The Sponsons Thread

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f1steveuk
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y Neil Shep

Post by f1steveuk » Sat Jan 01, 2011 10:12 am

Ina a word Bill, no! :D

I'm not going to argue with the people who were standing there, and when I say "attacked" with a hoe arm, simply that, dragging them from where they were, to in the hole. I am not suggesting they were folded in half, simply "JCB handled" into a hole.

For comparision, Mark Tidy snr was also peed off at the time, a De Dion four seater chassis also dissapeared, possibly into the same series of holes, they're not small either!
Steve Holter, UK and France, and sometimes reality....................

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Renegadenemo
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Post by Renegadenemo » Sat Jan 01, 2011 12:30 pm

The only 'hole' theroy that I ever thought feasible was the landfill at the end of the site. The old clay pit dug out to make the pottery that was the original purpose of the site, but it wasn't built upon at the time and we're still left with the assumption that someone would throw away half a ton of ally rather than weigh it in. One thing sounds right though, you'd need a JCB to handle them and I was told that anything that went in there was thoroughly compacted first - sounds bad.
I'm only a plumber from Cannock...

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Post by quicksilver-wsr » Sat Jan 01, 2011 3:38 pm

Renegadenemo wrote:Then there's the small matter of the builder, skinflints very one of them, who dug a hole that was too big, for some reason and almost had to pay for extra concrete to fill it if someone hadn't fortuitously landed on the scene with half a ton of scrap ally that they didn't feel the need to turn into beer tokens - what an accident!

As for hitting the sponsons with the back-actor of a JCB, now that I'd like to see. Why you'd try in the first place, I can't imagine, and the high-duty castings that spanned the sponsons end to end would have taken more of a beating than your average JCB driver could be bothered to give them, assuming he didn't wait 'til no one was looking and haul the damn things straight to the scrapyard to swap for beer tokens...
Come on guys... can we have a scenario that at least stands up to even basic scrutiny?
I think an important part of the account given to me by Ken Norris is being forgotten in what you write, Bill ...

The builders actually buried the sponsons believing they were following an instruction from Ken. In other words, they were doing what they were told to do.

Where the "accident" occurred is that Ken didn't mean, "Put them in that hole" - he meant, "Put them over there" (the words "over there" being accompanied by a vague sweep of Ken's hand).

Ken - as a personality - was meticulous, absolutely, it's true ... but he also had a habit of being vague when issuing certain instructions. I saw this time and time again when we worked together on Quicksilver and it resulted in no end of problems. My theory as to why he did this was that he was used to having other people take care of the details (bear in mind that Norris Brothers was a major enterprise - I have heard that as many as 700 people were employed at its peak: no doubt Steve has the actual number).

So, basically - whatever the precise number of people he employed - there were always minions (terrible word, and not one I usually use, but it will suffice for these purposes) who would do Ken's bidding. Ken would make a broad-brush sweep of the hand and assume the job would be done right ...

Cue an endless list of instances when this proved disastrous - such as when we built the wrong windtunnel model, or even purchased the wrong jet engine ... wasting time and money and causing great consternation ... when it could all have been done "right first time" if only Ken had been concise about his original requirement.

Big things do get buried ... remember Babs?

It was customary in the old days to bury the wreckage of vehicles in which drivers had perished. I'm not saying it was universal practice, by any means - witness Miss England 2, which was recovered, repaired and run again straight away - but it was certainly a known and accepted practice.

As recently as 1970, when poor Piers Courage was killed in a Formula 1 crash at Zandvoort, the wreckage was chopped up into pieces and buried to keep it out of the hands of grisly souvenir-hunters. And I am given to understand from people who were very much "in the know" - senior Shadow people - that the wreckage of Peter Revson's Formula 1 Shadow was similarly disposed of (i.e. cut up and buried) after his fatal crash at Kyalami in 1974.

We'll never know the full story, Bill, but I believe there is a mad logic in what happened to K7's sponsons. Ken was in his 80th year when he told you a variation of the story. Who knows why his story wavered a little then? We'll never know.

But I am prepared to go with the story I know - the story as it came direct from his lips, at a time when he was in full possession of his faculties - until such time as any future events prove this story wrong.
Last edited by quicksilver-wsr on Sat Jan 01, 2011 3:44 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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Post by Renegadenemo » Sat Jan 01, 2011 3:41 pm

Where the "accident" occurred is that Ken didn't mean, "Put them in that hole" - he meant, "Put them over there" (the words "over there" being accompanied by a vague sweep of Ken's hand).
Now there's a contradiction because he told me, when in possession of all his faculties, etc, that he had no idea they were missing until he went looking for them later...
I'm only a plumber from Cannock...

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Post by quicksilver-wsr » Sat Jan 01, 2011 3:51 pm

Renegadenemo wrote:
Where the "accident" occurred is that Ken didn't mean, "Put them in that hole" - he meant, "Put them over there" (the words "over there" being accompanied by a vague sweep of Ken's hand).
Now there's a contradiction because he told me, when in possession of all his faculties, etc, that he had no idea they were missing until he went looking for them later...
(You've come back very quickly with a response, whilst I was correcting the literals in my post - hence my high number of edits)

Was Ken in full possession of his faculties in his 80th year? Difficult one, that.

I think not, but I think it would be unfair to go into all that now - as to why I believe that he was not.

As I say, I personally don't think we'll ever get to the bottom of it ... not fully ... but time may prove me wrong.

I want to stand up for Ken's original account, because I think it is the right thing to do.

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Re: Lakeland Motor Museum/'Across The Lake' Mock Up/Sponsons

Post by quicksilver-wsr » Sat Jan 01, 2011 4:18 pm

Hi Mike,

I'm not sure I can add much more to this topic. Just to clarify: I'm not battling head-to-head with Bill on this one, because I believe that somewhere our stories would find a point of convergence. However, I don't think we will ever find that "somewhere," because too much was locked away in Ken's mind and we'll never get it back.

In the case of the hole the sponsons were buried in, if the hole wasn't big enough the builders would just have dug it a little deeper to make sure that it was. Remember, these guys thought they were following instructions - they were doing what they had been told to do ... or, more specifically, what they thought they had been told to do.

So if that required the hole to be made bigger, they'd make it bigger, and if it required the sponsons to be chopped in two, or three, they'd chop them in two, or three, and if a bulldozer was needed to complete the job, then they'd get a bulldozer and finish the job, then pour concrete over the top, and - Hey Presto! - the sponsons are to all intents and purposes (albeit accidentally) "scrapped" ... the very word Ken used to Bill many years after he talked to me about it.

The word "scrapped" is used a lot by the older generation - as is the phrase "A write-off" - even when, strictly speaking, the item(s) they are referring to were, in fact, neither scrapped nor written-off. But the term simply means ... "broken", "finished", "worthless", "gone".

Sad, but brutally true, I suspect.

That is not to say that they could not be dug up and restored, if their whereabouts were known for certain, and if permission were granted, but that is a whole different argument that I have no intention of participating in, because I have a high regard for all who have expressed opinions on this and I have no wish to get into disputed territory when I already have my hands full with my own sponsons! ;)

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Re: Lakeland Motor Museum/'Across The Lake' Mock Up/Sponsons

Post by Terminator » Sat Jan 01, 2011 5:21 pm

Nigel just one question if i may to refresh my memory on something. Did you ever see the sponsons yourself perhaps when you first met Ken re rocket car revival? If so what year was that and how were they being stored at the time? And the last time you saw them if you can recall. I remember a pic of Leo working on the Jetstar I think it was and the sponsons could just be made out in the background. I seem to recall they had been moved from one place to the other over the years as they kept getting in the way. Happy New Year hope you got the Xmas card as was running really late this year and the Royal failure are getting worse with stamps set to rise again for an inept service!

Regards
Novie

P.s Thanks for the thread moving around Mike was going to suggest it but great minds think alike as they say.
"Never ride faster than your Angel can fly"

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Re: Lakeland Motor Museum/'Across The Lake' Mock Up/Sponsons

Post by quicksilver-wsr » Sat Jan 01, 2011 6:11 pm

Hello Novie - and "Happy New Year" to you, mate!

I got your card in the run-up to Christmas - we usually manage to keep in touch that way, don't we: if nothing else - and I'm sorry you didn't get yours from me this year, but I didn't get many cards out at all this time, having had an undignified run-up to the festive period: sweeping out and mopping up hundreds of gallons of water from our premises, and lifting things onto tables and chairs, after the hard frost burst pipes high up in the roof space, brought a ceiling down and flooded the entire building in several inches of water.

We reckon the water had been running for up to three days and nights before we got onto it - we had'nt been going there, due to the snow.

Even the auditorium was flooded - the carpets in there ruined - but by some miracle all of the really important things were up off ground level ... the boat, the engines, electronics and so forth ... but it was a bloody big mess and we have had to set to several times since with brushes and mops as frozen water that was in the pipes thawed-out and caused secondary flooding.

Anyway ... Novie, I feel bad because I'd like to be able to give you a more helpful answer, but I can't. Back in the days of my youth I did indeed get to know Leo Villa and Ken Norris - this was 1973-75 - when I approached Leo to see if there was any way we could have a bash at getting the Bluebird Mach 1.1 rocket-car project revitalised. My meetings with them were mainly at Leo's home in Reigate (39, Slipshatch Road) and we also met-up in London, but I only visited the Norris Brothers place in Haywards Heath (Burrell Road) once, and that was for a meeting with Ken Norris and Bill Coley.

The meeting there was strictly an office affair and I never saw anything there of any note. I am afraid that I have never, personally, set eyes on the sponsons. The only bits I saw back in those days were the sponson fairing pieces Leo had in his garage.

The best pictures I have seen of the sponsons are the ones I believe Fred Blois took back in 1968? The Bluebird Mach 1.1 mock-up is in the background, as I recall.

So, you see, I have not been of much help to you on this occasion. It is not that I don't want to help. It is just that the sponsons were not something I got involved in, aside from the conversation I had with Ken Norris around 1990-time, when he told me what had happened to them.

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Re: Lakeland Motor Museum/'Across The Lake' Mock Up/Sponsons

Post by f1steveuk » Sat Jan 01, 2011 7:00 pm

The only thing I would add for Novie, is that the sponsons, and ALL the recovered material from Coniston was diverted to Ditchling Common while on route in 1967, to keep it away from the press, and as such was always there, and as far as I am aware, outdoors. So was leo working on Jetstar outside and at Ditchling, because I thought Jetstar was always at the Bolney works?

I'm with Nigel on this one, I'm 100% convinced there under the ground at Tidy's and I doubt very accessable, the shame being a bloody expensive pair or items to replicate.

I'd never heard that Courage's car had been buried, was that in Holland Nigel? His son Jason asked me once where the wreck had gone, and my boss at the time (short man, too much money, hair cur like an African hut) pointed me towards a Swiss guy who had a collection of well know wreck of GP cars, including Siffert's BRM and Rindt's Lotus 72, which is by coincedence, halfway through being rebuilt! My ex boss was convinced said Swiss man had the De Tomaso 501 with the others, so I'm curious now!
Steve Holter, UK and France, and sometimes reality....................

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Re: Lakeland Motor Museum/'Across The Lake' Mock Up/Sponsons

Post by quicksilver-wsr » Sat Jan 01, 2011 7:24 pm

f1steveuk wrote:I'd never heard that Courage's car had been buried, was that in Holland Nigel? His son Jason asked me once where the wreck had gone, and my boss at the time (short man, too much money, hair cur like an African hut) pointed me towards a Swiss guy who had a collection of well know wreck of GP cars, including Siffert's BRM and Rindt's Lotus 72, which is by coincedence, halfway through being rebuilt! My ex boss was convinced said Swiss man had the De Tomaso 501 with the others, so I'm curious now!
Happy New Year to you, Steve!

My knowledge about the fate of the remains of Piers Courage's car came from a published account, rather than a personal anecdote. But I'm pretty sure it was a contemporary account - maybe from Motor Sport magazine in the months following the accident.

I was gifted a large collection of old Motor Sport magazines by a friend maybe 15 years ago, and I had a good read through them to catch up on all the years I'd missed before I became a motorsport enthusiast (1974). Wonderful!

Basically, as I'm sure you know, the Frank Williams/De Tomaso chassis was made of magnesium. A dreadful fire took hold at once as the fuel tanks were ruptured in the crash. The magnesium burned and burned and couldn't be extinguished. So perhaps the burial of the wreckage was done at the time to try to stop the burning process. As far as my recollection of the published account goes, the chassis was still burning two days after the crash - that's how bad it was with the magnesium.

My recollection of the account - which was not a sensationalised account, but written in a very sober manner - was that Frank Williams ordered the chassis wreckage to be cut up into little pieces, so the souvenir-hunters couldn't get hold of anything.

Williams, as you know, was a good friend of Piers Courage, so it must have been a big tragedy for him on a personal level.

That is all I have, Steve. I believe the little pieces were buried - or you might say, reburied, if the story is true that the chassis was originally buried in a vain attempt to stop the fire - so that there would be nothing left.

In the case of Pete Revson's car ... I used to own a basket case Formula 1 Shadow (a 1973 car, the DN1) which I had intended to restore, but instead I sold it to help fund the embryonic Quicksilver project. Inevitably, you build up contacts while you have a car like that and I got to know some of the ex-Shadow people quite well. It was one of these contacts who told me that Shadow's Phil Kerr saw to it that Revson's car was chopped up into pieces to keep it out of the wrong hands, and the pieces buried.
Last edited by quicksilver-wsr on Sat Jan 01, 2011 7:41 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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