EVERY year for the last eight years the Sunbeam S.T.D. Register has arranged for its keener members to take their Sunbeams back to their birthplace, Wolverhampton. This year the event was held on June 21st/22nd. A Standard Ensign being due to test I planned to make the pilgrimage in this 1.6-litre version of the well-known Standard Vanguard, notable for its four-speed TR3 gearbox with floor change.
Although the plan was duly put into operation, resulting in an entertainingly-varied week-end. I was reminded in the course of it that there is many a slip between cup and lip, or, rather, that the best clutch in the world is worthless when divorced front its pedal.
Hardly had I parked my VW and emerged from Berkeley Square into the fury of London’s rush-hour traffic than the Ensign’s dutch pedal went onto the floor without the anticipated interruption in the drive between engine and back wheels. This, on the eve of our departure, as organisers of the Wolverhampton week-end, was disaster indeed.
A hasty ‘phone call to the London office of the Standard Motor Co. brought the news that Steele Griffiths in Camberwell New Read operate a day-and-night repair service for the succour of stricken Standards. Not so. When I arrived there jerkily, driving the Ensign as you did a Kaiser-war Camel, on the ignition, the workshop was closed. However, a good samaritan summoned the A.A. and the A. A. summoned a mechanic. My wait in this scarcely-Salubrious district was relieved to some extent by recognition by a reader, bearded, on a motor-cycle, who asked, “Didn’t I prefer Volkswagens?”—and the arrival, for petrol and water, of an extremely scruffy Talbot 90, whose owner assured us that its 23-year-old automatic clutch, unlike the Ensign’s, was working perfectly.
At Wolverhampton the variety began, in the form of a short drive in a near-vintage A.J.S. two-seater, borrowed by John Coombes of the S.T.D. Register from A. M. Hill of the V.S.C.C. to represent the “other Wolverhampton makes” in the rally parade. It was later joined by Gray’s Star saloon.
Now I once possessed a 10.8 Clyno with extremely light, smooth and precise steering. I have always wondered if the later Clyno Nine—sold in £100 form as the Century, known in the trade as the Clyno Calamity—possessed the same endearing quality. As the A.J.S. was descended from that car, here the answer seemed to lie. I tried; it is “yes.”
That evening, at the Social for ex-Sunbeam executives and employees at Guy Motors’ canteen, Charles South’s 1913 Sunbeam 12/16 tourer and Roger Carter’s 1921 24-h.p. Sunbeam limousine were kept busy giving rides to those with old-time associations with such cars. Rootes Motors brought the 1924 G.P. Sunbeam “Cub” and their 1901 Sunbeam Mabley as welcome exhibits, and a good time was had by all, until, leaving near midnight in the bright blue Standard Ensign, I was reminded that the best laid plans of mice and Editors go oft aglee, being disrupted in my case by seepage of fluid from a faulty nipple, for once more the Standard presented me with fully-fixed transmission! The Ensign was again at halfmast!
Rain threatened to dissolve the Sunday-morning driving tests but just held off. In these the 12/50 Alvis contingent, in particular, did some very snappy manoeuvring. Rain again fell in torrents before the traditional Parade, police escorted, through Wolverhampton, took place. In this, while my wife headed the long line of cars in South’s 1913 tourer, I brought up the rear beside John Rowe, who sportingly drove the G.P. Sunbeam. This was a ride to be remenbered, and although we got pretty wet and cramped, and the slow pace made the supercharged engine reluctant to remain on six cylinders, the noise of multiple timing gears and open exhaust, the smell, the spray, and the latent life in the old racer, made this a long-to-be-remembered ride. Particularly nostalgic was the moment when Rowe brought “The Cub” down the hill past the old Sunbeam factory at very nearly full-song!
After Major Weir, formerly Sunbeam’s Sales Manager, Mr. Kemble of Routes and Ross Giles of the Express and Star had judged the Concours d’Elegance, which featured almost every version of the old Sunbeams, except a 20/60, which was a non-starter, the problem was how to get home, for I had had enough of the Ensign.
Routes came to the rescue and I enjoyed it swift ride to London in a quiet, well-sprung, smooth-running Humber Hawk, while my wife was given a stately drive to Hampshire in that distinguished carriage, a 1927 Humber 9/20 saloon, where I joined her eventually, after having thankfully retrieved my trustworthy, but to save repetition, nameless, motor car.
Incidentally, while at Wolverhampton I looked in at the Turner works at Pendeford, to find sales flourishing. Mr. Turner still uses a tuned 945-c.c. B.M.C. power unit in his attractive little sports cars, but can install a Coventry-Climax engine for those who require it while he has some interesting developments, including a very attractive coupé with stressed-skin chassis and glass-fibre body, on the stocks. As much work as possible, including bench-testing of engines and body trimming, is tiring in his own small factory, and the tubular chassis with its neat torsion-bar rear suspension is also “made on the premises.”
Results of the rally are appended.—W. B.
SUNBEAM S.T.B. REGISTER 8th WOLVERHAMPTON RALLY (June 21st/22nd)
1st: Smythson (1936 Talbot 105 saloon)—Rootes Trophy.
2nd: G. B. C. Hughes (1933 Sunbeam Speed Twenty drophead coupé).
3rd: V. Rawlings (1930 14/35 Talbot tourer).
1st: Sqdn. Ldr. A. C. M. Millar (1927 twin-cam 3-litre Sunbeam)—Express and Star tankard.
2nd: R. F. Hudson (1922 Sunbeam Fourteen tourer).
3rd: G. F. South (1913 12/16 Sunbeam tourer).
Most Interesting Car: R. Arnold (1933 Talbot 105 tourer)—C. F. South Trophy.
Inter-Register Team Contest:
1st: 12/30 Alvis Register—Bolders’ cuff-links and tie.
2nd: Sunbeam S.T.D. Register.
3rd: Humber Register.
Best Visitor in Concours d’Elegance: F. A. Collins (1931 Alvis 12/50)—Framed print.
Best Visitor in Tests D. Lees (1931 this 12/50).—Set of National Benzole maps.
Marshal’s Award: J. Coombe.—Set of National Benzole maps.
Other Wolverhampton-makes Award: J. Coombes (A.J.S.)