V-E-V Miscellany., April 1984, April 1984

The AGM of the Vintage Motor Cycle Club takes place at Bristol on April 29th. The Morgan Three-Wheeler Club, which has its 1984 opening run on April 8th, can now claim a total of over 600 members, as at December 31st. The discourse elsewhere on Arab valve-gear reminds us that this 1926 sports car was sold with a guaranteed speed of 80 mph for the sports two-seater and 90 mph for the super-sports model in racing trim, and rather before this 65 mph was guaranteed for the Brooklands model Gwynne Eight. Which reminds me that some interesting correspondence has been taking place in the Brooklands Society Gazette as to cars which have been type-named after the famous Track. Those recalled include Austin 7, Riley 9, Lea-Francis, Rover Scarab, Palmer Special and Belsize. Other race venues gave their names to sports cars, of which Ulster Austin 7 and Aston Martin, Monza Alfa Romeo, BNC Miramas, Frazer Nash Nurburg, and Montlhery MG Midget come easily to mind. Can you recall any others?

We regret to learn that John Belgrove has died, aged 83. He joined the Triumph Motor Co. at the time of the Super Seven, under Donald Healey, and became the Company’s Chief Body Engineer, responsible for the Dolomites with their die-cast “waterfall” radiator grilles. After war work on aircraft jig and tool design, he joined the Standard body design team, working on the razor-edge Triumph 1800 saloons and then the Vanguard, and later the TR2. He left Standard’s after a disagreement over Vanguard III styling proposals.

A reader who has just purchased a 1923 10.9 hp Calthorpe two-seater, Reg. No. OK 7345, which has a comprehensive recent overhaul, wants data so he can gauge how original the car is. Letters can be forwarded.

Occasionally, a visit to a hotel or pub is brightened up, apart from other amenities, by finding on the walls old motoring pictures. In one hotel recently we noticed a photograph taken in Hereford around 1925, depicting what looks like a Buick tourer emerging from a then well-known crossroads, its driver wearing the expected trilby hat, as is the driver of what could be a Singer Ten or Coventry-Premier two-seater going the other way, this driver stooped as if searching for the brake or gear level, while parked on the kerbside are an Armstrong Siddeley 14 Sandown tourer, and other unidentifiable cars, one of which may be a Model-T Ford. Other decorations include mirror-finish agents’ advertising plaques, listing Rolls-Royce, Duesenberg, Mercedes, Delahaye, Bugatti and Hispano Suiza, one depicting the well-known Armstrong Siddeley picture of a chauffeur-driven car of that make, the other a Packard on the banking of the Company’s proving ground in the USA, although these are presumably publicity gimmicks.

The Amilcar Register continues to issue its jolly magazine and is basing its summer social on the VSCC Prescott weekend. Incidentally, it caters for BNC, Lombard and other small French sports-car and is not exactly averse to Salmsons! The well-publicised Bristol-Weymouth 73-mile Vintage Vehicle Run of the Yeovil CC takes place on June 10th and regulations for the event, which last year had 156 pre-1940 entries, are available from A. C. K. McGee, 38 Kenmore Drive, Yeovil, Somerset, BA21 4BQ, sponsorship coming from Reema Quality Foods Ltd. Other old-car events which we have been asked to mention are the 7th annual Sandwell Historic Vehicle Parade & Transport Show at Dartmouth Park, W. Bromwich on May 13th, which starts with a 26-mile parade in the morning, starting from Oldbury’s Save-centre at 10.15 am (details from Linda Price on 021-502 3713) and the Rover Sports Register’s E. Midlands Centre seventh annual rally, to the Crich Tramway Museum, at Matlock on June 16th / 17th, with Wyn Owen lecturing about “Babs” on the first evening, the Parry Thomas giant being on show. Details from M. Couldry, 5 Helse Lane, Radcliffe Road, Bassingfield, Radcliffe-on-Trent, Notts, NG12 2LD, if an sae is sent. Our apologies to the Lea-Francis OC for calling it a Register; it is, of course, a fully-fledged, RAC-recognised Club and all that… The Rapier Register will be holding several events this year to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Lagonda Rapier, one of which will be a parade of Rapiers at the VSCC Silverstone Race Meeting on April 14th. The Pre-50 American AC has its Easter Parade, from London to Petworth House, on April 22nd and the “Rally of the Giants” is scheduled for August 11th / 12th. Derek Phillips writes to say he thinks Edward Mills is in error in thinking Gedge rode in the 300 hp Fiat with Eldridge in the Match Race against Parry Thomas in 1925, as Dudley Froy told him he was the decidedly intrepid passenger and Mr Phillips says one of his start-line photographs confirms this.

In my Griffiths Borgeson reference last month two words were omitted that rather undermined the point I was trying to make. The car which was said by Griffiths to have won a race for Leon Duray after its engine had failed completely is supposed to have had this happen two laps from the finish but was able to swing out from behind the leader and shoot past to victory, which is a little hard to believe? Apart from the letter in this issue from T. A. O. S. Mathieson about a Bugattis which the Rolls-Royce engineers bought for technical analysis, Lt-Col Eric Barrass, Secretary of the Rolls-Royce EC, following up my article “Balance and Bearings” in the February MOTOR SPORT, has kindly sent me proof that another car Rolls-Royce Ltd were interested in, in 1912, was a Napier, size unspecified, which Mr Platford had driven from London to Derby that May. Mr Claude Johnson asked for his impressions of the car, which included the comments that it seemed like a poor Rolls-Royce which had high compression, heavy pistons causing knocking, a light flywheel and no slipper drive. The back axle noise was what R-R would have at that time regarded as “very fair” and the gearbox just good for noise under power, while the metal gears in the Napier’s engine, although rather inclined to rattle at low speeds and hum at high speeds, were regarded as very fair, as R-R had found with such gears. The Napier had a slightly lower (three to one) axle ratio rather than the current 40 / 50 hp Rolls-Royce and Platford found the oiled plate clutch the best he had tried, although it grabbed before finally engaging, as expected. There was no “jingling noise” when disengaging the clutch and the gears could even be changed roughly without undue noise or knocking. Slow speed running in top gear did not compare with that of the Rolls-Royce, as the engine was easy to stall. It was more audible at idle, most sound coming, it seemed, from the tappets and valves. There appeared to be carburation problems affecting acceleration. There were crankshaft periods at about 30 mph and 45 mph, the former slight, the latter bad.

Platford went on to observe that the Napier’s engine was very lumpy all down the scale on retard, the flywheel seemingly too light. Valve bounce came in at approximately 1,600 rpm, or at 50 mph, when there was a “terrible clatter”. There were good ring-type universal joints between engine and gearbox but they were poorly protected, with no precautions for retaining oil. The mixture seemed weak, causing difficult starting, and with no hand-control for the carburation, Platford obtained about 12½ mpg. He said that the Napier knocked and detonated badly and when giving off full power at low speed the pulsations could be felt — the Napier “power rattle”? Steering was stiff and tiring but not as bad as the Lanchester’s. It had some slack but was not affected by road shocks. There was no sign of boiling and the floorboards kept quite cool, compared to those on a Rolls-Royce. With a light load springing was considered very fair, the Napier’s brakes were very good and quieter than those of a Rolls-Royce. The silencer was very effective, making “suction noises” about the same as a Rolls-Royce, and on the over-run it was nothing like as objectionable as that on a Rolls-Royce (!), simply making “more like a slight coughing noise”. Platford was to carry out dynamometer tests and further road trials on the Napier. It seems just as well that at the time his reports were filed in the secrecy of the “Rolls-Royce Bible”, as otherwise S. F. Edge would surely have had a fit? I am indebted to Colonel Barrass for this interesting information.

The Trojan OC is planning a rally at the British Heritage Museum at Syon Park for September 8th, at which it hopes to have every known two-stroke Trojan present, no matter what its condition. National Alvis Day, 1984, has been provisionally fixed for May 20th. Space precludes a full list of all the splendid trophies won by VCC members last year but the Lord “Victor Ludorum” Trophy went to J. E. Tanner with his 1904 Berliet and 1900 Daimler, the Stanley Sears Trophy to Edwards and Curtis with their 1904 Hotchkiss, the Bendall Single-Cylinder Trophy to J. R. Brown’s 1902 De Dion Bouton and the Milex Trophy to N. A. Ridley’s 1905 Star, with 1,070 formula miles to its credit. In view of the suggestion made in The Automobile recently by the editor of the VCC Gazette that dating veterans as 1904 and not allowing cars down to 1918 to take part in the Brighton Run is invoking the sacred cow, it is significant that of these main VCC annual awards back to an 1892 Benz, 15 were won by pre-1905 cars, eight by post-1904 cars down to a 1914 Standard, although one such award was expressly for cars of 1911 to 1918 anyway. The 750 MC is hoping to do a re-run of its first ever trial, held in June 1939 (in which I ran my Chummy Austin 7 after I had been made to put its competition tyres on the front wheels, as they were not permitted on the driving wheels) later this year and would be glad to hear from anyone who took part, or remembers the event, or who has the route card.
– W.B.