A section devoted to old-car matters, under the heading of “Vintage Veering.” appeared in Motor Sport from June 1949 to June 1953, after which it was discontinued because of pressure on space caused by the great increase in modern motoring fixtures. In response to repeated requests we now re-open it. This section is intended to cover both current and contemporary old-car topics. It may appear monthly, infrequently or never again, depending on the support it receives, for it is essentially a readers’ section, requiring news items, photographs and correspondence relating to veteran, Edwardian and vintage motor cars for its existence—Ed.
On the Brighton Run in a 1902 Wolseley
This year’s RAC VCC Veteran Car Run to Brighton was graced with fine weather, a record entry of 231 pre-1905 cars and, in general, commendably clear roads, the police really doing their utmost to give competitors a free run.
I was able to ride as passenger for the ninth time, by Courtesy of Peter Pointer, of Norwich, who gave me a seat in his 1902 two-cylinder 10-hp Wolseley, one of the most popular British cars of the veteran era, designed by Herbert Austin and built by one of our largest motor-car manufacturers. This car was used by a Suffolk clergyman up to about 1920. It was then disimantled and Mr Pointer acquired the parts and had the car re-assembled, since when it has run in two previous “Brightons” and other Veteran-car contests. The two-cylinder 2.6-litre engine is set horizontally across the frame and has automatic inlet valves and ignition by trembler coils in a box on the off side, of the dash, and a shaky-looking distributor driven from the near-side timing gears. It drives by Renold chain to a four-speed and reverse gearbox with quadrant change by side lever, and final drive is by long side chains. The body is a rear-entrance tonneau four-seater, the alligator bonnet is surrounded by the famous “bee-hive” radiator tubes, and fine leather mudguards are fitted. On the dash is a fine battery of drip-feeds, those on the right and two on the near side feeding the engine bearings (of which the mains are 11/2 in dia, and the rear one some 8 in long). the remainder the transmission. The wheels are shod with big 875 by 175 Dunlop tyres.
Driving the Wolseley, once the engine has been started with the huge near-side starting-handle, is no sinecure, for there is no accelerator, only a hand-throttle, matched by an advance and retard lever under the small steering wheel, while of the two “piano”-pedals, that on the right works the clutch, the other applying a fierce transmission brake. Behind the gear-lever, with its slow and tricky quadrant change, is a push-on hand-brake operating expanding rim brakes of questionable efficiency on the back wheels. Moreover, the bulb horn, too, has to be squeezed with the right hand and the steering occasionally develops shimmy if the wheels meet an unlucky pot-hole. All this keeps the eheerful Mr. Pointer busy, but in fact the Wolseley runs well, second a particularly useful speed for hill-climbing, and the engine, which peaks at about 750 rpm, reliable in spiite of sounding as if it misfires from time to time. Its only serious malady since re-assembly being a sticking inlet valve, of which it appeared to suffer only slightly, and that during the tense pull up Handcross Hill, this year.
Having been started by the fitter who so painstakingly rebuilt the engine, and Mr Pointer’s chauffeur, who was to follow us in a Mk VII Jaguar, we climbed aboard, the Wolseley shuddered through its lower gears, got over a bout of wheel-wobble and we were off towards Brighton, to the spit-and-miss of the low-speed engine and the pronounced rattle the long transmission chains.
Chatting to Mr Pointer about his car, I was told that the radiator tubes are original but the alloy water tanks had to be replaced by new ones fabricated from steel tube. These tanks are something of a feature in these early Wolseleys, because, when boiling happens, as it did to us (but slightly) up Brixton and Handcross hills, steam and hot water vent freely on to the legs of the front-seat occupants ! Only the passenger seems to receive this treatment on Mr Pointer’s car but in the parade at Brighton I saw another Wolseley steaming freely on both sides !
After rebuilding the Wolseley, which retains its BJ (Suffolk) registration number, two ex-WD side-lamps and a single central brass headlamp were found for it, but it scorns rear lamps. The door of the tonneau body is embarrassingly narrow, so that those with middle-age spread can hardly alight with dignity: being slim Mrs Pointer had no trouble. The engine runs on Shell petrol and the chains are soaked in gear-oil from time to time. When out of adjustment the primary chain will thump loudly on the floorboards but for this Diamond Jubilee Brighton Run all was functioning correctly.
The roads were splendidly clear out of London and we got along well. We were to learn later that 212 cars had started, only Jarvis (1899 Panhard), Pilmore-Bedford (1901 de Dion), Stiles (1901 Charette), AlIday (1901 Panhard), Mills (1901 Stonebow), Hull (1901 Wolseley). Ford (1902 MMC), Hill (1902 Napier), Clarkson (1902 Panhard), Cook (1903 Argyll), Brockbank/Jennings (1903 Fiat), Bridcutt (1901 de Dion), Stanbury (1904 de Dion), Beardsell (1904 Humberette), Bird (1904 Lanchester), Grose (1904 Rover), Pulley (1904 Speedwell), Pilmore-Bedford (1904 Wolseley) and Wiginton (1904 Wolseley) failing to reach, or leave, Hyde. Park.
Vaux’s 1900 Pieper baulked traffic at Brixton Hill, and we had to resort to that useful second speed. Hayward’s 1899 Star was going slowly into Streatham, its engine cover open, and here Reeves’ 1901 Durkopp had halted. Shaw, in white yachting cap, seemed in trouble with his 1902 Beaufort at Thornton Heath, where we paused for Pointer’ to secure his scarf, Shaw then coming by, recovered and ringing his bell ! Hanns Schoof, the Dutch entrant, had a Mercedes-Benz 300 and trailer attending on his 1900 de Dion quadricycle, and as we climbed up past Croydon aerodrome the traffic control Westland Widgeon (helicopter, not vintage light ‘plane) took off. Again we resorted to second speed, boiling a shade, and a tooting bulb-horn indicated that JG Hampton’s 1903 Panhard could just pass us. Hayward’s 1899 Star was ascending slowly, steaming and knocking, Hare’s 1900 MMC held us up, and Goodall was pedalling his 1901 Enfield quad. Then down to the right turn at Purley, Pointer very sensibly using his brakes carefully and the police arrangements giving everyone a clear run.
At 9.10 am we stopped to refresh men and machine, the Wolseley’s water overflow pouring nonchalantly over the ignition distributor. At the café we parked by a Model-T Ford tourer with KW spring snubbers, which caused the South African enthusiast who was accompanying us to produce a nice colour picture of his model-T. It was then that the Austin Twenty Sidmouth Special laden with cheering agricultural college students went by, comic notices, alas, adorning the back-of this queer ‘bus.
We left Benbough changing a plug on his 1896 Bollee, I now occupied the tonneau, the seat as comfortable as these early tonneau seats invariably are, and althongh Pointer’s engineer came too, making a crew of four, Mrs Pointer later changing places with him, our 54-year-old Wolseley went as well as ever, proving that this early British car was exceedingly sure, if not very fast. That they were made of good stuff is reflected in an entry of 11 of this make in this year’s Run. From my lofty perch I had a fine view down on to the long final-drive chain. By now the strain of rising at 5 am was telling and I waved only to children and pretty girls !
Redhill produced a traffic jam and Turner, whose 1903 Oldsmobile had come from Australia, ran slap into the modern Austin at the end of it, fortunately with no damage to either car, and no cross words. In Redhill we encountered the only “difficult” policeman of the entire run. The congestion had also made Hayward’s Star boil !
Many deceptive and long climbs remained, but soon Pierpoint’s big 1904 Mors flashed past and Bennett’s 1904 Panhard was really racing, whereas the Orient Buckboard was coming the wrong way. A wave from Sears as his beautiful Mercedes went by and we were past the one-way bit at Gatwick, which was tactfully policed.
We paused awhile for oil and water before essaying the long climb up Handcross, where we were permitted to ride the off side of the road all the way and saw Woolley’s 1897 Daimler ascending with a very full load. We got up the hill about as rapidly as Field’s 1902 Hamer.
So into Brighton, where Spivey’s 1902 Gladiator ran on to the Madeira Drive emitting loud reports—Raymond Baxter was in the tonneau—and Boothman’s smart 1904 Norfolk demonstrated its musical horn and good brakes.
News was now obtainable of some of the incidents. Stephens’ 1898 Stephens dog-cart had arrived first, followed by Sir C Edwards’ 1900 New Orleans and Crewe’s 1898 de Dion, after a push-start in Hyde Park. Marshall had done wonders to replace a broken valve on his Beeston tricycle in three minutes, and Basil Davenport arrived safely in his 1901 Progreso, after early engine trouble. Fred Bennett’s famous 1903 Cadillac arrived, the Mayor brought the “Genevieve” Darracq to the finish, but Wilfred Andrews, of the RAC. had had to repair a broken petrol pipe near the finish on the 1901 Benz and Nixon’s “museum” de Dion Bouton had suffered from a leaking petrol tank. Phipps (1904 Star) had valve trouble and a puncture, and Wilde retired at Thornton Heath when his 1904 Tony Huber broke its crankshaft (it went better last year, when I rode in it). Thompson’s 1904 Garrard tricar had to be towed in and the new tyres on Bolster’s 1903 Panhard gave more trouble than ever the early ones did. France’s 1901 Panhard was held up with valve trouble and Cole’s 1900 Benz boiled furiously on the hills. Hunter’s 1904 Siddeley did the run for the first time in its long career without stopping for more oil.
In the afternoon Parade the Wolseley completed a successful day by climbing strongly out of the Madeira Drive, six-up, in an exciting race with Bolster’s Panhard.—WB.