Rumblings, December 1947
In spite of petitions and organised protests in various parts of the country, the “basic” petrol ration has not been restored, and this month we enter another era of supplementary coupon motoring if we are lucky, no motoring if we are not. Briefly, this is what befell the London protest rally. It was organised by a handful of motorists in order to give the R.A.C. and A.A., whose would-be deputation to the Prime Minister had been refused, a strong weapon with which to exert the motorists’ rights. Scotland Yard, fearful of a blockage of London’s traffic should rallyists converge on Westminster, persuaded the R.A.C. and A.A. to let the B.B.C broadcast an announcement saying that they advised motorists not to assemble in this way, the unveiling of a statue by H.M. the King having coincided with the proposed rally.
The rally organisers were also approached by Scotland Yard and asked to call the rally off. They pointed out that the matter was not in their hands, as the demonstration affected any motorist interested and they could not stop such persons driving to Westminster at the time originally laid down. They finally stated that if Scotland Yard would give them an alternative day for the rally and promise publicity to the change of plan as widespread and influential as that given to the R.A.C./A.A. cancellation, they would do all in their power to stop interference with the King. Scotland Yard then promised that if motorists would assemble in Hyde Park on October 23rd they would be given every assistance in staging a legal demonstration, the inference being that a procession of some sort would take place, possibly to Westminster. Consequently, every effort was made to notify enthusiasts via their clubs, and ordinary motorists through the medium of the Press, of this Hyde Park protest rally.
On the day appointed London amassed a most imposing army of police, posting them at all important junctions and cross-roads and spacing them at brief intervals all round the Park. Police radio cars, mobiles and even a police breakdown lorry were mustered, and an ops-room was put into action at the Yard. Motorists on their way to the rally were told that the protest had not materialised and those entering the Park had, in many instances, difficulty in finding the parking area. A well-known trials Lancia “Lambda,” later backed up by a trials Austin Seven, were allowed to display notices indicating where cars should be parked, and in Hyde Park the police were mainly helpful, but outside and at the gates and elsewhere in London cars were turned away. The organisers were told that any attempt at a procession might result in every car being locked-in the Park overnight. Even so, an excellent and representative collection of vehicles turned up, from Bentley, O.M., Alfa-Romeo, “36/220” Mercédès-Benz, many “14/40” Delage, Bugatti, Rolls-Bentley, “10/23” Talbot, “12/50” Alvis and other cars of enthusiasts, to American saloons, a great many small family saloons, frequently driven by ladies, down to a staunch old lady on a bicycle who displayed a sticker on her carrier-basket. As you now know, these hundreds of motorists waited something like four hours to hear that their deputation had been received unfavourably by the Minister of Fuel and Power, who did not offer them any hope whatsoever and obviously wasn’t in the least interested in their requests. The assembled cars were then driven sadly away in orderly manner. Why bring all this up at so late a date, seeing that no apparent good has come of it? Because it gives rise to the following thoughts:
(a) That the R.A.C. and A.A. threw away a golden opportunity to assist their members. They did not even signpost the routes to the Rally. Doubtless much money to support various fighting funds will be found from what would have been renewal subscriptions.
(b) That Scotland Yard is to be congratulated on the skilful way it avoided trouble, which it obviously anticipated. We imagine those responsible will be duly rewarded in the New Year’s Honours List, even if methods were used that are not normally employed by London’s Police Force.
(c) That any new organisation intending to fight for motorists’ rights has our best wishes — and our support, if it combines with the motor-cyclists, cyclists and pedestrians.
Meanwhile, Motor Sport hopes to be able to maintain your academic and practical motoring enthusiasms in spite of “no-basic.”
It seems that the existing Formula will govern International racing until 1953, with the alteration that from next year cars can be run on a any fuel the entrant desires to use. For new boys, this means up to 11/2 litres supercharged, and up to 4 1/2 litres unblown. A most interesting voiturette Formula is also to be put in operation, confining small-car races to blown cars up to 500 c.c., and unblown cars up to 2 litres. This is a most intriguing development, if a nasty swipe to purveyors of British supercharged eleven-hundreds, such as the K3 M.G.
Although the R.A.C. decided that there was not room for both the Brighton Run and the Crisis, we decided, during November, to see some Veterans veterans just the same. What better than to prevail upon R. G. J. Nash, who was delighted to show us his collection, stored in numerous sheds and garages in the Weybridge area. We spent an entire cold but absorbing afternoon inspecting it. Of bicycles and tricycles there are over 34 examples, of which the oldest is an original Johnson Hobbyhorse built in 1818. We were shown an 1865 Rantoone, which so puzzled the Science Museum that they disregarded the offer of it. We felt a little more intelligent when it came to the cars, which, in spite of loss by enemy action, number over 25. The 1898 City and Suburban electric carriage which Queen Alexandra used at Sandringham was away at an exhibition; these days it operates on 60 volts and gets along very well. We were able to make the acquaintance of the 1896 solid-tyred, tiller-steered, long-wheelbase Daimler wagonette, which was one of the first cars delivered to Scotland. Nash has restored much of the wooden body himself and made ignition tubes from R.R. alloy, as platinum tubes were not available. The vertical gear handle, with flat-plate quadrant, gives four speeds forward and four in reverse, and the height of the driving seat is immense — Nash has so far only tried the car on “Pool,” but has had a chuff or two on that. An interesting rebuild is due on an ugly 1902 White steamer, while we came upon a Benz Velociped in “as-new” condition, that was supplied by Wellington and is of 1895 vintage. A larger two-cylinder, 10-h.p., 1899 Benz has done some 40 m.p.h., in spite of an immense cape-cart leather hood. Its original surface carburetter awaits fitment.
Nash rather specialises in Peugeots for, apart from his well-known 1902 voiturette with its huge lamps, he has 1900 and 1903 examples, the last-named having lubrication to gearbox and chassis parts by screw-down greasers on the dashboard, and a beautiful tonneau body with wicker baskets along the sides. Of great historic interest, is an 1896 Pennington 3-wheeler with its two cylinders open at the crankshaft end, a lever each side of the saddle for engaging the change-speed dogs, a wondrous tubular chassis and a solid rear tyre. An 1898 Crowden is in fine condition, as is the 1909 Hupmobile. There is no need to get wet when you motor in a Nash veteran, for he has a fine single-cylinder coupé Darracq of 1905 vintage, with “vision-slot” in its vast windscreen. Other historic types in this extensive collection number 1902, 1903 and 1907 de Dions, 1900 Locomobile steamer, 1903 one-lunger Cadillac, 1904 Decauville, 1909 and 1914 model-T Fords and a 1910 Humber, and we really think it is time some public-spirited person found a proper museum in which Nash can display these cars. Later examples include a 1912 White and Poppe T-head Morris, a 1913 vertical-twin Swift cyclecar, a big 1914 Star tourer, a 1920 model-T Ford “Tudor” sedan and a very clean 1921 Rover tourer, the last-named given to Nash by an owner who just couldn’t bear to see it broken up but who had no further use for it — he had even logged the air lost from each tyre, week by week, throughout the car’s life. Finally, of course, the imposing 1912 G.P. Lorraine Dietrich, proudly displaying its white Cross of Lorraine on the huge bonnet — we all hope Nash will be seen again with this car in Edwardian contests in the near future. We almost forgot an 1896 de Dion tricycle and a 1904 Alycon.
Then, of course, Nash has his aeroplanes — four Bleriots, One No. 5, another a Gordon Bennett racer, a 1912 Caudron, a 1913 Maurice Farman, a 1914 504 Avro, a 1917 Sopwith “Camel,” a 1918 Fokker DVII with bullet holes and 180-h.p. Mercédès engine, and an S.E.5. Also, many old aero-engines, including automatic-inlet-valve Anzani and rotary Le Rhone, Gnome and Monosoupape. These alone should be on permanent exhibiton — 46,000 people visited a few of them when Nash was persuaded to show them at South Kensington for a fortnight or so.
We left feeling that Dick Nash is deserving of thanks from all enthusiasts for preserving so many historic vehicles, which one day ordinary motorists may also come to appreciate. Looking over them, we were reminded of the joyous days of the International Horseless Carriage Corporation, Inc., and the early Brighton Runs (a recent R.A.C. news-sheet put the date of the first as 1925 but actually that is a few years too early), when furious search produced veterans for a few pounds, in the most unlikely places, and famous competition drivers restored them, drove them, and, in the case of Dick Shuttleworth and Dick Nash, decided that in collecting and running them lay an absorbing interest. Happy days . . .!
Opinion on the Paris Salon exhibits: Of the economy cars the Dyna-Panhard was very effective, while the 4-h.p. French-rating rear-engined Renault obviously afforded its designer great delight and is a beautiful job, perhaps a trifle on the frail side. Of the bigger light-cars, the streamlined 1,100-c.c. Fiat aerodynamic coupé, the 60 b.h.p. Cisitalia. Farina coupé for which 100 m.p.h. was claimed, and the Peugeot streamlined coupé greatly impressed a visitor from this country. The Renault economy car now has Lockheed brakes.
In a demonstration at Montlhèry during Paris Salon week one of the new A.40 Austin four-door saloons lapped at 72 m.p.h. and covered a s.s. kilometre in 47.4 sec., and an Austin Sixteen lapped at 75 m.p.h., and did the s.s. kilometre in 45.2 sec.
The Norris brothers, builders of the Norris Special, have acquired the very fast 2-litre i.f.s. Alta which Geoffrey Taylor raced last season.
Leslie Brooke hopes to drive a Talbot in certain 1948 races.
John Cooper may attack Lt.-Col. Gardner’s Class I M.G. records, using the 2-seater Cooper 500, blown and re-streamlined.
Ab. Jenkins, Ralph Hepburn and Arthur Litz are amongst the American drivers rumoured to be interested in attacking Cobb’s Land Speed Record. Litz is said to have two 2,880-h.p. aero engines, probably DoubleAllisons, ready for a two-engined record car.
George Nixon has acquired the Brooke Special, now with six-S.U. 2-litre Riley engine.