This is the first time I have written to you, although I have been an enthusiastic reader of MOTOR SPORT for several years. I thought that my reminiscences of cars that I and my friends have owned might be of interest to you.
My earliest recollection is of a marvellous sleeve-valve Minerva which my father owned just after the last war. Several years later we had one of the old “14/40” Humber “mole” tourers. This was an amazingly reliable (if somewhat heavy) car, and when my father eventually discarded it, one of my brothers ran it for two or three years afterwards.
My brother and I had always been 100 per cent. Bentley enthusiasts (having never forgotten the way a “blown 4½” had passed us in second coming out of St. Albans on the way to Donington one day), and we eventually purchased a 1924 short-chassis “Red Label” from Windrurn and Garstin’s (where we saw one of the loveliest 8-litres I’ve ever seen; Mrs. Garstin’s private car, I believe) for £56. We had terrific fun with this motor. It had amazing urge and going up to 3,500 r.p.m. (safe limit) on the gears gave 20, 45 and 65 m.p.h. respectively. We once pushed her up to 90 going down the Oxford By-Pass, but I think her real maximum was more like 80 m.p.h. We eventually had to sell her, chiefly because of excessive petrol and oil consumption, and also rapid tyre wear (due partly, I admit, to our love of motoring sideways round corners! Yes, it can be done, even with a 3-litre!)
Another of my brothers then purchased one of the loveliest Bentleys I’ve ever seen. It was C. T. Baker-Carr’s own car and consisted of one of the “Double Twelve” unblown 4½-litre (hour glass piston) engines in an 8 ft. 3-litre chassis, the body being a two-seater coupe, with a large “trunk” and petrol tank at the back. (I believe Bentleys only made about a dozen 4½-litres in 3-litre chassis.) This motor was, in many ways, my ideal. The urge had to be experienced to be believed (I used to think the 3-litre was quick. The “4½” very quickly made me change my ideas!) Going to the safe limit on the gears gave one 40 in bottom, 65 in second, 85 in third, and we’ve had 106 m.p.h. out of her in top on ordinary pre-war petrol and none too good carburation. Comfort, brakes and road-holding were all up to the same standard as the performance. It only makes me wonder what it must feel like to drive Lycett’s wonderful 8-litre, or the racing “blown 4½” cars, as owned by Mavrogordato and Robertson-Roger.
Other quick motors I have driven include 1¾-litre blown Alfa-Romeo (a marvellous car, but tricky to handle till one got used to it, as I found out trying to “dice” a corner near Tring and turning round twice completely!), an “Ulster” 1½-litre Aston-Martin (the Morris-Goodall 1933 Le Mans car), which had marvellous road-holding and a gearbox “to play tunes on,” Riley Nine “Brooklands” model, an amazing little car, and a blown K3 M.G. Magnette (the last, a terrific car, which could spin its wheels in first and second on dry concrete and in which I once held 118 m.p.h. for about three miles down the Great North Road.)
As your journal is such a sponsor of cheap motoring in interesting old cars (in which I am in 100 per cent. agreement with you), it might interest you to know that a friend of mine ran a 1924 7.5 h.p. Citroen “Clover Leaf” for six months without spending a penny on it (bar running costs); price £5. When the back axle broke he bought another “Clover Leaf” from a farmer in Oxford for 35/- and had nine months trouble-free motoring in that!
Wishing your journal all the success it deserves.
I am, Yours etc.,
D. M. CARTER.