Veteran to classic -- Brooklands Reunion

The Brooklands Society held its 24th Annual Reunion at Brooklands on June 30th, the theme being the 1931 racing season. The enormous numbers of spectators’ cars soon outflowed the sizeable car parks, a reminder of how the Society has developed since the original Motor Sport Reunions at the old Track for those who had had associations with it pre-war, in any capacity but preferably as drivers. This year’s Society proceeds, be it noted, were in aid of the Brooklands Museum Trust.

The day was declared the official opening of the Brooklands Museum, so a large congregation of VIP guests took drinks with Ian Connell, President of the Society, and Sir Peter Masefield, Chairman of the Museum Trust. It was possible to view the transformation of the original Clubhouse, now containing an Art Deco Bluebird restaurant (the name derived from the happy-go-lucky aerodrome hanger-cafe for the early pilots, burned down in 1909), the Courage Bar, the Members’ Lounge, the Barbara Cartland ladies’ sitting-room, Billiard room, Reference Library, Reading room, Boardroom (subsidised by the Ford Motor Company), Chequered Flag Conference room and six syndicate rooms, Manager’s Office (promoted by the Bentley DC) that was once the Clerk of the Course’s domain, Visitors’ Reception area, Cinema and, I nearly forgot, the Museum itself.

Most of these facilities can be rented by members of the newly formed £500 + VAT Club, for meetings, seminars, conferences, exhibitions, etc. Mr Locke King would have looked a bit askance, maybe? The Clubhouse balcony has been strengthened, as a viewing gallery of what remains of the paddock area (not much, but the old racing sheds, etc are to be restored). It is all extremely well done; but not quite Brooklands as the pre-war fraternity remember it.

The Museum has as its main exhibits the engineless ex-Whitney Straight Duesenberg (which did not quite take the lap record) and the ex-Joyce sprint AC but it badly needs more ex-Brooklands cars. For the opening it had been embellished with Frazer Nash exhibits lent by AFN Ltd, one of which Aldy drove at Brooklands, but the others mostly post-war cars, and all due to be transferred to the restored Robin Jackson shed when this is ready. Apart from that and the Tim Fry Riley that ran in Club events in the 1930s, what have a sports MG, a 1922 696cc (I didn’t measure it) A7 Chummy, a scruffy blancmange Ford Ten saloon, an Austin 10 chassis, a tiller-steered 1898 Allen Runabout, an Hispano Suiza saloon and a sleeve-valve Vauxhall saloon got to do with Brooklands? They are supplemented by five miscellaneous motorcycles, and the Gold Star Grindley-Peerless lent by Mr Tubb. In the entrance were the ex-Dugdale Edmonson MG Magnette and the 1903 Siddeley presented by Hugh Hunter. The latter is alleged to have been the first ever car (when Dame Ethel Locke King owned it) to have run round the Track but I used to get into trouble with Hugh when I queried whether this would not have been Dame Ethel’s 40hp Itala which led the Opening Day Parade in 1907, the Dame not being the kind of lady to trail behind in her little Siddeley. Before that, how can one tell? The Panhard used for Track duties, Contractors’ cars, a certain Germain, all had similar claims, prior to that eventful June day 84 years ago.

Leaving the static show, outside it was all action, with ascents of the 1909 Test Hill, and demo and timed runs along the wartime runway by permission of Trafalgar Brooklands Ltd. Pride of place in the paddock went to the lap-record Napier-Railton, which Victor Gauntlett is anxious to sell but had let Dudley Gahagan demonstrate. Dudley was having a busy day, running as well his ex-AC Dobson ERA and the ex-Oats Amilcar Six. Other Brooklands cars included a Double-Twelve Alfa Romeo, the Dick Seaman K3 MG, the Bentley Jackson, the ex-Michael May Alvis, Dunham’s third generation outer-circuit Alvis, the Pacey and McKenzie Bentleys, the Super Sports Frazer Nash which Aldington and Inderwick drove in high speed trials at the Track, Robbie Hewitt’s ex-F&N 4-1/2-litre Lagonda, Tarring’s Napier 60, the Kerr-Bate Special, the ex-Hawthorn Riley which Clive Windsor-Richards, who was present, raced in 1938/39, and BK Goodman’s 1908 Hutton which took part in the 1908 O’Gorman Trophy Race.

Among the Morgan fraternity was the famous Lones three-wheeler, which unfortunately oiled a plug and was defeated by the formidable Test Hill (where even the Dunham Alvis stopped near the summit, but restarted) and the Super Sports Aero with which G Harris competed in 1929. The motorcycle assembly included the ex-Ralph Seymour Rudge, the 1923 Zenith-JAP with which RA Mallett enlivened Brooklands in 1924/25, the ex-Leverson Gower Cotton and a 1934 Mk 6 KTT Velocette that had run in Clubman’s races in the 1930s, while CE “Titch” Allen had brought the little 1927 Francis Barnett that set records at the Track at over 50 mph, as a static embellishment. Then there were the half-and-halfs or “me-toos” such as the re-created single-seater A7 with the ex-Kay Petre engine and Chris Gordon’s Silver Hawk, troubled with clutch-slip, said to have entered from 1920-25, although this has yet to be established. Rivers Fletcher was without his Alvis, which had some trouble en route and was towed away by another Alvis to Aldershot for repairs.

Up the Test Hill anything went (hopefully) from P1 Rolls-Royce saloon to a 1924 Rhode, and static Paddock exhibits ranged from vee-radiator Star to Prince Henry Vauxhall, from Gahagan’s T57 Bugatti to a 1912 Rover. It was a day for meeting old friends (I was pleased to see GP Harvey Noble and other pre-war drivers in fine form) signing books, taking photographs, etc. One heard of artifacts (like a 1916 BARC badge and the spare oil-cooler from Hawker’s ill-fated Sopwith Atlantic) still turning up and saw part of the Museum’s new film. It was very much the Society’s day — you can join it for a £10 subscription; the Secretary is B Reynolds, 38, Windmill Way, Reigate, Surrey, RH2 OJA (0737-241858). — WB


Paddock Jottings

(I cannot resist this heading, which I used as “The Prowler” in my Brooklands contributions to Alan Hess’s magazine Speed, before I joined Motor Sport — WB).

Apart from racing drivers aforementioned, others present at the Reunion included Charlie Martin, Leslie Ballamy, who came in his Chrysler 66, Tom Delaney, who brought the Esplen/Shipley ex-Brooklands Hyper Lea-Francis, Powys Lybbe, Norton Bracey, Mort Morris-Goodall, Stafford-East who drove the GN “Kim II”, Mike Edmundson, and others. Then there was the lady of 91 who knew the Track from early times, went to Parry Thomas’ funeral, and has kept in touch with motor racing since then; she showed me a scar on her wrist from an injury received when she was at Le Mans in 1955, a victim of the horrific Mercedes-Benz accident. And Ivy Edwards, now Mrs Tremayne, whose husband used to help Bob Dicker paint the numbers on the racing cars and who regarded Brooklands as her childhood playground, was there. Her children had put her in the car, telling her it was just a day out, and took her to this, her first Reunion. Returning to the ex-Brooklands cars, side-by-side in the Paddock stood two Altas, one the ex-Beadle car driven by its owner David Baldock, the other the rebodied ex-Hugh Hunter car, at present engineless. I also saw a handcranked children’s ornate rocking-horse, inappropriate I thought, until I remembered that the JCC had a Funfair at the first Double-Twelve Hour race, in case the spectators became bored.

The other aero-engined car beside the Napier-Railton was B Moore’s 21-litre Metallurgique-Maybach, which did not race at the Track in this form, but in the Reunion sprint was timed at 22.19 sec, going over the line at 52 mph, and at 63 mph on another, slower run, which compares with 24.07 sec and 59 mph by Tarring’s 11-litre Napier, which ran a Match Race against a Sunbeam at Brooklands in 1911. This sprint was of probably a bit more than a 1/4-mile from a standing-start. FTD was made by Stanley Mann’s record-holding Bentley, in 15.75 sec, (90 mph), which contrived to record 94 mph on a slower run.

The class winners were:

Up to 1200cc: lst: F Bruce-White’s Allt’cok (which has won an earlier Brooklands Society sprint) in 17.73 sec, (78 mph); 2nd: RS Way (A7 single-seater), 18.84 sec, (76 mph); 3rd: JD Simpson (Lagonda-Rapier), 20.59 sec, (72 mph).

Up to 2000cc & 1100cc s/c: 1st: P Green with his ex-Seaman/Straight MG Magnette, another car well known at Brooklands (see Motor Sport October, 1984), in 18.59 sec, (72 mph), 2nd: IJ Turner (Type 37 Bugatti), 19.98 sec, (71 mph), 3rd: D Gahagan’s Amilcar, 24.35 sec, (68 mph).

Up to 3000cc: 1st: HR Dunham with the well known Brooklands Alvis, in 17.96 sec, (81 mph), 2nd: LJ Marriott (12/70 Alvis Special), 21.55 sec, (64 mph), 3rd: JA Carpenter (Alvis Firefly Special), 21.64 sec, (64 mph).

Over 3000cc: 1st: S Mann (Bentley), 15.75 sec, FTD, (94 mph) 2nd: A Sparrowhawk (Alvis), 16.51 sec, (88 mph), 3rd: VL Davis (Bentley-Jackson), 17.19 sec, (85 mph).

The speeds in brackets for the speed-trap are the best recorded, not necessarily those made on the run when the fastest time was clocked.

So, a vastly enjoyable day, with the Brooklands Society President, Ian Connell, who raced Darracq, Vale Special and ERA cars at the Track as well as other makes such as Alfa Romeo and R-type MG at other venues, including Singer and Delahaye at Le Mans, in happy mood. At the close of proceedings a presentation was made to Brian Dinsley, for his services to the Society. — WB