A Section Devoted to Old-Car Matters
V.S.C.C. Oulton Park Race Meeting (June 22nd)
The Vintage S.C.C. were unlucky with the weather for their annual Oulton Park meeting, which is usually so enjoyable. Rain set in after the first four races had been run and before the really fast cars were unleashed. There was also that unfortunate practice accident, involving the Hon. Patrick Lindsay, who spun off at Old Hall and mounted the bank, his Maserati 250F overturning and catching fire. The greatest possible credit is due to the fire marshals, who had the flare-up out almost before it had started. This was just as well, because lots of petrol was spilt and Lindsay was liberally soaked in it, presenting a very naked spectacle to those around as he was washed down. Otherwise, he was unharmed, and was watching the racing the next day, all smiles and accepting all the blame. He had flown to the circuit after conducting a successful sale of pictures at Christie’s.
The programme opened with a 4-lap handicap for vintage and p.v.t. cars, the big field encompassing Portway’s interesting Lea-Francis, which has a Vulcan-built 14/40 twin-cam six-cylinder engine in a car reputed to have been intended for Brooklands, using a Meadows 4ED engine. Brough drove a Riley Gamecock, and Hockley Gilbert’s cut-down Alvis Firefly with 12/70 engine, a car reputed to have a body once used on one of Parry-Thomas cars, into which I must one day look.
Ashton led away in his alloy-bodied, brightly shining Fiat Balilla but had dropped to third place by half-distance behind Neve’s T.T. Humber, which had a front-wing in place, and Howe’s 4ED-engined Lea-Francis. Farquhar’s Treen-looking ex-Dixon Riley pipped the Humber to the flag, however. Mrs. Cairnes toured round in a 12/70 Alvis tourer, not entirely on account of the boot-lid forming an air brake.
The G.N./Frazer Nash Handicap saw Mrs. Arnold-Forster start with three minutes in hand, in the French-built 1921 G.N., which has a body reminiscent of that on a sports Crouch and which had been driven to the circuit with sundry adventures en route. Alas, at Old Hall, very shortly after the start, the n/s front tyre detached itself from the rim. Meanwhile, Freddy Giles was blipping through in the lead in his A.B.C.-powered G.N., and there was the stirring spectacle of the Semmence heading a twitchy bunch farther back. The G.N. was still in the lead at half-distance, but Trainer’s Meadows Frazer Nash passed it on lap 3. Then the back-markers stormed through, Smith winning in his scratch 3½-litre Alvis-propelled ‘Nash, after setting a new “Chain Gang” lap record of 75.3 m.p.h., from Joseland and Cobb, respectively Anzani and British Salmson-powered. It was a close finish, the handicapping being excellent.
The Seaman Trophy Pre-1940 Historic Racing Car 10-lap race provided more speed, and had Merrick in the lead in Murray’s E.R.A. for seven laps. He then had the float chamber come loose and was passed by Kergon, who was driving Bill Morris’ E.R.A. “Hanuman II” very nicely indeed. Waller’s E.R.A. had been in third place for eight laps but it then coasted in, with transmission trouble. This allowed the flying Bernard Kain to move up to third place in his Bugatti, now with its back wheels strengthened with Jaguar discs. Bertie Brown had put his E.R.A. ahead of Rain on lap 6, but the Bugatti had repassed three laps later. That is how they finished, Lady Dorothy Campbell presenting the trophy to Kergon, who had averaged 80.3 m.p.h. and lapped at 82.15 m.p.h. On handicap, Masters’ very quick Q-type M.G. beat Blight’s Talbot 105.
There was an interlude, as it were, before the next Seaman Trophy Race, in the form of a 4-lap handicap, in which we were delighted to see Kenneth Neve take the lead on the second lap and hold it to the end in his 1914 T.T. Humber, perhaps the first race the car has won since it was built. Anyway, from his entertaining account of what it is like to lap Oulton Park as fast as possible in this delectable Edwardian, which appeared in a contemporary, we know the driver was enjoying it; he averaged 61.26 m.p.h. Howe’s Lea-Francis was next home, with Stephen’s rapid 4.3-litre Alvis coining through to third place, after making fastest lap at 70.1 m.p.h. The whole race was pleasantly reminiscent of Brooklands, with the Humber winning, as Wallbank’s similar car once did at the Track and Wood, in plus fours, chatting to his charming wife on the starting line, before she went off in the low-chassis 4½-litre Invicta to make fastest lap by a lady at over 62½ m.p.h.—ten of the girls were trying for the special Lady’s fastest-lap Award.
Unhappily, heavy rain was falling for the Seaman Trophy Vintage Racing Car event—we were again reminded of Brooklands, where if this happened it was all postponed until the following Wednesday, and not a bad idea either! When the flag fell Rain and Corner stormed away in their Bugattis, the former leading until halfway, when he stopped out on the circuit with one cylinder block adrift, losing any chance of doing the hat-trick with three victories in succession. Corner went on unchallenged, with Footitt in fast pursuit, the versatile A.C./G.N., rattling to itself, perhaps to mask the fact that, as the programme said, it appears to get younger every day! These two finished first and second, Corner averaging 66.32 m.p.h. on the wet track, Rain having lapped faster, in 68.45 m.p.h. Third place went to Moffatt, in Wall’s single-seater 2.3 Bugatti, and the Semmence was fourth, with Moffatt’s “beaded-edge” Bugatti, driven by Rippon, mixing it with the Bentleys some way behind. On handicap, Farquhar’s aforesaid ex-Dixon Riley took the prize from Hine’s Bentley.
It was teeming with rain for the 10-lap Historic Racing Car Scratch Race. Boorer, in his Lotus, made a too-prompt start and was penalised, so the real race was between Brewer’s Aston Martin and Lord Clydesdale’s Maserati 250F. Brewer was eventually overtaken by both Clydesdale and Pilkington’s Cooper-Bristol. They finished in that order, with Day’s E.R.A. leading the pre-war contingent. The winner averaged 68.68 m.p.h. and fastest lap was made by Boorer’s Lotus, at 71 m.p.h. The racing concluded with three damp handicaps, the winners of which are given below.—W. B.
Many of the more interesting cars were absent, but the 1959 2½-litre Tee-Mec Maserati of Kergon, after being towed round and round the paddock most of the morning, managed to start in its first race in this country. Lindsay elected not to drive, although his monoposto Alfa Romeo was entered as an alternative to his slightly-damaged Maserati. Wicks drove Sir Ralph Millais P3 Alfa Romeo, but cautiously, for the oil-pressure is still a cause of anxiety, so that Blight’s Talbot, now able to go to 5,000 r.p.m., just about held it. Cameron Millar’s 8CLT Maserati was again an absentee.
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One very interesting car which did run was Llevvellyn’s Napier Sunbeam. It consists of the Sunbeam “Tigress”, bought from Richardson, who threatened to put an 8-litre Bentley engine into it but never did, now powered with a 24-litre 12-cylinder Napier Sea Lion marine engine, dating from 1922 and taken brand-new out of its original packing-case. The pre-selector gearbox put into the Sunbeam for Sir Malcolm Campbell is retained, as is the 3.3-to-1 Sunbeam back axle and the big Lockheed hydraulic brakes. This axle ratio would have been too low round Brooklands but seems about right for present-day circuits. The radiator has been cowled, which has stopped a tendency to boil—so those who fitted such cowls for racing at Brooklands were not so foolish as some aerodynamics experts think they were! This Napier Sunbeam exhausts straight into the open through long stub pipes, four on one side, eight on the opposite side, which crackle very loudly indeed on the over-run; no wonder Brooklands’ giants fascinated the crowds of the nineteen-twenties!
The official bade Morley, who was driving it, to be careful in the wet with this compact monster. He only had one gear, anyway, as the gearbox bands were slipping, but on its first appearance the car contrived to circulate about two-thirds down the field and went on for more than the prescribed ten laps, so it promised well for Silverstone.
Racing was preceded by the traditional parade of beautiful cars, the Concours d’Elegance Cheshire Life Trophy having been won by Villar’s 1934 blown 2.3 Alfa Romeo drophead, the Concours d’Etat winner being Middleton’s 1936 Riley.
The article “Where Have All The Peugeots Gone?” which featured in the last two issues has aroused considerable interest. Stanley Sedgwick, returning from California, rang us to say he had seen a 1913 G.P. Peugeot in Briggs Cunningham’s Museum, and several letters have been received on the subject generally.
Incidentally, in connection with Mr. Grant’s letter in “Vintage Postbag” last month, Lt. A. E. S. Walter certainly drove the ex-Menzies’ 1912 G.P. Peugeot at Southport sand races before he was killed at Brooklands in 1930 while racing an M.G. Midget at a Club meeting. He also drove the venerable Peugeot at the 1925 West of England M.C. Speed Trials, covering the flying ½-mile in 21.4 sec., which gave him second place in the Unlimited Open class to Joyce’s racing A.C., which was 1.6 sec. faster. The car’s last competition appearance seems to have been in 1926, when George Pemberton, who usually drove his 30/98 Vauxhall and a Frazer Nash at Southport (his wife also drove the Frazer Nash, and an Alvis), brought the old car as well as his Vauxhall out for the Cheshire Centre A.C.U. Meeting. It was second to Jackson’s Sunbeam in the Unlimited class event and was fighting a duel with this car in the 10-mile race when this was stopped because Higgin’s Salmson had overturned and the passenger was pinned beneath it. After this the Peugeot presumably succumbed to the mechanical disasters referred to by our correspondent.—W. B.
Writing away from my sources of reference last month, I said that the 1924 Wolseley 14 in which Major Forbes-Leith was the first motorist to cross Asia Minor was presumably an o.h.c. model, For the sake of technical accuracy, which our type-setters do not observe when “correcting” what I have written (the item quoted in the letter on page 733 is not by any means the only example of knowing better than the writer), I would now state that the car was apparently the side-valve Type AC7, which was introduced in 1923 and was of the same engine size as the o.h.c. Type A9 which dated from 1920 and was known as the Fifteen, the s.v. car being called the Fourteen. Whereas the Fourteen was continued until 1927 as the 16/35 Type ACS, the o.h.c. Type A9, re-rated as a 15/40 in 1925, was discontinued that year. Both were 4-cylinder cars.—W. B.
V.S.C.C. Prescott Hill-Climb (August 11th)
As a change from circuit racing the Vintage S.C.C. has its annual speed hill-climb at the Bugatti venue near Cheltenham on August 11th. This is something not to be missed, for all manner of pre-war cars can be seen running up the hill singly, making two timed runs, the position class by class is easily followed from quickly-announced times and the Paddock setting is delightful. There is practice on the 10th. The public are welcome, the car park fee being 10s., but dogs must be left at home. Admission tickets are required, obtainable from the V.S.C.C., Bone Lane, off Mill Lane, Newbury, Berks. Entries have closed.
Many of our readers like to see at least one old-style air display a year, to offset other vintage interests, like attending V.S.C.C. race meetings and traction-engine rallies. The following are some of this season’s remaining fixtures:—
August 2nd-3rd : National Air Races and Display. Middleton, Tees-side.
August 11th : Tiger Club Display, Shoreham, Sussex.
August 25nd-24th : King’s Cup Race and Display, Tollerton, Nottingham.
August 25th : Shuttleworth Collection, open day, Biggleswade, Beds.
August 31st : Display, Booker, High Wycombe, Bucks.
September 2nd : Race and Display, Halfpenny Green, (Bobbington), Staffs.
September 29th : Shuttleworth Collection open day, Biggleswade, Beds.
Edwardian and V.S.C.C. Light Car Rally (June 30th)
A pleasant, peaceful affair, starting and concluding at Arnold-Forster’s country house in Wiltshire, this Year’s event coincided with the first summer weather of the year, making it doubly enjoyable. Especially as this reporter was driven through the shimmering Wiltshire countryside behind the extensible rear windscreen of a 14/461 Humber, which proved to ride well, possess excellent brakes and behave in that solid, satisfying manner generally as only a high-grade vintage touring car can, although hard-pressed to keep Mrs. Arnold-Forster’s 1921 G.N. in sight.
In the absence of Barry Clarke’s 1913 Talbot there were three Edwardians, Clutton’s 1908 G.P. Itala looking particularly pristine, after having, we hear, recently celebrated its 60th birthday with a gay party at Silverstone. Not to be outdone, Barker arrived intact, if late, in the 1908 Napier, having dallied to adjust his clutch; Moffat busied himself with the route, and they set off, last but undismayed. Plaister’s 1910 Hotchkiss represented the best type of sporting Edwardian tourer.
It was really the light cars’ day, and a very presentable array they made. Mrs. Cardy’s Austin Chummy family transport was having some engine tune, and Milner’s A.C. was reduced to gravity, instead of the handle or the starter motor, for energising its engine. Most sporting was Burke’s M.G. Midget; most sedate, perhaps, Wood’s 1923 s.v. Riley; most unconventional, surely, Piercy’s 1926 Trojan. We had forgotten how vintage cars used to sound, but were reminded by a distant grinding noise, which materialised into Condon’s 1923 A.C. climbing up over Wiltshire downs, attended by a Fiat 600.—W. B.