Back in the early forties I was doing an aviation correspondence course and had a copy of an Aviation magazine containing the specifications of all aircraft engines manufactured during 1941. It was interesting years later, to browse through details covering power, weight and dimensions, to see if any of these engines would be suitable for fitting into a car.
The flat four cylinder motors seemed to be the best, as other types were just too large to fit under the bonnet of a reasonably small car. These motors were all of rather low power, the Lycoming 0-290 producing 125 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. being by far the best. At the time all this was just wishful thinking and it was not known in what aeroplanes they were used and it was thought to be unlikely that there were any of these engines available in New Zealand.
In 1954 Harry Chatteris acquired the McMillan Special less motor and one day I mentioned to him that a four cylinder opposed aircraft engine might fit into it. Harry was friendly with Aussie James, of James Aviation and upon making some enquiries he acquired two engines out of Auster aircraft at a scrap price. To my great surprise they were both Lycoming model 0-290.
James Aviation had replaced them with Gipsy Majors, because they had proved to be too unreliable in top dressing service, with cracked cylinder heads and valve trouble. This opportunity was too good to miss and all the parts were promptly collected from Tasman Airways, where the engines had been dismantled for inspection.
Soon a crankcase with cylinders attached was propped up in the McMillan chassis for us to look at. This chassis had been built by John McMillan of Wellington and formed the basis of an interesting little single seater, about the size of a Cooper 500. It comprised a space frame, independent front suspension and specially made 14 inch wheels with tubular spokes. The original motor was an Army Jeep type, four cylinder Willys, mounted transversely behind the driver. Drive was through chains via a heavy-duty motorcycle gearbox to a large open tube rear axle, there being no differential.
John McMillan had run the car in several events before selling it. Herb Gilroy owned the car for a short time and replaced the Willys engine with a flat head Ford V8. He also fitted a heavier gearbox while retaining the chain drive. With this power, the light car showed promising performance, but the V8 was removed and sold to Ron Roycroft before all the bugs were sorted out, leaving the car without an engine.
If the Lycoming engine could be installed, it would go like a rocket! There was just room for it in the rear of the chassis, but a suitable drive to the rear wheels seemed to be very difficult to arrange. The aircraft engine had no provision for mounting a clutch housing or transmission, and the top gear ratio needed would be about two to one !
When in Christchurch, Harry had a chat with Hec. Green and enquired about using one of his special gearboxes, but finally gave up the scheme as being too difficult and passed the engines on to me.
With the motor of my choice on hand there was plenty to think about in designing a car to suit. The Lycoming 0-290-3 is very much over square, with a bore and stroke of 4 7/8 by 3 7/8 inches, giving a capacity of 290 cubic inches or 4,733 c.c. Very light for its size, it weighs only 260 lbs. The push rod operated valves are placed in line along the motor and parallel to each other in the non-detachable heads. All ports face downward and the inlet pipes lead from a junction in the wet sump, below which the carburettor is situated. This is very convenient for warming the intake and cooling the oil, but quite unsuitable for installation in a car.
Although carburettors could have been fitted to a manifold below the cylinders, a better solution was to turn the motor over and have the ports on top where the intake system would be much more accessible for fitting carburettors or fuel injection. This meant converting the lubrication system to a dry sump type. However there was very little space for oil to collect in what was now the bottom of the crankcase and for this reason a double scavenge pump of the three gear type was chosen.
The gears came from a Rolls Royce Merlin pump and the housing was cast and machined to suit, the two intakes being from the rear of the crankcase and the timing case. Simple capacity calculations, based on gear diameter, length, and r.p.m., indicated a displacement of over 1 1/2 times that of the pressure pump.
One day, Jack Cowie an engineer at Tasman Empire Airways, asked me if I would like to see a Lycoming engine which had had a major overhaul, doing its test run. Accepting promptly I arrived next day to find the engine on its test stand in a large test house usually occupied by 1,500 h.p. flying boat engines.
The Lycoming was started up and run for the specified time and slowed down to idle speed when it clattered and rattled loudly. After listening for a while and thinking how embarrassing this noise would be, driving around town in a car, I asked Jack if they usually sounded like that. He listened carefully for a while and commented that it did sound noisy. He then asked the test operator for an opinion and he came down out of his soundproof room and listened, went away and asked someone else who then also came to listen. Soon there were six engineers all listening to the little Lycoming rattling away and I was wishing I had not asked a question to which no one seemed to know the answer!
The recorded piston clearances were checked and cylinders were removed to check them again. All were found to be within the limits so attention was transferred to the hydraulic tappets. Some non-standard adjustable push rods were borrowed from my engine so that clearances could be set more accurately just to see if this made a difference, but the noise remained the same. Finally the engineer from the Aero Club who owned the engine was asked to come and listen. He simply remarked that they all sound like that.
The general thoughts were that all the noise must be caused by the very short connecting rods making the pistons, with 0.020 inch clearance, change sides in the cylinder rapidly at the top of each stroke.
In the car, with the motor running lightly loaded, this piston slap was always present, increasing with a touch on the throttle and sounding like a team of panel beaters working in rhythm. On full power it was not noticed and perhaps disappeared due to the extra heat expanding the pistons.
At one time a spare set of pistons was knurled to reduce the clearance and this helped a little but it then became more necessary than ever to watch the temperature and keep the mixture rich. Later on, when Associated Engineering offered to make me a set of high compression pistons, I asked for them to be made in low expansion silicon alloy, which I knew was being used in some later model Lycoming engines. However I do not think they were in fact made of the specified alloy as they did not like attempts made to run them at reduced clearance.
The final straw was when after Malcolm bought the car and ran it short of fuel during a half-mile sprint meeting. The few seconds starvation caused overheating, nipped up a piston and put a cylinder out of shape. I remember Malcolm watching horrified, while the steel cylinder was squeezed in a vice to make it round again. At this time it was thought wise to increase the clearance to 0.015 inch.
When first fitting the high compression pistons, the cylinders were honed and tapered to be 0.004 inch smaller at the hot end to allow for expansion, as is done in some larger aircraft engines.
I have referred to adjustable push rods. A number of reconditioned 290 engines came to this country from England fitted with them, the check valves having been removed from the hydraulic tappets. However I doubted the wisdom of doing this, as cams designed for hydraulic operation may cause heavy loads on the valve gear if used with solid adjustable tappets. I was unwilling to take any risk with my engine therefore a new set of hydraulic tappets was imported.
The original sump was removed from what was now the top of the crankcase and a flat plate made to cover the opening. A housing for the pressure oil filter was made from a piece of aircraft propeller and bolted on top to connect the oil passages. This direct method of making parts from solid metal suits me well and takes no longer for one off items than making patterns and castings. The end result is a component of vastly superior material when compared to one produced from a casting.
Several other alterations were made to the lubrication system. The valve rockers were drilled so as to continue the oil feed from the hollow push rods to the rocker shaft. Various drain and breather holes were drilled inside the crankcase.
The two original aircraft magnetos for the twin plug heads were removed. A single dual ignition distributor, with both centrifugal and vacuum automatic advance, was made up from a Lucas base and a Ford V8 cap. The dual rotor parts were machined from Tufnol. A mistake was at first made by trying to run two coils in parallel from one contact breaker, and it was found that a second breaker had to be added. (Editor:- Suitable blocking diodes were not available at the time.)
Timing was set to 30 degrees maximum advance, this being the standard setting, plus an allowance for running at higher r.p.m. It was not until the compression ratio was raised during the second season of racing that an attempt was made to improve the advance curve. Acceleration tests were carried out using pump petrol and the timing retarded at the engine speed where detonation occurred.
A search through aircraft overhaul manuals produced specifications covering about thirty models of Lycoming opposed engines of four, six and eight cylinders. These used many similar parts, there being two different cylinder types in 4 7/8 inch and 5 1/8 inch sizes, both having either parallel or slightly inclined valves.
Except for the early model engines which I had, there were only two inlet valve sizes, the inclined type being only 0.040 inch larger, so that they did not offer the advantage one could expect.
Power curves were available and by reducing those for the 3,400 r.p.m. geared six cylinder engines by two thirds, some interesting estimates of possible increased performance for the four cylinder were obtained.
It was now time to decide on the most suitable type of car for the engine and estimate the performance and gear ratios required. To be able to run the car in competitions all over New Zealand meant transporting and shipping to and from the South Island as economically as possible. This would best be achieved by driving the car everywhere, as a tow-car and trailer would have raised the expenses considerably.
I also firmly believed that driving many miles on the road was essential to sort out all the little problems and obtain reliability in competition. In fact every drive, no matter where, should be regarded as a test. I also was sure that it would be much more fun to drive the car rather than tow it.
As tools, spares, and some luggage would have to be carried, a two-seater which would also provide transport for a Pit Manager, was by far the best choice. The width of the engine i.e. 33 inches, was also a point in favour of a two seater.
The power to weight ratio is the most important figure when comparing performances, therefore an endeavour was made to estimate the probable weight. After much weighing of parts and some guesswork, a figure was arrived at. This later proved to be about 150 lbs short and the exact figure turned out to be 1,472 lbs.
|Vehicle||H.P.||Weight||H.P. Per Ton.||Litres Per Ton.|
|4.5 Litre Ferrari. *||400||2090||429||4.822|
|3.5 Litre Super Squalo Ferrari. *||290||1700||380||4.822|
|Cooper 1,100 J.A.P.||90||750||269|
|D Type Jaguar.||280||2200||284|
|Cooper F2. *||140||1000||313|
|P3 Alfa Romeo.||230||1980||260|
* Note : - These cars were not in N.Z. at the time the Lycoming was designed, i.e. 1954.
My next task was to estimate the power required to drive the car at various speeds and as this is mostly a matter of air resistance, the drag coefficient would at the best be a guess. A search was made for curves showing the power required to drive cars of similar size and shape. Information from Sports Car Design and The Motor, of 1946, proved helpful and the power curve required for a two litre formula two car, provided another check.
As I did not favour an enveloping body with its extra weight penalty and much preferred driving a car with exposed wheels it was decided to build accordingly.
Detachable mudguards were to be added if required.
Comparison with racing cars of similar power suggested top speeds of between 120 and 140 m.p.h. on New Zealand circuits. The smallest racing tyres available were 15 inch which with a 600 section gave an effective diameter of 26 1/2 inches, indicating that gear ratios of between 2:1 and 2:7 would be necessary.
A choice between front or mid engine designs did not take long as the front engine offered the best air-cooling. When combined with a rear-mounted gearbox, the simplest drive arrangement, this provided approximately correct weight distribution.
Also taken into account was the fact that I had never driven a rear-engined car and felt that they could be more difficult to handle. The car had to be easy to drive. What use is a difficult car even if it is capable of cornering faster in the hands of an expert, if a top driver is not available to drive it ?
As the gearbox was to be in unit with the differential and no standard crown wheels and pinions of high enough ratio were available, the best arrangement appeared to be an all-indirect gearbox using some standard gears. This led to a long search of motor parts warehouses. My requests to count the teeth on all the gearbox gears used in heavier cars must have tried the patience of many store men and I was grateful for their help. After much effort details of likely gear sets were listed.
After checking on rear differential assemblies, the Ford V8 crownwheel and pinion seemed a good choice, as several ratios were obtainable and they were easy to change. The housing would adapt well for driving the wheels via universal joints and so fitted in well.
I had in mind that the drive from the engine would go into the layshaft, so as to provide a step up in top gear, corresponding with the main drive ratio required. Calculations of the resulting overall ratios soon eliminated all but the Chrysler, Dodge and Studebaker three speed gear sets and the Jaguar four speed.
The Jaguar gears offered advantages in third but the low gear was too low and even in second more torque was available than the tyres would transmit. The highest possible gear ratio was considered to be 2.18 and would have required a specially imported crown wheel and pinion as made for hot rods.
The Studebaker offered 2.1 on the 3.54 standard crown wheel and pinion and the second gear torque was only just below the limit of traction, thus making the car easy to drive at maximum acceleration. Low gear would be mainly a starting gear and in view of the fact that large four cylinder motors usually have a wide torque range it was hoped that three speeds would be sufficient.
A search for a gearbox with the required ratios located a 1941 Studebaker box fitted with side controls, which would adapt nicely for a remote gear change lever. Drive for the layshaft gears could be arranged by grinding a groove into the end of the largest gear and making a shaft with a dog to fit. The mainshaft could be cut off, bored and splined to take the Ford V8 six spline pinion. Calculations showed that the stress in the modified mainshaft would be only three-quarters of that when used in a heavy American car, although it was accepted that it would be rotating much faster.
A drawing was made of the alterations and work started. About a month later I had a strong gearbox with large heavy-duty bearings fitted into new end covers machined from steel plate. Two long bolts through the top of the cast iron case ensured that it would not crack under the torque reaction loads. An oil feed through the main shaft lubricated the second gear bush.
It could be said that a racing car gearbox should have an aluminium case but I have more confidence in steel than cast aluminium. I have found many worn bearing housings and have seen quite a few fractures in cast aluminium boxes.
The Ford V8 differential housing bolted on to the new rear end cover. The axle tubes were cut off and bearings and seals fitted on each side. The axles were shortened and a serrated taper cut on the ends to suit flanges made to fit into the additional bearings and carry the inboard brake drums and universal joints.
A few teething troubles were experienced with this gearbox. The not unusual habit of slipping out of second gear was cured by a previously used method of slightly dovetailing the driving dogs with a hand die grinder. A few thou' taper is all that is required and it is a much better way than trying to hold the gear in with stronger selector springs.
The gearbox breather persistently blew out oil until it was extended vertically about twelve inches. The pinion taper roller bearings were set with no pre-load so as to reduce the temperature. After the first 230 mile race, low gear which had only been used for the start, was hard to shift and it was found that metal particles had collected inside its spline. A magnetic drain plug was fitted, but no great quantity of metal was ever found in the gearbox again.
Later, the circular springs in the balking synchromesh were replaced with stronger springs and this was an improvement. The gearbox now had a very easy and smooth change and was not taken apart again for a period of two years. Later owners however had trouble when some teeth came off top gear.
The choice of a clutch was easy. The smooth take up of the modern cushioned plate Borg and Beck, with central shock absorber, was the most desirable unit. With a list of sizes and spring pressures on hand, a few calculations showed that a ten-inch was the smallest that would transmit 300 lbs ft. of torque. A flywheel was turned from steel plate to suit this clutch assembly.
I did have some doubts regarding starting off with a low gear nearly as high as top gear in many cars, but need not have worried. When the time came for a test the Lycoming rolled away easily with the idling motor hardly noticing the additional load.
There were now enough parts to set up the motor and gearbox with a driver's seat between and some wheels propped up in order to check on the minimum possible dimensions.
A spring balance came in for a great deal of use, as the weights of individual parts were checked and the over all weight distribution worked out. Racing car weight distribution is best when as much weight as possible is placed on the driving wheels. This provides adhesion for acceleration while retaining sufficient weight on the front wheels to give good steering control.
I noted that American dragsters were using 70 to 80 percent of weight on the rear wheels but losing control at times because of the front wheels lifting and that the 250F Maserati varied between 52 and 61 percent with empty or full fuel tank. It seemed best to aim for 60 percent. When the finished car was checked and the measurements were, 56 to 59 percent on the rear, tank empty and full.
Weight transfer to the rear when accelerating.
u (coefficient of friction, rubber to the road)
= 0.9 ( 90 percent )
Wheelbase : - 91 inches.
Height of C. of G. : - 16 inches with four gallons of fuel,
rear weight 804 lbs.
Accelerating force : -
804 x 0.9 = 723 x 16/91 = 127.
Rear weight now 804 + 127 = 931 lbs.
With more power applied : -
931 x 0.9 = 838. x 16/91 = 147.
Rear Weight now 804 + 147 = 951.
Torque required to spin 13 inch radius wheels : -
951 x 0.9 x 13 divided by 12 = 927 lbs ft.
Available torque : -
3.78 gear ratio, 2nd gear, 90 percent transmission
efficiency 260 lbs ft engine torque
i.e. 260 x 3.78 x 0.9 = 910 lbs ft. which is nearly equal to the traction of the tyres.
Calculations for stresses in many parts were done following the methods described in the Automobile Engineer of 1953. The weight used for these was 700 lbs front and 1,000 lbs rear. This was probably approximately ten percent on the high side and therefore the car was stronger and heavier than it possibly could have been.
After having spent so much time looking for and finding fatigue cracks in old racing cars, I wanted none of this in my own car and tended to add on a bit of strength to be on the safe side. Two minor structural failures did occur early in the life of the car and both indicated that my mathematical ability was insufficient to work out the section required for adequate strength and an intelligent guess had to be relied on.
Dynamic loads under the severest conditions expected were considered. Calculations and accepted practice was taken from the publication Automobile Engineer and the following factors taken into consideration: -
1. Front wheel hitting a bump while braking.
2. Front wheel hitting a bump while cornering.
3. Rear wheel hitting a bump while accelerating.
4. Rear wheel hitting a bump while cornering.
5. Rear wheel hitting a bump while braking.
Results of calculations showing maximum loads in lbs.
Vertical load. Front, 1,262. Rear, 1,732.
Longitudinal load. Front, 1,179. Rear, 1,362 rearward and 850 forwards.
Lateral load. Front, 700 on one wheel. Rear Inside wheel 250. Outside wheel between 750 and 1,000 in unlikely conditions.
The loads as shown were used in calculating stresses. The factor of safety allowed was a minimum of one and a half times the yield strength, or twice the ultimate strength, with the worst accepted as per aircraft design standards.
Much thought was given in regard to the type of suspension to be used particularly at the rear. A six inch road clearance was needed for touring and the car had to be easy to drive, meaning that it should not break away suddenly without warning. Current cars that were easily driven had either De Dion or independent suspension of the Cooper Bristol type. The latter gave large negative camber changes that must have reduced the cornering power, but seemed to be so predictable that most drivers could get the cars around on the limit of adhesion. The Cooper probably had about 50:50 weight distribution.
The stable condition of under steer, as well as good traction in respect of a tail heavy rear drive car, requires that maximum lateral weight transfer when cornering should be at the front, i.e. there should be very little weight on the inside front wheel when cornering on the limit. Factors governing the proportion of roll resistance at each end are weight distribution, spring rates, height of the suspension roll centre and the stiffness of any anti-roll bar fitted.
The weight distribution was set by the need for traction and the spring rates by the frequency range required for comfort, (114 to 108 cycles per min. in this case). The roll centre heights had to be decided and a roll bar added if necessary. Everything indicated the need for a high roll centre at the front and a low roll centre at the rear.
Beam or swing axles are unacceptable at the front, because of gyroscopic and shimmy effects. The next best roll centre of from one to two inches is obtained by the use of unequal length wishbones. This arrangement also has the added advantage of reduced camber change on the loaded outside wheel, when compared with ground level roll centre arrangements.
In 1954, rear suspension was still in an experimental stage. Swing axles had been tried, found unsatisfactory and the De Dion system had taken over. Low pivot swing axle, wishbone systems and the newest angled axis trailing arm systems were being experimented with. The latter, when more had been learned about the arrangement, was to become very suitable for normal road cars which had a higher ground clearance than racing cars. At the time, it seemed to me to a possible cause of all kinds of not intended, rear end steering.
Choosing the best rear suspension was difficult and mathematical investigation, of wheel loads in a turn, was carried out for several systems to assist with the decision. A coefficient of friction of decimal seven for the tyres was used, but this should have been higher.
The well-proven De Dion arrangement seemed to be the safest choice and a system was designed with an easily changed roll centre height. Unfortunately the lower adjustment proved unusable because unforeseen errors in the geometry caused rear steering on one-wheel bumps.
Thus the ideal of achieving a lower roll centre at the rear defeated me as it had done many other constructors. Pegaso type radius arms, meeting at the tail, were used, because of the difficulty of finding room for the more usual four links to an anchorage behind the seats.
Another rear steering problem was caused by the use of a rubber bush in the lateral location link. This allowed some movement when compressed by the driving friction on the sliding splines of the drive shafts and had to be replaced with a rigid bearing. This problem was quickly located because pressing the clutch pedal was found to reduce a steering effect.
There had been several fatigue failures in stub axles on racing cars, so the possible stresses in different cars were compared and a size was chosen to provide a large margin of safety. The probable yield strength of the steel used in production stub axles would be between 170,000 and 130,000 lbs per square inch, depending on tempering.
The lateral link as shown in the drawing has been referred to by some as a modified Watts Link, which is incorrect there being no real similarity.
As far as can be ascertained the system has not previously been used in an automotive application. Ralph cannot recall exactly from where he derived his knowledge of the arrangement but thinks that early steam engines were involved.
|Car||Diameter in inches||Weight in lbs||Stress in lbs per sq. inch|
|Austin Healey||1 1/4||1,150||78,000|
|Austin A40||1 1/4||1,380||93,400|
|Fiat 500 *||0.7||700||178,000|
|*(As used RA 2 Spcl. & broke after 3 yrs of racing).|
|Lycoming Special||1 1/4||700||45,000|
|(As Austin A40 & Austin Healey cars, refer above.)|
As I required all body panels to be easily removable for maintenance, this ruled out any stressed skin type of structure like the BSA Special which I had previously built and suggested a space frame or a chassis. Dynamic bending loads were worked out and found to be in line with the strength of the two large tube type chassis used by Connaught, Aston Martin and pre war Mercedes racing cars. I also had doubts about the torsional stiffness of a space frame with large cockpit and engine openings.
I decided to use two 2 3/4 inch tubes as a base for a chassis frame, these being about half the strength that would be needed without the help of a space frame. The upper part of the frame was made from one inch tubing, placed where it could be used for attachment of body panels and triangulated as much as possible to increase the beam strength of the base tubes. The front cockpit bulkhead was made from panel steel and formed part of the structure. The top tubes from the bulkhead to the front suspension were placed so as to allow for the removal of the engines cylinders and accessories without having to disturb the crankcase.
A transverse frame of 14 gauge steel was made to fit behind the differential to support the suspension bump stops, shock absorbers and fuel tank. A triangulated frame extended rearward to provide an anchorage for the radius arms and support for the battery and the tail section of the body. This tail section was fastened to its own aluminium angle frame and the complete assembly could be removed quickly by taking out two bolts. Removal of one more bolt then allowed the fuel tank to be tipped back for easy access to the transmission and the rear brakes.
A substantial cross member was found to be necessary under the seats to connect the base tubes with the side members, this being a point of concentrated load resulting from the torque reaction of the transmission.
A modified front cross member from a Velox formed a convenient mount for the front suspension, although it was rather heavy. The front springs were made from a Ford Zephyr coil cut in half. At the rear, Morris Minor torsion bars provided for an easy adjustment of the ride height, as was required when a load of fuel, tools and luggage was carried in the tail.
The De Dion tube was made from 2 1/2 inch by 0.095 inch 40 ton drive shaft tubing, squeezed to an oval section before bending to shape. The wheel bearing housings of heavy wall tube were welded on to each end before being machined to fit taper roller bearings and were set up to give the rear wheels a small amount of negative camber.
The wheel axles were turned from the flanged ends of old truck axles and splined on their inner ends to fit the yoke of the universal joint. The tapered channel section radius arms were bent from 1/8 inch steel plate and the ends reinforced by welding. Torsion bar arms and links were all specially made of high tensile steel and fitted with needle roller bearings as was the lateral location link.
After I sold the car the De Dion tube received some rough treatment when the wheels hit kerbs etc. and a stronger replacement was fitted.
The correct spring rate was found by bouncing the car and timing the frequency and adjusted by repositioning the front springs on the lower wishbones and by reducing the diameter of the torsion bars at the rear.
An interesting feature was the use of the two large base chassis tubes to carry cooling air to the inboard rear brakes. After it was found they had also conveyed a sparrow, bath plugs were fitted into the front ends when touring. At this time disc brakes were only just coming into use on racing cars and some were giving trouble. Parts were hard to obtain.
Bonded liners had been coming loose in aluminium drums and it was obvious that the best anti fade linings would work at temperatures in excess of the maximum allowable should aluminium be used. Experience with a P3 Alfa Romeo had shown that thick cast iron drums gave trouble with surface cracking, apparently due to the inside to outside temperature difference.
After a search for drums capable of withstanding high temperatures, some American steel ones with thin cast-in liners were found. The faces were cut out and drilled plates of heat-treated aluminium alloy rivetted on in their place so as to make lightweight, ten inch by two inch, brake drums. Specially made aluminium alloy back plates and a mixture of parts including Austin A40 Girling hydraulic units made up the front assemblies. At the rear a mechanical system was used as this gave a good hand brake without duplicating the operating gear. Very large air scoops were fitted to the front back plates so as to move air over the outside and through the inside of the drums.
These brakes were equal to or better than most drum brakes in use at the time. The drums did not suffer from the very high temperatures reached, but linings needed replacing after every long race e.g. a 200 mile event.
After the car was sold, younger drivers, in competition with disc braked cars used the brakes much more aggressively. After Bruce McLaren drove the Lycoming to fourth place at Wigram in 1960, he provided a set of disc brakes which were more resistant to fade. However these did give some trouble, which seemed to be connected with run out or end play involving the rear discs.
In an attempt to avoid the fatigue cracking, common with pure aluminium body panels, it was decided to use a 5251 grade which has twice the strength and advantage was taken of this to reduce the thickness to 20 gauge. At the time Rover car bodies were being made in England from this material, but finding a panel beater who would even attempt working it, at first seemed hopeless. I purchased a sheet, made a clutch cover and managed to roughly hammer out some of the easy panels round the cockpit, but the bonnet defeated me. A good panel beater friend had a try but he too had to admit defeat.
I then heard about Johnny Morrall of Orewa, who had just made a very nice body for the Roycroft Ferrari. I visited him with a sample of 5251 and he seemed hopeful that he could work it. The Lycoming was made mobile and driven to Orewa to show him what had to be done, the tail being the really difficult part. He had a look and told me to get some more 5251 saying, “If you can do that much with it I can make any shape required”. He went ahead and without any difficulty finished the body, tidying up the parts I had tried to finish and teaching me a little while doing so.
This body proved very successful, suffering no cracks while I had the car and it could very conveniently be removed in about three minutes.
The nearly flat under tray was made from 18 gauge 6351, which is a hard springy heat treated aluminium alloy and this resisted flying stones better than steel would have done. The bucket seats were also made from this material rivetted together and were very light and strong.
A 19 gallon fuel tank was made of the usual terne plate. It was mounted over the transmission and arranged to hinge back for access by the removal of a single bolt. It was originally intended to fit the oil tank in the tail, but it was finally located near the engine because of the difficulty of routing the pipe work.
The exhaust pipes were paired up according to firing order, the front two cylinders together and the rear two together. This was not that easy to arrange on flat four-cylinder engine. A length of pipe tuned for 3,500 r.p.m. finished near the bottom of the front bulkhead on the passenger's side so that it was convenient to fit a large empty truck silencer and tail pipe for touring. This helped to keep the passenger warm and even tended to make it too hot for him on occasions. The coolest wear was found to be white overalls!
When considered, the fuel system offered several possibilities. A letter to Amal in England brought forth advice that 1 7/16 or 1 1/2 inch bore carburettors would be needed and that regrettably they did not make any of such at large size. A modified large single Solex was considered and even a Rolls Royce Merlin supercharger looked at in this regard, but fuel injection seemed to offer the most advantages.
Fuel injection would mean no mixture changes due to fuel surge on corners as had been a problem with my BSA special. No evaporation of fuel or vapour locks under the very hot bonnet and quite important, the possibility of a lower bonnet profile needing no bulge. America was the home of do-it-yourself fuel injection systems and their Hot Rod magazines were therefore studied. The description of a simple system was found which was said to work well and with a few improvements, this arrangement seemed to be a possibility.
Most racing cars with large bore carburettors, or injection systems, run rather roughly at low speeds and with the power coming in suddenly. To me this was intolerable in respect of a large engine, and I was adamant that it should run smoothly, all the way from idle to maximum r.p.m. In order to achieve this, it was decided that the injection should take place at a point where the air velocity was always high, as it is at the edge of the throttle valve, and that the nozzle should always provide a spray and not dribble at low flow rates.
A rotary vane aircraft fuel pump was set up on test and several of the various nozzle types used with Hilborn injection systems tried. They all dribbled at low flow rates. Unfortunately I did not know at this time that Hilborn nozzles have an air bleed to assist in vaporising the fuel. The solution just had to be a variable size nozzle and eventually one was made out of a diesel pump barrel and plunger with the scroll end cut off. By supplying fuel at the end of the barrel and moving the end of the plunger across the hole in the side, a good spray could be produced at any rate of flow.
I decided that making and synchronising four of these nozzles would be just too difficult and in any case a continuous flow system did not really suit the intermittent airflow of an inlet port. The Lycoming induction manifold, when cut out of the discarded sump, seemed to be ideal for mounting a large single throttle and nozzle and by strange coincidence the inlet length was also correct for induction ramming.
I reasoned that the nozzle control would have to be connected to the throttle by a cam, which could be shaped for any required variation in movement and a cockpit mixture control should be incorporated to provide immediate adjustment and accurate checks. These requirements were arranged mechanically together with a fuel cut-off to prevent running on, as is normal aircraft practice.
When the time came to start up, the fuel pressure was set to a fixed value by the pump relief valve, as I had seen described in a hot rod magazine and no trouble was experienced. A friend and I took turns in running the unregistered car thirty yards or so up and down the drive and we were surprised at how smooth the clutch was.
As expected, a lot of time was spent driving around and getting the nozzle cam shape right. I made several of soft material so that they could be easily bent for quick adjustment, before the final one was made of stronger material.
I gradually became used to driving the car while sorting out the injection system together with some small suspension problems and thought all was well until after about a month, full throttle acceleration was tried up a two-mile hill. The mixture went completely wrong and required a large change on the cockpit control halfway up to keep the motor running. Another run to make sure and it was home again to think over the problem!
The simple constant pressure system that I had copied was lacking in one of the basic essentials and I should have known better than to be misled by magazine reports. After due consideration it was obvious to me that, under full throttle acceleration with the nozzle wide open, the fuel flow had to increase in proportion to the air flow which would be approximately in proportion to r.p.m. The Hilborn injection system achieved this through having no pump relief valve operating and instead having a fixed bypass jet for excess fuel. Thus the fuel flow through both the nozzle and the bypass from the positive rotary vane pump was in proportion to engine speed. Fuel pressure is in proportion to fuel flow squared.
A plate with a bypass jet was fitted under the relief valve housing in such a way, that the relief valve would control the idle pressure. At higher r.p.m. the bypass jet would control the pressure and flow. Further testing was carried out with a wide range of bypass jets and the correct one was soon found and as a result the car accelerated cleanly up the hill with no adjustment of the mixture control being required.
The car now went well except that excessive richness was noticed on light loads when touring. A vacuum operated economiser device was made from a distributor diaphragm and fitted so as to lean the mixture by partly closing the nozzle when the vacuum was high. Fuel pressure was now 19 lbs per square inch at idle, rising to 45 lbs per square inch at 3,600 r.p.m. Some two years later the system was again redesigned, resulting in still further improvement. Editor: - Refer here.
At first it had been hoped that the car might be ready for the 1955-56 racing season but it was not until August 1956 that it was driveable and October before the car was starting to perform properly. Believing that everything had to be right before racing was attempted, it was driven as much as possible while constantly watching behaviour.
The road holding on bumpy corners, the effects of ridges along the road on the steering, changes in castor angle, shock absorber settings and even the ease and reliability of starting the motor was checked. It was important to try any alterations without delay and find out quickly if they were for better or worse.
During high speed testing on the beach the rear wheels started to lose their grip and spin when 90 m.p.h. was reached on half throttle. There seemed to be a real danger of losing control through further increasing speed. The same thing would happen even earlier on most loose surfaces. When the Club held some time trials round the dirt track at Western Springs, the car was all over the place at a touch of the throttle and I finished up losing control.
Parts of some racing circuits at the time were on loose metal roads and finding a long wide empty loose metal stretch later in Central Otago offered an opportunity to see what could happen. The safe speed was reached with less than half throttle. It appeared that, due to the light weight of the car, traction on a very loose surface was equalled by air resistance before maximum speed was reached. Stopping also seemed to take forever, as the lightest touch on the brake set stones rolling under the tyres and clattering on the under tray. Increased pressure on the brake pedal resulted in loss of steering control.
I had to accept that road-racing tyres were not suitable for loose surfaces and this ended my ideas of beach racing. It was not until 1965 that Jim Boyd really got the Lycoming going on loose metal hill climbs, using tyres with specially cut tread.
Somewhere had to be found for higher speed tests. A racing circuit was not available and there was no hope of doing enough testing at any race meeting. What was usually needed was a run of a minute or so followed by a few days in the workshop, before trying again. Being determined not to annoy anyone meant patiently driving many miles looking for suitable deserted roads which were more easily found very early in the day.
By the time entries closed for the 1957 N.Z.I.G.P. to be held in January, on a circuit set out on the Ardmore airfield, the car was going fairly well and after a final early morning run, I visited A. J. Roycroft about breakfast time.
He was curious to know how the Lycoming was going so I mentioned that it had just equalled the speed of the P3 Alfa. When I called at the G.P. office two hours later, the manager Buzz Perkins, seemed to know all about my early morning test runs. News was travelling fast !
At about this time, very fortunately as it turned out, Dunlop nearly doubled the price of their racing tyres causing me to cancel my order for a spare set and change to Michelin X, steel belted type. This turned out to be a very good thing, as not only did the car feel better on the road, it proved to be faster around corners as well.
The first real competition event was a popular sprint meeting near Hamilton and George Smith entered his then Chrysler engined GeeCeeEss special. The Lycoming achieved the fastest standing quarter mile and the GeeCeeEss the fastest flying mile, results being 14.4 secs and 125 m.p.h. for the Lycoming and 14.8 secs and 128 m.p.h. for the GeeCeeEss.
George retired after two runs, saying that he had trouble holding his car on the undulating road. It was satisfying to say that, the Lycoming ran as straight as a die and I had not noticed the undulations.
Between runs, I was troubled for the first time, with a vapour lock in the fuel pump which required bleeding before starting. A plywood gasket between the pump and the motor, to provide heat insulation, cured this problem.
I am constantly reminded of this meeting as my prize was an eight-inch Crescent spanner, which I have since used as my favourite lathe spanner for several decades.
A week later came Ardmore practice day for N.Z. drivers. This was the first opportunity to check cylinder head and oil temperatures under racing conditions as well as fuel consumption for the long race to come. During test runs a spark plug came out and this gave me a real fright. The engine ran so far out of balance, that for a moment it seemed about to leap out of the car. There was no harm done but the plugs would just not stay tight on their copper asbestos washers and solid replacements had to be made.
Eighty miles were completed in testing and the temperatures were very safe at, 195 degrees C cylinder head, and oil 75 degrees C. Lap times were poor at !min. 50 secs and Ces. Hodge, my pit manager, seemed a little disappointed.
Afterwards the cool air intake duct on the underside of the bonnet was found to be shattered with small cracks which must have been caused by resonance in the intake manifold. Was this a sign that the tuned length was working? The duct had been made from a scrap piece of pure aluminium and was replaced with one made from 5251 and this gave no trouble. The cylinders were taken off for inspection and nothing was found to be wrong.
The car continued to be used regularly and small changes were made to the suspension as a result of experience. Castor angle, front wheel offset, anti roll bar size, rear torsion bars and shock absorber settings were all adjusted.
Three weeks later on practice day for the G.P. there was an improvement of twelve seconds in lap times.
Buzz Perkins the N.Z.I.G.P. manager had criticised the appearance of the unpainted aluminium body. When Ces. called the day before the race and found me polishing the panels with a power buff, he suggested that I should be doing some more work on the suspension settings, therefore perhaps he thought the improvement in lap times had been satisfactory.
The anticipated 240-mile race was the longest ever held at Ardmore and as I was a driver new to this class of competition, driving an unproved car, it seemed wise to concentrate on finishing. Fuel consumption tests suggested that we could probably complete the distance without refuelling so the tank was filled right up to the top !
Starting from 18th on the grid in a field of 24 cars with about three hours of racing ahead seemed to present little reason to get mixed up in a rush for the first corner and that it was better to let others sort themselves out ahead. Driving carefully, using only 3,300 r.p.m. most of the time, a close watch was kept on temperatures, checking them nearly every time going down the back straight. A slight alteration of the mixture control and the cylinder head temperature would change by the next lap and it was held down to 195 degrees C.
When driving with something in hand one can always use a few more revs for good reason and another 300 got the Lycoming past the Bugatti Jaguar driven on this occasion by Peter Gendall.
Time and laps went by and many cars were noticed calling in at the pits and others were parked at various places around the circuit. We were picking up places the engineers way, but I realised we must not join any of the cars by the roadside. Cautiously a few revs were dropped off. As the end became near the importance of finishing and not wasting the many miles already covered was at the front of my mind and maximum revs came down to 3,000.
At about this time I found myself between two very hot Cooper Nortons. They were some distance apart and much faster round the corners so that at the end of each straight the Lycoming was close behind the Cooper ahead who would then get away. At the same time the one behind would come up so close that the bark of his exhaust could be heard until he was again left behind, due to the acceleration of the Lycoming. This went on twice a lap, for lap after lap until the one behind stopped by the roadside and the one ahead, trying too hard, overdid it on a corner and let me past.
This reminded me of a time two years before, when we were towing the Alfa south and stopped at Levin, the home of the Coopers, for a chat. Unwittingly a remark was made that aircraft engined specials were not real racing cars when compared with formula three racing in England. Probably it all depended on the point of view.
As soon as this long race was over it felt good to coast into the pits and relax. There was two gallons remaining in the fuel tank ! Fuel consumption worked out at 13 m.p.g.
One thing I really appreciated was George Smith's obvious pleasure and his congratulations after he hurried across to me when I was about to drive the Lycoming home as the other cars, of necessity, were being loaded onto trailers. It seemed to create a bond between the builders of specials.
The after race inspection disclosed only a crack in the exhaust pipe. This was probably due to vibration and running for an extended period during which resonance occurred. Although an improved support was made this trouble was never really overcome and a small crack was often found after a long race. It was apparent following the after race inspection that the engine could with safety have been pushed much harder.
After a few days checking over the car, we fitted larger Dunlop tyres which in conjunction with the highest 2:1 gear ratio, would be best for the fast Ryal Bush circuit. All was now ready for a South Island tour, beginning with a race at Wigram in three weeks time.
The spare time available was spent helping to assemble Tom Clarke's HWM after being briefed by Ross Jensen, who had previously battled with the cars engine problems. This car came to N.Z. for the first G.P. at Ardmore, where it was nursed along and surprised its driver, Tony Gaze, by finishing in third place.
Tom had driven the HWM to its death in the 240-mile race at Ardmore, with many pit stops to prevent essential parts falling off. There were parts of it being worked on in workshops all over Auckland and fortunately, Fred Henderson, Tom's mechanic, was able to gather them all together as assembly proceeded.
The main problem with its Alta motor was caused by its construction. It had an iron cylinder block inside an aluminium crankcase which also formed the water jacket, the difficulty was to hold it all together and at the same time keep water and oil in their correct places. The pressures of two stage supercharging didn't help matters. We squeezed in many grommets around the studs in an endeavour to seal them.
When the car was ready, it was suggested to Tom that if he wanted the HWM to finish the season, not having a factory of spares and a team of mechanics available, he should retire when something went wrong instead of battling on and so do further damage. He replied that he wasn't racing as an engineering exercise, but must have taken notice as he drew to my attention that he was “a good boy” and retired at Wigram, when the clutch became troublesome.
Later an axle broke in practice at Dunedin and after a great effort which involved borrowing an axle out of another car, Tom started very late in the race. At the next event held at Ryal Bush the HWM finished in sixth place.
As we were due at the Wellington wharf at three p.m. for loading onto the ferry to Lyttelton, we left at four a.m. to allow time to change a tyre tube at the roadside in the event of a puncture, not the easiest job with safety wheels. This was to be the first of some very enjoyable drives. One could keep to normal speeds through towns and when other traffic was about, but let the car go as it wanted in the early morning on the empty roads.
With its wonderful acceleration the Lycoming was quickly again up to speed after any check. Usually we took a short stop by the side of Lake Taupo for breakfast with friends there on holiday and then sped on across the desert road with its dips into the gullies coming one after another. At Bulls the traffic slowed us and Ces. took a turn at driving. It was all so easy and safe and we always arrived early.
On this first journey, we were puzzled as we had not seeing the Roycroft team on the road. They were towing the 4.5 litre Ferrari down to Wellington, with an overnight stop at Taupo. Meeting them later on the wharf at Wellington, we found that we had slipped through Taupo while they were having breakfast and had reached Wellington hours ahead of them. This information rendered Ron's father A. J. strangely silent for a few moments.
The Lycoming was a really delightful road car and my drives around the country were more enjoyable than the racing.
A handicap race at Wigram was entered to learn something about the circuit and surprisingly there were two Lycoming Specials off the back mark together. The other car was Duncan Rutherford's, fitted with a similar motor, but installed in the normal way with two S.U. carburettors under the cylinders. The chassis was one of the early RA specials built by Hec. Green in Christchurch and incorporated independent front suspension and a live rear axle. The car had first been powered with a 1,100 c.c. Fiat engine, and then with a Chevrolet.
The Stanton brothers had helped with the installation and had fitted a step up gear in the transmission. During the Wigram race it dropped back and retired, but it proved successful for a number of years when running in beach racing.
After this race Peter Whitehead and Reg. Parnell came over for a look at the Lycoming and Reg's eagle eye spotted a crack in the chassis, near the anchorage point, of the rear-suspension lateral location-link. This was one of the two failures previously mentioned and strengthening was added with help from the Stanton brothers. The well-known bump on the Wigram circuit had produced loads not previously experienced, so that from this short race we learned something which was not expected.
The other failure mentioned occurred earlier at a private practice meeting at Ardmore, when the lug on the rear end of one of the De Dion radius arms broke. Unfortunately this happened immediately before Bruce McLaren was to have a drive in the car.
While in Dunedin better front shock absorbers were fitted. Some enjoyable driving around Otago followed while adjusting them on the way to Invercargill. Here the Lycoming was housed at Crosbie's garage where Crosbie was preparing an Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire engined Special for the race. The cylinders were removed from the Lycoming in order to clean out the rapidly forming carbon deposits.
During the race on the Ryal Bush circuit restricted to N.Z. drivers, the Lycoming was reaching 136 m.p.h. on the long straights, but my driving was not good as I was unable to judge the braking distances correctly and we finished in fourth place behind the HWM.
It was interesting that George Palmer's Cooper Bristol blew up during this race. He was unable to gear it high enough and so had to ease the throttle to prevent over revving and the motor was running lightly loaded down the long straights. Running low gearing results in better acceleration and if not overdone may give fast lap times, provided the motor can stand it!
The next day it was back to Christchurch from Invercargill giving Bob Gibbons a lift and his first drive, on his way to Dunedin airport, where I dropped him off. Then to Nelson for a week, before driving back to Christchurch with Halsey Logan as passenger. Knowing the road, he kept suggesting that approaching comers could be taken faster!
There followed a race at Mairehau, where the tyre pressures and shock absorber settings proved to be not right for the rather bumpy road circuit. Road holding on the corners was not good as usual running on the Dunlop tyres and the softer Michelin tyres were badly missed. Tom Clark happily won his first race at Mairehau driving his newly acquired Ferrari.
In Christchurch I stayed with Colin MacGregor. Before leaving, his children all had rides and Colin took the Lycoming for a trial run. He chose the Port Hills of all places where the roads are very twisty with long drops alongside. I was not sorry when we were back safely.
After calling on the Gibbons in Wellington and picking up Bob Gibbons mechanic as a passenger, we had a very wet drive to Auckland on the only day we had rain during the whole tour. As I had found when driving my BSA special, the only speed to dodge most of the water and be able to see was 50 m.p.h. and whenever we had to slow down, water from off the top of the rear wheels came into the cockpit.
During my travels around the country I called at several airports in the hope of finding some pistons which would prove less noisy. The car usually created interest and sometimes demonstration rides along the main runway were asked for, after receiving an all-clear from the control tower.
At James Aviation I was welcomed as, “someone who could keep a Lycoming going”. It was from here that my engines had originally become available after they had given a lot of trouble when used in top dressing aircraft. Cracked cylinder heads and valve failures from overheating due to frequent takeoffs were the main problem. It occurred to me that if valve clearances had been set to the usual 0.04 to 0.08 inch specifications, not knowing that the hydraulic tappets were out of action, the valves would have had a very hard time indeed.
After returning to Auckland the season finished with several minor events, including a sprint at Taumarunui in April. I had a very pleasant drive down to this event during the early morning and the cosiness of the Lycoming cockpit was most welcome. Using a 2.44 gear ratio i.e. the lowest available and Michelin tyres, the times recorded were nearly a second faster than those recorded previously.
During the 1956/57 season, the car had completed approximately 700 miles racing and 5,000 miles on the road. Nearly 2,000 of these were recorded while sorting out the car prior to the first race.
Improvements were made for the next season of racing during the winter of 1957. These included the fitting of larger intake valves and seats and a new set of pistons to give a compression ratio of 8 : 1. These were kindly supplied by Associated Engineering and were made from castings specially produced in England by Hepolite. Narrower rings more suitable for racing were fitted.
Shell offered to supply fuel and to make up any desired brew so that I could now take advantage of alcohol mixtures in place of AV87 aviation petrol.
It is rather interesting to note that, using a 2.1 ratio, a timed speed of 136 m.p.h. was recorded on the main straight of the Ryal Bush circuit prior to these modifications.
A mixture of, 25 percent Methanol, 25 Benzol and 50 AV 73, was used for long races, and up to 66 percent of Methanol was experimented with in sprint events. Increasing the Methanol content caused damping out in the intake manifold. The alcohol would not vaporise and when the throttle was opened the motor would cut out for a couple of seconds and then suddenly light up and spin the wheels! I considered using nitrobenzene but had to abandon the idea as the first requirement was to get the motor to run on near 100 percent Methanol before adding the nitro.
After experiencing complete reliability during the previous season, it was thought safe to use 3,800 r.p.m. and perhaps 4,000 very occasionally. Calculations covering inertia loads on the conrods gave a figure of 4,533 lbs at 4,000 r.p.m. The 3/8 inch big end bolts looked small in comparison with those used in other motors. One was tightened and the stretch measured until the elastic limit was found. As a result of this experiment it was decided that the bolts should be tightened to 430 lbs inch instead of the Lycoming specified figure of 360 lbs inch, so as to provide a greater degree of safety against fatigue.
The valve springs were packed to increase pressure from 188 lbs to 205 lbs open, to allow for the extra r.p.m. now decided safe. Unfortunately, the new pistons were late arriving and could not be fitted until after the N.Z.I.G.P. held at Ardmore.
The season began with a hill climb at Hora Hora. Next came a standing kilometre sprint at Matamata and for this event a 60 percent Methanol fuel mixture was tried. The drive to Matamata included some secondary roads where short bursts of acceleration could be used to check the mixture and by the time we arrived I was happy with the setting. The result was an average time of 24.5 seconds, which we compared to Ken Wharton's two litre ERA Brighton record of 23.6, and the pre-war Auto Union time of 19.08 recorded in Germany.
On the N.Z.I.G.P. practice day held in December for N.Z. drivers at Ardmore, the Lycoming gave me my greatest fright. Going past the pits at about 90 m.p.h. it slued suddenly through about forty-five degrees and headed for the grandstands. Fortunately there was not another car coming past and plenty of room to straighten up. It happened very quickly and unexpectedly and would have required much better trained reactions than mine to catch it at the outset.
An examining the tyre marks afterwards indicated that the rear wheels had lost grip on a thin patch of loose grit on the track. The tyres in use were the Dunlops, by now fairly well worm, but still showing some tread pattern. We abandoned any more practice and went home to change them. In contrast with this experience, well-worn Michelins seemed to give the best results in sprint meetings and were therefore usually used.
For the 1958 N.Z.I.G.P at Ardmore, three qualifying laps were required and it was good to have a clear track and be able to concentrate on getting round quickly. There were a large variety of cars that year. Three of us in about the middle of the field, the D-type Jaguar of Bob Gibbons, the Lago Talbot of Freeman and the Lycoming, finished with the same best lap time of one minute 34.4 seconds. In the preliminary race the fuel injected Chevrolet powered Normac Special was lapping fast, but let me past while running onto the grass at a corner. A few laps later, when going round College corner and hearing tyres squealing behind, I glanced back and there was the Normac again, but coming at me backwards! I wasted no time going on my way. On the next lap I was pleased to see the car parked among the straw bales, out of the way for the rest of the day.
In the G.P. using the 2.25 gear ratio, the Lycoming was reaching 3,750 r.p.m. and near 130 m.p.h. down the back straight. All went well until about half distance until what looked to be a lot of oil was noticed in the under tray and during a few slower laps with an exchange of sign language I managed to inform the pit crew that oil might be needed. The slower laps also gave me time to realise that a pint of oil would look a lot in the under tray and to persuade myself that there was not two gallons spread round the circuit. Therefore it was decided that it was probably safe to continue while keeping a close eye on the oil gauge. Lap speeds picked up again, but I became aware of how hard it is to give attention to a problem while driving in a race.
At one time the 4.5 litre Ferrari, driven by Ron Roycroft, came past very close on the fast bend into the cloverleaf forcing the Lycoming off line for the following corner. Therefore being uncertain of getting round it I took a safer course between some straw bales and by that time speed had been reduced enough to turn and rejoin the circuit through another opening. Ron was simply going where he wanted to without any consideration for other traffic.
Nearing the finish the Lycoming came up alongside Jack Brabham's Cooper Climax going into the cloverleaf and as he was well ahead in the race and seemed to be going to get in my way, I gave him a get-on-with-it wave and he spurted ahead round the comer. After asking him afterwards about the incident, I learned that he was coasting along to win with a loose steering connection to one wheel on his Cooper.
The Lycoming finished with half a tank of oil left, the oil in the under tray having come out of the breather. As nothing could be found wrong, it was thought that the oil loss was somehow caused by using another 300 to 400 r.p.m. A trap was fitted in the breather and the pipe extended, but it was not until a complete overhaul when the car was to be sold that the problem disappeared. A replacement crankshaft reduced the bearing clearances and a shield was fitted between the rear two bearings to prevent oil being thrown towards the breather outlet.
Another problem that showed up was that the mixture became too rich at the higher r.p.m. Perhaps this should have been foreseen as the motor was now revving to a point where the power curve flattened off while the fuel flow continued to increase in proportion to the r.p.m. An attempt was made to cure this by making a new top for the fuel pump containing two relief valves. One controlled the idle pressure at 19 lbs per square inch, the bypass controlled the rise in pressure to near the top of the power curve, when the second valve opened at about 50 lbs per square inch to prevent further increase in fuel flow. In practice this second valve was almost impossible to set correctly and the cockpit mixture control then interfered with its setting.
What with this, the fitting of new pistons, a run at a Club meeting and a change of gear ratio, a lot of work was accomplished during the two weeks before Wigram. This might have contributed to the first half of the Trophy race being spent near the back of the field trying to learn the circuit. A change came when the Lycoming caught up with the Monza Ferrari driven by Ken Harris and after following for a few laps I got past and comfortably away. From then on the race went much better for me. Later I was passing and getting passed by a Connaught driven by Lewis Evans from England and then the big 4.5 litre 12 cylinder Ferrari driven by Ron Roycroft again got in the way, but this time it was slowing up and making strange noises from the rear axle.
Using the high 2.1 gear ratio maximum revs were 3,600 at about 132 m.p.h. down the straight. There was no sign of an over rich mixture, but this may have been due to the lower r.p.m. as much as the second relief valve which had been fitted as it was impossible to tell if this was in fact working.
On the way home we called on the Gibbons again and discussed the possibility of Bob driving the Lycoming in the Ardmore Fifty in March. It had always been in my mind to secure a better race driver when the car was sorted. I felt that I had not used the cars full potential in two races and therefore it was obvious that the time had come. Having watched Bob drive his temperamental Cooper 1,100 c.c. J.A.P. in long races, I knew he could be relied upon to obey instructions and give due consideration to the welfare of the car and not try to win at any cost.
Leaving late, on the way home, we spent a night in Napier and next morning were motoring rapidly along straight empty stretches of road. It would have been an ideal time to have tested the Lycoming for maximum speed but something prevented me. Perhaps I was simply becoming too old.
When it came time for the Ardmore Fifty I was unable to attend. Therefore when Bob arrived the evening before the race, he was briefed on the running of the car while the easily moved pedals were adjusted to fit his legs as they were shorter than mine. With Ces. Hodge in charge of the pit all went well and resulted in a close race between the ex Brabham Cooper driven by Merv. Neil and the Lycoming. The two cars finished in third and fourth places respectively.
Best lap time for the Lycoming was 1 min. 31.6 secs, this being a 2.8 secs improvement on my best, and the engine was reaching 3,800 r.p.m. There was again some loss of oil from the breather.
Later I received a written report from Bob, which was to be the first of a series of letters in regard to the behaviour of the car. Interesting news was that Ron Frost, driving a Formula-two Cooper, had been unable to pass as he expected to on the fast comer at the beginning of the cloverleaf and was left well behind on the straights.
The 1958 season finished with a standing and flying quarter mile sprint held at Dargaville. As usual the Lycoming was geared for the standing quarter in the hope of learning more from the standing times, as there was seldom sufficient road available to allow the car to reach maximum speed. It was therefore best to do all standing runs. Sometimes under persuasion, one flying run would be made coasting through at near 4,000 r.p.m. and about 127 m.p.h.
In this particular event there was a long run up so that it was necessary to wait until the start of the quarter mile came into sight before finally accelerating for the flying run. This would have been an ideal time to use the high gear in order to establish the top speed of the Lycoming, something that has never been done. The standing runs were the same as before i.e. 13.5 secs except for a run of 12.7 secs, which was thought to be a mistake due to my cheating the timing gear!
During the winter a big effort was made to get the fuel system exactly right for the extra revs now available above 3,600. Tasman Airways helped by lending me their injection carburettor course instruction papers. They also provided some used injection carburettor diaphragms approximately four inches in diameter.
After much thought and research, the vacuum operated economiser device was removed, together with the Hilborn type bypass jet, and one of these diaphragms fitted so as to apply extra load to a single relief valve on the fuel pump. The diaphragm was connected to a miniature venturi fitted close above the throttle butterfly, thus the airflow now controlled the fuel pressure.
Results were good almost immediately, the rich running at high revs disappeared and the vacuum economiser device proven no longer necessary. It was surprising that so many changes involving different operating principles could be made, using the original nozzle and pump, and that it had not been necessary to scrap everything to then start again from scratch.
There was a price to pay for the better mixture in the form of a rise in cylinder head temperature of 20 deg. C. A contributing factor could have been a change of fuel to only ten percent Methanol. B.P. was now providing fuel and would not make up my favourite brew.
At this time it was arranged that Bob Gibbons should drive in all races and hill climbs, leaving the sprints and road driving to me.
The first standing quarter mile event of the season, held at Ardmore, was taken very seriously and was also used as a means of testing alternative fuels. We arrived early with brooms and swept the grit off the first half of the quarter mile, while the Club were setting up their timing gear.
The first run on 90 octane petrol recorded 12.78 secs. The fuel was then changed to 66 percent methanol and the car driven about 20 miles to reset the mixture. However the setting proved too rich and it was not until after two more runs, leaning the mixture each time, that 12.8 secs was again recorded. The increasing warmth of the day may have caused these difficulties, as it had been noticed when racing, that a leaner setting of the mixture control was often required in the afternoon.
These times were compared with the N.Z. record of 12.44 secs held by the Stanton Special.
The Lycoming was an easy car to drive in a sprint. Once the clutch was home one eased back the throttle to avoid excessive wheel spin and then opened up again. After changing into second full throttle could be used as the engine torque and gear ratio put the tyres just on their limit of adhesion on a good surface. This was of course before the days of slicks and hot sticky rubber.
Interesting in this respect were the remarks of B.R.M. driver Ron Flockhart after practice at Ardmore. He said, “I came around College corner with a silver special in front and pulled out to pass but it was going away from me even though I over revved the B.R.M.” With the tyres on their limit of adhesion, no car with the same or less percentage of weight on the driving wheels could get past. After changing into top gear, it was a different matter.
After the unsatisfactory attempt at the sprint to make the Lycoming go faster on methanol, another effort was made at a private test day at Ardmore Airfield. Acceleration tests were carried out using the length of the back straight. Fuel mixtures of 10, 25 and 66 percent methanol fuels were tried but no performance difference was noticed and only smoother running and a drop of 10 deg. C. in temperature. This was disappointing and not at all comparable with the results I had running my BSA special on alcohol.
Bob favoured running on Dunlop tyres and after trying them on the practice day for N.Z. drivers we set up a test to prove which was the fastest. Bob was timed driving round and round the hairpin on both types of tyres. Taking an average from seven runs, every time the Michelins showed a definite 0.2 second improvement. This indicated one or two seconds per lap and decided the issue.
For the 1959 N.Z.I.G.P. at Ardmore there were a strong overseas contingent of Coopers, a B.R.M. and a number of Maseratis and the Lycoming qualified about the middle of the field. Bob made a good start in the first heat which was over twenty miles. He was running in fifth place through College comer and finished the race in sixth place.
At the start of the 150 mile race, the Lycoming was on the second row of the grid behind the B.R.M. and Bob made an arrangement with Ron Flockhart as to which side to pass if he could out accelerate the B.R.M.! When the flag fell, the B.R.M. stalled and balked the Lycoming, spoiling our hopes for a quick take off.
The race settled down, with Moss in the leading Cooper well ahead and with a battle for places behind him. The Lycoming finished in eighth place, this time ahead of Merv. Neil's Cooper and also four Ferraris and three other cars. Down the straight revs were 3,800 as expected and the best lap 1 min. 29.4 secs, five seconds faster than the year before. Temperatures were higher, 220 deg. C. for the cylinder head and 110 deg. C. for the oil. Fuel consumption was higher at eleven m.p.g.
The 2:25 gear ratio as used at Ardmore was retained for the next race at Wigram in view of the fact that during the previous year, the car had been only able to reach 3,600 r.p.m. there, using the 2:1 ratio.
During practice the evening before the race, there was a light following wind blowing down the back straight and the revs went up to 3,950, or 135 m.p.h. On the day of the race, the wind had changed and was now from ahead and this saved me from having to make any decision as to how often it was safe to exceed my established limit of 3,800. In the race the Lycoming just reached 3,800 so was perfectly geared to push against the wind. In this event the B.R.M. went very well to win, hotly pursued by Jack Brabham's Cooper. We finished in sixth place with a best lap time of 1 min. 30.2 secs, and again ahead of Merv. Neil's Cooper.
The possibility of racing at Waimate, using the sprint gear ratio, was talked about but not with any great enthusiasm. A holiday for a week with friends at Mount Maunganui had more appeal.
The two races had proved the effects of the modifications to the fuel system, and shown what the car could do with a good driver. Life had been easier with Ces. usually finding me a simple timekeeping job in the pit during a race, but after twelve years the time had come to get away from motor racing.
Any further development of the Lycoming required fitting the larger inclined valve type cylinders and there seemed to be little chance of obtaining any of these. It was really time to sell the car.
The last event was a hill climb on a very suitable sealed hill in Hawkes Bay. Here Bob made fastest time of the day 3.6 seconds better than Hyslop in a D -type Jaguar and the hill record was broken by nearly seven secs.
A few days were spent with relations and visiting friends and demonstration rides were the order of the day. Strangely after a ride, no one wanted to try driving the Lycoming, even after being told it was very easy to handle and much like any other car.
After a few months the Lycoming was sold, complete with an instruction book, to an engineering student Malcolm Gill, who endeavoured to go by the book to the letter. The car had then done about 2,000 miles racing, and 8,000 touring, so before delivery the motor was given a complete overhaul.
Although the cylinders had been off many times, this was the first time the main bearings had been inspected and they were almost in the same condition as when assembled three years earlier. Crankshaft wear had increased by 0.001 inch, increasing the clearance to 0.0055 inch, which was the limit for aircraft use.
The engine was assembled using a better crankshaft, which had been held in reserve, reducing the clearances by about 0.002 inch and at the same time, as previously mentioned, alterations were carried out to prevent oil loss through the breather.
Malcolm fitted detachable mudguards so as to be able to compete in sports car races. For these events he wisely practiced Le Mans type starts, as a small mistake with the Lycoming's starting procedure could very easily result in a flooded motor and a flat battery.
The results were certainly worthwhile as Malcolm won the N.Z. Sports Car Championship, two years in succession.
After some minor events, the 1960 N.Z.I.G.P. at Ardmore provided the first of the sports car championship wins. However when starting for the main race to follow, a small vent pipe on the fuel diaphragm came loose and was sucked into the intake and damaged a valve. As result the car was retired from the race.
A National meeting at Wigram provided the venue for what was probably the cars best and most remembered race. Bruce McLaren blew up his Cooper during practice and Malcolm offered to let him drive the Lycoming and he accepted. After a few practice laps Bruce fitted his own tyres to the car for the race.
After the first lap the Lycoming was in fifth place, and soon moved up to fourth as Bruce became used to it and soon reduced the lap times to 1 min. 26 seconds. The brakes that had seemed adequate to Bob and me, were being used much harder than ever before and before the race was over, the linings were worn out. Bruce, confident of the handling, slid the car into the corners to slow it and finished in fourth place about a lap behind three overseas Coopers.
Editor: - It is notable that at this latter time in the life of the Lycoming and when it was set up for sports car races, it was still highly competitive with the latest single seater G.P. racing cars of international repute.
As a result of this, at the end of the season, a set of disc brakes arrived from England with special thanks from Bruce. At about the same time a friend of Malcolm obtained from Australia, a set of the larger inclined valve type cylinders and the crankcase was bored out to fit these. The early solid type of exhaust valves were fitted, as the deep collet groove, in the sodium filled rotating type, appeared to be a weakness.
Although these cylinders improved breathing, it was doubtful if this was sufficient to cater for their larger capacity and the power curve probably peaked lower by some 50 to 100 r.p.m.
Some bright marks were noticed on the crankcase when the smaller cylinders were in use, indicating that the tappets had been making contact and representing 1/8 inch of valve float, but no unusual noise had been noticed. This raised the question as to whether the breathing was receiving benefit from greater valve lift at high r.p.m. and this remains unanswered.
Driving on the road the larger motor made no noticeable difference but Malcolm recorded an average standing kilometre time of 23.63 secs which was an improvement of 0.9 sec. on my time.
Malcolm campaigned the car very hard for another season, having several misadventures. The Wigram Trophy Race was held in the wettest ever conditions and Malcolm had the Lycoming up among the leaders for a number of laps.
However a spin and collision with a marker drum which made a pit stop necessary to change two spark plugs which had been broken cost him a lot of time.
At Dunedin he made a very good start and led the race for two laps before being passed by Denny Hulme in a Cooper. He then held second place for twenty-four laps, before retiring with a broken De Dion tube which had been damaged through hitting the kerb very heavily.
In the Teretonga International race, Malcolm finished by driving in second gear, after top gear had stripped its teeth.
The Waimate 50 was another race run in a downpour. After making a good start, Malcolm spun the Lycoming twice, the second time denting the front cross member through hitting a power pole.
Malcolm had decided to give up motor racing at the end of the season. After repairs the Lycoming was sold to Forest Carden who had previously raced motorcycles. He had several good drives, but also some trouble as preparation was not to the required standard.
My responsibilities had finished when the car was sold and although a little help was given when Malcolm was fitting the larger cylinders, that had been the extent of my involvement.
Some three years later the car was owned by Jim Boyd and he promptly got the Lycoming going well on loose metal roads and began lowering all the local hill climb records.
Jim proved to be a very good driver, with a strong will to win, but was soon having so much engine trouble that I offered my help, although this was mostly confined to verbal advice.
The heads had come off several exhaust valves and some valve seats came loose. These problems indicated overheating. Petrol companies were not now willing to supply alcohol fuel and 100 octane aviation petrol was mostly being used but too lean a mixture must have caused most of the trouble. Sodium filled valves were fitted with valve springs set at 210 lbs.
After what amounted to some rather hasty preparation, we drove down to a race meeting at Levin, intending to get the mixture set properly on the way. The drive down the Desert Road brought back memories for me but after six years doing other things I had lost touch with working on racing cars and the tuning efforts on the way were not very successful. We did obtain an alcohol blend for the race at Levin, but still had trouble adjusting the control of the mixture.
After this event Jim departed for races held in the South Island with instructions to watch the cylinder head temperature and run the richest possible mixture at all times. He finished the tour with some successes including a surprise win in the 50 mile Road Race at Dunedin, when the faster cars had some excursions off the course. The Lycoming was not running well and was being driven at reduced speed, the revs being as low as 2,900 in some races and Jim had much difficulty trying to control the mixture.
When the car was back in Auckland the fuel injection nozzle was stripped and examined under a magnifying glass and wear was found on the sharp edge of the plunger, apparently due to fuel flow. If the plunger revolved slightly the mixture would be affected, so that it was not surprising we could not obtain a consistent mixture setting. A replacement was fitted and this cured the trouble, and an idle pressure of 12 lbs per square inch instead of 19 now gave best results.
During the winter the motor was given a complete overhaul. Larger intake valves and seats were fitted, the camshaft was reground to give higher inlet lift and longer valve opening period, the compression ratio was raised from 7.3 to 8.7 with new pistons supplied by Lycoming. Wider wheels and tyres were fitted at this time
It was disappointing that after making all these changes we were unable to notice any great improvement in performance and the reground camshaft quickly wore out. It is possible that the drag of the wider tyres and the mudguards, necessary to compete as a sports car, offset any extra power gained. However the wide tyres gave more grip, increasing speed round the corners and reducing lap times.
Jim campaigned the Lycoming very hard for the next two seasons, hardly missing a weekend and driving 6,600 miles to and from meetings away from Auckland during the 1965 - 1966 season.
The N.Z. Sports Car Championship was won for two years, until defeat by a 250 LM Ferrari and the Stanton Corvette. The National Hill climb Championship was retained for three consecutive years.
A notable event occurred when World Champion Jim Clark tried the Lycoming at Teretonga. After a few laps he started going faster and faster and unfortunately Jim flagged him in before he broke any lap records.
The Lycoming gave Jim many successes in a wide range of events. He did suffer from some mechanical trouble, such as broken piston rings, an exhaust valve which broke at the small collet groove perhaps due to a collapsed hydraulic tappet and worst of all a broken crankshaft.
The Lycoming was sold again and went to the South Island from where I received little information in regard to its whereabouts until 1983 at which time a Dunedin engineer, Ralph Smith, acquired it in pieces and set about its restoration. A later model 320 motor was among the pieces and after some difficulties this was fitted. This engine was different from the original in several respects and lacked some of the modifications I had made to the original power unit. There were difficulties in arranging the auxiliaries as the drives on the timing case were different. Changes had to be made to the oil system with some problems as a result and performance has been affected.
Although not completely finished, the car was run at the Dunedin Vintage Race meeting in 1984, once again being driven by Jim Boyd and since then it has been good to see it running in several historic events.
I thank all those who gave me help and support during my years of motor racing. I particularly mention Ces. Hodge and Warren Parkinson who were always available when needed. A. J. Roycroft, for his confidence in me when he purchased the P3 Alfa Romeo and handed it over to me for an overhaul.
R. O. Watson
Subsequent to and as a result of the first edition of this publication, an enquiry was received from England, due to the writing of a biography covering the life of a racing driver, the late Ron. Flockhart.
It appears that as a result of competing in New Zealand, Ron. Flockhart, who was also an engineer, was keenly interested in Ralph's Lycoming. Apparently there were many discussions with Ralph at international events here, resulting in even more talk among friends when Ron. Flockhart returned to England.
Reg. Parnell was another of the several competitors from overseas to express keen interest and an appreciation of Ralph's work.
The extensive history of the Lycoming Special is continued here, in articles which follow.
Wheel Base : - 91 inches. Track : - 50 inches.
Weight dry : - 1,262 lbs.
Weight with full fuel tank : - 1,562 lbs.
Distribution, 41 percent front, 59 percent rear.
Weight, sprints, 4 gals fuel : - 1,442 lbs.
Distribution, 44 percent front, 56 percent rear.
Tyres : - Michelin. Front 15 x 155. Rear 15 x 165.
Brakes : - 10 x 2 inch drums VG 95 linings. N.B. Brakes later changed to discs front and rear.
Front: Two leading shoe hydraulic.
Rear: Mechanical inboard, leading and trailing shoes.
Suspension : -
Front: Wishbones, coil springs, piston type Girling shock absorbers.
Rear: De Dion. Located with two radius arms to a rear centre point and with a lateral specially designed link. Torsion bars and piston type Armstrong shock absorbers.
Transmission : - Three speed gearbox.
Ratios - 0.504, 0.92, 1.526.
Speeds in the gears, 3,800 r.p.m. 26 1/2 inch tyres : -
Final Drive: 4.11 :
Top Gear, Overall ratio 2.44, 120 m.p.h.
Second, Overall ratio 3,78, 79 m.p.h.
Low, Overall ratio 6.27, 47 m.p.h.
Final Drive: 3.78 :
Top Gear, Overall ratio 2.25, 131 m.p.h.
Second, Overall ratio 3.48, 86 m.p.h.
Low, Overall ratio 5.77, 51 m.p.h.
Final Drive: 3.54 :
Top Gear, Overall ratio 2.15, 141 m.p.h.
Second, Overall ratio 3.26, 91 m.p.h.
Low, Overall ratio 5.54, 54 m.p.h.
Engine Valve Timing : - Inlet, 10 - 65 degrees.
Exhaust, 54 - 20 degrees.
Specifications, Model 290-3, (Std. 290 cub. inch.) : -
Bore: 4 7/8 inch. Stroke: 3 7/8 inches. giving 4,733 c.c.
Compression Ratios: 6.5 & 8.0 to 1.
Valve Springs : Open 205 lbs.
Valve Clearance : 0.025 inch.
Piston Clearance : 0.0145 - 0.018 inch.
Specifications, (Modified 320 cubic inch engine) : -
Bore: 5 1/8 inch. Stroke: 3 7/8 inches.
Capacity: 5,244 c.c.
Compression Ratios: 7.3 & 8.7 to 1. *
Valve Springs: Open 210 lbs.
Valve Clearance: 0.04 - 0.08 inch.
Piston Clearance: 0.0155 - 0.02 inch.
* Note : - Both engines had higher compression pistons fitted in the course of development.
An asterisk ( * ) prefix, indicates a winning entry.
Events in which the car was driven by Ralph Watson with the 290-3 engine on 6.5:1 compression ratio and using aviation Fuel AV87.
- 1956 Northern Sports Car Club Time Trials, held on Western Springs Speedway.
08/12/56. Hamilton Car Club Sprint Meeting.
* Standing quarter mile, 14.4 secs and Fastest time of the day.
Flying quarter mile, 7.2 secs = 125 m.p.h.
G. Smith, GeeCeeEss Special. Standing, 14.8 secs. Flying, 7.0 secs = 128 m.p.h. and F.T.D.
15/12/56. N.Z. Drivers Ardmore Practice Day, 22 laps. Best lap time, 1 min. 50 secs.
12/01/57. N.Z. International Grand Prix, Ardmore Airfield Circuit. Qualifying time, 1 min. 38.4 secs.
Race 240 miles, best lap time, 1 min. 35.6 secs. Placed 7th overall and 4th N.Z. Driver.
26/01/57. Wigram Handicap, 25 miles.
* Recorded the fastest time for the race. Average lap time, 1 min. 38.2 secs.
16/02/57. Ryal Bush N.Z. Drivers Race. Placed 4th. Maximum speed of 136 m.p.h. timed on main straight.
23/02/57. Mairahau Fifty Miles Road Race. Placed 9th overall.
* First N.Z. built car.
09/03/57. Hamilton Car Club Champ. Hill climb Hora Hora. Placed 8th.
Time 1 min. 10 secs. (Rain and wet conditions.)
06/04/57. Taumarunui Car Club Standing 1/4 mile Sprint.
* Placed first. Time, 13.5 secs. Second, Ron Roycroft, Bugatti Jaguar, 14.8 secs.
07/04/57. Taumarunui Car Club Hill Climb. Placed third.
-- /57. Northern Sports Car Club, Ardmore Club Day Races.
03/6/57. Northland Car Club, Waipu Gorge Time Trial. Placed second. First, Ron Roycroft, Bugatti Jaguar.
mid 57. Northern Sports Car Club Sporting Trial. Reliability trial on public roads.
--/11/57. Hamilton Car Club Hill Climb, Hora Hora. Placed second. Time, 1 min. 1.4 secs. First, Bruce McLaren, Cooper 1,500 racing car, 1 min. 0.3 Secs.
Events entered with larger inlet valves fitted and using a fuel mix of 25 percent Methanol and 25 Benzol.
07/12/57. Matamata Standing Kilometre Sprint. Time 24.5 secs, using 2.44 : 1, gear ratio and Michelin tyres. Speed 125 m.p.h. at 4,000 r.p.m.
14/12/57. N.Z. International Grand Prix, Ardmore Circuit. Practice day for N.Z. drivers. Best lap time,
1 min. 44.6 secs. (Track wet & loose. Worn tyres used.)
11/01/58. N.Z.I.G.P. Ardmore Airfield Circuit, 150 miles. Qualifying lap time, I min. 34 secs. Placed tenth.
18/01/58. Northern Sports Car Club Ardmore Club Day. Three short races entered.
* Placed first and third.
Events entered with compression ratio raised to 8:1.
25/01/58. Wigram Trophy Race. 150 miles. Placed tenth.
01/03/58. Ardmore 50 Mile Race. Driver R. Gibbons. Placed fourth. Best lap, 1 min. 31.6 secs.
30/03/58. Northland Car Cub Dargaville Sprint. Standing quarter mile, 13.5 secs.
Flying, 7.1 secs, which was equal to 127 m.p.h.
Events entered after changes to the injection system and driven by R. Gibbons in some events.
22/11/58. Northern Sports Car Club Ardmore Sprint. Standing 1/4 mile, 12.8 secs. Flying 1/4 mile, 7.3 secs, with only a short quarter mile run up, i.e. the standing timed run. ( N.Z. standing record was held by Stanton, 12.445 secs.)
20/12/58. N.Z. International Grand Prix, Ardmore Airfield Circuit. Practice day for N.Z. drivers. Driver R. Gibbons. 18 laps completed.
10/01/59. N.Z.I.G.P. Ardmore. Driver R. Gibbons. Qualifying lap, 1 min. 30.8 secs. Best lap time, 1 min. 30.2 secs. Heat 30 miles, placed sixth.
*Main Race 150 miles. First N.Z. Car. Placed eighth over all & fourth N.Z. driver. Best lap, 1 min. 30,8 secs.
18/04/59. Hawkes Bay Car Club Hillclimb,
Te Onepu. Driver R. Gibbons.
*Record and fastest time of the day, 56.25 secs. (Previous record time by Hyslop, D-type Jaguar was 63.1 secs).
Events entered after car sold to and driven by Malcolm Gill, with motor overhauled.
21/11/59. Northern Sports Car Club Ardmore Sprint. Time, standing quarter mile, 14.6 secs. Flying, 8.4 secs.
28/11/59. Levin Circuit Races.
* Sports Car Race. Placed first. Racing Car Race. Third behind two Cooper two litre racing cars, after leading for three laps.
-/12/59. Hamilton Car Club, North Island
* Championship Sprint, Hautapu. Fastest of the day.
Standing quarter mile, 13.2 secs. Flying, 7.5 secs.
12/12/59. Auckland Car Club, Ardmore Airfield Circuit. Twenty mile race placed third behind two Coopers. Best Lap 1 min. 30.7 secs, using 2.44 : 1 gear ratio and Dunlop tyres, 3,900 r.p.m. and 3,800 r.p.m. with mudguards fitted.
09/0l/60. N.Z.I.G.P. Ardmore Airfield Circuit. Lap Times. Practice on Dunlop tyres, 1 min. 30.4 secs. Qualifying on Michelin tyres, 1 min. 28.9 secs.
* Sports Car Race 24 miles. Placed First. Main Race. Retired after first lap due to misfiring.
16/01/60. Levin Sports Car Scratch Race.
* Placed first.
* Placed First in handicap race.
23/01/60. Wigram Trophy Races. Sports Car Race, 42 miles. Placed second to Jim Palmer, Lotus XV two litre. Best lap time, 1 min. 29 secs. Trophy Race, 150 miles. Placed fourth. Best lap, 1 min. 26 secs.
N.B. Driver for this race, Bruce McLaren.
30/01/60. N.Z. Championship Road Race, Dunedin. Placed fifth.
06/02/60. Teretonga Circuit Races. Sports Car Race,
* Placed first.
Main Race, 75 miles. Placed fifth, third N.Z. driver.
13/02/60. Waimate Circuit Races.
* Sports Car Race placed first. 50 Mile Race fourth.
12/03/60. Ardmore Sports Car Race. Spun and retired.
Main Race. Placed third.
Events entered using 320 size engine ( 5.2 litres ) and after disc brakes were fitted.
19/11/60. Northern S. C .C. N.Z. Championship Standing Kilometre Sprint, Aka Aka.
* Time, 23.635 secs, fastest time of the day. Previous best with 290 engine 24.5. (N.Z. record by Stanton, 22.6.)
26/11/60. Levin Sports Car Race.
* Placed first.
10/12/60. Auckland Car Club Race Meeting, Ardmore Airfield Circuit. Sports Car Race, 6 miles.
* Placed First. Ardmore Trophy Race, 20 miles. Second to D. Hulme Cooper, after leading for two laps.
07/01/61. N.Z.I.G.P. Ardmore Airfield Circuit.
* Sports Car Race, first. Qualifying lap, 1 min. 29.1 secs.
N.Z.I.G.P. 150 Mile Race, ninth and third N.Z. driver.
21/01/61. Wigram Circuit Trophy Races.
* Sports Car Race placed first.
Trophy Race 100 miles, placed eighth.
28/0l/61. Dunedin Road Races.
* Placed first in Sports Car Race. Road Race. Led for two laps ahead of overseas drivers until passed by D. Hulme. Held second place for 24 laps until a spin in heavy rain and a pit stop, then retired.
04/02/61. Teretonga International 75 miles, seventh.
* Sports Car Race, placed first.
18/02/61. Waimate Fifty Mile Race. Retired third lap due damage sustained in a spin in the rain.
* Sports Car Race, 21 miles placed first.
Events entered after car sold to, and driven by, Forest Carden.
-/-/61. Aka Aka Sprint Meeting.
* Fastest time of the day.
11/10/61. Ostrich Farm Hillclimb. Placed second.
25/11/61. Levin. Racing car Scratch. Placed second.
* Sports Car Handicap. Placed first.
* Sports Car Scratch Race. Placed first.
Zambucker Trophy ( Racing cars). Placed second.
06/01/62. N.Z.I.G.P. Ardmore, 100 Miles, placed sixteenth. Race for N.Z. Drivers, placed eighth. 1 min 28 in practice. Sports Car Race, engine failed to start.
13/01/62. Levin. First in Sports Car Heat. Fourth in final after time lost due to spin.
20/01/62. Wigram. Sports Car Race. Retired after shunt with Lotus XV.
29/12/62. Mt Maunganui. Sports Car Race. Retired.
Open Scratch Race. Fifth. B.O.P. Premier Race. Fifth.
05/01/63. N.Z.I.G.P. Pukekohe. Sports Car Race.
* Placed first.
02/02/63. Pukekohe. Open Scratch Race. Second.
Auck. Trophy Race. Second. Open handicap. Second.
23/03/63. Levin. Sports Car Handicap. Fourth.
* Sports Car Scratch Race. First.
Events entered after car sold to, and driven by, Jim Boyd.
12/07/64. University Car Club Bent Sprint.
* Fastest time of the day.
--/09/64. Auckland Car Club Hillclimb. Time, 40.7 secs.
* Fastest time of the day.
--/10/64. Auckland Car Club Hillclimb. Time, 38.6 secs.
* Fastest time of the day.
31/10/64. Pukekohe Car Club Hillclimb, Kerns Road. Time, 36.8 secs.
* Fastest time of the day.
01/11/64. Pukekohe Car Club Hillclimb, Hillbright Road. Time, 32.5 secs.
* Fastest time of the day.
07/11/64. Northern Sports Car Club Races Pukekohe Circuit.
* Placed first in scratch and handicap races.
--/11/64. Hamilton Car Club Hillclimb, Hora Hora. Time, 54.6 secs.
* Fastest time of the day.
--/11/64. Auck. Car Club Hillclimb. Time 37.0 secs.
* Fastest time of the day.
11/12/64. Rotorua Car Club Gold Star Hillclimb,
* Fastest time of the day.
12/12/64. Auckland Car Club Races, Pukekohe Circuit.
* Sports Car Race, placed first.
09/01/65. N.Z.I.G.P Meeting,. Pukekohe Circuit. Sports Car Race. Placed second.
14/01/65. Levin Circuit Racing. Sports Car Race. Placed second. Handicap Race, second.
23/01/65. Wigram Sports Car Race. Placed second.
30/01/65. Teretonga Circuit Races. Two Sports Car Races.
** Placed first in both races.
06/02/65. Dunedin Road Races.
* Fifty Mile Main Race for racing cars, Placed first. Sports Car Race, second.
13/02/65. Waimate 50 Mile Race. Placed fourth, after car pushed home.
A spin-off caused the battery to disconnect.
Sports Car Race. Placed second.
21/02/65. Pukekohe Car Club Grass Track Meeting.
** Two Sports Car Races. Placed first in both.
* Handicap Race. Placed first.
22/02/65. Northern Sports Car Club Races, Pukekohe Circuit.
* Sports Car Race. Placed first.
13/03/65. Thames Car Club Hillclimb, Maramarua.
* Fastest time of the day.
14/03/65. Northern Sports Car Club Hillclimb, Massey.
* Fastest time of the day.
20/03/65. Matamata Road Races. Sports Car Race.
* Placed first.
---/65. Levin Circuit Races. Sports Car Race.
* Placed first. Crashed in next Race.
03/10/65. Auckland Car Club Gold Star Hillclimb. Time, 36.2 secs.
* Fastest time of the day.
10/10/65. Northern Sports Car Club Races. Pukekohe circuit.
* Sports Car Race. Placed first.
* Handicap Race. Placed first.
16/10/65. Pukekohe Car Club Gold Star Hillclimb, Kerns Road. Time 36.5 secs.
* Fastest time of the day.
17/10/65 Pukekohe Car Club Standing Quarter Mile Sprint, Hillbright Road. Time 13.5 secs.
* Fastest time of the day.
26/10/65. Taranaki Car Club Races, Paratutu.
*** First place in all three sports car races.
30/10/65. Northland Car Club Gold Star Hillclimb, Whangarei. Time 50.6 secs.
* Fastest time of the day.
06/11/65. Northern Sports Car Club Races, Pukekohe Circuit. Sports Car Race.
13/11/65. Renwick Circuit Races.
* Gold Star Sports Car Race Placed first.
* Sports Car Handicap. Placed first.
20/11/65. Wairarapa Car Club Gold Star Hillclimb, Gladstone. Time 40.29 secs. Second fastest.
27/11/65. Levin Circuit Races.
* Sports Car Race. Placed first. Handicap, second.
04/12/65. Thames Car Club Gold Star Hillclimb.
* Fastest time of the day.
11/12/65. Auck. Car Club Races, Pukekohe Circuit.
* Sports Car Race. Placed first. Handicap Race, fourth.
-/12/65. Northern Sports Car Club Hillclimb, Wharepapa. Only one unofficial run.
08/01/66. N.Z.I.G.P. Pukekohe Circuit. Sports Car Race. Placed second.
15/01/66. Levin Circuit Races. Gold Star Sports Car Race. Placed second.
* Handicap Race. Placed first.
22/01/66. Wigram Airfield Circuit Races.
* Sports Car Race. Placed first.
29/01/66. Teretonga Circuit Races.
* Three Sports Car Races. First, second and second.
05/02/66. Waimate Circuit Races. Placed third in 50 mile Race.
* Sports Car Race. Placed first.
26/02/66. Northern Sports Car Club Races, Pukekohe Circuit.
** Sports Car Race. Placed first. Handicap Race. first.
12/03/66. Levin Circuit Races.
* Sports Car Race. Placed first.
19/03/66. Hamilton Car Club Grass Track Races. Waharoa.
* Sports and Racing Car Race. Placed First.
26/03/66. Northern Sports Car Club Races, Western Springs Speedway.
* Sports Car Race Placed first. Handicap, second.
23/04/66. Auckland Car Club Races, Pukekohe .
* Sports Car Race Placed first. Handicap, second.
07/07/66. University Car Club, Ardmore Sprint.
* Fastest time of the day. 35 secs.
04/09/66. Auck. Car Club Hillclimb, Chamberlain Rd.
* Fastest time of the day. 37.5 secs.
02/10/66. Auck. Car Club Gold Star Hillclimb, Chamberlain Rd.
* Fastest time of the day.
15/10/66. Northern Car Club Gold Star Hillclimb, Pupi Pupi, Whangarei.
* Fastest time of the day.
29/10/66. Pukekohe Car Club Gold Star Hillclimb, Hillbright Rd.
* Fastest time of the day.
30/10/66. Pukekohe Car Club Quarter Mile Sprint.
* Fastest time of the day, 13.5 secs.
05/11/66. Northern Sports Car Club Gold Star Sports Car Race. Placed third.
19/11/66. Wairarapa Car Club Gold Star Hillclimb.
* Fastest time of the day, 59.7 secs.
03/12/66. Thames Car Club Gold Star Hillclimb, Maramarua.
* Fastest time of the day, 50.2 secs.
10/12/66. Auckland Car Club Gold Star Races, Pukekohe Circuit.
Sports Car Handicap Races. Placed fifth and fourth.
07/01/67. N.Z.I.G.P. Pukekohe Circuit. Gold Star Sports Car Race.
Placed second to 250 LM Ferrari.
14/01/67. Levin Circuit Gold Star Sports Car Race.
Placed third to 250 LM Ferrari and Stanton Corvette.
04/02/67. Auckland Car Club Hillclimb, Chamberlain Road.
* Fastest time of the day, 37.0 secs.
18/02/67. Rotorua Car Club Gold Star Hillclimb, Tarawera.
* Fastest time of the day, 58.74 secs.
04/03/67. University Car Club Ardmore Circuit Sprint.
* Fastest time of the day, 33.2 secs.
11/03/67. Hamilton Car Club Grass Track, Waharoa.
* Placed first in two races.
--/03/67. Auckland Car Club Hillclimb.
* Fastest time of the day, 38.3 secs.
02/04/67. Pukekohe Car Club Hillclimb, Hunters Rd.
* Fastest time of the day, 36.45 secs.
08/04/67. Whakatane Car Club Gold Star Hillclimb.
* Fastest time of the day.
03/09/67. Auckland Car Club Races, Pukekohe Club Circuit.
*** Placed in four Sports Car Races. Three firsts & third.
* Recorded fastest lap of the day, 36.8 secs.
28/10/67. Pukekohe Car Club Gold Star Hillclimb, Kerns Rd.
* Fastest time of the day, 35.28 secs.
04/11/67. Northern Sports Car Club Dunlop Gold Star Races. Pukekohe Circuit.
Sports Car Races. Placed third twice.
12/11/67. Auckland Car Club Gold Star Hillclimb, Chamberlain Road.
* First in 5,000 c.c. class and second fastest of the day.
18/11/67. Wairarapa Car Club Gold Star Hillclimb.
* Fastest time of the day, 40.7 secs.
25/11/67. Rotorua Car Club Hillclimb, Ngongataha.
* Fastest time of the day, 1 min. 1.38 secs.
02/12/67. Thames Car Club Gold Star Hillclimb, Maramarua.
* Fastest Sports Car.
06/0l/68. N.Z.I.G.P., Pukekohe Circuit. Sports Car Race. Placed fourth.
28/01/68. Auckland Car Club Races, Pukekohe Circuit.
** Two first places, one second.
04/02/68. Pukekohe Car Club Hillclimb, Te Toro.
* Fastest time of the day.
17/02/68. Rotorua Car Club Gold Star Hillclimb.
* Fastest time of the day. 64.89 secs.
18/02/68. Auck. Car Club hillclimb, Chamberland Rd.
* Fastest time of the day.
07/04/68. Auck. Car Club hillclimb, Chamberland Rd.
* Fastest time of the day.
20/04/68. Northern Sports Car Club Dunlop Races.
* Placed first and second, in sports car races.
N. B. -
*** Winner, Gold Star Hillclimb Championship, three years running : - 1965/66, 1966/67, 1967/68.
** Winner, N,Z. Sports Car Championship, two years running : - 1965/66, 1966/67Editor's Comments
The Lycoming special had previously, when owned by Malcolm Gill, won the N.Z. Sports Car Championship two years running, as from 1960. Therefore in total, the car won the championship a record four times.
Additional Lycoming Data.
Ralph kept a notebook recording the many calculations made during the design and building of his Lycoming Special. The contents of this book will most certainly be of interest to technically minded readers. Therfore, the pages are reproduced at the end of this publication. Refer here.
When assessing the virtues of the Lycoming Special, readers should appreciate that this was a tractable, self starting, roadworthy and warranted two-seater sports car, capable of everyday use. The Lycoming did not require to be transported to distant events and in fact provided transport for the competing driver. For a time the car was Ralph's main means of transport and as such took him shopping for its own requirements.
The prime interest was in building a machine capable of competing at the very top level and the sports car classes did not fit this criteria. The logic of deciding on a road going vehicle has been mentioned in his article.
The car would have been invincible in sports car races when first built, as was proven by Malcolm Gill and Jim Boyd later in the cars history, when the car won the championship four times. Ralph did not have the resources to run in two classes of motor sport simultaneously and therefore, in accordance with his objective, he concentrated on events for racing cars.
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