The Roads of the 1920s

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Resuming the O.J. “diaries” of those times, we left him after he had tested, and been notably impressed with, an Alvis, in 1925. Whether it was the pleasure that driving that Alvis gave him, I do not know, but shortly afterwards Owen John was pontificating about the beauties of Britain and the fun to be had in really exploring it, which was open to anyone with a car. As for learning to drive, O.J. recommended doing this on as old a vehicle as possible, but thought that one lesson usually sufficed. Which reminds me that it wasn’t all that long ago, after WW2 in fact, when my second daughter was due to learn the art, that I found in a Hampshire breaker’s yard a 1934 Austin 10/4 saloon which looked just the job but which had rather smooth front tyres. The price asked was £7 (yes, seven) and the man said if we didn’t approve of the tyres we were welcome to take two from another car, at no extra charge. So we did, and getting the car home we discovered that not only had it some petrol in it but also anti-freeze, and that everything worked. It not only served its purpose (all three daughters passing the dreaded Test at the first try) but was used a lot thereafter, until I drove it down to Wales, with no worse mechanical problems than a trace of the customary clutch-slip on the steeper hills, where it still resides in a coutry barn.

I see that in 1925 O.J. was recommending taking out at least third-party insurance, a reminder that this wasn’t a legal requirement until many years hence. Yet by 1925 cars were pouring onto our roads, the Austin 7 being well into its production stride and preparing to oust from its monopoly pedestal the Model-T Ford, which at that year’s Palace of Engineering at the second great British Empire Exhibition at Wembley was to be seen on a real assembly-line, from which I believe the finished Fords went off to be sold along with the others from Trafford Park. Morris Motors, too, were beginning to challenge Ford, aided by the odd RAC-horsepower system of taxation which favoured small-bore, long-stroke engines, although at Wembley they contented themselves with exhibiting just a Morris one-ton truck.

Next, O.J. was off for a tour of some 700 miles in a 1925 Sunbeam Twenty, by which he meant a 20/60 hp model. He remarked on how brave the Sunbeam people were, in the guise of his friend Col Warwick Wright, to let him loose in a brand-new can Yet in all those miles it required no attention, apart from adjustment of the front brakes and a little lubrication, the latter done with a Tecalemit grease-gun which was new to O.J. but which he thought would soon become the universal method of greasing a chassis, a chore long since departed as a regular part of motoring, for most of us. He started his journey from the region of Piccadilly “amid the World’s worst traffic” nothing changes, except to get worse, and complained of the delays being made more tedious by endless road-works.

In those days drivers had to endure the horrors of Brentford and -the little lane” from Syon to where the Great West Road had just been finished. O.J. was soon trying out the Sunbeam’s speed capabilities but in that age of the overall 20 mph legal-limit he would not be drawn as to the pace he obtained. The run took him down to Devonshire and back and in all that distance he noticed no hills. so ably did the big Sunbeam perform, Not a driver who clung onto top speed, O.J nevertheless found third and top sufficed for almost allot them. First the Sunbeam went to a hunting wedding in Devon, and drew some of the attention from the bride, but after that the rare sunshine of that 1925 summer rather as it has shone only for Wimbledon-week, so far this year turned to blustery wind and rain, causing O.J. to take the train to Plymouth and leave the new Sunbeam at Stanfield & White’s garage, presumably in Teignmouth, for the front-wheel brakes to be titivated. Resuming the steeringwheel, O.J. found the road from Honiton to Chudleigh “all in pieces” because of much holiday traffic (already, the freedom of the early nineteen-twenties was diminishing) and to avoid this had taken a hilly route from Exeter to Dawlish and Teignrnouth After enthusing over the splendour of the scenery on the road from Teignmouth to Torquay and over the hills and river to Dartsmouth and Kingsbridge.

O.J. commenced the homeward jourey, meeting such deep water at Honiton Clyst that a lorry had to help haul the Sunbeam out of it. He was helped by an RAC scout but had to do the wading himself. Then it was on via Ilminster, lichester and Sparkford, to -quaint, old-fashioned Mere”, where the green Wiltshire downs began and where those empty roads that May afternoon enabled the Sunbeam to safely have her head, to come home through Andover and Whitchurch. O.J. was encouraged, by this tour in the Sunbeam, to comment on our folly in confining Stonehengeto a sort of monumental mason’s yard enclosed in a prison of barbed-wire, and surrounded, in 1925, by derelict aerodromes and war buildings Stonehenge is unique, said O.J., the dolmens and memorials of the past in Brittany and all the World over are toys compared to its monoliths. yet we refuse to let the tourists see it as it should be seen. Well, worse happens there these days, burl believe Lord Mortagu is hoping to take steps to put matters in better order. In the course of this tour 0.J found the Sunbeam a fast can suitably sprung to mask high speeds, but he was puzzled about the ‘•Incomprehendable numerals on all our signposts” which were then beginning to make their appearance; the forerunners of the far more comprehensive road-numbering system we have now and which is so much better understood. — W B.

Motor Sport Brooklands Memorial Trophy Contest

This contest, with a handsome silver trophy and £325-worth of prize money at stake, has reached an interesting stage, with two VSCC Silverstone Meetings and the two-day VSCC Oulton Park Meeting of 1986 now completed. At this stage the leaders in this competion, which is open to all pre-war cars (which could, and perhaps did, run at Brooklands), are: Nick Mason (Bugatti) with 65 pts, Duncan Ricketts (Riley), with 44 pts. Paul Jaye (Attenborough Special) with 36 pts, while David Black (Alfa Romeo) and Philip Venables (MG), have 31 pts each. There are two deciding rounds to come, that at the always-enjoyable VSCC Cadwel I Park Meeting on August Bank Holiday Sunday, and the final VSCC race meeting of 1986 which is to take place at the well-equipped Donington Park circuit on September 21st.

In passing, our apologies to Martin Morris for saying in our Oulton Park report that Nick Mason had won the Seaman Historic race, the race description, the results, and a picture caption all made it clear that Morris’s ERA was the winner, but misreading of the copy gave Mason as the winner. Nick had, of course, won the preceeding Vintage Scratch race but Martin Morris took the Historic Seaman. the tenth time he has done this with his 2-litre ERA R 1 lb.—W B.

Veteran-to-Classic Miscellany. I was unable to attend the 40th. Birthday celebrations of the Hants & Berks MC. having to go to VSCC Oulton Park for my sins, bull hear the day went very well indeed, and now that we have a ‘Classic” section, I am able to mention a Club that was born in 1946. Too many well-known people attended the day’s happenings at the Civil Service Association Club at Burght ield to be mentioned in entirely but they included about 130 for lunch, with notables like Past Presidents David Good, Patsy Burt. and Nick Williamson from the world of hill-climbing, a reminder that not far away was Great Auclum. scene of this Club’s former sprint activities. It was nice that one of the Founders of the H & B, Harry Hopkinson, was there. The Club’s first event was a speed trial at Finchampstead. ltd being made by Roy Salvadori, whose first competition appearance this was, at the wheel of the ex-Dobbs off-set single-seater Riley. Gordon Watson and Rivers-Fletcher, who also drove on that occasion, were among the guests, who included Charles Lambton, Charles Bulmer, Denis Jenkinson, Bob Newton, Sam Moore. Joan Johns, Beryl Nelms, Nan Dick Cawthorn°, Mike Anthony. Philip Bateman, George Whiteaway, Ron Barker, Norman Sharp, Jon Derisley, Michael Bowler. John Moon, David Small, Geoff Tapp, Jimmy Hogg, Ray Kingdom, Bob Russell, Joe Lowrey, many with their wives and children, together with those like Gordon Madgewick and his son who help run the H & B today. A great display of photographs of almost every event from the past 40 years was reported, from the Blackwater Trial which started from the -New Inn” at Eversley, to the celebrated Mobilgas Economy run at Harrogate, etc, together with shots of many members’ Specials, such as those built by Holland Birkett, Small, Buckler, Tapp, Cawthorne, etc. Quite an occasion….

The Motor Cycling Club, apart from continuing to run its Exeter. Land’s End and Edinburgh Trials, thank St Christopher, this year held the 85th Anniversary John O’Groats to Land’s End Run, which had 102 entries. Some of these were sponsoring charities. The Schulte Cup was won by C. J Sawyer’s 1964 Hillman Imp The best pre-1970 car was Bradshaw’s Austin Healey Sprite, and the Team Award went to the MG Car Club Those who retired were Mitchell’s 1911 3i, hp James, Dodds’ 1934 Jowett, Jones’ 1936 singer Le Mans, Leuty’s 1964 Matchless. and Smailes’ Jowett jupiter, while Hosken’s Citroen CX Safari failed to complete the full course Mitchell’s retirement was excusable, as he had started with a broken arm in plaster. Best vintage performance went to Goodey’s 1924 800cc AJS. Trials hills were included in the 1,018-mile route. We hear through the grapevine that Weeks’ 1916 293cc Calthorpe went into Leicester for a new driving belt, Smalls’ 1930 A7 had to deflect to Stockton for a magneto repair, where Smailes’ Jupiter. before it retired, was seen having its gearbox changed. continuing for a time with only 3rd and top gears. and it climbed Ruses Mill in reverse…

The 1985 edition of the ever-interesting “Triple-M Year Book” of the MGCC has been published, containing the outcome of last season’s events as they concerned the sports and raciung MGs and many worthwhi le articles as well, such as the early life history of a PA MG Midget, the history of the late J. H T Smith’s well-known MG 1(3. and practical information such as how to set upon MG differential or convert its engine to Thinwall bearings, etc. The front cover is a big picture of MGs racing at the Crystal Palace before the war, the back cover reproduces a pre-war advertisement recalling Betty Haig’s win with her MG Midget in a Paris-St. Raphael Rally, her team mates being Enid Riddell and Miss Stanley Turner, and there is more nostalgia of that kind in the pages of this large-format book. including fine colour prints, the background to the rare six-cylinder MG Magna L2, the libel of the mis-quoted maximum speed of the J2 MG, and much more besides. Non-members of the MG CC can obtain copies of what has become an annual institution.

Sadly, we have just heard that Len Parker died in Bath on May 31st, aged 81 He will be widely remembered as a driver who raced on two, three and four wheels in many events and who won the IOM Sidecar floe a Douglas in 1925. and he was closely connected, it seems. with the Douglas Company at Kingswoed, Bristol. Before the war he competed in trials with an Allard, which he converted into a rear-engined Special In recent times Len Parker drove an XK 120 Jaguar with the Registration number TT 1925. Those who like to know where the various aerodromes are situated, as they drive about the country, including the locations of WW1 and other disused landing grounds, are advised that a new edition of the “British Isles Airfield Guide”, edited by Phil Butler, is available from the Merseyside Aviation Society Ltd, Room 26, Hangar No 2, Liverpool Airport, Liverpool, L24 80E, price £2.75 post free. It includes a map. The Amilcar Register has its Summer Social and annual Dinner, concentrated on the Prescott area, on August 2nd / 3rd, its latest Newsletter has some interesting information on how Amilcars were originally marketed in this country. The most recent issue of the Morgan Three-Wheeler Club’s Bulletin contains some useful tips, such as how to build a radiator for a vee-twin, and it tells us that after the first round at the Morgan Three-Wheeler Club’s Bulletin contain’s some useful tips, such as how to build a radiator for a vee-twin, and it tells us that after the first round the Morgan Three-Wheeler Racing Championship, at Cadwell Park, the leader was Tuer’s Morgan with 8/80 JAP engine, one point ahead of the smiler Morgan of Bibby.

The new President of the Riley Register, which caters for pre-war Rileys and has some 1,300 members, is Mr. R. Cresswell, who uses his Coventry Riley regularly, and the new Secretary is J. F. B. Yew, Holly Bank, Jacques Lane. Clophill, Bedford MK45 4BS, but for membership apply to J A. Clarke, 56. Cheltenham Road, Bishops Cleve, Glos. GL52 4LY. The Bentley DC’s Silverstone Race Meeting takes place on August 23rd, adults being admitted for £3, children under 15 and car parking being free. The June issue of The Driving Member, official organ of the Daimler & Lanchester CC, had an interesting article about the finding, and preparation for overhaul, of a 1931 16/20 hp sleeve-valve Daimler four-light Mulliner saloon The membership Secretary is J. Ridley, The Manor House. Trewyn, Abergavenny, Gwent, NP7 7PG. W.B

Getting It Right!

It is all too easy to make the occasional slip-up, as we as writers are all too aware But in the Art World the critics are so expert at telling fake from genuine painting, and being able to make critical assessments of every inch of a canvas, that we confess to being rather surprised at seeing Christie’s advertising for sale a Cuneo painting of a Brooklands scene in which the car was wrongly described as being driven by Sir Henry Seagrave (sic), when Sedgrave never drove the car depicted, and with the car wrongly described as well and said lobe on the Member’s banking, when in fact it was shown on the Railway straight. We hope that this does not imply that casual descriptions are creeping into the world of motoring art. Shortly afterwards we came upon Onslow’s listing a photograph of Parry Thomas’ Leyland Thomas No.1 as “Babs”. whereas ‘Balls” was quite another of Thomas’ racing cars. This letter was at a recent sale at the new Brooklands Museum, the very museum that is asking for donations of Brooklands’ items, and therefore, we would have thought, the last place at which one would find such a sale being held, as likely to inflate the value of the very objects this museum wishes to receive — W.B. 

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