A section devoted to old car matters
The Brooklands Society reunion(June 29th)
The Brooklands Society staged its Annual Re-Union at the old Track, by courtesy of the British Aircraft Corporation, on a summery day at the end of June. This time there was added incentive, because parts of the historic Track and several of its buildings, including the Clubhouse, have been declared Historic Monuments by the DoE and will therefore be preserved for posterity—just before it seemed too late. There is still, alas, the shadow of the M25 Motorway, which may or may not bisect the hallowed precincts. And, of course, there are ambitious proposals that the entire ground become a National Museum of Transport and Sports Centre, even to allowing a range of attractions from man-inspired pace to steam locomotives therein, which may or may not happen in the future …
The Society itself has grown since we started it. No longer is there strict insistence that only those who knew and loved Brooklands in pre-war times be admitted to the Re-Union. It is now a free-for-all, so that this year there must have been some 3,000 people present, including 1,100 Members and their guests. This made a concourse reminiscent of Brooklands as it was on a busy race-day, with humanity busy about the Paddock area and the car-parks filled with vehicles. Fortunately, this time only pre-war cars were permitted in what was once the Paddock. And they came in fine array—many Bentleys of all kinds, most of them in pristine condition for, as Stanley Sedgwick reminded us, they had come from the previous day’s Kensington Gardens Concours d’Elegance, Rileys, Frazer Nashes, a gaggle of MGs parked together, Roesch Talbots, Alfa Romeos, Bugattis, Morgan three-wheelers, Lagondas, including Robbie Hewitt’s Team 4½-litre, and most of the other sporting makes that frequented Brooklands as their natural habitat in the past. Among them individual cars stood out—the ex-Alan Southon HE, an Edwardian Star tourer, a 3-litre Sunbeam fixed-head coupe, a yellow 36/220 Mercedes-Benz drophead, Sir John Briscow’s 1911 Coupé de l’Auto Delage with its impressive exhaust system, a sports ABC in polished aluminium, a Lagonda Rapier, that replica first-ever racing Austin 7, a yellow 14/40 Vauxhall, and others too numerous to list, even to a Trojan tourer; cars of exactly the sort the BARC members arrived in all of 36 and more years ago. Even the four-cylinder Austin 20 Marlborough landaulette filled this role.
Before the Clubhouse the more potent racing machinery had been assembled, ready to make appropriate sounds and scents later in the day, up the Runway. Corner had brought the 4-litre V12 Sunbeam “Tiger”, raced at Brooklands by Sir Malcolm Campbell and Kaye Don, and his 3.3 Type 59 ex-Earl Howe GP Bugatti, with Crosthwaite as his co-driver. Russ-Turner had the ex-Birkin Blower-4½ single-seater Bentley and looked himself ready to drive in a Brooklands race. Stafford-East displayed the rebuilt GN “Kim II”, its exhaust pipes ending in splendid regulation silencers, reminder that the noise regulations of 1924 have never been rescinded. The original Sandy Murray R1B ERA and Dudley Gahagan’s ex-Arthur Dobson 2-litre ERA, a K3 MG Magnette, an Amilcar Six, that four-seater Maserati, the White Riley, and the Cordon Rouge Brescia Bugatti were all there, while in the Paddock an ex-Dixon Riley was being push-started, its six Amals glimpsed more readily than if Freddie had been standing by, and later we were treated to the sight of D.S.J. trying to tow-start the ex-Joyce 16-valve AC along what would once have been called the Aerodrome road.
When the time came for ascents of the Test Hill, now, like much of the Home bankings, ably cleared of weeds and junk by hard-toiling members of the Society, it was opened by Gahagan, driving the actual 2.3 Alfa Romeo that Kaye Don had driven in the Mannin Moat race, with, moreover, Don himself as passenger and Raymond Mays, holder for posterity of the Brooklands’ Campbell circuit and Mountain circuit lap-records, and this scribe, jammed together into the tonneau. Close behind came Corner in the 3.3 Bugatti, with the Society’s President, TASO Mathieson, as his passenger. After that all kinds of machinery had a go up the steep strip of aged concrete—solos, sidecar outfits, and a very snakily rapid Ware-replica Morgan threewheeler. Moreover, the crowds lining the hill were as dense as any seen in the hey-day of the Track. These ascents were not confined to ex-Brooklands’ machinery but the only obvious gate-crashers seemed to be a Ford Ten single-seater and I expect that will claim to be, if never raced, at least a pre-war vehicle. Alas, one Hill record-holder, Major Liddell’s ex-Kensington-Moir Straker-Squire, was unable to run as it had damaged its back-axle casing at Shelsley Walsh the previous day; which was a pity, as Moir’s daughter and her husband were there to watch it.
It took quite a long time before the long cavalcade of visitors’ cars, first the pre-war, then the more recent ones, formed up, to tour over to the Aerodrome past depicted items of historic significance, labelled in the yellow and black of the old Brooklands ARC—the “Hemitage”, the Mortuary, W. B. Scott’s shed, the World’s First Flight Booking Office, etc. Members of the London ‘Bus Preservation Society were able to ride in Prince Marshall’s open-top ex-LGOC omnibus— it is nice to see that unlike his old-vehicle magazine he is still in circulation–others in a more recent ‘bus.
Meanwhile, Brooklands celebrities and personalities were encountered all the time, again too numerous to list in entirety, so that I apologise for many names omitted. Apart from those I have already referred to, I saw Sammy Davis, Wilkie Wilkinson, A. C. Bertelli, George Abecassis, Kenneth Evans, Alan Hess, George Eyston, George Symonds, Dicker, whose record-breaking vee-twin Budge was but one of a great assembly of historic motorcycles, the Ballamys, Monica Whincop, Mrs. Wyand, who had Lady Campbell with her, Dr. Whitehurst, the Track doctor who claims never to have missed a meeting, including the bicycle races, from 1930 to 1939, Ken Bevis, Cyril Posthumus, and many other old friends. I was told, too, that Jack Dunfee, Paul Courtney, Leo Villa, Shura Ramm, Basil Eyston, Whitney Straight, Ian Connell, Gordon England, Harry Clayton, Johnny Morgan and George Fitt were among many wellknown Brooklands “names” who had duly signed-in. The Mayor of Weybridge, Mr. Ball of the Weybridge Borough Council, and several members of the Surrey County Council, were present, at what was another memorable occasion tinged as ever with the spice of nostalgia and a touch of sadness.—W.B.
V-E-V Miscellany.—Richard Odell has purchased the 1922 10.8 h.p. sand-racing Riley from Don Wood and wants any available information about this rare car, originally one of three and undoubtedly the oldest existing racing Riley. The HCVC has a static event at Stewkley. Bucks., on July 19th. A pre-war car, D. Stickland’s 1934 Daimler 15, took second place and was judged the best open car, in the Daimler & Lanchester OC’s National Rally in June. The best Lanchester was R. Perkins’ 1934 E18 and the “Workhorse” Prize, for cars in regular use, was won by a 1938 Daimler DB17. Sepia photographs, measuring 19 in. x 16 in., of 1930s Audis, can be bought from Porsche-Audi-America, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 07632, USA. On the Austin front, we learn from the Austin Ten Drivers’ Club magazine that a rare 1935 18 h.p. Salmons Jubilee cabriolet has been found in Swansea and is to be restored. Two years ago another rare model, a 1928 Heavy Twelve fabric saloon, came out of hibernation after 32 years in completely original order, even to its 1941 licence disc and a single rear lamp, and appeared at the Midland A7 Club’s Longbridge Rally last May, having been successfully DoE tested the day before. Apparently a rather sorry Brough Superior car, sans headlamps, has been acquired by the City of Nottingham Museum, these cars having been made in that City. A Caltex advertisement has appeared in a S. African magazine incorporating a colour picture of a be-badged, and unusual-looking, late-pre-war Rolls-Royce saloon with divided windscreen, Reg. No. CA-18, together with a testimonial claiming it to have run more than one-million kilometres and to be much smoother and more economical after a switch to Caltex CX-3 fuel; the car is described as a 1921 Silver Ghost! A Briton light car is, it seems, being restored by a firm in Wolverhampton, the town in which it was originally made.
The Western Mail Cavalcade
The Western Mail held its Motor Cavalcade from Cardiff to Carmarthen on June 21st. It attracted an entry of 64 pre-war vehicles, 22 of which took part in the 1974 event, over a different route. Carnivals in villages along the way swelled the numbers of onlookers and the hot weather no doubt helped to eliminate some of the starters, although R. S. Weeks’ Humber Nine, the ex-Winder” racer”, now rebodied as a 3-seater, struggled to the finish with a melted big-end, and was towed home by Keith Hill’s Silver Eagle Alvis. Johnny Thomas had completed the rebuild of his impressive open fabric-bodied 6½-litre Bentley, which was once a saloon, the day before the Run, and Husband’s 1931 Morris-Cowley with folding roof had had a big-end replaced for the occasion. The entries included a second-owner 1932 Singer 9 saloon, a 1933 open Wolseley Hornet, a 1935 Austin 10/4 saloon that claimed to have the original tyre on its spare wheel, an Austin 7 Pearl cabriolet which cost less than cutting down the tree that had grown through it, and a goodly contingent of sports MGs.
Judging was done in Carmarthen Park, adjacent to a banked circuit, not used by the cars! Eric Hindley of the RAC and I had a busy time, because the other Judge, the Editor of the Western Mail himself, hadn’t turned up, the vintage ‘bus in which he was riding having broken down, as had a Leyland fire-engine. But a Dennis truck with 350,000 miles behind it and a Bristol double-decker ‘bus arrived, to represent the commercials. Class winners had to prove that engine-starters, lamps and horn were functioning. George Balls, on his late father’s 1903 Oldsmobile, that for some obscure reason the Mail’s motoring correspondent insists is supercharged (!), scored over a 1905 Star by being cranked up from the driving seat with the aid of its side starting-handle. The vintage class was won by J. Carter’s 1926 12.8 h.p. Hillman, an angular saloon which had been so completely restored that it even had painted spring leaves. Thomas Stevens again took the post-vintage class with his 1934 Morris 8 four-door saloon, found in poor condition in 1970 and splendidly restored the following year, but still possessing its original engine, gearbox and back-axle. The prize for the most unusual runner went to Robert Dean’s 1937 I.h.d. 328 BMW, rebuilt from a box of bits six years ago after the car had been found derelict and engine-less in a Cardiff street. It is now very smart and had the original tools under its bonnet.—W.B.