MMR Blog

My Word: “Brrr” and “Whew” Hard on Batteries

Posted on March 27, 2014 Comments (0)

By Denise McCluggage

Anyone who lived 13 winters on a northern Vermont hillside as I did looking across to ski trails cut on Lincoln Mountain (known to the world as Sugarbush) has experienced what deep cold can do to a car battery. Just the usual car battery that urges your engine into a welcome roar sending a steamy shawl of exhaust to wrap your salty Land Rover. Or. Or grinds in a string of decelerating AR-Ar-rrrrs into silence. Every morning is an unwrapped present. What will it be today?

Most Vermont cars had peeking out from under the hood the prongs of an electric cord ready for connection to something they are apt to call a charging station these days. Then I called it my house. I had a heavy-duty red extension cord which at 50 feet was twice as long as needed but I liked seeing the extra length coiled beneath the outdoor outlet. Safe from snow because my deck with the curving wrought iron stair was over it.

Of course the Land Rover was plugged in every night, but I didn’t have an engine heater – just a heated dipstick to keep the oil more like soup and less like Jello and easier for the starter to churn it up. In the darkness of midwinter the dipstick heat might not be enough as the temperature stayed sub-zero for weeks. Fifty below overnight was not uncommon at the mountain. And if I was trying to stretch the battery’s life expectancy – costly damn things – I might get the AR-Ar-rrrrs and not the roar.

So I give up. To Kingbury’s Shell station for a new one for sure when the day warms up to three or four degrees. Or I opt for a jump start. Some folks just removed their battery and took it inside every night. Some had more serious plug-in devices, some had – Lord blessed ‘em – heated garages. But all of us well knew that cold was cruel to the electrics.

Now we have a new study from the AAA telling us just how cruel to these things called plug-in electrics. And it’s worse than they expected.

Using the three most popular pure electrics in the country – a Nissan Leaf (2013), a Mitsubishi i-MIEV (2012) and a Ford Focus (2014) -- the AAA Automotive Research Center in Southern California ran simulations to determine what extreme temperatures did to battery performance. The test started with fully charged batteries to no charge in “city traffic” in a climate-controlled room. The temperature of 75 degrees F was dropped to 20 degrees F for cold (that’s cold?) and raised to 95 degrees F for hot (not in summertime Phoenix.)

The results: more degradation than expected, according to Greg Bannon, the director of automotive engineering for AAA. The cold temperature reduced the range by 57%; the heat by 33%. (In miles that would mean cold cutting an expected 105 mile range to 43 miles and heat from 105 to 69 miles. Did you make it home?)

Not part of the study was how rather necessary accessories – heating and cooling, for instance – might add to the reduction in range. But keeping the car’s occupants comfortable costs miles too. As do headlights and electronic gadgetry like a radio.

Nor did the test include any other temperatures. I wonder what one should expect from, say, another 10 degrees in either direction. Is the slide a steady one or does performance step off a cliff at true extremes?

In any case it is probably safe to warn any Tesla owners not to take their lovely car skiing in Vermont or summer sight-seeing in Death Valley. I know they didn’t test Tesla, but lithium-ion batteries are affected by temperature variations too.

Do I sound pleased by this bad news? I don’t mean to. Electric is an important part of the power mix in our rolling stock. But I think to make electric cars work you have to live where the following applies: places you drive are rather close together; you have a number of choices in cars you can use, and you can match the choice to the task at hand with ease and delight. And you don’t mind having a car dictate when and where you, say, have lunch while it charges enough to get you on your way again. Electric cars are as needful – and dictatorial – as children.

I think an electric car at this stage of development needs a dinghy. GM learned that with its first brush with electric cars when precious few people actually wanted to buy an EV1 but everyone wanted GM to make them anyway and said nasty things about the General when he collected them up and crushed them. That 1980s experience is why GM in its later experience with electric vehicles designed the Volt and the Caddy ELR using a right clever system that will get most people to There and Back on electric only. And in case it doesn’t – or minds get changed as to where There is – GM throws in a dinghy. It’s an onboard, gasoline-fueled generator. It makes There any place a road goes and gas can be found.

As cold as it got in Vermont I could fill the Land Rover with gasoline. The problem was keeping the battery capable enough to spark the engine and get me down the hill to Kingsbury’s where the gas pumps were.

Did I mention deep cold is really unkind to batteries?


My Word: Keys, Switches and Megabucks

Posted on March 27, 2014 Comments (0)

By Denise McCluggage

Must be a guy thing. I've seen more than a few toss this handful of jangle on a cafe table with a cool pleasure and a metallic clatter that delights something deep inside them.

What is it about keys? I suspect the bearers carry every key they ever use from one for the tool chest in the pick-up bed to another for an obscure drawer in the cellar. Certainly a key to the riding mower and every car they own and some they don’t any more. The key that opens access to the spare tire on the wife's SUV -- either the wife or the SUV before the current one. And probably at least one key that doesn't open anything.

All these, and maybe a piece of bone wrapped in copper wire that serves as a key fob, dangles from the ignition as they drive. It's a wonder any ignition switch survives the first month of its use.

And now General Motors is in deep trouble over failed switches in some of their cars. As someone most certainly should be. The problem was known about for far too long -- a bulletin about them might date back to 2001. Certainly 2004. And the risks are serious. An engine suddenly dead in fast-moving traffic, power steering gone, power brakes -- not circumstances intuitively dealt with. And airbags, meant to be protective in emergencies however created, rendered useless by the absence of power.

The figures usually mentioned are 31 crashes, 12 deaths in Chevrolets, Pontiacs and Saturns. Other estimates run far higher.

The thought crossed my mind. Did someone say; "That isn't our fault. It's those fools with the heavy keys." But abused parts aren't supposed to fail any more than properly used parts. How could GM have let the problem go on so long? Sometimes that outfit can be so obtuse.

Law suits are lining up, possibly criminal as well as civil. Stock holders have filed theirs claiming GM's inaction damaged the value of their holdings.

Now because of GM declaring bankruptcy midstream in the matter car owners who suffered problems before 2009 cannot sue the "new" GM. Their problem is with the old GM which means problems lining up with a bunch of others before the bankruptcy court. Possibly GM could all but choose to pay in chalk and cheese, if at all. It becomes a public relations dance. They must look benign and properly contrite doing more than they "have" to.

But then again they could be up the creek far farther than anyone suspected. After all, if the government decides GM knew about the troubled switches and the company's possible liability before the bankruptcy then fraud might be involved. That's not a good word in a law court especially if someone is pointing at you.

And then something more ominous appears in a Georgia case in which a pediatric nurse died in 2010 in her five-year-old Cobalt on her rainy 29th birthday. She had the day before retrieved the car from her dealer where she had taken it because the engine had inexplicably died on her in traffic a couple of times.

GM settled this case. This was not one of the 12 deaths mentioned above but an additional one.

A particularly savvy lawyer for the young women's family had discovered that the ignition was indeed not on. The power had shut down. But more than that he investigated a number of Cobalts and discovered something that could really bode Ill for the General. He found that some Cobalts had beefed up parts in their switching mechanism. A definitely different switch. Yet the parts number was the same. Odd.

And GM had not informed any of the complaining car owners -- nor the government -- about this apparent effort to fix the switch. Something required by law. Was it a shhh, we'll make it go away move just a few guys at the plant would know about? Is that a yellow-feathers-on-the-chops way of dealing with a problem or what?

Is that a smart lawyer who did deep research to uncover the switch switcheroo. That's one thing for sure in all this tangled web.

Everyone watching what they call "Switchgate" notes familiar faces on the government side that just extracted 1.2 billion bucks from Toyota for that company's awkward handling of the so-called unintended acceleration claims against Toyota brands. A record fine. Observers see something in that range for GM -- or even more. In Toyota’s case no electronic flaw was ever determined to have caused the "runaway" cars. Maybe a misplaced floor mat under the accelerator.

GM might be more vulnerable. Toyota is known for keeping lots of cash on hand. GM just emerged from bankruptcy. And this might be another record fine. Could this send them back into bankruptcy? Could it change the whoops culture at GM? The new CEO Mary Barra is a change in the gender of top management. She will have to mean a major change in the way management handles problems too. It's not the switches, it's the way their failure was dealt with -- or not -- that really matters. Try two really different approaches for a start: transparency and speed. Trying to save money by not facing up to a problem can cost much more in dollars and in hard-to-restore reputation.

But about those keys. Can't all be guys driving those cars. Particularly those cars. So what's the appeal of all those keys in one weighty mass? Must be a metaphor in there somewhere.


My Word: F1 – The Green Flag Falls

Posted on March 20, 2014 Comments (0)

By Denise McCluggage

It is St. Patrick’s Day as I write. I see green things around me never meant to be green—beer and bagels. Then I am struck with an “aha” moment. On the weekend I saw something like beer and bagels that was also never meant to be green: A Formula 1 Race.

If a race were meant to be green there’s a simple way to assure that it is—don’t have it. If you’re planning an intimate party, don’t rent Yankee Stadium. What is it, I wonder, about “antithetical” that the FIA doesn’t understand? A selection of wheeled objects on which lots of money, engineering brilliance and time were expended and a season of races planned as far distant as they can be one from the other to decide which of these costly objects can go faster than the others. Beautiful in its simplicity, if not egregious in its expense.

All this is created so as many people as possible can pack into their own wheeled objects and get to these venues to watch the purpose-designed wheeled thingies perform. All the time hoping that as much noise of a pleasing din level can be made for their near-pain pleasure. Has anyone asked if this is socially desirable or in the best interest of humankind?

Hardly relevant, really. If a foot has been set on the path it is too late isn’t it? And cannot something be soul-satisfying without having redeeming social virtues? Like racing has been for most of us forever. Wasteful, pointless, marvelous and fun. Rationales have been created—improvement of the breed etc.—but racing doesn’t really need them. After all it’s hard to overcome the simple fact that the start line and the finish line are the same. That’s important, isn’t it? But if you wish you can point out the rear-view mirror was invented at Indy in 1911. Breed improvement rampant I’d say.

In all this did someone this year actually say, hey wait. F1 must be meaningful. F1 must act in the interests of frugality and fuel-saving technology. F1 must express relevancy to our time.

Why? Really. Why?

We are talking about F1 which is an embodiment of one Bernie Ecclestone, the very essence of excess. What’s relevant to Bernie is money. That’s why and how F1 exists. Who sold him on this social relevance irrelevance? Green is meaningful to Bernie only in stacks of bills. Was it Jean Todt? Crikey, I knew that guy would get up to nonsense if given half a chance.

Anyway on that March weekend of Australia I watched some boy racers do some fine things in the uncertainty of a new scene in new tools. And I saw some veterans get shat upon by those same tools. I suspected it would be entertaining to see who would literally and figuratively be up to speed in the new Formula. Though I would have just as soon given them all a pre-season opportunity to do their learning and make their adjustments so we could then get to racing right away in its simplest form of comparing speed to speed.

The FIA has its ways. Sigh. Complicating matters is a favorite.

And such high tech ways of doing it. Take regeneration. As Henny Youngman would say: “Please!?” What F1 needs is new ways to heat things up, produce smoke in odd places and at odd times. Collecting expended energy seems to do that. C’mon. Stop it. RACE!

And if you want to limit the fuel cars use (to interfere with their actual racing) just give them some barrels of it and say that’s it. No, the team engineers are too clever. They’ll find fiddle factors and ways to create an advantage. So make them eye-dropper the fuel out over time. Make them use FIA meters which don’t work properly and keep the metering out of the control of drivers. Why should racing drivers have control of their race cars? They’ve been giving that up for years.

Which brings us to Daniel Ricciardo and his second place finish. And don’t cry for him, Australia. He did finish second. You all saw it. The charming glee on the podium from the young newcomers (Magnussen was a trip, too) was refreshing and very good for F1 racing. That moment cannot be erased. It was real. Oh, the points can be erased and were. That’s what the FIA does hours after the fact. That’s why it is called organized racing.

But that performance cannot be erased. Racing occurred, a result resulted and we cheered it. An adjustment was made (open to readjustment) and we readjust to that, but that is scorekeeping. Not racing. Scorekeeping makes championships possible but that is an adjunct to racing. Racing is what happened and so congratulations to Danny Boy. Celebrate. So you are less likely to be champion this year but you may have beaten the guy who will be. While racing.

And the silly eye-droppering of fuel which mattered more to the green foolishness of the FIA than the racing stole the day. Perhaps I should be cheering the FIA’s earth-saving efforts to be bolstering to the planet. I have my own preference (for diesel power and algae-based fuels—but not necessarily for racing). Saving the planet isn’t a bad idea. I simply see the FIA efforts as insincere, misplaced and antithetical to what F1 is truly about—racing.

Green is the “go” flag. Other than that, forget it.

As for the sound of F1, I’ve lost any facility to judge that. I certainly liked the scream of the old cars though I knew it to be dangerous. I never wore ear protection when I was racing, so now I have over-priced under-performing hearing aids and say “huh?” a lot. Once your hearing is compromised that’s it. Be warned. Certainly protect the kids. Then go sit on an amp at a rock concert if you wish. But trust me, you won’t like the outcome.

Hearing aids are not spectacles for the ears. They cannot “improve” what you’ve lost. Hearing aids will fill your head with raucous noise at the expense of genuine sounds. Music is different, voices are different, engines are different. Lament the change in the new F1 engines but that’s going to change for you anyway with time. Simply hearing it will change it.

The decision is yours. Be thoughtful.


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on March 14, 2014 Comments (2)

Ferrari 275

As promised, we drove the WASRED 308 from Boston to Amelia Island and back, and shot 1068 images in the process. If you need official results from the Amelia Island Concours or the RM and Gooding Auctions, please look elsewhere as we will not get to them here for several weeks. MMR will bring you stories and images not found elsewhere. This week’s images are entitled “Setting the Field” and were taken as cars were either uncovered from being parked the night before or arriving to be placed. We also do our Picks and Pans about the roads, food and public washrooms en route. Read on McDuff!

Alfa at Amelia


Denise McCluggage

Broken but unbowed

Denise McCluggage, winning race and rally driver, missed Amelia because she recently slipped and fell, broke a bone and is now in rehab. But she still writes better than anybody we know and we will have her scheduled story for you next week. 

However, if you send her a cheery message we will happily forward it to her.


Sebring; great place to visit for 12 hours but I wouldn’t …

Justin Bell

This Saturday is The 12 Hours of Sebring and round #2 of the IMSA Tudor Sports Car Series. Only the first three hours will be live on Fox Sports 1. The remainder will be streamed live at IMSA.com. Young Tommy Kendall, the MMR Community’s youthful hero, has decided to sit this one out. “This track is really bumpy” he was quoted as saying in a recent AARP Harp magazine interview, “and my Depends bunch up in the corners.” He’s our hero. He and his slightly younger but equally irreverent friend, Justin Bell, will be broadcasters. Justin wrote to the MMR Community:

It’s called the IMSA Pre Show with Justin Bell and will air LIVE on IMSA.com on Saturday morning before the main race on Fox Sports 1. It is basically the longest grid walk in history and will see me talking with loads of drivers.

This should be a hoot, so don’t miss it.


A Cadillac! A Cadillac! My Kingdom for a Cadillac! N’est pas?

Sorry Richard, either the price is too high or it isn’t much of a kingdom. Our comments about the Sochi Cadillac ad in last week’s newsletter prompted some of you to suggest we try things that, while possibly entertaining, are simply anatomically impossible. On the other hand, some of you, agreed with us. Don Klein at Car and Driver, had this to say.


F1 2014 Season begins and you may be a winner.

Here we go again! Australia begins this weekend. Check your local listings. Also, please remember last week’s promise. If you were at Amelia and have 5 decent images, send them to us. We will pick a winner and send her or him a signed Denise McCluggage Ferrari Transporter image.

Have a great weekend!

Peter

Setting the field at Amelia

Maserati at Amelia

Mercedes at Amelia


My Word: Racing – The Way It Was

Posted on February 14, 2014 Comments (4)

Denise McCluggage

By Denise McCluggage (written in 1998)

“You asked what I remember most about those days,” Louise said. “It was the laughter.”

The sand was hard packed. We strolled with three dogs along a deserted stretch of beach on Casey Key just south of Tampa. We talked of the late ‘50s and the racing scene in Europe of which we had both been involved in our different ways. Louise King had been starring in The Seven Year Itch in Miami when she met Peter Collins, an attractive young Englishman on the Ferrari racing team. Within days they were engaged then married and off to Italy and the racing season.

Peter Collins

As a journalist I wrote about the races and as a driver I raced assorted cars—Alfas, OSCAs, Ferraris, Porsches—in assorted races. It was simpler then.

Laughter, yes. A photograph Louise had readied to mount in an artful montage on her wall was testimony. In it Mike Hawthorn, another talented Brit in the Ferrari stable and Peter’s mon ami mate, was arched backward with laughter throwing his open face to the sky, mouth open. The tweed cap, the pale blue racing pants. It was all so instantly familiar I could hear Mike’s uninhibited guffaw across the decades. And I could see Peter and Louise creased with smiles. It ached with memory.

Mike Hawthorn

And. The caring,” Louise added.

That was then. Like most major sports, motor racing has segued from game to industry. Megabucks have a way of settling seriousness over a scene. A great infusion of sponsorship money may well have saved motor racing, but it has imprisoned it, too.

It has even changed its color.

In those days race cars were painted the assigned national colors—red for Italy, blue for France, yellow for Belgium, white with blue for the United States, silver for Germany etc. (Actually, Germany’s assigned color was white but Neubauer, racing guru of Mercedes-Benz, knew how much paint weighed and decided that naked silver was white enough—and lighter.) These days racecars are the color of cigarette packages or whatever else those who pay the bills decree. Only Ferrari has clung to tradition and red.

As for money, in 1961, the year Phil Hill driving for Ferrari, became the first American to win the world driving championship he probably made something well less than $100,000. Now successful drivers most likely tote up some $2 million each race. Plus endorsements.

Let me take you back to earlier days and the ragged orbit of the racing world careening from Monaco to Rheims or Rouen to Silverstone to the Nurburgring and on. Time and places were interchangeable—we spoke of “after Sebring” or “before LeMans.” Our world coalesced around one place or another each weekend, shattered into individual parts then whirled back to a shared life again the next week.

Maybe it is for me the year of the Alfa. A bright blue Sprint Veloce with a snarky engine note. Or the year of the Porsche 356, the color of a wet river stone with an unheard-of electric sunroof and knock-off hubs. Or maybe of the Ferrari 250 GT, a dark blue Berlinetta with a sonorous authority that drew heads to second-story windows even before it could be seen flashing through toy mountain villages. Nothing does more for an echo than a V12 at full song.

And nothing in those days could be cooler than pressing along sharply in that very Ferrari with a crunched fender and the ghosts of racing numbers on its sides, hastening back to Modena and Scaglietti’s little Carrozzeria to get the car’s skin put right after a spot of trouble at the Nurburgring. (That alone shows how long ago it was. Scaglietti’s is now a full-blown factory.)

If it is the Alfa then I might be on the way back to Modena, Ferrari’s hometown, from Monaco. I had spent a few days with Peter and Louise on Mipooka their boat docked in the harbor. There they lived between races, much to the consternation of Enzo Ferrari. He preferred his drivers unmarried and living within his beck. That described Phil Hill. Every year Phil took delivery on a new Volkswagen Beetle, drove it to Modena and checked into the Albergo Reale (now a bank, emblematic of what has happened to racing.) As the season lengthened Phil pined for an American breakfast. I was taking him some Rice Krispies I had found in a Monaco grocery. There were no American breakfast cereals in Italy. Phil was exceedingly grateful. How he bridled when they referred to his cereal as “fagiolini” (little beans) at the Albergo breakfast room.

En route from Monaco I picked up a friendly dice. Often on the highway drivers of sports cars—which were not yet common among the every-day Fiats and Renaults—would pair off for some anonymous sport on the road. We whipped along together, not exactly racing, but exercising each other’s skills. Over one col then another. This time I do not remember the marque just that the car was red. He led. I led. When I blinked my intention to pull in for fuel the red car stopped just beyond the gas station and waited. Then we resumed our dance until the pull of differing destinations separated us. We never stopped to converse and rarely even waved; we just drove spiritedly in parallel play, like tots in a sandbox. That was the way it was then going to and from the races.

Getting into the races these days requires a major effort. In Japan (not part of the scene then) the right to buy tickets is granted by lottery. I doubt that I would even qualify for press credentials now. Then it was easy. There were so few of us covering races. And there were no press conferences. No after-race gatherings where everyone dutifully writes down the same quotes. (And no winner’s podium either where the top three stand at appropriately varied heights and spray the world with champagne.)

Drivers were accessible then. They sat on the pit wall, strolled about the paddock. No motor homes to duck into. No helicopters to whirlybird them off to their private jets. If you had a question you posed it to the drivers in the pits, at the hotel, over dinner. They were your friends. They were there, sharing space and talk.

And laughter.

Language might have been a partial barrier. Now English is the lingua franca of the racing world. Then you learned smatterings of all the languages. By the time Phil Hill’s stint in Europe ended he not only spoke passable French and an excellent Italian but he could even send his Ferrari mechanics into gales of laughter with Modenese, the French-Italian melange that is the local dialect.

There’s that laughter again.

Sometimes the drivers seemed like fraternity brothers after finals, an observation I am sure cannot be made of the current crop. I suspect today’s drivers are totally immune to high jinks. Not then. I recall the year at Rheims when Harry Schell’s tiny little Vespa car (yes, car) proved too great a temptation to the pranksters. First it was driven into the hotel lobby. An early-retiring Harry was sent for to view the joke. He declined to come down. Somehow enough willing hands were found to wrestle the mini-car up the curving stairway and into the salon at the summit. A vase of flowers was set atop it. This time Harry did come out, robe-wrapped, to sleepily shake his rumpled head over his colleagues’ handiwork. (The next day the car had to be taken apart to get it back to ground level.)

I also remember bicycles placed high in trees and mild food fights in tolerant restaurants. And symphonies played by rubbing the rims of wine glasses. (I recall Phil Hill meticulously tuning the glasses by sipping here and there.)

The modern Formula 1 race car probably has more in common with a rocket than the Formula 1 cars of the ‘50’s. Now computers control most of the vital functions, including declutching. Shifting is done with a button on the steering wheel. Telemetry tells more what an engine and chassis are doing than the most sensitive drivers could discern. Today the greater G-forces and higher speeds make driving a race car quite different from what it was then. Today’s drivers score no points for being adept at stirring about with a gear shift. That’s as useful as flicking a buggy whip. What is demanded of today’s drivers is both so little and so much more.

In those days drivers were not the racing specialists they are today. Formula 1 was the elite, as it is now, but factory drivers drove everything else, too—the long-distance sports car races and sometimes even rallies. And most of them did the Mille Miglia and the ten-day rally-race hybrid called the Tour de France. The driving championship was determined in the open-wheeled single-seaters of Formula 1. Factory championships were back then determined only in prototype sports cars. Examples: Ferrari Testa Rossa, D-type Jaguar, Maserati 300S—machines that increase the heart rate of modern collectors. Porsche wasn’t a contender for overall victories in those days because its engine at 1.5 liters was half the size of the big guns. Its hegemony came later.

Some team drivers did only the sports cars while waiting for the chance at Formula 1. Before Phil Hill got his drive on Ferrari’s Formula 1 team he had become a frequent winner for Ferrari in the long races, like the 12-hours of Sebring and the 24-hours of Le Mans. He teamed sometimes with Olivier Gendebien and sometimes with Peter Collins.

That’s another change from the old days. Pairs won the long races then, now the list of drivers on a single car at Le Mans or Sebring or Daytona (not existing in the ‘50s) can be as long as a college team roster. Always at least three now. When there were only two it was easier to keep track of things.

Perhaps I have made the point that in those days the racing community was truly a community with all that implies—brotherly closeness for some like Peter and Mike. And Harry Schell and Portago. Friends, perhaps; friendly quite likely. Truly caring at best; civil to each other at least. I cannot recall the open animosity then that seems to exist today. Back then, Fon Portago used an odd term—“unkind”—in describing driver comportment. He told me: “You are not unkind to someone on the race course because they can be unkind in return.”

It can be said with certainly that unkindnesses have occurred in modern day racing. Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost were more than rivals. Senna actually used his car as a weapon against Prost in a Grand Prix in Japan and removing them both from the race. And Schumacher and Damon Hill have had their problems. Schumacher lost his chance at a third championship when he abruptly turned in on Jacques Villeneuve at Spain in 1997 but, instead of deterring the Canadian, Schumacher ended up stuck in a gravel pit.

No laughter here, at least not the sort born of good humor.

On the same Casey Key beach where Louise and I spoke of the laughter of the old days she fell into conversation on another afternoon with neighboring dog walkers. They had a residence in Monte Carlo. Louise told of her time in Monte Carlo on Mipooka. “I was married to Peter Collins, the racing driver. We lived there,” she explained. As coincidence would have it the Monte Carlo pair knew of Peter Collins and the August before had been at the Nurburgring for a vintage car event. They had participated in an impromptu memorial program at the site on the ‘Ring where Peter had been killed.

The old days had laughter and caring, yes, but they had death as well. It was almost common in those days. The crashes. The funerals. Drivers raced with that awareness always with them—unmentioned, but hard to ignore.

Today’s drivers began their careers and proceeded without that spectre. It was simply absent from the scene. So much so that Ayrton Senna, the extraordinary champion from Brazil, was deeply shocked when Austrian Roland Ratzenberger was killed in practice for the Grand Prix of San Marino in 1994. The possibility of dying in a race car seemed to come as a startling novelty to him. So affected by the revelation was Senna that he sought out Prost to apologize for his past behavior which he now recognized as life-threatening. Ironically Senna himself was killed the next day in the race. These were the first fatalities in twelve years in Formula 1.

The crash at the Nurburgring that killed Peter Collins was in August 1958. He and Louise had been married eighteen months and since their first date in Miami had been apart only the one day when Peter and Mike Hawthorn went to practice for the Mille Miglia. That’s what Louise remembers. That and the laughter.

Peter Collins and friend

Those were the days.