Vintage Postbag, December 1972

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Homes of the Racing Drivers

Sir,

I do not often see your magazine and it is only in the last week that my attention has been drawn to the item “Homes of the Racing Drivers” in your September issue. A. O. Saunders-Davies was my father, and you may perhaps be interested in a few further comments.

The house you illustrate is Pentre, Boncath, Pembrokeshire and is, as you say, considerably smaller now than it was when my father lived there, although one half would be a nearer proportion of its original size than the one third you suggest. I carried out the partial demolition in an attempt to reduce the house to a more manageable size but sold it reluctantly about a year ago. However, my father never farmed 3,000 acres; his estate in Pembrokeshire never amounted to more than about a third of that at the most and consisted entirely of tenanted farms. He never farmed himself.

When my father and mother were married they set up their home in another house about three miles away and called Cilwendeg Park which is now an old people’s home. It was here that my father worked on his 3-litre Bentley and also on his Bugatti which he raced, not without success, at Brooklands. By the time he was driving for the Fox & Nicholl Talbot team with, among other drivers, Tim Rose-Richards, my father was no longer living in Wales but had moved to London although he still owned the houses in Pembrokeshire. Your readers will scarcely need to be reminded of the team’s successes at Le Mans and in the Double Twelve at Brooklands, or of the astonishing reliability of the Talbot 105 cars.

My father was killed in October, 1959, in a road accident near Romsey in circumstances which have never been fully explained. All that is known with certainty is that his 3.4-litre Jaguar met another similar car head-on. The driver of the other car survived but had no recollection of the events immediately preceding the accident.

Finally, I enclose a photograph of my father at the age of about five or six, sitting at the wheel of a car beside his father, my grand-father. As far as I can tell, the car is a Mercedes of the 1906 vintage or thereabouts. This would fit since my father was born in 1901. It is clear that his interest in cars began to develop early! I would be grateful for the return of the photographs which are, as far as I’m concerned, unique.

Latimer. David Saunders-Davies (Group Capt.).

* * *

Austin 7 Affairs

Sir,

I noticed in your report of the VSCC Thruxton Meeting that you credited my replica 1923 racing Austin 7 with winning the Light Car Award. In fact I believe that this award goes to Mrs. Pam Arnold-Forster with her GN as of course my car in its present trim does not qualify as a Light Car. Any confusion may have been caused by the fact that my wife was driving our Chummy (which is a Light Car) in the same race.

Your comments about my car being faster than the original cars prompted me to do a little research on the matter. I see from the 1947 Motor Sport article on the development of the racing Austin Sevens that Capt. Waite achieved a flying lap of 62.4 m.p.h. with the first racer built, at the 1923 Brooklands Easter Monday Meeting, and subsequently lapped Monza at over 64 m.p.h. to win the 750 c.c. class the Italian Cycle Car Grand Prix. By the end of the 1923 season Capt. Waite had lapped Brooklands at around 70 m.p.h. Of course it is not really feasible to compare Brooklands and Thruxton lap speeds but as this is the only comparison possible it is interesting to note that my car’s average speed for Race 1 was 63.5 m.p.h. with an unofficial fastest lap speed of around 68 m.p.h. So perhaps the speeds of the cars are comparable?

It would be very interesting if any of your readers could throw any light on the ultimate fate of the original 1923 team of fabric-bodied works cars. A total of three works cars had been built by September 1923 and these competed in the Grand Prix de Boulogne driven by Waite, Kings and Cutler. This event was something of a disappointment for Austin’s as two cars retired with big-end failure whilst the third crashed. A car believed to be built up from the remains of the three Boulogne cars took the 750 c.c. class at the 1923 September Shelsley Meeting. A team of three cars probably the same cars that competed at Boulogne, ran in the 1924 Grand Prix des Voiturettes at Le Mans gaining a 3rd and 4th in their class. After this event I can find no trace of the original cars being used competitively. In all probability the cars were broken up and/or subsequently rebodied and developed into later works cars. A check shows that the three registration numbers were surrendered to the local taxation authorities although another replica (since rebodied again) has been spied carrying one of them!

Any information on the ultimate fate of these cars would he most welcome.

Emsworth. Paul Cooper.

[Interesting! And our apologies to Mrs. Arnold Forster. I did not confuse the girls—just accepted the Press results. — Ed.]

* * *

Morris Garages

Sir,

With reference to the photograph of the removal notice on the gate on page 1,126 of the October issue, this refers to the Morris Garages (Newbury) Ltd., who were removing to larger premises in the same town.

This is one of the branches of The Morris Garages Ltd., of St. Aldates, Oxford, and is in no way connected with the Morris Works at Cowley. It is a Charity Trust set up by the late Lord Nuffield and operates branches at Cowley, Reading and High Wycombe besides Newbury. A branch at Aylesbury was sold in March of this year to a large Group with headquarters at Leicester.

Monks Risborough. Des Kitchen,

Chairman, Bean CC.

* * *

How a New Zealander rates our Vintage Cars

Sir,

As a member of a Vintage Car Club, I may be somewhat out of my depth criticising the VSCC. I’m sure they are running to well-defined rules, and I certainly applaud their motives of using their cars as the makers intended. But please, what are the criteria for acceptance of a car into the VSCC?

I may be about to show appalling ignorance here, and if I offend anyone then I apologise, but what on earth is a hot-rod doing featuring in the colour coverage of the VSCC April Silverstone meeting? I see before me in the June Motor Sport a picture of what purports to be a 1928 4,079 c.c. Chrysler competing in that Meeting. It looks like the sort of thing that we in New Zealand now find on farms—a once-proud machine cut down into a—well, not even a truck. It has no mudguards; no lights; half a bonnet secured by a strap; what appears to be a non-original radiator; a tiny aero screen; and from the scuttle back, just a straight-panelled, doorless and very ugly boy-racer body. Moreover, I’m sure that that sort of exhaust system was not extant on 1928 Chryslers.

I’m well aware that Chryslers were in fact racing in the late vintage period, but my impression was that the cars which performed so creditably at Le Mans were reasonably civilised roadsters, not over-scaled soap-box trolleys with funny exhausts. The Bentley on the same page, while done in considerably better taste, perhaps also deserves a mention. It may just be that we are in New Zealand somewhat starved for machines of the calibre of the Bentley, but the sight of a lowered one with small wheels and a mucked-about body makes me want to cry “sacrilege’ and reach for my photo of Old No. 7. Certainly, the other one is at least pretty, but it’s no longer a Vintage Bentley.

This whole thing may just be an error in my expanding of the initials VSCC but I really thought that the V stood for Vintage, and that this implied maintaining some semblance of originality.

Finally may I congratulate you on maintaining a fine magazine to which I have subscribed constantly since the mid-1950’s? It’s arrival is always eagerly awaited.

Te Awamutu, New Zealand. P. C. White.