Saturday, 31 December 2011

Blethers - The Big Healey

I’m back. I took a few days off and left the laptop behind, but since English magazines have no respect for Scottish tradition, I’ll be back at my desk full time from first thing Monday morning – the morning after, the day after, Hogmanay! However, in anticipation of excesses to come, I am fully stocked up with that singularly most effective hangover remedy ever invented by man – Barr’s Irn Bru.

I did however have my Kindle with me over recent days. This was a present from Santa Claus and I had my first e-book all lined up for purchase when the e-reader arrived. For the princely sum of £5.52 I bought and downloaded a copy of Eric Dymock’s ‘Sports Car Classics, Part 1: AC – HRG’.

A real rally car
I bought this book for one reason only, it includes a genuine, period road-test of an ex-works Austin Healey 3000 rally car. Eric has been a motoring writer for over fifty years and has driven just about everything. More to the point, he has kept copies of everything he has written. So what he’s done is assembled all the most interesting bits and published them in two volumes, and I have just bought the first, which included the rally Healey road test which he conducted in 1966.

The best bit is that Eric has not re-written any of these gems. He has left them as they were, written for a variety of publications and different audiences. What you get is a true reflection of the cars at the time and in context, not written in retrospect by some jumped up curly haired, denim clad buffoon with more adjectives than a roomful of nonenties at a fashion show. Nope, gentle prose from a more gentle age. Fabulous.

So Eric has done something that I will never do, drive an ex-works Healey rally car. Ever since I saw Timo Makinen on the 1964 RAC Rally flat out in a 200 bhp ‘lorry’, I have been a fan. I was bewitched as a youngster in Twiglees at the sight, the sound and the fury, as the bright red monster bellowed its way through the woods. They don’t build them like that any more and they don’t make drivers like Timo any more either.

I had the good fortune to meet Timo in person on the Scottish Rally, way back in either 1972 or ’73, where I was prevailed upon to take him on a visit to a Scottish whisky distillery after the rally. The rally finished at Aviemore so I took him to Craigellachie which was under the ownership of White Horse Whisky at that time - and who also sponsored Gavin Waugh in the Group 1 Hillman Avenger. Unbeknownst to me was the fact that Timo was a great whisky fan with an appetite and a thirst to match his liking for the heritage and the product – and he got me into trouble, but that’s another story.

Even though Timo was driving for Ford by this time, the love affair with Healeys continued especially when John Gott brought his ex-works rally car turned circuit racer to Ingliston. With three huge Webers clamped to the side of the 3 litre, 6 cylinder engine squeezed under the bonnet and no silencers it was even louder than the rally car and would have given Nessie a fright on a dark night.

Anyway, I’m now off to read Eric’s appraisal of a Le Mans AC Cobra, so if you’ve got a Kindle, give yourself a treat. More info at: http://www.dovepublishing.co.uk

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