Held on June 24th, there was a new aspect to the Brooklands Society’s Reunion this year, motorcycles and cars being demonstrated on the Byfleet banking, or rather over about a third of it, from the Fork to the break where it was cut away to safeguard aeroplanes taking off from the WW2 runway. The parading vehicles thus ran in a clockwise direction, rather as if they were thinking in terms of an International Trophy race . . .
The popularity of this largely social gathering was apparent when we drove in at the Oyster Lane or Byfleet (Industrial) side, to park on the runway itself. This provided ideal accommodation for the very large assembly of visitors’ cars and morons like ourselves who had come in modern vehicles – the official estimate was 4,000 people, including children. This year the Weybridge (Brooklands Road) entrance of British Aerospace was out of bounds and at the last minute the intended Clubhouse lunch for VIPs had to be transferred to what was surely the old Press box, beside the Campbell ERA sheds in which other visitors could obtain lunch. However, it all worked quite well, and the Paddock was full of cars of every possible variety. The VCC had been invited to display some of its pre-1914 machinery, of the kind that would have brought race-goers to Brooklands in those untroubled days. This added to the variety and brought some elegant 40/50 Rolls-Royces, including John Bolster’s 1911 Ghost tourer from Kent. One of the most interesting was the lofty English Vehicle Company electric-car, steered by l.h. tiller and driven by two big motors on its back axle. It ran silently about, like those Royces, which during the banking demonstration sounded notably a little quieter than a Renault landaulette that was amongst them . . .
The historic Clubhouse forecourt having been put out of bounds, the more exciting racing cars were lined up in front of it. These exhibits included Rob Walker’s Delahaye, in the care of Eoin Young, second in that contest in 1939 at the Track to decide which was the fastest road car, although it was not quite a sports-car on this 1979 occasion, being minus its front wings, one of which had been squashed by a recalcitrant lady-driver’s Mini the day before. No matter, it made a fine ascent of the Test Hill, with D.S. J. as passenger, scorning the stop and restart. Other historic cars in this line-up were de Cadenet’s Tipo B monoposto Alfa Romeo, Stafford-East’s 200 Mile Race G. N. Akela, a FWD Alvis, the 1931 “Double-Twelve” Maserati, a 1935 Le Mans Lagonda, Russ-Turner’s famous Birkin blower-4 1/2 Bentley single-seater, an ex-lap record holder, other Birkin Bentleys, a 1934 TT MG Magnette, Easdale’s 1750 Alfa Romeo, an improbable looking Wolseley Hornet McEvoy and many other Bentleys, including a 6½-litre two-seater. It was nice to see End’s Wolseley Moth single-seater and that side-valve AC two-seater standing side by side, both typical Brooklands light-cars, even if they do have replica bodies. Good, too, to see Michael May arrive in the Alvis Silver Eagle he raced there before the war. The motorcycle fraternity had their own paddock across the way, in which had assembled a magnificent display of racing machinery, including some very potent racing Morgan three-wheelers, one the ex-Martin Soames’ job. As to the non-racing occupants of the Paddock, these rivalled almost any Concours d’Elegance show for interest and completeness. The Railton OC had put on its own show, and picking out just a few of the great concourse of cars, I noted a very early Alvis tourer, a 1919 Sunbeam Sixteen tourer which I think I once owned when living in Harrogate during the war, the ex-Major Pitt Alfonso Hispano-Suiza two-seater, a rare 1920s 16/50 twin-carburerter side-valve Benz, a blower-4 1/2 open Bentley with a Ki-gass pump on its scuttle, examples of 12/24 and fixed-head FWD Citroen coupe, a Trojan, a familiar Austin 20, Heal’s 3-litre Twin-Cam Sunbeam, . . . but, if continued, the list would be nearly endless.
As starting-time approached I was given my customary run up the Test Hill in Dudley Gahagan’s ex-Fawcett Type 57 Bugatti James Young convertible, in company with Society President T. A. S. O. Mathieson and Mr. and Mrs. Alan Hess, after which the flood was let loose up this steep 1909 gradient. To refer to all those who ascended it is again impossible but it was fortunate that a public-address system had been laid on, because the £1 souvenir programme was devoid of a list of “competitors”, while the intended Press room and VIP interview lounge in the Clubhouse had had to be abandoned. Astonishingly, the RAC insisted on scrutineering of those cars using the Test Hill and the brief piece of the Byfleet banking, and crash helmets had to be worn . . . It is very true that the magic atmosphere that was Brooklands race track in this part of the Surrey landscape can still be sensed, but the old carefree days have departed . . .
Going in to lunch I was delighted to find myself sitting next to Mrs. Violet Hindmarsh, whose husband was well-known as a racing driver, notably of Lagonda cars, and who as Miss Cordery drove a Silver Hawk and did those long-distance runs at the Track in 3-litre and 4 1/2-litre Invictas, including 30,000 miles in 30,000 minutes, etc. Opposite T.A.S.O. was entertaining the Mayor and Mayoress and soon Sammy (S.C.H.D.) and Sue Davis joined us, making the nostalgia complete. To reiterate, a full list of all the Brooklands persons who came to the Reunion is not on, for fear of omitting important names. But Kaye Don, Esson-Scott, Charlie Martin, Pat Driscoll, Windsor Richards, Cyril Posthumous, Stanley Sedgwick, Billy Rockall, Arthur Dobson, Charles Mortimer, Rivers-Fletcher, Eric Beart, H. T. H. Clayton, Mrs. Ventora, George Abecassis, Robin Jackson, the Bellamys and many more celebrities were either met or reported to be present, while George Harvey-Noble was rightly the guest of honour. And, of course, all the Society officials . . . my apologies to anyone whom memory has failed to encompass.
After some delay and a wetting from a passing thunderstorm, the banking thrash happened, opened by Perryman’s ex-Brooklands 1930 KTT Velocette and Keys’ 1931 Norton. The utmost praise is due to those who have slaved so hard and voluntarily, led by John Wall, to rid this historic concrete from weeds and rubbish. After the veterans had come past, Sir John Briscoe’s 1911 Coupe de LAuto De!age, unfortunately very sick indeed with what sounded like slipped timing, the faster stuff was released. They came in pairs, mostly at very discreet speeds, filmed by TV for a show released that same Sunday evening. I think Rivers-Fletcher in his TT replica Speed 25 Alvis went as high up the old banking as anyone, but a 3-litre Bentley had a good try. In the absence of a list of runners, the commentary had to be relied on by the patient onlookers, who were put behind the aerodrome road, from which we used to be permitted to view the much faster racing, from parked cars, with no fence, only the ditch, between humans and the track. Those carefree days . . . However, the 1979 runs may have been rather a sad parody but were fun nevertheless. Jenks drove the de Cadenet monoposto Alfa Romeo, Peter Hull had Chris Mann’s Targa Florio car of this make, and once or twice someone would actually overtake his partner. Jumbo Goddard was allowed to use his Turbocharged 156 m.p.h. 8-litre Bentley on which Brooklands’ Scrutineer the late Hugh McConnell would no doubt have cast his beady eye, and it would have been nice if more Brooklands’ outer-circuit cars like “Babs” and the Barnato Hassan and the Napier RaiIton, etc. could have been there. However, Peter Horne, who restored the last-named for the Midland Motor Museum, was present, D.S. J. kept pace with the Birkin Bentley single-seater in Robbie Hewitt’s 4 1/2-litre Lagonda, and John Ebblewhite, son of a famous time-keeper and grandson of the immortal “Ebby”, admitted to being quite overwhelmed by the interest still shown, on his very first visit to the ancient Motor Course. Incidentally, the ladies exhibited commendable enthusiasm, Robbie Hewitt entering three cars, her 3-litre Lagonda, 4 1/2-litre Lagonda Le Mans team-car and CGSS Amilcar, Monica Whincop her pre-war 1,100 c.c. HRG and stark two-seater Fiat 501.
The big attendance alone shows the interest that Brooklands still generates. With many old railway branch-lines being reopened and extended and a move to refloat the first iron battleship at a cost of some £6,000,000 – and did I hear that the National Trust has spent £400,000 on Discovery and that £2,500,000 has been spent already on Warrior? – it really is about time that the whole of Brooklands was restored to the motoring and aviation communities. But with a membership of 1,714 subscribers and just over £7,200 in the kitty at the time of the last AGM, the Brooklands Society has a long way to go. And if its annual Reunion looks like a money-spinner for this most commendable ambition, it seems that organisational costs absorb more than half the profits. – W.B.