Veteran-Edwardian-Vintage, August 1970

A section devoted to old-car matters

Looking back at Oulton Park (VSCC—June 2011)

Owing to printing schedules it was not possible to publish a report of the VSCC Oulton Park race meeting last month but, this being one of the most enjoyable of this Club’s annual fixtures, it merits a backward glance.

Run without serious incident in summer sunshine, this Daily Express-sponsored meeting commenced with the traditional parade of Concours d’Elegance entrants, of whom Bill Cook (1936 Rolls-Royce) took the Cheshire Life cup and among which there were many absentees, including some of the rarer cars, although an Iris and a Unic circulated.

In the first 4-lap handicap race Kirby’s alloy-bodied replica Ulster Austin 7 was given such a generous start that no-one else caught it, or even saw it after the first lap, in spite of Clifton’s Austin 20, aided by non-standard twin SUs and four-wheel-brakes (and with the late Felix Scriven in mind), going fast in its wake and Clark’s Meadows HRG making fastest lap at 65.13 m.p.h. to come through into third place. A new entrant was Whittaker’s quite standard 1926 Chrysler 75, which out-accelerated its group before being passed by the faster stuff; it has a home-brewed two-seater body.

Clifford ‘s smart Riley Special, a 1934 chassis with 1937 Autovia V8 engine, ran very well to win the next 4-lap handicap, at 69.75 m.p.h., while Evans in the usually unreliable Chawner-GN, also went well, finishing second, ahead of Sam Clutton’s Type 43 Bugatti.

So to the first of the important events, the Richard Seaman Memorial Historic Trophy Race, in which Martin Morris drove magnificently in his 2-litre ERA RIIB, in which he had won in 1969. He won again this year, at the record speed of 81.67 m.p.h., never being overtaken, and breaking his own pre-1940 historic cars lap-record by 1.12 sec. in the process, a speed of 84.66 m.p.h., a fine performance. Behind, Corner did all he could in Sir Ralph Millais’ 3.3-litre Type 59 Bugatti, which looked a handful, needing much road on the corners. It finished 4.6 sec. behind the flying Morris, with the Hon. Patrick Lindsay a steady third in his ERA “Remus”. Hine drove Llewellyn’s 8-litre Bentley Special into fourth place and on handicap the winner was Rogers’ fast AC Special.

Next, to celebrate the Morgan’s 60th anniversary, 15 Morgan three-wheelers, propelled by JAP, Matchless, Ford and Anzani engines, did battle with selected vintage four-wheelers, as at a New Cyclecar Club Brooklands’ meeting when three-wheelers had been reinstated, following the fuss caused by Ware’s accident in a Morgan in the 1924 200-mile race. This Oulton race was great stuff, the Morgans performing without passengers, although these intrepid enthusiasts denied that they had refused to ride at speed round Oulton Park! Eyre’s Ulster Austin 7 won from Weeks’ Morgan-JAP and Western’s four-cylinder Morgan with its bonnet secured by that cyclecar standby, bungee-rubber. From scratch Crocker’s Lagonda Rapier, then leader in the Motor Sport Brooklands Memorial Trophy contest, could do nothing, in spite of making fastest lap at 68.74 m.p.h. As only two of the Morgans retired and they were a splendidly stirring sight and sound, this must surely be a regular race at VSCC Oulton? fix-Morgan racer, Clive Lones, started them . . .

Neil Corner, who bought the 1925 Sunbeam “Tiger” for just this purpose, then set about winning the Seaman Vintage Trophy Race and had no opposition, although the twin-blower V12 engine’s habit of blowing-off from its release valves caused speculation as to whether Segrave’s old land speed record car would last the distance of 10 warm laps. It did, averaging 75.0 m.p.h. to Morris’ 81.67 in the earlier race, Corner lapping at 78.51 m.p.h. He was out of sight of the field soon after the start, with Hine’s 4.4-litre Bentley two-seater a credible second, while Kain in his Type 35B Bugatti on “proper” alloy, wheels and Rippon in his vivid yellow Type 35B on wire wheels duelled furiously for third place until both their engines went sick. Rippon arrived at Old Hall Corner on lap 7 with locked o/s front wheel, and both Bugattis failed to complete another circuit. No-one unlodged Hine, but this put St. John’s alloy-wheeled Type 35B Bugatti into second place and Morley in the 24-litre Napier-Sunbeam fourth, pursued by Barraclough’s four-seater Bentley. On the r home the big aero-engined Sunbeam caught the Bugatti in a very close finish, a splendid effort, because Morley had had quite a drive, twitching the car through the corners with more accelerative power than the back wheels could transmit, coping as best he could with the absence of a flywheel, and finding it better to run at 2,000 r.p.m. in third gear of the rebuilt pre-selector gearbox than slog along at 1,500 r.p.m. in top.

After all this Brooklands’-like excitement the chain-driven Frazer Nash and GN cars had their handicap, won by Smith’s 31-litre Alvis-engined creation, power being provided not only by the correct Anzani Meadows and Gough engines but also by Alvis, AC, Lea-Francis, British Salmson, Riley, BMW, and even a 1939 Lancia Aprilla engine. Corner walked off with the All-Comers’ 12-lap scratch race for historic racing cars from Lucas in Wilks’ Lotus and Cottam’s Connaught, in his 3-litre GP Aston Martin, setting another new class lap record of 90.52 m.p.h., and two more short handicaps concluded a delightful day’s sport, the winners of which were Clark’s Meadows HRG and Knight’s Riley Special. Many of the Maseratis which should have run were non-starters, but Summers drove the 1934 8C once used by the late Gavin Maxwell as a road car, now endowed with a white monoposto body, and Lord Doune’s 1930 8C two-seat was a fine sight, driven by Fielding.—W. B.

V-E-V Miscellany

When the owner of a bull-nose Moris Oxford two-seater moved overseas he had the car shipped by Pitt & Scott, experts in packing and forwarding antiques, and the journey was made without a scratch. A. B. Demaus is doing research for a book on cycling, motor-cycling and private motoring in Worcestershire during the period 1880 to 1930 and would be glad of any information from former owners and employees of such Worcestershire products, particularly the Santler (or Malvernia) car, the Webb and the New British light cars and other one-off or baker’s dozen products. Letters can be forwarded. During June the Rev. Robin Newman undertook to try to drive his 1928 Austin 7 Chummy from Land’s End to John o’ Groats in 36 hours, single-handed and unaided, if beforehand the sum of at least £500 was guarantee if the run was successfully accomplished, this money to go toward restoration of Dingestow Church, Monmouth. The Austin is used to cover more than 100 miles a week on the Vicar’s parish affairs.

As we go to press we hear that the Rev. Robin Newman exceeded his intended average speed between Land’s End and John o’Groats in his 1928 Austin 7, which did better than 26 m.p.h. overall for the 882 actual miles covered, thus earning useful revenue for his church restoration fund.

The National Traction Engine Club has published a 56-page picture book of “Engines at Work” which contains 224 photographs of traction engines in action, pulling heavy loads, after accidents and abandoned, of all types and makes, not forgetting steam waggons, of which Aveling & Porter, Garrett, Sentinel, Foden, Allchin, Ransome, Atkinson, Yorkshire, Leyland, Fowler, Straker, Burrell and 1904 Hindley are pictured. Stationary engines and tracked steam tractors are include and by using printing blocks from their journal the book is sold for the modest sum of 40 n.p. or 8s. Copies are obtainable from J. Crawley, Field House, Turvey, Bedfordshire, if postage is included, on mention of Motor Sport.

Factory methods of the vintage era. No. 13: Humber

In 1930 the famous, very long-established Coventry firm of Humber Ltd. was a flourishing concern in its own right, making, early that year, more cars in a week than ever before, a total of about 200, with the new 25 h.p. Snipe the prominent model, although the 16/50 Humber was still very much in production.

In those vintage days, so soon to run out, the Humber factory employed some 3,000 workers, had a machine shop of 180 ft. x 210 ft., a very big body shop and its own foundry. The spacious machine shop was virtually a series of miniature factories, for engines, gearboxes, back axles and other main components were separately machined therein. Already full automation was foreshadowed by some of the machine-tools in use, such as a £6,000 Bullard which did six consecutive operations on hubs and differential cases automatically. So that a complete hub was machined every three minutes.

Power units were moved by hand on metal roller conveyors through the machine room and erecting shop, and on to the chassis assembly line. The chassis and the bodies were completed and mated on a conveyor line. But if vintage-car enthusiasts are apt to throw up their hands in horror at such inhuman methods of assembly in the “golden years”, at least it can be put on record that Humber Ltd. still painstakingly tested every outside-supplied component and material, even to the wool used for the upholstery, which was periodically checked for quality and consistency

Some 300 bodies were built up at the same time, including special orders such as saloon landaulettes with special fittings and trimmings. Yet the demand for Humbers in 1930 was apparently such that not more than a dozen out of the daily production of perhaps 30 would be static in the stockroom.

In the foundry the iron was poured at 5 p.m. each day, and by 2 a.m. the next morning the castings, formed from molten metal poured first from an overhead crane, then from hand cupolas operated by two men, were cool enough to be knocked out.

Humber used an electrically-heated Wild-Barfield muzzle at 830C to heat-treat crown wheels whose teeth were formed on a Gleason cutter, the treatment being applied for five minutes before further cutting with a special Humber-Gleason tool. Distortion of a crown wheel was controlled to a limit of 0.001 in., resulting in a very quiet final drive.

Humber had their own metal-stressing laboratory, spun white-metal into big-end bearings, shot-blasted certain iron and aluminium parts and electrically-riveted spring pads to the back-axle casings. Each engine was run-in for eight hours, in batteries of four, coupled by belt to drums which turned dynamos which gave current to the factory supply, supplementary to the mains electricity. While they were being run-in the engines were supplied with filtered oil, which ran out of the crankcases from which the drain plugs had been omitted, into pans, from whence it was fed via large-diameter pipes to an electrically-driven Sharpies purifier, to be returned to the engine on the test-bed through the filler orifice. Of the eight-hour test, four hours were run lightly loaded, two hours at half-throttle and two on full-throttle. In a clean, well-lit, fume-free shop engines were tested day and night, the test-shop capacity being approx. 50 engines in 24 hours.

Finally, the finished and inspected Humber Snipe or 16/50 would be collected by owner or delivery driver and before he left the Humber there would be made available at a little office by the gate a report on the state of the main roads, amended every few hours. I do not recollect that this system still existed when I took a road-test Sunbeam-Talbot away from Ryton-on-Dunsmore one snow-bound winter’s day in the Rootes regime.—W. B.

V-E-V Odds and Ends

The Mulliner Austin 7 register has 14 cars listed, of which six are saloons (of two types), two are coupes and six are sports models. The Registrar has built an Austin 7 Special from vintage parts which is vaguely a replica of the 1923 team cars, using a 1925 engine and 1927 chassis, and carries one of their reg. nos., OK 7095. A recent issue of Illustrated Weekly of India carried a picture of a vintage car owned by the present Maharaja of Bharatpur, showing it to be a boat-tailed tourer with slatted rear tank and Dunlop herringbone-tread tyres, but not disclosing the make. Rolls-Royce Ltd. have appointed Rippon Bros., of Huddersfield, their oldest distributors, as sole distributors of chassis parts for 1904 to 1940 Rolls-Royce and 1933 to 1940 Bentley cars. Finally, an aside on the letter last month from Bill Fleming about the Triplex 1924 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost. We never called the governor an “outside” hand-throttle—the printers did that. What we intended to call it was an outsize hand-throttle …