The last day of February was reserved for the Southern Rally of the Vintage S.C.C., consisting of a series of driving-tests at that desolate and inelegant piece of waste ground on Slough Trading Estate — poor substitute indeed for Bisley.
Having been told that if you cannot take a vintage car to a V.S.C.C. party the next best thing is to go in a Citroën, we duly presented ourselves in a 2 c.v., not without serious misgivings that, while we were watching the aged perform, our excellent little conveyance might take upon itself to return to its makers, who were situated so close at hand. Luckily this did not occur and we were able to return home in a truly vintage snowstorm.
The first test was a manoeuvre involving reversing into a garage with the two near-side wheels on or over a white line; this proved either that the owners of vintage cars never go to London or, if they do, they merely turn round and come straight home again, because hardly any of them would be able to park there. This, notwithstanding the fact that the “garage,” a rather openwork, if decorative affair, affording no real protection from the elements, was conveniently expanded or contracted according to the length of wheelbase of the car struggling to enter it.
There were some very competent performers. For instance, J. M. Hinchcliffe handled his 1925 modified sports Austin Seven neatly, C. A. B. Ripley took a long time, but got it absolutely right in the very attractive ex-Ellis 1923 Gwynne Eight “hip-bath,” although finding the cone clutch a handicap, and P. Major made a splendid job of it in a 1932 Frazer-Nash. Nigel Arnold-Forster indulged in much epicyclery in his 1926 Trojan, but the hood touched a barrier. L. J. Wickham (1929 12/50 Alvis) got into a fearful muddle, Stanley Sedgwick took the wrong line in his immaculate 1928 4 1/2-litre Bentley, while R. A. Kellow wound the steering of his 1928 12/50 Alvis about while it was stationary, but did not achieve the desired result.
A. A. Scates (1928 2-litre Lagonda) demolished a barrier, L. Geale, driving a Swift Ten which was supposed to be a 1928 model but had the later radiator, came in on the wrong line, from which there was no recovery, a mistake made by C. B. L. Harding (1927 Alvis), H. Cox (1928 O.M.), although he entered the arena with verve, E. P. Davis (1927 Lancia Lambda) and others.
J. H. Leigh’s 1929 4 1/2-litre Bentley contacted a barrier after approaching the “garage ” incorrectly, M. Brownson (1930 Type 40 Bugatti) hadn’t a clue, Peter Bums in the O.M. seemed to be assisted by a spectator. M. Leo got over onto the passenger’s seat a his 1930 2-litre Lagonda to take stock of a hopeless situation, what time the stop-watch ticked on relentlessly, J. C. Erskine Hill, whose 1929 1,750-c.c. Alfa Romeo made lovely noises with its blower, had two unsuccessful bites at it, whereas L. P. Sawers, son of the Sawers who once raced a Douglas at Brooklands, garaged neatly in his nice 1926 12/25 Lea-Francis tourer. D. H. Gahagan found Erskine-Hill’s 1936 Type 57 Bugatti rather too long for deft parking.
While all this was going on Arthur Jeddere-Fisher arrived en famille in his 1913 5-litre Lancia Kappa coupé, the children and a philosophical black dog occupying the dickey. Alas, his 1923 Targa-Florio Mercédès was an absentee, its clutch locking solid as he left the garage. Quite one of the nicest vintage cars present was G. de Jongh’s 1926 Super Sports A.B.C., in original condition throughout, even to the reverse-camber of its 1/4-elliptic front springs, and its twin, large-bore exhaust pipes emitting a healthy bark, in spite of the off-side cylinder having blown its gasket on the way to Slough; de Jongh also has another A.B.C. car, an A.B.C. motor-cycle and an A.B.C. scooter and lives in a house once occupied by Granville Bradshaw.
Following the garaging test came an acceleration test, but as this was over a mere 100 yards and we hadn’t brought our 3D spectacles we preferred to inspect the spectators’ carriages, which included a very clean mid-motor Trojan, a yellow Swift, a vast de Dion Bouton cabriolet, a 7.5 cloverleaf Citroën, an outside-piped O.M., a Salmson and a very choice Sunbeam Sixteen tourer.
The last two tests involved driving in S-bends past a series of posts, forwards in the first test, backwards in the second. Patches of mud resulted in some splendid tail-slides round the last pylon, and a Frazer -Nash even slid in reverse, as did the ex-Stallebrass 2-litre 1945 Aston Martin now conducted by Harry Bowler. The only Edwardians entered — Mrs. Fisher’s Lancia and D. Denne’s 1913 12/16 Sunbeam — managed these manoeuvres very nicely. We gather that the afternoon terminated with tea in a Working Men’s Club, which just goes to show how democratic even vintage motoring has become. We are not sure about this because we gear-changed our way home from the slough of despond before dark. — W. B. (Results on page 184.)