobra and hear a mention of Dad as one of the prior owners.
If I ever manage to sort out how to post photos, I will post some of the ones I took at the Revival.
Posted 30 July 2002 - 03:16
Posted 30 July 2002 - 20:45
His later life was not very happy.
He had lost a brother in teenage, drowned in the River Thames.
One day he vanished from home, and did not return.
His car was found in the public carpark beside the River Thames at Walton Bridge - just round the corner from where he had written-up the embryo HWM team during his years with 'Autosport'.
He was found in the weir at Sunbury about a week later.
It was the same spot in which his brother's body had been found in the 1930s.
Cyril had feared he was developed Altzheimer's ... and he had rejoined his sibling.
I cried my eyes out...