By Bertie Scott Brown
Photographs by Moore Good Ink
By its nature the cut and thrust of professional sports, like big business, attracts its fair share of self-absorbed personalities—after all, they are at war; there can only be one winner!
But in the historic racing arena things are very different. Here we have gentlemen who adore historically interesting racing cars. Often unique, exquisite machines, they bring them out perhaps half a dozen times a year to compete at some of our most celebrated circuits.
Contrary to what you might think, these cars have been on mighty short commons during our recession, and only within the past few months can enthusiasts appreciate their flourishing numbers.
Most race car preparation shops serving the Historic racing scene have been on their beam ends during the past few years. Lee Chapman of Lee Chapman Racing says, “Before the recession began we employed eight full-time mechanics, welders and machinists, but by last year we were down to one and a half! Happily the situation turned around earlier this year and confidence is rapidly returning.
Proof of Chapman’s comments was unmistakable at the July 12-14 Mont-Tremblant Historic car races. An hour and a half north of Montreal lies the village of Mont-Tremblant which, except for the month of November, is remarkably active all year round: skiing in winter, racing in summer.
As you entered the paddock at the circuit’s north end, the first sign of the feast to come was the irresistible appeal of Peter Gidding’s 250F Maserati. Giddings, born in Sussex, England, immigrated to the US about 30 years ago. He recently completed the restoration of the ex-Dick Seaman 1926 Delage.
Of all the Formula One Maserati 250Fs built his has the most complete, complex and fascinating history. Constructed in 1953 and assigned chassis number 2501, this car made its racing debut at the 1954 Spanish Grand Prix in the hands of Stirling Moss.
Due to its unorthodox pedal arrangement (clutch on left, brake on right, throttle in the middle), Moss trod on the wrong pedal, spinning the car and damaging its bodywork. Nonetheless, he achieved two first places with this car in 1956 and others, including Harry Schell, raced it with success until the 1960s when it departed Europe for New Zealand.
During its career, Peter Giddings’ 250F Maserati competed in over 40 Grands Prix, including five appearances at Monaco.
Pièce de résistance
In 1914 French race car maker Louis Delage entered two Y-type models in the Indianapolis 500: one for Rene Thomas the other for Albert Guyot. These cars featured 4.5 liter four cylinder engines producing 113hp. The engines boasted dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. They were also equipped with 5-speed gearboxes. Unsurprisingly, Rene Thomas won the 500-mile Indy classic that year. By 1925 the engine had acquired a supercharger and developed 205 horsepower. But in 1926 Delage produced his masterpiece, the 15-S-8.
The straight-eight 1488cc Delage engine has a bore of 55.8mm (2.2in) and stroke of 76mm (2.99in). A large single Roots-type supercharger is driven from the front of the camshaft gear train and produced about 7.5psi of boost with 6.5:1 compression ratio. The detail work exemplified on this engine is exquisite, which includes a billet crankshaft running in nine ball-bearing main bearings. The rod bearings are all roller bearings. There are 20 meticulously cut close-tolerance gears comprising the drive to the dual overhead camshaft and accessory drives; each gear has its own roller bearing. With 62 roller and ball bearings in the engine, this incredible design enabled the Delage to produce over 170hp at 8,000rpm, an engine speed unsurpassed at the time, and yet this beautifully detailed dry-sump racing engine could safely sustain 8,000rpm.
Historic Motor Sports Association
2029 Verdugo Blvd., #1010
Montrose, CA 91020