An HRG Item
LAST SUMMER’S great Golden Jubilee of the VSCC will no doubt have pleasant repercussions that will last for a very long time. One such, so far as I am concerned, relates to seeing a blue HRG which I was told was carrying a plaque announcing that it was the car I road-tested for MOTOR SPORT back in 1937. Naturally this interested me but I could not find the owner. Thinking about it afterwards, I looked up the entry list and discovered four HRGs, so I asked Peter Hull which might be the one in which I was particularly interested. He suggested that it could be Peter Garland’s (he also drives a 30/98 Vauxhall), which had had the distinction of winning the Jubilee Sporting Trial outright. However, Garland told me that his HRG is not the one MOTOR SPORT tested but car no. A51, Reg. No. DCD 215, the first production HRG, built to the order of Harold Powell, one of the founder members of the VSCC. Harold himself had meanwhile confirmed this. He bought it in September 1936, when it was grey, with green chassis and wheels. Powell kept it until 1952, when marriage and a family made a larger car necessary. For a time it was in Bristol, but its subsequent history is a blank, until Roger Newton acquired it some four or five years ago. Garland badly wanted DCD 215 but it took him 18 persuasive months before Newton would part with it. With good reason, because his father, the late Jack Newton, had owned one of the fastest post-war HRGs, with which he used to compete at Shelsley Walsh and elsewhere. Naturally, Powell was delighted to see it win the VSCC Jubilee Trial. All very interesting, but it wasn’t the car I road-tested in 1937. It was suggested that the HRG I was seeking might be Tim Pipkin’s blue car. However, Tim’s car is Reg No EPG 735, the third production HRG, number A53, which once belonged to Tim Seccombe, and the plaque, put on it by
a previous owner, refers simply to performance figures I obtained with FPE 767. (I am indebted to Ian Dussek of the HRG Register for help in these matters.) The HRG I actually road-tested before the war was car number A60, Reg No FPE 767. I was friendly with Ron Godfrey and used to call in at the HRG works from time to time, to see what was going on. I remember collecting FPE 767 from Tolworth and driving it down to the West Country in search of trials hills, cruising at a speedometer 80 mph for mile after mile. I found that this Meadows-engined HRG would climb New Hollow, Capstich and Ibberton, all well-known hills of the time, in second gear, at between 3,300 and 3,500 rpm, although bottom gear was used to clear the top of Ibberton in showers of gravel and pebbles. Hard-surfaced gradients like Zig-Zag and Middlednwn caused no
problems and on a fast ascent of the latter in third and second I hit the outside bank. Under these conditions there was a tendency for the engine to boil, although its cr was only seven to one and I was using Discol or Esso Ethy petrol; pinking was evident and the ignition control needed constant attention, although oil temperature did not normally go above 65 deg.
Later I took the car to Brooklands, to obtain performance figures. In those days we started acceleration figures from 10 mph, and the HRG was up to 50 mph in 9.8 sec, while 10-60 mph took 13.4 sec. A grassclipping lap was done at 78 mph and when the car was allowed to use its own line round the Byfieet banking, this rose to 82 mph, but caused the soft Champion plugs to pre-ignite. Two up, the fs Vs-mile and 1/2-mile were done at exactly 88 mph. In those days road tests were of comparatively brief duration but in the two days I had FPE 767 I did 400 miles, no oil being required, the pressure at 40/45 lb sq in, and in the gears, going to 5,000 rpm, the maximum speeds were 26, 44, and 71 mph. The price? —£395. I can still recall the very pleasant way in which the short, remote-control gear-lever sliced through the open, narrow gate for the Moss gearbox, the quick steering geared PA turns lock-to-lock, and the hard springing. I wrote at the time: ” . . . if this report emphasises that the HRG is a genuine thoroughbred with outstanding performance and very interesting characteristics, we shall be more than satisfied. Suffice it, therefore, to say that Mr Godfrey has done his job well and given us a most refreshing motor car in this age of flashy, low-geared and generally ‘pansy’ small sports cars.” In fact, the road-test report occupied just less than three full pages in the issue of MOTOR SPORT for June 1937. FPE 767 was later owned by Ken Farley, but was written off in 1960. So bang goes my hope of driving it Continued on —
again! Later I borrowed from Godfrey the works hack, the blue DPA 233 (which I gather has been dormant for some years but has recently come to light again), so that I could drive it at the 1937 Bugatti OC Lewes Speed Trials. I tied for third place in the class for sports cars up to 11/2-litres with Miss Wilby’s Frazer Nash, with a run in 27.6 sec, being beaten by Weldon’s supercharged Atalanta which clocked 26.4 sec and Watkins-Pitchford’s Frazer Nash which managed 27.0 sec. A slightly better run in 27.4 sec gave me another third place behind the blown 2.3 Bugattis of Craig and
Walsham, the H.RG being slower by 2.5 sec and 1.0. sec, respectively, in the Novices class. Some years later I drove the famous Peter Clark class-winning Le Mans HRG, which finished 10th in the 1938 race and 14th, in 1939, co-driven by Marcus Chambers, finding it even more harshly. sprung. . . .
To round this off, Harold Powell recalls making up a team composed of his HRG, Guy Robins in the red demonstrator HRG, Reg No EPH 19, and the late Anthony Curtis in the prototype, Reg No DPA 233 for the 1937 MCC Land’s End Trial. So it is nice to learn that Robins has recently acquired the ex-Betty Haig HRG. — W.B.