Veteran - Edwardian - Vintage, August 1978

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A section devoted to old-car matters

The Brooklands Re-Union

This year’s Brooklands Re-Union, on June 25th, was on a reduced scale, because the Brooklands Society had been denied the use of the aerodrome-runway for high-speed demonstrations and access to the historic aspects on the West side of the Estate. However, this did not altogether mar a pleasant day’s nostalgia, held in the 40 acres encompassing the Paddock and Members’ Hill which the Society hopes one day to acquire as its own property.

A splendid display of motorcycles and almost every make of aged car from 1900 and 1 902 De Dion Boutons to a Trojan assembled on the day, although no beauty prize was offered. Space precludes detailed mention of all these. But I noticed a rare blue two-seater Cubitt, rebuilt after being bought at Beaulieu with van body, a very smart sports Senechal with balloon tyres and a tiny Ruby engine with an equally tiny Solex carburetter on the front edge of its cylinder block, a 14/40 Humber two-seater with alloy bonnet and outside exhaust pipes which its owner apologetically referred to as an imitation Brooklands Special (but why not?), the Baughan cyclecar, lots of Morgan 3-wheelers and a very nice Morgan 4/4, Lightfoot’s 1902 Mercedes, etc. Special parks had been set aside for 30/98 and Alta cars. The former had ample support but only two of the latter arrived, Sharp’s 1,100 c.c. two-seater now with modern headlamps and a 2 1/2 – litre SS engine, and Margulies’ 2-litre racer.

The show was opened by Dudley Gahagan who took round, in his Type 57 Bugatti d.h., Brooklands celebrities Dudley Froy, Kaye Don, Alan Hess and TA SO Mathieson. Ascents of the Test Hill, punctuated by the VSCC’s stop-andrestart, then commenced. Before the cars assayed this, however, R. M. French of the Weybridge Wheelers rode up the hill on a 1935 Selbach Massed-Start push-bicycle, to appreciative applause, a fitting admonition to any cars that had intended to fail! The usual assortment of prewar machinery then tackled the famous hill, including Stafford-East’s 200-Mile Race GN, a two-seater Lancia Lambda, a 3-litre Bentley with helmeted driver, that d.h. Railton that has run 502,000 miles on two engines and its original gearbox, having been purchased new by its present owner at the 1936 Olympia Show, a blown PB MG, a J2 MG, Rivers-Fletcher’s Alvis with his former secretary in the passenger’s seat, and all the expected Lagonda, Frazer Nash, Fiat, Bentley, Riley and other vintage sports cars. I don’t think anyone actually stopped. However, Ballamy’s Lancia Dilambda Weymann saloon with a full load of passengers only just got up – you could feel the suspense among the onlookers! Incidentally, the Test Hill has been further tidied up by the Society since last winter.

Among the Brooklands personalities present were George Harvey-Noble, being photographed with Kaye Don, because George gained the last 130 m.p.h. badge (in the Bentley-Jackson), Don the first (in a GP Sunbeam), H. T. H. Clayton, Lady Campbell, Mrs. George Duller, Bob Dicker, John Dugdale, Leslie Ballamy and many, many more. I am told also that Jack Field, Betty Haig, Amhurst Villiers, Robin Jackson, Les Archer, Leo Villa, J. S. Worters, Francis Beart, Louis Klemantaski, M. Tenbosch, P. Courtney, Bert Hadley, Oscar Finch and Mrs. Doris Gordon-England were present, as was Mrs. Paul Wyand. The most interesting guest was 73-yearold Dudley Froy, because the others have attended previously but Froy had come specially this year from Tucson, America, accompanied by a charming daughter. During the lunch interval he was interviewed by the Press (Eoin Young and me). He was apprenticed to Parry Thomas, drove all manner of cars from Moth to 4.9 Bugatti, 2 1- litre Benz to MG Midget, lived at Ealing in the vintage days of the Track, and later sold Rolls-Royces with Sir Alastair Miller, Bt. He told me the Wolseley Moth used to snake about on the Byfleet banking unless you stuck your foot in and drove through it but the Leyland Thomas was beautiful to handle, floating round on those supple back springs, torsionally-damped. The streamlined body on the Bentley Froy drove for Woolf Barnato in 1928, at first with a 3-litre, then with a 41/2 -litre engine, although looking rather like a Leyland Thomas, actually had a body built, he thought, by Bentley’s.

After lunch the pre-war drivers were taken along part of the Members’ banking (a very small part of it, alas) as passengers in appropriate cars. Thus Sammy Davis and his wife Susan were in the back of a 3-litre Bentley incorporating parts from “Old No. 7” , Arthur Dobson was in Marsh’s 30/98 Vauxhall, Fitt drove his Balilla Fiat, Windsor-Richards was in Tony Jones’ 30/98, Symonds in Stafford-East’s GN, RiversFletcher in Conway’s Type 43 Bugatti, TASO Mathieson in an ex-Oats four-seater Maserati, Clayton in F. G. Lyndhurst’s Amilcar Six, Peter Clark in Sir John Briscoe’s 1911 Coupe de L ’Auto Delage. This Parade was led, naturally, by Gahagan, who took Kaye Don, one-time Brooklands lap-record holder, and Mrs. Don, with me, in his Bugatti. But if most of these famous “ geriatrics” were chauffered, not so Dudley Froy! He had elected to take the Wolseley Moth, which is a single-seater, so he had to drive it. But this he did, very skilfully, smiling happily, as when he had used one of these little cars to win his first race, a 50-mile handicap at a Surbiton MC Meeting at 82.31 m.p.h. back in 1928. He was thus the true hero of this 1978 afternoon.

It was following this that the low-key aspect of the Re-Union became more apparent, for in the absence of the “ runway-drag” not many racing cars had turned up. Indeed, the Paddock proper held only the Multi-Union (which was rumoured to have new cylinder blocks and which the Hon. Patrick Lindsay had generously lent to Gahagan), the aforesaid Maserati, 19 11 Delage and Amilcar, Peter Moore’s s.v. Austin 7 (still erroneously described as the actual ex-Kay Petre car), and this 1921 E3 1,261 c.c. Wolseley Moth. The last-named was, in my opinion, the best of them all. Splendidly rebuilt by J. End, who found the original chassis and has put an extremely good replica body on it, it now looks to me exactly like the original, cowled-radiator, airshiptail, “ meat-skewer” panel-fasteners, woodenclosed fairings over the spring-hangers, driver’s head-rest and all. This is the more creditable because once, when I had similar ideas for a standard Wolseley Ten chassis, I showed photographs of a Wolseley Moth to a famous Surrey coachbuilder, only to be told that it was not so much a matter of what such a replica body would cost me, but whether their panel-beaters could cope with such elaborate doublecurvatures. Yet here was End’s car, looking exactly as had these oddly-streamlined, aluminium single-seaters when Alastair Miller created them for Wolseley’s, back in 19 21. This is the ex-Kain car, which eluded me by a few hundred yards when I was searching for it, following up some slender clues, during the war. End had to rebuild it from the two-seater it had been made into. He now drives it on the road, and has the ex-Becke Powerplus engine as a spare power-unit. Froy had to squeeze down into the Moth’s cockpit, in which the gear-lever is on the left, the hand-brake on the right. Seeing him happily driving it made my long drive to Brooklands, this time in a much-liked five-speed Rover 2600 (last year it was in a Range Rover) worthwhile for that alone. (By the way, Georgano says these Moths ran in JCC 200 mile races in his new book on Brooklands but, in fact, as single-seaters they were not eligible.)

For some reason the RAC had insisted on a Permit for this very brief demonstration of racing cars and the motorcycles on the old Brooklands banking. The West Essex CC arranged this for the Society. Even so, the RAC had stipulated a top-speed of 45 m.p.h.; most of the drivers thought the bumps would make 10 m.p.h. seem too fast! All a bit pointless, perhaps, except that it enabled the large numbers of spectators who lined the railings on the Members’ Hill, as in the good old days, to get some idea of what cars on Brooklands’ bankings used to look like. I only hope they were imagining them doing upwards of 130 m.p.h. – W.B.

V -E -V Miscellany. – For the record it was Duffy’s Alvis-Riley, not an AC Special, that was second in the opening race of the first VSCC Silverstone Meeting on April 22nd, and Golder’s Riley which finished third was not a special, as described in the June issue, but his well-known 1936 Alpine Trials car. Apologies! The placings in the Motor Sport Brooklands Memorial Trophy Contest have been corrected accordingly. I have also been taken to task for calling Mr. Lobb’s Mercedes which ran in the recent Australian Vintage and Veteran Rally a so-called Targa Florio car with what looked like a homemade body. This Mercedes is, I am informed, an original 1921 short-chassis 28/95 car with the aero-type 7-litre engine, of the type which was second in the Targa Florio and won the Coppa Florio that year. My apologies to Mr. Warriner, who is responsible for restoring Mr. Lobb’s cars, which include a Type 39 Bugatti he has owned since about 1938. I can only say that the photograph of the Mercedes in the Rally programme apparently showed it as it was 12 months previously, and I note that Lord Montagu’s journal has referred to this car as looking “ too small to be a 28/95, so we’d guess something in the 2-litre class.” So I was not the only one to be deceived … Clearly, the body must be a replica.

Hugh Gregory is now Registrar of the Humber Register although Phil Diffey remains on the Committee as Hon. Treasurer. The Register now admits vintage Humbers of the same type as the immediately pre-1930 models, i.e., those with inlet-over-exhaust valves, which were made up to about 1932. There is thus a small overlap with the Post-Vintage Humber CC. The respective Registrars are, then, H. Gregory, 2 1, Lady well Road, London, S E 13 for the former, O. Edgar, The Warehouse, Serpentine Road, Southsea, Hampshire for the latter. In respect of a recent letter about a sports Briton light-car, Tractor Spares Ltd., of Willenhall, tell us that they are successors to the Old Briton Motor Co. and have packing cases full of Briton literature. These are in process of being sorted out by Mr. C. G. Weight, the Managing Director. In the meantime, he suggests that the car we illustrated would have been one of the last made, a 12/14 h.p. model. Mr. Weight is at present rebuilding one of these and believes it to be the only one of its type to survive, although some of the squareradiator Britons exist, mostly in Australia. The late Frank Ashby’s racing mechanic is now living in Wales. He recalls the racing cars he worked on from 1930 until 1937, after which he went to British Airways, and also the four imitation racers made by Ashby for a West End play called “ Speed” starring, he thinks, Leslie Henson. A great assembly of all kinds of aged transport, under the title of “ The Wonderful World of Wheels” is being held at Knebworth House, Stevenage over the week-end of September 2nd/3rd, organised by The Transport Trust and H. R. Owen Ltd. It is described as a sort of repeat of the Biggin Hill and Windsor/Ascot Meetings but, unlike the latter, we assume that this one will not be primarily a Rolls-Royce occasion and we doubt whether it will have the gracious patronage of HM The Queen. Anyway, entries have closed. — W.B.

Out of the past

A reader, Mr. G. A. Parker of Bexhill-on-Sea, who had a distant relation who was chauffeur to the Duke of Westminster has kindly sent us some photographs from those days. They include some of a rare make of car, the Headland Electric. Several examples of this make, in fact, although it is not known whether the Duke owned these or whether they were visiting vehicles, photographed by his chauffeur. The Headland was available in 1899 in four different versions. A product of Headland’s Patent Electric Storage Battery Co. Ltd, of Pall Mall, it was intended to show off the claimed strength and durability of Headland batteries, which were said to withstand high rates of discharge without damaging their plates. There was a 3-h.p. mail phaeton with rear-wheel drive, a two-seat phaeton, and a 3- h.p. three-seat phaeton, with front-wheel drive from Renold chains coupling the wheels to a motor fed from a 40-cell, 140 amp./hr. battery, three speeds and reverse being provided, and finally a four-seat Victoria of similar specification, except that the front wheels were driven by pinions engaging internally-toothed rings.

It seems possible that the vehicles photographed were of this kind but the VCC may have other views, although since the death of Mr Dennis Field it is going to be difficult to identify such rare vehicles. The other pictures sent to us will not reproduce but seem to depict a Mercedes tonneau-bodied touring car, Reg. No. H 172, with a veiled lady at the wheel, a Sixty Mercedes, the picture of which has been coloured, what is possibly a Panhard-Levassor with a closed body, also carrying H 172, and seemingly at a horserace meeting, and an unidentified large tourer. Can anyone enlarge on this? – W.B.

V -E -V Odds and Ends. — The Journal o f the Morris Register continues to exhude the most enthralling items of history relating to Morris vehicles, the Summer issue, for example, containing an illustrated account of pre-war commercial vehicles, etc. The 750 Bulletin also has some items of Austin 7 history, including, in its June issue, an article about a 1931 tourer that covers an annual mileage of about 12,000 and a feature, perhaps suggested by our “ Cars In Books” column, about Austin Sevens in books. Lord Montagu of Beaulieu is compiling a book about the part chauffeurs played in motoring and would like to hear from anyone who has material to contribute or from old chauffeurs who are prepared to be interviewed. The next InterRegister contest is due to take place on August 13th, in the form of a Humber Register road event in the Bicester area. The VCC has suffered an irreplaceable loss in the death of Dennis Field, who dated cars for them, and whose worth is reflected in the large numbers of sincere obituary appreciations in that Club’s current Gazette. – W.B

A Vintage Honeymoon

I happened upon a piece by G. B. Nicholls in This England last year, about a honeymoon journey to Land’s End in an old two-cylinder Wolseley purchased for £ 15 . The car is not dated so could be either Veteran or Vintage. I imagine the journey was made in the 1930s. Apart from being pushed up one hill and having a front cantilever spring repaired with a strap from the suitcase there were no calamities and the little car, which had a range of 7-37 m.p.h., covered nearly 68 miles in one three-hour spell. In 1932 it froze up and went for scrap. – W.B.

 

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