A Series of Interviews with Personalities famous in the Realms of Motoring Sport
No. 13 — Reginald Parnell
To travel 15,000 miles in one season in the pursuit of motor racing indicates either a great love of the game, or the existence of attractive financial gains. To say that Reg. Parnell has done just that mileage in the last season, to the detriment of his bank credit, and is already planning to have a bigger and better “do” this year, shows that he is a sportsman of the most genuine sort.
Parnell is not one of the sybarites of the Sport. Much as he appreciates the comforts of the flesh, he is in no sense a member of the “clean hands” brigade. If things don’t go right (and sometimes they don’t), he is the first to have off his coat. It is this quality, together with his sincerity and optimistic progressiveness, which gives rise to his amazing popularity. No job appears to be too big for him — he can visualise it done when others are blinded by the difficulties.
Reg. Parnell first started to blossom in the motor racing world with a “K.3” M.G. “Magnette.” This car (which now belongs to Nichol) was lightened and strengthened. The engine was rendered reliable in spite of a 28 lb./sq. in. boost and a propensity to run to something in the neighbourhood of 7,500 r.p.m. Amongst the more spectacular modifications were the fitting of twin overhead camshafts and Lancia-type independent front suspension.
During the later war years the roof of Parnell’s firm, The Standard Transport of Co., Derby, had the extraordinary privilege covering a great collection of racing cars. Many enthusiasts made a pilgrimage to see this remarkable collection. Now the number of cars has dwindled and the present extent of Parnell’s stable is as follows: —
1 1/2-litre, 16-valve, 4-cylinder Maserati.
1 1/2-litre E.R.A., No. RA 1 (the first E.R.A. made). This car has a plated chassis and is in fine condition.
1 1/2-litre Challenge with Delage engine. The chassis is of 4 1/2-in. steel tubes with similar welded crossmembers. Independent front suspension by twin wish-bones using coil springs and a de Dion rear axle are used. The brakes are two-leading-shoe hydraulics. It is intended that David Hampshire should drive this car during the coming season.
1946 1 1/2-litre Riley saloon. Parnell is very enthusiastic about this car, and, whilst he would prefer to have the engine a little more silent, he has nothing but praise for the suspension and roadholding.
He has ordered and paid a deposit for one of the new “E “-type E.R.A.s.
The future, then, seems quite bright and it certainly would not be through the lack of cars if he found himself a non-starter. Neither should it be for spares as anyone would judge if they were to cast an eye at the Parnell stock.
Parnell’s future racing plans have already been intimated. He intends to keep up his breath-taking tempo, following, as he did in the last season, all the events with no ban on distance. As for his vocational future he intends to see to it that his new repair and tuning establishment (at the New Garage, Alfreton Road, Derby) is run to an extremely high standard, which he considers essential to success in racing, or even fast motoring circles.
To give readers some idea of the amount of starting money that an established driver can pick up, on the Continent, to help defray expenses, the following figures are given, together with a synopsis of Parnell’s activities in the season.
There was, of course, no starting money for the English events.
Elstree Sprint: 2nd fastest time.
Gransden Lodge: Fastest lap.
Albi Grand Prix: Starting money £200. Until he had magneto trouble he was leading Nuvolari by 27 sec. Final placing 7th.
Geneva Grand Prix de Nations: Starting money £130. 4th in the first heat. Retired in the final.
Ulster Trophy Race: 2nd and record lap.
Brighton Speed Trials: 3rd fastest.
Turin: Starting money £250. Retired after two laps with a broken supercharger blade.
Milan: Starting money £225. 3rd in the second heat. Final, retired due to a tooth breaking off pinion wheel.
Peña-Rhin Grand Prix: Starting money £250. Due to the Maserati being unserviceable he qualified with Brooke’s E.R.A. Eventually he ran the Maserati with an engine borrowed from Rugeri. However, after a brisk 10 laps he was forced to retire on account of small piece of dirt blocking the oil-pipe leading In the camshaft.
Whilst in Italy he was fortunate in having the opportunity of driving one of new Alfettes. He classes it 20 per cent. better than anything that he has ever handled before. It holds the road as though it is stuck to the ground and the way that the engine picks up speed is just fantastic.
Parnell considers that his most frightening experience is trying to make motor-racing pay.
It was especially interesting to discuss suspension with one who has handled a such vast representation of the different ways of tackling the same old problem. For high-speed racing where fast bends are encountered it is essential to have i.f.s. In the case of a hill-climb where bends ends are of an acute nature and speeds are not very high, a softly sprung car like the 16-valve car Maserati is not at its best. Something like an E.R.A. (A, B or C type), with its unyielding springing, is better suited for this violent low-speed changing of direction.