Tag Archives: Bertha

Baby Bertha – Vauxhall Holden Repco Firenza

After disposing of “Old Nail” at the end of 1974 Bill Blydenstein received funding from Dealer Team Vauxhall to create a new Super Saloon based on a 4 door Vauxhall Ventora saloon shell and fitted with a 476 hp 5 litre / 302 cui Repco tuned Holden V8, Borg Warner T10 gearbox, Salisbury Power Lock differential, AP racing disc drakes, double wishbone suspension on the front with 12″ x 15″ slicks and de Dion rear suspension with 15″ x 15″ slicks.

Vauxhall Holden Repco Firenza, Race Retro, Stoneleigh

Driver Gerry Marshall soon dubbed the car Big Bertha and won three of the six races he started in the beast before it shed some brake pads and ended up in the Silverstone crash barriers, it’s meticulously built shell beyond repair.

Vauxhall Holden Repco Firenza, Race Retro, Stoneleigh

Vauxhall had second thoughts about offering a V8 Ventora to the public in light of the fuel crises, so Bill and DTV decided to build today’s featured Droop Snoot Firenza out of all the bits salvaged from the wrecked shell of Big Bertha.

Vauxhall Holden Repco Firenza, Goodwood Festival of Speed,

It was not long before the car became known as Baby Bertha and over the next three years Gerry raced the car in 40 events and won 37 of them, retired from 2 and was beaten only once by a cheeky little 270 hp Hillman Imp driven by Jonathon Buncombe that was built on a 1971 Chevron B19 sports car chassis and known as The Chimp, soon after it’s win The Chimp was effectively banned from Super Saloon events because of protests regarding it’s wheel base which was longer than the mandated standard Imp length.

Vauxhall Holden Repco Firenza, Piers Ward, Goodwood Festival of Speed,

Paul Haywood-Halfpenny bought Baby Bertha in 1978 and had a disastrous season with it that he reckoned cost him £1,000 per lap, at a time when the average wage was only £5000.

Vauxhall Holden Repco Firenza, Goodwood Festival of Speed,

In the 1980’s current owner Joe Ward bought Baby Bertha after Gerry Marshall, among others, had owned it and raced it one more time to a second place finish at Thruxton. Joe’s son Piers is seen at the wheel in the photo above at Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Thanks for joining me on this “Baby Bertha” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !


Visited Mother Invented Brake Pads – Benz Patent Motorwagen (Replica)

This months continental Tuesday blogs will feature 4 Veteran cars, defined by the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain (VCC) as being built up to and including December 1904.

There is no doubt that the first self propelled vehicles to use public highways were powered by external combustion, steam, engines, the earliest such vehicle was built by Frenchman Nicolas Cugnot in 1770 to pull heavy artillery, unfortunately Cugnot had not got the weight distribution sufficiently sorted to steer the vehicle with any degree of accuracy so it never went into production.

There followed Scotsman William Murdoch, the pioneer of gas lighting, who built and demonstrated two fully working models of a three-wheeled locomotive with a single cylinder powered by a boiler fired by a spirit lamp around 1786. These models are thought to have influenced a design by his neighbour Richard Trevithick and partner Andrew Vivian who patented their own steam coach in 1802.

Walter Hancock is then said to have built 10 variously successful steam cars before 1810. A steam coach by Goldsworthy Gurney (later Sir) carried passengers on the London to Bath Road in 1827, later still Walter Hancock built an Omnibus named “Enterprise” in 1833 which ran between the Paddington and Bank railway stations in London.

It is believed that Karl Friedrich Benz started thinking about a self propelled vehicle with an internal combustion engine while studying engineering at the University of Karlsruhe which he attended in 1860 and from which he graduated 1864 aged just 19.

Benz Patent Motorwagen, Mercedes Benz World, Brooklands

His post graduate professional training included working as a mechanical engineer, a draftsman and designer in a scales factory, working for a bridge building company and cast iron construction company.

Benz Patent Motorwagen, Goodwood Festival of Speed

In 1871 Benz founded an iron foundry and mechanical workshop with August Ritter a year later Karl’s fiancée Bertha Ringer bought out Ritter, who proved to be unreliable, with her dowry.

Benz Patent Motorwagen, Mercedes Benz World, Brooklands

From 1878 Benz focused his attentions on new patents which included; a 2 stroke petrol motor, throttle, carburettor, ignition using spark plugs (separately patented) and battery, clutch, gearshift and water radiator. Benz was forced by his banking partners to turn his company into the joint stock Gasmotoren Fabrik Mannheim in 1882 which he left in 1883 due to the diminution of his standing as owner of just 5% of the new companies shares.

Benz Patent Motorwagen, Mercedes Benz World, Brooklands

The following year Benz went into partnership with Max Rose and Friedrich Wilhelm Eßlinger the owners of a bicycle repair shop to form Benz & Company Rheinische Gasmotoren-Fabrik which produced static petrol motors.

Benz Patent Motorwagen, Goodwood Festival of Speed

This successful venture gave Benz time to devise the Benz Patent Motorwagen, with tiller steering, a four stroke petrol motor, coil ignition and evaporative cooling and wooden blocks for brakes, acting on the rear axle, by the end of 1885, the following November it too was granted a patent making Karl Benz the inventor of the first internal combustion powered automobile.

Benz Patent Motorwagen, Mercedes Benz World, Brooklands

After tests in public, which included accidentally crashing into a wall thanks to the tricky steering, improved second and third versions were built in 1887 which featured various improvements including a carburetor on the second and wooden wheels on the third.

Benz Patent Motorwagen, Mercedes Benz World, Brooklands

Bertha Benz took the third vehicle for a 110 mile spin with her sons to see her mother without her husband Karl, who invented and built the machine, even knowing about it in 1888. She stopped at a pharmacist to refuel with petrol which was sold primarily as cleaning fluid.

When the brakes began showing signs of wear Bertha asked a cobbler to nail some leather to the friction surface of the brake blocks and in so doing invented the first brake pads.

Bertha’s journey highlighted the need for a second gear to get up the hills unaided, but demonstrated the viability of Karls design of which 25 examples are thought to have been built between 1888 and 1893.

Today’s featured car is a replica of the original design owned by Mercedes Benz and is often to be found at Mercedes Benz World, Brooklands.

Thanks for joining me on this “Visited Mother Invented Brake Pads” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !

Brighton Speed Trials Under Threat of Permanent Cancellation !

In their infinite wisdom, Brighton & Hove City Council are seeking to ban the Brighton Speed Trials from 2014.

If you care about speed and or motorsport history, please sign this linked petition to save Brighton Speed Trials in 2014 and beyond.

It’s a faf to Register before signing, but relatively painless compared to loosing the event which has been run with few interruptions since 1905.

You do not need to be resident in Brighton or even the UK to sign.

More on Brighton Speed Trials on this link.

Thanks and please spread the word through whatever social media you have at your disposal.


Classic Expo – Race Retro, Stoneleigh, Coventry 2/2.

Today I am concluding my overview of the Race Retro exhibition I started yesterday.

One of the things I loved about this exhibition was exhibitors enthusiasm to show visitors

what was under the bonnet of their exhibits.

Several exhibitors displayed their handy work and craftsmanship in the form of finished motors for display.

There was far more to see than my six hour visit would allow, I did not get a chance to look in any detail at the many motor cycles on display.

The event is best described as a mini Goodwood Festival of Speed,

slightly more intimate because of the smaller crowds but still like being a kid in a toy shop.

With thanks to Tim Murray and the Bristol Pegasus Motor Club without home this blog would not have been possible.

Hope you have enjoyed my overview of the Race Retro Exhibition and that you’ll join me again tomorrow for for a look at the first of a couple of vehicle manufacturers I do not recall hearing of before visiting Race Retro. Don’t forget to come back now !