The high-flyer from Bradford
Felix Scriven’s long drives down from Yorkshire to compete at Brooklands were well worth the effort
When in World War II German bombing of London increased, the Ministry of Defence moved its premises to Harrogate where I worked for them on Air Publications intended to inform the RAF of how to maintain their aeroplanes. This enabled me to visit the enthusiastic Felix Scriven who had raced at Brooklands, in spite of the Track being some 200 miles away, on the slow roads of that time, from his home in Bradford. He was then racing his Austin 20 ‘Sergeant Murphy’. Austin had by then introduced their sporting model and when Scriven bought one he asked them to make certain alterations of his own. They did this but withdrew their 70mph guarantee.
In order to race his car and be able to take a passenger, presumably his wife and two helpers or mechanics on the back seat, and still carry track tyres with him, he mounted two wheels thus shod, one on each side of the Austin’s pointed tail, and sent two more, crated up, to his hotel in Weybridge.
In 1921 he won his first race with a fastest lap of 75.30mph. Another competitor claimed he had an oversized engine. Scriven insisted that his engine be measured then and there, although Bradford must have seemed a long way away. The engine was found to have the correct dimensions of 95x127mm and 3601cc. The complainant has never been named but H G Hawker was second in this race in an AC with a best lap of 73.13mph, third place going to A Noble with a fastest lap of 67.30mph in another AC.
In 1922 Scriven had a first place with a best lap of 86.02mph and a second place with a lap at 82.54mph. In 1923 he gained a second place with a best lap of 85.87mph and in 1924 he had two wins with a best lap of 93.97mph, and also two second places with a best lap of 94.55mph. In 1925 he had another win with a fastest lap of 94.86mph. Also in that year he produced a new car called ‘Mother Goose’, so named because it was “stuffed with Sage”. The Sage engine and gearbox unit was a six-cylinder of 1950cc. This was rather a crude-looking car, although it had an inclined radiator. It first appeared in the August Bank Holiday meeting but gave trouble.
In 1926 he built ‘Nanette’, having persuaded Parry Thomas to provide a 1847cc Hooker-Thomas engine. He was placed on scratch, as handicapper ‘Ebby’ Ebblewhite only discovered this information in passing, but Scriven managed to win the 90mph Short handicap with Nanette, doing a best lap of 96.33mph. Also in that year he was still racing Sergeant Murphy but achieved no places with it.
In 1927 he had a second place with Nanette with a fastest lap of 85.87mph.
Sergeant Murphy, which Scriven had used for road work and trials as well as racing, finally went to a breaker’s yard.
My Bollée started out as a paper van
From 1895 Leon Bollée produced a light car named after himself, then in 1903 he made a variety of cars; by 1910 he was offering nine different models. After World War I he began to make cars with overhead valves and front-wheel brakes. The name Leon Bollée was adopted by William Morris in 1924.
My Leon Bollée was not one of these. I wouldn’t have known about it had not a schoolboy gone to his sister’s open day and, becoming bored, strolled around and discovered an old car that he wrote to Motor Sport about.
I got in touch with the school’s headmistress who confirmed that this was so. She said that it was an eyesore and that no one wanted it, so if I was interested I should get in touch with the groundsman. He agreed that the car should be removed and that I could have it for nothing.
So I went off with my friend Jenks to investigate it. We discovered that it had been turned into a tractor and was now just a chassis. Apparently the original gearbox had failed, because another had been installed behind it.
I decided to consult the London agent for Leon Bollée and he told me that a friend of his was the transport manager for the London Evening News and had ordered five Leon Bollées for delivering the early editions of the paper to newsagents around the city. He showed me a photograph of the fleet of smart vans. He thought that one of these had eventually been sold to the school.
We returned with a suitable trailer – and a packet of cigarettes for the groundsman – to take it back to mid-Wales where I was living. Our route embraced Richmond Park where trailers are not allowed; I told Jenks this but he took no notice, resulting in much whistle-blowing and waving by park keepers, so to avoid being stopped we drove to a different exit.
A7 was an early 750MC winner
I have a recollection of going with Tom Lush to obtain a supercharged Ulster A7 which was part of an exchange deal involving an A7 Ruby saloon with George Chaplin.
Chaplin had raced two A7s at Brooklands, named Mr and Mrs Flee, the latter because it suffered bad crankshaft periods. We had tea with Chaplin, during which he produced pornographic material, hastily rolled up when his landlady came to collect the tea things, when all we wanted was to get going in the supercharged Ulster. At last we were away on the long run to London, the wonderful sound from the various gear trains and the supercharger very inspiring.
Before stripping it down, Tom entered the car in the last pre-war Prescott hillclimb to assess what needed to be done with it. But then the war intervened.
I believe that Charles Bulmer and Holly Birkett raced the car in 1950 in the first 750 Formula race at Silverstone that June (Bulmer is pictured above at Silverstone, chatting to Bill). Both won, so they took the Goodacre Trophy.
The Man who Supercharged Bond
The extraordinary story of Charles Amherst Villiers, by Paul Kenny
While the Ian Fleming and James Bond elements will appeal to an enormous number of readers, the motor racing enthusiast should note the second heading. This excellent book’s smooth prose adds to the pleasure of learning about the long history of Amherst Villiers, and proves easy reading. It details his long and complicated life from the ‘nuts and bolts’ to his serious engineering achievements, from the days of the early TT Vauxhalls to the supercharged Bentleys. Paul Kenny describes all this with expert knowledge, including explanations not only of Villiers’ technical successes but also why some of these failed. Also Included are the legal battles he had in later life with Rolls-Royce Ltd and Bentley Motors.
Published by Haynes, ISBN 9781844254682, £25