Meeting Hugh Eaton

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I had the opportunity of spending an evening with Mr H. S. Eaton, a versatile Australian sportsman, who has enjoyed ski­ing, flying and sailing as well as motor racing. His sailing accomplishments, in his own yacht, included the Bermuda races and sailing round the World, etc. He had a pilot’s licence before he had a driving licence, having volunteered for the Navy during the 1914/18 war, flying in the RNAS in Sopwith Camels, his ultimate skills being to test take-off ramps for these fighters operating from ships. “And I never went in the drink”, he says.

At Cambridge he had an ohv-GN and, be­coming friendly with Lionel Martin, a three-seater Bamford & Martin Aston-Martin. He took this over to Boulogne for the Georges Boillot Cup race in 1924 and was leading when he had to retire at half-distance. When the special works A-M for the 1924 JCC 200 Mile Race at Brooklands was badly damaged beforehand Eaton sportingly took over with his still standard sv tourer and lapped at 81 mph, finishing in 13th place, at 79.55 mph, the only A-M to complete the race. Having had a chain-driven supercharger applied to its engine, Eaton’s touring-bodied A-M ran in the 1925 200 Mile Race but was flagged off with 41 laps completed, but was the only A-M still running. Eventually Eaton took this car to Australia, where it was eventually sold.

In England he lived at Peaslake so got to know Brooklands very well. In fact, he learned to fly there and bought his own DH Gypsy Moth G-AAJA which he flew over there without any formalities of any sort, taking-off from his own Paddock and taxiing the machine into a shed on his return. He became a proficient pilot of this light aeroplane, flying it to France and once as far afield as Yugoslavia. He drove his GN successfully in sprint events. For the Track he put a Gwynne Eight engine into the GN, after this 950 cc push-rod ohv power unit had been highly tuned by Laystall’s, and was claimed to reach 6,000 rpm. The driver’s seat was arranged over the GN back axle. Gordon England made the body, which was a thoroughly streamlined single seater with cowled radiator and valance. The car made its debut at the 1924 Bexhill-on-Sea Speed Trials and ran that year at South Harting hill-climb when it broke a valve spring. Eaton also drove his Aston-Martin (car no 1923) in these sprint events. The little pale blue car lapped Brooklands at 78.67 mph in 1925 but “the chains were the trouble” Eaton told me.

In later years Hugh Eaton was a member of the Roesch Talbot team, driving with the Hon Brian Lewis, this pair finishing third at Le Mans in 1930 behind the two leading Speed Six Bentleys, their Talbot averaging 68.66 mph and Eaton driving in many other important races and Alpine Trials, including the BRDC 500 Mile Race at Brooklands, as told in Grenville’s book “The lnvincible Talbots” by Anthony Blight.

Mr Eaton’s road cars have varied from Fiat 500 to the last Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost made and have included a Phantom Rolls-Royce, Roesch Talbot, a specially-bodied 3- litre Rootes Talbot, etc and today he is driven, at the age of 84, his enthusiasm for cars and ships undiminished, by his wife.in their Honda Civic. – W.B.