VETERAN EDWARDIAN VINTAGE
A SECTION DEVOTED TO OLD CAR MATTERS
A Possible Yardstick
THOSE in the fortunate position of being able to afford to buy a good vintage, post-vintage thoroughbred or classic car have a difficult choice to make, as study of the many very covetable examples advertised each month in MOTOR SPORT underlines. For those in this difficult position there is a possible yardstick that might be applied.
Back in 1946, with things returning to normal after the war, the late Laurence Pomeroy, that colourful engineer-motoring writer who in 1947 became President of the VSCC, presented to that Club his Pomeroy Trophy. Pomeroy was the son of the late Laurence H. Pomeroy, the celebrated designer of the Prince Henry and 30/98 Vauxhall cars and subsequently the Chief Engineer of the long-established Daimler Motor Company. Pomeroy Snr had been largely responsible for efficient fast touring cars, in which light he saw the famous 30/98, and it was in his memory that “young” Pomeroy offered the Pomeroy Trophy. He was using at the time a fine 1914 Prince Henry Vauxhall given to him by its original owner, Mr T.W. Badgery, whose name he associated with the Trophy. The Trophy itself was a fine, quite large model of one of the 1914 41/2-litre Vauxhall Grand Prix racing cars, made by that master model-maker, the late Rex Hays. The rules
governing the contest for which this Trophy was the top award were complicated but ingenious, evolved by Pomeroy and his friend Cecil Clutton, with the intention of picking out from among the competing cars the best kind of fast touring-car. All therefore very much in the image of the illustrious automobile engineer, L. H. Pomeroy of Vauxhall and Daimler fame. The VSCC confined its competitive events to pre-1941 cars, as is generally the case today, apart from special deviations, but the Pomeroy Trophy was to be open to cars of all ages, a brave move that did not therefore especially favour the 30/98 type of car. But Porn saw it as being won by the larger cars, so it was originally open only to those whose engine size exceeded 21/2-litres. By combining speed tests with a road section over which petrol consumption would be measured, insisting on useable hoods to open bodies, and by applying a formula that even took into consideration such things as weight, dimensions of the bodywork etc, the hope was that cars approaching the ideal fast tourer, of whatever period, might etnerge. For a few years petrol-rationing remained and the Pomeroy Trophy had to be awarded to deserving Club officials. But in 1952 all was set to run the competition as planned. It embraced a one-hour High Speed Trial, a steering-test and a 1/4-mile sprint at Silverstone, followed by a drive to
Cheltenham for a road-section in the Cotswolds on Sunday, during which petrol thirst was measured. In the book “The Vintage Sports-Car Club” by Peter Hull (Cassell, 1964) it is recounted how Pomeroy had entered his 1914 Prince Henry Vauxhall but was troubled that this effective motor car might win, thereby making it a case of “Give a thing, take a thing, no Man’s plaything”.
His anxiety was alleviated by Kent Karslake, who was to navigate for him, saying that he was sure to make a nonsense of the road-section, which should even things out no matter how well suited to the formula the ex-Badgery Vauxhall might be! In the event, Peter Binns’s 1924 30/98 Vauxhall won this first Pomeroy Trophy contest, and Laurence Pomeroy must have been very satisfied and pleased with such an outcome. . . The purpose of the Trophy and the regulations governing it were justified and in general this has been the case along the years, as you will see in a moment. The Pomeroy Trophy is still contested every year, under mainly the original rules, although there have been some alterations to the latter. Minimum engine-size changes have been introduced, the road section abandoned, and from 1973 the fuel consumption check was abolished, although it was re-introduced in 1975. On the whole, though, Pomeroy’s original intention has worked out pretty well, which is why I am suggesting that those in the market for a car that can be used for fast road-work as well as a mild competition mount might do worse than use the results of the 31 VSCC Pomeroy Trophy competitions already held to guide their cheque-book hand. In more recent times there has been rather more emphasis, perhaps, on performance, with ss and Is Vs-mile times included, but steering prowess, braking, acceleration and high-speed reliability are incorporated and hoods still have to be erected. Looking at past Pomeroys, it all seems to have worked out rather well. . . Taking the winners by make, the list is as follows: Bugatti: 9, Roesch Talbot: 4, Frazer Nash: 3, Alvin: 2, Sunbeam: 2, and one win each by Aston Martin, Bentley, BMW, Ferrari, Lancia, Lagonda, MG, Triumph, Reliant and Vauxhall. Which seems to embrace only motor cars of the superior sort! (It should be explained that the contest was abandoned three times between 1952 and 1984, in 1957 and 1973 due to a return of petrol rationing and in 1972 because of snow over Silverstone, as I well remember, as I had to hasten back to Wales before the intervening hills became impassable.) Looking at the thing in slightly more detail, it is nice to see how often Pomeroy’s formula pointed to desirable fast touring cars. After Binns had opened correctly by carrying off that Vauxhall model that formed the Trophy with his 30/98 the 1953
event was won by John Vessey in a 1927 Lancia Lambda, which is surely a later-1920s car in the idiom of the earlier 30/98s? Then Jack Sears used his father’s 1914 TT Sunbeam to good effect, winning the 1954 Porn. This may have tumbled the idea of a roomy touring-car taking the premier prize, but the car’s technicalities were close to these of the Vauxhalls and Sunbeams that met in races before and after the war.
There was a bit of a jolt in 1955, when Benstead-Smith captured the Trophy in a Triumph TR2 but the thing returned to the norm in 1956, with an Alvin Speed-20 winning, driven by L. S. Richards. Nor can one be in any way disappointed over the following year’s winner, which was C. Barker’s 18/80 MG, for here was a 1930 car, just within the vintage dateline, that Cecil ‘Umber had surely planned as a notable fast tourer, and the theme was most convincingly continued in 1957, with a win for L. S. Michael’s 1936 41/2-litre Lagonda. Bugatti domination of the Pomeroy Trophy contest began in 1960, with victory going to Ronnie Symondson’s Type 57S, and no-one can grumble about that. Up to then, apart from the prowess of that TR2, all the winners had been pre-war cars, in keeping with the VSCC’s normal principles, but in 1961 A. C. Doggett’s 1956 DB2 Aston Martin scored, but who will deny that this is a desirable fast touring kind of car? Bentley boys are more likely to regard vintage Bentleys as sports cars but in the 1962 Pomeroy Jack Williamson proved that a 1928 41/2-litre Bentley could double as a winning fast tourer. Clever as the formula was, the out-and-out racing car endowed with road-going necessities was its match, given luck and a good driver, as Sears proved in
1963, when he won again in the venerable 1914 TT Sunbeam. Thus encouraged, maybe, Hugh Bergel took home the Porn Trophy in 1964, with his Type 35T Bugatti. But things were back as intended by 1965, with Sir Ralph Mallais the winner in his Le Mans 2.3 Alfa Romeo, a delectable sports / racing car capable of demonstrating these qualities not only for one hour at Silverstone but for a full 24 hours at the Sarthe . . . Anthony Blight has preached long and earnestly about the impeccable all-round excellence of Georges Borsch’s bigger Talbots, so it was only fitting for him to show these qualities to apply to his 105/110 by netting the Porn Trophy in 1966 and doing so again in 1967.
Keith Hill’s fast Silver Eagle Alvis put it across everyone else in the 1968 contest, this being an excellent example of British fast tourer, but Blight, again using Talbot BGH 23, scored his third triumph in 1969. Modernity came to the fore in 1970, when Neil Corner handled his Ferrari GTO beautifully, to put this make among the winners of the contest, and if this is a very different kind of motoring from that provided by an open 30/98, few would deny the appropriateness of its inclusion in a competition for all-round merit.
Writing last month about the Type 43 Bugatti, I remarked that it had won the Pomeroy Trophy more than once, as befitted such a splendid, fast, tourer. This was a distinct understatement, because after Cecil Clutton had begun it in the 1975 event, Type 43s won on four more occasions, proving, would you say, that they are the supreme all-round fast touring cars? Moreover, it took only two of the breed to do it, Hugh Conway in his Type 43 in 1975 and 1978 and John Horton in the ex-Clutton car in 1980 and again this year.
The rest of the Pomeroy Trophy winners to date have all been highly desirable motor cars. Michael Bowler demonstrated the rightful place in this scheme of things of his 1973 Sebring Frazer Nash in 1973, to which R. J. Joice added emphasis by winning the Trophy in 1981 with his 1953 Frazer Nash Le Mans coupe and doing it again last year when driving his 1951 Frazer Nash open Le Mans two-seater. (Note that so far no “Chain-Gang” Frazer Nash has beaten the Pomeroy formula.) Blight endorsed the Roesch Talbot’s claim to supremacy under the Pomeroy roles with a win with his Talbot 105 G052 in 1974, but a GP Bugatti rather dented the touring-car theme in 1976, when Bergel’s Type 35T won for the second time. In 1979 Simon Phillips took the Pomeroy Trophy in a 1938 328 BMW, which, except for being a two-seater, is exactly the kind of car intended, equally capable on road or circuit. Finally, to date, Robin Rew, a determined competitor with a car which might even have become a cult for VSCC members in the post-war field, the Reliant Sabre Six, pulled it off in the 1982 contest, his fast coupe dating from 1963. All in all, it does seem that the “Porn” is quite a reliable yardstick for those seeking to discover good all-round cars. I know the results have depended on what cars have filled the entry lists and that luck and good or bad driving must have affected them. Those who take it more seriously or have time to spend might draw up a marking system and sec how it turns out, taking into consideration the first three cars placed in all these Pomeroy contests. As it is, I would suggest that the results may provide food for contemplation, by those about to browse through the advertisements at the back of MOTOR SPORT. — W.B.
V-E-V Miscellany. — At the NEC Motor Show reported last month Skoda exhibited their pre-1914 Lauren & Klement tourer and in the entrance foyer Motor-110/ had a nice group of ancient vehicles which included Neil Corner’s GI’ Auto-Union. a 30/98 Vauxhall, a 40150 by Rolls-Royce tourer, the 1907 IT Rover, a Ford V8 station-wagon, and the 1888 Benz three-wheeler from the Science Museum. Commercial vehicles were also represented, notably by the 1927 Scania. In the world of steam the colour front cover of the current issue of Steaming, official journal of the National Traction Engine Club, depicts the Sentinel 0G4 truck beautifully restored by McMullen & Sons Ltd, the HertfOrd brewers, who used such steam-waggons from 1934 onwards. The magazine also illustrates the sole-surviving Task, steam-waggon of 1924 vintage which will be the next restoration project I the Hampshire County Museum Trust. which has a collection of Tooker vehicles at Chilcomb House in Winchester. On the subject of brewery-owned steam waggons. Ushers own a 1937 Sentinel brewer’s dray. in their livery, which attends steam rallies.