The Brooklands Re-union

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The Brooklands Society staged another Re-union at the old Track and aerodrome on June 29th, in excellent summer weather. The attendance, purported to be confined to members and their guests, was enormous, suggesting as never before that interest in Brooklands and all it stands for is undiminished. To list all the celebrities present would be unfair to those I should inevitably omit to include, but the Society’s President, TASO Mathieson, looking very fit, was over from Paris to entertain the Mayor and Mayoress and many other guests.

The wealth of historic pre-war cars was perhaps better than ever and the runs along the cleared portion of the Byfleet banking the more interesting in consequence. Owen Wyn-Owen had brought “Babs” from Wales and it made several stirring runs on the banking, in spite of the bumps disconnecting the supply of current to the coil ignition on one run and air-pressure in the fuel tank vanishing on another. Wyn-Owen told me that he has had the carburetters off for overhaul and that the 27-litre Liberty engine is running better than ever, although “Babs” exciting runs finally ended in clouds of steam, inspite of the fact that it holds 14 gallons of water. Incidentally, neither Owen nor his precariously-perched lady passenger wore crash-hats, which were insisted on for most of the other performers — not, however, for the riders of two “penny-farthing” bicycles that led a parade by the Southern Veteran Cycling Club.

Before the banking onslaught we had the Test Hill ascents, which defeated a number of cars, including Crouch’s smart 1921 Swift Ten two-seater, Nash’s 1925 Model-K Cubitt, an HE, an Aero Morgan, and the Ballamy Lancia DiLambda. Otherwise, most of the cars, motorcycles and Morgans roared up. Three Railtons ran as a team, led by an early Railton-Terraplane and there was a Railton Ten dh coupe present, which wouldn’t climb the Test Hill. Monica Whincop took Doris Gordon-England up in her HRG, and as a tribute to the Society’s Track clearers, John Wall made a slow, sooty, but secure, climb in the Society’s Dumper-Truck, complete with passengers. . . .

After the official lunch and inspection of the photographs in the Society tent those demonstration runs along a bit of the Byflret banking took place, returning via the Aerodrome road, overseen by Dudley Gahagan, aided by his Type 57 Bugatti. To the stub-exhaust stutter of “Babs” was added the throaty thunder of Jonty Williamson’s 101/2-litre Delage, and these giants were joined by Russ-Turner’s famous Birkin 41/2-litre blower Bentley single-seater, Bob Robert’s making a very welcome appearance in the lap-record-holding 24-litre Napier-Railton, Michael Barker and his wife in the ex-Malcolm Campbell SSK Mercedes-Ben, and John End with the very Brooklands-looking little Wolseley Moth, making a suprisingly raucous noice.

Again, to list all the vehicles that took part is impossible — they ranged from those bicycles, to two veteran cars. But it was grand to see Alan Hess driving the actual 41/2-litre Lagonda in which he averaged over 100 mph in an hour at Brooklands before the war, Lindsay-Eccles riding in Eckersley’s 2-litre GP Bugatti, and Edmondson enjoying himself an Ins ex-Bellevue Garage MG Midget with “Wilkie” Wilkinson jammed into the passenger’s seat. Sir John Briscoe Bt, was enjoying himself in the 1911 Coupe de l’Auto Delage, the ex-Whitney Straight Seaman K3 MG Magnate was driven by Peter Green, and Dudley Gahagan in his ERA and Rivers-Fletcher in his Alvis vied for “highest up”, this doubtful honour going to the brave and impetuous Dudley. Wilcox was there with his impressive 8-litre Bentley, Benfield’s 1924 200 Mile Race Alvis looked immaculate, as ever, and entirely at home in this environment, and a very rare bird indeed was the 1922 V4 two-stroke ABF with long tailed dark blue racing body, a car alleged to have run at Brooklands (when?) but not seen since the 1950s.

Another rare performer was a yellow, belt-driven, tandem-seat Super cyclecar, conducted by Penman. Easedale’s Alfa Romeo was admired, Bruce-White produced the Douglas-engined All’t cok sprint car, and the local Hampton was there. Although the runs along the steep concrete, mellowed with history and the passage of more than fifty years, were not timed, and were certainly not races, were far too short in distance and were run the wrong way, some interesting pairings were achieved, notably the ex-Cobb V12 Delage with the Birkin Bentley, and “Babs” with the Napier Railton; Wyn-Owen started his later appearances high on the beginning of the banking and Bob Roberts seemed to have a blown exhaust stack — but what a fine sight these racing giants were . . .

In these paired-runs Robbie Hewitt led a Derby Bentley Special that tried to slide down into her as they were flagged away, the ABF was slow, puffing smoke from its twin exhaust fantails, so that End got tired of waiting for it and his 1921 Wolsey Moth ran right away from it, CT Delaney missed engaging bottom gear in the Lea-Francis he used to race and has re-purchased, on its first run, but later beat the Coupe de l’Auto Delage, Dunn’s Fox & Nichol Lagonda spun its wheels in disposing of its partner. and the Midland Motor Museum’s SS Mercedes-Benz vanquished an unblown 41/2-litre Bentley.

Speeds were not very high, Wyn-Owen keeping “Babs” in bottom gear, although Bob Roberts got the Napier-Railton into 2nd, Jonty Williamson used 3rd gear in the Delage, (say 80 mph) and End reckoned he was doing about 70 m.p.h. in the Moth, but the going was very bumpy.

It was a memorable day, the spectators’ large assembly of pre-war cars adding to the attraction — unusual ones noted included a lhd bolster-tank Senechal and a big vintage Fiat chassis, which looked very much like the 20 h.p. Fiat pictured on page 1104 sans body, among a widely-varied display.

An informative comment, was broadcast over the Southern Sound Systems PA and thanks are due to British Aerospace and Oyster Lane Properties for allowing the Society access to Brooklands. It was all very worthwhile, this memorable gathering of old-time personalities and historic racing machinery, in the June sunshine. Even though a line missed out of my article in the effectively illustrated Official Programme made a nonsense of part of it, and Bass Charrington, who were in disfavour last year for destroying those Byfieet sheds, are now in good odour with the Society: they had even brought their sleeve-valve Daimler bottle-van down from Burton-on-Trent. — WB.