Sigmund Freud and his disciples have had a lot of fun with Shakespeare’s plays, especially the character of Hamlet. The Oedipus Complex has loomed large, but Oedipus himself did not have a complex…he actually did kill his father and sleep with mother—the scamp.
My Ph.D. is in Shakespeare and if Freudians can use my discipline, then I can use theirs. As such, I propose the Autolycus Complex. Autolycus is a character in “The Winter’s Tale,” who describes himself as “a snapper-up of unconsidered trifles.”
It was Duncan Rabagliati, chairman of the Formula Junior Association, who suggested that he was a snapper-up of unconsidered trifles, as he filled lock-up garages in South London with obscure cars. For Duncan, an Emeryson 500-cc Formula Three car beats any number of Coopers. We, of course, clicked immediately because we are both Autolycans. If I say that Duncan now has an Arnott-Climax—fitted with an Arnott super-charger and formerly the property of Daphne Arnott, the only female constructor in the history of Le Mans—you will get the picture.
In Autolycan terms, my most vivid memory of this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed was not the current F1 cars and drivers, it was the Bugatti T251 (pictured above). The T251 was the work of Giochino Colombo, sole designer of the first car to bear the name, Ferrari. However, in the case of the Bugatti—despite many excuses made for it—I think it was a case of a fine engineer taking a wrong turn and doing some- thing that only a brilliant mind going in the wrong direction can do. It raced only once, in the 1956 French GP at Reims, but it was 18.7 seconds off the pace during practice.
From an Autolycan point of view, does Bugatti, Colombo and one race beat the other Goodwood contender, the Monaco-Trossi? The Monaco-Trossi, which had a radial engine, was too dreadful to race. But Augusto Monaco was not Colombo. Monaco was an aero engineer who had built a successful special with Enrico Nardi, but was fighting way above his weight. Bugatti T251 or Monaco-Trossi? That is a tough call.
An Autolycan must not be confused with an Anorak, which describes people in anoraks (parkas) and woolly hats who stand at the end of railway platforms jotting down the serial numbers of locomotives. I once knew a guy who jotted down not only the number of the locomotive, but also the numbers of the rolling stock and submitted unusual combinations to journals run for advanced Anoraks. He learned railway timetables by heart, which actually could be quite useful.
What did his girlfriend think? Who would that be?
Autolycans are not Anoraks. An Autolycan will look at something like the Bugatti, while the Anorak will not see it because he is too busy logging in chassis numbers.
Once at Silverstone, a friend said, “There is a stall in the tented village selling clothing and, you won’t believe this, they have the Dommartin.” I was off like a shot.
The Dommartin began life as the SEFAC, a French project funded by public subscription. It was entered in the 1935 French GP which was run to the 750kg formula, but it weighed 931kg and not even the French could get round that.
Eventually, the SEFAC completed several laps in a couple of races. In 1948, the Dommartin company gave it a new body, discarded the supercharger, bored out the engine and then ran out of money before the beast could venture on its career of inevitable failure. I don’t know if the stall sold any clothing, but it received a visit from every Autolycan at the meeting.
The Dommartin was truly magnificent in its ineptitude, but there is another side of the coin.
Recently, I visited Autoglym, which makes car polishes. I thought I knew about polishing because I have done it. It remains a once-in-a-lifetime experience, like the time I ate a whelk. I now know more about polish, from a theoretical point of view, than is healthy for anyone.
When a car’s finish is buffed, the buffing tool generates heat, which a steel body dissipates. However, I was informed that the McLaren F1’s body was carbon fiber, which does not dissipate heat, so Autoglym, I was told, had to formulate a new compound. I thought, “Yeah, yeah, now tell me a really funny story.” But, at the back of the works, there were front and rear McLaren body panels which had been supplied to practice on.
I have ridden in a McLaren. I have even seen two parked outside a local pub one lunchtime. To see perfect McLaren panels on a scrap heap, however, was an Autolycan Moment. I knew that Gordon Murray had had a special stereo designed for the F1, but bespoke car wax?
A few years ago, I was on a car launch in the South of France and the route took in a visit to a motor museum. My colleagues, who were motoring, not motor racing, journalists, were thrilled by the Renault F1 and sports cars. Me? I was transfixed by one of the CD Panhard coupés made by Charles Deutsch after he split from René Bonnet.
Deutsch and Bonnet had made the DBs, Bonnet was the engine and chassis man, while Deutsch was the aerodynamicist whose designs were incredibly advanced for their time. The CD Panhard was as slippery as waxed ice, yet was imbued with indefinable French chic. There was a time when you could tell a car’s country of origin by its lines.
In 1962, a CD Panhard won its class and the Index of Performance at Le Mans. It was the 10th win in the Index, in 13 years, with which Deutsch had been associated, and in those days the Index carried the same prize money as an outright win. Deutsch, however, was a civil servant pursuing a hobby and, as a government employee, he was not allowed to be a formal partner in DB.
Charles Deutsch, brilliant, successful but largely forgotten, is in the Autolycan’s Pantheon of Heroes, which is something that an Anorak would never understand.