The Sponsons Thread

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quicksilver-wsr
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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! ;)

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

Post by Mike Bull » Sat Jan 01, 2011 7:34 pm

quicksilver-wsr wrote:The best pictures I have seen of the sponsons are the ones I believe Fred Blois took back in 1968?
Fred mentions in his posting of June 2nd 2010 in this thread that it was August 67 when he saw the sponsons.

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

Post by quicksilver-wsr » Sat Jan 01, 2011 7:38 pm

Mike Bull wrote:Fred mentions in his posting of June 2nd 2010 in this thread that it was August 67 when he saw the sponsons.
OK, Mike - fair enough - thanks.

They are the best post-crash photos I've seen of the sponsons.

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

Post by Renegadenemo » Sat Jan 01, 2011 7:53 pm

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".
Missing the point here, I fear. Ken told me not to bother looking for them because they weren't there to be found. I was heading down there with a ground penetrating radar, remember? Believe me, if there'd been a chance of having them back, Ken would have jumped at it, broken or otherwise. Don't forget also that at that time he had the F-19 crossmember being tested for everything except Chlamydia in the hope of re-using it so even mashed sponsons would be better than no sponsons.

I could believe (just) that they went in the landfill at the end of the site but that would have to be after the confirmed sighting of them on the other side of RMCs fence after Tidy's yard was divided and it still assumes that someone was prepared to throw away half a ton of scrap rather than weigh it in. This assumption also has to hold up with the builders accidentally burying them. They'd not be so daft either... they might say they'd buried them but I'd wager that, if any builders were involved, they'd be far more likely to nick them and weigh them in.
I'm only a plumber from Cannock...

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

Post by quicksilver-wsr » Sat Jan 01, 2011 7:57 pm

All fair points there, Bill, and I cannot argue with you on any of that.

It all comes back to the fundamental fact that we have a mystery on our hands. And unless someone can come up with some compelling new evidence, the situation is in stalemate ... and may ever be thus.

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

Post by Renegadenemo » Sat Jan 01, 2011 8:18 pm

I don't know whether you're aware but I also mobilised the local TV, radio and print media down there a couple of years ago into a hunt for the sponsons. Meridian (I think) TV ran a piece on it as well as most of the local rags. A couple of journos made it their mission and I was interviewed for the radio too but it all came to nothing despite a very exhaustive search. I do, however, have one last, untapped line of inquiry so maybe the time has come. Watch this space.
I'm only a plumber from Cannock...

"As to reward, my profession is its own reward;" Sherlock Holmes.

'Sometimes you gotta be an S.O.B if you wanna make a dream reality' Mark Knopfler

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