THE INTER-VARSITY RELIABILITY TRIAL.
BEING personally the possessor of a comparatively unreliable car of distinctly certain age and a bottom gear of 7.1, I have always considered this vehicle as somewhat =suitable for reliability trials ; which reminds me of a man, who when asked why he never entered for this type of competition, proudly replied, “because I am not the type of motorist who owns reliable cars.” The result of the situation in my own case, therefore, was that I gladly accepted an invitation to take part in the inter-varsity trial as passenger in an exceptionally reliable car with a gear ratio three times as low as bottom on my own motor.
The morning of Saturday, November 19th, however, did its best to make one regret this decision ; it was exceptionally dark, the sky was roughly speaking black, and a steady drizzle was falling. However, complete with map, route card, and stop watch, we covered the distance to Dunstable in creditably scandalous time and arrived successfully at the Sugar Loaf Hotel. The scene in the yard there was sufficiently amusing, the place being full of vehicles of all types from a 6-cylinder Amilcar to decrepit looking two-strokes. The former, however, was rather naturally not competing, and was destined to the somewhat ignominious fate of having ” check ” written on it, as if it was a lorry in a lane. There was also a diminutive sports car of a well known type but which was distinguished by a fierce looking outside exhaust-pipe, and which a gentleman of authority on such matters said should do 55 m.p.h. ; on attempting to verify this computation by enquiry of the owner, he was told that it would do 65 m.p.h., which reduced him to a state of incredulous and impotent fury.
However, eleven o’clock arrived finally before any violence was done, and the motor cycles were despatched; our turn came about a quarter of an hour later, and we set off on our 63 mile journey. Before we had gone very far we came upon one or two of the bikes, whose owners were already trying to discover an engine in the middle of a mudpie and see why it had stopped working. The first three non-stop sections probably did not account for many failures for although very muddy, they were more or less flat. We negotiated them successfully and then took a couple of water splashes, which gave us no trouble, although at the second a motor cyclist just ahead of us took what must have been a most refreshing shower bath, and came to rest in a cloud of smoke and steam. It was the non-stop section at Agnell’s Farm which proved our Waterloo. We were suddenly confronted with a very broad grass track running up hill and a marshal, who hastily advised us to keep to the middle as everyone had stuck in the mud who had gone to one side or the other. It was soon evident, however, that the middle was only supposed to be better because it was still unexplored and after a few yards we came to rest with the wheels spinning in Spite of violent bouncing on the rumble by the passenger who began to find his duties becoming more arduous. After this he got out and commenced the still more
arduous business of pushing which, however, produced slow progress. After a short time more cars arrived and the scene soon became extremely animated, the grass track being dotted with motor cars at every conceivable angle, both to the vertical and to the way they meant to go, propelled by perspiring and blaspheming crews.
Finally, however, with the aid of (a) the local inhabitant and (b) an artificial surface composed of (1) brushwood, (2) an old piece of galvanised iron, (3) unintentionally, the passenger’s foot, we managed to reach the other end, and hurried off to the check at Berkhampstead leaving the crew of a streamlined sports car which was boiling merrily energetically trying to get water at a farm house. On the way we had to negotiate” Tunnel Slide,” which proved quite easy and we were chiefly engaged in watching the violent ” swash ” action of a buckled front wheel on a 4-seater car ahead.
After leaving Berkhamstead, we climbed White Hill successfully and negotiated another observed section and so came to Rays Hill. I am told that this grass bank has only twice been climbed by a car and that was on a dry day and at the expense of a front axle. However even if this is not true our own attempt did not get us up very far, and having slid down again we stopped to watch an attempt by a Frazer Nash, which came along directly afterwards. This motor took a good run at the gradient, leapt the grass curb, got sideways on, got straight again, leapt at the hill, got about half way up and then was left scrabbling at it with violent wheelspin. It came down again with an unhappy looking track rod.
The first hill after the Tring Check was a shiny chalk track and proved quite =climbable, while the last hill of all at Duncombe’s farm, although we had climbed it successfully some days before, defeated most of the competitors, ourselves included ; and so finally to Dunstable, where tea was distinctly welcome as we had eaten nothing but chocolate since an early breakfast.
We had been late at Berkhamstead and we had not climbed all the test hills ; but hardly anyone else had done so either, and our motor was still intact, while others had suffered various misfortunes. One had bent a track rod, another a front wheel as already mentioned ; another had seized both the ball races in the front hubs ; yet another had broken a front axle ; while, when we left Dunstable, the streamline sports car was being pushed up and down the street and refusing to do anything but make violent explosions in the exhaust-pipe. So it was quite a successful trial.
The results proved a victory for Cambridge with an average of 128 marks against 114 for Oxford ; the latter, however, made the best performance among both cars and motor cycles with F. E. Buckland (Austin) and H.E.Baker (A. J.S.). Second best performances were made by Cambridge with P. H. Manners (A.C.) and M. C. Huie (P. & M.).
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