Two days’ hard slog
Well, one-and-a-half days really! This tough October trial for pre-war cars started with a 100-mile run to Presteigne, just over the Welsh border, where locals and enthusiasts saw preparations being made to the 101 entries, back wheels being changed, bad-weather clothes donned, and Maylan’s Frazer Nash having its transmission attended to.
Odell’s “Mud-Racer” had been completed only that morning, to spare his Riley Sand-Racer the stresses and strains of the trial. It is a replica of the 10.8hp side-valve special sports Riley in 1923 form, using vintage parts even to its short running-boards — an impressive car with a very long bonnet and but one dial (an air-pressure gauge) on its dash. The Sand-Racer was originally registered HP 9310, and the story goes that after it broke its crankshaft this number (whose digits add up to 13) was thought unlucky and changed; the later number is still on the Sand-Racer, and the earlier one is now on the new sports job.
Another newcomer was Sudjic’s little 1930 Aero, a 662cc two-stroke which was apt to boil, its two-seater body more sophisticated than those of A7s of this period. A7s numbered nearly a quarter of the entry, including Stringer’s Hughes of Birmingham sports version and the versatile Ann Shoosmith’s Gordon England Cup model. Hickling and his stalwart passengers were riding high in the 1917 Dodge Four, and Liddell’s 30/98’s showroom-style sparkle belied its run up from Hampshire. Blake’s GN, alas, broke its Vitesse engine at the very start.
At Bailey, one of Saturday’s eight observed sections (a steep climb above Llangunllo with overhanging trees making the lower part slimy), Moffatt just kept his T13 Bugatti going; it was even more touch-and-nearly not-go for Marsh’s Brescia, and Felton in the third 16-valve Bugatti failed. Most of the others likewise, but Liddell stormed up, clouting a bank on the way, and Jane Tomlinson made it look very easy in her remarkable A7 box-saloon.
Before his unsuccessful attempt, Hallam had cheerfully repaired a split sprocket on the Anzani Frazer Nash. Rouse’s hoodless Chummy started well but soon stopped heavy bouncing did nothing to avail Doggett’s Alvis Silver Eagle, the Aero hardly got started, and even Potter in Miss Stocken’s Trojan Utility (to which boiling apparently comes naturally) failed. Saturday’s action ended with Jeddere-Fisher’s 30/98 well placed, but Stanley Mann’s A7 out after smashing its differential while reversing from a section, and retreating to its van. . .
Sunday’s first hill, Lloyds, a muddy gully high on a bleak hillside, had proved a stopper last year, but seemed easier this time. Bruce Spollon cleaned it in the 30/98 Wensum, followed among others by the Dodge, both Trojans (Carlisle’s faster than Potter’s), and Baxter’s Model A Ford which started in middle gear and changed down halfway up! Fenner’s Riley 9 had the rotten luck to fail right at the top, whereas a similar 9 had lost revs at half-distance. Rides’ 41/2-litre Invicta grounded its front axle this time, and shed its silencer.
The four sections at Pilleth ended this eventful trial, free parking and refreshments (the latter to aid church restoration funds) being generously provided by the farmer. Rain had by now made the going very difficult, and on Pilleth One most cars stopped low down, Seymour Price’s A7 Chummy in spite of having a large tree-stump as ballast; Winder showed his skill by reversing the famous 8/18 Humber Chummy faster than it had tried to ascend!
Ann Shoosmith sawed at the wheel to get her A7 to marker four, and by running almost on the Bugatti’s rims Moffatt got even higher. Another hard try got Bennett’s A7 to marker six and a steady climb by Hill almost took the Crouch-Helix to success; the A7s of Painter, Low, Proctor, Clarke and Gunn did as well, but Felton did best of all in the Bugatti. But the jolly Austin 16/6 tourer was steaming and wouldn’t look at it, and Rolfe’s Chummy had lost its silencer.
The hero of this ordeal by Jupiter Pluvius turned out to be young Simon Diffey, who was the outright winner in his A7.
In the pelting Welsh rain the large number of onlookers began to melt away while sodden competitors again set about inflating or changing back tyres; “The Welsh” was over for another year, but already they were talking of the VSCC Lakeland trial. And as I drove home over deserted roads I overtook a sleeve-valve Daimler, for all the world as if it were sixty or rnore years ago. WB