A Competition History of the O.M.

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[This competition history of a rare Italian car is the work of Ivor Linsdell of the O.M. Register, who wrote it in conjunction with the well-known O.M. driver R. F. Oats, others who helped with data and in checking facts including T. A. S. O. Mathieson, Douglas Ward and Keith Hainsworth, while I corrected parts of the Brooklands data. We are indebted to the Fiat Register, for whose magazine it was intended, for foregoing the pleasure of publishing it.—Ed.]

Apart from a few newsworthy performances, such as the first three places in the 1927 Mille Miglia, the class win in the 1928 T.T. and the Rudge Whitworth Cup win at Le Mans 1926, little is generally known of the extent to which O.M.s were raced during the period 1920-1934. That the O.M. performances have tended to be overlooked is no doubt due to the fact that, apart from a brief excursion into Grand Prix design, the marque confined its competition activities to sports-car racing. This is especially true of the Continental races in which O.M.s took part.

In this country O.M. racing history is very much a story of two cars modified for racing at Brooklands by R. F. Oats, of which more anon.

Much of the information so far obtained about O.M. competition history provides only the bare facts of placings, information in any detail, especially of the Continental races, being very difficult to obtain. Even so, the total participation and the degree of success were sufficiently impressive to warrant the compilation of this history.

In 1920 O.M. started their motor sporting activities with a 1,500-c.c. 4-cylinder side-valve car, the Tipo 469. Four years of competitive motoring with this model provided the experience which enabled the Company to produce a successor to the 469, the Tipo 665, a 6-cylinder side-valve 65 x 100 mm. unit. This engine was to be the staple power unit (except for the G.P. cars) for all O.M.s from then (1924) until production of cars ceased at the O.M. works in 1931. Alterations to this design were slight and logical. The bore was opened out to 67 mm. and the stroke lengthened to 105 mm. (2.2 litres), and then, for the Mille Miglia cars of 1930, bore and stroke became 67 x 100 mm. (2.3 litres) and a Roots blower was used.

In this country R. F. Oats, working for L. C. Rawlence & Co. Ltd., the O.M. concessionaires, designed an o.h.v. push-rod conversion for the 1,991-c.c. engines. Six of these conversion sets were made, four of which survive to this day.

Using the o.h.v. unit, Oats built an Outer Circuit special O.M. which really looked the part with its long pointed tail and which turned out to be a most successful Brooklands car. The best flying lap that Oats managed with this car was at 103 m.p.h.

Chassis development by the O.M. works was minimal; even the three Grand Prix cars had ordinary tourer frames, suitably shortened and lowered. These G.P. cars first appeared in 1927. They were “one-and-a-half-seaters,” the engines of which were straight-eight twin-overhead-camshaft 1,477-c.c. 1½-litres, super-charged by Roots blower blowing through the carburetter. The big-end bearings were roller, the mains ran on ball bearings. Triple valve springs were used. The cylinder blocks were made in two fours (someone had been looking at a Bugatti!) and were completely fabricated from welded sheet-steel. The cylinder-head bolts passed right through the block and into the crankcase; this, it is reported, necessitated four days hard labour if any work had to be done on the head. The camshafts were driven by gear train at the front of the engine, and gears at the rear of the block drove the Bosch magneto, which lived on top of the gearbox.

The car which came to England was first fitted with a normal Roots blower, then, later, it was modified to take four twin-choke R.A.G. carburetters. This was quite a successful modification but the peak performance came when Oats fitted a Jamieson-Villiers blower in 1931.

The engine of the 8-cylinder car peaked at 6,500 r.p.m., useful power being developed at about 6,000 r.p.m. The final b.h.p. figure was 117. The car weighed 12 cwt., quite a percentage of which was attributable to the lead which Oats poured into the inverted U-section frame forward of the scuttle in a desperate but successful attempt to improve the road-holding.

A 3-speed gearbox was used, this being adequate for Brooklands (90 m.p.h. in 2nd gear) but which would have handicapped the car had it been developed for road racing.

The three 2.3-litre cars which came to this country were all supercharged by a Roots blower driven from the front of the crankcase. On the 2.2.-litre cars the blower was optional but was usually fitted. These cars had “sloper” radiators to accommodate the blower, and the chassis cross-members were taken under the torque tube to lower the seating arrangements.

The 1½-litre straight-eight cars were but a brief excursion into Grand Prix design and it seems that O.M. sensibly valued simplicity and reliability rather than high speed produced by expensive complexity. However, despite their mundane specifications the sports O.M.s managed to put up some creditable speeds on occasion, as a perusal of the following notes will show.

Brooklands, 1925-1934

1925

This year saw the first appearance of an O.M. at Brooklands. One was entered for the J.C.C. High-Speed Trial. It is not known how the car fared as it did not appear in the place list.

1926

R. F. Oats, racing his o.h.v. Outer Circuit special 2,991-c.c. O.M. for the first time, came second in the Easter 75 Long Handicap, with a best lap at 84.13 m.p.h.

At the Whitsun meeting Oats, lapping at 90.22 m.p.h., won the 75 Short Handicap.

The Summer meeting saw Oats placed third in the 75 Short Handicap, with a best lap at 85.87 m.p.h., the car aluminium and red with black wheels. Clark entered a 4-cylinder Tipo 469 O.M. for the J.C.C. Production Car Race but it blew a gasket and retired. Another O.M. also failed to finish.

An entry of R. F. Oats, Minoia and Morandi for the J.C.C. 200, using the 8-cylinder 1½-litre car for the first time, caused some speculation but, like many a “prima donna” car before and since, it non-started.

Things brightened up at the Essex M.C. October meeting. Oats won the Junior Long Handicap at 83.42 m.p.h. and came second to Parry Thomas in the Thomas Special in the 50-Mile Handicap. He used the 8-cylinder car and lapped at 100 m.p.h.

Ten races were entered by O.M.s in 1926, and they were placed (first, second or third) in five.

1927

Oats got off to a cracking start for the season at the Easter meeting. Driving the o.h.v. car, he won the 75-m.p.h. Short Handicap at 86.98, with a best lap of 91.89 m.p.h. The winter tuning session had not been in vain!

Oats came 11th in the Essex M.C. 6-Hour Race, and at the Whitsun meeting, with the o.h.v. car, he took third place in the 75 Short Handicap at 88.46 m.p.h., following this with a second place in the 90-m.p.h. Long Handicap, but retired from the “Gold Star” Handicap after four out of the nine laps. A month later Oats won the Surbiton M.C. 50-mile Handicap at 92.4 m.p.h., using the 8-cylinder car.

During the Autumn meeting Oats retired the o.h.v. car during the 50-Mile Handicap, and a broken piston in the straight-eight caused his retirement from the J.C.C. 200-Mile Race, after the car had laid a dangerous smoke screen.

Eight races were entered during 1927; O.M.s were placed in four.

1928

This was to be a short racing season for the O.M.s but nevertheless a successful one for the sports cars.

At the East meeting R. F. Oats in the 8-cylinder car lapped at 103.11 m.p.h. in the 90 Long Handicap but was unplaced. By now the battle of wits with the handicappers had been well and truly joined and, as we shall see, by 1932 the handicappers were to win as far as Oats was concerned, but the car, with other drivers, had the last laugh.

In May R. F. Oats and Clark in 2-litre side-valve sports O.M.s won the class and team prize in the Essex M.C. 6-Hour Endurance Race for production sports cars.

The B.A.R.C. Whitsun meeting was not a good one for R. F. Oats and in the J.C.C. 200-Mile Race he retired the O.M. with failing oil pressure. In the “Gold Star” Handicap at the August B.A.R.C. meeting he collided with a Bugatti which crossed his path, sustaining concussion and losing the front axle of his car. (Dunkeley, Oats’, until then, faithful riding mechanic, decided there and then that he would not ride in a race again but would stick to pit-work!) The Brooklands season was rounded off by a couple of resounding wins at the Autumn meeting. Oats was down to drive the 8-cylinder car, now fitted with R.A.G. carburetters, in the 90-m.p.h. Short Handicap but was unable to do so because of a bereavement. Oats telephoned George Eyston and asked him to take over the car, telling Eyston that there was at least one certain win. Eyston agreed to drive and proceeded to win at an average speed of 93.32 m.p.h., with a best lap of 102.06 m.p.h. This set the handicappers furiously to calculate, but Eyston had some speed in hand and went on to win the 90-m.p.h. Long Handicap, lapping now at 107.10 m.p.h.

During 1928 O.M.s were entered for six races and obtained three places.

1929

At the Easter Brooklands meeting Oats was soon in the money, with a third place in the 90-m.p.h. Short Handicap, using the o.h.v. car, lapping at 83.0 m.p.h. The handicappers now had the measure of this combination and imposed impossible penalties, so Oats turned his attention increasingly towards the 1½-litre 8-cylinder car, to good effect as it turned out.

In May O.M.s were to have a great success in a production car race. The J.C.C. ran its first “Double-Twelve” and Rawlence entered a team of two 1,997-c.c. o.h.v. cars and a 1,991-c.c. s.v. car. Team drivers were R. F. Oats, Clark (later that year to be tragically killed in the T.T.) and Wilkinson. These three cars won the Team Prize (the Triplex Bowl and 200 guineas).

Oats drove his O.M. into a creditable sixth place in the B.A.R.C. 6-Hour Sports Car Endurance Race. His average speed was 69.17 m.p.h.

At the Whitsun meeting the 1½-litre car appeared, driven for the first time by A. V. Wilkinson, in a successful attempt to baffle Ebblewhite. Wilkinson clocked up two firsts and a second at the August B.A.R.C. meeting. In the 90 Short Handicap he felt his way round, lapping at 100.61 m.p.h., and came third. Then he won the 90 Long at an average speed of 98.73 m.p.h., with a best lap of 106.19 m.p.h., and before the handicappers could sort him out he won the “Gold Star” Handicap at a rousing 102.69 m.p.h. race average, from the limit mark.

Wilkinson had no luck in the B.R.D.C. 500-Mile Race in October; he retired, the 8-cylinder car overheating.

During this season O.M.s were entered for eight races and obtained four places and a team win.

1930

There were only three entries by O.M.s at Brooklands this year. Commitments in Ireland for the T.T. and Phoenix Park races diverted attention from the Weybridge Track.

In March, R. F. Oats was down to drive a blown s.v. 2-litre O.M, in the first “Mountain” race; doubtless this was to be a try-out for one of the T.T. cars, but he non-started. An O.M. finished unplaced in the B.R.D.C. “500.” Oats entered for a 1-lap sprint at the end of the 1930 season confident of a win, the car was going well, he had drawn top position (the start was on a banking). and he didn’t mind if the car blew up as this was its last race this year. Oats told Malcolm Campbell (who had entered a T.43 Bugatti and who had drawn the worst position low down on the banking) that he, Campbell, hadn’t a chance. Oats made a perfect start and dived down the banking, leaving the field behind until, just before the finish, Campbell nosed his Bugatti in front and crossed the line the winner. Oats was perplexed, to say the least, but Campbell sportingly presented him with a silver cigarette case as a consolation prize. There was some talk about a T.51 block on the Bugatti. . . .

1931

Again the main attention of the Rawlence team was directed towards Ireland and the T.T., but during this season Oats in the 8-cylinder car, now of 1,484 c.c., was to register a notable “first time” record at Brooklands.

During the off-season Oats had again worked on the 8-cylinder O.M. and had now fitted a Jamieson-Villiers blower. The first appearance of the car in this guise was in a Mountain Handicap, never a fast race. This enabled Oats to give the car a try-out, winning at 65.07 m.p.h., with several laps at 68.86 m.p.h. This was during the August meeting. The next race was the Lightning Short Handicap and obviously the warm-up during the “Mountain” race had proved satisfactory because Oats won, lapping at 107.14 m.p.h., an improvement of several m.p.h. on the R.A.G. carburetter version. However, the real triumph of this meeting was yet to come. The next race was a 1-lap sprint, which Oats won at 100.21 m.p.h.; this was the first time that a 1½-litre car had lapped Brooklands at 100 m.p.h. from a standing start. Three firsts and a lap record made this a memorable meeting for the O.M. driver.

The 8-cylinder car came out again in October. Driven now by H. Widengren, the car still did not like the B.R.D.C. “500” as it was flagged off for excessive smoking, but some hectic work on it enabled Widengren to drive it in the Cumberland Senior Long Handicap at the B.A.R.C. Autumn meeting, which he won at 110.43 m.p.h., with a best lap of 117.59 m.p.h.

During the 1931 season O.M.s entered for live races, taking four first places.

1932

This was to be the last successful year for O.M.s at Brooklands. Again Oats was out early in the season but the handicappers really put the screws on the 8-cylinder/R. F. Oats combination and, despite Widengren lapping at 113.45 m.p.h. from scratch position in the Norfolk Senior Short Handicap he was unplaced. This was repeated in the Norfolk Junior Short Handicap, again from the scratch mark, and lapping at 109.7 m.p.h. the car was unplaced. Oats never raced this car again at Brooklands but, surprisingly, the handicappers had still not got the measure of Widengren, who was to have a most successful season with the 8-cylinder car.

T. A. S. O. Mathieson took his own blown 2.3 O.M. to the Easter meeting and won the Norfolk Senior Mountain Handicap at 59.66 m.p.h., lapping at 61.58 m.p.h. Then Widengren came out with the 8-cylinder car for the Lightning Long Handicap, coming in third, after lapping at 111.42 m.p.h. Widengren came second in the 50-mile heat which preceded the British Empire Trophy Race, at 103.34 m.p.h.

At the Autumn meeting Widengren, again in the 8-cylinder car, came second in the Yorkshire Senior Short Handicap, lapping at 113.45 m.p.h., and second in the Yorkshire Senior Long Handicap, lapping at 115.82 m.p.h.

During this season the O.M.s were entered for seven races and were placed in five.

1933

The decline now set in. Production of O.M. cars ceased at the Brescia works in 1931 and although a few were in the “pipeline” for sale until about 1933, Rawlence naturally ceased to promote O.M. racing activities in this country. R. F. Oats’ contract with Rawlence expired and the Company took up an Oldsmobile agency and also sold Latil horseboxes. Widengren bought the 8-cylinder car in 1932 and continued to race it, with no success, during 1933.

Widengren entered the 8-cylinder car for the Addlestone Mountain Handicap in March but failed to finish, and again the B.R.D.C. 500 in the Autumn eluded him and he finished unplaced.

1934

It remained perhaps justly in view of the fact that the O.M. fortunes were founded on sports-tourers as sold to private customers, for the last O.M. entry at Brooklands of which I have a record to be a car driven by a private owner. G. C. Dugdale drove his o.h.v. 2-seater in a 700-yard sprint, which he won.

Ireland

In August 1928 R. F. Oats drove his 2-litre side-valve O.M. as a lone entry -in the Ulster T.T. Driving in Class E (1,500-2,000 c.c.), he had a credit of two laps and carried 164 lb. of ballast.

During the race, when going very well in third or fourth place overall, Oats received urgent pit signals to come in. He could see nothing wrong but stopped next time round. Rawlence told him that he needed more fuel, but Oats’ reply to this information was to slam into gear and drive off. The stop cost him at least three places and, of course, Oats knew that his fuel situation was all right for a time. The pit staff had done their sums wrong, but, even so, Oats came in first in his class and seventh overall, at an average speed of 59.68 m.p.h.

In the 1929 T.T. on the Ards circuit, Oats drove the same car, now fitted with dural. rods in his o.h.v. conversion engine. Another o.h.v. car was driven by Clark. Poor Clark must have had a premonition of impending disaster when he found that he was unable to comply with Oats’ orders which were that Clark was to do the first two laps very fast; in fact the second lap was to be “a scorcher.” But Clark pulled in at the pits and reported that the car was not handling too well. However, he went off again, only to run off the road into a sandbank. Whilst inspecting the damage he was hit by a Triumph which inflicted fatal injuries. Meanwhile, about halfway through the race Oats noticed that his clutch was slipping and so he nursed the car until it was time for a refuel. At the pits Oats complained to his mechanic Dunkeley, about the slipping clutch. Dunkeley refused to believe it, so Oats told him to jump in and see for himself. Against his better judgment but certain that Oats was right and therefore could not go too fast, the mechanic climbed in. Oats went away in a cloud of Ferodo smoke and before long the clutch began to grip. He really got going then, and Dunkeley suggested that as there was nothing he could do he would get off next time round at the pits. Oats’ reply to that was, “Put your goggles on, boy; you are staying here!” But not for long was the mechanic to suffer. Undoubtedly, Oats had over-revved the engine when the clutch slipped and one of the dural. rods popped out of the crankcase near Newtonards, and so they sat the race out there. Oats amused himself by looking for the piston which had emerged but he never found it!

The 1930 T.T. saw the O.M.s out in force but without Oats, who was ill. His place was taken by Fronteras, in a 2-litre o.h.v. supercharged car. Ramponi and Minoia drove two of the three 2.3-litre blown s.v. cars, one of which Ramponi crashed in practice. These were the Mille Miglia cars.

The start was an embarrassing one for the O.M. team for, after rushing to the cars in the Le Mans-type start, they were last away, long after the pack had disappeared from view. However, they must have motored to good effect once they got going because Ramponi came fourth in his class, at 66.30 m.p.h., behind the Talbot team, taking 15th place overall. Minoia came fifth in Class D. Both the Italian drivers reported faulty Autovacs in their cars, which frustrated any attempts to go faster.

O.M.s ran twice at Phoenix Park, Dublin, in 1930 and 1931. In the 1930 race Minoia, Fronteras and Ramponi drove the works 2.3-litre blown cars and Oats drove the 2-litre o.h.v. T.T. car entered by M. C. Morris of R.A.G. Carburetters. In the race Minoia crashed and Oats embedded his car in a sandbank when the brake linings, which had been fading fast, eventually disappeared. The linings were a new type, on test, and it was found, on removing the front drums, that not even the dust remained to show that there had ever been any linings on the shoes! The O.M.s did not feature in the place-list.

In 1931 Oats had a class win using the o.h.v. car.

During the early ‘thirties a few O.M.s were privately entered in International Rallies but few facts are available as to how they fared. W. Blackstone entered his 1,991-c.c. o.h.v. car, UL 91, in the 1933 Alpine Trial but crashed.

Oats and the O.M.

The story of O.M.s in competitive motoring in the British Isles is very much the story of R. F. Oats and two cars, the o.h.v. 1,991-c.c. Outer Circuit special and the 8-cylinder blown 1½-litre car.

Oats’ skill as a driver and development engineer were well known and respected at Brooklands during the late ‘twenties; he was known as “a finisher” and only major derangements of the car would induce him to stop. It was very much a case of the right man for the car.

He lives now in Penzance and is still involved with motor cars, managing, on occasion, to do some high-speed motoring in Jaguars. His attitude to competitive motoring is still fiercely professional. I asked him if he would like to drive my o.h.v. T.T. replica O.M. on a race track; perhaps, I suggested, we might arrange a run round between races at a vintage race meeting. He did not think much of that idea, saying that he would much rather race it!

Dunkeley, Oats’ mechanic, lives near Penzance, and their friendship, born of shared thrills, successes and failures, is a firm one. In fact, Dunkeley did act as riding mechanic quite often after the crash at Brooklands, despite his “resignation,” but he proved to be of such value to the team as a mechanic that he spent most races in the pits, of necessity rather than—although he would modestly deny it—choice.

Continental Races

It is difficult to obtain background material for many of the Continental races in which O.M.s took part but, as was suggested earlier, on total participation alone one can obtain a good idea of the quality of the marque.

Apart from Monza, the differences between the British races in which O.M.s featured and their Continental equivalents were, in many ways, extreme. In England most of the races took place at Brooklands, the cars driven by professional or semi-professional drivers. Whilst it may be tempting to imagine that the “gay ‘twenties” enjoyed long hot summers, no doubt statistics would prove that rain was more often the weather prevailing at race meetings. But in Italy the cars were raced over dirt roads with generous pot-holes, through Alpine passes and across arid plains. The roads were only occasionally closed to local traffic, donkeys, pigs, dogs and bambini, and the drivers were likely to be wealthy amateurs using motor raging as a means of self-expression rather than for a livelihood.

In 1920 an O.M. (it would have been a Tipo 465) won the Coppa del Garda on the road which winds round the Lake of the same name.

In 1921 Gisler came ninth in the Coppa delle Alpi, covering the 2,306 km. of the course in 50 hr. 36 min. 16 sec., at an average speed of just over 46 k.p.h. It is a pity that no more details of Gisler, the event, other competitors and so on are available as it sounds like a marathon and an average speed of around 30 m.p.h. would not discredit a modern car over a 2,000-km. course of present-day Alpine roads.

In the Circuit of Brescia that year, Count Iliprandi came second; first, third and fourth places were taken by 1½-litre Bugattis. At the same venue Minoia (who became No. 1 works driver and who stayed with the Company throughout its racing days) drove an O.M. in the Gran Premio d’Italia for sports cars. He came fifth. First, second, third and fourth places were taken by 1½-litre Bugattis.

1922 was a busy year for O.M.s. They came first, second and third in their class in the Coppe del Garda, with Tarchini’s car second in the race; then at the Circuit del Migello (Florence) they came first in the 1,350-c.c. class, driven by Morandi, and third in the 1.,500-c.c. class, driven by one of the Danieli brothers.

The Brescia circuit this year saw 0.M.s take first and second places in the 1,500-c.c. class. The leading O.M., driven by Minoia and Masperi, came third in the race. A hill-climb near Turin, the Susa-Moncenisio, provided some exercise at this branch of motor sport and gave Minoia a chance to win the 1,500-c.c. class.

In Leghorn, at the Circuit del Montenero, Balestrero appears in the drivers’ list for the first time. He came second in the 1,350-c.c. class.

Count Iliprandi drove an O.M. in the Coppa delle Alpi this year and came fifth in time of 56 hr. 14 min. 41.2 sec., over a distance of 2,770 km. Apparently the organisers lengthened the course to sort out the men from the boys!

The last event in which the O.M.s took part in 1922 was the Coppa del Garda. This year it was run as a rally and Masperi in his O.M. came first in the 2,000-c.c. class of the hill-climb and Danieli came third in the Cup event.

A full racing season started, in 1923, with Danieli and Masperi driving their O.M.s in the Circuit di Cremona. They took first place in the 1,500-c.c. class and came third in the race, respectively.

Count Iliprandi, Minoia and Coffani drove their O.M.s to a first, second and third 1,500-c.c. class walk-over in the Coppa delle Alpi, and down at the Circuit of Montenero (Leghorn) Balestrero in his O.M. came second in the 1,500-c.c. class. At the circuits of Mugello and Latium O.M.s took both first places in the 1,500-c.c. class.

Again, this year, the Coppa del Garda was a rally and the 0.M.s of Sandonnino and Bernardi took first and second places in the 1,500-c.c. class.

In 1924, at a race meeting held at Garda, Masperi and Morandi came second and third in the 1,500-.c.c. class, and in the Coppa del Garda Sandonnino and Bernardi improved on the previous year’s performance by obtaining outright first and second places.

Balestrero, driving a 2-litre O.M. over the 180-km. course of the Circuit del Montenero came first in his class and third in the race. The rest of this season’s list of O.M. successes reads as follows:

Coppa delle Alpi: First and second in class and race (2,000 c.c.), Coffani and Minoia. First, second, third and fourth in 1,500-c.c. class and first, second and third in the Military class (it is not known just what the Military class was—perhaps competitors in this class had to travel over a rougher section than the others!). The distance this year was 3,800 km.; the casualty figures are not known. O.M.s were to achieve these mass finishes in two later Mille Miglias.

Monza: 48-hour record for 1,500-c.c. cars.

Circuit del Mugello: First in 2,000-c.c. class and race—Morandi. Second in class and race—Balestrero.

Tigullio Cup: First in class. Perugia Cup: First in class. Savia Cup: First in class, Tre Venetic Cup: First in class.

1925. This year saw the Italian O.M. team getting beyond their own borders with some fine performances being put up at Le Mans, Tripoli and San Sebastian.

At Le Mans two O.M.s were entered, both of them 2,005-c.c.,. driven by the Danieli brothers Tino and Mario. and by Foresti and Varsiaux. The O.M.s finished equal fourth in the general classification, having covered 1,280.29 miles at an average speed of 53.345 m.p.h.

At San Sebastian the O.M.s had a class win in the Internazionale di Turismo 12-hour race, and across the Mediterranean Balestrero drove his O.M. to victory in the Tripoli Grand Prix at an average speed of 58 m.p.h. The same driver came fourth in the Circuit di Pescara, third in the 2,000-c.c. class in the Targa Florio, and second in class (fourth in race) in the Circuit di Montenero. A busy season for Balestrero.

The Coppa delle Alpi saw the O.M.s take first, second and third places in the Military class, Perhaps no one else bothered to enter!

1926. Back in San Sebastian for the 12-hour race Minoia drove his O.M. into first place, beating a works team of three 33/180S Mercedes.

At Le Mans, Minoia and Foresti supported by the Danieli brothers collected the Rudge-Whitworth Cup and fourth and fifth places overall. The cars were 1,990-c.c. side-valve, unsupercharged. Minoia and Foresti averaged 59.827 m.p.h. for 1,446.305 miles and the Danieli brothers averaged 58.572 m.p.h. for 1,405.7 miles.

In a minor event in Italy, the Coppa del Perugina, Nicola managed a third place in the 2-litre class with his O.M. and Balestrero crops up again, this time on the Susa-Moncenisio hill-climb-cum-race, in which he took first place in the 2-litre class and came sixth overall.

At Monza a 1,990-c.c. “Sumba” O.M. settled down for a successful tilt at the 1,500-km. record, averaging 103.568 k.p.h. for 144 hours or, in English, six days and nights at 64 m.p.h. A Steady trot!

Minoia took one of the new 8-cylinder G.P. cars to Avus that year but he non-started as the track was wet and the car handled dangerously. It must have been very dangerous because Minoia was certainly not short of courage. R. F. Oats recalls that on a visit to Brescia to advise on preparation for the Mille Miglia cars, Minoia took him up into the mountains in an O.M. Not being used to acting as riding mechanic, Oats was quite terrified as Minoia hurled the car round blind corners with loose gravel for a surface. On turning one corner, Oats saw, with horror, that the road ahead had collapsed into the lake hundreds of feet below and that the peasants had placed a few boards across the gap for foot traffic. There was no stopping now; Oats closed his eye and waited for the long silence, but Minoia hurled the car at the boards and somehow, it slithered across. Minoia amused himself by completing the downhill run using no brakes at all, doing all his slowing by using the gearbox. It may have been just an ordinary test run for Minoia but it was an education for Oats!

1927. From now on the tendency was for O.M.s to compete mainly in races of International status, with just a few “pot-boilers” in the provinces to keep the local enthusiasts happy.

Minoia had a class win at Nurburgring and in the 1927 Grand Prix of Europe at Monza he and Morandi drove the 1½-litre 8-cylinder cars into fourth and second places, respectively. This, was to be the last appearance of these cars in Continental races.

In the 1927 Mille Miglia, using English pistons in their cars, Minoia and Morandi came first, T. Danieli and Balestreo came second, and M. Danieli and Rosa came third. The winners averaged 48.27 m.p.h.

The 1928 Mille Miglia was to be the setting for an astonishing class walk-over by O.M.s. Rosa and Mazzotti came second in the race and first in the 2-litre class, and the next seven places in this class were filled by O.M.s.

In the Coppa Internazionale delle Alpi—note the enhanced status of this event now—a team of three O.M.s entered and won the team prize. The event was shortened this year to 1,761 km.

Rosa went down to Leghorn, to come third in his class and fourth in the race in the Coppa Lavorano, and in the Coppa Principe di Piemonte Morandi came third in the race and O.M.s. took first, second and third places in the 2-litre class.

In the Coppa Messina Bassi came second in the 2-litre class, and also came sixth in the Coppa Etna, with a third place in the 2-litre class. This was a racing car event. Two other amateur drivers got into the placings with O.M.s Pirandella won the Circuito di Rimini and Georgini came third in the race (first in 2-litre class) in the Coppa Sila.

Morandi and Rosa drove their O.M. into fourth place in the Premio Romano del Turismo, a 20-hour race.

During 1929 the O.M.s seem to pause for breath, as they confined themselves this year to Italian “second division” races.

Successfully dodging the bandits, Rosa and Foresti came first in the Circuit di Sicilia—a 975-km. hair-raiser of a circuit—and Morandi came second. Whilst in the south, Morandi won the Coppa Messina and Rosa took second place.

North again went the O.M. team, to compete in the Circuit del Mugello (Florence). Morandi came in second in this race but he won the Coppa Principe di Piemonte, the Circuit di Avellino, the Coppa Tre Province and the Coppa della Sila. Definitely Morandi’s year.

1930. The Mille Miglia was again to be the most outstanding event of the year for the O.M.s In this race Rossi and Gazzabini came fifth overall and first in the 3-litre class. Second place in the class was taken by Rosa and Coffani, and third place was taken by Borniglia and Balestrero. Five other places in this class were taken by O.M.s, making this the second time that O.M.s had taken the first eight places in the 3-litre class in the Mille Miglia.

In the Targa Florio Morandi came sixth overall, Minoia 10th overall. Ruggeri and Balestrero retired their car. The cars used for this race were 2.2-litres unsupercharged.

Whilst in Sicily, Rosa and Morandi won the Giro di Sicilia, with Gasperi and Guidotti, two local drivers, in second place. Rosa then had four races in which he was placed: the Circuit di Casserta, second; the Circuit del Sud (Naples), second; the Coppa Principe di Piemonte, third; and the Coppa Sila, third. Obviously, Rosa was trying to emulate Morandi’s winning season the previous year. Not so successfully, as it turned out, but a noble effort.

In the Coppa Castelli Romani Count Luigi Castelbarco appeared and drove his O.M. into second place in the race.

The Coppa Tre Venezie was won this year by an O.M.

1932 was the last year in which O.M.s get mentioned in publications dealing with motor competition on the Continent. The factory had ceased, or was about to cease, production of private cars and doubtless was content to rest on the laurels won by O.M.s during the eleven years in which they competed.

Only one O.M. featured in the places in the Mille Miglia. Morandi and Rosa drove their car into first place in the 3-litre class and came third overall. They do not seem to have been backed up by the flocks of O.M.s at the 1928 and 1930 races.

Rosa and Morandi won the Giro di Sicilia and Morandi puts the full stop at the end of O.M. competition history on the Continent with a fourth place in the Coppa Principe di Piemonte.

Conclusion

During the period 1920-1934 O.M.s on the Continent and in the British Isles entered for a total of 524 races and obtained 118 first, second or third places in race or class. Also O.M.s won the Rudge Whitworth Cup at Le Mans, and set up two long-distance records at Monza.

It is infuriating that so few of the competition cars still exist. R. F. Oats’ 1,991-c.c. o.h.v. Outer Circuit car was broken up and the engine went into UL 91, owned by W. Blackstone. The 1½-litre 8-cylinder car went to Jersey for sand races and it is believed that the engine of it may still exist. Of the T.T. cars, the one crashed by Ramponi in practice for the 1929 T.T. may be the 2.3 blown car reported in the Manchester area some years ago. Another T.T. car, a 2.3 blown model which, again, may have been Ramponi’s car, is being restored by Keith Hainsworth. It is hoped that this car will appear in 1965.

G. C. Dugdale, whose O.M. won a Brooklands sprint in 1934, still has his car. He took the car to a rally in America pre-war and reports that it got a great reception. A few years ago the car was savaged by hooligans whilst it stood in the street near Earls Court. Mr. Dugdale proposes to have it rebuilt.

The o.h.v. car owned by W. Blackstone went missing during the late ‘thirties but within the last few years another o.h.v. car turned up—BXW 404. This car had all the evidence of having been a team car but was rebodied in a rather heavy manner. Unfortunately this car has “gone missing” again, believed abroad.

The O.M. which should have been one of the liveliest of the lot but which never really got going, was the 2-litre o.h.v. supercharged car driven by Fronteras in the 1930 T.T. This car is now in Serge Pozzoli’s museum.

Four out of the original six o.h.v. cars have been seen in one piece (more or less) since the war and are almost certainly still in existence, although one wishes that they were not so shy and appeared more often.

Vintage O.M.s are practically non-existent in Italy, only two or three museum-bound specimens remain.

Only about 31 or 32 O.M.s can be accounted for today, a dismally low survival rate for a quality marque with such a splendid racing history.

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