The racing cars of W.B. Scott
Described to the Editor in a recent interview
W. B. Scott (Bummer to his friends) was a regular competitor at Brooklands and elsewhere before the war and very well known at the old Track, so recently I went to ask him how it all came about and to talk of the racing cars he has owned. His interest in things motoring, he told me, began when he went from his prep. school at Winchester to Fettes (the Eton of Scotland), where he kept a series of fast motorcycles, which included an Indian Scout, a Scott Squirrel, etc., hidden in a blacksmith’s shop, from which they would be retrieved for illicit rides. It was at school that Scott began his athletic career, becoming Captain of the Fettes Cricket Team when his cousin, the then Captain, fell off the back of Scott’s Scout and broke his leg!
Going up to Cambridge in 1923, Scott continued to ride rapid motorcycles, such as an SS 100 Brough Superior and a Coventry Eagle, but he soon turned to cars. There was a smart Riley Redwing sports two-seater bought in Cambridge, and with money won by successful gambling he had previously acquired a little Benjamin that had the distinction of having raced in the 750 c.c, event at the opening meeting at Montlhery in 1924. This proved adequate for driving his brother up to the family-seat, Calgary Castle in the Isle of Mull, where they had well over 2,000 acres of shooting rights. There was also a DFP, like Birkin had, and other lesser cars.
It was from 1922 to 1924 that W. B. Scott had his first visits to Brooklands, being taken there by Hugh Keller and Phil Paddon, from whom his mother bought her ears. He was thrilled to meet K. Lee Guinness, who was driving the fierce 350 h.p. Sunbeam, and Dc Hane Segrave, who Was Commencing his subsequently-illustrious career with the Bugatti and Opel. Bummer decided that this was the life for him and with his wife Jill he commenced to drive racing cars when he was still only about 19 or 20 years of age. His first was one of the 5-litre Indianapolis Sunbeams, supplied by Paddon. It proved “fearfully difficult to hold” and was used at those smaller “Fork meetings”—so called because everything was concentrated at the Fork, with the finishing straight serving as the Paddock, as at BMCRC motorcycle meetings, the spectators being able to watch from the outside or “Vickers” stand, where they could almost reach out and touch the faster cars as they went by.
From the big Sunbeam Scott graduated to Bugattis, buying a 2-litre Modifie and a hill-Grand Prix roller-bearing model, the latter from Malcolm Campbell. Jill also had a GP Bugatti. Like all their subsequent. racing cars, these were painted in Scott’s colours of black-with emerald green wheels. A house, “Grassmere”, with tennis court and billiards room, had been purchased in Old Byficet, so that these motor-racing enthusiasts should be close to the Track. Scott also took a shed on the Aerodrome, at the end of the line that extended back from Parry Thomas’ “Hermitage”, which he kept up to the outbreak of war. Segrave was very kind, taking Scott round in the Bugatti to show him how to go onto and off the bankings. These Bugattis proved very satisfactory and in the plain-bearing GP Modifie car, Scott lapped at 106.42 m.p.h. in 1928, and at 113.19 m.p.h. in the same year, in the full-GP car, Jill getting this round at 117.17 m.p.h. (I do not have room to list all Scott’s racing successes, in this article, but they are well documented in my books about Brooklands and Montlhery, and elsewhere). On one occasion a tyre burst on the GP Bugatti as it was going at full bore onto the Members’ banking, causing W.B. some exciting moments…
The Scotts were at Brooklands most days and probably put up a bigger mileage round the Track than any other drivers, rather as G. P. Harvey-Noble was to do in later times. Parry Thomas was very kind to them, giving them tea in his bungalow and taking Scott for very fast lappery in the passenger’s seat of the lap-record-holding Leyland Eight.
After Thomas was killed at Pendine in “Babs” in 1927 the Scotts bought from Ken Thomson two of Thomas’ cars—the Leyland Eight and the unsupercharged Thomas Special “Flat Iron”. The former was more Jill’s possession and John Cobb, another close friend, sometimes drove it for her, lapping at 125.45 m.p.h. for three consecutive laps with Jill as passenger. The 1 1/2-litre Thomas Special was less successful. The problem was that Bummer was a big man, weighing at the time over 17 stone and being 6 ft. 1 in. tall. He was very fit after a season of rugger but the “Flat Iron” defeated him, because he could hardly get into its cockpit. Cobb was quite unable to get in at all. The seat could not be moved back because the fuel tank was part of the tail and Scott could not use full Steering-lock .because the drop-arm up under the dash rubbed his shin and the wheel took all the skin off his legs. There were all kinds of other difficulties as well, before the British Grand Prix, but the driving position is, perhaps, why Thomas, who was also a big man, used the car mainly on the outer-circuit. Jill, and their friend Chase of Austin 7 fame, could sit with their legs straight out and had no trouble, as they proved when they took class records with the Thomas. The big Leyland was maintained by T & Ts and on one or two occasions Bummer bravely passengered Cobb in it. He says it “was a brute to hold”.
Very much more profitable was the 2-litre 1924-type Grand Prix Sunbeam bought from the factory in Wolverhampton. With it the Scotts were well on their way to notching up many wins, W.B.’s numbering 53 in all, including the Gold Star and Gold Cup, he remembers. The Sunbeam was raced at the smaller Brooklands meetings as well as in the big Bank Holiday races and with it Jill got her 120 m.p.h. Badge, with a lap at 120.88 m.p.h. in September 1928, the first lady to do so. “l’heir daughter, Sheila, lapped at over 100 m.p.h. at the age of five months, sitting on her mother’s lap, while Bummer drove. With some advice from Perkins and with T .& Ts looking after it, the Sunbeam was a great success. Along with the Bugattis and the GP Sunbeam, the Scotts had an :sic Amilcar Six, which was dist-) a very useful acquisition. It was used successfully to capture class G records, for which Amilcar’s presented Bummer with a gold wrist stop-watch. He also brought it home in second place in the 1,100 c.c. class of the 1928 JCC 200-Mile Race. When practising for the records a front stub-axle broke as the Amilcar was approaching the Byfleet tuning-bay. This caused it to stop rather abruptly, Scott recalls, and Freddie Dixon, who was coming up behind on a motorcycle, doing a bit of dangerous grass-cutting, was obliged to step off his machine. But Freddie took it all in good part, although rolling over and over. Regaining his feet, he trotted up to the stricken car to ask Scott “Did I Step Off proper ?”. . . . In the “200” an oil-pipe broke, as seems to have happened frequently with these otherwise splendid little cars, and Scott finished the race looking like a n****r minstrel…. He now employed Carlo (Charly) Querico as his racing mechanic and was able to tune and Maintain his racing cars himself.
Going back a bit, these intense Brooklands days seemed quite a far cry from the times when Scott drove a Bugatti in the Boulogne and Le Touquet speed trials, which made him remember the splendid incident when the wild Baron von Wentzel-Mosau drove his 36/220 Mercedes-Benz fiat-out across the 9th green of the Le Touquet golf-course, having left the road in a wild slide, his uniformed chauffeur sitting throughout with arms crossed, apparently quite unmoved. Later Scott’s talented brother, J. M. who has written many books about his personal climbing and exploration adventures, which included scaling the Himalayas, etc., used to go as a passenger in the Bugattis, until Scott’s mother asked for this to stop—her husband, a Judge in Cairo for many years, had died while her sons were quite young and she felt that motor racing was too risky for them both to be in the same racing car.
One of Bummer Scott’s most memorable racing cars was the 1927 1 1/2-litre GP Delage which he purchased via Malcolm Campbell. Querico loved it, and as lovingly administered to its mechanical complexities. This was a great motor car, very quick, and like the Sunbeam, remembered as “the real thing”. It was the second of these Delages owned by Campbell and not much used by him, except to win the Southport-100 sand-race. It acquitted itself well in 1929, among its achievements being a trip to the InterVarsity speed trials at Branches Park. This involved driving this potent Grand Prix car from its shed at Brooklands to London, where it was garaged for the night at Yeomans Road. In the morning, with Max Aitken the intrepid passenger (and I don’t think that is too strong a term!), Scott had to negotiate Park Lane and Knightsbridge, as Trade plates were not permitted in Hyde Park. From Marble Arch to Cambridge (admittedly it was fairly early in the morning) took just 37 minutes, I am told! In the speed trial Bummer kept his foot hard down round the final very difficult bend, crossing the finishing line at well over 100 m.p.h. in third gear, to record a sensational fastest-time-of-the-day, which drew comments on his foolhardiness by reporter Sammy Davis. The corner taken at well over 100 m.p.h. in third gear frightened Bummer more than any race! Afterwards, of course, the Delage was driven back to Brooklands. It also made ETD in another InterVarsity speed trial and again at Lewes, being driven from Brooklands to Eastbourne and back.
Class records were captured with this Delage, the Hon. Brian Lewis co-driving with Scott, and they tried it in the 1929 BRDC 500-Mile Race, but all its water boiled away. Querico then devised a neat lip round the radiator shell to deflect more air into it. At the 1930 Easter BARC Meeting Bummer got the little black-and-green Delage really wound up, winning the Dorset Lightning Short Handicap by 100 yards from t[ie Bugattis of Malcolm Campbell and E. M. Thomas, at 106.64 m.p.h., after a lap at 117.19 m.p.h.
Previously, the Delage had netted a “third”, and it ended the day winning a Mountain Handicap.There was better to come, for the car was still a thorn in Campbell’s side at the 1930 August BARC Meeting. Both Scott and Campbell were driving these GP Delages and were off from the same mark in the Gold Star Handicap: Scott started more slowly than Campbell but lie never lifted his accelerator-foot a millimetre after getting into top gear. He overtook the blue Delage and won from Campbell at 117.87 m.p.h., having consecutive laps at 122.37 m.p.h., against Campbell’s best of 121.47 m.p.h. Scott told me that as he returned to the Paddock to receive a handshake from the first person to congratulate him, Dunlop Mac, he felt happier than he had when he scored between the posts at Twickenham in the Varsity rugby-match of 1923. Soon, however, he was plunged into the depths of despair when told he had crossed a coloured safety-line at the Fork, and was thus disqualified. This had been: necessary, says Scott, because Birkin was just about to start the race in the blower-4 1/2 single-seater Bentley as the Delage was completing its first lap, so Scott moved over to give Birkin all the room he could. Hearing of this, Tim accompanied Scott to the Stewards’ room when he protested threateningly to resign from the BARC, if the decision was not reversed. The race was eventually restored to Scott’s Delage.
Later in the year Scott’s Delage took further Class F records at Brooklands, Maurice Baumer sharing the stints with him and as Wakefield’s were paying good retainers and said more money would be forthcoming if more records were broken, the Delage was then taken to Montlhery to try for the 24-hour record. Tim Rose-Richards and Armstrong Payn this time shared the driving with the car’s owner. Payn had lived in Kent, close to Zborowski, and had experienced some hectic motoring in the Count’s cars. I he had later taken over from Scott the aforesaid Indianapolis Sunbeam. The 1)elage record attempt was full of drama. They could not afford flares round the banking tops, so made do with road lanterns, and a single spot-lamp on the car, energised by an accumulator. As the latter began to go .dim Payn had a terrible time, especially as the track was ice-covered. Then, as he came off the high-banking in the dark, the Delage cast its steering-wheel into his hands. He slithered off the concrete onto the earth infield, but was able to run back to the depot holding the wheel. The 1)elage was wound out of its muddy predicament on the starting handle and sent on its way. But much time had been lost by this and a broken magneto platform ; Scott< had ‘phoned Delage in Paris when the earlier calamity ensued and two mechanics were sent out with the spares. The last laps were done at over 130 m.p.h. and in spite of everything the Class F records fell, for the 24 hours, the 3,000 kilometres and 2,000 miles.
From these long-distance record sorties it was clear that the Delage stood a good chance of winning the BR.DC 500-Mile Race at Brooldands. So Scott entered it again in 1930, with his friend John Cobb, who usually drove much bigger cars, as his partner at Cobb’s request, as he thought the car had the best chance of winning the race. Alas, when all was going well the three-piece tubular front axle caved-in, the retaining bolts having sheared. Repairs were done with ordinary bolts, to cries from the pit, by Querico, in mixed English and Italian, that they must not continue, as he was not a murderer! No heed was taken, and the repairs had to be done again later, but the Delage was still running when the race ended. This merely encouraged the irrepressible Bummer to have a go in the 1931 French Grand Prix, which was a ten-hour grind at Montlhery, in which the Delage might well get home. He also entered one of the 1924 V12 2-litre Delage cars for Tim Rose-Richards and Roger Williams to driye, Payn sharing the driving of the smaller Delage. This 2-litre had been discovered by Scott., his brother and Payn when they were in Sweden seeing the brother off, who was taking part in the Arctic Air Route Expedition. He was also looking, in summer, at the country he had seen but dimly when taking part in his only Monte Carlo Rally, with Humfrey Symons in a Sunbeam. The old V12 Delage had been used for ice racing and was in a boathouse on a lake. It was shipped to England and Querico got busy on it. But it turned out to be a disappointment, being slower than the 1 1/2-litre car and its roller bearing big-ends breaking up time and again at speed—fortunately some spares had come over with it.
Before the Grand Prix it was intended to spend a fortnight practising, so Scott took over his Le Mans 4 1/2-litre Bentley (before which he had run a 3-litre Bentley) partly for this purpose. The GP Delage was driven to the docks and then to Paris, Rose-Richards remarking on how rapidly it overtook him in the Bentley as Bummer headed for Dover! At the start of the Grand Prix Scott stalled on the line, from the front row of the grid, an easy thing to do with the little Delage, as the blow off valve was apt to open just as the clutch was engaging. This did not much matter, because when Scott had driven Birkin, who was driving a 2-litre Maserati, to the 8 a.m. start in the Bentley, Tim had told Bummer to remember that the race went on for ten hours and to take it easily. In the end, when Payn was driving the transmission failed but Senechal, driving alone, got a similar Deluge home in 5th place. Incidentally, Louis Delage had provided a pit forsach of the three cars, had again sent Scott some of his racing mechanics and provided his special blue Alkasena fuel. Apart from all these experiences W. B. Scott had much to do with Bentleys. He shared the 4 1/2-litre with Jill in the 1929 Double Twelve, finishing 11th and third in distance covered, co-drove in the 1929 BARC Six-Hour Sports Car Race, also at Brooklands, in which he was placed 8th, and his 4 1/2-litre was then allied to the “works” Bentley team for the Irish GP at Phoenix Park, where he came in 7th, the Bentley mechanic Puddifoot being quite unaffected when the road became terribly slippery—”like Piccadilly Circus”, he commented, to his hard-working, bare-headed-driver as they slid in all directions. . . .
Going back to the 1928 TT, Scott raced a 3-litre 19/100 Austro-Daimler, bought from Hubert Mason, which was “enormous fun” and “far more accelerative than a 3-litre Bentley”, and he has shared a Brooklands-model Riley 9 with Whitcroft. There was also that hilarious time in a “500”, with a truly International pit-crew unable to converse or to tolerate one-another, when Scott was co-driver of Zehender’s SSK Mercedes-Benz, a car he never felt had any stamina. Indeed, I wish I had more space in which to recount more of Bummer’s memorable experiences. We must hope his own book will one day cover it all. . . .
Scott was a great all-round athlete as well as a racing motorist. He won his rugger blue at Cambridge and was Scottish Squash Champion, accomplishments that his modesty prevents him from enlarging on. Flying was not one of his pursuits, although he used to go up in Jill’s Avro Avian and he bravely flew with Dudley Watt, who raced an old SE5a and other ancient aeroplanes and had the shed next to Scott at Brooldands Aerodrome. Watt was a splendid character, who flew under the Byfleet bridge when the mood took him and on one occasion climbed out of the back cockpit from which he had been piloting and onto the wing, with the intention of indicating to his journalist passenger that the aeroplane would fly by itself! Bummer also remembers the day when Dudley Watt agreed to lunch with him at Brooklands but said he must first fly over his father’s house and drop a message, wrapped round a brick, to say he wasn’t returning. Alas, the brick went through a favourite greenhouse and Watt’s father seized a 12-bore and shot at the intruder, holes in the wing-canvas being testimony to his accurate aim. “Wouldn’t it have been less expensive to telephone ?”, Bummer asked.
As he was buying and selling, as well as racing cars at the Track W. B. Scott had a fine selection. Among some special ones he remembers were a “rather amusing” l.h.d. Farman sports two-seater taken in partexchange, Col. Henderson’s “quite fast” Renault 45 saloon, and Segrave’s mahogany-decked four-seater Renault 45 which used “enormous quantities of petrol”. His mother was prevailed upon to ride in the ex-Segrave Renault to Scotland and she remarked, when the fuel tank filled before they set out, needed replenishing at Stamford, that it might have been less expensive, if slower, by train. Other well-remembered road cars are a 1912 GP SAVA with 50-gal. copper fuel tanks, which Scott’s brother drove up to Mull, an Hispano-Suiza, the ex-Humphrey Cook 30/98 Vauxhall “Rouge et Noir” and various Rolls-Royce cars, including a very fast ex-Paddon P2 with H. J. Milliner body. Later came a 319 BMW, used in Scotland, an Ecurie Bleu-type sports-racing Delahaye bought from his dear friend Robert Arbuthnot, a “very nice” open 4 1/2-litre Lagonda, and a blower-4 1/2 Bentley, etc. After the war the subject of these memoirs kept his hand in, with a Lotus 11, a Buckler, a Ford Ten Special and several front-drive Citroens. There were boats, too. Such as the tall funnel pre-1914 coal-fired ex-minesweeper, the former HMS Redwing’s twin-screw Vosper overhauled for Scott by Peter du Cane and kept at Hamble and Cowes, and Johnson SeaHorse outboards, raced with Segrave at Hamble. Also a 250-h.p. Thornycroft-powered Johnson Noad hydroplane which broke its propeller-shaft mounting when Scott was bringing it round from London to Portsmouth. Querico was the first to notice that they were shipping water and by keeping on the step until close to the shore they did not have far to swim. . . . Happy days!—W.B.