Unkind people may say that the Great British Public were especially well catered for at the London Zoological Gardens on June 27th, in that they had not only the animals to study, but motoring enthusiasts as well. From the viewpoint of the parked cars belonging to these enthusiasts, however, it might be said that so many were of the absolutely element-proof, mass-production box variety that it was not at all easy to say off hand just which part of Regents Park was the temporary habitat of our world. Fortunately, the motor-cars came later and every one of the 151 persons who ate tea in a reserved room over the public restaurant would testify to the success of S.H. Capon’s most ambitious venture – of the tea itself we can only say it reminded us of railway buffet efforts at hunger relieving, with the topical excuse of war as some justification. However, talk of cars leaves little time for contemplation of the food set before one, and talk there certainly was.
The cars which brought those fortunate folk who had any “basic” left were inconspicuously drawn up in the road outside and, as the warm afternoon wore on, a goodly collection was to be seen. Walking the length of the line of cars parked on both sides of the highway much of interest and intrigue was noted. A really old Talbot-Darracq 2-seater, rather like a “10/23” Talbot, but of 12 h.p., caught the eye and sounded eminently practical as it turned round and made off later on. Bowles’s silver “Ulster” Austin Seven, with copperised cylinder head and twin coils, occupied an official parking place, and a 1 1/2-litre Aston-Martin saloon had managed a really appreciable distance to attend. Then Joseph Lowrey had his smart “Aero” Morgan present, a 1,074-c.c. o.h.v. Summit engine later occupying the seat which then held his passenger, which engine may replace the willing and economical S.U.-carburetted s.v. J.A.P. twin in due course. Beside it was Ashwood’s Lea-Francis 4-seater, a “12/40” which wickedly displayed a “Hyper” nameplate on the dash, while Merrilees had come in a “12/40” Lea-Francis saloon with outer drain pipes and cycle wings. Very welcome indeed was Sir A. Stamer’s blood red 1,750-c.c. blown Alfa-Romeo, and, after tea, much excitement was caused by the arrival of a very clean 1 1/2-litre unblown Type 37 Bugatti up from Bristol.
Harold Biggs dutifully brought his wife and small son in his well-known Alfa-red Fiat “500,” and Chairman Ballamy also brought along his family in a Ford. Bunny Tubbs was seen to be push-started in his D.K.W.; another D.K.W. was present, and Rivers-Fletcher came in his non-standard touring Austin Seven. The number of “Ulster” Austin Sevens present was really rather notable. Bowles’s has been mentioned. Then there was Nigel Orlebar’s, with grappling iron for the passenger and a remote gear control; Frost’s smart, black unblown example, and another, this time blown, with aeroplane boost gauge and S.U. carburetter. Birkett’s would also have been along had he not left it at Virginia Water to conserve petrol, coming on in the writer’s disreputable Lancia “Lambda,” along with Denis Jenkinson, who was rather the worse for wear, having disproved the cornering abilities of a certain two-stroke motor-cycle with half-elliptic rear suspension a few days before. Writing of Lancias, the very greatest praise is due to Park for the magnificent condition and order of his Seventh Series “Lambda” tourer, which was a centre of interest throughout the afternoon. Not only is this car in perfect condition and taste, even the “difficult” “Lambda” wings having a wonderfully smooth finish, but the work of restoration has occupied a surprisingly short space of time. Had this been a pre-strife Bugatti Owners’ Club Meeting, with a prize for the best-kept car, I have no doubt the judges would have felt it scarcely necessary to go beyond Park’s car. Yet Terrence Breen’s boat-bodied 2-seater 3-litre Bentley, standing just behind the Lancia, was every bit as well restored. Together, these two cars made one of the most attractive vintage groups I’ve ever had the good fortune to see – and made us very anxious to get the Editorial fast-transport as far away as possible!
Partridge also represented “vintage” with his ex-Farley F.W.D. Alvis 4-seater, while Mertens brought his 4 1/2-litre open Bentley. Nevertheless, the moderns were well represented by a 2-litre M.G. saloon; a flying officer’s S.S. “100” 2-seater, the lady passenger of which was certainly dressed appropriately – for Regents Park; a “P.B.” M.G. Midget, and Peter and Mrs. Monkhouse’s Standard saloon – have the latter disposed of their Type 55 Bugatti as a result of the previous 750 Club gathering, one wonders? A Meadows-engined Frazer-Nash was the only evidence of chain-gangsters amongst us. It was good to see Robert Waddy’s Fiat “500” again, and Joan Richmond, who always manages to look not in the least like a lady racing driver when she is not in a racing car, as keen and knowledgeable over cars as ever – she even recalled the “loose” gear lever of a Gwynne she once drove over a rough road in Australia.
Harold Pratley had left “Sabres” for once and showed up with his lowered, Boyd Carpenter bodied sports Austin Seven, although the major part of his journey from exile had had to be done by train. Brymer looked in, too, from the West Country. All the rest of the cars were quite ordinary and mingled with those of the pukka Zoo-ists, save Peter and Ariel Clark’s, which was the most modern of all, in the form of a Marshall-supercharged Ford Eight saloon, towing a “Lambda”-suspended gas-trailer. But if the number of interesting cars in no way equalled those that gathered last year under less pleasant conditions at that other Zoo at Chessington, of celebrities there were plenty. Laurence Pomeroy, of The Motor, was there, still receiving congratulations on his “Milestones of Speed” articles in that paper – and deservedly. McKenzie was gleefully mentioning much bigger engines than even the 8-litre Bentley which now have his attention, and Anthony Brooke was exuding enthusiasm. John Wyer, who gave this paper those interesting and exclusive notes on the racing Sunbeams – and has kindly promised some more – was in close company of F/O. Peter Scafe and Anthony Heal, the latter wearing a familiar blue helmet when astride his vintage “cammy” Velocette. Whincop and his wife were also present, and the latter’s scarlet trousers with racing cars at the waist line would doubtless set a fashion were it not an age of coupons. Altogether a most tonic afternoon.