THE INVICTA GOES NORTH
THE INVICTA GOES NORTH. BEING SOME NOTES ON THE CONDITIONS MET WITH BY A COMPETITOR EN ROUTE TO TALLINN, AND ON THE EARLY STAGES OF THE JOURNEY TO MONTE CARLO.
HOWEVE,’R carefully a car is prepared for competition something always crops up at the last minute, and so it happened to Healey with whom the writer was to travel to Tallinn for the Monte Carlo Rally. The clutch, which had had some 50,000 miles of strenuous life, gave signs of trouble so it was decided to change it before leaving England. This caused a day’s delay, but the time was welcome as suit cases had to be purchased to fit the luggage box at the rear of the car. Finally, laden with belgas, francs, marks, slotys, litt, lats and kronen, we drove off to Harwich and embarked on the good ship ” Bruges” in good time.
The passage was not too smooth, but morning found us in Antwerp, cold and damp, but a good many miles on our way to Tallinn. The Belgian roads had an atrocious pave surface, which made the back passenger’s life unpleasant, and the local petrol was unsuitable for a sports car and caused considerable pinking. By crossing into Holland we soon left behind both these annoyances and drove on over fast well-paved roads to Arnhem. The roads continued dead straight and tree-lined, but speed is not encouraged in Holland, and the writer, who was driving, was pulled up when going through a village at about 30 m.p.h. Fortunately, the brakes worked well, and the policeman was greeted by bland smiles as we did not understand him in the least, and was easily appeased by the word ” Englishmen.” A disturbing thing about driving in Holland, and in fact all over Central Europe is the number of cyclists who ride whichever way they may be going, sometimes on one side of the road, other times on the other, but on some of the Dutch roads they are provided with tracks of their own and do not sprawl across the road four abreast in the manner favoured by a good many of our “wheelers.”
Conditions in Germany.
The German Customs had to have exact details of the money we carried and were rather disturbed by the Heinziart variety of the coins and notes we showed them. However, we were then able to fill up with F,sso which contains about 25% Benzol and improved immensely the handling of the car. The time was then four o’clock and we were still about 400 km. from Berlin, so we decided to keep on for a few hours and then stop, as it was plainly impossible to get anywhere near the capital. A belt of fog did not encourage us to go on, so we got no further than Osnabruck, where we stayed at the “Germania,” a first class hotel and surprisingly cheap. The Niirburg Ring is not far away, and this hotel might be quite a good stopping place for people going to watch the racing there. The next morning the air was clear and sunny but the cold was increasing. The tree-lined roads of Germany are safe and well-signposted, but the surface is rough in places and the numerous villages keep down the average speed much more than By
T. G. MOORE. one would expect. Resolving not to be delayed, as we had been on the previous day, by a prolonged lunch stop, we determined to try our emergency rations of Pascall’s chocolate, barley sugar and Oxo biscuits. All these foods work admirably on a Rally trip as they are concentrated and not too sweet, the barley sugar being particularly good for avoiding indigestion,
which one is liable to get through prolonged bumping over rough roads. Hanover, the first big town we passed through, was very picturesque with its old wooden gabled houses, which contrasted strangely with the modern cars and trams which one saw in its streets. Hanover is of course the home of the Hanomag, a small motor-car with strange coachwork which makes it appear to have a bonnet back and front. Some of the latest ones are quite attractive, and one
Vasselle Wins the Rally.
As announced on page 186 of this issue, the winner of the Monte Carlo Rally was M. Vasselle, driving a Hotchkiss. Owing to the results not being announced until the 28th January we are unable to include a full description of the event in this issue, but in the March number there will appear a fully illustrated review, together with an eye-witness account of ‘he Montes des Mules Hill Climb which takes place after the Rally.
we saw had a streamlined body rather like an Aero Minx. ‘ After locating the headquarters of the local motor club where the Rally control was to be arranged, the outfit proceeded. The roads around Hanover, as is the case with most big towns on the Continent, are extremely rough, and the writer, who was sitting upright in the back seat, hit his head a resounding crack on one of the hoodsticks, thereby gaining journalistic experience at the expense of a square inch of skin. After that, the back
passenger always reclined on his pile of cushions, getting a crabwise view of the country between the shoulders of the two front passengers.
Berlin—and German racing film.
Nearing Berlin the cold increased, and the Thermo-Rad, an exhaust-heated plate in the bottom of one of the back footwells, was brought into use, with very welcome results. After a time, however, remarks began to be made by the front passengers as to the odour from the back man’s feet, and this increased as we went along. Turning off the heater showed that this was not to blame, and further investigation showed that the main fuse clip had become loose in its holder, and the ” arcing ” had burnt away one of the contacts. There was nothing to do for it but to short the two connections behind the dash, which was carried out with legs hanging out into the icy blast. Berlin is a confusing city to drive in, but a good map solved most of our difficulties. At night we visited the famous Deutschland Cafe with its rooms, about a dozen or more, decorated in the styleof various German provinces, with band, food, waitresses, and everything else in keeping. At a cinema attached we saw a German racing film called ” Kampt ” in which of course Mercedes figured largely. There were some excellent
pictures of the Freiburg Hill Club, Chiron with an F.W.D. Bug. and so forth, but the padding was so tedious to people not knowing the language that we left before the Niirburg Ring scenes were shown. Von Brauchitsch was the hero, and unlike the British film stars who act in racing pictures has had considerable experience at La Turbie and elsewhere.
Courtesy in Berlin.
The Automobile Club von Deutschland, the governing body of German motoring, provide the Berlin control, and we went along there to see if there were any letters or messages. The club gave us a splendid reception, the President, who is the Duke of Mecldinburg, and various other high officials of the club being there to greet us and press photographers shot off quantities of plates outside the Club House. Here we met the first of our fellow competitors, Madame Schell, on a French Talbot. It carried a light home-made closed body which only weighed 2 cwt., and was fitted, as she proudly informed us, with a mattress and a bed in the back, also some special spotlight to deal with the ” bruillards formidables ” which one encounters round Lyons.
The First Snow.
We had a disturbing moment on starting up the motor in tk morning, for no oil pressure appeared on the gauge. However the sump level was found to be very low, and after re-filling and allowing the engine to tick over for some time, the needle returned to its normal reading.
The German Club actually had a pilot car to take us out of the city and we were soon speeding on our way over straight but not too smooth roads. The sun was still with us, but the cold was increasing, and in two hours we reached some snow. It was only local however, and Deutch Krone where Healey had one year been completely snowed up, was totally free from it this year. Owing to the delay in starting and various attentions to the spare wheel, which was stayed by straps across the bonnet owing to its weight, we were behind schedule, and rather than try to make up speed on the rough Polish roads, we were aiming at Konigsberg and the direct route North.
Intense Cold in Poland.
Towards evening we were nearing the German frontier and the roads were covered with a few inches of snow. Montgomery, whose experience in former Rallies had taught him how to deal with this, continued with undiminished speed. After a time we crossed the Polish Corridor, a narrow strip of country giving the Poles an outlet to the sea. The roads were very rough and lacking in signposts, and the petrol, which had to be bought, smelt like lamp oil. The cold was intense, but we were somewhat compensated by seeing the moon rise, looking first like an enormous flattened orange as it rose through the mist, changing to silver as we neared the East Prussian frontier. The only redeeming feature of Poland so far as we could see was the peculiar sound of the place-names, which provide almost inexhaustible material for smokingroom limericks. After a short run across
the Free State of Danzig, which sells not so good petrol at a reduced rate, we reached Marienburg, and were glad to settle down there for the night.
Next morning it was decided to plug up some of the cracks in the floor boards, which, because they are intended to be easily removed, do not fit very snugly. The road to Konigsburg is good though there was a considerable amount of snow in places. The writer executed a beautiful slow-roll at a wrongly cambered corner, but except for that, all was well. The Auto Club at Kon.igsbarg advised us to stay at Tilsit, the East Prussia frontier town, for the night, and we reached that about six o’clock and looked round for a hotel rejoicing in the name of ” Gumboil— or something like that. We did not find it, however, but stayed at another hotel where the local Sunday night “
hop” was in progress.
The Land of Sledges.
We were quite sorry to be leaving Germany, where the hotels were good and the people most kind, but on Monday crossed the Memel over a large bridge and drove into Lithuania. The roads and houses are badly kept as compared with those of their German neighbours, but now that the shock absorbers had been well slacked off and the tyre pressures lowered, the car rode the bumps very well, even in the back. Four cushions resting on a suitcase and a rug made a comfortable couch, and with feet in the footwell the back passenger was actually warmer than those riding in front.
There was now plenty of snow about and we stopped to take a photograph of the car in front of a Lithuanian windmill. Carts had now given way to sledges, and the half-wild horses were much disturbed by our passage and on. several occasions bolted over the frozen fields, their drivers gamely hanging on to the reins. Hot drinks were essential at midday, and we stopped in Siauliai for tea. The best feature of this town was the rank of pneumatic-tyred droskis, which looked as though they had been modelled on the motor cars of 1902. Coffee we could not get but had tea and sausage in an extraordinary eating house overlooking the market, not daring to try the bottles of the local fire-water, a form of vodka, which lined the shelves.
The Luvicta was not long reaching the Latvian frontier, and the customs official showed us the papers of Lavalette, Schreiber and other competitors. Riga, which is a large town with good buildings on the water-front was reached about 4 p.m. and then Healey’s wrist which he burnt before leaving England, required attention. One’s most abiding memory ftef Riga was the cold, about 30 degrees of It, which a sharp north wind drove through one’s thickest clothing like a knife. Another peculiar thing was the time the inhabitants feed and dance, nothing happening apparently until 11 or midnight. The stoves in the rooms had not been tended and altogether Riga was rather paralysing. Apart from the weather, however, we were very well treated, especially by the Shell Company, who sent a motor car to escort us out of the city.
We were now entering the last lap of our journey, the famous rutted section
between Riga and Tallinn, which is quite often blocked with snow and so is even less pleasant than when the ruts are exposed. The year Healey went from Tallinn in his Triumph the roadside was littered with cars that had leapt off the track through pulling abruptly out of the ruts, while an Austin Seven broke all the spokes in its back wheels. After Cesis we were all on the qui-vive for the trouble to begin, and soon found some tremendous ones nearly a foot deep. The difficulty about them is that they are frozen hard like concrete, and they wear away the side of the tyres if they get in and one simply has to slow right down in order to pull out of them. Healey once tried keeping his foot down and the car almost left the road, so after that we knew what to do. These ruts soon moderated, however , and apart from this experiment, he kept going at a steady 40 m.p.h. Evidently the Latvian Government has done a good
deal of work in the last few years. Soon we reached the Esthonian frontier, which had some resplendently painted barberpole frontier barriers, and drove on North. Unfortunately the Esthonian customs was In a side turning which we missed, so we had to scout about the country for about two hours until we spotted it. Meanwhile snow was falling and the blasts were becoming more chilling so we decided to stay the night at Parnu so as to get a good idea of the last and worst section,
A Cosmopolitan Party.
Once again it was not nearly as bad as we expected, and the ruts were partly covered with snow. In one place a drift, which might have caused trouble, had been cleared away, but on the whole the Invicta rode the difficulties without trouble, and neither the special Dunlop wheel straps, nor the chains were called into use. And so we reached Tallinn.
In reaching the town, we found that a good number of competitors had already arrived. At the Hotel Rome we found Vasselle, who took first place in last year’s Rally on a Hotchkiss, Lavalette on his Peugeot who was last year the best 1,500 c.c. driver, Schaar on a closed Chrysler, Mine. Mareuse and Mlle. Lamberjack on a Peugeot, Braillard on a 3.3. Bugatti, Schreiber on a Tatra, the Schells with their Talbot, Prince Narischkini on a Ballila Fiat, and Mlle. Jaffe on a Wanderer, truly an all-nation party. Against all that we had only Jack Hobbs, the Riley driver who had shipped his car from England, La.croze and Belgrave, very sporting drivers of a Magna, and D. M. Healey and his crew. Miss Riddell, who drove a Speed Twenty Alvis, was the only other English competitor who had arrived on the Thursday, but Lord de Clifford reached Tallinn at 2 a.m. the next day. A number of people had experiences on the way. Mme. Lamberjack who was driving with Mme. Mareuse in a Peugeot, skidded when passing through Poland and cut a telegraph post into two, fortunately without doing anything more
serious than denting the body. Braillard on a Bugatti shot into a ditch and damaged his undershield, causing Schell, who was following, quickly to put on the special rubber bands which he uses instead of chains. Lord de Clifford reported an uneventful journey, though the fuel which he had to run on in Poland was little better than treacle. The inventor of the Morriscot Petrolift, who was one of the crew was in fear of his life in case his apparatus should fail in the middle of a deserted highway, but so far, without breaking down, it had dealt with something not far removed from vaseline. Fuel consumption worked out at 29 m.p.g.
Gallant Mrs. Vaughan.
On Thursday news of Mrs. Vaughan’s car came through. She had stopped somewhere in Lithuania with broken front and rear axles, but spares were being obtained from Kovno. From what one saw of the country, one would hardly expect to get Standard or any other spares there, but it will be a very stout effort on the part of her and her crew if she does manage to get through.
The Magna which is not entirely suitable for negotiating ten inch ruts left the road twice, but was put back again with the aid of a little horse power. It says something for the British small car that it is capable of tackling some of the worst roads of Europe with no more preparation than a decoke and a pair of competition tyres. Apart from some difficulty in starting, not surprising with 35 degrees of frost, the car gave no trouble. In Tallinn, we heard a story which could be used as a “Thing we would like to know “—
The name of the famous motor firm who were asked to prepare a car for the Rally and suggested putting some old flywheels in the back to make up the necessary ballast.
With competitors of all nationalities in a foreign country, language difficulties are bound to crop up. Healey and his crew were coming back on their tracks and looking for a frontier post. They sighted an M.G. coming towards them.
” A ” got down from the car and signalled the on-coming car, which stopped. He opened the door, saw a very foreign-looking gentleman with a great fur collar on his coat, concluded that he was a Swiss and addressed him in his most fluent German. “Can’t any of you speak English, I thought yours was an English crew,” replied the owner of the coat, who was of course Belgrave, wearing his new Polish motor coat. A similar incident occurred when
” B ” was mounting guard over a table in the hotel dining room. Down came Jack Hobbs, who had arriv.ed a week ago and sat down. “B ” attacked him furiously in French, for no apparent reason, and Hobbs retired abashed before this overpowering foreigner ! Tallinn does not offer a tremendous amount of amusements, but everyone seemed to like it very well. A few people were busy repairing their cars but most of the competitors had plenty of time in hand. The cathedral, which stands on
the hill is a fine building in the Russian style with gilded domes, and there are various old buildings and fortifications, for under the Russian imperial regime, Reval, as it was called then was the chief naval port on the Baltic. The streets are covered with snow, and when a wind blows one’s ears suffer considerably. Suitably equipped, however, a walk in the morning sun is most enjoyable. The temperature is 350 below freezing, which should mean no more snow before the Rally departures. There are two good hotels, the Rome and the Golden Lion, the first having good bedrooms and the second the best food. In addition there are various dance places and cafes where one can get Russian food and music. Altogether a pleasant place if one’s tastes are simple. The Eesti Motorklubi is very helpful to all coin
petitors, and the language difficulty does not exist so far as any Rally matter is concerned.
Prince Naraschkini, who is driving a Fiat, is better known as a racing driver. He won the Spa race in 1932 on a 2,300 Alfa Romeo, and has bought a reserve Monoposto for next year’s racing.
Tallinn competitors were rather depressed at first that they had not gone from Athens, where the hard weather should have consolidated the roads. Reports from Roumania say that the country is snowed up, and a copy of ” L’Auto ” reports difficult going from Athens. Further news from Poland indicates 3 feet of snow, so all the chains and other appliances will probably be well tested.
Mrs. Vaughan and her crew arrived on Friday morning exhausted after their accident in Lithuania, and Lace on the Invicta, who encountered some difficulty with the low chassis of his car on the Riga-Tallinn road arrived at midday.
Our own Invicta car ran perfectly throughout except for the annoyance caused by bad petrol, which caused a good deal of pinking. However, it was never necessary to drop below about 60 m.p.h. for this cause, while the low revs.-2,500 —required at this speed made the car very restful to drive. Petrol consumption worked out at about 16 m.p.g.
Everyone was anxious to get going, for a period of delay before the start is always dominated by the thought “Shall we get through ? ” Finally came Friday night, and on Saturday morning, at 4.56 a.m. we were sent away, being given the signal from the Estonia Hotel by a man rather like ” Ebby,” complete with red and white chequered flag. Our Invicta was the last but three to
start, but we overtook the whole field in turn. The first car we saw stopped at the roadside was Jack Hobbs’ Riley, and the driver was examining his chains. There was no snow on the first few miles, and perhaps they had stretched. We did the distance to Parma in under three hours (about 2.20 mins.). When we got to the Latvian frontier we came up with the 3.3. Bugatti, and learnt that Lavalette and de Clifford were still ahead. We caught the Peugeot fairly soon, and not long after passed de Clifford.
The awful ruts w ere filled up with snow to some extent, but they were still icy. Snow was falling on the last part of the journey, but our big tyres held the road well, and we kept going at about 60 m.p.h. in spite of frightful pinking caused by the foul Esthonian petrol. We reached Riga in seven hours, which is considered a good time for Summer conditions.
Other competitors were not all so fortunate. Lace (Invicta) skidded near Pasnu on a frozen rut and ditched (continued on page 185). himself Narischkine (Fiat) stopped to give him oil, as his sump plug was damaged. He was able to get out and reached Riga. Mrs. Vaughan (Standard) had the misfortune to overturn a few miles from the start, luckily without serious injury to the rest of the crew—particularly bad luck after her determined efforts to get to the Start. Other arrivals are Hobbs (Riley) and Huntley Walker (Riley), but the latter was bothered with his silencer touching the ground. The
Peugeot of Lavalette was remarkably good, being able to keep up 50 m.p.h. over the ruts—owing to independent wheel-springing.
Tomorrow we leave for Lithuania— and snow is reported !