of the reasons why there's
by DAVID BENSON
Graham Hill winning at Indianapolis
Just out - the new Vauxhall Viva SL
Just out - the new Super Cortina
The new Ford Zephyr
Highlight of the past twelve months in the motoring world was, for me, the moment when, ten laps from the end of the fantastic India-napolis 500 mile race in the USA, three Britons in British built cars were leading the race and had completely demolished the might of Amer-ican opposition on its home ground.
This was my second visit to the famous two and a half mile oval track which has become synonymous with high speed and danger. When I first went there in 19641 was horrified by the second lap accident that took two lives and my national pride was hurt by the Ameri-can boasts that European "sporty" drivers weren't tough enough for the track.
But this year the British triumph was so complete that a dispute after the race about who had really won was between two British drivers. Graham Hill was finally adjudged the winner with Jimmy Clark a worthy second. To show that there was no ill feeling between the two men, Jimmy arranged a surprise party for Graham on their return to England.
1966 was also the start of the new Grand Prix formula for 3 litre cars. Although the much vaunted BRM H 16 engine never really got going and the 1965 world champion, Jim Clark, had a hard time even finishing, the sea-son was again a triumph for British engineering talent.
When 40-year-old Jack Brabham took the world title for the third time he was backed by British mechanics and largely British effort in the building of his car.
Although Jack is basically an Australian and his car was powered by an Australian built Repco engine, he has lived in this country long enough to be con-sidered a local. His chief designer Ron Taura-nac was born in this country, emigrated to Australia as a boy and returned to lead the Brabham outfit.
Away from motor racing but still in the sport, January saw the fiasco of the Monte Carlo Rally. British Minis and Ford Cortinas had decisively beaten the opposition only to be disqualified for allegedly having the wrong lights.
This theme was carried over to other continental rallies and has given the British works teams considerable food for thought. It is doubtful whether next year there will be quite so many rally teams and so much concerted effort put by manufacturers into this class of sport.
High spots for the industry were the intro-duction of a number of new models despite the credit freeze. In the spring Fords announced their Mark 4 range which completely broke witb tradition. Amongst other innovations they placed the spare wheel under the bonnet and left a clear boot, mainly situated between the wheels with the minimum of rear end over-hang. The handling and roadholding of the new car was quite outstanding.
Ford followed this up on the eve of the Show with a Cortina, similar in appearance to the Mark 4 and boasting considerably more luxury and a higher standard of finish than the re-placed Cortina which had sold over 1 million units - 52 per cent going to export.
Vauxhall brought out a bigger, better and completely restyled and engineered Viva in the late Autumn and against the current trend brought about by the freeze, they were able to announce full order books.
Triumph also hit out against Mr.Callaghan's restrictive measures by putting a mouth-watering GT 6 - basically a Spitfire with the Triumph 2000 engine - on the market. Initial production is earmarked for export but long queues are already forming at home for the first cars released on the British market.
When Mr. George Brown opened the 1965 show, the industry was buoyant, it looked for-ward to a record year. In fact the record was achieved with over 1,200,000 vehicles pro-duced in the twelve months. This year the in-dustry still hopes that it will equal that target despite the Government's credit squeeze, limiting of HP and reduction of credit facilities for traders.
But there is no doubt that the heaviest load in the freeze measures was taken by the motor industry. As one distinguished car maker told me: "We didn't miss a single thing in all the Government's deflationary measures-from se-lective employment tax to increased fuel tax."
He might have added that the Government also lopped some £14 million off the roads pro-gramme - another crippling blow to all motor-ists and to manufacturers in their efforts to beat down costs caused by congestion and to maintain their export records.
The Last 12 months are also infamous for the introduction of the 70 mile an hour speed limit.
This measure was brought in after Ministerial panic over a series of multiple crashes on motorways mainly in fog.
The remedy bore no relation to the ailment but Mr Tom Fraser was persuaded that it would be a worthwhile experiment.
As it happened the experiment outlived the Minister's term of office.
In December the Prime Minister presented the breathless motoring population with a brand new Minister of Transport-a woman who could not even drive a motor car.
'So far the 54-year-old red-bead, Mrs Barbara Castle has produced little but words and promises.
She has described herself as a good Minister of Transport-without producing supporting evidence.
She HAS produced a great deal of new and restrictive legislation including a controversial Road Safety Bill.
She has also suggested separate licences for drivers of automatic cars and called for a ban on the under seventeens
who can at present qualify for a motor cycle licence.
She has also extended the 70 limit on the grounds that a greater length of time is needed to prove its worth, although most engineers believe that without an adequate control for comparison the experiment is invalid anyway.
Just where she will lead the motoring community in the future is very difficult to forecast,-but anyone who took the gloomy view that more and restrictive legislation was on the way could hardly be blamed.
However, of one thing I am certain, the motor industry which so proudly displays its products at Earls Court over the next two weeks, can take it. It will survive, despite the squeeze, despite the down-beat legislation and despite the gloomy procrastinations of the pundits.
A quick look around Earls Court will show you why.No other country in the world can boast such a wide choice of model, such an un-paralleled record in exports and such a forward thinking programme masterminded by such enthusiastic executives.
Article courtesy The Daily Express Motor Show Review 1966
Mk IV Pages