MOTORING SPORTSMEN. Mr. S. G. Cummings. By THE EDITOR.
KNOWN to the younger motor sportsmen as an energetic official at the leading motor events at Brooklands and elsewhere, Mr. Sidney George Cummings figured successfully at the wheel in pre-war days, and though no longer participating in trials and races, his keen interest and valuable assistance goes far in maintaining all the best traditions of the great game.
Educated at a private school, Sidney Cummings began his career in the counting house of a city merchant, and sticking the job for as long as was humanly possible in deference to his parents’ wishes, a term of twelve months found him thoroughly convinced that this was not his right metier. Looking round for some occupation more suited to his natural inclinations, he was offered a start in a small cycle factory, which was much more to his taste. Thus at the age of seventeen years he began to acquire a fair amount of mechanical skill ; for at that time cycles were built throughout by small firms, similar to that in which he was employed. Frames were built up and brazed without much in the way of jigs and such jobs as wheel building called for that degree of accuracy which he afterwards used with good effect on motor vehicles.
Mr. Cummings was in his younger days a very keen cycle racer and gained numerous successes on machines of his own make. His trophies comprise a large collection of cups, medals and other awards won as an unattached rider on most of the grass and cinder tracks all over the country. In the year 1894 Sidney Cummings migrated to Lincolnshire as he had heard of a firm with which there was a
chance of a start in the new motor industry, and taking on a job as improver, he put in four very useful years in gaining experience. In those days there was some romance in the motor business, the very design and construction of the early vehicles being weird and wonderful. Motor cycles had not yet appeared in a commercial form, but anyone in search of mechanical excitement could have all they wanted astride the early makes of tricycles with cumbersome engines, exposed gears, tube ignition and the glorious uncertainties of the primitive apparatus known as the surface carburettor.
In the voiturette category the predecessor of the Morgan was represented by a quaint vehicle built by Bollee, which had a horizontal air cooled engine, coffee mill steering and an adjustment for moving the rear wheel to tighten the bet, in lieu of a clutch. The Bollee would certainly go sometimes, but which end went first depended upon the state of the roads for skidding and voile faces were amongst its more noteworthy achievements. Benz, Star and Marshall dogcarts were the chief makes of car claiming Mr. Cummings’ attention and by studying their peculiarities from a practical mechanic’s standpoint, much valuable knowledge came his way, though possibly making them go at all was more important than securing” tune” as we know it to-day.
By the end of the year 1898, Mr. Cummings saw great promise in the motor business and resolved to commence on his own account, so returning to London, he rented a small shop in College Street, South Kensington and began dealing in motor cars. Since that time he has conducted business much on the same lines in the district, occupying premises at 101, Fulham Road to-day.
S. G. CUMMINGS AT THE WHEEL OF’ ONE OF’ HIS OWN PRODI TIONS, A 1912 CUMMIKAR.
In the early days of the motoring movement, a trader had to perform far more for his clients than is the case to-day. When a car was sold it had to be delivered, often to some remote part of the country and as salesmen-demonstrators were few and far between Mr. Cummings usually had to drive the cars to his customers’ residences himself. Now, a journey of one hundred miles or so on a single cylinder Decauville or a spluttering Benz with a modified form of gas engine tucked away under a piano-like back, called for a large amount of practical knowledge, to which had to be added the aptitude for imparting such information as would enable the purchaser to handle his machine on the road ; so that the qualifications demanded by a motor dealer were of a very comprehensive nature. Mr. Cummings, nevertheless, managed to carry his job to a successful issue where so many others failed, and later on obtained the sole concession for Scar cars, manufactured at Rheims, which he introduced into this country.
Early Competition Experiences.
Recalling his experiences as a trials competitor, Mr. Cummings told us of his adventures in the Scottish Six Days Trials in 1909, in which he drove the smallest car entered, a 10 h.p. Martini. After many vicissitudes he managed to complete the route, and though his car caught fire on the moors he was not defeated and finished the last three days’ journeys with high tension ignition wires completely denuded of all their insulation.
As a progressive business man, with a strong sporting instinct, Mr. Cummings recognised Brooklands both as an opportunity for bringing his cars before the public, and for enlarging his technical experience, while also providing a useful hobby soon caught him in its spell.
From the year 1910 until the track was taken over by the military authorities at the outbreak of war, Sidney Cummings raced standard Scar cars at every meeting and gained many successes. At first capable of lapping at 65 miles per hour, these cars were tuned by Mr. Cummings until the lap speed was increased to 78 miles per hour. His example was soon emulated by other enthusiastic Scar owners, mostly Cambridge men and among others Mr. 0. D. Pollack, Mr. J. H. Whitlark, Mr. Clive Joicey and Mr. McCormack took part in races at Brooklands.
Quite in advance of the times in his views concerning the car of the future, Mr. Cummings designed and manufactured a four cylinder light car, known as the Cummikar, in 1912. This was a smart little vehicle built On very advanced lines with a Ballot engine and assembled components. During the first two years after its appearance some two hundred and seventy Cummikars were sold, but the production was stopped by the war and never re-commenced.
One of our photographs depicts Mr. Cummings at the wheel of a Cummikar tourer, tuned up for racing, at the conclusion of an event at Brooklands. The method of increasing the gear ratios by fitting large diameter road wheels is interesting, as is the early interpretation of a streamline body.
Another interesting souvenir of Mr. Cummings’ racing exploits is to be seen in the view at the start of a race on this page. Reading from left to right the competitors are Armand Bovier, of Salmson fame, on a Schneider ; Sidney Cummings on a Scar ; the driver of a Vivinus’, Boissy on a Peugeot ; Bayliss and Coatalen, the Sunbeam designer, both on Sunbeams. Mr. Cummings only raced once at Brooklands since the war, when he appeared at the wheel of his daughter’s
Sunbeam and ran into the third place in one of the 90 m.p.h. long handicaps.
Since giving up actual participation in racing Mr. Cummings has maintained the greatest enthusiasm for the sport, and is one of its most loyal adherents, being much in demand as an official by many clubs apart from the Essex Motor Club of which he has been president for sixteen years. It is largely due to his efforts, in conjunction with those of Mr. E. Bass that the combined Essex M.C. and Automobile Club de Nord de France meetings at Boulogne have become such successful and popular events, now figuring in the list of International meetings of the year.
Among the trophies competed for at this meeting are the Cummings Cup for the first British car to finish in the Coupe Boillot race, won in 1925 by Major C. M. Harvey on his Alvis and in 1926 by Dr. Benj afield on his Bentley. Mr. Cummings also presented another cup for the best British performance in the light car Grand Prix, which was awarded to Mr. G. E. T. Eyston on a Bugatti.
As an advocate of long distance racing Mr. Cummings suggested the Hundred Miles handicap to the committee of the Essex Club, the idea being eagerly taken up and put into effect, as our readers know.
Amongst his hobbies, the tuning of his daughter’s racing cars occupies a very prominent place and in his opinion the Bugatti is first favourite for long distance racing, the Frazer Nash being indisputably the best proposition for sprint work. Fishing is one of Mr. Cummings’ recreations and yachting also claims his attention, his large yacht with a 50 h.p. engine and accommodation for twelve persons being largely used for coastal voyages in holiday periods. An enthusiastic Mason, Mr. Cummings holds high rank and devotes a good deal of time to various masonic duties.
We feel that the interests of sporting motorists generally are all the better for the active support of Mr. Cummings who understands the game from beginning to end.
SPORTING CARS ON TEST—contd. from page 239.
As the Frazer Nash is a neat and unobtrusive little vehicle, capable of rapid deceleration as well as acceleration it does not get its owner into trouble on sight, as do some sports models ; but if fitted with the Brooklands type silencer and fishtail exhaust pipe, it is advisable not to accelerate rapidly on the lower gears in police infested areas. There are certain mechanical details that might be criticised and the car would be better for improved methods of manufacture ; but once the owner has overcome what may be described as analagous to” teething” troubles by tightening up things generally, no better little sports car could be desired. For riding comfort, ease of control, road holding and maintenance of tune it is unquestionably excellent. Perhaps it is somewhat on the expensive side ; but still, in my opinion, it occupies a class quite on its own and is always ready to go anywhere at a moment’s notice, be it to Lands End on
id an M.C.C. trial or a quick run to the other end of the country in pursuit of ” tripe ” connected with journalistic affairs.
.At present the car is doing about 2,000 miles a month, but as soon as the sporting season begins it will have to work really hard and as far as I can see at present, it is likely to acquit itself very creditably, in the tasks it will be called upon to perform.
” COLONIAL ” TRIALS ABROAD.
Recent reports from the Straits Settlements tells that the enthusiasm of motor-cyclists for mud-splashing trials is not confined to this country. The Singapore A.C. held a reliability trial a short time ago, in which fifty competitors, European and native, took part. The route led through a very boggy section, in which the machines sank hub deep. A decided English flavour was lent to the occasion by rain, which persisted throughout the trial. The premier award, the Goodyear Cup, was won by Loke Yaik Poo mounted on a B.S.A. He completed the difficult course with a total of ninetycent. marks.