My Word: Fifty Years Ago Paddy Won

April 9, 2014 Comments (1)

But So Did We, With a Falcon!

By Denise McCluggage

The invitation read that fifty years ago Paddy Hopkirk won the Monte Carlo Rally in a Mini Cooper S. To honor that accomplishment there would be a gathering at one of my favorite places, the Candy Store in Burlingame, California. Alas, I sent regrets. Broke a bone the previous month and I’m still hobbling.

It was Paddy’s 80th birthday, too.

I'd been on the BMC (British Motor Corp) rally team along with the incredible Paddy in the early 1960s. Americans on British works teams were rare. Actually nonexistent except for me when it comes to that. Besides BMC I drove for Ford of England and for Rover. And for a couple of American factory teams too—General Motors and Ford. Didn't know they did that sort of thing, did you?

Which brings to mind the year that Paddy took the Mini to victory in the Monte—1964—I also had a bit of a success in that winter dash about the snow-bandaged Alps. In a Ford Falcon no less with Anne Hall, a.k.a. the Flying Yorkshirewoman. Outcome: we won the Lady's Cup and our class. Hey, Ford, remember that? Fifty years ago. The Monte Carlo!

Denise McCluggage and Anne Hall in the Ford Falcon -- Monte Carlo Rally

Well-l-l, never mind the roses. I got a lot of flowers when I broke that bone.

At that time rallies did exist in America but differed greatly from those in Europe. The European rallies were thinly-veiled road races lasting for days. American fans of today’s televised World Rally Championship would not recognize the sedate, intellectually-themed constructs that were American rallies then. Constrained by speed limits and no cultural history, American rallies were mathematical exercises. Time-distance events that depended less on high-performance driving skills and more on the ability for quick calculations, attention to detail, ability to follow instructions and not mess up.

In those contests check points were often unexpected, some even hidden, so adhering to the called-for speed—something like 22.7 mph changing for a few miles to 29.3 then to 30.6 and back—meant being at the correct speed always or risking penalties. Being early could cost even more than being late. Precision mattered and the navigator called the shots.

In Europe, on the other hand, we tried to be as early as possible to the next check point so we could have time for servicing the rally car from the support vehicles, usually station wagons that were driven shorter routes and/or driven as hard as competitors to stake out a spot near the approach to the check point to tend to our needs. Tire changes maybe, headlight aiming, etc. Arriving early was also the only way we could grab a few minutes of sleep or a quick bite of something.

In America the time-distance experts used what technology was available to aid their calculations. The latest thing was a dandy gadget called a Curta calculator. The Curta looked for all the world like a pepper mill right down to its little crank. It was a new twist on the slide rule and used by the brainiacs until computers—not long from being the size of the boy’s gym in junior high—shrank to passenger-seat use. The navigator adept with a Curta was in demand.

Still we scornful philistines who just wanted to drive as unrestrained as possible had figured out the secret to having fun in an American rally. Simply get gloriously lost early on and spend the rest of the event really hanging it out to more or less catch up.

Actually time-distance events are an art form of their own. And fun in their heady way. Some rally proponents, like Satch Carlson, are close to addiction in their devotion to them. I simply prefer the present WRC or the old European model. Didn’t a Harvard president take lots of heat for implying girls weren’t good at math? Sadly, he was right-on in my case. And I missed out on music, too. (I’ll blow a door off if you like.)

The Monte Carlo designated a number of European cities as starting points with all roads aimed for the Alpes-Maritimes, the favored neighborhood for most continental rallies. The teams I drove for seemed to favor Paris for a bon start. All entrants were doing the same transition routes and special stages as we got closer to Monte Carlo.

Studded tires were new about this time and were supposed to be the hot ticket. Studs were obviously best for traction on packed snow. Any further art had not developed to a fine state. The studs in the tires mounted on the Falcon were too long and on the hard ice and the frequent bare pavement they had nothing to dig into. It was like wearing golf shoes on a tile floor. Even worse because the studs were long enough to bend over. The car was all over the place with little rubber ever touching the road surface.

Anne was up to the task as weird as it was and good thing too. We had no time to change tires, even if we could find our support as we plunged down to the Mediterranean. Anne kept on top of the slithers and slides of the Falcon as we hair-pinned the last stretch into Monte Carlo.

The next day with new tires and the studs gone she might have had an easier time going for speed on the course of the Monte Carlo Grand Prix—solo in the car—but Anne’s forte was in the flying elbows of the rallyist of the day. She was a tiger on every turn. Looked fantastic.

So as Paddy and the Mini won the whole thing we took our little part of it, too.

Congratulations to all deserving. And, Happy Birthday Mr. Hopkirk.

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Comments (1)

  1. Creighton Demarest:
    Apr 14, 2014 at 07:07 AM

    Hi Denise, Great memories of a great time for Rally. I would love to mail you a copy of Automobile Quarterly Vol. 17 No. 4 if yours is missing from your shelf. A ten page story about the 1963/4 Ford Rally team including a photo of you and Anne Hall leaning against the hood of ZE-1054. Story by George F. Merwin. Hope to see you again at a Lime Rock Vintage Fall Fest. You and Tom Burnside were my swap space neighbors many years ago. Please keep your great motor sport stories coming. They are of a time when the sport had passion. Creighton Demarest, DEMAREST MOTOR BOOKS, Darien, Connecticut.


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