If I can’t draw it, then I don’t understand it

This blog originally started with something about how James Hunt is a big figure in motorsport, then finally totally lost its way describing people I’ve met in the last couple of years.  The last thing this needs to be is a linked-in style, “isn’t everyone wonderful, aren’t I amazing” posting.  For the record the parties involved are listed at the end of this.  Much more appropriate.

So instead, something a bit more factual.  I’ve become peripherally involved in a project to restore the two Dastle F3 cars run by Hesketh in the 1972 season.  These cars are relatively well documented if you take the time to look.  F3history.co.uk has some pictures (http://www.f3history.co.uk/Manufacturers/Dastle/dastle.htm) and a brief chronology, and there are podcasts and even TV interviews which cover the early history of the Hesketh team. Even ebay managed to serve up a print of the classic Druids formation shot.  So there’s no real need to cover the same ground here.

What I’m going to talk about here is something more specific to the world of CAE that I inhabit.  When I rebuilt my Van-Diemen RF84 I started to draw it as I went along.  The idea was to have a reference for new parts and to understand how it went together; but that project went nowhere when I struggled to get the nascent CAD system I’d chosen to actually model a complete car and I discovered that I could buy everything I needed off the shelf from Ken and Simon at Universal.  But the Dastle project is different.  There is no Universal Racing Services for Dastles, and knowledge of how they work isn’t easily come by.  So this time a model seemed a necessity rather than a luxury, and something I can contribute to the project.  To quote Albert Einstein – “If I can’t draw it, then I don’t understand it”.

Being a simulation engineer my plan is to create a simple representation and add complexity as needed.  Already this process is yielding huge benefits, for me at least.  In the total absence of drawings, notes and calculations it’s allowing us to get inside the head of the designer (Geoff Rumble according to f3history.co.uk  – if you are still out there Geoff I’ve got a 1000 questions for you) and reconstruct the most important thing – the original design intent.  You can’t get that by pointing a hairdryer at the car.  Some parts will need scanning, though not as many as people might imagine; mostly this is about putting in the hours with a tape measure, rule and vernier.  And taking enough photo’s, which I almost never do.

This is definitely “a how it started” post.  A real work in progress; I’ll post updates as the model is developed.  As usual a CAE representation has generated significantly more questions than answers and prompted a lot of thought about what the design intent was.  The overarching question for me is what was designed and what just happened as the cars were manufactured.  The model won’t be able to answer that; talking to right people and looking at contemporary references may help there (I’ve got a copy of Racing Car Design and Development by Terry and Baker which may shed some light on the design process in the early 70’s).  But the model does provide a focus for this activity and a means of understanding how things function and how they can be engineered to run properly again. At the very least it’s something to point at and scribble over whilst we try to work out a strategy for the restoration process.

And as the man said “If I can’t draw it, then I don’t understand it”.  TBC.

Who’s who section:

BIOS-Sport: Peter Sneller and Arthur Griffin (Arthur drew the wheels and tyres)

Classic and Sports Finance: Robert Johnson (Owner)

The one where I don’t make a wind tunnel model.

I hate friends.  No idea why I used a Friends type title.  Anyway.  This is about me not making a wind tunnel model.


Unless you are supremely gifted, and as we all know I’m not, your first goes at anything are likely to be a bit, well, er, rubbish. In fact I personally don’t think a typical person can learn to do something unless they actually enjoy being crap at it. So you have to get in there, have a go, mess up and then see where it all ends up.  (36 years after making my first toy aeroplane I won an event at the Nationals, so it isn’t always a rapid process.)  Where I’m headed with racing cars means that I need to get a grip on aero (see previous stuff on CFD) and that means wind tunnel testing in some form.  Which means I needed to get in there and mess up a wind tunnel model.

I used to exchange tweets with the recently departed and already much missed Richard Divila.  And in one exchange he said that I’d be surprised how much you could learn from a really basic wind tunnel.  And I guess that means from a pretty basic model.  My son, is, as I write this, finishing his dissertation, which might not surprise people to learn is a CFD study of a racing car.  In fact the one I used to form the basis of Openfoam work in the last blog.  And for that the initial intention was to do some wind tunnel validation of his Fluent work.  It’s entirely possible that even without Covid19 we might not have got round to it.  But I did get what is very much a comic book first hack out of my system.  And that’s a good thing; it really is, because it gets you somewhere good.   So what have I learned

You can’t 3D print everything: Unlike the current UK government I don’t think 3D printing is the only manufacturing show in town.  It plainly isn’t, but this project was my excuse to get a printer.  I chose to get a Dremel because I love their stuff.  It was a great choice and their aftersales service is really good, mind you it had to be after the first one didn’t really work.  And I’ve learned a lot, especially about DFM, (Design for Manufacture) in this specific instance. I’ve been suprised in a good way about some of the stuff I’ve managed to make and surprised in a bad way.  I still haven’t changed my mind about the fact that 3D printing, at least with the machines I’ve used, is like machining something on a worn out milling machine – you can do it but it takes a lot of effort.  But I am pretty sure I could make half decent body panels for models up to about 20%.   What really aren’t good enough are the wheels.  They didn’t ever come out well enough, especially when I can machine a set from solid quite easily.


One area where the printer really comes into its own is the production of small brackets.  These can be produced quickly in reasonable batches.  You’ve got to love that.

Anything that involves thin flat sections should be made from thin flat material, because if you print these you need to make them significantly thicker than scale and the surface finish won’t be good enough. A small CNC milling machine would be really useful here. Floor components, wing end plates and other bits could be profiled from thin carbon fibre sheet.  The results would be pretty good.

Plainly to be useful the model needs to be very adjustable, and in its current form it isn’t.  Ride height and rake need to be controlled very accurately.  I’d say that what I need is some form of cross slide arrangement to support the model from a sting.  Ebay appears to be awash with them. So that’s that sorted.  Another thing that needs to be easily adjusted is wing position and angle of attack. I’ve thought long and hard about this and the only really neat solution is to use a series of mounting plates of different dimensions.  That small CNC mill again.  And finally the hack model uses a completely 3D printed tub.  What it really needs, and I’ve heard this from several sources is a central spine, which is what joins the model to the sting and the wings to the model.


And finally the wings.  Obviously these have to be pretty accurate, and the ones I made kind of were.  They were printed in vertical sections and then assembled on a carbon rod. As a first stab OK and they would have been reasonably representative. At a larger scale I think this approach would have been fine.  So lets describe wing manufacture as a work in progress.  But at least we are in the game now.

It’s quite unlikely that this not really good enough model will ever see the inside of a wind tunnel. (With a bit more work it would be a useful exercise though) But it has taught me a lot about making things with AM and what a useful model might actually be like.  So not building a wind tunnel model has been a hugely useful exercise if I ever do it for real.  Meanwhile the CFD activity continues..



Frei Aeroworks..

Back to blogging; I’m certainly not doing much driving.  My blogs aren’t popular at work these days, so its a kind of mixed CAE/racing car offering here this time.


I’m convinced that in the Tony Southgate autobiography he says that there was a time when you could increase the downforce a car had by a third in an afternoon in the windtunnel.  (As an aside I managed to get hold of a copy of this before the price got crazy, it’s on Amazon for £550 at the moment. It’s good, but not that good.) Problem is that I can’t find that reference.  Maybe its in one of the other designer biographies; if its in the Murray book I’ll need to get training before I try to pick it up.  Maybe I imagined it.

Anyway, it struck me that much of the club racing scene must be operating like that still.  People put wings on cars and run floors and diffusers. But how optimised are these generally?  Not very I’d say, admittedly from a position of near complete ignorance.  Modern high end aero packages are designed and optimised using wind tunnels and Computational Fluid Dynamics, way beyond the scope of the average competitor.  Its how far beyond that I set out to discover.  It would be a lot of fun right?  Is there still the scope for big gains made relatively easily?  First, for me anyway, the easy bit. CFD.

Openfoam has been something of a curiosity for me for some time.  It’s a really decent CFD code, used by at least three F1 operations to my knowledge, and its free.  Not free like Nastran; that’s not really usuable in its free form.  Openfoam is free and really good.  But because there aren’t any decent free pre-processors (the bit where you actually build the model rather than solve the equations) I hadn’t tried it.  I’m not entirely sure how I stumbled across the FreeCAD openfoam pre-processor. But stumble across it I did.  And frankly its bloody marvellous.  The test was to see if I could create a vaguely useful, full vehicle CFD model that could tell me useful stuff.  Currently I only have an 8 core machine (with a low end GPU) so that set an upper limit on what could be achieved.  Anything I did had to mesh in less than 1/2hr and solve over night.


Luckily my son has created a car model for his final year project.  Its a model of Jo White’s latest, so ideal on many levels.  Before attempting a full vehicle I ran through a few self created tutorials that I used to learn the system, especially the mesher, which as things went on seemed better and better.  Its a free version of a commercial program called CF Mesh written in Zagreb by a company called Creative Fields. If the idea of the free code is to publicise their work its certainly done its job.  Getting the CAD model right for meshing was the usual headache, but no different to other CFD codes I’ve used.  One thing that I thought might become a headache was selecting the internal faces of the flow volume for boundary conditions and mesh refinement.  I kind of stumbled into how you did this, and that meant the whole car workflow was feasible..  Another interesting thing about FreeCAD is that its all scriptable in python.  Which means I might be able to automate the whole process at some point, which would be really neat.

Paraview is another free program that is little short of incredible.  Its free, amazingly functional and again can be scripted. All the results here were plotted with it.

So the upshot of all this is very promising.  This is CFD, and I guess you need to know a bit about what you are doing, so its not for everyone.  But the results I’ve got so far with meshing times less than 1/2hr and solves of  3 to 4 hrs have been very encouraging.  I still need to add a moving floor (I know how you do it, just haven’t yet) and look at ways of doing drag/downforce calculations for more than just the whole car.  But I think I’ve proven that this sort of thing can be down at no more cost than that of the hardware. (Which now makes me want a 16 core machine for my office at home.)  This, I think, has big implications for club motorsport competitors, or  if not them, the smallest car constructors.  If you are the sort of person who is happy to hack about without support or training, and is as interested in the process as the result, this is really something. What we need now is a low cost wind tunnel to validate everything!

As an addendum to the above I’ve also been using a free multi-body dynamics code called FreeDyn.  I’ll probably blog about it at some point in the future.. It looks like it could be the MBD openfoam.


And I’ve also been playing with rendering.. which gets me thinking about doing an OF model of Matt’s MW01.  There’s a whole lot to do.. its just about finding the time.






The shock of the new.

This shouldn’t come across as criticism, but although the Radical SR1 is in many ways an incredible racing car, in one critical respect it differs from most others I’ve come across.


When I bought the SR1 it only had one set of harnesses, so in what passes for me as deal making, I got the seller to knock the cost of a new belt off the asking price.  On top of that, when I drove it, the seat was a bit far back; however initial attempts to adjust the seat were doomed to failure. Fitting the new belt wasn’t any form of priority all the time the car wouldn’t go on the trailer, so I left it all alone for a while whilst the new ramps were fabricated. (Very nicely it has to be said.)


With the 2019 season now history I started work on these two issues.  Removing the seat seemed like a good place to start.  It would allow me to work out what was wrong with the adjustment mechanism and wouldn’t do any harm when it came to swapping the belts around.  Most of my projects start with me staring at things for a while, but staring at the SR1 didn’t progress things any.  How you removed the seat totally escaped me. So I emailed Radical. And was sent some instructions.  Which still made little sense, and were ultimately proven to be quite wrong.  Cue more staring at a car in a shipping container. The stand-off was broken by a friend who said “ the only way you’ll get that apart is to drill those rivets”. Once I’d done that, undone 2 bolts under the riveted section, removed the roll hoop stays and loosened the sidepods, I could actually get the seat out.  Well, I could after I’d lifted it up, reached underneath and removed the crotch belt connections.  (I only loosened the sidepods because taking them off meant removing the water radiator and oil coolers, because, barely credibly, these were fitted into the fibreglass mouldings themselves.)  The SR1 is in no way designed for rapid maintenance.  Like a racing car is.  I’d expected everything to be instantly removable.  You can achieve what took me over 4 hours in less than 5 minutes on my Formula Ford.  And that’s one which is famously difficult to work on. I’d guess that with a bit of practice I could get the time down to a couple of hours.  Certainly not the sort of thing that could be done at an event. I guess it’s all about the profit motive because making everything removable properly would add cost.  I’ll put it all back it as it is for the moment, its just too big a job to re-engineer it all properly now; annoying things like having to go to work see to that.

So my new, well it’s a lot newer than my Formula Ford, SR1 has sprung a few unpleasant surprises, but funnily enough I don’t seem to like it any less.. Before long I’ll have it all back together and can’t wait to get driving it again.





Jumping through hoops

The HSA season closer at Curborough is a great event, even though it was slightly blighted for me by a sticking throttle cable last year.   After the success of my last trip to Curborough (first trophy – did I mention that?) I wasn’t actually expecting great things, especially given the size and quality of the Formula Ford entry.

At the risk of looking like I’ve been thumbing through the racing driver’s book of excuses, I wasn’t feeling great.  So I was really happy to be half way up the class after the first two runs.  The first timed run was faster than the two practice runs, but most people seemed to have gone faster than me.  I’d fallen through the field somewhat.

I managed to psych myself up a bit for the last run, and it did seem a lot quicker.  Well it did until Flagpole at the end of the first lap. I overcooked the entry speed and then selected 4th instead of 2nd.  I headed out of the corner in 4th, and by the time I had realised what had happened the run was ruined.  I completed the second lap in 4th and my overall time was just over 70 seconds.  That, combined with the fact that my first split time was 6/10’s up on the first run, convinced me that I’d have been on for something a bit better than run 1. But it’s not like it was critical for the championship.  Clutch woes earlier in the year had seen to that.

One thing I should have done for this meeting is to have stiffened the front anti-roll bar.  The picture, by Andy Leivers, shows why.  The front suspension seems to have moved a lot in the corner, the nose is sticking up in the air, and I managed to slide the rear end at Flagpole. I guess I’ll be trying that stuff early next season.  And by then I’ll have done the corner weights and undertaken a dyno run. I’m going to do 2020 properly. 72388160_1348975145258395_1557035230890557440_n

But more annoying than messing up the last run was having the scrutineers taking an interest in my ROPS (roll hoop).   For 2 seasons nobody has picked up any problems and I’d even talked to the MSA about its legality during the rebuild.  Before I panic and get a new hoop fitted I’ll see if I can sit lower in the car, although taking the seat out will result in me sitting a bit close to the battery.  If it is the answer I’ll have to make a new, lower, seat.

So 2019 didn’t pan out how I wanted, but was pretty much as expected as soon as I had to tackle the the clutch. To prevent a re-run of 2019 in 2020 I need to make sure of the car’s legality as soon as possible.  Watch this space.


Vehicle Dynamics

There is no other way to begin this post.  I’ve finally won a trophy. In a motorsport event.  As you can tell I’m quite happy about that, and it’s made the BARC 2019 season closing event at Curborough quite special for me.  But that isn’t what this posting is about.  What it is about is the fact that at last I think I can tell what the car is doing.

I mentioned in the post about the Gurston meeting that I was beginning to have some ideas about adjustments.  This stems from the feeling that the rear end tends to break away before the front.  I’m not sure if the video shows this effect or my inability to drive properly.

Whether it is or it isn’t I’ve felt this at Gurston too – coming out of the Karousel the car seemed very tail happy.  Same on the way out of Ashes. Maybe even on the verge of spinning.  I’m going to stiffen the front ant-roll bar a bit, and see what that does. If it does anything I’ll have made a big breakthrough.

At Curborough something else that I noticed was very large drop-off in grip on the early runs.  P1 was probably the coldest run I’ve made in some time, especially at Curborough, and grip levels, I’d imagine as a result of this, were very low.  These levels improved during the day, but were never near what I’d experienced at Gurston or even some tests at Curborough in high summer.  I need to work on getting some grip back, possibly by lowering the tyre pressures.

So I’ve reached the point where I think I can start to make decisions about set-up.  Its nearly as gratifying as getting a trophy.  OK, nowhere near as good, but still gratifying.


What a difference a day makes.

A year ago I ran at Gurston and was frankly a little puzzled that I wasn’t faster, and what was more puzzling was that I couldn’t work out why, or what I could do to increase my pace.  I get that a lot.  But on Sunday it was quite literally all change. I took 1.54 seconds off my PB and know how I could go faster, though with the back end going light through Hollow it might be some time before I go quicker there.

The clutch issues are well documented in previous blogs. After the run at Bicester to check that the clutch worked I wanted a proper test to see what impact it had on how the car actually went.  A spare space on a test session the Thursday before the Bank Holiday Gurston seemed ideal.  For once the AIM datalogger was actually working and after the test some data could be coaxed out of it (this was because temporarily the device firmware and PC data download software actually worked together.  It didn’t last.)  Sprint and Hillclimb times from the device are almost useless, but speed data does provide some useful info.  And the top speed down the straight was up 4MPH on the last visit.  Promising.  Working out what was happening with the engine RPM was somewhat less straightforwards. I need to work on that.


My first practice run on the Saturday at Gurston was just over 41 seconds, pretty typical for me, but encouraging as a first run.  The next run was a PB by 0.63 of a second, but as we all know they don’t count in practice.  It was also tantalisingly close to my personal target of 39.something at 40.05.  The final run of the day was 40.32, which I would have thought fast last year.

gurston august 2019_3

Sunday’s practice run was a decentish 40.7, leaving me with something to prove in timed run 1.  After a bit of socialising with the great and the good of my hillclimbing and sprinting world it was time to run.  I got a decent clean start (clutch still working then) and took a reasonable amount of speed through Hollow and into Karousel.  I still wasn’t fast enough through Deer’s Leep and was OK through Ashes, but that was because I’d been paying attention there on previous runs.  Getting a decent run from Ashes to the top of the hill isn’t as straightforwards as it sounds, but I made a decent stab at it.  I was out of breath at the top, so had obviously been trying quite hard.  At some events you get to see your time after you cross the line, but at Gurston you have to get a ticket from the timing hut.  As getting in and out of the RF84 is a bit of a headache I stayed in the car and headed back down the hill not knowing my time.  A state of affairs which continued, although Jo White told me I’d done my 39 when I saw him near the start line.  Eventually I ended up in the start line office and was given my time directly from the system. 39.14.  Not just a sub 40.00 but over 1.5 seconds under my PB.  To say I was pleased was a bit of an understatement.  A little while later the printer produced written proof.


I said that I was so happy that I’d be waving to the Marshalls on the way up the hill on my last run, not just the way down.  As so often with my final runs I might as well have waved at everyone whilst progressing sedately up the hill.  But frankly I didn’t care.

gurston august 2019_2

The big point about my performance wasn’t just going sub 40.00, and not that far off a 38 (which would have been respectable as Sam Lester’s fastest run was 37.95), but the fact that I can see where I can go faster.  (Looking at the time sheet you can see my finish line speed is 4 mph down on my fastest run for example.) And for the first time I’ve even got some ideas on car set-up.  Mind you I’ll need them.  It looks like Trevor Willis has signed up to drive in Formula Ford at the HSA season closer at Curborough.

gurston august 2019_1

Clutching at straws and beyond

The clutch issues that dogged the final runs at the Gurston practice day didn’t get any better.  And I didn’t want to blog about them until I’d sorted them.  I didn’t envisage it taking this long.

The first thing I did was to flush the clutch hydraulic system to remove all traces of air.  It seemed a bit better, but not radically so.  I entered the May Curborough event, with the idea of seeing if things were better.  Spinning off on the first corner of the first run wasn’t exactly on the planning sheet, and finding the battery didn’t want to restart the engine wasn’t (as an aside I seem to need to replace the battery every season, which is odd.) I managed to put in some semi decent times in the end, but it was evident that the clutch still wasn’t good.  At that point I made the decision to investigate things properly, and that meant removing the back of the car.


I needed to make removing the gearbox and suspension a one man job, so I made a trolley, which with appropriate packing pieces, allowed me to simply undo a few bolts and slide the back of the car off.  It was nearly that easy.  When I got inside what I found was a bit surprising.  The bobbin which actuates the release fingers has a bearing pressed into its ID.  And that bearing had fallen out and was sitting on the input shaft behind the release fingers.  I wish I’d taken a picture of it. This and the resulting millimetres of clearance between the bobbin and shaft may have gone some way to make the clutch of the RF84 a somewhat unpredictable device.  It would also have explained something that happened the first time we ran the car in Bicester.

When I depressed the clutch pedal in those first runs there was an odd modulated grinding noise.  It caused a lot of confusion amongst some pretty experienced people, including one who had made lots of numerical models of clutches and release finger operation in the late 90’s.  I’d say that the bearing had parted company from the ID of the bobbin pretty much instantly.

The bearing and bobbin weren’t usuable, so I had to source a replacement.  And this provided another puzzle.  I measured the dimensions, as Mark Bailey told me that there were two sizes.  Od thing was that the bobbin in the car wasn’t either of the standard sizes.  So it was back on with the rear of the car to measure the freeplay.  Which indicated that I needed the longer of the two options.  So I ordered this and refitted it. The longer bobbin definitely made the freeplay more reasonable.

With the rear of the car reassembled I tested the car in the drive (not ideal but there were few other options.) The clutch felt instantly better.  In fact totally different.  As the car has only ever been driven by myself and my son its possible that the clutch had never been right, and perhaps we should have known that.

Finally I managed, this week, to drive the car round a track; I hired the circuit at Bicester Heritage for an hour.  Again the car felt very different, and when I returned to the pits after the first run, the track manager said “there’s not a lot wrong with that”. He had a point. In that run I’d have to say that the car felt really good, and if anything seemed to be running better.

I’ve got another test session booked at Curbourough next week and am running at Gurston over the bank holiday.  We’ll see if the improvement translates to times by then.



Here we go again..

After something of a bad off season its all go again.  I’ve taken the FF for a run at the Gurston test day and given the Radical a cautious shake down at Bicester.

Lets start with the FF and Gurston.  I love all of Gurston apart from Hollow.  So it was great to be back in what, for March, was astounding weather.  Gurston weather has generally been all about extremes.  My first event there in the Panda was very, very, cold, whilst at a later event the dashboard displayed 34 degrees.  And the less said about the biblical deluge at the round in August last year the better. Well, maybe not, as I think it was actually quite important in the story of the off at Curborough.

I wasn’t actually sure that the throttle had stuck partly open, though all the evidence pointed to it.  But when I removed the cable it was actually difficult to get the inner out.. It was pretty corroded and must have stuck.  Impressive after only one season.  I put it down to the regular drenchings during the 2018 season, especially at Gurston in August.

Photo by Steve Lister

It took me a couple of runs to get back in the groove, and then my times were just over a second off my PB.  Not too bad given the temperature (it was still reasonably cold) and lack of recent seat time..  By the end of the day the clutch was getting troublesome; I think it needs bleeding. A long break in proceedings whilst the orange army removed a Subaru whose rear diff had embedded itself into the tarmac, locking it and the car in position near the start, allowed me to pack away without causing anyone else any trouble.


More Steve Lister pics – the observant will notice a small amount of filler on on the nose cone. 

My AIM datalogger might seem like a bit of a toy, but after the Gurston test the data told me something really useful. In fact two things.  The first is that I’m short shifting.  By up to a 1000RPM. That has to be costing me time.  Its not just at Gurston, looking back at some traces from a Curborough test day last year, I’m doing the same.  The other thing is that I must have a long first gear – even at 5000RPM I’m up to over 50mph in first.  The job list is simple, clutch bleeding, check the throttle position and look at the gearing.  In fact do more than look at the gearing – become a student of the Mark 9 Hewland.

gurston august 2018_2curborough_test_data

So that was the Sunday..  Fast forward to the next Friday and it was the first outing in the Radical.  About which I was more than a little nervous.  People noticed.

Once we’d got the car off the trailer at the Bicester Heritage track, which was far from straightforwards, Matt Manderson pretty much ran the show.  Which for the record was really decent of him.  The pedal positions weren’t perfect, but I could use them OK, and the gear shift worked really well, just like a PDK it seemed.  The contrast with the FF was somewhat marked.  Even though I was just taking things slowly and going nowhere near the 10,000 RPM redline (spot a pattern here?) the car’s performance was astounding. This was the first time I’ve felt the airflow trying to lift my helmet. As the track was only booked for an hour I only took the car out twice; enough to convince me that it’s an amazing car, and enough to leave me somewhat worn out.  I can’t wait to take it out again.  But only after I’ve adjusted the seating position, done some analysis on how it’s loaded and unloaded, and worked on my fitness.






Missing the Metro and others..

I used to have a Metro.  I don’t think there is any record of the fact; not a single photograph I can remember. I got to think about it because on twitter today somebody posted that there are only 10 standard Metro’s left.  Which is astounding. Not sure if my Red (obviously) City counted as a standard metro, but it was certainly pretty basic.

Somebody in my year at Oxford Poly used to claim that the Morris Minor was a better car than the Metro.  I don’t buy into that rose tinted stuff – by today’s standards the Metro isn’t a great car (arguably the same can be said using the standards of the day).  But what I do think about a lot is the total disappearance of whole designs, be they cars, boats or aeroplanes; good, bad or indifferent.  The Metro is unlikely to be totally lost any time soon (certainly all the time Keith Waters is campaigning his very neat example), but the erosion of the historical record is definitely underway. Many other designs are on the verge of being totally lost.

I’ll concentrate on two; one an aeroplane and the other a complete marque of Formula Ford.  The aeroplane is something that I wanted to build a model of a number of years ago.  A competition scale model requires a number of photographs to prove its accuracy. And that’s where the problems started – I could find 4.  Google Boulton Paul Bittern and 4 photographs come up.  Look further and search the relevant literature and you won’t find any more, although I did manage to buy a drawing from Ebay.  (In fairness I haven’t visited the BP archive).  So it looks like there is an aeroplane built in the 1920’s and the total remaining evidence is 4 photographs and a drawing of dubious provenance from an online auction site.  It has almost totally disappeared, as has all nearly all the associated knowledge.  Many other aircraft must have proceeded it into oblivion and many will certainly follow.  (A friend of mine rescued the Hawker photo archive from a skip, so the process is obvious.)  I’m not sure how much it matters, but it is certainly worth thinking about.  I never made the model.


When I was in my early 20’s I had a poster of the late Pete Rogers driving a Formula Ford on my bedroom wall.  And the Formula Ford was a Laser, the first FF I wanted to own, though quite quickly the Quest joined that list.  Ironically I didn’t ever really want a Van-Diemen. Anyway..  laser2

I’m pretty sure I’ve got some pictures of Laser’s at Brands in the 80’s.  But beyond that there isn’t much sign of them.  The standard reference on FF history – Anatomy and Development of the Formula Ford Race Car – has a small section on Laser.


There were at least 5 cars.  The HD85, and the 4 HD87’s.  But where are they?  Searching the internet comes up with a few hits, one on a discussion forum over 8 years old and one from an older sprint report.  But the point is that sightings beyond 2007 are somewhat rare.  It wouldn’t take much for Laser to disappear from the record completely.


Its not just Laser, Formula Fords and the odd aircraft.  Across the board cars, boats and aeroplanes must be disappearing from the record.  The question is “is it important?” And to be 100% honest I’m not sure.. But you do have to wonder where everything goes. There were well over 2000 Van-Diemen’s built. There must have been a similar number of Reynards. Every year for many, many, years a new grid of F3 cars was built. That’s, say, 20 cars every year for over 20 years. 400 F3 cars in the UK alone.  That’s a lot of cars and its safe to say that not many are evident. Obviously some have been wrecked, but what has happened to all the others?  It seems the forces destroying the historical record are quite strong. Or there are lots of full garages around. Which, possibly, amounts to much the same thing.