V.W. Derrington looks back
Passing through Kingston-on-Thames the other evening, we called on V. W. Derrington, well-known purveyor of “pieces for specials” and pioneer of the speed shop in this country. “How,” we asked V.W.D., “did you start your close association with the tuning business? “
It appears that in 1914 Derrington joined the Sopwith Aviation Company in Kingston and when the war ended found himself caught by the aviation slump, and out of work. So he began selling special copper exhaust pipes for motorcycles, which resulted in the title of “exhaust pipe king” being bestowed on him—it stuck, and some of the older customers use it still!
Selling exciting sounds to the motorcycle boys made Derrington conscious of nearby Brooklands Track and he took up motorcycle speed himself, first with a Harley-Davidson, then with a Triumph and later with an overhead-camshaft O.E.C. which would have been more successful had the threads on the valve gear not been “wrong handed,” so causing vital parts to unscrew when the plot was wound up.
Perhaps this is what made V.W.D. turn to four-wheels. At all events, in 1924 he acquired a “push-pull” Salmson (see recent letters in ” Vintage Postbag” for an explanation of what these little French cars were) and persuaded it to lap at 66 m.p.h. Next Derrington got hold of a 10/23 Talbot which he endowed with an enormous downdraught carburetter, special manifolds and a big-bore exhaust system, at the same time cleaning up the ports, which were normally restricted by the head nuts, after which the little Talbot went faster than Georges Roesch would have expected.
Next our tame tuner, now with a prosperous business selling special parts to speed-crazy youth, took over a special works Austin Seven with which Chase had broken long-distance records at Montihéry. With this Austin Derrington was leading the 100-Mile Race on Southport sands when he was pushed into the ruts on a corner when half-a-lap from the finish, the car rolling over.
Soon after this Derrington had a chance of acquiring a supercharged twin-cam San Sebastian Salmson which had been on the Salmson stand at the 1929 London Motor Show. He still has this excellent fabric-bodied car, which is virtually original, except for modifications which were made to improve performance. The included changing the No. 7 Cozette compressor for a No. 8, cross-bracing the chassis frame and stiffening the dumb-irons, using cables to resist front axle twist under brake application, as adopted years later by Aston Martin, and fitting stronger con-rods when the original rods bent under the increase in boost from 5 lb. to 15 to 16 lb./ sq. in.
Derrington raced this Salmson successfully and over a long period — indeed, right up to the war — at Brooklands. When it became too fast to feel safe on the outer-circuit he wisely confined his activities to the Mountain and Campbell circuits.
Although racing his Salmson, of which he is very fond, up to the outbreak of war, Derrington found time to develop a supercharged Wolseley Hornet, until Wolseley Motors took umbrage, after which he raced and specialised in special equipment for various M.G. models. He found the L-type M.G. Magna especially susceptible to tuning, probably because it was lighter than the K and NE Magnettes and had a decently stiff crankshaft.
Apart from his own pre-war exploits, dating back to riding a Zenith Gradua in a 1919 speed hill-climb, Derrington was ever willing to ride as mechanic at Brooklands, and tried car dirt track racing at Greenford, when he rolled his Salmson over and was pinned beneath it for longer than he cares to remember, meanwhile being drenched in dope. Derrington recalls another crash when he was riding beside J. J. Hall on a record attempt at Brooklands in the Beart Morgan three-wheeler which Hall had powered with a 750 c.c. o.h.v. J.A.P. engine. The back tyre wore down to the breaker strip and burst, the “Moggy” rolling over with Derrington beneath it, necessitating a visit to Weybridge Cottage Hospital. He also remembers the agony of riding in Hall’s Hilton Pacey three-wheeler, built to attack the 350 c.c. class records on Brooklands, and, presumably to save cost, weight and complication, devoid of back springs. It ran on R.O.P. petrol !
After the war Derrington went on with his competition career and will be remembered with special versions of Renault 750, Alta-head Morris Minor, driving the Spikins Special at Brighton, doing well at Daily Express Silverstone meetings, with a “hot” Ford Consul in 1954, and later driving his Lancia Ardea and Triumph TR2. He also found time to construct a special Fiat 1,100, reported on at the time in Motor Sport, and we need hardly remind readers that today, in premises occupied after the 1918 Armistice by Coley, the scrap metal king who was so well known to Brooklands habitues, Derrington runs a thriving business specialising in rally equipment and tuning items for Morris, M.G., Ford and other popular makes of car.
Excellent hammers — by Thor
There is something eminently satisfactory in handling new hammer — I trust this statement will not lead me to the psychologist’s couch — especially if they are of high quality and capable of doing a real job of work. Such hammers are made in every conceivable variety by the Thor Hammer Company of Highlands Road, Shirley, Birmingham, who supply so many manufacturing and industrial firms with the sort of hammers they need, and those found in the tool-kits of Jaguar cars. I know these Thor hammers are good because of four sample hammers sent to me recently, only two reached the Editorial desk. These are a No. 1 size 1-3/4 in. Thor copper hammer for dealing with centre-lock wheel nuts. etc., a very fine piece of work, modestly priced at 11s, and a Thorex plastic hammer with an oval hickory handle and steel head with screw-in, orange-coloured plastic faces, in the popular 1-1/2 in., 1-1/4 lb. size, priced at 15s., spare faces being available for 3s. 9d. each.
Thor hammers are an asset to any tool-chest. A price list of the many types and sizes available is obtainable from the address above, on mentioning Motor Sport . — W. B.
The general opinion seems to be that the mysterious American taxi illustrated on page 179 of last month’s issue is either a Checker Cab or a Graham-Paige.