GOOD OLD DAYS AT BROOKLANDS CONTINUING SOME RAMBLING REMINISCENCES OF A REGULAR BROOKLANDS HABITUE
BEFORE reverting to the old photograph album which has inspired these memories, I must record that I have been taken to task by a reader for two inaccuracies in my first article. The first was that I included the Wolseley Viper among the number of “chaindriven aero-engined monsters,” whereas in reality it was a shaft-driven machine. The second was my remark that the 3-litre Bentley was “about coming into production” in 1928; the truth being that this had been achieved a few years
earlier. Both slips, I am afraid, were due to the fact that I was—and am still— writing from memory, so that eagle-eyed upholders of accuracy may be able to find some more mistakes below. Match-races have been comparatively few and far between at Brooklands, but one that I will always remember was that in which Parry-Thomas and Eldridge were the rivals. The former’s LeylandThomas won the day, being a much easier machine to handle than the gigantic Fiat, which was one of those cars which gave the impression of being all bonnet— with the driver and passenger perched over the rear axle. The picture of it in my album is nothing much more than a blur, but the huge exhaust pipe is ‘clearly discernible. This was the car, of course, which became involved in a great battle for the Land Speed Record with Rene Thomas’s 10-litre Delage (the • car with which Cobb, Bertram and Mrs. Petre all lapped Brooklands later at over 130 m.p.h.). The scene was Arpajon, near Montlhery, and the proceedings were complicated by Thomas finding out that the Fiat did not possess a reverse gear, and accordingly lodging a legitimate
protest. However, Eldridge overcame this little trouble satisfactorily. To return to Brooklands, my album shows a number of high and spidery Salmsons, which were nevertheless ex tremely quick for those days. Jack Dun fee and Dr. Benj afield both used to -drive them—indeed I believe they started racing with them—but the most memorable competitor was a certain M. Goutte, who had made a sensational appearance one Bank Holiday meeting. His Salim= had been specially brought over from France, and his knowledge of the Track was only limited. At the start he made urgent inquiries as to which way the race was to be run, gesticulating vividly all the time. To the casual spectator he appeared to be extremely agitated. Well, he put up a simply hair-raising
drive. His Salmson went far quicker than any other of its type we had ever seen, breaking the existing 1,100 c.c. lap record by clocking 114 m.p.h. On the Home and Members’ Banking he was terrific, disdaining to lift his foot and going round in a series of sickening lurches. A driver who continually appears in my photographs is Harold Purdy, who has not been seen at Brooklands for many a day. First with a Horstmann, then with a spiky-tail 12/50 Alvis, and later with one of the very first li-litre Bugattis
seen in this country. Later still, of course, he had one of the flat-iron ThomasSpecials, with which he had more trouble than success. There were cars you don’t normally connect with Brooklands racing in those days, too, such as an Austin Twelve which did about 90-odd m.p.h. and Sir Malcolm Campbell’s Chrysler (one of his many
” Blue Birds “). Austins, of course, have been raced at Brooklands on and off for many years, and one of the most famous cars in the early twenties was Felix Scriven’s Austin Twenty, which he nicknamed Sergeant Murphy. • It was a gallant old car, which its owner replaced with a hybrid machine called the Felix Nanette.
Then there was A. Lanfranchi’s 3-litre Alfa-Romeo, which must I think have been the forerunner of the famous “22/00.” It was a very pleasant looking two-seater racing-car, with a pointed radiator and a longish tail. A picture which brings back memories is that of the first 100-Mile High Speed Reliability Trial organised by the J.C.C. This was in May, 1925, and a very interesting affair it turned out to be, because the cars used the road off the track where nowadays we watch outercircuit races, turned and roared through the tunnel up on to the Members’ Bridge, down the Test Hill and so on to the track once more. Vernon Balls was one of the most dashing drivers of the day on an Amilcar ; a Frazer-Nash hit the wall in the tunnel ; and C. R. Whitcroft, later a T.T. winner, made what I believe was his racing debut on a primrose four
seater 10.8 h.p. Riley. One or two Windsors took part with success, and I think I am right in saying that it was the first time anything like a road-race had been seen at Brooklands. An interested spectator, I remember, was the then Viscount Curzon (nowadays known to us all as Lord Howe), and his car was a very smart aluminium-bodied 30198 Vauxhall. It was several years yet before he was to show us what he could do in the way of speed himself.
Nineteen Twenty-Six seems to have been the year when the modern type of Bugatti came to this country. The first Englishman ever to buy a 2-litre Grand Prix car with aluminium wheels was the late Glen Kidston, and after performing well at Miramas he brought the car over to London. I used to see him driving it in the West Erd, and a very thrilling sight and sourd it made. Sir Malcolm Campbell must have followed suit very quickly because I have a picture of him in one of these cars at the J.C.C. Spring Meeting. Then there was the Halford Special, a car which was really au Aston-Martin supercharged, entirely rebuilt by Major
Halford, the famous aero-engine designer. The blower was mounted between the front dumb-irons. The Halford Special was always beautifully turned out, painted white, with blue upholstery, and the interior of the cockpit was as spick and span as a surgery. The blower was very noisy, emitting a high pitched whine which was rether pleasant. For a 1,500 c.c. car it was not particularly fast— I think it used to lap at about 105 but it always carried with it a great air of efficiency. Its best race was the British Grand Prix, in which it competed against the Delages, Darracqs, and Bugattis of the time with considerable success until a broken balf-shaft put it out Of the race. When Major HaHord decided to concentrate on acro-engines, motor-racing lost a designer who, given the opportunity, would assuredly have produced racingcars capable of holding their own against all comers. About this time, too, there was a race I always rank as one of the most enjoy able I ever attended : the first Six-Hour Sports-Car Race organised by the Essex Motor Club. Sand-bank chicanes were erected in the Finishing Straight, so as to test braking, acceleration and gearboxes, and a big field turned out. Segrave was there with a 3-litre Sunbeam, but he ran out of petrol somewhere on the Byfieet Banking. There were lots of 3-litre Bentleys, some of them team entries and others privately owned. Among the latter was a greeny-grey fourseater with red wings. Its drivers were Tim and Archie Birkin, and they put up a very fine show when the works cars went out with broken experimental rockers. George Duller drove a Sunbeam, and. other entries included a brace of Belgian Excelsiors, a 22/90 Alfa, and
Cyril Durlacher’s Diatto, which went extremely well. Snorts-car races were quite popular in those days, and my album shows Woolf Barnato and Gordon Watney wait ing for the flag to fall in a petrol-consumption race organised by the Sur
biton Motor Club. Their cars were a 4k-litre Bentley (one of the first made). and a Black Hawk Stutz, and in some spectators’ minds, at least, they were going to fight out the battle of Le Mans all over again. I think the Bentley won..
Other interesting cars which figure in the old black album are Kaye Don’s 2-litre Sunbeam, always a car worth watching ; Chris Staniland ‘s 2-litre Bugatti, which I think was the fastest of the modified G.P. type ; a very nice white 2-litre Mercedes driven by Raymond Mays ; and the very first Riley Nine racing-car which astounded us all by doing over 100 m.p.h. on its first appearance. Those were the days—but I expect we shall think just the same about the last few seasons when we look back at them in 1950 1