Rear-view Mirror


This month another hotchpotch of old motor items: a Dawn query, racing driver payments and courtesy on the road…

First, in the 27 January 1933 issue of The Autocar magazine, a picture appeared of a car with the following caption: “The Dawn Special which has a Scott motor-cycle engine and gear box in an Amilcar chassis, and was built by Claude May for racing in South Africa”. And that’s it! Looking at a copy of the magazine, and the ones immediately before and after, there is no other mention of the car. Going through the period race results in FMM’s archives, the car does not appear to have been raced. So, was the car built in the UK and intended to be shipped to SA, or was it built in SA but never raced? What happened to the car? And who was Claude May?

Answers please?


Next, in the wake of Lewis Hamilton finally signing a lucrative contract to continue racing for Mercedes in F1 this season, we came across an article that appeared in the 14 October 1936 issue of The Autocar outlining what racing drivers won in the UK at that time. In the Isle of Man TT races, the prizes were £500 to the winner, £300 for second and £200 for third. The Donington Grand Prix carried prizes of £250, £120 and £75 for the first three while the Empire Trophy top trio received £250, £100 and £75. In both the International Trophy and the BRDC 500 Mile the amounts were £250, £100 and £50 and in the JCC 200 Mile, first prize was £200 and £150 for the first 1 500cc car home. Starting money varied enormously, and good mechanics of the time earned between £5 and £7 per week…

In Europe, the Tripoli GP winner received £500, first place in the Monaco GP was £1 250 and £500 for second. The German GP topped this with the winner being handed £1 500, second £750 and third £400. The previous year, Tazio Nuvolari earned between £8 000 and £10 000 while racing for Maserati.

As for South Africa, the starting money offered for the 1936 SAGP was:

Pat Fairfield (ERA) – £250, less £250 if he finished first, less £125 if second

Eileen Ellison (Bugatti) – £200, no conditions

Lord Howe (Bugatti) – £500, no conditions

Jean-Pierre Wimille (Bugatti) – £500, less £250 if he finished first, less £125 if second

Austin Dobson (Alfa Romeo) – £300, no conditions

Arthur Dobson (Riley) – £300, no conditions

T P Cholmondeley Tapper (Maserati) – £300, no conditions

Richard Shuttleworth (Alfa Romeo) – £200, less £100 if he finished first.

Helle Nice (£350), Buddy Featherstonehaugh (£300) and Count Johnny Lurani (£400) asked for the amounts shown, which were first rejected then accepted – but too late to meet the entry date. Piero Taruffi asked for £400, Giulio Ramponi £200 and Gwenda Stewart (£300 less £100 if she finished first) but all not accepted. Auto Union asked for £1 300 to bring two cars and were offered £500, which was not accepted. The negotiations with Enzo Ferrari were never disclosed…


Finally, if you think general manners on today’s roads are pretty appalling, it is actually nothing new…

“A great many people  would – I hazard – agree with me in putting the blame for a great proportion of the current discourtesy, and indeed criminally careless driving  one sees from day to day, fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the average driver of the more powerful types of light or medium lorry.

“These drivers often seem quite unaware of speed limits, and drive with breathtaking abandon through crowded streets, and round dangerous corners; in fact, they often seem unaware of the presence of anybody else on the road at all. Other dangers on the road, such as the nose-to-tail dawdler, the swerving cyclist, the hogging motor coach and the all too frequent vehicle with inadequate rear lamps, fade into insignificance beside these unnerving people.”

This is a reproduction of a letter published in the UK in The Autocar on 29 November 1949. It is probably fair to say that lorry, ie truck, drivers are no longer the greatest hazard, certainly not in SA, but 71 years later, the observations of the writer, Spencer R O Barratt, are no less relevant…    

(NB: No copyright infringement is intended with any of the images used to illustrate this article.)