? I OWNED CARS I HAVE
REMEMBER the Erie-Campbell ? That was the first car I ever owned. Where they got the “Eric ” from I don’t know, but Campbell, as a matter of interest, was the second Christian name of Capt. Macklin (later Sir Noel), who founded the marque and was later to give as the Invieta and the Railton. As regards detail, I can’t claim to have any very clear recollections of the Eric-Campbell. With its aluminium body, general spideriness and taper tail, it typified the small sports car of the immediate post-Kaiserwar era. I owned mine when I was up at Cambridge, following demobilisation from the Guards, but soon replaced it by the 11-litre Speed Model Hillman which gave me entry into competition work.
The Hillman is also remembered with affection as being the first of the many ears Of mine on which Amherst Villiers, later widely celebrated in connection with his work on my Vauxhall Villiers and the late Tint ‘firkin’s. blower Bentleys, expressed his genius as a timer. Amherst and I had been at school together, and it was while we were both at Cambridge Butt I acquired and he tuned the, Hillman. As delivered. the Speed Model would show 56 m.p.h. in top gear—and 60 in
second By the time Amherst had finished experimenting with the carburation, polishingthe head and ports, fitting stronger valve springs, raising the compression and, in fact, going through all the recognised hotting-up processes (plus perhaps a few not generally recognised, but certainly valuable), the car had a maximum of over 70 m.p.h., and greatly improved acceleration. Also, incidentally, the note from its large outside copper exhaust had gained substantially in plumpower.
The Hillman’s main function in life, of course, both at Cambridge and later when I was based at Glastonbury, Somerset, learning the wool business, was day-to-day transport on the road. but. it is natural that I should remember the car best for its sprint perfornumees, particularly as this Hillman, uniquely so far as I am concerned, made f.t.d. the very first time it ran against the clock. That was in the Inter-Varsity hillclimb of 1020 at Aston Clinton, which Cambridge U.A.C. won. Later, when the Hillman people came to recognise the modest merit of the hill-climb exploits of this basically standard. amateur owned and tuned car, they were kind enough to subsidise me with special bits and pieces east off by George Bedford, their works driver. And thus began a long and very pleasant association with the marque !lithium, destined to flourish right up to, and into, Rootes Group days. With the aid of the ex-works bits and Pieces, the old Speed Model was finally
urged up to a maximum of over 80 m.p.h. In addition to making f.t.d., as already related, at t he first time of asking, the car
also won its first Brooklands race—which was may first Brooklands race too–and ran second the same afternoon in its second Track event. Much has already appeared in print concerning may two ” Brescia ” Bugattis, ” Cordon Rouge ” and ” Cordon Bleu,” and although it. is true that the ” Brescia ” was turned out as a full road car, these particular Bugs, are best remembered for their racing exploits ; they thus
“Cars I Have Owned” originated in MOTOR SPORT during the war and over fifty articles under this heading were published. So many readers have pressed us to resume them that we have decided to ask well-known personalities to contribute their experiences, which we shall Include from time to time as space permits. Number one in this new series is by Raymond Mays, who, as the famous British racing driver responsible for the B.R.M., needs no
come on the border line of eligilibity for this memoir and I shall be appropriately brief regarding them. ” Cordon Rouge,” it, may be recalled, was one of the first batch of three lift. 5 in.wheelbase ” Breseias ” to be. imported into this country ; Leon Cushman, works driver for Bugatti, had one, Eddie Hall another and myself the third. From the ” road ” point of view the most interesting thing about my Bugatti operations was the method adopted for giving a quick switch over front touring to racing trim itvieeverst (apart, that is, from such
and replacing wings, silencer, etc.).
The fuel used for racing was the alcoholie R.D.2, which., however, was highly expensive and thus out of the question for the journeys to and from hill-climb venues. We therefore had the tank compartmented, the main reservoir being for ordinary )1(!tro1 and the secondary one for R.1).2 ; two separate pipelines were of course rigged up to the carburetter. As regards the engine, we made up an 8-mm. thick compression plate in a tough aluminium alloy and divided it centrally along its axis. The block with its integral head being detachable at the base of the barrels, it was thus only a question, on arrival at the scene of action, of slackening off the holding-down bolts, whipping out the compression plate, taking up the adjustment of’ the vertical drive to the o.h. camshaft and turning the two-way fuel tap into the ” aleclhol ” position and fitting the appropriate carburetter jets. When the meeting was over we simply repeated the process in reverse. This simple device worked well and was among the small brainwaves which impressed the late Ettore Bugatti when, at his invitation, Amherst Villiers and I visited him at the Molsheim works in the winter of 1923 and demonstrated ” Cordon Rouge ” in his all-but royal presence It was’ during this period that I owned my first saloon car, which was also the only American vehicle I have ever possessed. This machine, one of the square. bodied, six;eylinder Hudson Essex ” coaches ” (how well that term was chosen !) did yeoman service as a tender to the brilliant ” Brescias,” and despite its unpretentious origins did not escape our passion for hotting-up anything and everything that passed through our hands. On discovering that the cylinder bore of the ” Brescia ” was identical, by
.a remarkable coiiwidence, with the Hudson’s, we fitted the latter with a set of Bug, pistons, t hus raising the compression considerably, and added a highratio back axle to exploit, the non-st andard power. It would surprise me if it taster Essex ” coaeh ” ever ran on Unit islt roads –or perlutps any roads. -and some quite astonishing averages were put up en
route to the meet it or the day. During 1925, while we were developing
and racing I he sni>erriallgt’d AC., I used a 2-litre sports two-seater A.C. on the road ; this was the property of the makers and thus strict ly speaking is out of order in an art iele specifying personal ownership, lint I W011iti like to duck under the editorial guard to record that that. sports A.C. Wits it I Wallt iftillv made and designed little job, years ahead of its time. The year 1927 brought a new 2-litre Lagonda to the 13ourne garage. I had by now come 1.(1 the realisation Ilea the. special requirements of a racing driver. and also those of a fairly average businessman—which I was An. probably 300 days
year–demand a closed car, and this Lagonda carried L fabric saloon body. Since the catty ‘twent ies I have actually owned only two op-ti cars. Although perhaps on the heavy side for its engine power, the 2-litre 1.agonda was an extremely staunch mai willing perAirmer, and, by arrangement. with I:eller:LI Metcalfe, then the head of the Staines firm, it served as a guinea pig for a number of experiments thought out by Amherst and myself. By now thoroughly in love with Lagondas as is marque. I successfully moved heaven and earth to meet the cost of changing to one of the new :HUNsixes which were introduced at the 19211 Motor Show. In fact, the Fabric sahoon I acquired, finished in the special midnight blue that I have so often favoured sinee. was the actual Show car. Incomparably smoother than its immediate predevessor, as one would expect, this car was true ” vintage ” in the best as well as definitive senses. and gave me just the requisite combination of refitiement and appetite
fir hard work in the service of both racing and wool enterprises.
It need be no secret that the Ownership a such a patrician vehicle was really beyond my means, lad then, if’ it comes to that, tit) has been that )wrturship of many tine oars owned since. it being my experience that, in a curb MS sort of way, this habit of ” driving beyond one’s bank balance “adds extra zest to one’s motoring (along with the extra anxiety !). After the Lagondas came the two 4litre Invietas, sharing the roles of road transport and racing cars. I have those big, low-slung Invictas to thank for some of -the most thrilling. if not exactly the most comfortaffle, n»ul journeys it F a lifetime. The push-roil
engines were of course rough by 1950 standards, !nit Iliey possessed the sovereign virtue of allowing almost limitless scope Pr development beyond the output. s (trigintilly envisaged. One of them I drove really large roan mileages in racing trim, on alcohol fuel, giving a litaXiMUtti speed of over 120 m.p.h., and enabling long maimissolltills to be zoomed over at the century. •I’lte ultra-low centre of gravity gave outstamling cornering properties up to all advanced point, after which, due to the unusual disposition of the main weight masses, the back end was apt to ” break away ” with somewhat startling abruptness. Next canto a succession or Riles’s, occupying almost the whole of’ the early ‘thirties era. The first two were saloon ” Nines,” one fabric, the second coachbuilt. Then followed a brace of 11-litre sixes. one with a single carburetter engine, the other with t riple carburetters. The latter, my last representative. ()I the mrtopo. on which. the E.R.A. desigo was based. was special in a number of ways. Black-finished, with ebony eggshell instrument board and fillet s, it had deep saxe-blue apiarist cry and chromiumplated knock-on wheels with special Elektron brake drums completely filling the wheels. In any company, that car was a one-off Concours d’Elegance, and its admirers were legion. Finally, its engine was taken out and replaced -by an E.R.A. unit with the blower pressure slightly reduced, and in that form it would see 105 m.p.h. But, being standard in outward appearance, the surprises it gave optimistic challengers on the road were something to sect By’ way of general reinforcement to take care of the enormously enhanced power, we added extra cross-braeing to the front of the frame and stiffened tip the shock-ab
sorbers ; the front end, however, was a little inclined to dither at really high speeds. Peter Berthon and I (he eventually became the E.R.A.-Riley’s owner) took
it to Switzerland for the winter sports in early ’35, and even in Swiss tern7 peratures at the year’s coldest season the -engine would invariably start at a touch of the button.
All told, I reckon that my various Rileys gave me over 200,000 miles of deeply satisfying motoring. I think I have derived more happiness Irons driving Bentley ears made by Rolls Royce, than from any ot lien experience in life; the word happiness is deliberately chosen—-” pleasure ” W0111(111.1. tb illStiee
to the emotion. The naalertt !tent Icy is a work of art with unsurpassed utilitarian qualities. It has a sophistication that not even the cleverest vounterfeiter could hope to simulate. CTL 17, the Mark VI pressed-Steel saloon, now occupying my garage at Bourne, is the tenth Rolls-built Bentley I have operated. The first, BUV 932, Was a 1933 31-litre. The four other pre war cars were all 41-litre chassis mounting
standard coach-built saloon bodies, No. 4 has overdrive transmission. Tito tilt-ti did not act tally belong to Inc but was lent, by the makers ; this car, the delectable I )X11 222, carried Ken Well:till s It I anti I thousands of arduous miles in
South Africa when we raced a works E.R.A. there during the winter of 1937/8. Purely :(s a matter of business prestige (half, or sometimes more than half, of my passenger ears’ lives are spent in the
service of the family wool-brokerage firm) changes were made before the war at roughly twelve-month intervals, in which. period it was usual to score up between 30,000 and 60,000 miles:. I never disposed of a !tent ley without a pang. and never licemise it showed the
slightest symptom of resenting an almost Tilt varying diet of what, in any other eontext could only be called over-driving. You (stoma, of course, over-drive a I ten tley. I took delivery of Bentley No. 0, a 41-litre Alark VI wit Ii !he standard pressed-sleel saloon body, in February, 1 9•17. Between that date and May. 1948. WI en the first of four, all retaining the cm 17 number, supplanted it, BCT knocked up about. 35,000 miles. alai it tug other distinctions was ” sampled ” by more racing oelebrities than II should think) any other example or the marque before or since. including the late and much lamented Raymond Sommer, Louis Chiron, Signor Guidotti. A Ira’s raving chief-and the late Achille Varzi and Count Trossi. As I was able to report III an article in the Motor at the lilac (this car, incidentally, was used by tlw Motor for its official road-test ),
BCT 32 fetched veritable ditityratrffis of praise front all these famous Men. As implied earlier in this paragraph, the registration number CLT IT has been permanently earmarked for my suceessive Bentleys.
One could write a book on this Bentley tensome. In fact, looking back it is diflieult to select particular perharnances for special mention, so phenomenally high has been the general standard Of the ears’ behaviour. As many of MOTOR Seoul readers will know, it is my custom, and has been since 1935, to use the current, Bentley saloon for striking tip intimate pre-practice acquaint mince with the various road circuits over which I am due to race, It would understate the ease to say that the Bentley is the best bet for these ” undress rehearsals ” ;sit far as I ittn concerned it is the only bet..
Such rehearsals demand a very eXacting amalgam of qualities in a car. Certain of the Rent ley’s rivals no doubt. possess some of these traits, but I know of ii41 other morgue that packs Haan all into one wheelbase. Lel tae tot, Bumf. up.
Naturally-, yon have to have speed. You can’t have racing car speed ill vehicle designed to carry four or more adults in the height of luxury. but With a 41-litre Bentley under you you can have a quickly readied century anyway, which is enough for getting the feel of all but. the fastest sections of many onuses.
Seeond, you 1111.1St have contiellability upproximatingelosely to racing standards, and that, pre-eminently, the modern Ilentley does give. Extraordinary as it, may sound, bearing in mind the supptiseilly Adverse effect, on cornering stability of a closed car’s ” top-hamper,” II is 111•VertlIttleSs a fact that in cortierina juiwer the saloon Betitley is the equal of any Of the pre-E-type KILA.s, except, when the corner in question is one which one would delilterately power-slide. Third. you must have the utmost comfort, not merely iii the static sense, but as regards long-term resistance to fatigue. Not else on wheels, within my pretty catholic experience, matches the Mark VI on this count. Make a mental list of’ the world’s line automohdes—French., Italian. American, anythingand ask yourself this simple question : Could I, after driving ti00 miles or more front home base to race venue, cruising at eighties and nineties for hours at a streleh in the process, eould I willingly and zestfully set myself, the satin’ evening, to thrash the same car around a completely unfamiliar risol circuit for further hours at
stretell 1′ Yes, and enkty it. To say tluit I have done this, and hope to do it again, implies no personal boast ; any fit and lutbitually fast driver could do it, and go to bed without, an ache in his body, on any saloon Bentley that had Rolls-Royce eraftsmanslap behind it. Fourth, you must have silence, !wean:iv authority is liable to frown on these undress rehearsals, and fostering the legend of the ” Mad Eludeeshis no part, of your ambition. Well. nothing is quieter, nothing is less obtrusive than the Bentley. It doesn’t even draw attention te itself with the phoney streamline beloved in a hemisphere that shall be nameless, it scorns allegedly pretty bulges am! disdahtS ettrome-slashed thites and gimmicks nod ornamentations. A speeding Bentley earns a ” Pass, friend where many a rival would set the gen
darme’s notebook-hand plunging poeketwards. Fifth and last, but far from least, you must Itave a car which is utterly reliable
and inhospitable to ” I have said already that you cannot over-drive a modern Bentley, and, that statement needs no qualification. The engine is so superbly balanced that an absent-minded driver will often remain in third iii the mistaken belief that. he is already itt top. Whatever else they give me for an epitaph. it. won’t. be ” lie was kind to engines,”yet if I were a saboteur, I wouldn’t know how to burst a Benttey engine, short of’ dropping pebbles through I he plug holes. Not, of course, that the .niarque’s incredible ruggedness stops at the pincer unit. The transmission, too, Likes untold hardships onflinehingly, arid the body—Lnore especially this current’ sleet one–resists rat le development long after more garrulous tamt emporaries lutve found little elusive voices. Old 932, the original 3-litre, soon proved to its the maryac’s unique talent for racing rehearsals. In fact, I have always given that. car a large share of the credit for my E.R.A.’s victory in the 1A-lit-re Eiffel race at the Nurburg Ring in 1935. This was my first visit le the It and, the Ring being notoriously Europe’s harclest-to-)Oarri road course, our expectations of suceesk were
not the brightest. My E. It., A. won becamse her driver—with the aid of Paul I hud-Um, Peter’s brother, who rode in time front passenger seat-was able to pack a normal live seasons’ circuit memorisation into six days. All day, ra. six days in a row, the Bentley was stormed and thrashed round that fantastic 14-mile course. Gfallted we couldhave attempted the immune curriculum on any make of car, but whether we should have finished up it one piece is another question. IL wasn’t merely that. I31.1V 1.132 stood up tit this diabolical ” thraping,” though that in itself was remarkable enough ; not once but it throat tinws Paid Berthmt
and I owed our survival to the Bentley’s genius for covering up the driver’s human errors in what. Was ill effect a game of high-velocily blind nutrt’s buff. (The Nothing; Ring bristles with summits and turns affording zero visibility, where if you make a Wrong guess about ” what corms next.” you are apt to run out of ‘’aterland in a big way. It was in such precincts that the lightning responsiveness of the Bentley’s controls so often averted blood-eltilling prangs). Foreign circuits on which my various Bentleys lutve served their turns in unofficial training include Mitilte Carlo,
(91’114.!„, PCrOl if le, Geneva, Nurburgring, Alla, Nimes, Cape Town, .Johannesburg and East London. The benefit derived from these rehearsals eannot, of colirSe, be computed in figures, but it would surprise tne if. to the average, they were witrth less than 2 seconds per lap ; at Nurlourgring the pay-off would naturally be much better than that. There was a ‘fascination about the oVerdriNT, Intalch wIli011 tempts otte to spewdate ilium the oma that mwh transmission would have on the behaviour of the Mark VI. Personally, witlt ftdl realisation of my own responsibility if the worst should befall-which it never did–I [tatty disregarded the yarning, issued io owners by Bent leys 1.1 trough. the medimo of their aulvertise it before the war, and prior to the overdrive models, tit the effect that full Biro/ tle should not be continuously used iuu the CoutinenCs die-straight autoOhne), and antostrinle. In the overdrive
ou such highways we habitually maintained eruising speeds nearer the century than ninety, while with the normal transmission we would hold eighty-lives and nineties (indicated) for just. as long as the road kept on going st might. Such treatment never induced the smallest trace of roughness ; never once did an engine ” run a lever or continue to rotate without benefit of electricity after being switched off. The great accuracy of ‘tells Boyce fitting standards Was
reflected in an incomparable absence of friction throughout the chassis, this in turn paying dividends in terms of m.p.g. For example—and here I am quoting a carefully kept log, not just speaking from memory—the overdrive job gave 16 m.p.g. when cruised at upwards of eighty and turned 20 m.p.g. when handled more leniently. Considering that this car, in common with all the others, made no concessions to aerOdynaink form, real or supposititious, one Cannot help pondering on the relative values of, on the one hand, optimum friction banishment, and, on the other, wind-cheating body treatment. I’ll take the former—and stay on speaking terms. with rear-seat passengers who like to wear hats I
Satisfactory point-to-point averages by the Mark IV non-overdrive Bentleys which may be mentioned are the following: (1) From the outskirts of Turin to the outskirts of Milan, in the course of a scamper to the Prix de Berne from the Mediterranean seaboard, 91.7 m.p.h. ; (2) the 595 miles from Monte Carlo to Paris, by way of Grenoble, at 56 m.p.h. mean, including hurried outspans for meals and fuel ; Peter Berthon shared the driving with me that time ; (3) here I can’t quote figures, but during the South African migration mentioned earlier, Ken Richardson and I drove the works-owned Mark IV from East London to Cape Town, with Lazio. Hartmann and Mine. Hartmann as passengers, in a time which, we were afterwards told, frazzled the existing record for that town-to-town itinerary. The journey led over appalling surfaces most of the way, and more than once, where the road was even less clearly defined than usual, we momentarily ” lost ” it altogether.
Before dismissing the subject of road averages, the first of the five Mark Vls must take a bow on the strength. of one of the most thrilling and delightful road journeys I ever remember—from Brussels to Nimes, in the South of France, in May, 1947. Driven in turns by Ken Richardson and myself, BCT 82 set a running-time average of 57.7 m.r.h. for the 602 miles ; making no deduction for our meal stops, which aggregated 3 hours 39 minutes, the mean came down to 42.5 m.p.h. [I can well believe this, for in 1988 I drove a pre-overdrive 44-litre Bentley the 702 miles from London to John O’Groats in 18 hr. 58 min., a running time average of 50i m.p.h. and an overall average of 46 m.p.h. with stops for fuel and food, and in 1941 I covered 100 miles on ice-bciund roads in a Mk. VI in under 2 hours.—ED.1
Let no one make the mistake I made and imagine his motoring education complete when he has known and loved the pre-war types of R.R.-built Bentley. The o.h.i.v. Mark VI is so profoundly and fundamentally different from its o.h.v. ante-types that a complete mental reorientation is necessary when switching from the old to the new, and I admit that, due to my own error in trying to apply the Mark IV driving technique to the Mark VI, my grasp of the latter’s fascination did not come instantly. It is only when you take yourself, so to speak, behind the designer’s mind, and realise that he has deliberately outhopped the march of time in creating a piece of machinery which, in one swoop, reduces its demands upon the driver’s mental and physical capacities by 50 per cent. that you find yourself fully ” sold ” on this concept of the high-performance automobile. In a sentence, the Mark VI does all that the Mark IV would ever do —more in most respects—without it much mattering whether the driver brings skill and finesse to his job or not. If he does, well and good . . . certainly his Bentley motoring will not be a whit less zestful in 1950 than it was in ’38. Other things being equal—terrain, weather and suchlikea given driver, as I have proved to my own satisfaction again and again, will get from A to B more rapidly on the post-war car than the pm-war; and this superiority is not wholly a measure of comparative acceleration, speed and braking figures, although by that token it deserves to go on record that no passenger car I have ever driven has braking to compare with my current
Mark VI; here indeed is the proverbial gnarled fist in a silken glove, as one would expect when R.R.’s famed servo motor enters into matrimony with the finest and costliest brake gear that ever crossed the Lockheed and Girling portals. No, apart from those tangibles there are other, imponderable factors, not less important in the long run, by which I mean the run of 600 miles in the day and more. Where the Mark IV was very good over bad surfaces, the difficulty with its descendant is to know that a bad surface is bad. The technical ” brass ” can prove by geometry and high-powered arithmetic that an independently sprung chassis must be less comerable than a first-rate beam axle layout, but a Mark VI owner needs no letters after his name to demonstrate that he can go round a turn faster with his i.f.s. than he could on the “cart springs” of his ‘thirty-niner Bentley. Don’t ask me why, because I haven’t letters after my name.
The torque characteristics of the current engine, too, are utterly different, of course. One drove the Mark IV like the sports car it was ; if one were in a real hurry one drove it like a racing car, and reaped due benefit from those hundred-times-repeated silken flicks of the change lever. Well, you can do the same on the Mark VI, but you won’t get there any quicker. On short journeys, undertaken perhaps for the sheer love of driving, this accent on indolence can be almost irksome to an enthusiast pilot at first ; it is when upwards of 500 miles have to be crammed into a day that the joy of the new order asserts itself. Frequent gear changing is one of the things which over really long distances, subtly and insidiously piles on the physical and mental fatigue. It is only when relieved of it that the driver notices how, beyond a four-century mileage, he is still hitting nineties with perfect serenity, still leaving his braking late, still going through open corners with his tyre treads a-squeal. Don’t let us despise the creature comforts in our motoring, for that way lies cant and humbug.
Talking of tyres, I would be doing less than justice to the modern Bentley’s Indies if I let it be thought that they erred on the side of noisiness. Tyre construction and performance is a subject which has always specially interested me and, after prolonged experience of most of the world’s leading makes, I can say that I have never met the equal of Indian for cornering power, silence and wearing qualities. Under lateral stresses which, with a lesser breed of cover, would result in the tyres being literally torn from their rims, the Indies have never let me down, never skidded without deliberate and irresistible compulsion, and never punctured. For convenience, I have lumped all ten of my Bentleys together in this reminiscence, but this has involved a slight departure from chronological sequence inasmuch as, in 1937, the contemporary Bentley had a smaller stablemate in the form of a Standard Twelve saloon. ” Hack ” is a term sometimes used in a semi-contemptuous sense, and the Standard did in fact serve the Bourne stable as a hack. A Continued on page 610