The Editor Accompanies Geoffrey Frank on the Veteran Car Run in a 1902 15-h.p. Panhard et Levassor
Each year, on the memorable day when the veterans go to Brighton, the V.C.C. is kind enough to find me a seat in, or on, one of the competing cars. In 1936 I went down on Dick Nash’s 1900 Peugeot and in 1937 on the late Capt. Wylie’s 1898 Hurtu — very literally “on” in both instances! In the post-war “Brightons” I went through on Jim Kentish’s 1902 de Dion Bouton in 1947 and last year, in George Lanchester’s 1902 Lanchester. This year Geoffrey Frank generously found space for me in the 1902 Panhard et Levassor entered jointly by himself and E. S. Berry.
The only other requirement was a tender car, especially as “our” veteran had to come down to the start all the way from Southport so that there was just a chance that it might not be there to convey us to Brighton when we got to Hyde Park in the early morning of November 18th. It seemed snobbish, to take a modern with four-cylinders on a Brighton run so we prevailed upon Jowett Cars, Ltd., to lend us a two-cylinder Bradford Utility. A more dependable, economic (32 m.p.g.) and useful vehicle we could not have desired. Its spaciousness, willingness, ruggedness and the fascination of its flat-twin exhaust beat appeal afresh every time we try one. Incidentally, the excellent visibility through the big windscreen and ample side-windows provided our co-driver with an excellent view of all that was going on, and the vintage comfort of the driving position and the sponge-free steering was continually appreciated.
Arrived at Hyde Park our thought that the Panhard might be an absentee was proved a false one; indeed, it had come down to London in ten hours with no more ado than a little ignition trouble and a displaced cotter on one of the automatic inlet valves, the correct valve spring strength not having been determined quite to the engine’s satisfaction. Soon Geoffrey Frank, in a fine Sherlock Holmes hat, hove in sight in the Panhard, accompanied by a 4½-litre Bentley towing the trailer which had brought down Berry’s magnificent 1895 Lutzmann.
Our mount of the 1949 Run was a truly impressive car, beautifully turned out. Its four-cylinder 90 by 130 mm., 3,307-c.c. Phoenix engine was cooled by a generous gilled-tube radiator, had a ZU 4 Bosch magneto, and the aforesaid automatic inlet valves. Transmission was by four-speed gearbox and side chains and the body a useful four-seater, of which I and another intrepid passenger occupied the distinctly comfortable rear seat located behind, and far above, the back-axle. Before us on the back of the front seat was a five-gallon petrol tank.
Not every one had our good fortune of moving off majestically and confidently at the word of command. Ford and Burton, for instance, on No. 1, a 3½-h.p. Benz and Barnard’s and Balls’ Oldsmobile had bothers right on the line, while Major Mills’ and Jackman.’s 1902 Oldsmobile was boiling within the first 100 yards. Then, ere we were out of Hyde Park, Spiller was observed to be working on the engine of his 1902 de Dion and Ford’s M.M.C. and Pratt Boorman’s Panhard were being replenished thus early with vital fluids. But, out of 130 entries, only five non-started. For our part, we rode comfortably on our lofty perch, the merry song of the driving chains drowning the noise of the automatic inlets. The Panhard was slowed early by hills, it is true, and asked for an early change down if transmission snatch was to be avoided, but she pulled strongly, exceeded 30 m.p.h. comfortably on the level (its flat-out maximum is rather better than 40) and, we were glad to note(!), possessed adequate brakes.
Soon we overtook Peter Hampton’s 1902 5½-h.p. Peugeot, Mrs. Hampton in close company in the Type 46S Bugatti saloon. Ever fearful of running into a time-check early, Frank held the Panhard back through London. Approaching Buckingham Palace Major Gardiner had had to “get out and get under” his 1899 Locomobile steamer, and at Kennington we came upon Crossman’s 1900 George Richard stationary, but were assured that all was well and that it was pulling well at 12 m.p.h.
The usual police “clear passage” at Brixton Hill’s traffic lights was not operating this year and Frank preferred to stop for the red, despite yells of “go on” from the onlookers. At Brixton Lightfoot was investigating the complex engine of his 1902 Arrol-Johnston dog-cart and Moss’ Crestmobile had stopped. From a standing-start, due to the lights, Brixton Hill caused the Panhard no trouble at all, Frank handling her with ease, in spite of being more used to his own Edwardian cars. Indeed, as we overtook Mrs. Ford’s and Cooke’s 1903 de Dion and changed-up near the summit, the onlookers clapped approvingly, although Allday’s 1903 Mercédès was able to overtake us
Traffic was congested at Streatham, but we overtook the Lutzmann, plodding steadily, before we stopped for fuel and half a pint of Castrol XL. It was a lengthy stop, for the petrol nozzle wouldn’t look at the small filler on our tank!
At Thornton Heath Powys-Lybbe’s F.I.A.T. of 1900 vintage had stopped, and here we caught up with Evans’ very early 3½-h.p. Benz. Reeves’ 1899 Benz of this size was re-starting, he and his passenger peering at the gear-levers on the upright steering column. On Purley Way the Jarrett/Gibson 1898 Benz and the Welham/Bowden 1904 Cadillac had ceased to motor, and Humphries’ Humber tandem was being investigated, his M-type M.G. and trailer in attendance. Near the Aerodrome Mills and Peech were adding oil to their 1904 Darracq, and the engine cover of Col. Alcock’s 1902 de Dion was raised.
Traffic up the Aerodome hill was pretty thick and the usual keen spectators had gathered. With five up, Lucas’ 1904 London-built James and Browne was ascending slowly, while Andrew Fairtlough’s 1904 Panhard required light manual assistance. We were delighted to see the Lutzmann climbing strongly, water vapour issuing from its cooling tanks, and we stopped on the down grade to see it safely into Purley, for its spoon and ribbon brakes do not offer much retardation. While we were stationary Abbott’s famous Mercédès and Miss Tanner’s 1900 de Dion went by, followed by Capt. Browell’s 1904 8-h.p. de Dion of the fierce exhaust note, the Moss’ 4 1/2-h.p. Swift of a year earlier, which was rattling, and Bowyer’s 1903 5 1/2-h.p. Peugeot, although soon afterwards we crept past the last-named, which shows how well it was going.
Typical of “Brighton Sunday” all manner of interesting non-competing cars were about. To name only a few, we spotted a yellow 30/98 Vauxhall, two 11.9 Lagondas, a Calcott, a 10/23 Talbot, a 14/40 flat-radiator M.G. four-seater, the same 14/40 Sunbeam tourer that we saw, in the same place at Purley last year, a modern Georges Irat and Darracq, a Type 37 G.P. Bugatti, a Clyno, Edwardian Darracq, Delage and Wolseley-Siddeley, an Italian Type C F.I.A.T. 500, a Dyna-Panhard on English numbers, a Frazer-Nash towing a trailer, an open 40/50 Rolls-Royce and many, many more — cars which are the very backcloth of the “Brighton.” Lord Strathcarron was passengering in Grose’s 1908 Wolseley and a 4 1/2-litre Invicta was following Major Mills’ very effective 1901 Benz.
Vernon Balls’ Oldsmobile looked to be in trouble near Purley, Gregory’s Darracq of John o’Groats fame was having a breather and Estler’s 1904 Siddeley passed us and staved us off.
Next to be seen in trouble was Crittall’s Royal Humberette, while a non-competing twin-cylinder Renault had also paused for engine-inspection. Bothers seemed to be coming early, as F. S. Bennett said later in his speech at the Lord Mayor’s tea, for Stiles’ Charatte had its bonnet up and the “cockpit” of Lawson’s Tony Huber was being examined. It is, however, impossible to distinguish routine checks from dire maladies as one hurries past.
Mrs. Carlisle sat forlornly in the front seat of the 1900 Progress (surely not jilted?), the Fotheringham-Parkers were refixing the number board on their 1903 Renault, but the Haughton/Frazer Mors was going really well. Sensibly, Wingate’s 1901 Pick was tendered by a Bradford Utility.
The grand weather of early morning was holding out, and the Panhard likewise, so that we permitted ourselves a very long coffee-stop (only it was tea!) at Merstham., where Geoffrey Frank’s cousins had thoughtfully brought out supplies in a 2-litre Lagonda. Here a familiar non-competing 1911 de Dion coupé was parked, Spiller’s 1902 de Dion had stopped for under-bonnet inspection and Eastmead’s Gladiator went by at a great lick. Alas, Miss Tanner’s de Dion was on its trailer, out of the Run thus early. Gardiner’s Locomobile was reported in trouble and so late was the Lutzmann that the Lagonda went in search of it. Eventually it hove in sight, all being well, and the Jarrett/Gibson 1898 de Dion also came by.
Resuming at 11.31 a.m. (we had started at 8.83 a.m.) we suffered mysterious loss of power, until it was discovered that the cork used for choking the carburetter and hung beside it, had been sucked into the intake. We again overtook Crossman’s 1900 Georges Richard, which was using lots of water, passed the gallant Lutzmann, and stopped for a leisurely snack at Povey Cross. Indeed, we did not leave until 1 p.m., over roads free of all veterans.
Soon the Crestmobile was seen in trouble and the Reeces’ 1904 Wolseley had, alas, definitely retired, going to Brighton on its trailer. The Panhard responded nobly to Geoffrey Frank’s skilful coaxing, covering 10 miles in 20 minutes as we made up time. Then we found the Lutzmann stationary beyond Handcross, the lattice-work doors of its engine compartment open — it had climbed the hill partly aided by its passenger. On the next hill it stopped again, it was at first thought due to over-rich mixture, but examination revealed a broken contact-breaker spring. So, while we waited with it, Sears went off in the Bentley to get this vast spring brazed, while an old gentleman from a nearby cafe, with hardly a word, went off to bring us a can of water. We debated pushing the Lutzmann in — 15 miles — and discussed the rules, encouraged by the Crestmobile, whose driver was pushing it up every hill. As late as 2.30 p.m. the Bennetts’ 1903 Cadillac went by. A little rain began to fall. Then Sears came back with the spring mended, it was quickly refitted and the horizontal 2¼-litre single-cylinder engine with its exposed big-end was hastily re-timed. Soon it “turf-turfed” again when the big flywheel was pulled firmly round. It was touch and go, but aided by the Brighton police and our crew, the Lutzmann motor-carriage of 1895 got under way, a grand effort, especially as its high-volatile spirit had been used up and it had to make do with “Pool.” We now had to think of ourselves, for 4 p.m. was zero-hour, so we pressed on, the old Panhard et Levassor going great guns on all four. We encountered Moss still pushing his Crestmobile, Fotheringham-Parker’s 1899 Century Forecar in distress and just before the Pylons even came to rest ourselves, on account of a herd of cows, a policeman on a bicycle calling out “hard luck!” But soon we were away once more and, thanks to Panhard design and construction (advert.) and Geoffrey Frank’s willing crew (the writer must be excluded as doing nothing to help beyond replacing the petrol tank cap after the refill!) we checked in at approximately 3.35 p.m. Thereafter it was a question of praying for Sears and Berry in the Lutzmann, employing the Bradford as a maid of all work (which it revels in) between garage, hotels and the tea pavilion and so home and, eventually, to bed — with another memorable and well-organised Brighton to chalk-up. — W. B.
Of the 125 starters only twelve failed to complete the course by 4 p.m. Two got to Brighton just afterwards, while Justesen’s 1901 James and Browne and Eyre’s Napier were disqualified for being too early at checks. The remaining 111 got a very well-deserved R.A.C. medal. The unfortunates were: —
Ford/Burton (1896 Benz), Berry/Sears (1895 Lutzmann), Smith (1898 Star), Major Gardiner (1899 Locomobile), Moss (1900 Crestmobile), Miss Tanner (1900 de Dion), Powys-Lybbe (1900 F.l .A.T.), Dunham (1901 Corre), Goodall (1901 Royal Enfield), Mills/Jackman (1902 Oldsmobile), Humphries (1904 Humber Tandem), the Reeces (1904 Wolseley).