Thursday 21 May 2015


Mercedes-Benz combines the old and the new with the creation of a cutting edge 360 degree film to mark a special anniversary of the Mille Miglia.

A little over 60 years ago, on 1st May 1955, Stirling Moss and Denis Jenkinson won the Mille Miglia in a Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR – number 722. They drove flat out for 10 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds and averaged 98 miles per hour – all on public roads.

It was recognised as one of the greatest feats of driving ever – their record still stands today.

In 1955, the W 196 R racers were the most advanced cars in the world – they won every race they finished and used cutting edge materials.

At a time when road cars would struggle to hit 70 mph, the W 196 R could exceed 180 mph. Today only eight examples still exist, but now and again they’re let loose…

Sixty years on, Sir Stirling Moss has been reunited with the 300 SLR number 722, on the very same roads on which he won.

The new film allows you to control the camera and watch from nearly any angle as Sir Stirling Moss takes ‘722’ on the roads he and Denis Jenkinson set records on. Three dimensional sound makes the footage even more vivid.

In the coming weeks the film will be available to be downloaded via iTunes (for the iPhone and iPad) and the Android Store as well as being capable of being experienced on Oculus devices such as the Samsung Gear VR.

Our friends at Petrolicious have released a stunning new video of Sir Stirling Moss and the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR, possibly their best production yet!

Tuesday 5 May 2015


First Principles – The Official Biography of Keith Duckworth OBE is the second biography by Norman Burr to be produced by Veloce (his portrait of John Chatham, Mr Big Healey, was published in 2010), and his third motorsport work, the first being a self-published book on hillclimbing called Living with Speed, produced in 1997.

Although he has always been a passionate motoring enthusiast, it is in aviation publishing that Norman made his name. Trained as an engineer at Rolls Royce Aero Engines and Bath University, in 1973 he opted for a career in the technical press after noticing that his fellow engineering postgrads were struggling to write their theses, whereas his (on exhaust emission analysis equipment) was progressing nicely.

First competitive drive, Wiscombe Park hillclimb, 1972.

Silverstone 1974, Bentley Drivers Club meeting: long-haired novice racer with execrable taste in jeans.

Nicely sideways at Wiscombe Park hillclimb, 1975, now with wider wheels.

With the trade and technical press mostly located in London, this decision involved a reluctant move back to his native city, but, by 1978, Norman felt sufficiently established to gamble on relocating somewhere more rural, and found an editing post on a motorcycle paper in Morecambe. “It wasn't a fantastic job,” he confesses, “but the office banter was second to none and, as my first wife and I Iiked the Lancaster area, we put down roots.”

In 1982, after a couple of other posts in Manchester, and a spell writing handbooks for nuclear submarines at Barrow, Norman went freelance and began looking for a publication he could edit from home. “As luck would have it, the British Microlight Aircraft Association (BMAA) was looking for someone to edit and produce its magazine, and I got the job.” Back then, both the association and the sport were embryonic. “When I started I knew virtually nothing about small piston-engined aircraft,” he recalls, “the learning curve was practically vertical!” But he must have done something right, because he continued to edit the association's magazine – initially called Flightline and latterly Microlight Flying – for over 13 years, and still enjoys helping with its production today, 33 years later, receiving an award from the Royal Aero Club in 2013 for services to aviation publishing.

Leaving for major surgery in 1994 after many years storage and partial dismantling; the kids look on while worried owner lurks in the background, looking the other way.

Trying the car for size during David Sanderson's rebuild in 2005 – David on the left, son Tom behind.

That award was in recognition not only of his editorial work, but also his first books, Ultralight & Microlight Aircraft of the World, produced in conjunction with French journalist Alain-Yves Berger as two editions, 1983 and 1985. These quickly became – and remain – the standard reference works worldwide on microlights of that era.

Despite this heavy involvement in flying, Norman never completed his flying training. “I had every intention of gaining my licence, but quickly realised that I could not afford two expensive mechanical hobbies, and there was no way I was going to stop messing around with cars. So, as far as aviation was concerned, I became a commentator rather than a participator.”

The production requirements of the BMAA's magazine prompted him to join with two colleagues to form a small printing and publishing company, Pagefast Ltd. Contracts for other specialist magazines followed, as well as a lot of general commercial print-work – a managerial workload that left precious little time for writing. So, in 2006, wanting to get off the production treadmill, Norman left the company and reverted to freelance editing work.

Now that he was free to return to his first love, his attention turned to things automotive, in both his writing and his garage. The latter had since 1971 housed what he describes as 'my mistress,' a 1961 AC Ace 2.6, but it had remained dormant for most of those years, due to lack of time and money to complete its restoration. The year 2006 marked the car's rebirth, and it has since taken Norman all over Western Europe and Ireland, with a trip to the Arctic Circle planned for 2015.

Continental trip immediately on completion of rebuild: on the harbour at Monte Carlo …

… and keeping a microlight company in the hangar at Lagos aerodrome in Portugal.

This is not Norman’s first Ace – that honour goes to an AC-engined example that his sister wrote off in 1969, a fortnight after he bought it. “It was later rebuilt, but I was a student at the time, and in no position to tackle the job.”

“I bought my present AC a couple of years later,” he continues. “I was about to graduate and start a summer job at a resort in Colorado, so I wasn't in the market for a car, but then a friend of a housemate came to stay. She was a ‘Girl Friday’ for various media and entertainment people and, as Bill Wyman had been a recent client, she arrived complete with free tickets for the forthcoming Stones concert in Bristol. Naturally, she was made very welcome!

“Knowing that she was in a house full of engineers, she casually mentioned that another client, an American scriptwriter in Oxfordshire, was trying to sell a sportscar. When she mentioned the model, everyone's ears pricked up: they remembered my ill-fated first Ace. To learn of another in such a roundabout way was such an astonishing coincidence that I just had to see it. I offered the vendor every penny I had – £700 – but told him he would get nearer £1000 if he advertised it in Car & Driver, as it's one of just a dozen built with LHD. Then I went off to the States and forgot all about it, though I left him my father's phone number, just in case.

“A few weeks later I was sweeping the floor in the reception area when a telegram arrived from my father. It contained just four words: ‘AC purchased, start saving.’ That was 1971; I've had it ever since.

“I’m still in touch with the vendor: he told me later that Car & Driver had lost his advert. It really does feel as though the car found me.”

A third AC, a 1950 Buckland tourer in a poor state, was bought for £80 in 1976 as a restoration project. It was persuaded to run, but only just, and was sold to a Dutchman in more or less the same condition in 1998, only to be repurchased in 2014 after he died. “If I hadn’t,” Burr explains, “I’m sure it would have been scrapped. He'd used it as a donor car.” It is now finally receiving the TLC it deserves in the hands of an enthusiast in Carlisle.

Most of the other cars in Norman’s life have been unremarkable family saloons and hatchbacks, of which his three Alfas (Sud saloon, Sprint and Guilietta) stand out as high points, but he also has a soft spot for Peugeots; especially the deeply unfashionable 605 SVE. “I loved it, even though I never had all the toys working simultaneously at any point during my six-year ownership!”

The owner poses at home with the Ace in late summer 2006.

At a friend's house in central France, en route to Cannes with fiancée Jane, 2010.

Wedding Day, December 2011, holding Jane's handbag as she manoeuvres into the Ace.

At Popham Airfield around 2007, having just arranged for an old friend to have her first microlight flight.

Books by the same author:
Ultralight & Microlight Aircraft of the World, co-written with Alain-Yves Berger, published 1983 (also published in French as Tous les ULM du Monde).
Ultralight & Microlight Aircraft of the World Second Edition, co-written with Alain-Yves Berger, published 1985.
Living with Speed, a partly biographical look at the speed hillclimb scene through the eyes of Roy Lane's 1996 season, published 1997.
Mr Big Healey, official biography of racing driver John Chatham, published by Veloce, 2010.

Contributed to
32 Days to Beijing, travelogue by James Edmonds about a microlight flight from London to China, published 1994.
Gertie's Day Out, travelogue by Eve Jackson about emigrating to Tanzania by microlight, published 2006.