Weight alone is a huge handicap, with bumpers fore and aft collectively weighing about the same as an A35. Throw in drum brakes and automatic transmission and you’re left wondering, ‘Why bother?’ To borrow an Irish phrase: ‘If that’s where you’re heading to, you wouldn’t start from here.’ But to use another, the answer is simple: ‘It’s all for the craic.’ It doesn’t seem to matter where we go, the Lincoln always makes new friends, Spa-Francorchamps being no exception. There’s a great history of American sedans running at the Belgian circuit in the mid-’50s so it seemed logical, to me at least, that we should pit ourselves against the world’s greatest F1 track. Besides, quite apart from the prohibitive entry fee, we’d been pipped to the Mille Miglia by Jeff Lotman and Brian Grozier with their Lincoln.
Run by Julian Balme
Owned since April 1991
Total mileage 45,492
Miles since September 2014 report 857
Latest costs £645
Before joining Julius Thurgood and his merry HRDC gang in the Ardennes, we had a number of jobs to carry out on the car. To meet the marginally more stringent scrutineering requirements abroad, Colin Mullan fitted a rear-facing wet-weather warning light. It looks ridiculous compared to the standard rear lights, but it was just as well we did fit it because it remained on for the whole time we were on the circuit. Other tasks included fitting a much-needed new steering box.
I dearly wanted the original rebuilt, but couldn’t find anyone here to take it on (if you’re out there, please get in touch), so ’50s Lincoln parts man Charles Thomas in Oregon sent a good one to Connecticut, where it found its way into a van being shipped to the UK, saving me more than $300. This, and re-seating the front coil springs, transformed the car, prompting me to treat it to two new tyres, the first in six years! Factor in the ferry, race entry, a not inconsiderable amount of fuel and a nice hotel, and our weekend’s bill wasn’t small.
Maybe it was this expense, along with the memory of my last visit to Spa – when I spent 50 mins behind a pace car – that, on being faced with a rain-soaked track, any ambition I might have harboured was left in the pits. Even the recovery truck attacked Eau Rouge with more commitment than me as it went about scooping up the previous race’s mess. Survival really was my only priority and, unsurprisingly, my pace was pretty pathetic. As a result, the brakes took forever to generate any heat. A number of Spa’s braking points are downhill, so the last thing I needed was for cold drums to snatch every time I hit the pedal.
As they warmed up, so the lap times started to fall, though nothing could be done to improve my passage through the revised Bus Stop chicane. It’s so slow, a waitress could rollerskate out to the car, serve me a burger and fries, and I’d still be wrestling with the steering wheel in the middle of the corner.
The following run down to La Source was equally laughable in that, having virtually come to a stop, the start/finish straight became a dragstrip, not a Wooly strong point. No wonder I could brake later than anyone else – I was travelling at half their speed.
I dislike ELO at the best of times, so the irony of hearing Mr Blue Sky pumping out of the circuit’s tannoy (piped pop music is an odd feature at Spa) was rather lost on me. For all that, it was a top weekend and, if it is my only outing this year, at least it was a cracker. By keeping out of trouble – aside from an excursion at Pouhon when I was too busy looking in my mirrors – we came home unscathed… and not last!
In the pits and, below, through Eau Rouge.
Wooly tries to keep ahead of the recovery truck around a sopping-wet Spa-Francorchamps.
Balme’s pace in the USS Cosmopolitan was not helped by the weather, but Wooly was much improved by suspension work and, inset, new steering box.
Colin Mullan: 020 8890 8990
Charles Thomas: 001 541 679 0976
HRDC: 07850 361159; hrdc.eu