Rumblings, February 1946
Are We Tough ?
Since, in 1938, we drove a 4 1/2-litre Bentley from Whitehall, London, up to the John o’ Groats House Hotel in 15h. 14m., including a leisurely breakfast stop and refuelling, we have been inclined to “stick our neck out when average speed over long distances is discussed. Some time ago an R.A.F. boy left us a copy of “Motor Cycle Reminiscences” to read, a delectable book written by “Ixion ” of the Motor Cycle and published about 1920. In this book there is a chapter on the End-to-End record, and to sober down those who, like ourselves, consider themselves fast and enduring motorists, the facts contained therein are just the thing.
For instance, in July, 1902, E. H. Arnott started from John o’ Groats on a bicycle having a 2-h.p. Werner engine over the front wheel, which it drove by belt. According to a photograph he started in a straw hat, sans overcoat and with oddments tied to his saddle, and he reached Lands End in 65h, 45m. You who ride autocycles to the office — ponder this feat! North of Perth the roads were very bad, as the Highland tracks had not been reconstructed to carry motor traffic, and with the advent of the railway the Grampian road had degenerated into a mere scar across the moors. Ferries were made use of to cross the Firth of Forth, from Granton to Burntisland, and Beauly Firth, and for later attempts tugs with steam up awaited the riders. Even so, the mileage was around 900.
In June, 1903, Tom Silver, with a surface-carburetted 3-h.p. Quadrant with 5/8-in, driving belt, managed 64h. 29m., in spite of some heavy falls. A year later G. P. Mills, who in 1894 rode the journey on a pushcycle in 77 hours, obtained a special Raleigh and got the record clown to 50h. 46 1/2m. He had hoped to do the run in 42 1/2 hours but struck bad tyre trouble. A month later, with a belt-driven, singlespeed Rex, Harold Williamson recorded 48h. 36m. This was not beaten until June, 1908, when Arthur Bentley’s 3 1/2-h.p. Triumph did 41h. 28m. He became lightheaded from lack of food after Gloucester. Next, Tom Peck’s singlespeed 3 1/2-h.p. Rex did 40 1/2h. in 1909.
Later that year Hart-Davies managed 33h. 22m. on a Triumph, still single geared. An attempt in September, 1910, saw Arthur Moorhouse get down in 32h. 13m., with a Rex, in spite of eleven hours of darkness. Hart-Davies returned to the fray in June, 1911, doing 29h. 12m., still with a non-variable gear. Incidentally, in 1910, Harold Cox claimed for his 1 1/4-h.p. Singer a lightweight record, clocking 57h. 26m., and Eli Clark responded with 39h. 40m., riding a 2 3/4-h.p. single-geared Douglas, although many people claimed this to be a medium-weight machine. A sidecar record was also recognised, Vivian Olsson taking a Peugeot-engined Vindec Special down in 65h. 14m. in 1909, which H. M. and A. W. Bentley challenged the same month with a Rex, taking 59h. 7m. In June, 1910, Hugh Gibson did 46h. 47m., using a 3 1/2-h.p. Triumph combination, single geared — a very fine show.
The A.C.U., wisely, did not approve of these records. It is amusing to recall that quite early on, the timekeeper found he could not go from End to End by train and still be present at the finish, as had been the procedure for clocking pedal cycle attempts. Hart-Davies set up a light car record before the Kaiser War, With a Singer Ten, and only the unreliability of current aero-engines and the scarcity of landing grounds prevented him from trying the End-to-End record by air. To those who think they are hard riders or drivers, we can observe that John o’ Groats is still the same distance from Lands End as ever was! Members of the Veteran Car Club might ponder on such a drive with a veteran car — at least a more practical form of amusement, when more petrol is given us, than a jaunt to Berlin.
As a sequel, J. W. Stocks is claimed to have done the run in a De Dion car in 1902, taking 62 1/2 hours over an 888-mile route. He tried in 1899 on an Ariel l tricycle, but broke his exhaust valve at Kendal. In 1934, with a Ford V8, he clocked 26h. 5m., putting-825 miles into 24 hours. Then, in 1937, with a 22-h.p. Ford V8, doing his own route-finding, he clocked 26h. 10m. up from Lands End, covering 834 miles in 24 hours. The mileage was 910 and the intended route, in case any wicked veteran owner, vintagent or modernist is interested, was Redruth, Launceston, Exeter, Bristol, Warrington, Wigan. Kendal, Carlisle, Pitlochry, Perth, Inverness, Dingwall, Inverness, Helmsdale, and Wick. Inadvertent visits to Pershore, Blairgowrie and Strathpeffer increased the mileage.
The Vintage S.C.C. has led the way in respect of 500-c.c. racing cars by announcing that its future events will embrace a class for such cars. This announcement is followed by news of a meeting of the go-ahead Bristol Aeroplane company’s Motor Sports Club, which also intends to sponsor the half-litres. The latter club suggests not more than two cylinders, superchargers banned, single-seater bodies and no other restrictions, dope fuel being permitted. This would seem a wise policy and one which might be widely adopted. It will to some extent deter Money-Bags Junr. from coming along and wiping everyone’s eye with an expensive blown, all-independent, multi-cylinder job. It still remains to be seen whether 500-c.c. “specials” will be so slow as to make 1,100-c.c. G.N.-basis jobs more desirable and whether, in the long run, the latter won’t be less expensive as well as more exciting. But on the face of it, the 500-c.c. sprint class is worth a trial.
Although motoring sport will never be 100 per cent. enjoyable until petrol is unrationed, this year’s prospects are tolerably bright. If the competition car is taxed for only one quarter, fuel for some 600 miles becomes available at the existing scale of rationing, and this makes trials possible, albeit not yet in the M.C.C. manner. However, apart from a really good fixture list so far as small trials are concerned, the M.C.C. still have hopes of a classic at Easter or Whitsun, and the “Colmore” and “Fedden” events are scheduled to happen. Then the Bugatti Owners’ Club deserves every credit for deciding to hold its Welsh Trial and at least four Prescott meetings, fuel rationing notwithstanding. Prescott apart, sprint events at Shelsley Walsh, Naish, Backwell and Brighton seem fairly likely, particularly the Bristol events, and it can’t be very long before the Vintage S.C.C. weighs in with its fixtures. The Veteran C.C. promises the “Brighton” next November. Whether Brooklands is saved remains to be seen, if its fate is not decided ere these words appear, but presumably Donington will be returned in the fullness of time, although perhaps not before 1947. Of new tracks, the Midlands scheme is interesting, but in the past so many similar projects have come to naught, including a course near Birmingham on which work actually commenced in 1922 or 1923, that one prefers to wait and watch — in any case, the thing couldn’t be ready this year. However, new sprint courses are likely, while Scotland hopes to see a rally and the Bo’ness sprints. Ireland looks like having plenty of trials and sprints. On the Continent the Pau G.P. is scheduled for the end of next month, and fixtures are shaping at Marseilles (April), Nice (Six Hour Sports Car race), Vincennes (Bol d’Or), St. Cloud (“Independents” race), Albi, Nimes and Angouleme (July). Then on May 30th the American 500 Mile Race will be run as usual at Indianapolis. In October the Show happens again. Better, much better!
We deeply mourn the death of Capt. Robert Fellowes, Rifle Brigade, who died on Dec. 8th from wounds received at El Alamein. Fellowes was actively associated with Continental broadcasting and attended the Monte Carlo Rally and Continental races. He ably assisted “Grande Vitesse” of The Motor in reporting various events and also did good for Motor Sport.
Continuing the Editor’s Celebrities Card-Index, this time he deals with the late Georges Boillot. Boillot commenced racing in 1906 at the age of 21. He was outstanding amongst racing personalities because he drove for one concern only — the House of Peugeot, he helped to design and build the cars he raced and he won the great French G.P. twice, an honour shared only with Caracciola, Lautenschlager and Thery. Boillot’s early successes were gained on the queer, longstroke one and “two-lunger” Peugeots, but in 1912 he assisted Henri, Goux and Zuccarelli to build the first twin-o.h.c. racing car — the famous 7.6-litre Peugeot — and with one of these cars won the Grand Prix against the far bigger Fiats, also establishing the lap record for the Dieppe circuit. Next year he won this race again, from Delage, driving a 5.6-litre Peugeot. Boillot also won the Voiturette race with a 3-litre Peugeot and nearly gained his third G.P. success in 1914; only the Mercédès cars defeated his 4 1/2-litre, f.w.b. Peugeot. Actually he led for much of the distance and was second on the very last lap, when a valve broke. Apart from road-racing, Georges took many records at Brooklands, gained several hill climb victories and, in 1914, using a 1913 G.P. Peugeot, he set a lap record at Indianapolis which stood until 1919. His end came at the age of 31, in 1916, in aerial combat.
Over in Adelaide, George Brookes has put a 1926 “24/80” Straker-Squire on the road; it has an admirable top gear performance.
As we go to Press we learn of two wise moves by the R.A.C. Competitions Committee — the election of T. A. S. O. Mathieson, and insistence on third-part insurance for competitors in speed events — at a cost of approximately 1/6 per head.