John Rowley

JOHN ROWLEY, President of the VSCC from 1963 to 1965, and one of the most active members of that Club, died on July 11th after a prolonged illness which he had fought with consummate courage. John was not only an active driving-member of the Club he enjoyed so much but, especially after his retirement from business, was never happier than when working on the right sort of motor cars in his home workshop, which he continued to do, and to attend meetings, long after he was far from well. He was also very generous in lending his best cars to younger VSCC members, as Julian Ghosh, Jim Whyman and Michael Elsom can confirm. But John was a very fine driver himself. VSCC trials were enlivened by his 30/98 Vauxhalls, stuffed with “bouncers”, among whom his charming wife Margaret, and his equally-charming elder daughter Brenda, were invariably present.

Rowley began with motorcycles (following incidentally in his mother’s single wheel-tracks, for she too liked motorcycling) when he was a student at Birmingham University. Cars soon annexed his two-wheelers, notably his Bentleys, as described in MOTOR SPORT in January 1976. Then John discovered the delights of the 30/98. He was soon immersed in rebuilding a number of these cars, which Mrs. Rowley said she preferred to their Bentley Continental. I remember very well being a rear-seat passenger in one of these Vauxhalls during a wintery Measham Rally, during which we had a splendid “motor-race” for much of the night, John crunching but one gear-change on this long drive, for which he apologised immediately. He worked also on his various vintage racing cars, machinery as exciting as the 1924 2-litre V12 GP Deluge, the ex-Chula 1 ½-litre straight-eight GP Delage and a Type 35 Bugatti and in more recent times, up to and after the onslaught of his illness, Rowley rebuilt a fine pair of 2550 h.p. Talbots and the 1913 Th. Schneider racer which he recently sold to Tom Threlfall. Not many VSCC members come keener than this. John will be missed in the Club for his cars, his infectious enthusiasm, and particularly for his cheerful personality. — W.B.

Blackmore Mallord Russ-Turner

“RUSTY” Russ-Turner died, in his 70th year, on Saturday, July 10th, 1982, as he would very probably have wished; with his Birkin-coloured square around his neck, he was racing at Vintage Silverstone in the Birkin single-seater, which he had restored to original form, having acquired it with two-seater bodywork in 1964. He died, without suffering, from a heart-attack on the approach to the relatively slow Becketts corner, the car motoring gently into the catch-fencing with very little damage.

His enthusiasm for “Tim” Birkin was engendered in the days when he went to Brooklands to watch his idol thundering round the famous banked circuit. As war broke out, he bought his first blower 4 ½; he served in the RAF for the duration, continuing souse the car first in unblown form and then with an “economy” 3-litre unit.

Post-war, he returned to his profession, surveying, while the blower returned to its proper form, stimulating an interest in supercharging which he transferred to Derby Bentleys— he had built up three of these Derby specials over the years and was working on a fourth at the time of his death. During the ‘fifties, he had founded Blackmore Engineering to look after the Bentleys of his own stable and those of friends.

In 1964, the grapevine told him the Birkin single-seater was up for sale and he moved fast to acquire it before it disappeared across the Atlantic. He managed to find the original single-seater body, albeit without bonnet, and, in 1966, the car was back on the tracks in its racing form for the first time since 1932; the two-seater pointed-tail body was later added to another chassis which had the added virtue that the “blower” used was the Birkin team’s spare unit, stamped No. 6. Both the single-seater and UU44 have been regularly campaigned at VSCC and BDC races as well as at hill-climbs, for which the cars were hardly suited, but Rusty enjoyed his competing days out, regardless of the chances of winning.

“Rusty” Russ-Turner was a long standing Committee member of the Bentlev Drivers Club. M.B.