Veteran - Edwardian - Vintage, April 1972

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A Section Devoted to Old-Car Matters
The Non-Pom. Silverstone (March 11th)

Everything was set for another good Pomeroy Trophy contest of the VSCC at Silverstone this year, this being an ingenious event evolved by the late Laurence Pomeroy and constituting an effective memorial to him. He quite seriously planned the rules and tests to provide an indication from among the entrants of which is the best all-round touring car. Naturally, he was quite convinced that in their day the cars which fulfilled this role were the Prince Henry and 30/98 Vauxhalls, designed by his illustrious father.

The entry for 1972 comprised 60 splendidly-varied cars, ranging from Corner’s 1914 Sunbeam, which although a racing car he presumably considered, as a Tourist Trophy winner, to be capable of winning the Pomeroy (after all, it has done so on two previous occasions), to a couple of GT40 Fords to be driven by Mitchell and Seddon, for this is the one competition in which the VSCC permits modern machinery to run with the pre-1940 stuff. Indeed, there was a Marcos, two Frazer Nash Sebrings, a Mazda R100, an AC Cobra, Dodds’ Deep Sanderson 303, Lawrence’s Deep Sanderson 401 and the Hon. Patrick Lindsay’s D-type Jaguar, all mixed up with Mk. 6 Bentley Specials, vintage Bentley non-specials, the Continental Correspondent in a Lagonda M45R, a Citroën Pallas, the President of the VSCC in a 1924 boat-tailed Delage DIS tourer, the Conways in a couple of Type-43 Bugattis, and three more Type 43s in addition, a RaiIton tourer on which the Club smiles more tolerantly these days, Winder in his stark Special, its one-time Alvis engine replaced by a 3 1/2-litre SS 100 power-unit tuned, they say, to poke out 140 b.h.p., Black’s delectable Monza Alfa Romeo, etc. There was even a Rover 3500S, dated 1966, which makes me madder than ever that I have not yet driven one of these manual-gearbox V8s, although this must have been an early experimental, surely? Mather’s Fraser Nash-MG Special was so patently non-touring that it enlisted the aid of a trailer for the road section of its journey.

The Maserati/Ferrari element was missing, it is true, although Flanagan had put in a Ferrari Berlinetta and Edwards a Lancia Flaminia. Let it be whispered that most of these exciting modern cars are owned by VSCC members, anyway!

Alas, a snow storm broke over chilly Silverstone. The cars were allowed out, then brought in again. The RAC Steward, K. Nightingale, the club Steward, Mr. Walker, and the VSCC President, Nigel Arnold-Forster, were consulted. They had no hesitation in calling off the Pom., for visibility was very poor and the course snow-covered. It may happen again at a later date, when which is the best all-round touring car of 1972 will be resolved remembering that the effectiveness of the heater or the size of the ash-tray is not taken into account, which might aid the modern cars.—W. B.

British Empire Trophy Returns to Silverstone

The British Racing Drivers’ Club’s historic British Empire Trophy will be competed for at Silverstone in 1972 by the competitors in the JCB Historic Car Championship. The British Empire Trophy will be awarded to the driver who obtains the most points in the JCB Historic Car Championship rounds at Silverstone. Points will be scored on the same basis as in the JCB Championship. Many of the cars competing in the JCB Historic Car Championship appeared in British Empire Trophy Races before and after the war. Dates of the qualifying rounds are : April 3rd, April 23rd, May 21st, June 18th (sports cars only), July 15th (racing cars only), and August 6th. [It is nice to know that an historic trophy is to be contested by appropriate cars and not, as other pre-war trophies have been in the past, diverted to other channels. I note, incidentally, that vintage and historic racing is getting so popular that it has been featured in a Daily Express strip cartoon!—Ed.]

V-E-V Odds & Ends.

The Railton OC Monthly Bulletin for March contained an interesting description of the Spikins Hudson Special, by the car’s present owner, who is restoring it. Interesting that it competed in the 1936 RAC Rally, a long day and night affair, sans hood and with only a token windscreen! The February issue of The Driving Member, journal of the Daimler & Lanchester OC, contains an article by Spares Secretary, V. Boyd-Carpenter, on the Daimlers owned by members of his family (he reckons they have consumed 34 Daimlers and Lanchesters since 1912) from which we learn that F. Boyd-Carpenter of Austin 7 racing fame and J. Boyd-Carpenter, the MP, are his cousins. The Secretary is H. D. Saunders, Eastgate House, Top Street, Appleby Magna, Burton-on-Trent. The Pre-50 American AC is holding its Spring Rally, with classes for appropriate AMC, Chrysler, Ford, GM, military, commercial and recovery vehicles, motorcycles and Anglo-American hybrids, at Hereford Race Course, on June 4th. Entries close on May 20th, to Mrs. M. John, 172, Dundridge Lane, St. George, Bristol. An LGOC 1930/31 open deck omnibus is expected to go into service again on Route 100, sponsored by London Transport and Johnnie Walker, who used to advertise “Just the Ticket” on the reverse of ‘bus tickets of that period. Look for it on the Horse Guards Avenue, Whitehall, Trafalgar Square Victoria Embankment run.

On top—Napier or Rolls-Royce?

In Edwardian times, as engines became more powerful but gearboxes remained, in the main, difficult to manipulate and noisy on the indirect ratios, long runs made entirely on the highest speed became a popular publicity stunt. It is commonly accepted that two of the outstanding protagonists at this caper were Napier and Rolls-Royce. Anthony Bird tells, in “The Rolls-Royce Motor Car” (Batstord, 1964), how “that skilled publicist S. F. Edge” started this particular ball rolling in 1905 by having his cousin Cecil Edge drive a 40-h.p. six-cylinder Napier from Brighton to Edinburgh solely on top gear. It seems in retrospect, and even occurred to some people at the time, that this performance was a bit of a fiddle, inasmuch as this great 8-litre Napier was given special low gears for the journey in question, being unable to exceed 46 m.p.h. and having to go to some 2,300 r.p.m. to attain even this maximum.

This did not stop others from emulating Edge’s hands-off-the-gear lever run. Cars as diverse as “the little twin-cylinder Phoenix and the magnificent six-cylinder ‘gearless’ Sheffield-Simplex”, again to quote Bird, undertook officially-observed top-gear runs. He remarks that “these performances really only proved that a suitably geared clockwork mouse could climb the dome of St. Paul’s”, although it seems to me odd that the bigger cars should resort to specialty low gearing, the presence of which must have been revealed in the Automobile Club’s reports.

Be that as it may, Napier gilded their already refined, gold by undergoing an RAC-observed top-gear run from London to Edinburgh in 1910 and adding to it a test of fuel consumption and maximum speed, especially to emphasise that the back axle or gearbox contained no low ratio jiggery-pokery. A slightly hotted-up 65 h.p. Napier was used, with a 2.7-to-1 axle ratio. It gave 19.35 m.p.g. on the journey and then, taken to Brooklands on its return from Scotland, clocked 76.42 m.p.h., winning Napier the great Dewar Trophy. To this Rolls-Royce replied in 1911, also with a slightly modified car, a 40/50 Silver Ghost with a 2.9-to-1 axle ratio. It had a slightly smaller engine than the Napier but did 24.32 m.p.g. and, on Brooklands, 78.26 m.p.h. From this evolved the production London-Edinburgh Rolls-Royce.

Mr. Bird makes no further reference to these Napier versus Rolls-Royce demonstrations in the book from which I have quoted.. It is inferred that the outcome of this 1909 RAC-observed demonstration put the Rolls-Royce ahead of the Napier in respect of top-gear flexibility and speed. Mr. Bird suggesting that prior to this it led from the aspects of silent vibrationless running, while having a superior appearance, for “the Napier engines were very long and to give reasonable body space on a reasonable wheelbase the Napier radiators had to be carried far forward of the front axles which gave the ears a sadly lumpish appearance”.

Reading Lord Montagu’s “Lost Causes of Motoring” (Cassell, 1960) makes this comparison between the Edwardian Napier and Rolls-Royce cars seem unhappily biased, because he refers to Napier’s 1912 demonstrations, of a London-Land’s End-John o’Groat’s-Edinburgh-London top-gear run at 23.9 m.p.g. and a London-Edinburgh-London top-gear journey at an average of 18.7 m.p.h. and 27.65 m.p.g. So, whatever march Rolls-Royce had stolen in terms of quiet running and speed, Napier seems to have met by exceptional economy, although it seems a pity timed speeds were not included. Incidentally, whereas Bird refers to the 1910 London-Edinburgh Napier as a 65 h.p., slightly larger than its Rolls-Royce rival, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu quotes the 1912 Napier as a Sixty and a “far bigger car than the Rolls-Royce”.

I think it valid that the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost was a quieter, more refined car than the Sixty Napier, but S. F. Edge contented himself by calling the ghostly rival “certainly quite a nice car”. How evenly these two top makes were matched at this period is borne out by the following comparisons; Rolls-Royce won the TT in 1906, at 39.3 m.p.h.; a Hutton (which was really a four-cylinder Napier) won the 1908 TT, at 50.25 m.p.h. In 1905 a Rolls-Royce set a Monte Carlo-London time of 37 hr. 28.5 min.; in 1907 a (much bigger) Napier reduced this record to 33 hr. 34.0 min., in the opposite direction. Napier had the great 1,582 miles, 24-hour record at Brooklands to their credit and were more prominent than R-R in races and speed trials, but Rolls-Royce did significant things in the Alpine Trials.

Napier seems to have taken part more readily in RAC-observed trials, the new and very fine 30135 six-cylinder model being submitted to a 2,100-mile test in the Austrian Alps in 1914, while the new 40/50 Napier undertook a similar 2,118-mile trial in 1921. averaging 18.69 m.p.g. at an average Speed of 20.7 m.p.h. and afterwards being timed at 72.38 m.p.h. on Brooklands. However, in the all-important matter of sales Rolls-Royce had the advantage, making 6.137 Silver Ghosts alone, at Derby, between 1907 and 1925, whereas Acton’s output Of Napiers between 1905 and 1924, when they abandoned car making, totalled 4,258.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to speculate as to which was really the better all-round motor car, the Sixty (or 30/35) Napier or the RollsRoyce Silver Ghost. It does seem as if Anthony Bird is less than fair to the Acton company in his eulogy over the products of Manchester, Derby and Crewe (the same indictment can be made against Kent Karslake in the book “From Veteran to Vintage”) and that it may have been the subconscious promptings of hindsight which drove R-R Ltd. on so ruthlessly to snatch Bentley Motors out of the hands of D. Napier & Son Ltd., in 1931! —W. B.

V-E-V Miscellany.

—The Armstrong Siddeley OC now produces a -good printed quarterly magazine, the Sphinx, which shows that these cars are no longer cars nobody wants, even if they are cars not many people want, which keeps prices under control! Motor Sport’s History of the Armstrong Siddeley was reprinted in the Club magazine last year. The Lagonda CC continues to issue its high-grade magazine The Lagonda and the AC OC Bulletin has re-appeared, the 1971 edition containing an illustrated description of an experimental flat-six AC engine designed by Marcewski, this being intended for a post-war AC which never was. According to the Model Engineer a model of the 1891 Pecori steam tricycle, 11 3/4 in. long by 8 in. high and burning methylated spirit, has been made in Burnley; it runs for some 10 to 15 minutes, at four to five m.p.h.

The 1923 200-Mile Race twin-cam Newton which turned up in the Watford area eight years ago is being restored in Abbots Langley and it is hoped that it will be running again next year. The attempt to drive a 1928 Bean 14/40 from London to Australia to commemorate the journey made in 1927 by Birtles and Ellis was abandoned in India due to delays occasioned by a broken lower-gear selector fork which resulted in the boat connection from Madras being missed. The only other trouble was a radiator leak caused by frost. The Bean climbed the Khyber Pass without trouble and was running as well as ever at the end of its 8,000-mile journey to Bombay. The end of this brave attempt by Belfast fireman and Churchill Fellowship holder Richard Sefton has a parallel, because in 1925 Birtles’ first attempt on the England-Australia run ended in India . . . The Austin Ten DC had 413 members, of whom 20% owned Austins in the larger sizes, at the end of last year. This year it will again hold its National Rally at Beaulieu, with a Commemorative Rally organised by the Midland Group at Longbridge. The new Secretary is Mrs. Elaine Winney, 8 Standring Rise, Bexmoor, Hemel Hempstead, Herts. According to Beaded Wheels, excellent journal of the Vintage CC of New Zealand, the Alfa Romeo which won Le Mans in 1931 driven by Howe and Birkin has left that country for America. They also report that a 1928/29 Chevrolet-4 truck which was in use up to about two years ago is to be restored by a member. The Historic Commercial Vehicle Club’s Battersea Park to Brighton Run takes place on May 7th, on which day Alvis cars assemble for National Alvis Day at the Crystal Palace. Apart from vintage racing, Neil Corner is taking to the air, in a Stearman biplane-.

The Austin Seven Jubilee

Among the Jubilee year Celebrations of the Austin 7 Clubs the Southend-on-Sea Austin Seven Club will hold a static display of veteran and vintage vehicle’s at Southchurch Park East on June 25th, in aid of the Southend and District Society for Mentally Handicapped Children, this to include Austin 7s, which will be placed together. The start will be at 1 p.m., there will be plaques for those taking part in the parade, and the entry fee is 50p per vehicle. Entry forms are now available from Miss D. De Ritter, 49 Parklands, Rochford, Essex (Southend-on-Sea 42723).

13th International New Zealand Vintage Car Rally

This attracted a remarkable entry of 762, 168 of which came from overseas, the largest such rally ever held. Australia contributed 134 entries, the UK 20, the USA 12 and S. Africa and Hong Kong one each. A Renault 45 was apparently the largest car entered. Most popular make was Ford (94), followed by Austin (49), Chevrolet (39), Dodge (34), Buick (25), Essex (24), Bentley and Chrysler (22 each), Fiat ( 21), Vauxhall (19), Studebaker (17), Hupmobile (16), Rolls-Royce (15). Sunbeam (14), Alvis and Morris (12 each) and MG (11).

Fragments on forgotten makes
No. 49: The Eric Longden

My Father who was an enthusiastic follower of “The Turf” and who owned racehorses, was a close friend of Mr. Eric Longden, who was, at one time, a well-known steeplechase jockey in Australia. Longden was an Australian by birth and had sustained a bad fall whilst racing in Australia which left him with a permanent limp, and which of course, finished his career as a jockey.

He came. to England where he started a theatrical agency in the Charing Cross Road, but he had a flair for things mechanical and in fact had a lathe installed in his office where he made all sorts of motorcycle bits and pieces when the agency business was quiet.

He started racing Dot motorcycles and spent a great deal of time at Brooklands, where he carried out his own tuning and modification to these bikes. I was at the Motor Show at Olympia this particular year with my father and we came across the Eric Longden stand. Longden soon noticed that I was “motor car mad” and suggested to my father that he apprentice me to The Longden Car Co. In those days we were living at Hampton Court and it was necessary for me to catch a train at some unearthly hour each morning for Waterloo, from where I eventually arrived at Tottenham Court Road by 7.30 a.m. The factory was situated in Manette Street, a small cul-de-sac off Charing X Road, (Foyle’s Bookshop now occupies the site). The premises were on two floors and the only method of getting the finished cars to the yard below was by a platform, which was lowered by a diabolical winch which was as temperamental as a prima donna. This winch was the apple of the foreman’s eye, and he would not hear a word against it. The other apprentice and I used to think up the most ingenious devices so that the “lift” would stick half way down and then “production” would be held up until the puzzled foreman came along to sort out the trouble. Unfortunately, we overdid this sabotage one day with the dire result that a brand-new car dropped about twenty feet into the yard and was badly smashed. To make matters worse the prospective customer was waiting below to take delivery of his new car.

Basically, the Eric Longden was any chassis that happened to be available, with a proprietary four-cylinder engine and Moss gearbox and axle. The complete car was made in the works, the bodies being open sports two-seaters panelled in aluminium on ash frames.

A couple of months or so after I joined the company Mr. Longden came into the shop and said to me “Brian, you can drive a car, can’t you ?” Naturally I replied that I was a most experienced driver although I had never driven a car in my life. I had made a very close study of a publication however, called Motor Cars & How to Manage Them and I could go through the motions in my sleep. Later that day Mr. Longden informed me that I was to take the racing car down to Brooklands, where it was to run in the forthcoming 200 Mile Race.

This racing car was a vicious beast fitted with a special Blackburne V-twin engine, with some astronomical compression-ratio and fitted with a narrow staggered-seat racing body. The usual method of starting it was by a large six-foot lever which you engaged at the front end and then two strongmen jumped in the air and attempted to swing the engine. This often resulted in a fantastic backfire, with bodies flying through the air. My route was down Charing X Road, Trafalgar Square, and thence out of London. The noise was shattering, and when I reached Parliament Square a large policeman stopped the traffic. The engine died on me, having little or no tickover, and there I was stuck. The police officer, seeing my predicament, strolled over and said. “What have we got here, lad ?” I explained the situation, pointing out that a good push start would be appreciated. Calling two likely looking lads over, they all gave me the necessary shove and with a shattering explosion the device started and I was off! Negotiating Parliament Square, at around 60 m.p.h. I went on my way. By the time I was through Walton-on-Thames I had got the hang of the beast and from there on I almost enjoyed the drive.

We ran in the 200 Mile Race the following week-end, with Longden driving and with me as passenger. After the race, in which we nearly finished, I felt as though I had been run over by a steamroller. We received quite a number of enquiries for our cars due to the race and actually appointed Messrs. Mann & Handover as our Main Agents. Shortly after this I went to France where I became embroiled with the sale of Bugatti cars, which thereafter were my main interest for many years to come.—Brian Finglass.

How slow they were!

A year ago I wrote briefly about how pre-war cars performed, comparing their acceleration and speed with the figures produced by modern vehicles. In general, this emphasised that vintage and p.v.t. cars have charms of a kind which do not rely on vivid pick-up and high maxima, although some of the better ones went quite rapidly—a Light Sports Railton doing to 60 m.p.h. in 9.8 sec., equalled in the wet by a blown Alpine Brough-Superior, or 8.8 sec. in stripped form, a Railton-Terraplane taking 9.2 sec., a. 328 BMW 9.5 sec., and a 9 1/2.-litre V12 Hispano-Suiza coupé 12 sec. Otherwise, few pre-war cars could match today’s accelerative vigour. Indeed, as long ago as 1922 The Autocar, putting performance into price-categories, found that, comparing 17 cars ranging in price from £231 to £2,250, the best 10-to-30 m.p.h. time was 7.0 sec., attained by two cars, using the gears (they cost respectively £395 and £2,250 and were of 3.4 and 6.2-litres capacity), but that on top gear this steady 10 m.p.h. to 30 m.p.h. occupied as much as 11.4 and 10.4 Sec.). Of these 17 cars, the slowest needed 17.0 sec., or 26.6 sec. in top gear, to go from 10 to 30 m.p.h. In the matter of top speed, this, timed over a mile, ranged from a mere 42.36 m.p.h. from a 1,087-c.c. car costing £250 to 76.93 m.p.h. by a 6,176-c.c. car you could buy for £2,200. Thus, it seems, were born the performance figures which have been a prominent feature of road-test reports in more recent times. These interesting figures relating to representative 1922 cars have been singularly overlooked by writers of erudite books on vintage cars.

It is rather startling to discover that the average maximum speed of the aforesaid cars, of which 16 were timed, worked out at only 55.3 m.p.h. and that their fuel consumption ranged from 13.6 m.p.g. to 40.0 m.p.g. respectively from a 4.7-litre car and a 1,098-c.c. car. Incidentally, in those far-off days The Autocar used a route from Blackfriars, via Westminster, Chelsea, Fulham, Putney, Putney Heath. Kingston, Esher, Hersham, Weybridge with a pause at Brooklands to test speed, hill-climbing, acceleration, weight and brakes, and thence to Ripley and West Clandon where fuel consumption was checked with a test tank, to Newlands Corner, Gomshall, White Downs Hill, Ranmore Common, Box Hill and up another gradient to Betchworth, Pebblecombe Hill and Tadworth from where, to Sutton, the mileage-recorder was tested, Mitcham, Tooting, Clapham and home. Their Midlands staff went from Coventry to Cheltenham and back, taking in gradients like Willersey, Saintbury, Fish Hill, Sudeley, Cleeve Hill, Birdlip and Rising Sun Hill en route.

To revert to my discourse of a year ago, I commented on the pedestrian cars which couldn’t be timed from the later, customary 10 to 50 m.p.h., for the very good reason that they wouldn’t reach 50 m.p.h.! This Caused me to wonder which was the most pedestrian car of the vintage era. The other day I chanced upon figures for the 1927 Trojan tourer. It took 20 sec. to accelerate—eh, pick up speed—from 10 to 30 m.p.h., running completely out of breath at 36 m.p.h. This is 4.3 sec. longer than the average 1922 car required to do this on top gear, and in those high-geared days there couldn’t have been much performance from anything under 15 m.p.h. in the highest ratio. An Austin 12/4 saloon would do this 10 to 30 think in 15 sec. on top gear, or in 10 sec. in 3rd gear, figures pretty representative of the sluggish small saloons of the 1930s. including the 1931 Riley 9 Monaco. An o.h.v. Morris Eight saloon of 1931 was as sluggish as the Trojan until it got into middle cog, when its 10 to 30 time dropped to about 13 sec. The same applied to an Austin 7 saloon of this age, except that a change-down gave an improvement, to 10 sec. Rather surprisingly, the 1930 Triumph Super Seven with saloon body managed 15 sec, in top, 10 sec. in 2nd gear, and a 1932 flat-twin Jowett saloon took 16.2 and 9.6 sec., respectively. To keep a sense of proportion, that Light Sports Railton was clocked to take 5 sec. and 21 sec., respectively, but in 1930 the average, in lower gear, 10 to 30 time was 6.9 sec., with the smaller-engined British cars averaging 8.1 sec., improving to 6.8 and 7.9.sec. by 1932, when the slowest car was the Austin 12/6, with 13.4 sec. The Singer Junior saloon (15.2 sec.) was slowest in 1930, and again in 1931 (13.0 sec.). Even in 1933 the Triumph Super Eight took 12.8 sec. and, surprise, surprise, a Riley 9 Monaco needed 12.2 sec.

So, although the Trojan fascinates me, I think, with its one-third of a minute to gather speed from 10 to 30 m.p.h., its maximum of 13 m.p.h. in low gear and 36 m.p.h. in high gear (although the testers spoke of 43 m.p.h. downhill!), it must, in the context of the mid-‘twenties, win the non-accolade as the slowest of them all. However, let’s be fair—by 1931 the Trojan saloon was able to dispose of a 10 to 30 in 14.6 sec. and achieve a top speed of 36 m.p.h. —W. B.

VSCC Silverstone—April 29th

This first Vintage SCC Silverstone race meeting of the year takes place on the above date. We hardly have to recommend it to readers of this column, for its variety, nostalgia and friendly old-time atmosphere. The official announcement appears to have been delayed in the printing but presumably there will be the usual One Hour High Speed Trial, probably starting at 12.15 p.m., a series of short-handicap races, and longer races for Edwardian, vintage and p.v.t. cars, over the Club circuit. Once again the Motor Sport Brooklands Memorial Trophy will be contested, between the pre-1940 cars, on a points-scoring basis, the outcome of which, at the end of the season, carries also £150 in prize money. The public are welcome at this meeting and details are obtainable from Peter Hull, VSCC offices, Arnham Road, Newbury, Berkshire (Newbury 4411) on mentioning Motor Sport.