The ex-Birkin Bentley single-seater
I am writing to thank you for the fascinating and erudite article which appeared in the October "Motor Sport" about the Birkin 4½ blown single seater I was privileged, at the age of 20, to see Birkin drive the car at Brooklands in 1930. The next time I saw it was in the Jubilee run at Oulton in 1969, in 2-seater form and, as the enclosed photograph shows, B.R.G.!
Anyway, thank you for your article and for the consistently high quality of "Motor Sport" over more years than I like to think about.
Your paragraph about the 30/98 Vauxhall Register lists the various "foreign" front axles which have been fitted, and includes an appeal to be searched in the case of the Fisher. This is not in fact a case of axle transplant but a contemporary bolt-on goodie attached to the Vauxhall axle.
Fisher also made F.W.B. for the S & G Rolls-Royce and possibly some other expensive cars in the early 1920s. A search of the Autocar for the years 1921-22 will reveal a description and, I think, a drawing.
It would be interesting to hear of any cars other than the Vauxhall E.269 which are so exclusively retarded.
I was very interested to see a picture of Richard Shuttleworth's house Old Warden in your September issue. Richard was a great friend of mine and I flew up with Armstrong Payn to visit him several times. The place was certainly vast, but I'm not sure of the exact acreage. As you say, the aerodrome was easily swallowed by it. The distance from the gates at the public road to the house was example enough. One could, say, easily exceed zoo m.p.h. in this long drive.
The inside of the house was beautiful. I particularly remember the library. Army Payn, who knew more about oil paintings than anyone I knew, was thrilled. I remember him saying, as we came out of that room, in an awed whisper, "Blimey, there is at least £1 million's worth of pictures in this one room alone!"
My racing mechanic, E.C. Querico, used to work on Richard's cars in my shed at Brooklands. I enclose a photo taken by Richard near my shed Carlo Querico is standing on the far wing of my car. He was some 5 in. shorter than I, though he is cheating in the photo! I wish I still had that car now. Dudley Watt, Tim Rose-Richards and Army Payn all used to fly up to Old Warden. They were all great mates of mine, Payn sharing the wheel with me in the 1½ G. P. Delage in the 10 hour 1931 French Grand Prix and both the latter helping me take the 1½ litre 24 hour record at Monthlery (plus a few other records on the way). All three were killed flying in the war. However, one of our special close gang remains. Deryck Hyland ("Jimmy" to his friends). He lives in Palm Springs, California and has not been over here for a trip since 1961-62. He, too, flew in the R.A.F. in Blenheims in the war. He has a wonderful tale of Shuttleworth building a huge swimming bath at Old Warden which always leaked. He said Richard then bought an enormous fire engine to top it up with water.
He has still a few very interesting and amusing motor cars. A 3-litre 300 SL Mercedes Benz, which he still uses daily. (Exact replica of the full page picture in your September issue). Also two old Rolls-Royces.
W. B. Scott
I understand that the Shuttleworth estate in those days was of some 7,000 acres - not bad for Bedfordshire! - of which about 5,000 remain. Ed.
A Rare 1935 Vauxhall
Please find enclosed a photograph of a 1935 D. X. Vauxhall tourer, coachwork by Whittingham and Mitchell.
I have the remains of the only one of this model imported into New Zealand and am having much difficulty in locating information about it. As it is in a rather sorry state I need more information and photographs before I consider restoring it. I have written to General Motors in the U.K., Australia and New Zealand, as well as the National Motor Museum, and almost drawn a blank everywhere. A copy of this photo is the only photo I have been able to acquire, although I have some of the almost-identical, previous model sent to me by a very generous English gentleman.
As a subscriber and an M.G. T-type owner I have had a lot of enjoyment and help through your magazine, even though it is three months old when it reaches here. Keep up the good work and I only hope you can help me with my present problem.
I have owned a T80 Vauxhall Hurlingharn for the last 35 years and am now compiling a Register of all Vauxhalls in the U.K. having a Hurlingham body. It would seem that there were only two chassis onto which these were built namely, the 20/60, 20 h.p., 1927-29, and the T80, also known as the Silent Eighty, 23.8 h.p., 1931-32.
I have traced the present owner of the one advertised, in your February issue last year.
Perhaps you would mention that I am compiling a Register, and tell your readers that I would be glad if they would let me know of any others.
Holland Park Bugatti
For several years I have been trying to trace the history of my 1921 Bugatti, but with little success. One of the clues which I have not yet used is that the last body was a very narrow 2-seater by Holland Park Bodies.
Can I impose upon your irreplaceable magazine to beg a little space in "Vintage Postbag", to find out if any of your other devoted readers know anything of this firm or of the car? It would be a help if I could find the company records, or a director or worker, as I'd like to know when the body was built, and by whom the work was commissioned.
At some later date, the car passed into the hands of one G. C. Bishop (Aston Martin owner?) who may have owned it during 1953-54. By then most of the dreadful modifications that have been perpetrated on it were unfortunately existing, although they may help in identifying the car in relationship to other owners, before or after Mr. Bishop. These mods are:
(1) Chassis frame shortened at extreme rear, in peculiar manner.
(2) Front axle replaced by an Amilcar unit to give 4WB.
(3) 1925 Brescia radiator and gearbox installed (no sign of originals).
(4) "Modern" well-base wheels and tyres fitted.
(5) Bastard steering wheel installed.
(6) Twin Zeniths fitted (ex Austins 7).
(7) Other mods, all too numerous and horrible to recall.
The car was registered in Canterbury in 1950, as EJG 638, although there is a note in the Eaglestield/Hampton Bugatti Book that it was originally registered in 1926. H. G. Conway's records show it to have been delivered from Molsheim to Bugatti's Paris showrooms in 1921 (Chassis No. 1254, Engine No. 854) so it's a safe bet it was imported in 1926, and modified for racing shortly thereafter.
If anyone knows anything at all about Holland Park Bodies or the car itself I will be most grateful to be enlightened and it will help solve yet another "Bugatti Mystery", as God knows they are legion!
On page 1141 of your October issue you ask for information about a Model-T Ford in a museum at Syon Park. Could this possibly be the car that the late David Cairns and I built in Edinburgh in the late 1920s?
On a visit to the USA I brought back a lot of tuning parts. The principal items were a 16 valve head and a gearbox. The head was, I think, bronze with exhaust and inlet manifolds and a large carburettor (Carter?). The gearbox bolted on behind the standard epicyclic box and took the place of it. The bands were removed from the epicyclic box where they were the cause of much friction. The footbrake went to the back wheel drums. No reverse.
A pair of bronze lowering brackets brought the chassis down by some ten inches. They brought the front axle forward and the back axle back. This lengthened the wheelbase which was already lengthened by the extra gearbox. Aluminium pistons we made ourselves, raising the compression to about 5 to 1. Back magneto chain driven. The magnets were removed from the flywheel which makes one wonder about the electric headlamps you mention. Lengthening the steering column, which was a very thin flexible affair, made it highly peculiar to handle on the road. David was the driver and the only person who could keep it under control with no apparent effort - I certainly couldn't.
Going fast was a petrifying experience. In its competition guise it was merely a bare chassis with one aluminium bucket seat, weighing somewhere around five hundredweight. For its day it had quite a performance. It cleaned up all the Scots sprints and hill climbs. Including one to which the Bentley company sent a beautifully turned out team under the command of the late Frank Clements. The object being to put these ignorant northerners in their place.
David always drove in a bowler hat stuffed with cotton wool which he insisted would save him in a crash. He also competed on an o.h.v. Douglas and a 500 Marster Sunbeam. This very stark outfit with its bowler-hatted charioteer always caused much merriment with rivals and spectators until they saw it perform.
A. H. D. Aikman Smith.
Your 'Some AC History' article raised some nostalgic memories for me. Nigh on fifty years ago I was an apprentice at the AC factory in Thames Ditton. The competition cars were built and serviced in a caged-off section of the production engine shop, where I spent a lot of my time scraping main and big-end bearings.
Kop Hill was a favourite venue of mine, where I used to go on my Matador Bradshaw to see Joyce take the sprint car up in spectacular fashion on the loose surface. Other cars that come to mind during my 'time' was Thompson's 2-litre AC which broke the 24-hour record at Monthlery, driving the whole time. The Hon. Victor Bruce was a frequent visitor to the works during the preparation of his Monte Carlo Rally 2-litre. For the hour record Joyce carried a mechanic of small stature and light weight whose job was to keep the fuel tank pressurised so that Joyce could concentrate on holding the car to its correct line. The mechanic was shaken and bruised after the run, there being virtually no trim in the car to soften the bumps.
I know from personal experience how rough Brooklands track was, having acted as 'chair' ballast for some of the motorcycle racers in the late twenties.
Thank goodness for Motor Sport each month; like Brooklands Track it's got 'atmosphere'.
D. P. Wilson.
The Black Prince
Reference to the Union engine (by Mike Knight in the October issue) as having been used by Black Prince Motors is correct. The Black Prince cyclecar was produced with this engine, albeit in small numbers, and miraculously one survives.
I believe it was discovered slung on ropes in the roof of a barn. Paul Foulkes-Halbard had it for a while and the last time I saw it was at a Norman Cole auction some years ago. The Black Prince wasn't the only car to use the Union engine. The three-wheeled Tankette of 1920 - another short-lived cyclecar - also fitted it although I think it was probably of a smaller c.c.
M. Worthington Williams.