A velocipede for the Revival set

It happens very rarely that the S&G gets to review a product, so here is rather a special one: the MBM Honolulu bicycle.

Britain has gone somewhat dotty for velocipedes in recent years. There were the ‘Boris bikes’ introduced to get people around London in an environmentally-friendly fashion, of course, and also a vast surge in interest that followed Bradley Wiggins’s victory in the Tour de France. Throw in the heroics of Team GB in the Olympic Games of London 2012 and Rio 2016 for good measure and cycling has become big business for Britain.

To digress for a moment, this latter success has given rise to a rather troubling phenomenon: the Saturday cyclists. Round our way you will find many stockbrokers and similar who believe that no other road user’s weekend is complete without staring at an untidy peloton of their lycra-clad bottoms lined up three- or four-abreast. The Highway Code is a wonderful thing…

Be that as it may, there are many different schools of cycling these days. There are the road racers, the uphill mountain bikers (front suspension only), the downhill mountain bikers (suspension here, there and everywhere), the BMXers and the commuters on their hybrids. But retro cyclists? Really?

Why, yes! Welcome to the world of the Beach Cruiser. As you can see in the picture above, these things are to pedal cycles what café racers are to motorbikes.

The design of Beach Cruisers harks back to the designs of the Schwinn company in the early 1930s. After the onset of the Great Depression, the booming market for motorcycles and bicycles dried up and Schwinn decided to try and graft the sexiness of a motorbike onto its pedal-powered brethren – resulting in an affordable bicycle designed for the youth market – the Schwinn B-10E Motorbike.

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Today, Schwinn bikes are still available in America’s big discount stores like Wal-Mart. They have balloon tyres, single speed gears, an upright riding position and all-metal construction. Their style is their winning feature – and that style is now available on this side of the Atlantic, too.

The example above is from a relatively recent name in cycling: MBM Cicli of Italy. Across its range of bikes, MBM caters to retro tastes and various budgets – the Honolulu model tested here being in the sub-£200 bracket.

Bicycle magazines and websites tend to steer clear of this sort of bike, which is undeniably cheap and generally only available by mail order. Writing an MBM off as tat would be a mistake, however.

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The MBM Maxilux is a more modern Beach Cruiser in the range

Perhaps they are a bit basic, but the example tested was very comfortably sprung on the posterior. That counts for a lot. It’s been 30 years since the S&G covered any distance under pedal power, but the five miles in this test passed very easily – and with more than a few admiring glances.

“What a pretty bicycle!” said a lady walking past as the S&G was busily wrestling with a puncture at the roadside. One forgets just how often that delays of this sort can happen. Such delays are less fun now than I remembered from 30 years ago… although the admiring lady found it amusing.

“My friend’s got one like that,” said the helpful chap in Halfords who sold me a new inner tube. “He puts it in his VW Camper.” That made sense as a use for one of these things.

When it was vertical and had air in its tyres, the Italian origins of the MBM percolate through loud and clear. For one thing it has gears – Beach Cruisers generally don’t, but this one was intended to pedal around on the streets of Perugia rather than the seafront at Santa Monica.

The 6-speed gear set is operated, rather sweetly, from a twisting mechanism on the handlebars like an old Raleigh Grifter from the 1970s that will doubtless be familiar to many readers. For novices and amateurs, in which your scribe is included, this minimises the chance of throwing the chain off with inaccurate gear selection – very wise.

It is not by any means a racy bike by modern standards. It’s all metal and weighs a thumping 18kg – two hands and a bit of heaving are needed to lift both wheels off the ground. That weight can have its advantages, though. For one thing, if any motorist throws their door open without looking, it is probably the door and not the cyclist that will suffer more damage. Also, it’s too slow to encourage any peloton piracy!

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A vintage Indian board racer – an undoubted source of inspiration for the MBM bike

For pottering around at a period-flavoured event like the Brooklands Reunion or the Goodwood Revival it is just the ticket. After all, an XK120 or a Bugatti T35 tends to put a bit more of a dent in one’s budget than a mail-order bicycle – and a VW Camper does too – so this might get you into the paddock for a more reasonable outlay.

Away from the big retro ‘meets’ of the year, bikes like the MBM can still make a fine companion… provided, that is, not too many hills are involved,

For all its chic appeal there’s no obvious reason not to use a bike like this every day. The wheels were a bit out of shape (easily fixed by altering the tension on the spokes) and you’ll need to fit lights and a luggage rack to make it a regular ride.

But a bike like this means parking one’s bottom on smoothing that comes with more than a whiff of heroic racers from the past. It might even become this season’s must-have accessory – and deservedly so too.

Working with a racing legend

There are very few times in one’s life when the opportunity arises to say: “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the seven times world motorcycle racing champion and 1964 Formula One world champion, John Surtees.”

But that is exactly what happened at Goodwood last month.

Big John‘ and self were engaged by Shell to bring the Revival to life for its guests and to mark the restoration of the Shell Classic X-100 motor oil as a brand. Not only is Shell bringing back an icon of the 1950s and 1960s to the shelves of your local retailer, but with every can sold it is raising money for one of the best causes out there – the Henry Surtees Foundation.

At Brands Hatch in 2009, a promising and personable young racer, Henry Surtees, was killed. Your scribe was at Manston that day, but had been at Brands Hatch the day before, when I was introduced to Henry by a mutual friend and was deeply impressed by his wit and easy confidence. When the news came over the radio that he had been lost, I was not alone in feeling his loss very sharply indeed, even after such a short meeting.

It wasn’t until 2010 that I first met Henry’s celebrated father, when he was among the champions who had gathered in Bahrain to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Formula One world championship. His early arrival and eager presence around the paddock – accompanied at every turn by the stalwart artist, Michael Turner – became a welcome feature of the weekend.

Then came the matter of climbing aboard his car for the parade of champions: the wickedly beautiful little Ferrari 1512, which now resides in Bernie Ecclestone’s very private collection. John was rather uncomfortable about this, as it was to be the first time he had gone on track since Henry had died and his family was far from thrilled about it. Then the car broke. Bernie was annoyed, spotted windmilling his arms in the collecting area, but Surtees himself was outwardly unmoved.

The following day, with the car miraculously fixed by the genius who cares for it, the host of champions mustered once again. First out of the blocks was Nigel Mansell at the wheel of the glorious Thinwall Special Ferrari. He was followed by the likes of Damon Hill in his title-winning Williams, Mario Andretti in his title-winning Lotus and Jody Scheckter in his title-winning Ferrari.

I was stationed beside ‘Big John’ in case there was another problem. Here was a rather wiry, almost nervous old gentleman, far removed from the confident, beaming figure that we all recognise in the photos from the mid-Sixties. He seemed ill at ease while the likes of Keke Rosberg and Jackie Stewart set off on either side amid the yowl of Cosworth DFV power – but then came the most unforgettable sight.

First of all, the Surtees chin jutted. Then he snapped his goggles down and the years fell away. Everything about his body language changed – as if to say: “I’m still a bloody racing driver, like it or not!” And with that he dumped the clutch and left two black lines running down the immaculate Bahraini pit lane. It was an astounding demonstration of courage.

Fast forward to this year’s Revival, where John was to be found signing autographs at every turn, posing for selfies, doing interviews and generally being pressed into action. He drove a Ferrari 250 LM to lead out the Lavant Cup competitors, helped to open Shell’s new vintage-looking aviation refuelling area and he played a key role in the Bruce McLaren tribute.

In the midst of all this, he came and spoke to a lot of bigwigs from Shell. As MC for the event, I had seven questions to make sure we said all the right things – and didn’t need one of them. Surtees has been a Shell ambassador for decades and knows, very precisely, what to say and when. Then I asked him to tell the audience something about Henry and what the Foundation is doing in his name. And what a response.

John talked us through his time as a karting dad, about Henry’s life and loss and then about the work that the Foundation has done since 2009. He spoke brilliantly about the lives saved because the Air Ambulance now has blood transfusion equipment. About his determination not only to make the world safer in Henry’s name but also to use motor sport to bring wayward and disadvantaged kids back from the brink.

All of it impressed upon the guests how important every can of Shell X-100 oil sold will be. And, equally, it also showed the determination and energy of a man who, even in his ninth decade, is determined to work harder than ever in his son’s name to bring some measure of good from his horrendous loss. This is the John Surtees that I have come to know. These encounters have been a pleasure and a privilege and I hope that our paths cross again before long.

On the Goodwood High Street…

It’s the place to come and see and be seen – and in the absence of We Heart Vintage at this year’s revival, the S&G stepped manfully into the breach to record the best and brightest of what everyone was doing out on the replica High Street. Were you shopping in the vintage Tesco or posing at the Shell garage? Why not relive the life, laughs and Lambrettas for a while with this here gallery, like…

Goodwood Revival Air Displays

The aircraft element of this year’s Goodwood Revival was in some ways more prominent than usual, with the Freddie March Spirit of Aviation concours being dedicated to Battle of Britain aircraft in anticipation of the former RAF Westhampnett becoming the focal point of national commemorations for the 75th anniversary. What this meant was an abundance of Spitfires, a smattering of Hurricanes and the lone Bristol Blenheim standing in all their glory on the airfield to be enjoyed up close by the visitors to the event.

In the air, however, the pall of nearby Shoreham still hung heavily over proceedings. The flying elements – a daily ‘Dawn Patrol’, scheduled flyovers by the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and performances by aircraft stationed at Goodwood for the weekend – were little more than gentle circuits that dipped down over the runway before climbing out to perform another circuit. The only non-WW2 aircraft scheduled to perform, the Avro Vulcan bomber, did not appear due to a technical fault in the landing gear.

The only opportunity provided for a proper air display was over the cricket match on Thursday night, during which a spectacular display was put on by the lone Spitfire. Elsewhere through the weekend, the heroes of the show were the Old Flying Machine Company’s pair of movie stars – Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IX MH434, a stalwart of the Revival, and P-51D Mustang Ferocious Frankie.

MH434 is the only flying Spitfire to have never been fully restored. She was first flown by aviation aces, securing an enviable record in WWII, before the late Ray Hanna, a founder member of the RAF Red Arrows, bought her as the anchor of his historic flying circus, the Old Flying Machine Company.

Ray’s exploits in MH434 remain legendary, including the famous ‘buzz’ of Alain de Cadenet, flying down the start/finish straight at Goodwood lower than the pit garage roof and flying through the Winston Bridge in County Durham for a scene in the TV adaptation of Derek Robinson’s Piece of Cake. This latter appearance was one of many film roles to date such as A Bridge Too Far, The Longest Day, Hope & Glory and Battle of Britain.

In her regular position alongside MH434, P-51D Mustang Ferocious Frankie also drew admiring glances. Frankie also had an enviable war career, followed by second place overall in the Reno air races. Since she was added to the Old Flying Machine Company stable, the Mustang has become another movie regular with roles in Saving Private Ryan, Memphis Belle, Hart’s War and an iconic presence in Stephen Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun.

The other pair working the line at Goodwood was The Fighter Collection’s pair of Curtiss Hawks. A novelty for many, the Curtiss Hawk 75 is the only airworthy example of the Curtiss P-36 lineage left anywhere in the world. Flying in the colours of the French Armee de l’Air, she was joined by one of only two P-40F fighters still airworthy, the sole Hawk type to be fitted with a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine.

Of course the highlight of the weekend for many was the flypast by 12 Hurricanes and Spitfires. And it was great – not least thanks to the presence of war veterans now well into their tenth decade, the backdrop of film and speech and music and the general level of reverence being offered up before the aircraft swooped in.

All in all, it was done very well indeed.

Didn’t you all do well?

Well that’s it for another year – the Goodwood Revival has come and gone for 2015. First of all, let’s start with a little look back at some of the many, many fine outfits put together this year. Who knows, you might even find yourself in the gallery!

A few concerns have been voiced in recent years that the whole fancy dress element has taken over the event to the detriment of the original festival of all that once was in motor racing. It is true that the nature of the event has changed and that it is now fundamentally a social occasion at which some lovely old aeroplanes and cars are present. But is that so wrong, when so many people among the record 149,000 attendees have got it so very right?

The fact is that most of the cars and all of the aircraft taking part in this year’s Revival can be seen at other events all summer long. It is Goodwood that makes it special, and it does so by encouraging everyone to feel part of the occasion. That can be no bad thing.

Yes, everyone was carrying a smartphone or tablet along with their fur stole or G.I. helmet – but that is the nature of life in 2015. On the plus side, it must have been a relief to many that silly stick-on moustaches were mercifully few, those who arrived dressed like hippies had a certain self-conscious look about them and almost any hint of training shoes or hoodies had been banished from the Goodwood Estate.

After four days on site, your correspondent was required to call in to Sainsbury’s to buy some milk. It was a harsh reintroduction to the modern world and made one wish that every day was a Revival day. So please enjoy the gallery and well done to everyone who was there. The S&G salutes your eye for detail and your relentless good cheer – it was a very happy place to be. So click on a picture and scroll through a lot of what you all got up to – and what the rest of you should be doing next year!

Ferrari’s most glamorous creations for 2015 Revival

You have permission to dribble: the racing sports cars created by Ferrari between 1950 and 1959 will be the stars of the show at this year’s Goodwood Revival. Following on from last year’s sensational celebrations for the Jaguar D-Type’s 60th anniversary, we can now look forward to a flood of rosso corsa gracing Goodwood for quite probably the most expensive one-make race in history.

Grand Prix racing may arguably have been Enzo’s greater passion, but the sales of his exotic road cars depended upon laying claim to the silverware at the world’s greatest road races – the Mille Miglia, the Targa Florio and the Le Mans 24 Hours chief among them. Thus his cars were not only built to succeed but also to inspire – with seductive bodywork that could rival the youthful Sofia Loren and the most intoxicating mechanical opera bursting from their exhaust pipes.

Everyone has a personal favourite. Mine is the low-slung 335 S which, while unable to match for the D-Types at la Sarthe, to my eye looks the hungriest of the classic front-engined prototypes to emerge from Maranello – although it’s a close-run thing.

What we can expect is up to 30 of the world’s most expensive cars, each capable of around 180mph on their narrow tyres and drum brakes, vying for the honour of winning the signature race at the world’s biggest weekend of automotive showbiz.

To set the scene, let’s enjoy this fabulous performance from a 1958 246 S at the 2004 Le Mans Classic – and hope to see plenty of the same tail-wagging, wheel-sawing bravado being applied in West Sussex this autumn.

 

Goodwood celebrates 60 years of the Jaguar D-Type

The 2014 Goodwood Revival on 12-14 September will have a treat in store for lovers of curvaceous cars from Coventry. To mark the 60th anniversary of the storied Jaguar D-Type, an unprecedented 30 surviving examples will be entered for the Lavant Cup race.

'Shortnose' D-Type as it appeared in 1954

‘Shortnose’ D-Type as it appeared in 1954

The D-Type’s importance is hard to overstate, not least because it utilised the first successful monocoque chassis design in motor sport history. An alloy ‘tub’ of elliptical shape and comparatively small cross-section provided an incredibly rigid yet lightweight structure. Sub-assemblies were then bolted to the front and rear – carrying the engine, steering assembly, and front suspension in front of the cockpit while the rear suspension and final drive were carried behind.

In many ways the D-Type was the road-going equivalent of the Hawker Hunter jet fighter and borrowed heavily from contemporary aeronautical design. The man behind the car was Malcolm Sayer, an aeronautical designer from the Bristol Aeroplane Company, had joined Jaguar in 1950 and brought with him the most advanced thinking available in the world. Sayer’s brilliance steered the Jaguar XK120 and its Le Mans-winning sister the C-Type, whose success cemented Jaguar’s reputation and paved the way for his 1954 masterpiece, the D-Type.

The Hawker Hunter jet also debuted in 1954 bearing many similarities to the D-Type

The Hawker Hunter jet also debuted in 1954 bearing many similarities to the D-Type

 

It is astonishing to think that Sayer’s work depended upon developing complex formulae for creating curves – exactly the same science that is replicated by today’s CAD software programmes. Back in the early ‘Fifties, however, the only tools that Sayer had to call upon were a slide rule and seven-figure log tables.

Sayer’s handiwork was tested in a wind tunnel. He was determined to minimise the frontal area of the car in order to decrease wind resistance and thereby increase speed on the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans. This in turn required Jaguar’s Chief Engineer William Haynes and former Bentley engineer Walter Hassan to develop dry sump lubrication in order to cant the 3.4-litre straight-6 XK engine at 8½ degrees from the vertical in order to meet Sayer’s demands – creating the D-Type’s signature offset bonnet bulge in the process.

The canted XK engine installed in a D-Type

The canted XK engine installed in a D-Type

In addition to the structural similarities between the D-Type and contemporary fighter aircraft, several ancillaries were carried over from aircraft such as Dunlop disc brakes and a Marston Aviation Division bag to carry the fuel instead of a traditional rigid tank.

The dark green cars caused a sensation at Le Mans in 1954 and should have taken victory in the 24 Hours at a canter, but for fuel feed problems resulting from their revolutionary design. Nevertheless the superiority of these high-tech creations was clear to see when they achieved more than 172 mph on the Mulsanne Straight compared with the 160 mph reached by the instantly outdated (but ultimately victorious) 4.9 litre Ferrari V12.

Acclaimed artist Tim Layzell's print of the D-Type's unveiling www.timlayell.com

Acclaimed artist Tim Layzell’s print of the D-Type’s unveiling www.timlayzell.com

Ongoing development of the D-Types cured these gremlins and, with revised ‘long nose’ styling from 1955 onwards to further increase high speed efficiency and stability, duly conquered the world. Jaguar won Le Mans in 1955, 1956 and 1957 against the combined might of Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari, Maserati and Aston Martin. More important still, it set the template for every successful thoroughbred racing car to this day, both sports-prototype and single-seater.

Today the D-Type remains a popular choice for drivers and fans at historic events. Total D-Type production is thought to have included 18 factory team cars, 53 customer cars, and 16 road going XKSS versions. The Goodwood celebration will certainly be well deserved and undoubtedly a highlight of another spectacular race card.