[Here is another account, by Driver John Maclagan of the R.S., of joint ownership, and one which portrays very well the spirit of amateur motor-sport. —Ed.]
ALTHOUGH not nearly as widely known as ” Scuderia Impecuniosa,” ” Scuderia Chemvamo ” was unofficially formed at school in our pushbike days.
Hubert Palmer, Pierre Bell, Harold Badger and I were the car-crazy boys, who would rather read MOTOR SPORT than Wordsworth or Keats, and irritated our masters by car-drawings on our exercise books. Our hobby in those days was the collecting of car badges, instead of the usual stamps or birds’ eggs. The craze spread throughout the school, until manufacturers became really rude in reply to requests for badges. I am afraid that in those days very “tall ones” were told about the different motor ears seen on the way to school, and many a time we were late as we had waited to see a Speed Six Bentley fabric saloon ; still, it was worth detention, as the chauffeur used to motor it with great gusto.
Our real birth into the internal combustion world was on meeting Ralph Cooper. He said he knew where a 350 c.c. Douglas twin motor bike could be had for the pushing home. So we set off en masse, and the Duggy was pushed home and immediately set about and stripped of everything unnecessary, even silencer. After very much tinkering and syphoning of fuel from parental fuel tanks, the Douglas was persuaded to motor. Our average age at this period was fourteen, so we were only just able to reach the ground with both feet when astride the saddle. The crashes on account of this affliction on our part were no doubt marvellous training. I remember one incident which was exceptionally funny, especially for the spectators. Hubert Palmer was riding the _machine in a large garden kindly lent by an enthusiastic neighbour. While motoring quite fast down one path the clutch wire snapped, and Hubert promptly ran off the path at the next corner and proceeded to wipe up the raspberry bushes, wrapping them round the front forks, very much to the annoyance of the gardener, who had been cultivating them for a year or so previous. We then had a stormy interview with the latter gentleman! Badger had, by this time, moved to a palatial residence which boasted a drive half-a-mile long, so we decided, much to the gardener’s joy, to use this drive in future events. The Douglas was duly pushed over to Howarth Hall, that being the name of the Badger’s seat. However, on arrival, the old machine became very temperamental, and again while being ridden by the unfortunate Hugh, seized and threw its fly-wheel. After much work in Badger’s marvellous workshop, which contains lathes, drills and a surface grinder, as well as a proper forge, we found that the bore. was ruined and a con rod smashed, so we decided that another mount was due. We purchased a 250 c.c. two-stroke .Ner-a-car. Probably some readers will have owned this weird retainer of the friction drive. The Ner-a-car was ridden with great success by all and
sundry, and it was found that, with the draglink type of steering, one could ride over the roughest ground with hands off. Another Douglas and Ner-a-car followed the afore-mentioned steeds. I then paid
6s. 3d. and swopped a golf club for a sidevalve 1929 250 c.c. B.S.A., which was at first communal, but, after much persuasion and usage of the parental purse, was taxed and insured for personal use. By this time Badger had a Calthorpe 250 and Palmer a 350 Calthorpe, and, so mounted, we suddenly realised that there was a place called Denington. After visiting that _famous venue, we decided that cars were our ultimate aim. This Was in 1937, and we felt much annoyed that we had not realised earlier that Donington was such a super place and that motor racing was unbeatable as a spectacle and sport. We were joined about
this time by Clifford Lister, who possessed an Austin ” Nippy ” which definitely lived up to its name, motoring with a glorious note. In this same year, 1937, we decided to call ourselves ” Scuderia Chemvamo,” the latter part of the name being formed from the first two letters of our fathers’ cars ” ” from my father’s Chrysler ; ” EM ” from Pierre’s father’s M.G. ;
” VA ” from Mr. Palmer senior’s Vauxhall, and the “MO ” from Mr. Badger’s Morris.
The selection of the name, by the way, was quite a show, a meeting being held, and, between consuming enormous quantities of tea, the name ” ChemVamo ” was decided upon. Ralph Cooper again was on the scent and found an Austin van, which could be had for 50s., complete with two new Dunlop 90 tyres and recently rebored. I borrowed my father’s car, and, complete with some scrounged clothes-line, we set forth to tow in the Austin. On arrival at the garage, we found the Austin, as was stated by Ralph, to be in pretty good fettle, but as we had decided to strip it right down that didn’t Matter much. The Austin having finally arrived at its destina tion, it was pushed straight into the garage, a conference was held, and it was decided to strip the body without further ado. During the latter operation we found many odd and interesting things, such as buns as hard as stones and one or two hidden halfpennies. It transpired that the van had previously belonged to a baker. After three evenings’ work the
body was finally oil: then the motor and springs were disne LI 1 t led and cleaned. We worked, out a new fixing for the front spring anchorage, which lowered the front end by 2-/ in. In the end, the chassis was
between the spring and axle instead of on top. The back springs were straightened, so the whole chassis was brought down to reasonable ground clearance. After the chassis had been completely reassembled without the motor, we towed it behind my father’s car on the main road, to test the springing when cornering, which proved exceptionally fine ; so, very pleased with this, we returned home. During the test rim we had met another
old boy, Ellis Devine, who had become motor-conscious, and who showed great interest in the Austin, so much so that, as a Morgan three-wheeler was in the offing, we allowed him to have the Austin at home in his garage, where we could all go at any time and work on it. He himself put in a lot. of work on it for entertainment.
The Morgan was a 1929 three-wheeler 990 c.c., with verysporting body and flared wings, having also two aero screens. It had two speeds, the gear lever positions being straight forward and back. The brakes were phenomenal, the -foot brake being connected to an external contracting lining on the rear hub, the hand brake working on both front wheels.
Ralph Cooper and .1 set off in it for London on Christmas Eve, the distance being ‘165 miles. We got as far as Newark, when the dynamo refused to (7)1:2rgv, and so the lighting system slowly sucomibed. However, we were not to be outdone, and we tucked in behind a Newcastle-toLondon night coach. The driver of the coach was doing a steady 45 m.p.h., so the old Morgan was lead-footing it to keep up with him. Next 4 fog descended, so we let the coach draw away, until its rear lamp could just be seen. I remember Many occasions when that rear lamp appeared closer in front, and both driver and passenger assisted in attempting to pull the Morgan up—the passenger with both hands on the hand brake and the driver attempting to put his foot through the floor boards. On that memorable night, with only glowing side lamps, in thick fog, we were still following the coach, when a steering wobble developed, and it became so bad in the next 20 miles that the coach left us. Thus afflicted, we pulled into Matlock about 5.0 a.m. on Christmas morning feeling that sports cars were not worth it. We manage to scrounge some bolts from other parts of the car and effected temporary repairs. While we were so employed many an early well-wisher went past, saying “Merry Christmas.” Both of us being in a rather low physical condition, with all humour practically gone, we wished them to -warmer regions–under our breath, of course.
We finally made London about 10 a.m., with all other road users making mystic signs to tell us we had wheel wobble I After a terrific meal, at which 1 fell asleep, we purchased new oversized bolts and drilled out the existing holes on the steering, and the wobble was then cured.
The only exciting incident on the return journey was when the driver fell asleep and ran out of the road at the next corner. The Morgan was sold for 50s. about a month after this run, and we then relied again on our motor-cycles. I ‘amid Badger had seen a reference to a forthcoming Morris Rally at Doningtori, and obtained his father’s permis,:ion to enter his 1925 Bull-nosed Morris Oxford in the fray. This car was then 13 years old and had covered 110,000 miles without a rebore, having been de-coked only twice in its varied career. We decided that it could do with hating up slightly, and it wits taken to Badger’s worksh()p. The old anti voluminous wings were replilectl by “arrow PlYwood cycle type, nt.-W tYr(“s were fitted and a new and better-conditioned radiator. We procured shock absorbers from a breaker’s yard iind replaced the old snubbers with these. This fitment did wonders for the front end. A great amount of hard work was put into this. ‘Many a tune we came straight home from our daily work in the evening, worked all night, went home fOr a bath in the early dawn, and thence back to a clay’s work again. After about two months of work at week-ends and nights the car was take!’ out on the road, to the great amuseMent of the pool tion, who do not appreciate vintage motor cars. During this test run the oil pressure, on starting, pumped at 30 lb. and then dropped to nothing. Ire were told later that this was (nate normal, but on its fall our spirits dropped accordingly. The floor boards also became amazingly hot told cooked Our feet. We could not understand why, until we decided that the design or the exhaust wailifold did not licli»natters any il flue gases having to escape through practically an inch-bore pipe in the centre (Cl the manifold. So again to a breaker’s yard, where we found a 11110 the engine design being practically identical with the bull-nosc. Off this car we pur(liased the exhaust manifold and exhaust pipe. This manifold w as of a much better design, all the gases being led aw:iy forward, tin bore increasing accordingly with eael, existing port. ‘This trophy was carried back to the workshop and Was I to lit per feCt ly, the other exhaust system being serapped, the alternative hieing a straight through pipe of a 2-in. bore. The resultant engine note was very reminiscent of a 3-litre Bentley, with ‘apologies to Bentley onliers. While employed on this, we decided to de-coke the engine; when the head was removed
and the carbon scraped our, .was surprisingly little sideways movement On the pistons, speaking worlds for the designer of those old Hotchkiss engines. The car was then assembled for the second time and, with a couple of suction horns and glorious exhaust burble, another trial run was aveomplished with no hot floorboards, the niani fold ha viag been well worth replacing.
About three days before the Rally we ele:(red her up finally, fitting a couple of spot lamps and a stainless steel apron over the front dumb-iron, the latter improvingthe appearance tremendously. On Ow saturday, the day preceding the Rally, Philip Turner, of the 1,1.R.A. Club ” Hearsay ” filme. eame over to stay and to cover the Bally for (Inc or two journals. brought, with him a lovely old 1926vintage 3-litre Held Icy with coupe body. On the Sunday morning the senderin
piteked themselves it the Bectley and Bull-nose, sctting forth for their first Bally. I rode in the Bentley, and I shall always remember the sound of howling tyres as the Bull-nose diced round traffic islands after the fleeting Bentley. The Bull-nose was entered in the Bally absolutely for fun, as after all Our tinkering it was sub-standard ; in fact, we thought.
–very original. Although the judges were rather amused, she did not stand a elur rice; during the afternoon, however, Slue W as seen quite frequently motoring at a good speed down tonards Melbourne, in a tussle with another enthusiast in a Mi.)rris Minor-cum-Austin Special. We had decided during the run to the Rally that we’d take the Bull-nose with us on our summer holidays, which were then (Inc. We set forth again for the South and, as on the Great North Road the radiator leaked abominably, we procured sonic Stop-leak, which certainly lived up to its name, the water ceasing to flow after the first application. This W15 the only incident of the Southward journey, except for a dust-up with a Standard, out of which the Bull-nose (stifle with flying colours. We took her down to Brooklands to witness the last race of the season. During the event we found that if we paid 7s. 4id., and went the right way round, we could use the t rack, so on the following day Brooklands was our destination ! I laving paid our 7s. Cid. and gained admission to the course, we motored steadily round to the timingbox on the railway straight. It was decided that Ilugh Palmer should drive for the first lap. He set off and ails then seen as a speck which appeared to crawl very slowly behind the members’ hill, appearing a few seconds later under the members’ bridge, to come with a nasty thurni Over the bump and down the
rail way straight. The weat mr was appallingly hot and that first lap had token the engine temperature up into the 100 sphere, so that on Badger’s lap, and on my own, she boiled all her water out before reaching the end of the railway straight and the radiator was filled at the end of each lap by a chain of cringer pop bottles, the water coming from the brook which ran past the timing box. The speed for a standing-start-lap was 47.5 m.p.h., which, considering the high windscreen and the age and mileage of the engine—which, as mentioned earlier, had been de-coked only three times—was quite fair,.tit least we thought so. We set off for home straight from Brooklands, and had a trouble-free run, the old car then being put in retirement, which I think it really deserved. Maybe it will run in amyl her Rally before long, if’ not destroyed by tlw Luftwaffe.
On our return from London, Hugh purchased a 1932 “P” type Magna with 4scatc r body. The car was run into Badger’s workshop and the heavy wings were replaced by thin aluminium ones ; the brakes were then checked during this operation, and it was found that the front engine support and chassis cross member were cracked. The radiator was taken off, the engine blocked up, and the chassis prised open, and the cracked member was then withdrawn.
One of the Bull-nose’s old axle shafts was turned down to fit into the hollow member. It was driven in with a sledgehammer, and the effect was that the m ember was stronger than Whell maimhunt tired. On the refitment of the member :yid attention to the exhaust system, the :Nlagtio motored very nicely and is cont inning to do so.
In 1938 my father took pity on me and bought me a “J.2″ 1933-vintage M.G. Midget, which was ” the greatest thing in the world,” or so I thought at the time, but it appeared that the Midget had been caned good and proper ; I really should have had an expense meter on the dash instead of a revolution counter. Lister’s Austin, Palmer’s Magna and the “J.2” had some ‘wizard runs to Donington. One time I especially remember, when we were returning very late from the Gilled Prix and the Magna shed its exhaust system off by the silencer. After that it sounded like an Auto-Union when leadfooting it. I took the “.I.2″ again up to London for Christmas holidays. The going was carried out overnight in a snowstorm, but as I prefer a sports car as such the hood was not put up. I had many stops to consume pints of tea in transport cafes with drivers of lorries, I thinking their ” shop ” talk as entertaining as anything known. On arrival in London without mishap I went to see a friend, C. P. Tappenden, the creator of those wiaard little model Sealmo Altus and Maseratis. He suggested a trip down to his factory at Brooklands. We decided on arriving to do a lap of the course. Coming off the members’ banking at 65 m.p.h. we noticed the oil pressure gauge doing some funny things. On slowing we could hear a very nasty noise—a thump every time the engine revolved, so the rest of the Way was done in bot tom gear. It was decided to leave the car at Brooklands peuding investigation. The next day, by arrangement with my father, a big Chevrolet saloon arrived with tow rope, the driver of which, I think, forgot about his tow, and I had a hair-raising tow through London in a foggy rush hour, the car being finally garaged in a northern suburb. I came home by train to find that the Seuderia had another car to its name. Badger has purchased a Singef Le Mans 2-seater, which he ran on mild dope and Cti..strol R., the latter smell greatly enhancing a ride in the motor. I persuaded him to tow my “.I.2” from London, and at long last he agreed, and we motored South on a Friday night, arriving in London in the early dawn. We ate a large breakfast and began the 165 miles tow back. Things went O.K. until hout Stamford it began to rain, my wipers would not function, the screen being folded forward so that I might watch the rope. In so doing one got all the water and grit from the Singer’s rear wheels. This continual drenching and the fact that no sleep had been had since the Thursday night did not quite wake one feel gay. Going North there is quite a steep hill into Grantham. at the top of which this scribe dosed off to sleep, to be awakened by a resounding thwack as the “J.2” hit a high kerb. This was pr( ci nthly well timed, as Otherwise no doubt the “.1.2” would have run away into the back of the It Mans, which certainly would not have un proved the rear and frontal appearance of the respective motor cars ! Arriving home about 9 p.m. we were both almost “done in.” It was agreed that I had enough grit on my face and neck to reinforce a goodly area of the Great North Road. When the “J.2” engine
was taken down it was found that the crankshaft had fractured at the central throw; why it did not come to bits we would never know. It must actually have been swinging in the centre when revolving. Peter Bell, besides being, with his father, an enthusiastic owner of an M Type M.G. Midget (which, by the way, has covered 120,000 miles without reboring), also had developed a passion for model cars.
He has built, with the aid of Ralph Cooper and his younger brother, a magnificent downhill model track about 160 ft. long. It is constructed of concrete and contains two high bankings reminiscent of the Avos track in miniature. One section of the track went under the lawn by inter-connected piping. When model racing was first started there we ran the Meccano model Mercedes, then independent suspension was experimented with on rear wheels only. After about six months racing there, all the ears had. independent. suspension. This was well worth the time it took to modify the Meccano and fit them with suspension, as the speeds and track-holding qualities improved 50 per cent. As many as eight cars would start and finish a race. They were travelling so fast that on entering the tunnel section they would run right round the pipe, hanging upside down for a second.
It was really a most fascinating thik to see those cars overtaking and climbing right up the banking, etc., within an inch or two of i he top.
A new member joined us in the summer of 1938, his car being a Morgan “44,” far removed from our old Morgan of our motor-cycle days, and yet it retained roughly the original front suspension.
Jack considered, or at least the rest of the gang did, that the Morgan was a little too quiet, so again Badger’s shop was the scene of destruction, and a new silencer and pipe gave the Morgan a super note. I should point out, however, that Jack got to know the police quite intimately after the latter fitment. There was another episode with the Morgan which was rather funny. Jack was motoring home through a built-up area in the dark, when a black T Type M.G. passed him, so he gave chase and
on passing gave the old ” thumb ” signal. The ” T ” however managed to repass him, with a lit-up notice on the back :
“Stop, Police,” so the old motto : “Be suspicious of black M.G.’s ” pays— around here, anyhow. Lister came in one day full of life He was to get a TA Type M.G. from Bridlington in part exchange for the “Nippy “Austin. So a run was arranged, in which all the Scuderia. joined. The Morgan, Magna, Singer and “J.2” running in line ahead made a glorious sight and sound. The afternoon in Bridlington was spent dicing in those two-stroke motor
boats on quite a large lake. It certainly was super to baulk on a corner without dire results, the one annoying thing was the fact that the engines were governed down. We left Bridlington in the evening with five cars in line ahead, our ranks having
been augmented by Cliffe in his “T.” It rained all the return 80 odd miles, but it takes more than rain, or even war, to
cool down our joy of having a drive together. That evening we all forgathered at Badger’s palatial hall and partook of supper, talking motor cars and racing till the small hours.
About a month after this we—that is nearly all the Seuderia except Cooper, Jack and Peter Bell—were called up to do our month’s training in the ‘Terriers” with the Royal Signals.
Devine, Lister, Palmer Badger and myself became, as would be expected, drivers. Great plans were made to spend holidays together with the cars when the month was over, but Fate decided otherwise, and on the Sunday when we should have finished our training war broke out.
Thus we stay still together driving Morris Eights, Commers, Bedfords and Morris Commercials. When on leave the work still goes on. Devine has now an Alta head on his Austin, which is practically complete and looks very patent. I now have a 1936 M.G. Magnette in lovely condition ; it has never run on anything but puddle, so I don’t know how fast it will motor. Hugh Palmer put my `J.2″ body on his Magna chassis, which has been practically rebuilt.
I still retain the “J.2″ chassis in the hope that some day it will motor in a speed trial. Lister still has his ” T ” on the road ; having now a deep note exhaust system, this M.G. runs beautifully on Pool. Apparently some motors will ! Cooper is working on parts of Rolls Royce engines, Peter Bell is a gunner in the north of Scotland and Jack has some important local post.
On the whole Senderia Chemvamo has so far weathered the storm very well, all just living for the day when the sound, sight and roar of racing cars will again be appreciated.
May we wish you “all the best.” Do keep up the good work. Your Mown SPORT is read from cover to cover in this unit.