Not a lot has changed since 1905 at the Shelsley Walsh hill-climb, where the Newton Oils VSCC/ MAC event took place on June 30. The programme emphasised this, by having a reproduction of the entry list of the very first VSCC meeting, of 20 years ago, from which one noted that two cars at least which were running then are still doing so in 1990: the venerable 1923 10 1/2-litre Delage, to which I referred last month, and the Hardy Special. And it was nice to see those who knew the place before the war still watching, like Bert Hadley, and Rupert Instone OBE who was a Steward for the VSCC in 1970. Both also competed before the war, respectively with the works A7 and the Djynn Special. So nostalgia was in the air on June 30th, a day of heavy showers, not the best conditions for a sprint meeting.
The course was slippery at the Esses for the first runs. It is not possible to describe how each of the competitors faired — there were 76 VSCC entries and none in the Historic class — but the results tell the story. The course was opened by an immaculate Austin-Healey 100/4. Prowling round the Paddock I noted that S Lister’s 1927 Super Aero road-equipped Morgan three-wheeler retained a hand throttle to control its ex-Clive Lones’ 1924 KMB Blackburne push-rod ohv competition engine, and that Tony Tarring was clad in GN overalls although conducting the well-known 1908 Napier Sixty. Roger Collings was adjusting the comp-jet on the 1903 Mercedes, which rocked most impressively under torque on the start-line, and in practice the 1908 GP Panhard had got close to the Edwardian class record. E Bradley had an A7 Ulster Very Special, with sporty mudguards, D Weeks an unpainted Lea-Francis, P Irwin’s Riley an abbreviated wheelbase and its screen folded horizontal.
R. Pollack’s AC-Unicorn is a composite of Jaguar (engine), AC and Aston-Martin and has a unicorn badge on its radiator; Peter Hull remarked drolly that presumably it has only one horn! It was possible to spare a moment to gaze at the deep, ribbed base-chamber of the Lovell Elkhart Special, which was wearing Avon Turbospeed Mk 4 Nylon tyres on its back wheels. Incidentally, several cars had abnormally large rear tyres and if the VSCC wants more authenticity, this must be looked into. Rivers-Fletcher was seen, possibly for the first time since the Raymond Mays days, in a low-chassis 4 1/2-litre Invicta and Mrs Walker’s Frazer Nash Special was decently quiet by reason of triple exhaust pipes converging on one luckless silencer. M Leyland’s GN is now named ‘Grub’.
Tony Jones led off in his Frazer Nash ‘Patience’, B Gray’s Hardy Special was misfiring badly on its first run, I Davidson used plenty of revs on his blown 750cc MG Midget, D Lake spun the wheels of the Amilcar-Riley on getting away, and Guy Smith did it nicely in the famous Alvis-propelled Frazer Nash, with some spin, then rocketting away. Rain then ruined the second runs.
FTD was made by Anthony Mayman in ERA R4D which has run at this venue in Raymond Mays’ and Ken Wharton’s ownership, and has been un-Merricked by the RAC scrutineers. Mayman did this on one run, his time 35.86 sec, 0.8 of a second outside his last year’s course class record. There was a ring of the nostalgic past, as Mayman won the ERA and Fray Challenge Trophies and the Midland AC team the Tommy Wisdom Cup. Class winners (vintage cars in brackets): C Warrington’s Riley (P Selwyn-Smith’s Frazer Nash), J Giles’s AC/FN, (ditto), B Gray’s Hardy Special (D Lake’s AmilcarRiley), E Benfield’s Alvis (ditto), A Mayman’s ERA (J Majzub’s Bugatti), Walker’s 1908 Panhard.
But as we said, nothing much has changed since pre-war Shelsley and as if to underline this, on my journey home, going over the railway bridge into Leominster, beneath it ran an immaculate GWR steam locomotive hauling a line of spotless cream and brown coaches. WB