Thursday 13 June 2019

Oliver Winterbottom – May Bulletin

1 May I arrive at PJS Sports Cars workshops near Burton upon Trent, at 2:30pm. I get the chance to inspect the impressive photo album recording many of their high quality Lotus restorations. After being shown around the impressive business and meeting the employees, I go down to Tatenhill Village Hall. Paul Shipley, the Lotus dealer principal is busy preparing for the evening. He has brought in Edd Stanton of Scorpion Event Solutions to set up fully professional audio-visual equipment for the evening. He soon loads my memory stick of slides for my talk. PJS have set up an interesting display of Lotus outside, so with everything running smoothly, I drive into Burton and check-in to the Premier Inn. I then return to await the start of the evening. 

As 7:00pm approaches, the car park is filling with Lotuses and the Hall is filling up. Everyone has a seat at a table laden with sandwiches and snacks. I believe at least three or four attendees are Lotus and TVR owners. A superb red Elite was an early arrival and a very nice TVR was parked nearby.  

I was provided with a table, chair and microphone to give my talk. Edd projected the slides on a huge screen, and I think it went well! A question and answer session brought some interesting questions – I cannot speak for the answers! (I am the little white head sticking up on the left of the screen). 

I then went to sign copies of my book. An amazing 17 or so were bought on the night and at least 4 beforehand. There was plenty of chat and it was a really superb event. The proceeds of the evening £262.50 went to the Midlands Air Ambulance, a very worthy cause.

  Paul Shipley and PJS Sports Cars did me proud - thank you Paul and your team very much.

3 May I arrive at Donington race circuit around 9:45am, for the first day of the three-day HSCC Historic race meeting. Richard Woollaston of the Lotus Elite/Eclat/Excel Club has kindly arranged a pass that allows me to park closely to the classic car exhibits. Friday is practicing and qualifying for the weekend racing. The crowd and classic vehicles are in short supply as it is a working day. There are four Lotuses displayed which outnumbered many clubs who had zero or a couple of cars. This year marks the 45th anniversary of the release of the Lotus Elite, and Richard kindly gave me a commemorative mug. 

As lunchtime approached Richard invited me to accompany him on a test lap of the track. It had been a long time since I sat in a Lotus Elite, and it was a first for me to see Donington from the track. The weather was a little uncooperative, as the photograph below may show! 

In the afternoon, various interesting people called by, and I supplied a couple of books which was a bonus! I also left some bookmarks for the weekend.

The organisers had suggested they may interview me but no one came by the time I departed. Never mind.

I understand that over the weekend there were not as many classic cars on display as normally expected. As it hailed and rained with a freezing wind, sadly I guess that many stayed at home.

In the afternoon, various interesting people called by and I supplied a couple of books, which was a bonus! Here, I am 'caught' by a paparazzi camera man (thank you Roger Kemp of the Jaguar Drivers Club) talking with two nice ladies from Stone, Staffordshire and Ian Hissey to owner of the pre -production Lotus Eclat on display.

5 May Amazon UK who had run out of stock of my book at the beginning of the month now have three available. By 8 May their stock is up to five available.

7 May I receive for approval (given) the article on Colin Chapman and his weight saving views written for a new 'in house' magazine titled Us Lot for Lotus staff. I am delighted that my book gets a mention!I quote: "I retired in 2009 and recently put together a talk entitled Lotus DNA – Views on Colin Chapman' Philosophies to promote my book A Life in Car Design; Jaguar, Lotus, TVR (Veloce Publishing)."

10 May Embarrassingly, I have to advise various folk including Steve Cropley Editor-in-Chief, Autocar that the 40th anniversary of the announcement of the Lotus Type 75 Elite is 15th May, and not the 17th. This is due to old age and the worn condition of my copy of the contemporary local newspaper.

13 May Amazon UK appear to have sold another book since 8 May, so now they have four in stock.

14 May Club Lotus ask if they can publish my story on the first three days in May. The talk and book signing at Tatenhill Village Hall for PJS Sports Cars, and the Historic meeting at Donington Park with the Lotus Elite Eclat Excel Club. I am delighted to approve for the July edition of Club Lotus News

15 May 45th Anniversary of the announcement of the Lotus Elite. Richard Woollaston circulates a birthday card.

Meanwhile I pose for a photograph with my sisters “Mini” asking “Which is the Mini?” 

I think it is the one on the right!

16 May I visit the RAF Museum at Cosford near Wolverhampton, for the Annual Jaguar Ex-Apprentices lunch. There were about 45 of us ranging from about 70 years of age upwards! The museum is definitely recommended as it has a large number of unique experimental aircraft as well as superb examples of the more common varieties. I distributed a number of the book marks.

18 May I assist Mike Kimberley with some Lotus event dates for a magazine article about the Lotus activities in the 1970s. It gets harder to remember all the correct dates and details as time goes by.

26 May I return from a few days with the family to find an email from ERA driver Paddins Dowling with a picture of the pair of us at Silverstone  13 April when he bought a copy of my book.  

26 May I receive a forwarded letter from Veloce sent by a past colleague. Doug Mellor was a Senior Buyer at Lotus 1982-84 and was a great help on the M90 prototype build project. He related a particularly over ambitious day,  when we thought we could visit Llanelli in Wales from Norwich and return after doing business all in one day – we couldn’t! I was delighted he said he had enjoyed my book so much. Thanks, Douglas.

27 May Delighted to meet another happy reader of my book in the Barnham Broom Bell. It's good to hear that people enjoy reading it.

31 May Amazon UK now have 8 books in stock, this is four more than on May 13. Either they have sold a lot or they are buying a lot - I hope it is selling them in vast quantities and then restocking.

Wednesday 12 June 2019

Holiday Reads – making the journey more exciting than the destination

It's June, it's raining, and that can only mean one thing ... British Summertime is almost upon us. For those outside of our little island, we hope you're equally looking forward to your summer vacation.

As a publishing house, it will be a surprise to nobody that the Velocisti love nothing more than to get stuck into a good book. So, let's think about what makes a 'good' holiday book. Over a casual conversation in the office, there was no clear author or even genre of preference. People want different things from a holiday read.

If you're looking for something to keep you occupied on journey where you're not behind the wheel (of course, we're not suggesting you read at the wheel... that'd be silly), perhaps you might want something to learn from such as DRIVEN, or you maybe a captivating story A Cat to Kill For. Comparatively, if you're a travelling snoozer -guilty!- you're looking for something at a slower pace, reflecting on the 'good old days' (why not take a look at Dairy Cows and Duck Races).

After some discussion, the Velocisti shared their latest holiday reads:

"I like to read a book set in my destination, such as A Room with a View when I visited Italy, or Captain Corelli's Mandolin when in Greece"

"The Coffin Path, a ghost story, something exciting to get lost in"

"I keep going back to a series of short stories by Richard Brautigan, starting with Revenge of the Lawn, every time I take a trip away."

For those of us who have taken a step into eBook territory, there are plenty of bargains to be had for a holiday read, and you can take as many books as you wish away with you – no worrying about baggage restrictions!

Of course, there's the confounded little boxes we keep in our pockets which are all well and good, until the network signal runs out, at which points they're rendered nothing more than an expensive paperweight. Remember the comedian who shouted into his mobile phone on the train? We acknowledge the frustration that is 'airplane mode' and that airport WiFi is patchy on a good day and extremely expensive on a bad one, and if there's no WiFi at your destination – quelle horreur!

In all seriousness, we often underestimate the effect that a good book has on the mind. Old books that smell and feel familiar, and new books that have never been opened before; they're soothing to the soul. It's great to take a book away with you because there's no rushing, no notifications, emails, pop-ups or other 'noise' and mental clutter. Books are restful and restorative.

And of course, if you don't have the time, patience or money to 'get away' this summer, what better reason to pick up a book, put the kettle on and transport your mind to far off lands for a fraction of the cost...

The Elder Statesmen of Racing

The motor industry and motor sport industry has lost a significant number of elder statesmen in this past month, and with them a huge base of knowledge, entrepreneurialism and respect. In each case, these people were present at the beginning of an era, made a difference, and in the oft overused phrase, left a legacy of cars, businesses and stories that will be repeated down the years, whenever the words Ferrari, McLaren or Jaguar are brought up.

The person whose passing left the largest media footprint was, of course, Niki Lauda. At the time of his death he was a chairman of Mercedes F1, and had been world champion racing driver three times, although it is unlikely that it it is either of these things that he will be remembered for. He will be remembered for his stunning bravery and stoicism after a crash and fire left him near dead in Germany, 1976. It was a new thing for motor racing drivers to apply fitness and diet to their armoury, and Lauda was the butt of many jokes for his adherence to fitness guru Willi Dungle’s regime
though it was this fitness that ultimately saved his life. One could say that his own brand of pragmatism, brought him through the traumatic incident, thinning every decision and polemic to the bone, and uttering his infamous, succinctly staccato answers, which left everyone wondering why they hadn’t thought it through that way.
The fiery accident undoubtedly led to an operation to replace his lungs in late 2018, and he never totally recovered.

Lauda’s last world championship win was in a McLaren car, a marque which by then was one of the strongest and most successful in Formula One. Like everything, McLaren had to start somewhere, and two of the people who helped start McLaren on the road to success have now joined Bruce McLaren, the founder, in the firmament.

A few people have made the claim to be Bruce’s first employee, but Wally Willmott, an automotive electrician at the time, was definitely one of the first to join Bruce in building the Tasman Coopers that were, in effect, the first McLaren cars. New Zealander Wally Willmott was a friend as well as employee, and would have followed Bruce to the ends of the earth. He was a brilliant fabricator and engineer and his versatility made the McLaren staff count look considerably bulkier than it was. He retired back to NZ, where he will be sadly missed.

Bruce McLaren advertised for a racing car designer in 1965, realising that he couldn’t do everything. The person he chose was an Oxford Graduate, who was working on Concorde. His name was Robin Herd.

Robin had never designed a racing car before, but his first McLaren was revolutionary, being made of a Mallite aluminium and wood sandwich, pressed hard together, a material used in aircraft manufacture. The car was good but the Ford engine far too heavy, and the lighter Serranissima engine not powerful enough. It was also difficult to repair so Robin’s next design was more conventional, yet again let down by its BRM engine.

When Robin got his hands on a Ford DFV, McLaren soon scored his first victory in a car of his own manufacture. Herd had also designed a series of highly successful Can-Am cars, where the McLaren team really earned their money.

Robin was tempted to join Cosworth, to design their abortive 4WD F1 car, and soon after joined Max Moseley, Alan Rees and Graham Coker to form the MARCH (the letters of their names) racing car firm. Their March 701 cars were the most numerous on the grids for their first year, and had won three out of four Formula One races by April of their first year. It was not form that they could keep up, but in their second year they finished second in the World Championship with the adventurous March 711, the car Niki Lauda made his debut in.

March only won two GPs after that, but were always numerous on the grids, and were dominant in F2 and F3. Robin left the team in the late Seventies, and applied his brain to pursuits as diverse as Green Waste disposal and owning Oxford City football club.

Of the most recent losses, Norman Dewis of Jaguar died two years short of his target, to do 100mph on his 100th birthday. Whilst Norman’s competition career was sparse, his contribution was immense. As Chief test driver for Jaguar, he claimed land speed records, developed the C-Type and D-Type Jaguars that won Le Mans so many times in the Fifties, and had a hand in proving every new Jaguar model from 1952 to 1986 was fit for purpose. Most significantly he developed disc brakes for use on cars, a major contribution to road safety, which is something that is applied every car we drive today. 

Having retired he nursed his disabled wife, Nan, until her death, and then embarked on a Jaguar ambassadorial World Tour that continued into 2019. Jaguar aficionados never tired of hearing the little man’s recollections, and he never tired of telling them.

Four significant losses to the motor world over the past month – a time for reflection indeed.

Written by Tim Nevinson