Veteran to classic miscellany

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Bill Boddy

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VSCC’s Top Trial

I think it fair to say that most of the entrants, 93 this year, regard the VSCC Welsh Trial, involving a run-in of 200 miles to the Sunday start on the Saturday and then 13 interesting and now traditional hill-sections on the Sabbath, as the high-point of this Club’s trials session — unless the Lakeland Trial comes higher on their agenda. Since the thing was first mooted back in 1939 it has become quite an event locally, too, as people go to Presteign to see the “old-fashioned motors”, as one tiny girl was heard to describe them, assemble in the narrow street outside rally headquarters, the famous Radnorshire Arms, dating back to 1616.

This year not quite so many cars had arrived by early afternoon as last year, perhaps because their crews had started later on the compulsory run-in, in deference to dancing until the early hours which now occupies Saturday night and a bit of Sunday morning. However, interest was preserved by an aloof Rolls-Royce parked in a near-by yard and an immaculate 1933 Triumph Southern Cross tourer with the four-cylinder ioe Coventry-Climax engine, the sort of car, with its long bonnet, radiator stone-guard and bogus sporting air, one might not have bought new, but which is now a nice thing to see in such well-presented order. A diversion was a small cavalcade of Lea-Francis cars, back from lunch in New Radnor.

Another Saturday afternoon attraction was Chris Gordon’s latest acquisition, the ex-Arnold-Forster solid-tyred Trojan. Although the makers of this unbelievable device used to advertise that if you owned a Trojan you couldn’t afford to walk, I noticed that Chris had not, in fact, discarded his shoes… Also that, off on the intro, he was quite willing to accept a push-off, after tugging for some time on the inboard starting lever to the detriment of his right arm muscles.

So to Sunday’s sport. Drama had already unfolded, when Diffey’s A7 broke its crank en route to Wales, necessitating a return to put in another engine, all-night work that finished with a 5.55am arrival for the 8am start. As the competitors assembled, one saw various ploys in search of wheelgrip. Biggins’ 1924 bull-nose Morris had three spares on the back, for instance, Roger Collings had two extra doorless seats on the 1903 Mercedes Sixty, one of which was occupied by David Thirlby, no doubt deemed an effective “bouncer”, with Roger and Judy up front, a more sporting affair than the touring coachwork Collings uses for his November dashes to Brighton. Even Jones’ powerful 30/98 carried two girls in the stern. It had rained buckets in Radnorshire during the preceding week, nicely doctoring the hills, which may be why, on this hot October day, the two similar A7 Chummies, of Miss Gledhill and P Gledhill, had their hoods erect — or perhaps they are troublesome to furl?

Cocking a snook at the puncture-proof Trojan afore-mentioned, S Colledge was competing in Carlisle’s pneu-shod version. Danaher was driving a purposeful-looking Brescia Bugatti reputed to be rather too high geared for trials work. Riddle was driving his ohv GN and the event was deemed not too tough for Goding’s 1917 6-litre Studebaker, which indeed, along with Collings’ 1903 Mercedes, gained an award, whereas Roscoe’s 1913 Overland didn’t appear.

In spite of heavy rain in the preceding week, the sections were not too difficult, and only four cars retired: Bowman’s Frazer Nash, Brian Gray’s A7-Jap, the luckless Diffey A7,and McEwen’s Riley 9 which had the misfortune to be clouted by Goding’s Studebaker after the section known as Railway, with sufficient damage to make it unserviceable, although it had been going well. The Study was able to continue.

H Colledge’s Riley 9 was suffering from misfiring which changes of plugs only partially cured, but it was able to finish, going quite well at two of the Pilleth ascents. Here Mrs Daniels’ 30/98 made it sedately to top marks on section 2, and Marsh in the Morris Sports nearly got to the summit, doing better here than David Marsh in the 30/98.

With VSCC antecedents in mind, some may see this trial as a 30/98 v Bentley battle. In this context, 17-year old Ben Collings, by winning Class 2 outright in the family 1928 4-1/2-litre example of the Cricklewood marque, left no room for argument. But congratulations to A Jeddere-Fisher in leading home the Vauxhall element in his 1921 E-type, with 216 marks, (Collings scored 221), from 11 other 30/98s, all OE-types, of which the joint runners-up were Garland and Bruce Spollon, with 213 points each.

It ended, traditionally, at Pilleth Farm, where generous free parking is provided for spectator’s cars, the collection this time for the Cystic Fibrosis Research Trust, sponsoring two lads who had pushed a 2CV Citroën there from Knighton.

As competitors tackled the three grassy sections distant hammering could be heard, as Chris Gordon’s Trojan was fettled in preparation for its slow run home to Birmingham. Mostly it was easy although Pilleth 2 defeated the AJS and Malyan’s Frazer Nash near the start-line, while Walker’s Gwynne 8, Barry Clarke’s A7-GN and Danaher’s Bugatti stopped at marker one, in class one, and there was even more havoc in class 2, Bendall’s 30/98 stopping low down with spinning back wheels, and he was far from the only one.

Never mind! The mist had dispersed, the day had been fine and warm, and the awards-list lengthy. Young Ben Collings won the Presteigne Trophy in the Bentley, Keith Hill (Helix-Crouch) and J Newell’s A7 shared the Harry Bowler Trophy for best overall performance (235 points each), the Leslie Winder Trophy went to Odell’s 1023 Riley, and the Smatcher Trophy, commemorating that difficult hill, to Gunn’s supercharged A7. In class one First Class Awards were won by Hill, Newell (A7), Gunn, Miss Winder (A7), S Colledge (Trojan), Blake (GN), and Blakeney Edwards (Frazer Nash), Second Class Awards by Felton (Bugatti), Spence (Lea-Francis), Stringer (A7) and Welch (A7), Third Class Awards by Low (A7), Rolfe (MG), Longhurst (Riley 9) and Moffatt (Bugatti). In Class Two the 1st class Awards winners were B Collings, Jeddere-Fisher (30/98), Hirst (Alvis), Bruce Spollon (30/98) and P Garland (30/98), Second Class Awards went to Mrs Tomlinson (A7), Baxter (Chrysler), Garland (Alvis), Harris (Bentley) and R Collings (1903 Mercedes), and the Third Class Awards to Goding (Studebaker), Millham (30/98), Threlfall (Ford) and Goldsmith (Lea-Francis). The Navigation Run was won by Creed Miles, whose 1929 A7 was so impeccably directed round the course by Anabel Jones that they lost only two marks, whereas the next-best scorer, Burnett in a 1928 12/50 Alvis, forfeited 17. The Award takers here were; lsts to Creed Miles, Burnett, Wickham (Alvis), and Baker (Rolls-Royce), 2nds to Milne Atkinson (A7), Hanna (A7) Johnson (Lea-Francis) and Stimson (Riley 9), 3rds to Hancock (OM), Mrs. Parkin (A7), and Britcher (Alvis). Back in the car-park I was introduced to an elegant 4-1/2-litre Lagonda which is apparently in the same trim as when the late TG Moore, who then owned Motor Sport competed with it in a pre-war Monte Carlo Rally, starting from some improbable place, and I was heartened to see Good’s 1923 Gwynne 8 going home four-up. Incidentally, it was apparent that flat-twin Jowetts are still around in the VSCC, LiIley’s cream two-seater competing in the trial — a modified car, but looking exceedingly innocent — Wills’ 1924 model in the navigation frolic. And two ACs braved the trial, Hescroffs covetable Montlhéry Six and the brightly-hued 1929 six-cylinder two-seater of Thring, which either had oversize tyres or under-size mudguards. — WB

***

VSCC Eastern Rally

On October the 20th, this versatile club held a rally, as a change from trials and racing, over a route in Suffolk, with penalties for being early or late, or for approaching from the wrong direction, the dozen controls. Penalties were also imposed for bringing one’s car on a trailer, missing out a check-point, opening as the event was conducted in daylight the last-named carried no sinister implications! This brought in 47 rallyists, but of these four failed to start and two A7s, an Alvis and a Riley found the tasks too involved and failed to finish the course.

Of those who did well, K Bennett’s 1928 Alvis won the Premier Award, P Merrick’s 1934 Lagonda Rapier the Newcomer’s prize, Miss Winder’s A7 the Novices’ prize — or rather, the drivers and navigators helped the cars to do this. Out of four class-permutations First Class Awards went to Hart (Humber), Potter (Lea-Francis), Callifant (Alvis) and Cattell (Riley), Second Class Awards to Edge (Alvis), Blakeney Edwards (Frazer Nash), Glover (Alvis), Mahany (HRG) and Fayter (Riley), Third Class Awards to Creed Miles (A7 — navigated by a certain driver used to Mercedes 60 power) and Lupton (Lea-Francis). All cars were pre-1940. — WB

***

More on GNs

The article in last month’s Motor Sport about my encounter with two of Edward Riddle’s GNs seems to have been well received, but space restrictions caused some items to be omitted. For example, John Garland, to whom Riddle had introduced the GN cyclecar, remained faithful to his for some time, before buying a 3-litre Bentley for £65 and later the 30/98 Vauxhall which his son Peter drives in today’s VSCC events. And it may interest Morris folk to know that Riddle’s second Oxford-engined Cowley had a 3.68 to 1 axle ratio, achieved by inserting a Model-T Ford crown-wheel and pinion into the Morris final-drive assembly. The idea was to get a higher cruising pace with the increased power but this hope of a high-speed Cowley never quite worked out, although it proved a satisfactory replacement for the 12/50 Alvis, which Riddle had regarded as a good car, if a thought over-rated.

It was not made clear that the third car I tried was Riddle’s 1925 Frazer Nash, which endorsed his 50mph cruising-speed theory. It was another he built up from a basket-case, that including what he believes to be the first side-valve Anzani engine to have been installed in one of these cars. I found, by the way, that the cubby hole in a GN dashboard would just about take my Canon camera, but certainly not a Rolleiflex. . .

Incidentally, GNs have survived quite well. Apart from the two I tried, another 24 are current in the VSCC Members’ List. — WB

***

Gopsall again

Last month I referred to a brief visit I made to Gopsall Park, a one-time speed-trial venue. It was here, for instance, that the CUAC ran its 1933 event, at which Oliver Bertram in the 10-1/2-litre Delage (well known today to VSCC members) made FTD, in 26.8 sec for the slightly uphill half-mile course, Whitney Straight making best sports-car time (30.6 sec) in an 8-litre Bentley, after which he sat in the car reading The Times. And where, incidentally, the Chief Constable got his car well and truly bogged-down on the grass at the end of the course, heavy rain having fallen beforehand.

The reason I return to the subject of Gopsall Park, the 1100-acre estate formerly surrounding the mansion owned by the Howe family, and later the property of Lord Waring, is because I was reminded by the young man now living at the Lodge and who is researching the history of the place, that at one time it was proposed that a race-track should be made there. This idea surfaced in 1932/33, the scheme being to construct a road-course of some six miles to a lap, with several shorter circuits incorporated therein, and with plenty of interesting bends and corners, with the mansion as the club-house. It seems that Hugh P McConnell, the Brooklands’ Scrutineer, was interested and the Advisory Committee which planned the layout of the proposed course consisted of Earl Howe, Sir Henry Birkin, Bt, Sir Malcolm Campbell, the Hon Brian Lewis, Chris Staniland and SCH Davis. Unfortunately the necessary finance was not forthcoming and no more was heard of this track or those proposed for Tring, Brighton, and other venues. Meanwhile, early in 1933 the then 2-mile 327-yard Donington Park circuit was successfully opened, ER Hall’s MG winning the very first race there.– WB

***

Having written about the ex-Henry Laird racing Morgan “Yellow” in the October Motor Sport we learn that its one-time companion, “Red”, has recently returned here, from California.

***

Arising from the recent reference to Duryea cars, we hear that a 1900 four-seater is being restored in this country and are reminded that of the three-wheeler Gems we mentioned, dating from about 1915 but with production, even in the USA, delayed by the war, three remained in the garage behind Charles Duryea’s house in Philadelphia, mixed up with sales brochures and the movie projector used for promotional films. One of these was acquired by L Scott Bailey and Stan Wilkinson, the latter having helped to restore Scott Bailey’s 1898 Duryea Trap; he had first discovered the other Duryea in 1958. Today there is a Duryea Gem in the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.

***

The Lea-Francis OC has compiled a grand list of the cars owned by its members. They add up to 325, the breakdown being a 1923 D-type, a 1925 I-type, eight J-types, four K-types the oldest of which dates from 1925, a couple of L-types, three M-types, a 1926 Kirkstone tourer, the racing Lobster Hyper replica, four 1LFS, two 2LFS, 54 P-types running from 1927 to 1933, 28 S-types, four U-types, six V-types, six W-types, seven of the race ohc “Ace of Spades” cars, three Much Park Street models, 17 14hp Lea-Francis with Estate bodies, 79 with 4-light saloon bodies and ten with 6-light saloon bodies (four of these 14s now in chassis form), three Westland 14s, 28 Sports 14s, four 18hp saloons, 26 2-1/2-litre sports models, a 2-1/2-litre Westland, a 14hp van, two Lea-Francis-engined Connaughts, three Lynx, eleven 12/14hp Specials, and a couple of 1989/1990 modern Leafs. Also three Unihorse, three motorcycles, and three bicycles of the appropriate make. The President of this active Club is CT Delaney, who has the Hyper he raced at Brooklands and two vintage S-types, and the Secretary is DBR Sawers, French’s, Long Wittenham, Oxon, OX14 4QQ.

***

A short-term exhibit at the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu was a 1925 Farman tourer, one of those very rare luxury 6.6-litre single-overhead-camshaft six-cylinder cars that challenged the legendary Hispano Suiza. In the Museum’s Michael Sedgwick Memorial Run the winner was an A7 Ruby, from a 1939 Series-E Morris and a 1947 Rover 12.

***

The newly-formed Benjafield’s Racing Club, formed “to foster the spirit and camaraderie of the great team to which that doctor/racing driver belonged”, is to be congratulated on having already found a new venue for a speed-trial. This was Cornbury Park, Oxon, where over a quarter-mile of the drive Donald Day (ERA) made FTD. The Club’s President is Stanley Mann and the idea is obviously Bentley-orientated, although “Benjy” also raced Salmson, Panhard Levassor, Alfa Romeo, De Dion Bouton, MG and Aston Martin cars. Club membership is limited to 50, by invitation, so we need not give you the secretary’s address!

***

Among all the 0-100-0mph heroics, it is amusing to remember that 65 years ago it was claimed that a Grand Sport Amilcar had done 0-50-0 in 16-1/2 seconds… WB

***

Cars in books

Well, not cars this time, but aviation. Aeroplane followers should find “Air Crash” by Fred Jones (Robert Hale, 1985, ISBN 0-7090-2161-5) of interest, although after reading it they may never want to go in an aeroplane again, because it is about accident investigation, the “clues in the wreckage”. The book covers the findings about the prototype, Fairey Firefly which broke up on a trial flight and killed the racing-driver and test-pilot Chris Staniland, in 1941.–WB

***

MG Yearbook

The 1991 edition of the “T-Register Yearbook” is now out and MG owners should be very glad that the MG Car Club issues interesting publications. The contents of this magazine-format 48-page book include an article about George Tuck, who was MG’s pre-war Publicity Manager. I remember this handsome young man, who sensibly married the MG General Manager’s daughter and his advertising material, who later found himself in the Desert Army and, the war over, joined BMC’s Export Division, running a ZB Magnette as his company car. The Alan Hess Magazine which became FLM Harris’s Sports Car (to which I contributed and was its ad manager for a very brief spell!) and finally Safety Fast, comes into it. There is a long piece about Archie Scott Brown with a cover picture of him racing an MG at Boreham, more about the old Boreham race circuit, news of T-types the world over, etc. This excellent effort is available for £5.00 and back numbers are also available, from: D Saunders, Owl Cottage, 13 Ermine street, Caxton, Cambridge, CB3 8PB — WB

***

Out of the Past

Items from motoring’s past crop up from time to time. For instance, I met a gentleman in a Nantwich hotel who had worked as a boy in one of Jack Field’s two garages in Southport, and thus had this link with racing cars (see Motor Sport, February, 1990). He did long hours, sometimes 8am to 10pm, for some 10/- (50p) a week. Living in Birkdale, Field sometimes had to take him home afterwards. He remembered the Talbots, Bugattis, the Sunbeam “Silver Bullet” and the old 350 hp V12 Sunbeam raced on the sands by Field. The foreman of the garage was apt to be feared but proved unexpectedly understanding when the lad damaged the mudguard of the Hudson Super Six on which he had been taking solo unauthorised driving lessons within the premises.

We talked of the old Southport races, of Thistlewaite’s and the Conan Doyles’ Mercedes-Benz, the latters’ gold-painted Bugatti, Selby’s Bugatti and the successful 4-speed A7 of Pat Stephenson which competed there. My informant went into the jewellery business but retained his liking for cars, of which his first was a Standard 9, followed by a small Ford. In later times he enjoyed Jaguars, 3.4, 3.8 and an XK140, had a Peerless, and a Riley Kestrel, but the best-remembered car was a Talbot 110 Airline saloon, which cracked a cylinder but was repaired after the back axle had been removed to release the engine.

Others were a V8 Jensen, a couple of quick and durable Saabs, and a much-liked Alfa Romeo Giullietta, followed by two BMW 2002s in succession, up to the present. The Aintree GP in which Moss beat Fangio by a short head, both in Mercedes-Benz, was recalled, and racing at Oulton Park and Donington Park is still attended, especially the VSCC events. I was reminded of the Hon E G Greenall starting with a Cooper 500 (the hotel’s beer-mats were another reminder), of Ken Flint from Stoney Stratford racing the ERA “Remus”, and that when the British GP came to Aintree the cars were housed in Kelly’s Bakery premises. Little snippets from the past, which fascinate me, as I hope they do others. — WB

***

Parry Thomas Plaque

A plaque to commemorate the Welsh racing-driver and engineer, JG Parry Thomas, who was the greatest Brooklands exponent of the 1920s and who died at Pendine in 1927 defending his LSR at over 170mph in “Babs”, has been unveiled recently at his birthplace in Wrexham. He was the son of a curate who soon became vicar of Bwelch-y-Cibau in Montgomeryshire. This is excellent news, and contrasts with the unwarranted opposition to a similar memorial being erected at the spot where Mike Hawthorn lost his life in a road accident.

Shortly after I had moved from Hampshire to Mid-Wales to escape the rapidly encroaching over-spill of cars and people (to find that you could park unmolested for 24 hours in the High Street of what has since become a crowded county-town) I paid a visit to the vicarage where Thomas was brought up. A typical Welsh Vicar, clad all in black, answered my knock. Before I had time to tell him why I wanted to photograph his house he delighted me by saying: “It cannot be for the architecture, so it must be because Parry Thomas grew up here”. This was some time before Wyn Owen had dug up “Babs”, restored the famous car, and had thus brought Thomas’s name back into prominence.

Parry Thomas is well remembered at Pendine where he died, at the Beach Hotel. But it is not possible to erect a plaque on the “Hermitage”, his Brooklands home, or at the adjacent works where the Leyland Thomas racing-cars were built, because Bass Charrington, the brewers, had these and other historic buildings bull-dozed out of existence, at short notice, some years ago. I like to think that this may still have a considerable influence on the drinking habits of many motor-racing followers! — WB

***

Wheels and Balls

Important rugger matches having been in the news recently, with more airtime, re-plays and pre-post-match interviews than motor racing receives (the BBC’s “all-balls” attitude), I have been reminded of the remark made to me many years ago by a racing driver, to the effect that although he had been very happy to beat the great Malcolm Campbell when both were driving cars of the same kind, he had his happiest day of all when he scored for Cambridge in the Inter-Varsity Rugby Match at Twickenham in 1923.

The driver was the late WB “Bummer” Scott and he certainly vanquished Campbell when both started from the same mark in identical cars, their 1-1/2-litre straight-eight supercharged Grand Prix Delages, in the 1930 Gold Star race at Brooklands, Scott lapping twice at 122.57mph, which was quicker by 0.90mph than Campbell’s best. The satisfaction was at first reversed when Scott was disqualified for crossing a forbidden safety-line at the Fork. But Birkin protested in Scott’s favour that he had been forced to do this to give the Bentley room as it was flagged off from scratch, and the disqualification was quickly dropped.

I had wondered about what happened on that happiest of all days in Scott’s memory and spurred on by the spate of exciting rugger matches in recent weeks, I was provided by my county-town library with David Frost’s book “The Bowrings Story of the Varsity Match” (Macdonald Queen Anne Press), which duly enlightened me. WB Scott (Fettes/Pembroke)played for Cambridge in the 1923 match at Twickenham and, with RH Hamilton-Wickes (Wellington/Pembroke) and Sir TG Devitt (Sherborne/Corpus Christi) scored a try. Scott played again in 1924, without scoring. Oxford won both matches. I thought you might like to be reminded of this! — WB

***

VSCC Racing Drivers Championship

The 1991 VSCC Racing Driver’s Championship was sponsored by the Sheraton Pine Cliffs Golf & Country Club Organisation, which was a great help in these times of rising circuit hire charges. Anthony Mayman won both the PVT and Post-War categories with his ERA and Lotus, and Dave Caroline, the Morgan three-wheeler exponent, the Vintage class. The prizes were presented by Nigel Mansell at a dinner at the Knightsbridge Sheraton Park Towers Hotel, and the VSCC President, Bruce Spollon, thanked the sponsors for their very generous support throughout the season. — WB

***

Sunbeam Run

The ever-efficient Sunbeam MCC announces that next year’s Pioneer Run to Brighton, from Epsom, will be held on March 22nd. This year the 54th such run had an entry of over 360 pre-1915 machines. Regulations for the 1992 event are already available, from Marjorie Ayers, 59 Beechwood Road, Sandersfoot, Surrey.

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