The M.C.C. National Rally (Nov. 10th-13th)

Author

W.B.

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64

Mk. VII Jaguar Driven by E. R. Parsons and Mrs. J. G. M. Vann Wins Arduous Event. Morgan Plus Four and Triumph TR2 Finish Second and Third.

This year’s M.C.C. Rally, sponsored by Redex, attracted an entry of 385 cars, and was in every way every worthwhile event. The entry (not quite a rally record, for the last London M.C. London Rally had an entry of 401, in spite of which the programme called this “The Biggest Motor Rally”) was sub-divided into capacity classes, as well as into three main categories, Production Touring Cars, Production Sports Cars and Specials and Supercharged Cars of any capacity. In the engine-size sub-divisions all save the up-to-1,000-cc. class were again split into separate classes for open and closed vehicles. The outright winner, who was awarded the main Redex Trophy and £100, was the entrant whose individual performance exceeded by the greatest margin the average marks lost in his or her class, and the second prize of £50 and third prize of £25 were also awarded on this basis. The class awards and other prizes, which included the usual starting-control awards, ladies’ prize, team award, a pre-1930-car award and a trophy for the best M.C.C. member, were based on total marks lost.

The competitors started on November 10th from Manchester, Glasgow, Norwich, Cardiff, Plymouth, Kenilworth and London, to cover individual routes in heavy rain, a blustering gale, and in some cases over flooded roads, to Harrogate. From Harrogate they continued on a common route, of which more anon, to the finish at Hastings, a total mileage of from 1,220 to 1,237 miles depending on the starting point — be it noted, to be covered at an average speed of 30 m.p.h. with no sleep for two nights. In thus reverting to the tougher schedule, route and no-rest aspects the M.C.C. produced a rally well worth driving in and carrying real prestige for the successful drivers and cars.

Leaving Harrogate at night, the cars had to go via Brough, Stanhope, Hexham, Falstone, Hawick, Newcastleton, Kirkoswald, Penrith and Keasden to Chester. From Chester a truly tough section through Wales had to be undertaken, and practice over it had been virtually impossible because the route here had been issued to drivers only a few days before the commencement of the rally.

Leaving London on the Thursday morning, Motor Sport drove down in a Jowett Jupiter and joined the route just before Bwlch-y-Groes — the Jupiter proved an admirable car for the job, its convertible body providing an open car for good visibility when driving fast and for keeping the occupants awake at night, and being extremely comfortable when shut, with the added merit of a hood which is extremely easy to erect or fold, augmented by glass sides windows, which are so superior to detachable sidescreens.

Ascending Bwlch-y-Croes the “wrong way,” as the competitors had to, we stopped to watch and photograph some of the cars taking the test at the summit. Here they had to start with dead engine on a gradient of about 1 in 7, clear a line with their back wheels within 5 sec, and stop astride another line, restarting without rolling back in their own time. The timekeeper was the Rev. K. E. Francis, who with tough members of a local motor-cycle club set up and operate efficiently this decidedly bleak test every year without so much as a visit from an official of the organizing club. Apparently the rally had begun to tell, for a surprisingly large number of engines refused to respond to the starter-motor, although presumably they had the benefit of a good dose of Redex in most cases. Miss Palfrey’s Morgan Plus Four was a bad offender, an M.G. was stationary for 11 sec., Mrs. Lilian Baker protested that she hadn’t heard the signal to go but, given another chance, her Triumph TR2 hesitated for 12 sec., W. Gunson’s Triumph TR2 only just got away in time, L. Banks (Ford Consul) hadn’t a clue, neither T. N. Patterson’s Ford Zephyr nor J. E. Osborne’s Mk. VII Jaguar would start at the first attempt, while E. D. Carrick’s Ford Zephyr stalled and ran backwards. Although W. MacPherson’s Armstrong-Siddeley had all its lights extinguished to aid its battery, four prods on the starter button were needed and 12 sec. taken instead of the five required if failure wasn’t to be recorded. W. W. Lyons’ Ford Zephyr Zodiac ran backwards, to the distress of the driver behind, and recovered 2 sec. outside the time limit. In spite of high revs., Mrs. S. M. Horner contrived to stall her Zodiac, and was 3 sec. outside the limit. Arriving late, C. Murray’s Sunbeam-Talbot got off slowly but was just in time, while J. A. Franchi’s Austin A30 rolled back a bit but was quick enough.

For a long time I. Robertson’s Jowett Jupiter refused to start at all and had to be allowed to cool off, Dr. D. S. Parkin got away all right in his Triumph TR2 but stopped too soon at line C. and after a fierce take off with much wheeispin, Miss Mary Walker’s Triumph failed at line C. Indeed, the restart test just above the timed test seemed to trouble several-sleepy people. For instance. D. J. Morley’s Standard Ten only just got away from line A and then stopped before line C. T. A. Taylor’s Peugeot 203 moved on slowly from his second restart, and R. Stanforth’s Ford Anglia didn’t stop at the second stop line.

In contrast, during our stay at bleak Bwlch, we saw some excellent driving and many cars with lashings of power in hand.

Although high-geared, R. A. Watkinson’s pre-war Frazer-Nash-B.M.W. made a model restart both times.

R. J. Wood-Martin’s TD M.G. sent sparks from its tyres. H. B. Jacoby’s Morgan Plus Four was excellent, Nancy Mitchell in a Triumph TR2 was neat, and J. A. Hall’s TriumphTR2 — what a lot of these excellent little cars there were! — with yellow spotlamps within its radiator cowl and lots of other lamps, was very good.

R. Whiteley’s Triumph TR2 managed it, J. Blumer’s XK120 Jaguar romped away in splendid style, P. W. Strawson’s Triumph TR2, with badge-bar, was neat, R. S. Henson used his Jaguar’s clutch fiercely, Mrs. Florence Barclay, whose 2 ½-litre Riley sounded odd, ran backwards and restarted before being signalled to do so, and J. A. Stewart’s XK120 Jaguar showed fierce contempt for the famous Welsh pass.

L. S. Stross (Jaguar) inquired what was the gradient, G. T. Gibson’s M.G. Magnette saloon was fast in spite of back-axle judder, and G. K. Horner’s Mk.VII Jaguar, lamps protected by stoneguards, perfectly happy.

R. Whitley’s Ford Zephyr was neat, likewise G. A. Askey’s Mk.VII Jaguar, while F. D. Dundas’ Morgan Plus Four thought itself a racer (a very fine get-away!), and H. Galt (Triumph TR2) drove neatly.

Outstandingly good was Miss Annie Neil’s Morgan Plus Four, and A. N. Hewitt (Jaguar) earned a “very good” from the cold, wet onlookers. We hope I. B. Skelly (M.G.) remembered to extinguish his reversing lamp. R. W. Dalglish’s Triumph TR2 got away fast, back axle juddering, J. P. Booth managed satisfactorily in his Ford Zephyr Zodiac, and before trying A. Stross walked up and asked for a full explanation from the marshal. A Citroën and a D.K.W. both restarted in spite of front-wheel drive; although the latter was not exactly effortless.

After some flashlight photography we drove along the Rally route to the Control at the Elan Valley Hotel, where there was ample parking space and a meal could be obtained quickly. The cars had been well spaced out along this winding section with its interesting Welsh corners, round which a fellow journalist impressed us by the cornering ability of his Sunbeam-Talbot.

Hearing that a very choice section lay ahead before Tregaron, called unofficially the “devil’s staircase,” we went to have a look. From Elan Valley we went over a narrow bridge and up a miniature Fingle Bridge and through farmyards and gates, over some very rough tracks where the average must have gone badly astray for everyone, although the Standard Tens of K. D. Evans and S. R. G. Jeffery seemed happy at speed.

Worse was to follow, for beyond Abergwesyn a rough downhill track, sometimes with sheer drops on the near side, effectively tested suspension systems on the descent to the check before the “devil’s
staircase.” Already, ahead of us, a blockage could be observed, although, as the competitors were now widely spaced, this never became particularly tedious.

The lone marshal on the zig-zag climb was troubled because the clueless or those in the smaller cars would fail and hold up those behind. We assured him that in a rally the onus is on rival crews to clear obstructions on the route and the hill, hard-surfaced if slippery, was a perfectly fair test. Beyond lay a gruesome ascent to Tregaron, over a stony, rough and often shelved surface, which, in our opinion, made all the difference to the Rally, lifting it out of the rut of previous events in which the road sections are mainly mild, dull and boring. Mark you, this route is a road, for at the end there is a signpost on it, but only Welshmen would regard it as such.

Small cars like Morris Minors, a Renault 750 (which restarted strongly) and the Standards were not alone in failing with wheelspin on the hill, although that morning the marshal’s young daughter had gone up it quite easily in the family saloon. The Jupiter and various Fords stopped and G. F. Rennoldson’s Citroën Light Fifteen, which had been going well, broke its gearbox and had to be abandoned at the second corner. Heavy rain began to fall and seemed to make the gradient less slippery, so we ascended in the Jupiter, leaving behind the lights of competitors’ headlamp beams as car after car descended cautiously into the valley. On this section of the route we had encountered R. J. Wood-Martin’s TD M.G. Midget damaged at the side of the road near a right-hand fork onto a bridge, but were told that although the car had rolled over the passenger was unhurt and that the driver had been able to walk to the ambulance.

After an eerie and lone descent to Tregaron we followed J. A. Walker’s Austin A90 Atlantic, which by rough calculation seemed to be half an hour late, into the Lampeter Control. We then went through the night to Hastings via London, leaving the competitors with another 319 miles to do, before reaching the seaside resort so familiar to rally drivers.

At Hastings four tests remained to be taken, and cars were also — a good point — inspected for damage to the bodywork, etc. Two of the tests were garaging affairs on the sea-front, where the cars were bombarded by sea waves and shingle at full tide. There was also the downhill brake test and the manoeuvring uphill test. We observed for some time at the latter and offer the following observations, with the proviso that as two persons were permitted to drive each car it is not always certain who was at the wheel in this or the other case, so that in cases of doubt we use the entrant’s name:

The first competitor we saw was H. B. Jacoby (Morgan) but he went the incorrect way. Nancy Mitchell was satisfactory, without fireworks, in her Triumph, R. Whiteley opened with a very fast approach in his wire-wheeled Triumph, and P. W. Strawson spoilt a very good run by stopping his Triumph astride the finishing line instead of going over it for a flying finish. W. Gunson’s Triumph came up slowly and slid under the brakes.

V. Cooper (Triumph) was fast after restarting and Miss P. Needham, whose Porsche showed signs of mild damage, was neat. R. S. Henson, in spite of wire wheels and dual exhaust pipes on his XK120 Jaguar, had difficulty in restarting, finding, as other competitors did, that the slippery-looking surface of the road gave better grip than the more evident unpolished portion. J. A. Stewart, who had retained rear wheel spats on his XK120 Jaguar, was fast, only to stall the engine at the restart.

A. N. Hewitt made a big hash of it in a Jaguar, hood up, while L. S. Stross’ Jaguar rocked on its suspension in a good but untidy run, his wife smiling resignedly throughout. A Lineker was fast, had wheelspin and took the wrong line in his Ford Zephyr, A. J. Higson handled his gaudy Austin A40 neatly, A. H. McGrady let his s.v. Morris Minor roll backwards and restarted slowly (the test had to be completed in 30 sec. to qualify), and then J. H. Mather made a very fast, almost perfect job of it in his little Austin A30. In contrast, I. Banks was neat in his Ford Consul, but slow and hesitant at take-off. J. R. Robinson (Hillman) managed it satisfactorily if not outstandingly.

A. H. Senior (Austin A40) was very good, on a spirited drive, Dr. H. Hutcheon (Ford Zephyr Zodiac) preferred the steady approach, and, notwithstanding snow-tread rear tyres, Lord Carnegie took the wrong route, came back, nearly hit the wall and then restarted badly. G. T. Gibson’s M.G. Magnette saloon, which had paper strips on the body sides to assist placing it in the tests, ran backwards and bilked at restarting, which it did to the accompaniment of back-axle judder. E. O. Carrick, whose Ford Zephyr, like R.Whitley’s sister car, had, for some unaccountable reason, a two-way radio aerial on the roof; he got the car badly placed, it didn’t want to restart and got away very badly. His team-mate was rather better, but clumsy, although snow-grip tyres assisted the take-off.

J. E. Osborne slid his Mk. VII Jaguar on braking, rubbed the kerb when reversing and made a bad restart. G. K. Horner looked exceedingly dangerous in his Mk. VII Jaguar, wheels spinning and engine pinking, while an official Ford Consul failed on the hill alone.

Mrs. S. M. Horner, whose open Ford Zephyr sported two tall radio aerials, made her clutch smell hot but was exceedingly neat, and W. W. Lyons drove his Zephyr Zodiac very well, although having to contend with bad back-axle judder. G. A. Askey brought his Mk. VII Jaguar up carefully, spinning its wheels at the restart I. B. Skelly was fast and very well worth seeing in his M.G., H. Galt seemed to start in the wrong cog, his Triumph TR2 coming up slowly but getting away from line DB with wheels spinning. F. D. Dundas (Morgan Plus Four) was wild but good, blipping the throttle and spinning his wheels. Miss Annie Neil, winner of the Ladies’ Prize in 1953, went the wrong way, although her passenger had signalled for a left turn, and, trying to retrieve the situation, confirmed that women cannot make up their minds! I. Robertson’s Jowett Jupiter was handled neatly but refused to repay such treatment, its off-side back wheel spinning so furiously that from restart to finish the car only just moved. “Too much Redex,” said a wag in the crowd.

R. W. Dalglish made a very fast, good run, wheels spinning, in his Triumph TR2, but the bearded D. G. F. Bain, whose lady passenger showed him the way, stalled his engine and retired when the starter jammed — a case of not enough Redex? Miss Mary Walker stalled her engine after braking but was very fast in her wire-wheeled Triumph TR2 — but, Mary, how do you get away with that disgustingly loud exhaust note?

Dr. R. S. Parkin handled his Triumph clumsily, went the wrong way and got much wheelspin restarting. A. Stross (Austin-Healey) put up a truly commendable run at high speed. During our spell of observing no one hit the centre pylon, but S. D. Nicoll’s little Ford Ten Special nearly did and it was exceedingly slow at restarting. D. J. Morley was good, but almost lost the engine of his Standard Ten in restarting, T. A. Taylor crunched in the gears of his Peugeot 203 and spun his wheels but obviously had plenty of power, and R. Stanforth made no mistakes in handling his naturally staid Ford Anglia Ten. J. J. Blackburn’s Ford didn’t take the test, but R. A. Watkinson’s Frazer-Nash-B.M.W. did and was every bit as faultless as on Bwlch.

P. D. Sapsed got it all wrong as to route in his Vauxhall Velox and was pathetic, whereas F. H. Holmes put up a very clean run in his Sunbeam-Talbot. J. Broomley’s Triumph TR2 made a shocking exhibition of restarting, W. MacPherson’s Armstrong-Siddeley lost time it could ill afford stopping in the wrong places, but J. Watson put up a wild, fast, noisy run in his 1 ½-litre Riley. J. C. Smith (Jaguar) experienced severe wheelspin and back-wheel tramp, W. F. Day’s Sunbeam-Talbot, after crunching cog-swapping, spun its wheels furiously and was slow, Roy Knight’s Renault 750 stalled after braking but was excellent afterwards, and I. F. C. Sinclair stopped his Triumph TR2 too early and also at the timekeeper’s hut, which lost him time.

A. E. Cleghorn (Morgan Plus Four) was really outstanding, D. G. Dixon, in odd headgear and a Jowett Jupiter, wasted many valuable seconds, and whereas. A. J. Hawkins took it slowly, J. M. C. Shand drove excellently, his XK120 Jaguar very fast.

H. D. Wise (Austin-Healey) was good, likewise B. D. S. Ginn, in spite of his Triumph Special spinning its wheels, and S. R. L. Deverell’s blown M.G. was satisfactory without being outstanding.

D. T. S. Edwards lost time by selecting the wrong cog, it seemed, but was very good in his Ford Anglia after this, but E. V. Baker, whose Ford New Anglia rolled and swayed, misjudged his reverse, requiring to roll back before he could clear the centre pylon. Two errors cost Miss Patricia Ozanne time in the Sunbeam-Talbot; she stalled the engine and stopped, incorrectly, at line E.

J. Risk’s Ford Zephyr was noisy. R. Davis very wild and “on the limit” in a Sunbeam Mk. III, which probably explained the damaged radiator grille, G. heaps (Standard Vanguard) took the wrong course throughout while Mrs. Heaps remained entirely blase, but G. A. Lewis (Vauxhall Velox) executed a quite splendid run. A. George in a Sunbeam-Talbot 90 Mk. II blew his horn, crunched his gears, spun his wheels and almost stalled. D. E. Lawrence handled his big 3-litre Alvis so neatly as to deserve a more handleable car, and E. B. Kent-Phillips was neat in his huge, elderly Buick in spite of vivid back-axle tramp.

F. Dennis Dent was untidy at reversing a Mk. VII Jaguar which had Michelin X tyres and ballast in the boot. He went straight for the pylon, avoided it, but then had the car badly placed and wasted a great deal of time. If A. E. Westbrook was wild he was also fast in his Austin-Healey, and A. M. Reed (Ford Anglia) was wilder but very good indeed. A comic turn was provided by L. R. Gibbs in a Ford Zephyr convertible, his passage being suicidal, the revs, sky-high and his back-seat passenger apparently in a state of collapse.

H. A. Thomas (Ford Zephyr) wasn’t bad, determined describes H. E. Rumsey’s run in an Austin-Ford Ten Special, J. J. Bott did it well in a 2 ½-litre Riley, and exceedingly good was the driving of W. H. Morgan, whose Triumph TR2 had a damaged near-side back wing.

G. D. S. Perry, whose s.v. Morris Minor had American-style kerb-feelers fitted, had little power for restarting but was not bad otherwise, both K. D. Evans and S. R. G. Jeffery in Standard Tens were extremely neat, but M. D. Jessop’s Triumph Mayflower did a course not in the M.C.C. regulations, and W. C. Woofinden’s Ford Prefect, arriving hours late, was steady but stepped wrongly astride line E. B. W. J. Lovell was very neat in an Austin A30 and D. Silverthorne not quite so neat, but very good, in a Renault 750. P. H. Read drove his o.h.v. Morris Minor very well, aided by a bouncing passenger, but L. J. King was clumsy in his s.v. Morris Minor. R. Barton in a new Morris Cowley couldn’t get a forward cog out of the steering-column gear-stalk until, in desperation, it was seized by his passenger, who not only got it in but held it in — rally tests can be revealing!

A. D. Carr crunched in the gears of his new Morris Oxford, the steering-column stalk waggling in protest throughout the run, which he performed very well. D. M. Nicholson’s Wolseley 4/44 was driven neatly but was a bit slow on take-off. G. H. Turnbull took his Ford through wildly but fast, car rolling, its wheels spinning and something, perhaps Redex, pouring from the exhaust. M. E. Lanz was another for whom the line E had a hypnotic attraction but he didn’t handle his Sunbeam-Talbot too badly. F. Downs was spirited and fast in a similar car, its clutch smelling hot, G. C. Langdon (Sunbeam-Talbot) wasn’t bad, while J. A. Lanz (Sunbeam-Talbot) was obviously trying and was very quick. W. J. Holloway was master of his Ford Zephyr, which set up a record for wheel tramp, tyre squeal and wheelspin and then paused at line E. C. M. R. Birney (Sunbeam-Talbot) made the same error, was cautions, stalled his engine and couldn’t restart it. George Hartwell (Sunbeam-Talbot) was fair, while R. J. Harris took the wrong path in his Triumph TR2, remembered the correct one and vented his feelings on the luckless mechanism. S. J. Tucker was satisfactory, although his Triumph TR2 restarted slowly. A. B. Napper justified his wife’s white helmet by a very good run in his TR2, and both W. H. Wadham and T. T. Kyffin put up extraordinarily nice runs in their TR2s, P. C. Wadham being slower but very good in a Swallow.

E. Rogers (Morgan) stopped astride the braking line but atoned by a rapid reverse and a fast finish, tyres almost liquid with heat! L. Griffiths (Austin-Healey) hadn’t a clue where to go. J. F. Hearer (TD2 M.G.) misjudged his reverse, needing two moves to clear the pylon but finished fast, H. Luke-Dunn (TD M.G.) was sensibly neat and careful, and W. G. Cawsey (Renault 750) and A. L. Willson (Forth Eight) were both good but not outstanding — a proviso being required here that speed, as such, wasn’t necessary to gain full marks. The rapid runs of S. Keen (Ford Ten) and P. J. Anton (Ford Anglia) rate as very good, while Mrs. L. E. Grounds put up an impeccable performance in her Ford, a truly fine, unspectacular effort.

H. T. Rayner (Ford Prefect) was a shade clumsy but did well, H. C. Burrows placed his Standard Vanguard badly, F. H. Whittle (Vauxhall Velox) was mediocre and paused at a line he should have crossed, but in contrast both J. F. B. Butcher (Sunbeam-Talbet) and J. R. Briggs (Standard Vanguard) proved very good at this kind of test. J. A. Walker’s Austin A90 had lost reverse gear, so couldn’t take the test, Mrs. Francoise Clarke came through in her Sunbeam-Talbot, E. R. Parsons (Jaguar) was excellent, Dr. J. R. Platt (Vauxhall Velox) made a general hash of it, but J. M. Noble reversed exceedingly rapidly in his M.G. on a really fine run. F. A. Denning was both very quick and neat in his Ford, T. A. Parkes was outstandingly good in his Triumph TR2, as was G. C. Hull in a similar car.

After this, and with the sun coming out, we took a last look at the sea-swept tests on the sea-front, symbolic of this very strenuous and worthwhile M.C.C. Rally, and made our way home. — W. B.

* * *

Rally Analysis
It can be said that rally competitors are mainly discerning folk when it comes to choice of a car, especially allergic to cars our readers favour, and also that everyday cars figure primarily in an event of this kind, as witness the entry of but one Dellow and a few “specials.” Therefore it becomes of very considerable interest to see what cars these experts run. An analysis of the entries was taken, the poll coming out as: —

Ford (and a few Ford-engined “specials”) 75, Triumph 48, Sunbeam and Sunbeam-Talbot 43, M.G. 34, Standard and Jaguar 22 each, Austin 20, Morgan 17, Morris and Riley 13 each, Austin-Healey 10, Hillman and Renault 6 each, Jowett and Vauxhall 5 each. Wolseley 4, Healey, Aston Martin, B.M.W., 3 each, Daimler, Lancia, Alvis, Fiat, Rover, VW, Armstrong-Siddeley, 2 each, and 1 each of A.C., Allard, Atalanta, Isotta, Turner, Simca, Swallow, Buick, Citroën, Peugeot, Porsche Bristol, Railton, Invicta, D.K.W, Singer, Dellow and Humber. (The Atalanta had a Ford V8 engine, trailing-link i.f.s., and about the only Atalanta part left was the radiator.)

* * *

Thirteen all-feminine crews entered and 13 competitors drove pre-1939 cars. In all, 16 ladies entered and 39 others acted as navigator/co-driver. Twenty-eight drivers had their wives in this capacity, the other 11 relying on girl-friends, other people’s wives, or sisters.