Veteran Edwardian Vintage, August 1974

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A Section Devoted to Old-Car Matters

VSCC Silverstone Meeting, July 13th: Another good day’s racing racing, with the rain keeping off until it was over, before a large crowd, saw Morley with the largest car present, the 24-litre Bentley-Napier, and Coles with one of the smallest, his s/c 746 c.c. MG, make it Doubles, and Neil come out of his corner to win the Hawthorn Memorial Trophy Race with the Tom Wheatcroft 2-1/2 -litre GP BRM.

The programme consisted of 5-lap races and “distance” events over 8, 10 and 15 laps. Non-starters included the GN “Salome” with piston trouble, Holdsworth’s blown 4.3 Alvis with gearbox maladies, the SS 100 whose cylinder liners had shifted on the test-bed, McGrath’s Austin 7, the king-pin bushes of which alarmed the Scrutineers, Taylor’s Aston Martin with a sick engine, Holloway’s 4-1/4 Bentley which was overheating, Howell’s Sunbeam with a broken hub, Batt’s Rapier which blew a gasket, the Avon-Bentley with its machinery full of water, Cooper’s Talbot which lost its oil-pressure, Dick’s Riley with a cracked head, Blissett’s Riley which split its radiator, and, alas, Peacock’s Amilcar Six with fuel starvation. Leeson’s Riley broke a halfshaft and didn’t arrive and President Arnold Forster’s Delage damaged a rear hub while being driven by Bowler, only all-night work enabling it to run.

Of those left, 14 came out for the 15-lap Hawthorn Trophy Race. Corner led all the way in the Donington Collection P25 BRM, winning at over 89 m.p.h. after a faultless drive. His best lap of 91.31 m.p.h. shows the car is properly screwed together although I gather it is problematical whether it would last a full GP, as there is a lot of vibration. Only Roberts in the Lotus had Corner in sight. A long way behind, Cottam in Millar’s 250F Maserati led Phillips’ Cooper-Bristol which had taken Lindsay on lap 4, his ERA “Remus” now going really well.

The Boulogne Trophy Race for vintage racing cars, 10 laps from scratch, saw Morley in the Bentley-Napier quite untroubled, the mighty torque at the back axle now restrained by a piece of heavy chain above the o/s rear spring. The big car, still weaving somewhat, was a fine sight, with Moffatt doing all he could to catch it in Wall’s Bugatti, without any success. It was Footitt, however, who lapped fastest, at 79.08 m.p.h., as the Cognac Special closed up on the Bugatti, unable to pass but taking a close third place. (No dear, the aero-engined Bentley isn’t driven to the meeting; it comes in a Commer lorry.) Morley now leads for the Motor Sport Trophy.

He was out again for the 8-lap Pre-War All-Corners’ Scratch Race. With Lindsay and Marsh (ERAs) he was penalised for jumping the start but was still able to win, with a lap at 80.62 m.p.h., this time determinedly pursued by “Remus”, which passed Marsh’s ex-Seaman ERA on the first lap. Marsh looked like finishing third but a nonsense of the final lap gave this place to St. John’s immaculate Type 51 Bugatti, which had duelled with the ERA but displayed inferior acceleration. Jones’ Riley retired with the brakes on fire. The other long race was the Fox and Nicholl Trophy Handicap for vintage and p.v.t. sports cars, a very interesting field coming out, from genuine team cars to Whittaker’s stripped Chrysler, which was probably going better for having shed part of its exhaust system in an earlier race. For a time Quartermaine’s 30/98 Vauxhall led. Then the back-markers came through, Hall’s 1935 4-1/2 -litre Lagonda winning from Schofield’s 1936 team 4-1/2-1itre Lagonda, with Burrell’s 7-1/2 -litre Bentley-Royce third, after moments at Woodcote, where Brown’s Lagonda had spun. Blight’s Talbot G052 was actually beaten by a 4-1/2 -litre Lagonda that had given it a 55 sec. start and Macdonald’s 4-1/2 -litre Lagonda also spun at Woodcote. Quite a Lagonda day, as the Rapier Register had mustered 44 of the smaller cars they foster for a 21st Anniversary Parade.

The first short race was from scratch, for under-1,500 c.c. cars. Fernley’s Frazer Nash led until it spun on lap 4, which let Mrs. Golder’s Riley and Fleming’s Riley pass. But the Nash driver recovered, to take first place, all three crossing the line in a tight bunch. Coles’ little MG came through a big field to win the first handicap comfortably from Wittridge’s 4-1/2 -litre Lagonda and the BentleyRoyce. Clinkard’s 12/70 Alvis Special caught Maxwell’s 1925 Salmson on the last lap to win the next handicap, with Kirby’s Austin third. Coles in the blue slab-tank MG then won again from Fairley’s Riley Special and Fleming, Coles thus taking second place in the MOTOR SPORT Brooklands Memorial Trophy Contest, but it was another bunched finish. The last handicap went to Phillips’ scratch CooperBristol, from Walton’s Connaught and Van Rossern’s Cooper-Bristol and a 5-lap Scratch Race was a victory for McWhir’s Frazer Nash, with Bowler’s 1940 BMW easily holding off Clifford’s V8 Riley.

Results

Boulogne Trophy Race:

1st : F Morley (Bentley-Napier), 77.49 m.p.h, 2nd : 11. Moffatt (Bugatti), 3rd G. Footitt (Cognac Special)

Pre-War All-Comers Scratch Race:

1st : F. Morley (Bentley-Napier), 79.16 m.p.h., 2nd : Hon. P. Lindsay (ERA), 3rd : G. St. John (Bugatti)

Hawthorn Memorial Trophy Race:

1st : N. Corner (BRM), 89.43 m.p.h., 2nd: J. Roberts (Lotus), 3rd : A. Cottam (Maserati)

Fox and Nicholl Trophy Race:

1st : N. Hall (Lagonda). 67.84 m.p.h., 2nd : H. Schofield (Lagonda), 3rd : R. Burrell (Bentley-Royce)

First 5-lap Scratch Race: D. Fernley (Frazer Nash) 64.81 m.p.h,

Second 5-lap Scratch Race:

D. MeWhir (Frazer Nash), 72.36 m.p.h.

First 5-lap Handicap:

G. Coles (MG), 69.51 m.p.h.

Second 5-lap Handicap:

A Clinkard (Alvis), 59.58 m.p.h.

Third 5-lap Handicap: G. Coles (MG), 68.88 m.p.h.

Fourth 5-lap Handicap: S. Phillips (Cooper-Bristol 78.61 m.p.h.

Leader to date in the Motor Sport Brooklands Memorial Trophy Contest: F. Morley (Bentley-Napier), 54 points; G. Coles (MG), 36 points; B. M.Russ-Turner (Bentley), 31 points; M. Bowler (BMW), 29 points, H. Moffatt (Bugatti) and G. Footitt (Cognac Special), 26 points each; N. Arnold-Forster (Delage) 24 points.

Final round: Thruxton, August 31st.

* * *

Which Fiat was this ?

In “British Aviation—The Adventuring Years” by Harald Penrose, which was reviewed in the appropriate place last month, there occurs an intriguing reference to a Fiat racing car. I quote: “Some days later Openshaw told me he needed an observer to pay out the suspended static head on its long trailing tube”. [This was when Major Laurence Openshaw, MA, was test-flying the Westland Yeovil bomber in 1925.] “Would I like to act as his observer at Andover ?. . . . Even the journey to Andover had its thrills, for it was in Openshaw’s racing car. Through the dusty Wiltshire roads of a summer’s day we raced at what to me was the unbelievable speed of 70 m.p.h., gales thudding at my head and the big engine roaring. The countryside lay quiet and still, tractors unknown, slow plodding horses pulling the occasional mower or haywagon; maybe we met two cars in 60 miles.”

There can be few more evocative descriptions of motoring as it was in the 1920s than this passage which I came upon unexpectedly in this excellent aviation history. But what Fiat was this ? Before his description of that nostalgic ride from Yeovil to Andover Penrose tells us that it was driven by Openshaw “in the Grand Prix” and was painted “the official British racing green”, having been acquired by Westlands testpilot when he became a mining executive in Italy after leaving the RAF. Now this surely cannot be right, for one would remember an amateur driver of a green racing Fiat in the Grand Prix even more clearly than one does Masetti’s red Mercedes which won the 1922 Targa Florio—painted red„ some said, to minimise the chance of Sicilian bandits shooting or hurling boulders at it, but more likely because Masetti preferred to race a German car in his proud National colour. Openshaw, as a British pilot-scientist, may have painted his racing Fiat green. But if he took part in an Italian race, it must have been a minor one, or it would be mentioned in racing histories.

The car was clearly bought in the first half of the 1920s. But which Fiat was it ? Consultation of Sedgwick’s Fiat History brings no solution. It could hardly have been one of the 1922 2-litre GP cars and as the engine is described as “big” I find myself wondering whether it was, perhaps, one of those 1911 10-litre S61 Fiats, more sports than racing, one of which was driven to victory in the 1911 GP de France by Victor Herery and used after the war at Brooklands to good effect by Duff, Cobb, Warde and others. When this car’s engine eventually expired Warde encountered another of the breed in touring trim, delivering The British Gazette during the General Strike of 1926. Was this, one wonders, the ex-Openshaw car, which would certainly have been capable of 70 m.p.h. on the road ? And was Major Openshaw a relation of the Openshaw who raced those big Zenith motorcycles at the Track ?—W.B.

* * *

V-E-V Miscellany — We really thought the collectors movement had got out of hand when we received information about the Second International Meeting of Sad-Iron Collectors, which is scheduled to happen near Paris next month. It is for those who collect sad-irons or any other device used for mangling, plaiting or ironing clothes. There is to be a movie about it all, and 1,000 photographs of ironing items, and one of the last ironers of Brittany is to demonstrate how to plait collars with 300 flaxstraws. It’s not a leg-pull. They are deadly serious! After which, we feel entitled to tell you that Nelson Cricket Ground in Lancashire still uses a circa-1924 Dorman-engined roller, which it has used since it was new.

A newspaper advertisement of Tanhay Autos of Ashford showed them, again circa 1924, using their black-radiator Model-T Ford breakdown truck, with oversize back tyres, to tow in a damaged Model-T Ford or saloon. The cutting came from Mr. Farrow of S. Willesborough. The National Motor Museum 1908 GP Mercedes was used to take winners on a tour of honour at Thruxton recently but was unfortunately described in the BARC-Alcoa hand-out as a 11-litre, instead of a 12.8-litre car. A competition Type 319 Frazer-Nash-BMW has been restored for VSCC racing and the:owner would like further information about the pre-war career of this model. Recent news of old cars being disinterred, starting with the classic “Babs” excavation, has led to a reader reminding us that around 1962 a helicopter was used to lift the remains of a 1912 Cadillac out of a canyon near Mount Wilson Observatory, vide the Los Angeles Times. Raymond Mays drove his Rover 3500S all the way to Tenbury Wells recently to declare open a new garage owned by W. J. Riley, who is related to the Riley car family. Among the pre-war vehicles there awaiting completion were a 328 BMW, an M-type MG chassis with side-valve engine, and the ex-Sir Francis Samuelson Le Mans and Spa M-type MG, while the original Silverstone Healey demonstrator which MOTOR SPORT road-tested headed the post-war machinery.

The Morris Register Journal retains its interesting content, the last two issues we have seen being devoted, respectively, to Morris Taxis and Morris Commercial ‘buses. The Amilcar Register Newsletter recently contained some interesting notes on Batho’s Amilcar-Riley. W. B. Scott, who is writing what should be a hilarious autobiography, remarked “MOTOR SPORT straddles the World”, when, among letters we have forwarded to him, was one from Rollo Martin who was at a “crammers” with that pilot of aged aeroplanes, Dudley Watt. Congratulations to the active Morgan 3-Wheeler Club on holding a full-scale Night Trial. When W. J. Oldham came to England in connection with his forthcoming Rolls-Royce book (expected from Foulis in September) his 1936 Phantom III covered 1,428 miles at 11.4 m.p.g. and, although it has done a total mileage of 91,000 without an engine overhaul, it gave 90 m.p.p. of Castro! GTX. It went home to Jersey on the Falaise from Weymouth in a force-9 gale, the normal “slow waltz” of its i.f.s. on a sea-crossing becoming, in these conditions, a “sort of quick polka”. Jonty Williamson’s 10-litre V12 Delage was timed unofficially at 136 m.p.h. over a f.s. 1/2 -mile on the runway at Yelverton in June.

* * *

V-E-V Odds & Ends

—A rather remarkable discovery by Hamish Morten was that of a dismantled 1925 Vanden Plas 3-litre Bentley short-chassis Speed Model, together with a great many spares, which had been visible from a road in central London. Yet it has only just been saved! Its present engine has run a mere 51,000 miles and the spare earlier-type engine has had but one 25-thou. rebore. Moreover, this Bentley was owned by someone who had never owned another car. He bought it in 1949 and ran it until it threw a rod in Italy in the 1950s. On that occasion it was towed to a remote village by a couple of motorcycles, one ridden by the local garagiste, the other by a policeman! When the block was lifted for the broken rod to be withdrawn these worthies are said to have peered up the bores and remarked with reverence “Santa Maria—quattro valvo”. Morten intends to rebuild the car as a family tourer, eventually to be taken over by his two sons. He also hopes the former owner will borrow it occasionally, which reminds us that another reader has been able to trace the 3-litre Bentley he once owned and has also been invited by its present custodian that he can drive it again any time he likes.

The Newsletter of the S. Hants Vehicle Preservation Society for June contained a report of an adventurous journey with a Sentinel steamer to the start of the Historic Commercial Vehicle Brighton Run, in which it competed successfully, carrying a crew of 17. It is pleasing to note that the police encountered were mostly very helpful. A 1923 Gardner Type SF gas engine has been found a new home on Hayling Island. The ever interesting journal of the VCC of New Zealand, Beaded Wheels, had some intriguing Austin 7 items in the April/May issue, including a picture of the eighth Chummy to leave the factory, which was bought in London in 1923 and shipped to Christchurch, and details of some Austin 7 taxis operated by a Mr. Gardner in Gisburne around 1928, these having lengthened chassis and four-door colonial bodies! A 1926 Springfield RollsRoyce Silver Ghost was recently restored by Panelcraft of London, packed by Robert Fisher, and delivered to a New York motor company. An old gentleman who still remembers the ineffectiveness of the external contracting brakes of his first car, a Willys Overland, has under a hedge a f.w.b. Morris Cowley axle and two more of them are thought to be lying not far away, in Powys. On the stationary engine front, not all such engines have been scooped up by the collectors. Some remain on farms where they worked for many years, like a two-stroke Petter and a circa-1919 8-h.p. horizontal single-cylinder Ingeco Oil engine we encountered last month. This was made in Wisconsin and supplied by Wurtington Simpson Ltd. of London. It has an automatic inlet valve, push-rod exhaust valve, exposed big-end and I.t. ignition from a Webster Tri-Polar oscillating magneto; it was in use until the inlet valve broke about four years ago.

* * *

A Rare Peugeot

AN advertisement in your May number brought back some childhood memories.

In 1903 my father took back from Valentygny (where Peugeots were built at the time) a 2-cylinder car very similar to the one in the advertisement except for flat “dais” with side-curtains and vertical front screen.

The engine ran anti-clockwise, and ignition was by low-tension magnets. Sparkplugs and twin trembler coils were used for better starting—once the engine ran, this was switched off to save the battery as there was, of course, no generator. Four-speed gearbox and chain final drive piano pedals—accelerator and ignition advance by two small levers in front of the steering pillar.

I loved that car because it was the first I drove alone at the age of 18. There was some snow one day and it began to slip going up a hill, so my father said “drive” and he got down and pushed. (Of course I knew what to do!) When on the way, my father let me drive a whole mile home.

In that car, the family took off for a tour of France, England and Ireland in 1905. Only trouble—confetti from the Carnival of Nice travelling in the petrol pipe which required chasing with the tyre pump from time to time. Unfortunately, this happened in the middle of Piccadilly Circus, with half a dozen indignant bobbies.scolding …, and pushing to get the car out of the way. There were more hansom cabs than motor cars in London at that time.

To get back to the car: it could travel at a kilometre a minute, and it never let us down. My father gave it away to an engineer friend who had invented a simple and efficient carburetter and wanted to try it out. I never found out what became of it. In my long motoring life I never met a similar car in museums or rallies. Blessac, France — C. JORRAND