British Motor Museum Volunteers

British Motor Museum Volunteers

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Walkinshaw, Tullius and racing Jaguars


Collections Centre volunteer Alan Toft tells a fascinating story about model cars, his love of motorsport and his favourite car at the Museum, the Jaguar XJR9.

At the time of my 11th birthday my mother asked me what I was going to do with my birthday money. I replied that I was going to buy the first Dinky Toy with 'fingertip steering' – this happened to be a model of the Jaguar 3.8 Mk 2 not unlike the one we have in the Museum.

She replied that I was now too old for that sort of thing – she never explained what I was supposed to replace 'that sort of thing' with – something in the line of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, I assumed! So she was even less impressed when the next thing I wanted to buy was the 45 single recording of Del Shannon's 'Little Town Flirt'!!

So I do wonder what she would think of the display cabinet at my home in Vancouver that is filled with 50+ 1/43 scale models of racing cars that I have either seen race or just wish I had. In the latter category are two cars which are part of our Museum collection. The first is Jackie Stewart's Tyrrell March 701 and the second is my favourite car in the Museum – the 1988 Silk Cut Jaguar XJR9 in which Andy Wallace won Le Mans, but developed a gearbox problem at Coventry Motorfest recently and prevented me seeing it running the next day!

The 1988 Le Mans Silk Cut Jaguar XJR9
There's something about this car – it could be that I admired the designer, Tony Southgate, because he also designed my favourite F1 car, the 1971 Yardley BRM P160 which I saw Peter Gethin drive to victory in the Victory Race at Brands Hatch, a race in which his teammate, Jo Siffert, sadly died. I used Yardley aftershave for years because of that car!


Or it could be because I admired and respected John Egan, who pulled Jaguar back from the pit of British Leyland, supported the racing efforts in America and Europe, and who forged a strong relationship with Sir William Lyons and allowed him to pass away knowing that his company was now in good hands.

But I do wonder if it really should have been called the XJR9. Bob Tullius, and his Group 44 team, were loyal Triumph and the Jaguar supporters through some tough times. He raced Triumph TR3's and 4's until he raced his XJR1, which is the lovely Series 3 V12 E-type that is in the Museum and which I did see driven at Coventry Motorfest. I used Quaker State oil in my car in Canada because of this car! Hey, I'm loyal to racing sponsors!

Bob used the nomenclature XJR2, 3, and 4 for the Jaguar XJS's that he raced after the E-type, and for which John Egan arranged support ,and then he had Lee Dyktra develop the gorgeous XJR5 that we have in the Museum and which first took Jaguar back to Le Mans.

So when, following his wonderful success with the XJS in Europe (another car I saw running at Coventry Motorfest) Jaguar understandably asked Tom Walkinshaw to take over the task of winning Le Mans, I thought it somewhat rude that they named his first prototype the XJR6. Sure, the IMSA XJR5, with the overly complex 48-valve engine, may not have been a Le Mans winner given the different rules between WSC (and especially Le Mans) and IMSA, but Tom Walkinshaw could have developed his own naming convention!

Anyway, I think that Tullius's XJR7, and the XJR8 he built that had no relationship to the TWR XJR8, are the best looking XJR's ever made!
I liked the TWR XJR6 in the original Jaguar green but it was Gallagher's 'Silk Cut' money, arranged by the king of sponsor-seekers, Guy Edwards, which probably ensured success. One of Guy's personal sponsors was Barclays International and I used to watch him race Lolas in those colours in F5000 and in 2-litre sports cars.

Tom Walkinshaw was honest with Jaguar about how long Le Mans domination would take. The XJR6 of 1985 and 1986 was fast and won races, the 1987 XJR8 won the WSC World Championship, but the 1988 XJR9 was, to me, the highpoint for the V12 engine. My cabinet does have a model of the 1990 XJR12 Le Mans winner, that came later, but pride of place goes to the 1988 Silk Cut XJR9 that won Le Mans and the 1988 Castrol XJR9 that won Daytona.

There are so many links from these cars to the Museum. Walkinshaw knew that the 24-valve V12 Jaguar engine, even when it grew to 7.4 litres, was becoming uncompetitive, certainly in terms of acceleration, against the turbo Porsches and Sauber-Mercedes, amongst others, and that's why he bought the design rights for the normally-aspirated Metro 6R4 engine from Austin-Rover and had it totally revamped to allow twin-turbos before he put it into the WSC Silk Cut XJR11 in 3.5-litre form and the IMSA Castrol XJR10 in 3-litre form. By 1991, the IMSA XJR10 was being sponsored by Bud Lite which is an old Native American word meaning 'Dishwater'.

This engine, suitably modified for road use, made its way into our production XJ220, of course, whilst the road-going version of the XJR9, the XJR15 that we have in the Museum, got the V12. The turbo V6 engines had limited success in Europe but did better across the Atlantic, especially in 1991 when the much improved XJR16 was introduced. In 1989 the XJR11 wasn't ready for Le Mans and 3rd was the best that could be achieved with the XJR9.  The XJR11 was much more reliable in 1990 but the V12 was used for the endurance events like Le Mans, where pole position didn't matter – interestingly the winning Silk Cut XJR12, with all the Ross Brawn instigated changes, was built from the chassis of the 1988 Daytona-winning Castrol XJR9, whereas our 1988 Silk Cut XJR9 was never raced again after its victory at Le Mans.

By then Jaguar was Ford-owned so, when turbos were banned in WSC, it was easy to slide the Ford HB Cosworth 3.5 litre into a new Ross Brawn-designed XJR14 for 1991 and dominate the championship. However they still had to race the new-livery Silk Cut XJR12 at Le Mans and they finished 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. I just bought a model of this car and need to apply the Silk Cut logos! And no-one begrudged Johnny Herbert his win in the Renown Mazda 787B Rotary.
Jaguar left WSC at the end of 1991 when the Gallagher's Silk Cut sponsorship ended – the XJR14's and XJR12's raced in America in 1992 and 1993, but Ford had other issues by then.

Still it was a wonderful run. I sat in the Museum library a couple of weeks ago and browsed the copy of Leslie Thurston's wonderful book 'TWR Jaguar Prototype Racers'. It's one of those books where you say 'I have to own a copy' and the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust was happy to sell me one at a very reasonable price and I received it in two days!

I was mentioning this to fellow volunteer Tony Bagley recently and he told me Leslie Thurston built those wonderful large-scale models that hang above the XJ13 in the Museum – I've spent hours staring at those models and I want 1/43 scale models of all of them – I also want one of the Suntec-sponsored Japanese XJR12 and could be persuaded to house a Bud Lite car!  And I tend to watch our video of Jaguar racing success at least once a week too – I never tire of it!
But I was thinking who, if I had the chance to go back, I would most like to have dinner with and grill about XJR's. I was thinking John Egan, Tony Southgate, and Tom Walkinshaw but then I realized who I respected most – it would be Bob Tullius.

So, at the height of the XJR14's success, Jaguar left WSC to the Le Mans-winning Peugeot 905's. And yes, mother, there's three of them in the display cabinet at home too!!  But I need to clear the DVD's off the top shelf – there's more Jaguars coming! 



Wednesday, 18 April 2018

A Star in an Exorbitantly Priced Car


Volunteer Collections Centre guide Cameron Slater tells a fascinating story of what he believes to be the Star Car of the Show at the British Motor Museum.
Star quality is a very rare thing. The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent and The Voice spend millions every year searching for people who have it.  From its very beginnings, the Hollywood film industry has based an entire philosophy of business, art and entertainment on the idea of “The Star”. Since then, every form of entertainment has had to have “The Star of the Show”, “The Top of the Bill”; today’s leading film actors are not just stars but megastars … and so the hype goes on.
I was reflecting on this one day in the Collections Centre while I was gathering my thoughts for the 1.30 tour. What, I wondered, was our “Star of the Show”? The 1955 Bentley Continental Fastback? The Queen’s P5B Rover? The 1936 MG Magnette NB? The very last of the Issigonis Minis? Well, no – it’s none of these, and not even the very latest Land Rover Discovery either. I decided that the real Star of the Collections Centre had to be the 1950 Daimler “Green Goddess” DE36 Drop-head CoupĂ©, which is from the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust collection.And I am not alone in this because it’s one of the cars about which we get more questions and comments than any other.


1950 Daimler “Green Goddess” DE36 Drop-head Coupe
Now this is hardly surprising. The car is a supercar long before the name was thought of. It’s enormous and magnificent with the flowing lines of its coachwork by Hooper, painted in a two-tone design of silver-grey and deepest blue and the hood is made from the best black mohair. It’s powered by Daimler’s own  eight cylinder, five and a half litre engine which develops 150 hp and gives the car a top speed of …… 83mph!! This hardly compares with the 200mph plus performance of today’s McLaren or Bugatti Chiron, but the Daimler is not made for speed; it’s made to be a statement about real star automotive quality and in any case, it weighs in at a shade under three and a half tons. You only have to open one of its two doors to feel the weight and to appreciate the engineering that has gone into that wonderful, solid, metallic ‘click’ when you shut it. So there it sits, lording it over everything else around it. A Star.
The information board tell us that it was one of seven such cars built to the design of the original Green Goddess (because it was painted green, since you ask). The Hooper-bodied Coupe was introduced at the 1948 London Motor Show although the DE36 chassis had been available since 1946. The first Green Goddess was run by Sir Bernard Docker, who was at that time the Chairman of BSA Industries, the owners of the Daimler Motor Company.
Those of us who have reached a certain age will remember Sir Bernard and Lady Docker who were, I suppose you could say, the Posh and Becks or maybe The Kardashians of their day. Their extravagant exploits in the London social scene of the early fifties kept the gossip columns (and frequently the front pages) of the popular newspapers full of tales of a lifestyle that the rest of the country could scarcely imagine in their wildest dreams. Where our Green Goddess is chromium plated, theirs, I seem to remember, was gold plated and they tended to favour zebra hide and ivory for interior trimmings. All this in the early 1950’s when the country was still reeling from the after-effects of the Second World War and when just about everything was severely rationed. Nothing succeeds, as they say, like excess.
But back to our information board which also tells us that the first owner of the Daimler was a New York opera singer called James Melton. Now I have been going to ‘The Opera’ since the early 1970’s and I know a bit about opera stars of the past, but I had never heard of James Melton. So I did some research and I discovered a Star in an Exorbitantly Priced Car (with apologies to Jeremy Clarkson). Our Daimler which James Melton bought and had shipped out to New York cost £7,000 in 1950. I looked this figure up in an inflation calculator website and the 2018 equivalent is £235,200. So this guy must have been some opera singer to be able to spend that kind of money on a car.
Many hours of internet-surfing later, I discovered that he wasn’t just an opera singer – he was a popular recording star, a film star, a radio star, a television star, a concert singer and, yes, an opera singer; and it wasn’t just one car – it was a hundred cars and he owned his own motor museum, first as the Melton Museum of Antique Automobiles in Norwalk, Connecticut from 1948 until 1953 then as the James Melton Autorama in Hypoluxo, Florida until his death and the closure of the ‘Million Dollar Museum of Motoring Memories’ in 1961. So, yes, some opera singer!
Melton was born in 1904 in Moultrie, Georgia. His musical abilities were obvious from an early age and developed during his time at Florida State University. He went to New York in 1927, determined to be a singer and joined a singing group called Roxy’s Gang at the Roxy Theatre. He then joined a vocal quartet called The Revellers as lead tenor and performed with them across the USA and in Europe until 1933.
But from the late 1920’s he was also a recording star in his own right. He had a beautiful light lyric tenor voice of the kind that was very fashionable at that time. He recorded for the major record labels of the day - Brunswick, RCA and Columbia - with a repertoire that included such gems of popular sentimental song as I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen.
In 1934 James Melton went solo and established himself on concert tours (including one with George Gershwin) and on network radio. However, as the thirties progressed, Melton’s style of singing began to go out of fashion and he found himself competing with a new, popular style of singing-star such as Bing Crosby. Melton continued to broadcast on national radio, but he knew his career was at a major turning point so decided to become an opera singer.
Now, today, this would be a very unusual step, but Melton made it work. From 1938, he appeared in various regional opera companies in the USA, singing major roles in operas by Puccini, Verdi and Donizetti. His operatic career reached the heights when, in December 1942, he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York where he remained as a leading tenor until 1950.
During the 1950’s, however, James Melton’s career went into decline. He had been a star in almost every form of musical entertainment, but time and alcohol began to take their inevitable toll of his voice and the huge popularity of singers such as Mario Lanza, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Perry Como meant that Melton gradually disappeared from the scene. 
As I said earlier, James Melton’s other passion was his fine collection of historic motor cars. He was, in fact one of the world’s earliest private collectors of historic cars, especially from the period the Americans call The Brass Era and we in Britain call The Veteran Era.
By the time he set up his first museum, The Melton Museum of Antique Automobiles, in Norwalk in 1948, he had amassed about fifty-five cars as well as bicycles, car accessories, model trains and music boxes. As the collection grew, it became clear that the Norwalk museum had become too small and Melton built its replacement in Hypoluxo, Florida. So in 1953, the James Melton Autorama was completed and in typical show business style the cars were driven – under their own power - in cavalcade and with maximum publicity from Norwalk to the new building in Hypoluxo.
The collection by this time numbered about a hundred cars, some of them extremely rare and important. The oldest was an 1893 Custom Steam Coach and the collection had a number of early steamers including a Stanley Steamer Mountain Wagon and a White Steamer. It also contained a 1900 Rockwell Hansom Cab which was thought to be the first New York City taxi, a fabulous 1913 Peugeot “Skiff”, - a Type 150, 4 cylinder, 40hp roadster with a 7478cc engine. Melton’s personal favourite was, apparently, a 1907 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost which had been the very first Silver Ghost to be imported into the USA.
So I don’t think it’s a coincidence that, in the great days of his musical career, he often appeared in a radio show called The Firestone Hour which was sponsored by the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company; his own weekly radio show in the thirties was sponsored by Texaco; his weekly television show in the fifties was called The Ford Festival and was sponsored by the Ford Motor Company. And it was Melton who first sang Back Home Again in Indiana over the PA system at the opening of the Indianapolis 500 in 1946 which then became a tradition that continues to this day.  
Our Green Goddess, therefore, is not only a star in its own right, but in 1950 was bought by a genuine star in the old Hollywood tradition. And you can see both the car and the star in the YouTube Video below...
Alternatively you can watch it via YouTube visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1bFKBWR5nI
The visuals accompanying the music include a photo of James Melton and friends, in front of the American Airlines office somewhere in New York, with our very own 1950 “Green Goddess” Daimler DE36 Drophead Coupe right there in the foreground of the picture – where the real stars always are. 

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

1960 STANDARD ENSIGN (Part 18)

The engine runs and the car moves – a big day

Our last blog described how, for just a few seconds, the restoration volunteers finally managed to fire up the Ensign again for the first time in many years. However, because the car is located on the first floor of the Collections Centre in the public viewing area, any further running would have to be done in the workshop. So recently, following a final check over and the completion of the instrument wiring, the car was ready for its short decent to the workshop below.



The Ensign on its way down to the workshop in the vehicle lift

As the photos illustrate there was a good turnout of the restoration team, who were on hand to help or just watch this big test of their hard work. So, with space cleared in the workshop, connection to the exhaust extraction system in place and around two gallons of petrol added, everything was set up for the big moment. Whilst the team could smell petrol, they weren’t totally convinced it was finding its way via the pump into the carburettor and the engine initially lacked any sign of life. However, a quick check of the still exposed fuel tank and then a look at the workshop manual confirmed that the car’s reserve tank tap was in the off position!

Thursday, 4 January 2018

1960 STANDARD ENSIGN (Part 17)

Fitting the fiddly bits and the engine fires
Progress on the Ensign has been quite slow recently, due to the time involved reassembling all the fiddly bits on the car. Everything was photographed when the car was originally stripped down and this pictorial record, plus the extensive workshop manual we acquired have proved invaluable as the rebuild has progressed.

The fitting of things like door seals, lock mechanisms, wiring looms, brake pipes, steering column and engine ancillaries has taken many hours. Even what should have been the fairly straightforward job of refitting the front and rear windscreens was not without its problems. New rubber seals had to be sourced and then cut and the actual fitting process required a bit of expert help from the Museum’s workshop staff.

Fixing the door lock mechanism and inserting the chrome strip in the rubber window surround

However, the most encouraging news on the project for some time has been that the engine, now installed with all its ancillaries, was at last fired up recently for a short period. Just to recap the engine is a 1670cc OHV straight four, which we believe had done around 83,000 miles. The block had a slight crack, which we’ve had professionally repaired and new pistons and rings have been fitted. A new water pump was required and the original radiator was refurbished with a new core. Given that the car currently resides on the first floor of the Collections Centre a further running and testing of the engine won’t be possible until we can move it into the workshop. The fact that it appears to work OK, has been good for morale.