The Brooklands Reunion

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A very warm day helped to ensure the complete success of another Brooklands Society reunion at the old Track on June 26th. That the Brooklands magic has far from evaporated was evident in the big attendance, spectators’ cars parked three abreast for the length of the long runway, untimed runs up the old Test Hill and short gallops on the cleared part of the Byfleet banking being sufficient to entertain this enormous concourse of visitors. The organisation was excellent, the VIPs were lunched and made very welcome, the commentaries by John Willis and Gordon Robinson were first-class, and the reconstructed 15-litre 1904 racing Napier “Samson”, the original notable Brooklands performer in its day, made its first public appearance in this country, Bob Chamberlain, who had shipped it from Australia, being the Society’s Guest-of-Honour.

This time there were fewer true Brooklands racing cars in the Paddock. Apart from the two 200-Mile Race GNs of Stafford-East and Craddock, “Maven’s” 1914 GP Opel, driven up from Lymington, the 1911 Coupe de L’Auto Delage, Cameron Millar’s ex-Birkin 2.9 Maserati, which he had motored to the Track from Hertfordshire, Mrs Hewitt’s ex-Joyce AC single-seater (which was a static exhibit), Tom Delanay’s TT Lea-Francis, and ERA R7B which failed to give voice, that was about it. The de Cadenet 8C Maserati had got in, although it never ran at Weybridge, as had a 1935 Le Mans Singer, etc. The flying side was supported merely by two Tiger Moths that had landed on the grass strip beside the runway, but the usual interesting display of photographs and memorabilia was on show in the Clubhouse. The impressive support, with spectators lining both sides of the Test Hill and standing deep along the banking area to watch the cars performing, must have added much useful finance towards the reconstitution of the 35 acres, presented by Gallahers Ltd to the Society. President TASO Mathieson, Kenneth Day and Peter Roddis, among the many who have worked so hard to this end, must indeed have been happy men. . . .

The Midlands Motor Museum had again offered me a suitable car for the occasion, in the form of a 1939 328 BMW, but last-minute insurance problems made it a non-starter. However, Hugh Conway allowed me to drive his ex-Kay Peter Bugatti, now in Type 35T form, up the Test Hill, with the Minister of State for Defence Procurement as passenger, and later I rode on the banking in Cameron Millar’s magnificent Maserati, so lt was by no means a disappointing day. Moreover, Bob Roberts’ Type 43 Bugatti from the MMM was busy taking celebrities like Charlie Dodson, Alan Hess, Charles Mortimer and other Brooklands personalities up the Test Hill, Rivers Fletcher’s Alvis Speed 25 likewise, one of his passengers being 91-year-old Ian Macdonald, the 12/20 Calthorpe and 12/50 Alvis driver, while the two 41/2-litre (one a blower-41/2) Bentleys from Sweden did a like service for Bentley-mechanic Billie Rockall, racing drivers Reggie Tongue and Clive Windsor-Richards, and racing motorcyclists Gordon Cobbold and EJ Tubb, the latter later demonstrating his immaculate methanol-burning Grindlay-Peerless. To list all the old-timers and VIPs present, from the Mayor of Elmbridge onwards, would be to court disaster, by omitting important names. So let me just say that, at lunch, my wife and I shared a table with Mr and Mrs George Monkhouse, Mrs Norris and her son (whose first husband drove Morgans and Lea-Francis) and Rivers Fletcher, that Wilkie Wilkinson was presiding over a table occupied by many of his contemporaries, and that Vice-Presidents Hess, Evans and Holmes were in good form, with Dudley Gahagan deep as ever into the organisation. Wyn-Owen was there, although he had left “Babs” behind in Wales. . . .

Watching the Test Hill ascents in the hot sunshine, I noted C E Allen, VMCC Founder, with a Super Sports JAP-Morgan, Lightfoot’s 1904 75 hp Mercedes vanish in a smoke-screen, Monica Whincop take Harold Powell in her smart blue HRG, another Amilcar display a fierce clutch, several J2 MGs make it look easy, Burge’s Austin 10/4 “get to the top”, as an advertisement on its windscreen exorted it to do, and a small boy enjoy a ride in Elliott’s 2-litre Lagonda, as three youngsters did later in the back of a vintage Bentley. The variety in cars was splendid — L-type MG Magna two-seater, Firefly Alvis with modified body, Silver Eagle Alvis Special, Booth’s replica R-R, Jackson Morgan three-wheeler, at first held back by wheelspin, an L-type Magna four-seater, Leslie Bellamy in Parker’s great R-R P3-engined Bentley, said to poke-out 400 bhp, Savill’s nice, quiet MG PB, Haynes’ smoky 3-litre Lagonda, various kinds of Morgan “trikes”, the Wortley Special Morris, Gurney’s 1924 3-litre Bentley, Gunton’s very smart Singer Porlock, hood up, that failed high up, refusing to emulalate its showing on the Somerset hill from which it gets its type-name, Skerman’s low-chassis 41/2-litre Invicta Wendover coupe, the Denmark Special with Morris chassis and Ford Ten engine, Easdale’s Zagato Alfa Romeo that stalled its engine momentarily, Peeve’s long-tailed alloy Austin 7, Williams’ “Cream Cracker” trials PA MG, Sparrowhawk’s 12/70 Alvis Special, a fabric-bodied M-type MG, the ex-Melville/Bolster 30/98 Vauxhall, Sheppard’s rare Rover 12 tourer, the MG with which Dodson won the TT, that replica Le Mans V12 Lagonda, Chester’s Ulster-bodied Austin 7. . . Variety indeed, that held the onlookers’ interest to lunch-time. In spite of a re-start at the bottom of the historic hill most made it easily, but Craddock’s GN, its T-drive ohc engine smoking, didn’t.

In the afternoon it was the banking runs, with “Samson” allowed to do three circuits of the Byfleet and the old aerodrome road, the big Napier impressively docile for its size and power. Robbie Hewitt was driving his Le Mans Lagonda as compensation for the absence of her AC. Racing cars were paired with things like a Vauxhall DX14 drop-head, vintage motorcycles recalled the old days, sights and sound that revived the Brooklands nostalgia for the well-behaved crowd. Then it was all over for another year (when I hope there may be rather more ex-Brooklands racing cars present), a Ford Sierra XR4i wafting us very easily back to Wales in under 31/2 hours. — WB.

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