VSCC at Shelsley Walsh

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(July 7th)

Thamks to the generosity of the Midland Automobile Club the vintage lads have a meeting of their own on the fast and steep slope of Shelsley Walsh, resurfaced this year. There is always a garden-party atmosphere at this meeting, punctuated by exciting noises and smells and some heroic deeds through the famous Esses. This year the car park gathering saw a special enclosure for Frazer Nash and HRG cars, to honour the memory of Archie Frazer-Nash and Ron Godfrey. A huge turn-out of the “chain-gang” can always be expected for such an occasion, many of them just back from the rally to Bolzano in the Italian Dolomite mountains, and a goodly number took part in the hill-climb. A very good turn-out of HRG cars was a pleasant surprise, and all those who came in suitable cars from either faction were entertained to a luncheon by Forward Lubricants, a branch of the well-known Newton Oil group.

Unplanned, but welcome nevertheless, was the happy atmosphere that made the meeting a “Basil Davenport Memorial Meeting”, for all three of his racing cars were present, as well as his touring GN, the incomparable B. H. Davenport having made sure his cars went to good homes before his death. The BHD has been owned for some time by R. H. C. Parker, the touring GN by Jack McEwan, the post-war 2-litre Spider with HRG chassis by Harry Johnson, the son of an old school-friend of B.H.D., and the original and immortal 1 1/2-litre Spider is retained by the Davenport family and was lent to Ron Sant for this occasion, so Basil must have looked down from on high with great pleasure to hear all his engines running at Shelsley Walsh.

In spite of there being fifteen Frazer Nash entries in Class 1 Nickalls beat the lot with his Lagonda Rapier special. Among the big sports cars there were some fast runs, Jones recording 40.4 sec. with his 2 1/2-litre Riley special, and Felton an excellent 40.9 sec with his standard 8C Alfa Romeo, but everyone was put to shame by Tim Llewellyn’s handling of the big blue 8.3-litre Bentley special, who did both his runs under 40 sec. (a good bogey time for any pre-war car at Shelsley), his best being 38.5 sec. An interesting newcomer in the Racing Cars up to 1,500 c.c. class was Farquhar’s latest Riley, this being the Brooklands model on which Billy (band-leader) Cotton started serious racing in the early thirties. It was nice to see “Jumbo” Goddard and his Australian friend Warriner sharing the ex-Fane single-seater ‘Nash that held the Shelsley record in 1937, and Gunn and Hurst were going really well in the ex-Dennis Evans Sprint 750 c.c. MG.

In the open pre-war class a very determined Moffat did two terrific runs in 36.9 and 36.7, but a piston collapsed in the 2-litre ERA engine as he finished the second run. Footitt was equally determined and scored an excellent 37.7 sec., with the chain-driven Cognac Special and Preston (Bugatti Type 35B) and Black (Maserati 8CM) were good to watch and fast. Fastest time of the day went to M. C. Chapman with the Ecurie Ecosse Lister-Jaguar single-seater built for the 1958 Monza 500-mile race. In the class for post-war Historic cars David Llewellyn ran his 250F Maserati, a rare sight indeed for Shelsley spectators, and did well to record 37.9 sec. with a car not designed for sprint hill-climbs.

Terminal speeds across the finish line were interesting, and debunk the oft quoted 110 m.p.h. that Raymond Mays was said to be doing in the 2-litre ERA R4D. The beam timing caught Chapman at 90 m.p.h., the 250F at 87 m.p.h., Moffat 135 m.p.h. and Black at 82 m.p.h.

A nice touch to a very pleasant meeting was the segregation in the car park of ancient and modern. All pre-war cars were lined up together, while post-war customers had to fend for themselves. There was a fine array of Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Alvis, Lagonda, MG, Wolseley Hornet, Talbot etc., and that together with the Frazer Nash and HRG gathering offered the spectator a splendid afternoon . – D . S. J.

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