Veteran Edwardian Vintage, August 1981

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A section devoted to old-car matters

The Life and Times of Montie Grahame-White

The days of the true motoring pioneers are now so far distant that it is important not to overlook them. All aspects of the game were so very different then from those applying even in what we, today, call the vintage years. While much has been recorded about pioneers such as Charles Jarrott (who wrote “Ten Years of Motors & Motoring” in 1906, the best account of this period, which Motor Sport had the initiative to reprint in 1928), S.F. Edge, Sir Herbert Austin, the Hon. Evelyn Ellis, Lord Montagu’s father and St. J. Nixon, it was not until the other day that I looked more closely at some information about Lt.-Commander Montague Grahame-White, RNVR, another pioneer autocarist, given to me by his Executors at the time of his death in 1961 – he is not to be confused with the well-known early aviator, who was his brother – and found much of interest therein.

Montague Grahame-White (hereafter called G-W) was born at Bursledon Towers, Bursledon, in Hampshire in 1877, the son of a gentleman of private means, whose father was High Sheriff of Hampshire (he lived at the historical Bure Homage at Christchurch), and the youngest daughter of Fred Chinnock, of Dinorben Court, Winchester. G-W’s father loved the sea and was a keen yachtsman, having owned three cutters and two schooners, so his son grew up with the same inclination. His nurse was pestered to take him to the boat-building yards on his holidays from boarding school. From his prep. school at Southsea, after spending some terms of tough discipline at Crondal House School, G-W went to Bedford Grammar School, and then to Kings College, London. He failed miserably for Sandhurst, so was put to pass the examinations for entering the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs. Not wanting to go to China, G-W deliberately failed, and his disgruntled father got him a post with the Guardian Assurance Co., in Lombard Street, at £168 a year.

Violin-playing formed an outlet from this dull job and led to G-W meeting H.B. Merton, who was experimenting with electric-ignition for his 3/4-h.p. De Dion Bouton tricycle at his extensive home-workshops in Bayswater. These experiments were a failure, due to the difficulty of obtaining satisfactory coils and sparking-plugs, and eventually the original hot-tube ignition was re-fitted. Perhaps disheartened, when a Leon-Bollee arrived for him in a crate from France, Merton gave G-W the De Dion. Interest in the new-fangled horseless-carriages was increasing, as news came across the Channel of what intrepid automobilists were doing in France.

The Hon. Evelyn Ellis had taken delivery of a 3 1/2 h.p. Panhard-Levassor and driven it to his house at Datcher. One evening after work G-W cycled down there and begged permission to look at the car. Mr. Ellis took G-W to see it and gave the young man a short ride round the grounds. G-W then attended the 1895 Tunbridge Wells Exhibition of motor vehicles (six in all) and his enthusiasm was such that he had entered employment with the Daimler Company at Coventry by April 1896. This came about after G-W, having broken the forks of his tricycle the day before the great Emancipation Run of November 1895, travelled down to Brighton by train with Mr. Merton, staying at the Ship Hotel (where in 1930 the VCC was founded). The next morning he approached McRobie Turrel about a job in the Motor Industry but that gentleman failed to reply to the letter he suggested G-W write, and it was Mr. Ellis who recommended him to write to Sidney Critchley of the Daimler Co. After three weeks a reply came, quoting a three-year apprenticeship costing £150. G-W wrote to say he really wanted work, but no further reply was forthcoming.

G-W’s desires were further fired when Cecil Grimshaw of Aspley Guise let him drive a Coventry-Motette for a few miles, when they were travelling to Coventry for the Lady Godiva Show, which featured an iron-tyred German Daimler lorry driven by Charles Rush, carrying a Coventry-Motette, seated in which were Percival Perry dressed as a clown and William Letts posing as a young girl. While in Coventry G-W looked over the works of the Daimler Co., and the Motor Manufacturing Co. Not long afterwards he made the acquaintance of two young men who had formed the London Autocar Co., with showrooms in Grays Inn Road and works in Coventry, and of which Percival Perry (later of Ford fame) was a Director. G-W joined this firm, being taught about driving by Rush. He had disposed of his tricycle and, wanting another, called at the British Motor Syndicate, of which the smartly-dressed Charles Jarrott was Secretary. Jarrott suggested his 2 3/4 h.p. racing De Dion tricycle, which was down in the cellar in company with two Leon Bollees, a Panhard phaeton, and several more motor-tricycles. It took threequarters-of-an-hour to start it but G-W agreed to have it, at £70, paid in instalments. That was in 1898, when G-W was meeting people like S.F. Edge outside H.J. Lawson’s premises at 40, Holborn Viaduct, and Edge’s fellow Director of the Motor Power Co., of 14 Regent Street, Harvey du Cros.

Incidentally, writing about those days some 40 years later, G-W is very scathing about a suggestion that at the age of fourteen St. John Nixon had ridden Edge’s fearsome 6 h.p. racing De Dion tricycle from Regent Street to the 1900 Tilburstow hill-climb near Godstone and back, the implication being that Nixon had put this in a book he had “ghosted” for Edge; as G-W remarked, it would have been more convincing if Nixon had used a photograph of this amazing ride, instead of one showing him crossing Piccadilly Circus on a 1 3/4 h.p. tricycle in 1933. Having had a 2 3/4 h.p. De Dion of his own, G-W queried whether a young boy, or even a man of Edge’s superb physique, could have coped in London with this clutchless, high-compression machine which even Edge had described as “the most diabolical motor-tricycle ever constructed, and almost impossible to drive under 20 m.p.h . . . . “

To his surprise, G-W had been invited in the summer of 1898 to an interview with Mr. Critchley, which resulted in him joining the Daimler Co. He moved to Coventry, staying at the Craven Arms Hotel, to take up his position as Personal Assistant to Critchley. G-W’s first duties were answering enquiries about the new mode of transport and preparing for the Islington Show. He was also taught to drive by the testers, Bush and Gadsden, and after three lessons was able to handle a car and change speed “without scraping”, and a fortnight later was proficient in going out alone and doing roadside repairs. Consequently, he spent much time in the testing and erecting shops or on the road with these primitive Daimlers. He met Otto Mayer, of the Great Horseless Carriage Co., who extended G-W’s knowledge of handling and maintaining other makes, such as Panhard, Peugeot and Bollee.

In May 1899 G-W met Jarrott, who had lunched with Turrell at the King’s Head in Coventry and was expecting an 8 h.p. Bollee, reputed to be capable of 45 m.p.h., to arrive from Paris. G-W was invited to accompany Jarrott to London to see it and after the drive G-W bought a secondhand French-built Bollee, as distinct from the copies the Coventry Motor Co. was building, under licence from the British Motor Syndicate. G-W went down again the following weekend to collect his new possession (he still had the De Dion tricycle) but it took from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. the next morning before the engine would start, a sticking exhaust valve being part of the trouble. Only when Davidson, the blacksmith who was to accompany G-W on the return to Coventry, via Bedford, swung the handle did the Bollee explode into life. After a stop at a coffee-stall in Faringdon Road they set off in earnest but had to push the Bollee about a third of the 50 miles to Bedford. G-W left it there, for the blacksmith to convert the burner-feed from gravity to pressure, drill the back-wheel pulley to reduce belt slip, and put a dust cover over the automatic inlet valve.

It was now that G-W’s motoring education commenced. Jarrott, as Secretary of the Motor Car Club, sent an invitation to the Sheen House luncheon, perhaps to appease his customer. There G-W met the Hon. C.S. Rolls, Henry Sturmey, founder of The Autocar, E.T. Hooley who was promoting a French patent for a seat-starter, etc. G-W got his first taste of competition motoring in 1899, at the Petersham hill-climb in Richmond Park. He had hoped to borrow a light, belt-drive, two-seater 5 1/2 h.p. Critchley-Daimler, but Mr. Critchley drove it instead, averaging 5.46 m.p.h. G-W drove a 5 1/2 h.p. Daimler Rougemont 8-seater wagonette, grossly overloaded, and did 4.41 m.p.h. That summer G-W called again on the Hon. Evelyn Ellis, who took him on the Thames in a 5 h.p. twin-cylinder Canstadtt-­Daimler launch built in 1896, which whetted G-W’s appetite for marine motoring. Incidentally, one of these engines, converted to electric ignition and a modern carburetter, was still in use at Cowes in 1927 and Mr. Summer’s Phoebe was equipped with one at least up to 1919, at Southampton Water.

G-W spent much of 1900 demonstrating Daimlers to important prospective clients, for which purpose he sometimes borrowed the Hon. Evelyn Ellis’ big four-cylinder Siamese phaeton for attending house parties in the Midland counties. He also accompanied Jarrott on the latter’s tuned-up Bollee when pacing the record-breaking cyclist F.R. Goodwin, on his attack, in the Fen district, on the 24-hour record. It ended, for the autocarists, in a duck-pond, due to mud, the burner setting the car on fire. The cyclist went on to get his record, at 17 .8 m.p.h.

During December 1900 the Chinese Minister, making a tour of trade centres, called at the Daimler works, being met by a fleet of seven cars. A few days later Count Eliot Zborowski arrived there, on the latest 24 h.p. Canstadtt-Daimler, accompanied by his five-year-old son Lou – the boy was certainly starting young, which probably set him on his racing carreer. G-W and Mr. Critchley were given a run up the Birmingham-Coventry road in the big Daimler and found it to have a quieter engine and transmission than any other car tried up to that time. Incidentally, this was thought to have been the first engine to be treated with aluminium paint. (To be continued)

Another Good B-S Reunion

The Brooklands Society held another enjoyable Reunion at what remains of the once-proud Brooklands Motor Course on June 28th with the consent of British Aerospace, Oyster Lane Properties and Fuller-Peiser. The attendance was greater, I would think, than at the smaller pre-war race meetings, and memories of those days and of the great Bank Holiday occasions were stirred by meeting such celebrities as T.A.S.O. Mathieson, Society President, Alan Hess, Vice-President, and his wife, Harvey Noble, Clive Windsor Richards, Roland Wallington, Harry (over-the-banking) Clayton, Ian Connell, C.E.C. Martin, Mrs. Hindmarsh, Bert Denly, Charles Goodacre, Rivers Fletcher, Monica Whincop, and many others of the old Brooklands fraternity. Hector Munro, The Minister for Sport, sent a letter of apology saying how much he regretted not being able to attend.

It was an achievement to have the Mayor and Mayoress of Elmbridge there all day, and as passengers, with T.A.S.O. Mathieson and Brian Dinsley, the Society’s Chairman, in Gahagan’s ex-Fawcett Type 57 Bugatti, for rides up the old Test Hill and along part of the Byfleet banking, both parts of the Track having been cleared of debris by the hard toil of volunteer Society members.

The morning was occupied with ascents of the Test Hill, although most ignored the stop-and-restart, which, however, two of the motorcycle riders managed without footing. What a fine selection of cars was to be seen at this caper, backed by a very informative commentary by John Willis! That racing pedal cyclist again made a faultless climb, to loud applause. MG M-types, End’s Wolseley Moth, James’ replica Le Mans Speed Six Bentley with four up, and that Railton which has now run 446,000 miles, led the way while Concorde flew overhead as if to personify all the years of aviation development at Brooklands. Many Morgan 3-wheelers of different calibres performed, Stafford East took the GN Kim II up, its twin exhausts crackling defiance inspite of their Brooklands “cans”, Tjepkema had brought his 1933 Aston Martin from Holland to take part, the “Jumbo” Goddard turbo 8-litre Bentley greatly enlivened things, and Stanley Mann’s replica V12 Le Mans Lagonda spun its back wheels but then climbed surprisingly slowly.

Gunton ran a very smart Singer Junior Porlock, but failed right at the top, Winter’s Model-90 Sunbeam went splendidly, it was good to see Tubb riding the 1929 Brooklands Grindley-­Peerless, and Cole’s immaculate Douglas Sprint Special from the same period going so fast that he shut off at the summit of the 1 in 4 gradient. Smith’s J2 MG did an involuntary restart, Williams’ “Cream Cracker” PA MG had no trouble, and Bough was aided by a 1 1/2-litre engine in his Riley Gamecock. Edwards showed one of those Railton Tens based on Standard components, “a coupe for the daughters of gentlefolk”, if I remember the advertising slogan correctly. Cheesman’s rare four-seater PA MG was off form, unlike Green’s MG Magnette, Miss Monro’s Hampton coupe crawled up, but there was a most sensational snaky run by one of the motorcycle sidecar outfits. Flt. Lt. Cushing had to stop and rectify some reluctance from his 1924 Norton-Hughes outfit, the crowd clapping his eventual restart.

In the Paddock many interesting cars were assembled. There was an Edwardian Wolseley Siddeley, a huge and aged Charron, and the inevitable early 40/50 Rolls-Royce, contrasting with a marvellous tandem-seat Peugeot Quadrilette painstakingly rebuilt from a derelict discovered in Hampshire and an equally tiny 7/12 h.p. Peugeot with basketwork body-finish.

Amilcars were out in force, including Pask’s C4, and there were odd things that in their day must have brought spectators to the Track, such as a Trojan, and even the Society’s much needed dumper-truck  was active, on one of its Sundays off . . . .

Rather late in the afternoon all manner of cars had a nostalgic run along the battle-scarred banking, now very gritty and bumpy, as I realised by going as passenger in Robbie Hewitt’s 4 1/2-litre team Lagonda; we were beaten (in what was only a demmo of course) by Lambert’s Corsica-bodied Talbot 75 tourer, sporting a bulldog mascot (the Lagonda’s clutch was overheating). Grand Sports Amilcars were paired and star-turns among the specialised Brooklands’ cars included Russ­-Turner’s Birkin blower Bentley single-seater, with ex-mechanic Bill Rockell there to watch it, the pleasingly fast Halford Special (with replica body, non-original supercharger fed from a low-hung DH Gipsy carburetter, and No. 2 twin-cam six-cylinder 1 1/2-litre engine. The other Halford Special engine is apparently in a Type 35 Bugatti). The Halford went out in company with Murray’s Aston-Martin “Green Pea”, Gahagan’s high-flying ERA R7B, J.H.T. Smith’s noisy MG K3 single-seater, Sir John Briscoe’s 1911 Coupe de L’Auto Delage, always a big attraction, and Tom Delaney’s TT Lea-Francis, while true Track flavour was provided by the Moth, Willoughby’s AC, and Benfield’s 200 Mile Race Alvis, all in shining aluminium.

An ex-R.R. Jackson Alta was present, and a great surprise was the appearance of an immaculate Miller single-seater. It provided a touch of old-time Indianapolis, with its straight-eight engine fed by a Winfield centrifugal blower and carburetter at the back, the eight plugs fired by a tranversely-mounted magneto at the front, the back-axle having a locked differential.

It was all the greatest fun and if you have not done so it is recommended that you try to obtain a Souvenir Programme, or, better, join the Brooklands Society, whose Hon. Secretary is G. Fleming, 16 Queen Elizabeth Walk, Wallington, Surrey. Incidentally, some very interesting photographs were on display in the VIP lounge in the historic Clubhouse, including one showing both the steam locomotives used in the construction of the Motor Course in 1906/7, one a saddle-tank loco – and Sir Alastair Miller, Bt. was shown at the wheel of a racing Donnet-Zedel, true Brooklands stuff . . . . – W.B.

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Nothing New under the Sun . . .

The other day part of the BBC commen­tary on Royal Ascot was concerned with a fuss involving two of the favourites in the big fixture on the Tuesday, which had arisen when one jockey had been accused of crowding another in a race at the Curragh, surprise being expressed by the commentator that legal Counsel had been called in when the Stewards’ enquiry took place.

It seems these days that “sportsmanship” is becoming something of an obsolete term, no less in motor-racing than in horse-racing, so that great care has to be taken over interpreting the rules. When Colin Chapman presented his Lotus 88B to the RAC for scrutineering, hopefully to clear it for the British GP, it is said that the Chief Scrutineer and his two senior colleagues took Counsel’s advice before passing the new car. This, and the aforesaid horse-racing episode, reminds me that there is nothing new under the sun . . . .

After one of the most exciting races ever seen at Brooklands, the 1932 BRDC 100-mile Final of the British Empire Trophy Race over the outer circuit, which was contested by some of the fastest track cars imaginable – Cobb’s 10 1/2-litre V12 Delage, Eyston’s 8-litre sleeve-valve Panhard­-Levassor single-seater, Sir Henry Birkin’s blower-4 1/2 Bentley single-seater, and Jack Dunfee’s 6 1/2-litre Bentley, etc. – the Delage won, at over 126 m.p.h., with the Panhard right behind it, officially a mere 0.009 m.p.h. slower. As S.C.H. Davies has written, it had been a race “. . . between two of Brooklands fastest cars running nose to tail at 130 m.p.h., both drivers working hard to hold their exciting mounts and the possibility of a tyre burst looming very large indeed.”

It was exciting all right, for there had been passing and repassing as well between the Delage and the Panhard, and Eyston lost a tyre tread immediately after finishing. There is no need to go into the race tactics and happenings here – it is described on pages 231/232 of “The History of Brooklands Motor Course” (Grenville, 1981) and illustrated therein – but after it was over, Eyston’s entrant put in a protest and the Panhard was given the verdict. Eyston was against this and there was only £10 in it anyway, but prestige was at stake. Cobb appealed and at the subsequent hearing was represented by the Hon. Ewen Montagu, Eyston by Ernest Hancock. Nothing new under the sun . . . ! – W.B.

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V-E-V Miscellany

The Wolseley Register has changed its former Newsletter into a proper printed magazine called Wolseley World. On the front cover of the Spring issue there is a photograph of a mysterious racing Stellite, with non-Wolseley-like rounded radiator, a single­-seater body, and long tail. The driver is named as J. Braine, the date being given as 1913 and it is said that the two-speed Stellite gearbox was retained, with a 3.4 to 1 final-drive ratio. Could this be the little Stellite, which, although not actually raced, was reputed to have achieved high speeds on Brooklands Track before the war? The National Motor Museum has reopened the Graham Walker Motor Cycle Gallery, with some important new additions to the exhibits, and a new acquisition among the NMM car exhibits is the ex-Leslie Wilson 1914 Rolls-Royce Alpine Eagle tourer, purchased with the aid of the London Science Museum grant.

A reader is seeking information about a friend’s car, which is in Paris, and which was apparently built in 1936/7 on an imported Morgan 4/4 chassis, with an MG-like pressed-steel radiator-grille. The car is not unlike the later four-wheeler Sandfords of 1933-39 but there are differences. The Morgan Motor Company admits to the chassis but neither it nor the Morgan CC can identify the vehicle, which carries  No.134, gearbox No.10265, but no engine number. Letters can be forwarded. Multicylinder for June, Newsletter of the Pre-’50 American AC and the Ford V8 Register, carried an account of experiences with Model-T -Fords from 1919 onwards. It has been revealed that when some lock-up garages were demolished at the premises of G. Kinsbury & Son at Hampton, Middlesex, a veteran car was discovered. It is apparently a 1902 8 h.p. single-cylinder Jackson four-seater, first registered in 1905. Ted Avery who discovered it rebuilt it in 16 weeks, having found that the engine started at the first pull on the handle. It may take part in the next Brighton Run, and the grandson of the car’s builder, who has early Jackson catalogues, has been to see it.

The Bullnose Morris Club has reprinted in its magazine an article from The Autocar of 1941 in which B.H. Davies recounts his experiences with a 1913 Morris-Oxford, after he had owned a 5 h.p. Peugeot, a slow, but reliable and comfortable, 10 h.p. Adler, a Singer Ten and a racing Mathis. After the 1913/14 Morris he had a Continental-engined Morris. A 1933 Riley Ascot driven by Laurence Evans and George Haugh has done the 1,153-mile journey from Shrewsbury to John O’Groats and back in 36 hours, raising £1,392.98 towards a Cobalt Unit for the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital. The Mayor and Mayoress turned out to welcome the car home. A 1921 Coventry-Premier three-wheeler (OH 7441) has been purchased by a reader in Walsall, who requires information that would help him to find parts for it and with the rebuilding. These three-wheelers later became the four-wheeler “poor relation” to the Singer Ten and it is very interesting that one has been discovered, to swell the rare makes of tricars that are being, or have been, restored. In Australia a 1917 six-cylinder Series D44 Buick two-seater, said to be one of only 100 or so r.h.d. examples, has been saved from being broken up for spares, and it may be for sale with a number of newer spares. It formerly belonged to a country doctor, who laid it up in 1921, after 18,098 miles, when the back axle became noisy, and it has not run since. Recent reference to Glover, Webb and Liversidge Ltd., has reminded Peter Hampton that this Company built all Hampton’s delivery and removal-van bodies in the 1930s and later, on Leyland and Thornycroft chassis, etc., and that they restored the body of his 1910 Type 15 Bugatti when he bought it in 1938, repainting, brush-varnishing and lining costing less than £3! The Alvis Register has been doing a census of its members’ cars, from which it finds that 160 members own between them 199 Register-eligible Alvises and that on average each of these has been owned by the same member for 14 1/2 years. Current annual mileage has dropped to 2,600 against 4,000 in 1969, and these Alvises have averaged 27 m.p.g. Twenty per cent. of the cars have been in present ownership for more than 20 years, and McKerrow collected his 12/50 new from C.M. Harvey at the factory in 1925, while Sonia Rolt retains her late husband’s two 12/50s, one of which he obtained new in 1925. Asked what car they would prefer if they couldn’t have an Alvis, 30% voted for a 30/98 Vauxhall and 28% for a vintage Bentley. – W.B.

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A Spurious Singer

Daily and Sunday newspapers tend to put news first and accuracy second, as is apparent from a piece in the Sunday Express for June 28th about a 1933 Singer Le Mans which has apparently been rebuilt from an almost complete wreck purchased, the paper says, for £10 by Nigel Hughes of Merseyside. He is reported as having spent £4,000 on parts for the rebuild of a car bought originally from the factory in Coventry by a Mr. John Vaughan. The Sunday Express got a good story out of the fact that in 1933 Mr. Vaughan travelled by train to collect his new car, the ticket that cost him 3/6p (17 1/2p) now costing £12.30, and that on his way home to Somerset he stopped at the Royal Hop Pole Hotel in Tewkesbury for a 3/- (15p) lunch, the price of which would now not even buy him a half-pint of beer. Mr. Vaughan is, they say, to make the journey again, to be reunited with his former car.

All well and good, and right and proper. Then the errors creep in! This Singer is said to have been driven by S.C.H. Davis to a class-win at Le Mans. Sammy Davis never drove a Singer at Le Mans. It is said to have done the same thing in the 1956 Ulster TT, driven by S. Brockenhurst, but the last real Ulster TT was run in 1936, the last Dundrod TT in 1955, won by Moss in a Mercedes, with no Singers competing. That apart, the paper values the car at £14,000 and although we are not car-valuers, nor wish to be, half that figure or a little less would seem to be nearer the truth. This Singer, known we are told as “The Red Devil”, may be a 1934 1 1/2-litre model although the original price of £185/10/- belies this. It was bought by Frank Muir of TV fame, the Express says, for £10/10/- in 1947 and used for going to his first assignment in the “Take It From Here” radio programme. Mr. Hughes has located a mechanic who administered to it at a Martock garage. Said to have run 200,000 miles before being scrapped, the Singer is registered YD 8249. The final lunacy is the newspaper’s boast that the car “will stand to do 120 m.p.h.”.

Terance Barnes, who knows all about Singer competition history, his late father having managed such teams, points out that the only Singers that finished in the Coupe Biennial at Le Mans were the Fox & Nicholl 1 1/2-litres and that a private owner’s car such as Mr. Vaughan’s would never have been borrowed by the works, Fox & Nicholl’s, or the Autosports Team for use in International competitions. Moreover, the Hindmarsh Hon. Brian Lewis car called “Le Rouge Terrible” has gone to Italy, after turning up in E. Africa and being restored by Antique Automobiles Ltd. And that car was not YD 8249. As for 120 m.p.h., Barnes disposes of this by remembering that Donald Barnes’ racing-bodied 972 c.c. Singer was timed to do 92 m.p.h. on Starkey’s straight at Donington in 1937 and 1938 . . . We wish Mr. Hughes well with his Singer. But wouldn’t it be nice if Alex Lindsay, who concocted the rubbish in the Sunday Express relating to it, had first asked questions of the paper’s Motoring Correspondent, or even us, before rushing inaccuracies into print? – W.B.

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The Origins of the Austin 7

An interesting article by Edward Eves, splendidly embellished by a Max Miller cutaway drawing of that famous baby-car’s engine, appeared recently in Autocar, about the beginnings of the now-immortal Austin 7, mooted before 1922. I am delighted to see that Eves considers that the Type 161 Peugeot Quadrilette must have influenced the thinking behind the Longbridge Seven, as many parts of it were so very similar, as this is a view I have long held and often expressed, although Mr. Stanley Edge who laid out the original Austin 7 plans for Sir Herbert Austin at the age of 18 denies this, even to saying that he had never seen a Quadrilette. But probably Sir Herbert had, as this little French car was out by October 1919.

Eves quoted Edge in saying the first Austin 7 was intended to be of 55 x 77 mm. (732 c.c.) but emerged powered by a 56 x 76 mm. (747.5 c.c.) engine. In fact, it is generally accepted that the first Austin 7s were of 696 c.c. This can be compared to 667 c.c. for the Quadrilette. Apart from this, Eves lists those cars he thinks Austin would have been looking at in 1920/22 as the GN, AC, ABC, Belsize Bradshaw, Clyno, Crouch, Calthorpe, Calcott, Ashton-Evans, Jowett, Palladium, Rover Eight and “dozens of others”. In this I venture to suggest he may be somewhat wide of the mark, inasmuch as the GN was surely the very type of cyclecar Austin did not want to build, the 4-speed ABC and Palladium far too large and sporting, and all the others having bigger engines than Austin was contemplating, apart from the 907 c.c. Jowett and £220 995 c.c. Rover Eight, and even these were bigger than he thought would serve.

I would have thought it more likely, especially if he had been able to look at a Peugeot Quadrilette, that Austin would have cast his eyes over things like the prototypes of the 752 c.c. Benjamin, the 760 c.c. Mathis (the 55 x 80 mm, bore and stroke of which were close to those of the prototype Austin’s), the 856 c.c. Citroen, or even the 900 c.c. Amilcar, EHP, Fornier and Senechal, all with miniature four-cylinder engines.

Eves goes into much more interesting detail in comparing the engine and chassis of the Type 161 Peugeot with that of the Austin 7. As he observes, both Peugeot and Austin ran their two-bearing crankshafts on anti-friction bearings, the former using two ball-races (Eves says roller-races), Austin two roller-races and a ball thrust-bearing. He is amusing on the subject of the Austin 7’s messy and unpredictable oil-jets lubrication system (as used for a number of Bugatti engines), but does not say that Peugeot preferred conventional oil-troughs to lubricate the Quad’s big-ends. The only real difference was therefore Austin’s employment of a detachable cylinder head. The Austin’s valve-heads were fortunately larger than those of the subsequent Type 172 720 c.c. Peugeot 7/12 h.p. engine, which were closely related to large nails!

I see that Eves says the first Austin 7 of July 1922 cost £225 with an electric starter but, of course, the very first batch of production models had internal hand-starters. Eves also refers to a three-cylinder First World War Austin lorry, which is new to me, for surely the 1902 racing Austin of this engine formation wasn’t being used as a commercial vehicle as late as this, and the well-remembered 1913/1919 dashboard-radiator, twin propeller-shaft Austin lorry had a four-cylinder engine. – W.B.

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Vintage Day at Shelsley Walsh

Unlike Brooklands, Shelsley Walsh has changed hardly at all in 76 years and it took on an even-more nostalgic appearance on July 4th, when the VSCC combined with the MAC to run the annual Newton Trophy Hill-Climb Meeting, with especial emphasis on Bugatti cars.

Not only was there a good display of Bugattis present, with lunch for their occupants generously laid on by Newton Oils, but there were many Bugattis competing. The latter included Widgery in Moffatt’s Type 13, Bob Roberts and Horton in their Type 43s, Dean in his black road-equipped Type 51, and Patrick Marsh in his newly-acquired 1,800 c.c.(!) Type 35 that has not yet been fully track-trained, in the sports-car classes, and Cardy’s Type 37, Barrie Price and Miss Bunty Clark in Type 35s shod with beaded-edge tyres, Marks’ and St. John’s Type 51s, and the Type 35Bs of Wall, Moffatt, Preston and Kain, the last-named plagued with gearbox problems, in the racing-car class. Wall’s single-seater was not, alas, driven as we had hoped, by former owner and previous most successful Shelsley Walsh Bugatti driver Peter Stubberfield, but by Wall himself, who now has the most Bugatti successes at Shelsley.

Not only were these Bugattis competing, but before the timed ascents commenced there was a Parade of Bugattis up the famous hill, the writer riding in Dudley Gahagan’s Type 57 drophead in company with Jack Lemon Burton, the BOC’s Vice-President, Philip Turner of Motor, and Simon Curling, a load which brought it down to bottom gear through the Esses. Hugh Conway drove his Type 43 and had with him the silver cup presented to Jean Bugatti for having unofficially broken the course-record in 1932 with the Type 53 4WD Bugatti, before he crashed it (no time has ever been revealed, but Jean was allowed to substitute a Type 55, with which he won his class). There was a Type 55 in the Parade, in which Peter Hull got a lift in Stafford-East’s ex-Giles’ Type 57 “Teresa”. Other competing Bugattis were Howard’s Type 37A, possibly the ex-Craig car, Conway Jnr.’s Type 37A, and Stormer’s Type 30 all the way from Norway.

Shelsley Specials were also happily in evidence, Gibbs bringing the Wolseley Moth-engined Becke Powerplus, Freddie Giles his GN powered with a 1939 HRD motorcycle engine, Gray the Hardy Special, Footitt the AC/GN, and Parker the BHD now seemingly recovered from its bout of magneto trouble at Oulton Park, Mrs. Davenport and her daughter being present to see it perform. Then there was Lake’s Amilcar-Riley, with unaltered Amilcar chassis, its radiator moved forward under a chromium-plated shell to accommodate two-stage supercharging of the Riley 9 engine, a Marshall blower feeding into a Bugatti blower, both chain-driven, final drive being from a GN bevel-box by single chain to the back-axle. Alas, the Bugatti blower had split.

Austin 7s were represented by Jane Arnold-Forster’s 1924 model, Sutton’s MacLachlan Special blown single-seater, and McGrath driving Baird’s ex-Peter Moore’s single-seater which, to his credit, he enters as a Jamieson Replica. That Shelsley need not be the preserve of fast machinery was indicated by Sant running his Clyno and Brown a Lanchester 21 tourer on handicap. Neve’s TT Humber and Walker’s 1908 GP Panhard-Levassor upheld Edwardianism. The programme included a list of Bugattis that have run at Shelsley since 1921 painstakingly compiled by Walter Gibbs, and memories of competing there by Lemon-Burton – if you want to learn where the BOC’s Vice-President slept at his first meeting and what tow-cars he used, it might be worth seeing if any copies of the programmes remain, by applying to the MAC Secretary, 65 Coventry St., Kidder­minster with 50p and 20p postage. – W.B.

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