The VSCC Lakeland Trial

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November 6th, 1976

Vintage these days are often referred to as hedges against inflation, and on November 6th some 65 members of the VSCC assembled in the Lake District with their hedges against inflation to involve them in a certain amount of hedging and ditching under the title of the Lakeland Trial.

They started off in pouring rain and high winds, but this reporter spectated in the morning in the shelter of trees beside a new hill called Beck Wythop, on Forestry Commission land above Lake Bassenthwaite, which commanded the most delightful autumnal views. This hill caused some surprises, as the first sharp bend defeated all the 30/98 Vauxhall specialists with the exception of Stephen Butcher. Even Julian Ghosh, destined to put up best performance in the long chassis class, made one of his few mistakes here by approaching the corner too fast, and going straight on. In contrast Stanley Mann, by very skilful driving, got his big 1930 4 1/2-litre Bentley round the corner and over halfway up the hill, despite the handicap of heavy Gurney Nutting drophead bodywork, and consequently a car weighing the best part of two tons. Even the tractor which hauled him over the crest of the hill developed temporary wheelspin under the strain. These expensive motor cars were put to shame by Tom and Di Threlfall in their 1928 Model A Ford saloon which cleared the section in fine style (as did the Ghosh Vauxhall once it had extricated itself from the debacle on the first corner). The Austin Sevens also did well, and we particularly noted Roy Acinams (Ulster), Patrick Rooney (Chummy) and Hayden Lyles (Gordon England Cup Model), who did some clever and delicate throttle work on that first difficult bend. Hamish Moffatt (1923 Type 13 Bugatti) took his gearbox to pieces before tackling this hill and fitted a replacement gear which he happened to have in his pocket.

After lunch we called in at the Lanthwaite Green section on our way to the Drum House hill at the top of Honister Pass. The grassy slopes of Lanthwaite Green made it difficult even to reach the start of some of the hills. Dennis Johnson (1932 Colmore Frazer Nash) refused any help to get to the start of one of the hills, and after Struggling for about 20 minutes or so was in a fearful frame of mind by the time he got to the important part. Stephen Butcher’s Vauxhall got stuck in the middle of a stream after tackling the Water Splash hill, the lugubrious expression on its driver’s face being explained by the fact the transmission had failed. Here we witnessed good attempts by Alan Dunkerley (1928 Boulogne Frazer Nash) and Christopher Hood, whose 1937 Riley Sprite, with its low clearance and cream paintwork, looked a bit too civilised for this sort of dirty work, although its performance and the spirited way in which it was driven completely belied this.

By this time the rain had stopped, but the climbs of Drum House, that long steep twisty hill out of the green slate quarry overlooked by forbidding mountains, were held under an overcast sky. Bentleys are traditionally defeated by Drum House, and this applied to Ian Stirling’s 1925 3-litre, a victim of its high bottom gear, in contrast to Bob Buttle’s little 1929 2-cylinder Jowett which followed it and never faltered all the way to the top. Mann’s unlikely 4 1/2-litre Bentley romped up to save the reputation of Cricklewood and Long Crendon. Fine saloon climbs were made by the ‘Threlfall Ford, Ian and Caroline Woolstenholmes’ 1928 12/50 Alvis, and Branislav Sudjic’s 1938 Hotchkiss 3i-1itre, which was crammed with people and had a tow rope coyly peeping out of the boot lid, which came open on the way up.

So steep is the descent of Drum House that it is common practice for any two-wheelbraked car to precede a four-wheel-braked car to which it is attached by a tow rope for safety’s sake. In this way Peter Still’s 1937 TT Replica Frazer Nash was controlling the descent of Bob Buttle’s Jowett, which caused Peter to remark “How ignominious for a Frazer Nash to be towed by a Jowett—and downhill too!”

The shades of night were falling fast when the last climbs were made, and what appeared from the top of the hill to be a glow-worm powered by a lawnmower engine turned out to be Malcolm Elder’s gallant 1925 Trojan, which slowly wound its way round all the corners and crept relentlessly to the top amidst well-deserved applause from the patient spectators. The last climb, by Moffatt’s Bugatti, which failed at the last bend, no doubt from fear of running into the Trojan before the finish, ended another fine Lakeland Trial, thanks to Dick Smith, Frank Rushton and their band of helpers.

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