Eric Broadley just after he stopped work on the Ford GT40
Car Designer & Builder - Lola
IT IS ALWAYS a matter of great interest to those of us in the game as to just what motivates the racing car constructors. Reams of publicity have been issued on such celebrated figures as Colin Chapman, Ettore Bugatti, Enzo Ferrari, or even Mickey Thompson, but up till now there has been comparatively little said concerning Eric Broadley. This 36-year-old Londoner would rather- keep it that way even if he is liable to affect the motoring lives of many more millions of ordinary drivers than have ever had anything to do with the other three. It is to Broadley that Ford turned in its search for a suitable vehicle with which to break into the big, bad world of international GT competition and thus, we hope, pass the lessons learned onto its production cars.
In "civilian" life, Eric was formerly involved in the construction business, dealing with houses, garages, and what have you. As this is not the most thrilling occupation in the world, he soon commenced to mess about with cars, more specifically those complying with the so-called" 1172 Formula," based on prewar L-head Fords (Br.), which offered racing on the cheap. He had always been fascinated with the technical solutions to problems, in his youth occupying himself with building tiny internal combustion engines for model boats and planes, and the challenge of finding a better way to build a racing car within this strict framework soon occupied most of his time. Due to his work on roadholding and chassis, plus his not in considerable skill as a driver, he soon became the scourge of the races "of the 750 Club. Eric then decided to branch out a bit. His first 1100-cc Climax powered sports car was an even bigger success, in the hands of Peter Ashdown and others, so naturally the enthusiasts came pleading for replicas. Racing car construction being incompatible with house construction, something had to go. In this case the good folk of Bromley were to remain roofless.
As excellent work brings its own rewards, the business rapidly escalated and in due time Eric was turning out sports cars big and small, building F-Jrs, and then constructing a team of Formula I cars for the Bowmaker hire-purchase organization. Even with the help of Fearless John Surtees these were not outstandingly successful, largely due to a lack of sufficient time for development plus racing bad luck, and eventually Eric retired to his cave to produce the shattering Ford V-8-powered Lola sports coupe for the London Racing Car Show. This advanced vehicle immediately caught the eye of Ford boffins and before you could say Iacocca the Lolas were Ford GTs (although they were really prototypes, as not enough had been made to be homologated) and were butting their heads against the Ferraris. As is all too common with new designs, the Fords made a great impression without actually winning anything (Phil Hill holds the fastest lap at Le Mans with one) as the Colotti gearboxes and suspension proved to be a bit fragile. Broadley was retained for a year by Ford to help with the sorting out and when at the end of 1964 Ford continued with the car under the direction of Shelby at home and John Wyer here, Eric thankfully pulled out to pursue his own devices, straightaway producing the open Type 70 as a Lola Ford derivative. A line of F-J1 and F-Jr cars also occupies his attention plus a pair of Ford-powered Indy vehicles which he reluctantly took on. These last, in the classic pattern, are a bit late but then it is Eric's policy not to give the customer too much time to crash it before the race.
If you can ever get him to talk, Broadley has strong and unconventional views about the racing scene. Unlike most, his aim is not to be taken under the wing of a big manufacturer, but eventually to build up his own business in the Ferrari manner, to build GTs for sale and race them as well. The competition aspect has a twofold importance to Eric: Prestige is the main selling point, but he also feels that you cannot build a good GT car unless you solve the technical problems by racing. By this means of development, everything liable to break will have been sorted out before the customer gets his hands on the car. Like Ferrari, Eric feels that a sturdy car made well is very important, as in the final analysis the customer must be your livelihood. This is specially true with a manufacturer of limited production GTs, as the costs of racing are so horrifying that there has to be a solid sales base to keep the firm going. Single-seaters, particularly Formula I cars, are practically ruled out of his future plans for this reason, unless ordered and operated by a knowledgeable customer, as it costs a fantastic amount to keep a F-I team operating. Broadley's natural preference is for big GTs selling in the luxury bracket, as middle sized ones properly made cost almost as much to construct; he was rather vague on what he had in mind for the immediate future but one rather imagines that it would be a roadster or coupe based on the monocoque Type 70.
On the current state of the art, Eric feels that the new 3-liter F-I is a step in the right direction, but that something must be done to make Formula I racing still more interesting. At present, at least in England, the F-1 go is just part of a Festival of Speed, with "the big bangers mixed in with saloons, sports, and F-III, resulting in a certain lack of emphasis. The lordly F-I drivers, correspondingly, tend to be blurred at the edges and there is simply not the proper respect offered. In this aim, he feels that there should be some sort of really big annual "do" in England that would attract everyone from far and wide, rather like Indianapolis. Additionally, he thinks that more of a showman's atmosphere could be laid on by offering considerably more prize and lap money, possibly an inverted start, faster tracks with bankings, the use of alcohol fuel plus bigger engines of 4.5 liters, say, to give more smell and spectacle, an obligatory pit stop, and even the colorful advertisement-plastered cars and costumed pit crews seen at Indy.
To get spectacular vehicles of good technical interest, the prize money offered would have to increase by leaps and bounds; if there were a really good show to see, more people would come and thus make this target possible: In this way, the construction could afford to present the absolute best in technical exercises and put on a good spectacle as well. He admits that the cause of color would be better served by being able to see the driver at work but observes dryly that you can't reverse progress in design just for that!
As far as prototype/sports/GT racing is concerned, Eric thinks that the pendulum is now, happily, swinging back from the emphasis on pure GTs and that sports/ prototype is where the fun and games are. We agreed that GT should be leaned on rather heavily to become just that, production GT, so that the customer could get some idea as to what car was really suitable for him. For those who felt like going fast, the sports or prototype categories could offer a free hand for technical experimentation and make a better race besides. The GTs would naturally suffer if forced to remain reasonably stock and would be necessarily slow. . . anathema to Eric. . . but as happens today the highly tweaked ones could run with the Prototypes. In any case, he felt that there should be more really long races for all three categories (not necessarily together) as a good many of the Sports are unduly fragile.
From this subject we got on a discussion of whether small manufacturers should go racing or not from a commercial point of view, deciding that a lot of good cars never had much of a chance because of the lack of good racing mechanics or drivers. Both are as rare as the philosopher's stone, but nevertheless Eric keeps getting applications for
jobs all the time. For the first category, he demands someone
who already is a highly skilled tradesman like a metal former or toolmaker, say, rather than just any intelligent character who is prepared to work all night. Good sound training and ability to reason is more valuable as a base to doing things the right way than having to learn the lot. A look at Eric's neat and sanitary cars bears this out. The drivers as well are a case of "don't call me I'll call you. . . ."
Finally, we closed with a question on his future competition plans. He admitted that he was in sort of a void at -the moment after parting with Ford (although the English branch of Ford Advanced Vehicles is next door and there is a bit of commuting back and forth) but at present the emphasis was on getting the Type 70 to winning a few races. Quite a few of these have been sold, but in true racing last minute tradition, most are lying around in various stages of decolletage because of pressure of work on the two Indy cars. Surtees has bought one but has been unsuccessful in the two races he has run in, because of shipping too much water one rainy day and also to a sticking throttle which burst the engine. John has hopes for the TT at Oulton Park this weekend, but the car isn't really ready as they can't find out what caused the throttle to stick. All this is a classic example of Murphy's Law ("If Anything Can Happen It Will"), as when there was lots of time for testing nothing much went wrong. On its first outing, the engine stayed cool, the brakes didn't get too hot, it steered, it handled, and everything seemed rosy. It was all too good to be reasonable. If something doesn't go wrong in testing, when will it? In the race, of course, when the Lola 70 filled up with water, to Surtees discomfiture. And another when the throttle stuck. Now that everything is hopping and time goes short, mysterious little oddments rear their ugly heads.
This is the story of racing car construction, with troubles magically piling up at the most awkward point. Technical problems that forever need solving. Worry.. Up all night. Never seeing the wife and kids. Sudden plane trips here and there. But, still, it's more facinating than "building houses.'