The "Daily Express" / M.C.C. National Rally

The popularity of rallies was nicely portrayed by the entry of 452 cars which the M.C.C. received for the national event it organises annually – this year from November 11th to 14th – for the Daily Express.

From seven starting points about the British Isles competitors converged on Harrogate and then followed a common  route to the finish at hospitable Hastings. The total mileage was about 1,200 and four tests had to be taken en route, with another set at Hastings, where much public road was devoted to these manoeuvres. The general opinion was that the Rally was excellently constituted, for the tests broke any boredom in observing the time clocks, and the weather, gale and driving rain with floods in places, added to the severity without the hazards of ice and snow. There were, however, some grumbles, even potential protests, that some of the tests were conducted too light-heartedly by marshals not fully conversant with the regulations. A good point was that the cars were divided into Production, Modified Production, and Specials Classes, with additional capacity and open and closed divisions, 18 in all.

A Concours d’Elegance and ball occupied the Saturday following the Rally.

For the Rally only entry fees brought in £2,700, and there were cash prizes of £420.

To see how modern cars tackled Bwlch-y-Groes, that famous Welsh Pass near Dolgelley which the small cars of 1924 were made to climb twice in a week during the Six Days’ Trial, we drove almost non-stop from London in the MOTOR SPORT Type 35 Frazer-Nash- B.M.W. The Pass was shrouded in rain, but its surface has been neatly tarred and the horror of its 2,600 yards of boulder strewn 1 in 7 gradient largely eliminated. Even so, the moderns,  saloons with heaters whirring and sports cars with hoods and side curtains erect, came up slowly, a Sunbeam Alpine pausing momentarily near the top. Local, very tough, motor-cycle club members and a sporting padre were operating the stop-and-restart test at the summit, and wishing the Pass could have been taken the other way, when a right-hand hairpin on a steeper gradient would have constituted a real test. As it was, few cars failed, but we noticed Hughes do so in his Wolseley 4/44. Mrs. Baker kept her headlamps blazing as Gore’s M.G. made fast work of it, her M.G. being only a shade less effective.

In the teeming rain and gale it was impossible to take notes and the Editorial memory is ageing too rapidly to memorise safely the individual performances of 450 drivers, apart from which, while they were mostly snugly ensconced, we, like the marshals, were drenched nearly to the skin.

Prudence therefore suggested a fast run home, along the excellent roads back to Gloucester and beyond, blotted only by the exceptionally un-level level-crossing at Leominster. An excellent dinner at the Craven Arms (at Craven Arms !) somewhat restored circulation and we duly arrived in not too bad fettle at Hastings.

Here the main attraction was the hill-test. In this, a driver had to start on a quite severe gradient, wet in the morning, turn into a side road, reverse out and restart to ascend the hill.

Most of the Ford Consuls and Zephyrs suffered from bad wheel-spin and juddering back axles, and the Morris Minors lacked power. In making a report on those performances observed, the writer is fully conscious of how difficult it is to be fair in print, remembering the big variety of cars which competed and how familiarity in observing such a long event (7 1/2 hours of it) can warp the reporter’s judgment. What follows is put down in good faith and represents this test as an experienced onlooker saw it. Incidentally, wouldn’t it be a good thing if we Pressmen were made to do the tests with the competitors as spectators before being allowed to report them ?

And next year we hope to be able to book a room overlooking the test and have our meals served while reporting it – on this occasion two sandwiches kindly contributed by one of the officials undoubtedly saved the writer’s life, for that dinner of the night before seemed a long way away !

The first car we saw on the hill was Marsh’s Healey, which was very well handled but its time spoilt by wheel-spin. Stirling’s Sunbeam-Talbot, horn blowing, very nearly hit the pylon in reversing, Baines (Sunbeam-Talbot) was neat, but Carrick got completely foxed as to direction in his Ford Zephyr. Miss Quarmby started to overshoot, realised her mistake and reversed very rapidly in her Sunbeam-Talbot Mk. IIA. F. G. Davis and his wife, in bobble hats, went through splendidly in an Austin Healey 100, and C. Tyrer, cigarette in mouth, likewise, in a jaguar XK120, his passenger sitting well up to direct him if need be.

Wood’s Allard saloon was slow but very neat, obviously more intent on not incurring the penalty of exceeding 30 seconds for the test than setting up a record time.

Major Osborne, timed by his rear-seat passenger, took his Mk.VII Jaguar saloon through in impeccable fashion, and Juckes’ XK120 Jaguar was handled exceedingly well in a determided manner after initial wheel-spin.

Taylor’s Armstrong-Siddeley Sapphire and Boyle’s Mk.V Jaguar both started slowly up the gradient but were steady performers. Lt. Johnson (Allard) looked worried in swinging into the side road between pylon and lamp-post but did it satisfactorily, Tyldesley was only fair, crunching in his Austin’s cogs, and Hartley’s Jaguar was slow in climbing and restarting.

Smith found his o.h.v. Morris Minor tricky to get started and his very good effort was spoilt by excessive wheel-spin. Galt’s s.v. Morris Minor was in much the same difficulty and went the wrong way into the bargain.

Claybourn’s TC M.G. was fast, reverse being crashed in, but it nearly touched the pylon – which, amazingly, survived to the bitter end ! – in going forward. Both Holt and Shaw in 1 1/4-litre M.G.s, white positioning lines painted on their wings, went very well. R. E. Holt suffering initial wheel-spin, Shaw puffing his pipe; he smacked in reverse and made a tremendous run. G. R. Holt. hardly got his M.G. of this team away at all, due to spin, blew his horn while reversing, and was slow.

J. H. Ray took the unorthodox course of reversing into the side road in his Morgan Plus Four and claimed he had passed the pylon correctly as laid down in the rules. The officials said otherwise but he appeared to “have something” and was arranging for photographic evidence. But, his passenger appeared not to have been told of his intention to take the test in his own way ! J. A. Stewart’s M.G. Midget with J2-type wings was driven exceedingly well on a grand run. Whitley’s Ford Zephyr juddered its way up, being slow, also, to restart, and Miss Newton blipped her XK120 Jaguar’s throttle to kill wheel-spin, a slight untidiness in handling being exeusable as she was fast, exhaust note truly fruity. Greaves invented a test of his own, turning his XK120 in the side road instead of reversing out, but we must say he did it very slickly. Exceptionally polished was Cunningham in another XK120, especially his sensible stifling of wheel-spin in restarting.

Kirman handled his old-style Humber Snipe very well for such a large car, but was just outside the 30-sec. limit. D. G. Scott experienced fearful wheel-spin in his Mk.VII Jaguar besides having two bites at reversing, Crump’s Ford V8 engined Atalanta Special, carrying its usual complement of three bobble-hatted occupants, he in the rear seat bouncing to aid wheel grip, slid bodily backwards after the reverse and got much wheel-spin. But Dr. Hardman, although said not to have his usual Dellow, was simply tremendous, using the long outside hand-brake to slide the tail prior to reversing. He clocked 21 sec., and Mrs. Hardman looked confident and calm beside him. (A good average time was about 28 sec.)

In contrast, Whiteley’s Sunbeam-Talbot was rather slow, Woffinden very cautious in an aged Ford Prefect, but both Jameson’s TA M.G. and Jarrett’s H.R.G. were outstanding, the former reversing at speed, the latter using wheel-spin to place his car’s back wheels for the reverse.

Lewis’ Austin A90 Atlantic all but set its tyres on fire with spin, King’s TD M.G. was excellent, Tushingham’s TD M.G. showed no fireworks. Gibson (Hillman Minx) was apt to be too hurried, crashing the cogs, and Rayner’s Austin A40 Sports, hood up, did a steady run. Lord, in a Triumph Mayflower, had exactly the right idea, J. R. Smith in a Jupiter, hood up, made a lot of noise and spin, while Tew’s Jupiter also gave evidence of being too light at the back.

This hill-test was revealing in respect of weight distribution and awkward gear-changes, steering-column stalks showing up badly in many cases, while there were those who thought that wire-laced tyre treads caused the judder of Ford back wheels.

James’ M.G., passenger lying on the back seat, was good. Johnson got away slowly and rolled through in his Ford Consul. Pearce’s Healey Silverstone was good except for early wheel-spin. Thompson spoilt an effective run in finding his way about the gear gate of his accessory-bedecked, near-vintage Alvis Silver Eagle, the old car itself never faltering, and Blair’s Morgan Plus Four was outstandingly good. Yarrington commenced well but took an incorrect route in his Morgan, Phipps was excellent if flustered in his car of this make, but Copeland’s Le Mans Replica Frazer-Nash was not as impressive as expected, being high-geared, almost muffing the restart. Douglas’ left-hand-drive Riley was also dreadfully slow, McLaughlin’s Austin was clumsily driven, stalling in reverse, but Kent-Phillips’ old Hudson Terraplane, “Bathroom” written in the dust on its vast rear panel, wasn’t at all bad.

Warbreck-Howell’s Vanguard performed with gear crunch and spin, and in spite of a passenger in the back Arbuckle’s Ford Zephyr juddered so much it almost failed on the straight ascent.

Richards spoilt a fast reverse by a long pause before restarting his Austin A70 (gear-change ?) as did Anton in a Mk.IIA SunbeamTalbot. Then came a splendid run with appropriate smell of scorching rubber by Moore’s Morgan Plus Four. Whatmough was another whose time was lengthened by a long pause before restarting his Sunheam-Talbot. Sanders was poor with a Sunbeam-Talbot with no official number boards, its big-ends sounding loose, while Brown in a similar car seemed also to have no oil on these vital surfaces and, after making an S-bend of his own, had three noisy attempts at engaging gear. Read’s Ford Zephyr emphasised the fearful rear wheel judder and spin these cars can suffer uphill, Gibson braked for the turn in his Bristol and was cautious, Hooper’s Sunbeam-Talbot went the wrong way, and Armitage was clumsy with the Armstrong-Siddeley. Excellent in every way was the run of Brown’s Vanguard, no spin spoiling its restart, perhaps because it carried a crew of four. But an odd noise emanated from a front-wheel hub.

Miss Sunley (Sunbeam-Talbot) hadn’t profited from the Daily Express drawings showing how the test should be taken, Hadley (Riley) was a thought too cautious, but Chandler’s Vauxhall Velox, bowing and curtseying on its soft springs, made a fine job of it, sans fireworks.

Walker, in funny hat, stopped his Austin A90 Atlantic too soon but was good thereafter, Sharp and passenger, in spite of bobble hats, did it all wrong in a Healey, Lloyd-Davies was good in spite of bad spin in a Sunbeam Alpine, and Hall took his Allard saloon through very nicely, reversing close in to the pylon.

Wakefield’s handling of his Austin A90 would have been outstanding and was very good in spite of a tussle to get reverse gear.

West in an old Jaguar saloon took it slowly to an ominous clonking from the transmission, waving to indicate that he dare not use any power.

Lucas (Jaguar) was extremely neat, Done (Standard Eight) outstanding although rolling back, and Miss Bratt in a muddy Mk.II TD M.G. was also excellent. Godsmark did it very nicely in his M.G., Nancy Mitchell (her bobble hat suits her) managed to avoid the usual Zephyr body judder, and killed wheel-spin quickly in restarting, on a very nice run.

Clarkson’s Morgan displayed great acceleration but reversed up a kerb, Roberts’ Zephyr was fast, but juddered and spun, D. O’M. Taylor, smoking a cigarette, found his XK120 Jaguar a handful but was fast, and then Ken Rawlings in “Buttercup” (entered officially as a Standard Vanguard !) was spectacularly the best yet, in 18.4 sec. Walker, in a Healey, was quiet and neat, Stanforth the same in a Series E Morris Minor, Fisher lit the fireworks with a new Standard Eight, Freeman (M.G.) was both good and very neat, Capt. Greenhalgh (M.G. TD Mk.II), going close to the pylon, was very fast, blipping his throttle, if a bit untidy, Gibson started in the wrong manner but determinedly found the right route, if the wrong time in his M.G. wearing its CD plaque, Edwards was steady in his Javelin, Marshall’s Morris-Oxford went the wrong way and was very slow as well. Taylor’s 203 Peugeot, crunched gears apart, was neat, the brakes of Huntridge’s Austin A40 squeaked and he drove untidily, and Parsons put up a dreadful exhibition, both by going entirely the wrong way and returning down the hill in his old Austin 12/4 and carrying a notice. “Lula Bell,” on its front bumper. Ruggles failed to reverse far enough at first in his Austin A40, Best and Wilmott were excellent, in Hillman Minx and new Standard Eight, respectively, Leggett (Rover) neat, and Risk (Zephyr) very rapid. Steer’s Triumph Renown rolled backwards, Miss Ozanne (Sunbeam-Talbot) seems to need driving lessons, Baker (Rover) didn’t understand the test, Johnson (Sunbeam-Talbot) was painfully slow, butl Adams in a sister car was fast, Bartlett (Zephyr) reversed cautiously, Salz (Zephyr) came in wrong side of the pylon. Holmes (Sunbeam-Talbot) correctly and fast, as did Pell (Jaguar XK120), who then lost time discussing his next move with his passenger.

Pay handled his Austin Sheerline well, losing time after reversing however, white-overalled Vivian (Jaguar Mk.VII) was fast but hesitant. Burke (Jaguar Mk.V) went straight up without trying, Dennis Dent crunched his Jaguar’s gears and ran back, but Shand did a very excellent run in his Jaguar XK120, although hesitating momentarily on the restart. Nasty noises followed the jumping out of cog of Morley’s Austin A90, Cliff Davis, disguised in a hat was exceptionally good, if brutal to the cogs, in a new A.C. Ace, Todd punished his Sumbeam-Talbot similarly after reversing, and so did Perring (Sunbeam-Talbot) on a wild, fast run. Harris (Morris Minor) was steady, Sargood (s.v. Morris Minor) slow, lacking power, but very polished, and excellent runs were put up by Trigg (Hillman Minx), Gordon (Jupiter), Masefield-Baker (Jowett), Hughes (Hillman Minx), Hughesman (Sunbeam-Talbot), Defty (Bristol), Mainwaring (Sunbeam-Talbot), Barnsfield (Sunbeam-Talbot), Watkins (SunbeamTalbot), Miss Neil (Morgan Plus Four) and Miss Walker (Sunbeam-Talbot). Smedley’s Mk.VI Bentley made a very dubious restart, Mather took the wrong course, and McGrady (s.v. Morris Minor) was neat but seemed to work hard. Gill (Hillman Minx) came out the wrong way from the side street, Williamson’s Riley was good, Renwick crunched the cogs of his Hillman, and Walsh (Javelin) even more so, although he was fast.

Dr. Taylor was leisurely in restarting his Jowett Javelin, Mrs. Brinkman almost reversed into the wall in her Austin A90, restarting badly. Milton (Riley) didn’t hurry, Sayers (Hillman) ran back on the hill and made a very poor get-away, Lt.-Col. Saunders in a CD Hillman Minx hadn’t memorised the route, Miss Burt (Jowett Javelin), with Miss Pike-Rogers of the Bugatti O.C. as passenger, almost smote the wall but drove well, Kingwell (Austin A40) crashed his gears, Tracey (Morris-Oxford) was steady, White (Vanguard) was slow, Parham handled his Bristol with consummate neatness, as well as being very rapid, Day went the wrong way and then stalled his Sunbeam-Talbot uphill. Judd (Ford Zephyr) was fast if not tidy, Bowdale churned his Riley’s gears, Potter stalled the engine of his Sunbeam-Talbot and it didn’t want to restart, Sawdon (Ford Zephyr) didn’t know the correct route, Alston’s A.C. tended to run backwards, Mrs. Foreman (Sunbeam-Talbot 90 Mk.II) could have driven more neatly, Holland (Sunbeam-Talbot) flexed a front tyre as he locked over while reversing, Lanz (Sunbeam-Talbot) emulated him, Richards (Sunbeam-Talbot) monnted the kerb, Griffith (Sunbeam-Talbot 90 Mk.II) was steady and neat, and Slocombe (Bristol) had a damaged off-side front wing, someone suggested because he couldn’t resist looking at his blonde girl passenger, and he was slow.

Next, a short look at the downhill braking test, where many cars lost marks for either rolling forward before the lighthearted officials had measured the stopping distance, or because, stopping exactly on the line, they were told to continue over it. In this test Maunder’s old Hudson Terraplane surprised us by the power of its anchors, Milner’s Sunbeam-Talbot slid on locked, smoking tyres, a new Standard Eight found stopping difficult and Fox (Allard) was another who seemed to possess poor brakes.

A fellow journalist had conveyed us there and our tired condition was not the sole reason for remarking on the comfort of the hammock seats in his 2 c.v. Citroën. We finally set off for home, getting almost irrevocably lost in that part of the country which isolates Surrey from Hampshire in the neighbourhood of Guildford. And as if to remind us that this was Friday the 13th the Morgan got back on the last gasp of ESSO Extra and a deflating rear Dunlop ! – W.B.


1st: F. Downs and W. H. Bartley (Sunbeam-Talbot).

2nd: R. K. N. Clarkson and C. C. Wells (Morgan Plus Four Special coupé).

3rd: H. C. Roberts an Mrs. Roberts (Ford Zephyr).

Ladies’ Cup: Miss A. I. C. Neil and Miss C. M. S. Neil (Morgan Plus Four)