Vintage postbag, April 1982

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148

Seaman and Delage
Sir,
I feel your remarks in Matters of Moment (February 1982) concerning the successes achieved by Richard Seaman and his Delage were somewhat misleading. You state that “The Delage was able to off-set its power deficiency and prove victorious because it could race race non-stop, whereas the supercharged ERAs had to stop for more fuel.” With respect, I feel this is not borne out by the facts. Seaman gained four major victories with the Delage. In the RAC Light Car Race at Douglas, Isle of Man, Seaman took the lead on lap 4 of the 50-lap 200-mile race and thereafter pulled away to win by 1 min. 17 sec. He had already proved faster than the ERAs before these stopped to refuel. At Pescara in the Coppa Acerbo Vetturette Seaman led from start to finish, beating Trossi with the best 6CM Maserati, in an event of only 96 miles where refuelling stops were unnecessary.

He repeated this performance at Berne, again leading throughout the race on a fast circuit where none of the ERAs could keep up with him. Bira, who ran second for 16 laps, over-revved his engine and broke a rocker in his efforts to catch the Delage. Seaman’s race average was 87.84 m.p.h., 7.77 m.p.h. faster than his winning average in the 1935 event when driving a B-type ERA. By the time Seaman arrived at Donington for the JCC 200-Mile Race the Delage had run at Livorno, Pescara and Berne with only minor maintenance. With his intelligent and calculating approach to his racing, Seaman therefore decided to let Lord Howe set the pace to save the Delage which was clearly the faster car and with the added confidence that he did not have to stop for fuel. In fact, as you emphasise in your book, “The 200 Mile Race”, Howe stopped to refuel on lap 50 and Seaman went past and had a lead of 44 sec. at 60 laps. He increased this to 51.4 sec. at 70 laps, and maintained this to the finish despite Howe driving “like one possessed”.

The many tributes to Philippe Etancelin have not mentioned one unusual aspect of his driving style. I was not old enough to see him in action before the War but I was intrigued by his practising methods when I saw him at Silverstone in 1949/50. In every practice session, he was one of the first away from the pits in his Lugo-Talbot. He did the first few laps at a pedestrian pace and then gradually quickened up until he was going all out in his usual dramatic fashion after about 10 laps. I could never decide if this was to warm up the driver, the car, or both.
Hove, Sussex David Venables

A Rolls-Royce Breakdown Truck
Sir,
I thought you may like to show your readers this photo of our Rolls-Royce 20 breakdown lorry, XW-1752, taken pre-war by my late father, who had the body specially built on the chassis of a Rolls 20, bought from an old gentleman in Southport.

The body was beautifully finished by Parker and Bowers, Coachbuilders, Dean St., Blackpool, painted eau de nil green, with cream band, and British Racing Green mudguards, it had chrome handrails down both sides. The wheel rims were reduced to take 16″ tyres for extra traction.

It was an early chassis, having no front wheel brakes, centre gear-change and horizontal radiator shutters. My father was very proud of it and it was certainly a showpiece. I remember riding in it as a small boy; it was so silent, only slight wind noise as you rode along. It had a new Harvey-Frost crane fitted, with fire extinguishers, first-aid kit, floodlight and two-wheel recovery ambulance. It was little used pre-war and laid up during the war, after the war it was used until 1947, when father decided to sell it, the Austin 12-4 pick-up being adequate for our needs at that time. The crane was removed and the craneless Rolls sold to a man from Scotland, who said it was to be used for delivery of soft drinks.

I have very often wondered what became of the old Rolls; whether it may still exist in some form or other, I should be pleased to hear from anyone who may remember it. Blackpool, David Ellor

The Frazer Nash Way
Sir,
I read with pleasure the letter from John Butler in your February issue. I feel certain the crab-track, pre-war, black car he saw was the 1932 TT Rep. Frazer Nash belonging to my friend Fred Giles. The “intrepid mechanic” would be his charming and attractive wife, Janet, who is quite used to both driving and passengering Frazer Nashes under all conditions. They were returning, to their house in Promo, from that annual riotous Frazer Nash Christmas party, hold at Hereford on the evening of December 12th.

I would mention that Frazer Nash drivers hardly ever have their hoods up and quite often drive with only aero-screens regardless of the weather. Not only that, these real sports cars have such a stirring performance with precise and exciting handling that they are invariably driven with great spirit and panache, their drivers exuding enthusiasm, good humour and enjoyment. Thus you hardly ever see a ‘Nash prancing around in a grassy field on a summer’s day with a ticket on its headlamp. It would be as much out of place as a tiger in a sheep pen.

I’m glad you found it heart-warming, Mr. Butler. That car was being used as the designer intended, and I thoroughly agree with your sentiment.
Cockermouth, Cumbria, Dick Smith

Filling the Gap
Sir,
I was interested to read the letter from Dr. Karl J. Wiessmann in the February issue, as I owned the J4 MG registered OJ9483 in 1950 and can fill part of the gap in its missing history. J4004 was first registered on 5-5-33 and I purchased the car in August 1950 from Mr. G. Betts, Newport Mon., it was previously owned by a gentleman in Bossom, Hants.

The car was in original condition apart from the engine, as it was then fitted with a modified MG PB engine.

I used the car for two seasons competing at various sprints and circuits.

It was then sold to D. A. S. Colvin of Yeovil who removed the original body and fitted a streamlined one. He later completely dismantled the car, and all parts were sold separately.

Geoff Coles found the chassis, and managed to acquire all the necessary pans to rebuild the car that Dr. Wiessmann now owns.

I found the J4 an excellent and reliable road car and I had many hours of pleasure driving it. At the time I had the J4 I also owned a supercharged PB Midget registration number MG5000, does this car still exist today?
Yeovil, Somerset, John Moffat

The Other Halford Special
Sir,
I read with interest your article concerning the rebuild of the Halford Special by James Cheyne, in your March Issue. You may be interested to know that we [Vintage Motor Car Restoration —Ed.] are in the process of restoring the Lord Ridley-built Special, which is owned by Mr. Park of Morpeth, utilising a Type-35 GP Bugatti chassis, the other Halford engine, and Bugatti body panels. Up to now we have been primarily concerned with the bodywork of the car and will shortly be starting with the mechanical work. Its interesting to note that the car was in use until four or five years ago when frost damage was sustained to the block.

The Bugatti Owners Club are being most helpful with regard to the chassis, running gear, etc., but obviously information about the engine is sparse, at present it is fitted with a Powerplus blower, a Zenith 42VC updraught carburetter and interestingly is also fitted with a multi-plate clutch, the owner believes that Parry Thomas was involved in some way with this. There is a small Bugatti-shaped radiator mounted through the near side of the bonnet for cooling the inlet manifold.

This car was put together by Lord Ridley for the present owner’s father as a road car and being a hybrid presents particular problems for the restorer. However, having said that it is certainly a most interesting vehicle and any information which can be gleaned about its history would be much appreciated.
Staindrop, Durham, David A. C. Royle
[It is good news that the other Halford Special engine may soon be heard running again. I always thought that Parry Thomas might have contributed something to Lord Ridley’s successful record-breaking 750 c.c. Ridley Special and it seems likely that the multi-plate clutch came either from that car or the Thomas Special intended to have a 750 c.c. (Class-H) engine. — Ed.]

A TT Vauxhall
Sir,
Having had your excellent magazine since 1952 without ever having put pen to paper previously, I am sending you a copy of an old family photo found recently. I suspect that this car is one of the three 1922 TT Vauxhalls in road-trim, and the registration number appears to be NM 1793; I think that the photo may have been taken outside W. H. Allens engineering works at Bedford, my late father is in the driving seat and I suspect that the gentleman in the passenger seat was a local garage owner, a Mr. Roger de Reyghere.
Harpenden, Herts, John E. D. Lilly

V-E-V Odds & Ends. — A special exhibition called “Jaguar”, to celebrate the first 50 years of this famous make and those from which the Jaguar derived, can be seen at BL Heritage’s Syon Park Motor Museum up to June 6th. A comprehensive display of Jaguar, SS, Swallow and other products has been assembled. Syon Park is at Brentford, close to the M4, and the Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday inclusive. Admission costs £1.50 (75p per child) and there are some 90 permanent exhibits, of makes which now come under the BL umbrella, including a 1920’s garage and forecourt reproduction. Admission to the “Jaguar” display is free to those paying to visit the main Museum. The Rover Sports Register will hold its Thoresby Hall Rally on June 20th, and its pre-1950 “Pride-of-Ownership” Rover Vehicles Rally at Belvoir Castle on August 22nd. Details from: M. T. Couldry, 5 Holme Lane, Radcliffe Road, Bassingfield, Radcliffe-on-Trent, Notts. Apart from National Alvis Day at Knebworth on May 16th, there will be a Scottish Alvis Day at Mellerstrain on June 6th, a Northern Alvis Day at Harewood House near Harrogate on June 20th and a SW Alvis Day at Sherborne Castle on June 27th, while the annual arrival of Alvises at “The Phoenix”, Hartley Wintney, one-time home of the VSCC, is due on June 26th. The Inter-Register contests between a few of the smaller clubs fostering similar machinery begins this year with one organised by the Fiat Register on May 15th/16th or in September if the earlier date flounders, followed by those of the Austin Ten DC, STD Register and Humber Register on June 13th, July 18th and August 8th, respectively. A punt-type Trojan chassis changed hands in Wales recently.

The Bean CC’s annual Daffodil Run is to take place on April 25th, from Knowle Hill to Bournemouth, with a detour into the latter town to benefit onlookers, and open also to the Brooklands Section of the VMCC on early motor bicycles. The annual Pageant of Motoring at Deer Park, Hall Place, Tunbridge Wells, takes place this year on May 9th. The event is organised by the local Cheshire Home and details can be obtained by writing to The Seven Spring, Cheshire Home, Pembury Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent.— W.B.