MOTORING SPORTSMEN. Mr. Harold Walter Purdy.
By THE EDITOR.
MR. H. W. PURDY, who is known to the majority of our readers for his fine performances on the Brooklands Track on his Alvis and Bugatti cars, has been keenly interested in the sporting side of motoring, as an amateur, since he was eleven years of age, when he commenced riding his brother’s Douglas motorcycle surreptitiously, as he was obviously too young to qualify for a driving license.
We had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Purdy at his home, Hookfield Park, Epsom, recently, when we learned much of his motoring history and also inspected his private workshop, where he tunes his cars, an occupation which takes up much of his leisure hours, and freedom from all business cares places him in the happy position of being able to satisfy his natural inclination for motoring, both with regard to driving, and maintaining his own fleet at the maximum efficiency.
After leaving St. Paul’s School, London, Mr. Purdy went up to Magdalen College, Cambridge, where his studies included a course on Economics, liberally interspersed with sports, for he gained a ” half-blue ” at swimming, played rugger for his college, and rowed in the college rugger boat. His first mount was a 1902 Triumph, with which he gained early experience, but he did not enter for any trials until he bought an A.B.C. Mr. Purdy has been very fortunate at first appearances, and at the first C.U.M.C.C. event in which he participated he put up the fastest time of the day on the aforementioned machine. He also put up a star performance on his solo motor-cycle at the Gamlingay Hill Climb, the capabilities of the A.B.C. impressing him so favourably that he decided to run it at Brooklands in 1921. On this occasion he was second in the private owners’ handicap of the Essex M.C., and would have been first had he taken the precaution of fitting suitable plugs.
tired plugs accounting for the loss of power which resulted in his being beaten on the last lap when leading quite easily. The same machine was raced at several B.M.C.R.C. meetings with varying success, and later Mr. Purdy appeared with a T.T. Douglas, but was not quite so fortunate with that particular ‘bus.
Having had quite a lot of fun with racing motor-cycles Mr. Purdy then bought a racing Horstmann, originally the property of Mr. C. F. Temple, and again at his first appearance at a B.A.R.C. meeting ran into second place. This was in 1924, and in the same season he gained two seconds and a third, the machine being capable of lapping at between 88 and 90 m.p.h. For some reason he then decided to give up racing— a resolve seldom maintained by any persons with sporting blood in their veins—and bought what was intended to be a gentle touring car. This was a super sports Alvis two-seater, acquired second-hand from a private owner, but before its new owner had had it long it blossomed out as an exceptionally fast machine, and in 1925 won the first race of the year at Brooklandsincidentally the first important race ever won on a standard super sports Alvis. He gained another third in the some season, by which time the Purdy-Alvis combination became recognised as a factor to be taken into account by other competitors. The engine was taken to Laystall’s at Ewer Street; and after certain special jobs had been performed at this “Mecca for speedmen ” the Alvis would cheerfully lap Brooklands at 85 m.p.h. As a result of all this good work, plus
great driving skill on the part of its owner, the Alvis romped home first in the first Essex M.C. Hundred Miles Handicap, a feat which surprised most of those who witnessed the event. Later in the same season Purdy’s Alvis and Turner’s Austro-Daimler made a record for the track by running to the only dead heat for cars, much to the delight of Mr. Ebblewhite, who arranged the handicaps.
Like other keen racing amateurs who do their own preparations for racing, Mr. Purdy recounts many interesting incidents, but perhaps the most outstanding are those connected with one of the Essex M.C. fifty Miles Handicaps. On the day previous to the race he was practising at Brooklands towards evening, when funny noises started to come from the machinery, and visions of broken pistons and things came before the driver.
ment, and by working till 4 a.m. on the day of the race the job was completed. Mr. Purdy and a friend who acted as his mechanic left Epsom for Brooklands at 1.35 p.m. to take part in the 2 o’clock race, went straight to the starting line about one minute before the flag fell, and were only beaten for second place by a very small margin.
On the same afternoon he ran in the 50 miles Handicap, and was lapping at 92.5 m.p.h. on the tail of George Duller, driving Capt. Waite’s supercharged Austin Seven for seventeen laps and eventually finished second. That was the last appearance of the Alvis, which is now restored to touring trim and has been used almost daily ever since. Last year, it will be remembered, Mr. Purdy raced the 1,500 c.c. Bugatti, which he states was somewhat
As some serious trouble was indicated, there was nothing for it but to get the car back to Epsom, but the question was ” How ? ” No car was available for towing purposes, and so a solo motor cycle was requisitioned for the job. The unwonted tractor (sic) struggled manfully up towards the hill under the track bridge, and reared up on its hind legs in noisy protest, but after a flying start from the paddock the hill was surmounted, and with an electric torch as a side lamp and a hurricane lamp at the rear the Alvis was towed to Hookfield Park, where it arrived at 8 p.m. The whole engine was hurriedly dismantled, but nothing appeared to be wrong until a close examination of the timing gear revealed a sheared key and a damaged boss of the timing wheel. Henly’s, the Alvis service people, came to the rescue with a replace
disappointing, as it was only capable of lapping at 86 m.p.h., but he managed to gain a first and third at B.A.R.C. meetings. In another long race he had trouble in the shape of a puncture, and again a flooder stuck down, causing his carburettor to flood, which caused his retirement. The speed of the Bug. was augmented to the extent of 3 m.p.h. by a daring expedient consisting of drilling right through the cylinder water jacket on the exhaust side, fitting special plug adapters which in conjunction with extra plugs and an additional distributer provided dual ignition. Experiments were also made with carburation, and the simple Solex was replaced by two larger ClaudelHobsons, and special pistons made by Brewster and Johnson with an increase of 5 mm. above the gudgeon
pins increased the compression ratio. New con-rods machined and buffed by Laystalls were also used, after which the car lapped at a much increased speed.
Just prior to the last B.A.R.C. meeting, 1926, some trouble was experienced with oiled plugs, and another all-night sitting was devoted to fitting new piston rings, with the result that Mr. Purdy won two races, in which he was steadily lapping at 103 m.p.h., a tribute to his perseverance and mechanical abilities. On one occasion he raced with and defeated a 2 litre Bugatti, which shows that nothing had been left undone to improve the performance of his own machine. His
excellent driving in the last 200 Miles Race was highly praised, and for a private owner his achievement in getting home third was most meritorious, especially in view of the experience and racing organisation at the back of his rivals.
In 1925 the Alvis was entered in ten races at Brooklands, and gained seven places, and in the following year the Bugatti ran in thirteen races, gaining four firsts and three thirds. For the coming season Mr. Purdy hopes to race one of the new six-cylinder Amilcars at Brooklands, as well as at the Boulogne meeting, and is looking forward with great interest to the development of the Brighton race track.
New Riders for Nortons.
In the forthcoming Six Days Stock Machine Trial the Norton company has entered a team of three solo machines. The riders of these will be P. Pike, G. R. Butcher and T. Morton.
Pike’s name has long been associated with the Norton concern, and it will be remembered that Nortons were awarded the Maude’s Trophy for its performances last year. G. R. Butcher, however, has until recently been riding Ariels and B.S.A.’s, whilst„Morton has figured on H.R.D.’s and Brough-Superiors.
I hear, also, that L. Stewart, the young Colonial Norton rider, who is Champion of South Australia, is now on his way to England, in order to ride a Norton in the Senior Tourist Trophy race.
Further proof of the reliability and efficiency of the two-stroke engine is provided by the results of the ParisNice Trial. In this event five Monet-Goyon motor-cycles, fitted with Villiers engines, were entered. All these machines finished, gaining five gold medals and five cups. In South Africa, also, a 250 c.c. Levis two-stroke has been successful in winning the five miles solo handicap against machines of 350 c.c. capacity.
The extreme handiness of the light o.h.v. 350 is shown in the results of the Southern Scott Scramble, where the premier award, the Scott Trophy, was won by G. Barnwell on a 349 c.c. B.S.A. Despite the appalling weather, vile surface and 1 in 2 descents and climbs, Barnwell averaged nearly 30 m.p.h.