The VSCC Jubilee

The Vintage SCC’s Jubilee celebrations (see Editorial) were happily informal yet they must have done immense good for the whole ancient-cars movement, a tremendous event. With a total entry of some 600 descending on Malvern, so that every hotel forecourt took on a pre-war flavour, you can say that again — the scenic run alone attracted about as many cars as the Club’s total 1945 membership! Bravo, VSCC!

I had my first look at it all on the Wednesday, although, the Calthorpe entered for the Light Car Rally having tried unsuccessfully to digest the cork-insert of its petrol-tap, I had to go in the Alfa 6. There was compensation, because next day D.S.J. took me round in the 4½-litre Le Mans Lagonda team car belonging to Robbie Hewitt, and there is no nicer way of motoring in a July heatwave . . . We heard that the evening before the Mayoress of Malvern gave the Jubilee participants a very warm welcome, and a very good buffet supper, at the Civic Reception at the Winter Gardens.

It was sheer inspiration to start the 100 light cars from the heights of Hollybush Common, and equally so to have found a huge car park in which to accommodate them for the lunch break at the Tump Inn at Wormelow Tump. Country lanes were the route there, so that frequently one was transported back to the 1920s, as light cars were seen on roads free from white lines and temporarily without modern cars — I shall long remember the sight of Bullet bravely driving and navigating himself in the bullet-like AV monocar . . . The finest selection of light cars and Edwardians ever seen was out and about in the English summer, of which Mrs Hall’s single-cylinder AC Sociable, Collard’s 1921 Calthorpe, a 1914 Stellite E2A, three two-stroke Trojans, one on solid tyres, three GNs, and Harding’s oil-cooled vee-twin Belsize-Bradshaw were outstanding. They were, of course, overshadowed by Edwardians like Walker’s 1908 GP Panhard-Levassor, the 1908 Napier, Ryder-Richardson’s 48 hp Daimler of the same age, Bendall’s 40 / 50 Rolls-Royce motor carriage, an even bigger 1907 Daimler, Marcia Jeddere-Fisher’s snug Lancia Theta, Sir John Briscoe’s racing Coupé de L’Auto Delage and the NMM’s glistening Prince Henry Vauxhall conducted by Michael Ware. Not forgetting such lusty veterans as Ridley’s 1904 Paris-Vienna Mors and a Flying 15 Darracq. For once Roger Collings was not competing, but he was out in the 1903 Mercedes, the Run finishing at his house for a strawberries-and-cream tea. We even saw the ex-Colonel Clutton 1911 Fafnir out again, driven by Denne. Of troubles there seemed to be few, although Willson had to repair the magneto of his 1913 R4 Delage the night before, Filsell reported that organiser-Rosoman’s little De Dion was consuming a lot of water, and later a non-competing 30/98 seemed to have lost its nearside roar wheel.

There were unofficial socials, the Moffatts throwing a party to which five came by aeroplane, and there was a 30 / 98 evening (incidentally, how appropriate looked the 30 / 98 which we saw outside the VSCC offices when we signed in. At the Civic party we met Owen Wyn-Owen, who was later to unleash “Babs” at Oulton Park. Someone remarked that it might all be chaos in Malvern, yet it was unravelling itself without any fuss, as VSCC affairs do.

Blazing sunshine again set the scene for Saturday’s Scenic Run and, for the more competitive, the trial in the grounds of Eastnor Castle, where cars like A7s, Riley Specials, some of the MGs and ‘Nashes, and that of Pat Stocken, whom it was nice to see out again in her Chummy-model, the Raahauge’s Trojan and a P1 R-R were to be found. together with the recently-rebuilt twin-carburetter, three-seater Gwynne 8 of Ian Walker, and Keith Hill’s Crouch-Helix.

All day the Scenic Run cars were arriving at Prestcott hill, the Llnion Jack flying from the BOC flag-mast, where they were permitted a run up the long course, and additional ascents at 50p a go, which enabled my wife to have a ride with Jenks in the Le Mans Lagonda. It is pretty futile to attempt to report such an all-embracing happening, but most impressive it was, and I think a telegram might have been sent to the Chancellor-of-the-Exchequer saying “Thank you for the recent tax reduction on pre-1947 cars”, tie “See that you have done”, depending on the point of view.

Because this seemingly endless spectacle of every kind and condition of pre-war motoring, all, it seemed, able to cope with the hill with no trouble, will probably never happen again in our lifetime. There was a sleeve-valve C14 Voisin, here a Swift 10 from the Norfolk VSCC 50, vide lettering on its hood. Girls in those white helmets the VSCC once scorned, happy children, a jolly dog riding in Jeremy Collins’ Star Scorpio, all basking in the equally endless sunshine. The whiff of “R” from one twin-cam 3-litre Sunbeam, an SU peeping from beneath the Brooklands exhaust system of an Amilcar, a lady having several runs in a fine 4½-litre Bentley two-seater, masses, it seemed, of the expected makes, Lagonda, Austin, Alvis, Bentley, 30/98, Frazer Nash . . . All set a remarkable scene.

Thompson’s smart Riley Adelphi was followed by a 14/40 Humber with larger back than front wheels, the Bugattis had Ettore’s Enclosure to themselves, and a Lagonda tourer carried an appropriate picnic basket.

There was an Aero and a Family Morgan, fixed-head coupe Lea-Francis followed by a sports model, an A7 Nippy mit L-plate, and rarer cars like a Brough-Superior, Watson’s 1926 Armstrong Siddeley with five-up, Williams’ “Cream Cracker” PA MG, Tanner’s big 1904 G-type Berliet etc. Sant’s Clyno, an over-hot bull-nose Cowley, Hancock’s dignified Daimler sleeve-valve limousine. Toms’ 505B Fiat, Robson’s, brisk 12/40 Star. the variety defies reporting space but welded this memorable occasion together. Alvises were prominent, Alfa Romeos came in many different forms, from a saloon with fully openable windscreen to a very covetable 2.3-litre Mille Miglia team-car. I even saw a big imitation-racer Peugeot with huge bolster fuel tank flaunting a “For Sale” sticker, but wish I hadn’t. . . .

So to final Jubilee day, on Sunday July 8th. It was allied to the usual VSCC Shelsley Walsh hill-climb, which was a tribute to Raymond Mays, CBE (1899-1980) whose favourite venue this was, the course being opened by Rivers-Fletcher in Tom Wheatcroft’s Mk2 V16 BRM. A cavalcade of cars with which Mays was associated — ERA, Vauxhall-Villiers, White Riley — ascended the hill after Rivers had unveiled a commemoration plaque to Mays, situated just below the start area. (This had up to then been covered by a faded chequered-flag, the actual one used to indicate to Mays his last win over the Campbell circuit at Brooklands in 1939. . .)

Apart from this, and the enormous numbers of vintage cars in the car parks, the event itself was one of the best ever, the weather holding, some interesting new cars running, and no accidents. David Black’s P3 Alfa Romeo set a new class course-record (35.44 sec) in winning the over-3-litres racing-car class from Tim LIewellyn (37.77 sec) in spite of Tim’s Bentley’s 8-litre engine having only 23 valves in operation, and Jolley in the Giron-Alvis (38.67 sec) was third fastest. Arnold-Forster’s 12-litre VS Becquet-Delage did 43.27 sec in spite of clutch slip, and Martin Dean’s exciting-looking Type 59/50B Bugatti Special, on piano-wire wheels, 40.05 sec.

McGrath had won the small racing-car section in the sv A7 Replica (41.53 sec), from Gunn’s Q-type MG Replica, Stephens in ERA R12C, wearing a “White Mouse” badge (reminder that its first owner was a Mays’ customer!) cleaned up the next class (39.12 sec), Smith’s Frazer Nash second (40.49 sec), ahead of Freddie Giles in the GN-Salome (41.55 sec). In the up-to-3-litre racing-car class Martin Morris in ERA RIIB beat Spollen’s R8C by a mere 0.02 sec (36.26 sec), leaving Footitt with the third best time in the AC/GN (36.84 sec), Morris clocking 80 mph through the speed-trap. Sir J. Venables-Llewelyn R4A shaving a bank after a wheel-spinning getaway, was 0.01 sec slower than Footitt.

Chris Mann’s Lotus 16 was by far the quickest Historic Racer (34.89 sec) and Threlfall took the “Edwardian” class with the Th-Schneider (48.56 sec), from Benfield’s scintillating 200-Mile Race Alvis (48.95 sec) and Clutton in the bonnet-less 1908 GP Itala (49.13 sec). The 1908 GP Panhard was off-form, but, of the veterans, the Collings’ 60 Mercedes soundly beat the 1904 racing Mors — 69.27 sec against 125.24 sec. Amongst the sports cars, Hugh Conway was fastest in the T35 Bugatti, followed by W. H. Summers (Alfa Romeo Monza) and D. Llewellyn (1926 Bentley 3/4½-litre).

Shelsley Specials had shown up well, the GN “Spider” making its best-ever time in Sant’s hands (43.83 sec), Roger Richmond in his s.v. vee-twin Morgan-GN doing 45.69 sec while the BHD managed 60.62 sec. The GN “Wasp” was on show but did not run. The ERAs of Lindsay and Donald Day were absent, the aero-engined GN-Parker had broken its transmission bevel-box, and Blake’s BNC was a non-starter. But what a memorable occasion — especially with the shrill sound of the V16 BRM making many ascents, Tom Wheatcroft doing one, Rivers using just 1st and 2nd gears, before it departed in its van, which still carries the Owen Racing Organisation badges. The Mk 1 BRM competed at Shelsley but it was being debated whether the Mk 2 ever did, although a photograph showed that it had run there.

My last memory of this splendid VSCC Jubilee is of a fabric saloon A7 and a Cup-model A7 parked outside a black-and-white cottage just by the road to Shelsley, for all the world as if we had been transported back 50 years or more. . . .