J. N. Morton is proposing to install a 3-litre Bentley engine in a 1925 Sunbeam chassis, and E. Hopewell Ash reports that he is using a 1922 Jowett 2-seater which he acquired last Easter, and which ably takes his family and much luggage from Ruislip to the coast on a handful of revs, the whole way. We learn that Penn’s Riley which ran at Cofton Hackett last year, and which we said looked like an ex-Dixon car, is actually the car once raced by the late Pat Fairfield, and it still has four S.U. carburetters and an aluminium shell body rivetted to the chassis. Major Jackson has been running a beautifully-preserved 1928 Sunbeam Sixteen saloon, which carries a V.S.C.C. badge with dignity — but we shouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t back it with something more rapid in the near future.
Early small cars continue to decorate our roads — recently we encountered a well-preserved “10/15” Fiat saloon in London, and an “8/18” Humber and a 1921 11-h.p. Humber, both 2-seaters, out of town. There is also a “14/45” Rover tourer outside a London garage.
Charles Brackenbury has been using a Jeep as personal transport, and Rivers-Fletcher tells us he sold both his 1,100-c.c. H.R.G. and his wife’s Austin Seven within a few hours of the announcement that they were for sale appearing in Motor Sport. Imhof apparently used a standard Ford carburetter with the Marshall supercharger he had on his Allard in the “Gloucester”; the boost was approximately 4 lb./sq. in., and this installation was the work of the North Downs Engineering Co. If anyone is in need of a Lucas vertical magneto for a Ford V8 engine and can find a fiver, we hear of one for disposal. Another reader, supplying several very interesting early instruction books to the Motor Sport library, remarks that he also has those covering Stanley steamers, V8 de Dion, Gobron, etc. Naturally enough, he does not wish to part with these, but would loan them to specially deserving persons.
Burroughs, who used to drive a special Ford V8 in trials, now operates the Grosvenor Garage at Warplesdon, Surrey. Tony Malden is perfecting a new insurance scheme in conjunction with Lloyds Underwriters and which should be of especial benefit to you and me. Briefly, cover is on a driver and not on his car, and any car can be driven at any time and remain covered under the one policy. Vintage and veteran vehicles are embraced and the usual “no claims” bonus applies. This sounds like a very useful service to those owning a stable of cars or for those who keep a veteran or vintage vehicle as a “second string.” Details can be had by writing to Mr. Malden, c/o John G. Rutter & Co., 57-58, Pall Mall, S.W.1.
Over in the States, Walter Hadley and his wife grace New York streets with a 1910 Mercédès, 1930 Lincoln and a 1925 Amilcar, as well as occasionally driving an unblown 4k-litre Bentley. Then that cheerful and vintage-minded character, Victor Axel-Berg, is opening a garage at Winton with George Power, and hopes to ably serve vintagents and others. He wouldn’t be adverse, he says, to swopping his “14/40” Delage for a faster carriage. The Glamorgan police, according to the News-Chronicle, are buying five sports cars with which to surprise “road-hogs,” as such cars are considered less conspicuous than police-saloons. The cars are said to be costing £517 each, but no car on the market is priced thus — our guess is that “T.C.” M.G.s may be used.
In Warwickshire a 1921 Coventry-Premier is for disposal, also a 1924 Singer Ten suitable as spares, while a well-kept 1921 Calthorpe was sold there recently, and we hear that several “14/40” Sunbeams and a few “23/60” Vauxhalls are running about in this area. A garage at Alton had a good “23/60” for sale recently. Rolls-Royce, Ltd., have been obliged to put up the price of the “Silver Wraith” chassis to £2,035 and that of the Mk. VI Bentley chassis to £1,985. Allard prices are also up, the “Competition” 2-seater now selling at £1,125 3s. 11d. with purchase tax. G. Asquith has an Amilcar chassis and is doing it up. He hopes to fit hydraulic front brakes and has yet to decide on an engine — although one of the 10-h.p. Carden-Ford aero engines with twin Bosch magnetos has been offered to him. Incidentally, Asquith mentions that he has been a reader of Motor Sport for ten years and that a recent advertisement therein for a Riley Nine chassis found him besieged with enquiries for a full six weeks, one person enclosing his cheque without knowing anything of the car.
T. A. S. O. Mathieson is involved in a project for an air freight service between France and England, using Dakotas, whole Lord Selsdon is now Chairman of the H.R.G. Eng. Co., Ltd. R. C. Foster has acquired a 1 1/2-litre Bugatti once raced by Arthur Baron, while the ex-Wilkinson 1 1/2-litre straight-eight Maserati engine has gone to J. Gilbert, who is looking for a chassis to accommodate it. Then K. H. Place, who drove an S.S.100 in competition events before the war, has a 2-litre G.P. Bugatti, while G. M. Turner and D. L. Griffiths Hughes are carrying out some interesting modifications to an Alta. Hugh Hunter’s latest interest seems to be a diesel-yacht, which is being built on the Clyde; Hugh will carry a Fiat “500” on deck, so that he has land transport facilities at his command at any port of call. The Model Car News for January contained detailed plans for Lt.-Col. “Goldie” Gardners famous record-breaking M.G. and data and plans for building the “M.C.N.” petrol-driven model racing car. Willment has been using a 2-litre M.G. and a Morris Eight, but is also very Austin-Special conscious he is restoring a Gwynne Eight an owns a 4 1/2-litre Bentley. Ralph Venables still does a great deal to help the motor-cycling movement, and is still using his Aston-Martin, recently rebored and sleeved. Ivor Adams has disposed of his beautiful A.B.C. motorcycle but is getting grand service from his early Enfield-Alldays 2-seater, which “is capable of leaving Austin Sevens and Eights from traffic lights and does about 55 m.p.h.,” although its chief charm is its smooth running and good top-gear performance. He is busy getting his “R.B.” (forerunner of the later Aston-Martin) into shape but has had to replace the original Aston engine with a 1929 s.v. Anzani unit, using a Wolseley “Hornet” clutch in place of the Frazer-Nash clutch that was with it. He needs servicing data for this engine.
Writing of Aston-Martins recalls a recent evening spent with one of the fitters who was with the firm in the Bamford and Martin days and also at Feltham; he well remembers the Benson o.h.c. engine and Zborowski’s famous exploits.
In Australia the proposed Lobethal road race has come to naught, on account of difficulties over the motor-cyclists demanding increased prize money, the synthetic tyre scare and shortage of materials for pits, stands, etc. This is a pity for the course is nine miles round and so fast that Barrett’s “Monza” Alfa-Romeo averaged averaged around 95 m.p.h. in the last pre-war race. It may be possible to do something here in 1948.
At Melbourne, Scorer has a s.v. S.S. I about which he seeks information, and also a “Tipo 6C” 1 3/4-litre Alfa-Romeo engine that he hopes to employ as the power unit of a “special.” O. H. Goodwin says that his 8-litre Bentley in ordinary touring trim, has twice topped 100 m.p.h. during recent months, on one occasion with the hood up and three people in the car, on “Pool,” and for him, after fifteen years, the toast remains — “Bentley.” Over in Amsterdam, A. F. Lyons has a 6-cylinder, 4-litre “Barcelona”-type Hispano-Suiza which he rebuilt in 1939, using three downdraught carburetters. Modern lamps and body are used and Lyons describes it as “really a wonderful car.” B. H. Banes, who still uses a side-valve Morris “Minor” as daily transport, reports seeing, in Wales, early Daimler, A.C., Austin and Humber Nine cars and, in a Cardigan garage, such rare devices as a Bayliss-Thomas and an Albatross.
Kent Karslake has unearthed an old love — a 1925 “Monza” Hispano-Suiza-which spent the war in a Devon farmyard. Yet other early small cars encountered include a fine 10.5-h.p. Lea-Francis coupé in Banbury, and a Calcott four-seater in action in Walton. Others, advertised, have included two Carden cyclecars, one a coupé, a 1922 n-h.p. Riley and a Gwynne Eight. This season Bolster seems likely to be seen at the wheel of the ex-Connell E.R.A. — good luck, John!
Incidentally, Bolster hastily explains that he hasn’t bought this car, which belongs to Peter Bell. Bell once drove a Frazer-Nash in a L.C.C. Relay Race, and a “30/98” Vauxhall at Lewes. His present transport is provided by two 8-litre Bentleys, one of which was rebuilt by McKenzie. When not chauffeuring for the E.R.A.’s owner, John will run “Bloody Mary” at sprints. Then the ex-Shuttleworth “30/98” Vauxhall is on the road again, “Chitty Bang Bang II” (or what is left of him) has changed hands, another “Alphonso” Hispano-Suiza, a two-seater with bolster tank, is being built up in Kent, and S. B. Turner is working on a 1925 Gwynne “Eight” that has two S.U. carburetters and a gearbox from a “Silver Eagle” Alvis.
The ex-Baron single-seater Buick has turned up again. Amongst the veterans, Kentish is working on a 1904 Minerva as stable companion to his 1902 de Dion, and an 1899 Decauville has come to light in Loughborough. J. R. Fletcher is having a 1933 short-chassis “T.T. Replica” Frazer-Nash rebuilt and tuned by Aldridge and Riddle and intends to dispose of his Morgan 4/4 when the ‘Nash is ready. Philip Bennison has found a 1924 s.v. “13.9” Rover tourer that has weathered 27,500 miles very happily. There is a plot hatching to start a new club in Herefordshire. D. M. Hill has rebuilt a 13.9 h.p. 1925 Lancia “Lambda” which he wouldn’t mind exchanging for a big-port “12/50” Alvis or a Frazer-Nash, as his garage is rather cramped. He says fellow “Lambda” users may like to know that he cured wheel wobble by fitting the later adjustable-type steering tie rod, set to 1/8in. toe-out, instead of 3/16-in. toe-in. He got good results from a V-type Zenith carburetter. H. Holmes has an Anzani G.N. hybrid first registered in 1933 with 2-seater sprint body and seeks a handbook, while W. A. Hill is having a 1930 “19/100” Austro-Daimler rebuilt to his requirements. It seems that Yates’ 6-cylinder Maserati, which he will race this year and which Giron will service, is not one of the 32-valve cars, in spite of a photograph in a contemporary.
Another would-be racer will be Joseph Lowrey, B.Sc., who has acquired the Mercury-Nash for sprint-work. Splendid news — Gerald Rose, perhaps the greatest motoring historian of all time, is giving a lantern lecture to the V.C.C. on Feb. 22nd — everyone eligible will want to be present. In Italy, Count Lurani looks like exercising “Nibbio” again and talks of a V-twin Guzzi engine, while over here Colin Strang contemplates a blown Triumph speed-twin, in the background, for possible use in the “Strang 500,” and also thinks kindly of a big-twin Vincent. An excellent “14/40” Vauxhall and a 1923 Sunbeam motorcycle are preserved at Sydenharn.
E. A. M . S.C.
Rupert Pitchford, who used to be a keen member of our V.S.C.C. and who owned a Frazer-Nash, writes from Nairobi to tell us of the formation of the East African Motor Sports Club. Membership is open to all Europeans, ladies included. Road and track races, hillclimbs and trials are planned and it is stated that local hills are worse than Nailsworth at its worst and that the hazards include elephant, buffalo and rhino, not to mention lion! Vintage cars apparently predominate, although there are a few fast Alfa-Romeos pinched or borrowed from Italian colonies. Rileys, a 4 1/2-litre Bentley, a 1925 3-litre Bentley sans front brakes, and several “specials,” including a blown V8-engined “12/50” Alvis are mentioned. Spares and tyres are almost unobtainable, fuel is very low-octane, but enthusiasm is immense. Details from R. Pitchford, P.O. Box 4012, Nairobi, Kenya, E. Africa.
Future plans include participation in the S.U.N.B.A.C. Colmore Trial on March 8th and the Aldershot Trial on April 13th.
V.S.C.C. OF AUSTRALIA
The August, 1946, issue of the Vintage Car contains one of Shepherd’s “Vintage Types” series featuring the 6 1/2-litre Bentley, and the cover picture is of Tattersall’s fine “Wensum” “30/98” Vauxhall. There is also a rather nice verse, which we cannot resist “lifting” : —
“And your bonnet is turning quite grey;
Do you think you could possibly stand on your head, if somebody drove you that way?
“Tut, tut, in my prime I was speedy and fast, and many a field I have led.
“But now they have taken my lovely O.E. and planted a V8 instead.
Alack and alas, the old lady said, Convertion just gives me the fidgets.
I feel such a fraud with my new Henry Ford, I hope we don’t sponsor some midgets.”
Which, of course, points a moral. The Victorian Division of the Vintage Sports Car Club of Australia held a trial, the winner of which was Duckett’s Anzani-Bugatti, with Camm’s “G.S.S.” Salmson and Merle’s “30/98” Vauxhall the runners-up. Duckett was leading on aggregate points. Seven new members and nine new associates are listed, their cars including two “30/98” and two “23/60” Vauxhalls, a “12/50” Alvis, a sports Austin Seven, a Type 43 Bugatti, two T-series M.G.s and a Singer-Bugatti-Special. A 1914 Siddeley-Deasy, 1903 Vauxhall and 1901 Oldsmobile are also mentioned. You can’t suppress the Aussies! Next fixture is a 1 1/2-day Mountain Trial.
The annual dinner and dance of the North London E.C.C. took place on December 14th last, at the Hendon Hall Hotel, and there were 116 members and friends present. Guests included Mr. and Mrs. Findon, Mrs. Kay Petre, S. C. H. Davis, and members of the Berkhamsted M.C. & L.C.C. and Chiltern C.C. Awards for events during 1946 were presented by Mrs. Kay Petre, who was subsequently handed a bouquet on behalf of the Club by A. F. Rivers-Fletcher. The Raymond Way Trophy, a cup for best performance by an N.L.E.C.C. member in one of the club’s events in 1946, was won by Rivers-Fletcher, whilst the Rivers-Fletcher Challenge Trophy for the most meritorious performance in any motoring event in 1946 by a member of this club, went to Colin Strang as first holder, for his f.t.d. at the Vintage Prescott in the 500-c.c. “Special.”
S. C. H. Davis proposed the toast “The Club and the Sport,” in which he said only in this country do we see clubs of this sort, where real enthusiasts join to get some fun out of their motor cars, whereas on the Continent there is a strong business flavour predominating. If he possessed C. N. Strang’s 500-c.c. “Special,” and had built it himself as had Strang, he would not exchange it for all the G.P. cars in the world. Regarding the Sport he stressed the need to treat it as a sport “Do your damndest to win, but if you don’t, don’t grouse.” Even if a fellow competitor does not seem to you to be keeping to the exact letter of the law, he possibly is doing so unwittingly, so treat it as all part of the game, and remember — there is no such thing as bad luck, for again it is all part of the game. Although part of motor racing is a business, especially where manufacturers are concerned, the sporting side stands out a mile. It is the car that counts, not the driver.
F. J. Findon replied for the guests, including the ladies, and said how pleased he was to see that the “women of Britain,” as they had been known in their various war-time capacities, had once more become the “ladies of Britain,” a fine example being Mrs. Petre herself, who kept the home fires burning so well in Fleet Street. He was always pleased to come to this club’s functions, as he considered we interpreted the term “enthusiasts” up to the hilt.
C. N. Strang replied on behalf of the club, and S. J. Humphries proposed the “Guests, including the Ladies.” The secretary gave the chairman’s toast, stressing how much Rivers-Fletcher had done for the club, and how his support had never lagged.
A very enjoyable evening broke up around midnight, and this year we just managed to miss foggy weather.
The Junior Car Club is holding-a dance at Grosvenor House on March 4th. The club’s Technical Committee is preparing the regulations for the recently-announced Gas Turbine Car contest, while the motoring sport fund has reached £2,700 and still remains open. Fifty-one may members joined balween June and December last. The J.C.C. Gazette for last quarter contained, besides many news-items, an article on America by L. F. Dyer, impressions of Ceylon by B. Gordon Graham, a science article by Prof. A. M. Low. and “Brooklands Aftermath,” by W. Boddy, Editor of Motor Sport. Car badges are available again. Secretary: H. J. Morgan, Melbourne House, Aidwych, London, W.C.2 (Temple Bar 4546).
The Australian Sporting Car Club is going great guns. It really constitutes an amalgamation between the N.S.W.Light Car Club, which was founded in 1930, and the more recent N.S.W. Sporting Car Club. Meetings take place at the various centres, which are situated so far apart as Adelaide and Sydney, and at Melbourne, which is 580 miles from Sydney.
A race meeting on an airstrip was scheduled for January 27th, and it is hoped that the Australian Grand Prix, over 150 miles on an individual handicap basis, will happen at Bathurst at Easter. British entrants will be most welcome; incidentally, it seems that Auto-Union were teed-up to send out two or three cars for the 1939-40 Australian season. Peter Whitehead’s drive in his E.R.A. in the 1938 race is apparently still talked about! If there is sufficient support, a scratch race will be run as well this year. The A.S.C.C. is also anxious to encourage 500-c.c. racing in Australia.
Details from the Secretary, c/o Box 3304, G.P.O., Sydney, New South Vales.
Lancashire and Cheshire A.C.
The recent Semi-Sporting Winter Trial was run on follow-my-leader lines and took in sections having some lovely names, such as Tockholes, Eric’s Folly and Wotno Grip. Twenty-two cars entered and 61 members dined together afterwards at the “White Bull.” The winner of the trial was Haskin’s “M. M” V8, with Tyrer’s B.M.W. runner-up. Other fun-and-games included a firework party, etc. Club magazines have multiplied of late, which is a healthy omen, and this club issues a bright example. Hon. secretary, R. M Powell, 72, Upper Chorlton Road, Whalley Range, Lancs.
The Ulster A.C. has revived its ambitious Ulster Motoring Review, which was a feature of pre-war times. The December issue contained messages of congratulation on the Ulster Trophy races — one of 1946’s highlights — from Earl Howe, S. C.H. Davis, F. J. Findon, Douglas Tubbs, R. Cowell, C. G. H. Dunham, F. R. Gerard, David Hampshire, T. C. Harrison, Leslie Johnson, R. Parnell, H. J. Ripley, R. J. Weir and Barry Woodall. The ladies’ page is continued and fashion notes in respect of a recent party constitute a novel touch. An Austin Seven driver who got bogged in a recent trial was promptly created Baron of Ballymena and Count of Carrickfergus Common, in whose mud he sank. There is lots of fun to leven the serious side. The Ulster Trophy fixture is due this year on August 9th, and the winner of the afore-mentioned trial was N. S. Robb (Wolseley), with C. S. Porter (H.R.G.) a close second. Twenty-four new members were elected recently. The secretary’s address is 46, Sydenham Avenue, Belfast.
More from Down Under
Following close on the August Vintage Car came the September issue, with news of more virility on the part of the V.S.C.C. of Australia. This time Shepherd’s “Vintage Type” is the Anzani-engined Frazer-Nash. [But no mention is made of the Powerplus 4-cylinder engine in the early history which opens this article, while there were actually two saloon Frazer-Nash cars, not one, R.C.S. — Ed.] Certainly the Shepherd drawing makes up for those omissions. The Victorian Division hill-climb saw Dean’s Lancia “Lambda” win on handicap, 46.9 sec.— 6s., and Duckett’s Anzani-Bugatti accomplishing fastest vintage time from scratch in 42.2 sec. Fastest time of the day was made by Davey-Milne’s Special, in 41.4 sec. Amongst those present was 79-year-old uncle Duckett with his immaculate 1912 Talbot Duckett now leads with 22 points for the Aggregate Award, from Camm (17) and Dean (14). The Austerity Trial embraced several features which our organisers might care to copy. At one control a check for correct oil-level and water level was made (no marks lost — could British trials drivers claim that attention to their engine’s essentials?), then came a timed plug-change, while later cars were timed, unknown, over a quarter-mile and drivers later asked to judge their speed. There was also a blindfold reversing test and, finally, drivers had to give the engine number, r.h. turning circle (which was thereupon checked), and length of their cars, and marks were lost for unequal tyre pressures. The winner, it would seem vastly to his credit, was Tillett’s “14/40” Vauxhall, from Donaldson’s Austin Seven. The guest of honour was Mr. Mortlock, whose Packard was driven by an ex-RollsRoyce test driver and escorted ahead and astern by Rolls-Royce Twenties. Mr. Mortlock explained that the Packard is mere transport and that he has a 1911 “Alpine Eagle” Rolls-Royce at home.
The Proprietor and Editor of Motor Sport wish to thank all those readers who sent Christmas and New Year Greetings. Amongst the large number of cards received must be mentioned Cecil Clutton’s very fine photograph of the Itala at Shelsley Walsh, Peter Clark’s Mercédès at Prescott, Penny and Rivers-Fletcher’s. H.R.G. at Brighton Speed Trials, Raymond Mays’ drawing of his E.R.A., Ken Hutchison’s wood-cut of his trials Allard, a G.P. Alta drawing from R. C. Rowland Motors, Ltd.; two Bugatti Club cards from Marcus Chambers and Norman A. Smith; and other cards from Rolls-Royce Ltd., the Healey Motor Co., Ltd., Stuart Wilton, Stanley Sedgwick, Dr. and Mrs. Edisbury, J. D. Aylward, the Southsea Motor Club, the “Scuderia Impecuniosa,” Max Williamson, Donald Parker, Mr. and Mrs. F. J. Anning, C. Rae Griffin, John and Betty Bolster. J. E. Scott, Anthony, Theodora and Ambrose Heal, Ivor Adams, Edward Hyde, Mr. and Mrs. Whincop, Julian Fall, Norman Routledge, Pat and Mary Whittet, Ray Funnell, John Hugenholtz, the Southampton Car Club, Continental Cars, the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain, K. Bowers, the Bristol Aeroplane Co., Ltd., and T. P. Breen. Also one from the local milkman, which is just another thing about living in the country . . . We can assure senders that these cards made a fine display on the Editorial sideboard over the holiday and that we reciprocate with every good wish for 1947.
Any publicity which can be given to motor-racing is worthwhile and our thanks are due, therefore, to W. M. Couper for staging an excellent show at his showrooms at St. Albans at Christmas. Ten spotlessly clean racing cars were set out in the premises of W. M. Couper, Ltd., in co-operation with the B.R.D.C. They comprised an o.h.c. Austin Seven (125), K. D. Evans’ Alfa-Romeo (140), Abecassis’ Alta (140), Dunham’s outer-circuit Alvis (100-110), Rose’s “Le Mans” Bentley (100-110), Monkhouse’s Type 51 Bugatti (140), Whitehead’s E.R.A. (130-135), the Gardner M.G. (207), Peter Clark’s 1914 Mercédès (115) and the Wisdom Jaguar 100 (120-125). The numbers in parenthesis refer to the approximate maximum speeds, taken from the data cards adjacent to each car. A fine background of a pit-counter, photographs, Gordon Crosby paintings and Christmas decorations completed the show, which remained open during school holidays. A luncheon at the Noke Club was attended by 38 persons, Lord Howe and Lt.-Col. Gardner replying to Couper’s opening speech. Amongst the guests were racing-drivers Abecassis, Connell, Evans, Freeman, Joyce, Monkhouse, Whitehead and Davis, while the Chief Constable of St. Albans City and Col. Young, Chief Constable of Hertfordshire, were amongst those present. A good effort!
Last year the Public Relations Officer of the Eastbourne Town Council shook us to the core by asking us how he could attract a motoring event to this well-known watering place. We feel that desires of this kind, experienced by public authorities, are to be encouraged with all the energy we can command. The matter is now in the hands of Anthony Beal and Harry Bowler of the V.-S.C.C. We expect an interesting development a little later on and when the event is announced it should receive as much support as possible.
“Gentleman in the lounge suit.” Although he is driving a real racing car — to wit, a six-cylinder 1 1/2-litre Maserati — Luigi Villoresi did not “dress the part” when he came over to Shelsley Walsh in 1937. This year, although we look forward to proper racing at Jersey, Ulster and possibly elsewhere, sprints will still be our mainstay. Is it too much to hope that some Continental drivers will support our International meetings? After all, our drivers went abroad quite frequently last season, in spite of many factors being very much against them.
In “Rumblings” last month we said that when Parnell’s “Challenge” appeared at Prescott it had an Alta engine. At that time great secrecy was observed, a rug being thrown over the engine when the bonnet was removed for plug changing. So perhaps we may be excused this error, especially as the ringed-letter badge on the engine of this car, then known as “Challenger,” was painted out. That engine was, in fact, an E.R.A.
Autumn, which now seems so distant, saw us embarking on all-too-short Saturday afternoons in a suitably non-standard Austin Seven and a Riley “Gamecock” for the purpose of finding hazards for a Night Trial. On one occasion it was Silchester, where we gazed in awe at the Roman Wall and were distressed to find the Forum overgrown and unidentifiable. On another occasion we motored on the long-disused Basingstoke-Alton railway, including driving along on one of the platforms of a station that became defunct seventeen years ago, sheltered for a while in the remains of a derelict chapel beneath the shadow of one of the embankments of that forgotten line, and came to an abrupt halt while storming a muddy hill because the throttle-pedal came adrift, to the delight of the rider of a Velocette who was accompanying us. That entailed rigging a length of string to do duty in lieu of the broken control, and this thereafter appeared to be operated by either driver or passenger as convenient, to the horror of the occupant of the “tonneau.” There was the discovery of a local ruin, King John’s Castle, which could only be approached on foot, the place being inaccessible by car. The tow-path we used brought us to a place where a disused canal ran under a stream through pipes, the banks of both being at all but the same level, giving a watercross-roads effect. There is the memory of a stirring climb up a hill which would make a useful sprint course, and the unexpected sight, from its summit, of a motor-towed glider soaring from a near-by field in the fast-fading light. It was all the greatest fun and we returned with much the same feeling of exhilaration that we understand is experienced by those who take off most of their clothes and kick a piece of inflated leather about.
Different cars have been presenting themselves for sampling, and that in itself is interesting. A Vauxhall Ten, driven down to Hampshire from London late one night, took us in cold, driving rain to the Gloucester Trial. We had all the excitement one hopes for on these occasions, getting hopelessly lost in the morning trying to find “Juniper.” There was a hurried return to the start ere we got our bearings and saw something of the trial. A long cross-country drive down some very slippery lanes ended in our being told that Hedgcomb had been cut out and we must needs go post-haste to Nailsworth, in a part of the world which always gives rise to a desire to return at the earliest opportunity.
Next week-end it was an Austin Seven “Ruby” which took us to similar enjoyment in the Bristol area. Then there was a stately Sunbeam Sixteen saloon in which we rolled along local lanes in brilliant winter sunshine one morning, and a Trojan tourer which proclaimed its arrival in unmistakable manner one evening, later proving to be an easy starter, very roomy and comfortable, endowed with a fantastically effective emergency brake, and having quite an exhaust-note, withall. We even went up to town and back in an Austin Seven van, a solo Norton accompanying us on the return journey, and an excellent meal was taken at that pleasant port of call on the west side of the Thames adjacent to Staines Bridge, the “Sunnyside” restaurant. That outing finally ended with a short drive in a pre-war “1,100” H.R.G., and once again, during this brief acquaintanceship, we thought what a well-planned, practical all-round sports car it is, non-aerodynamic or not. By way of contrast, there was a rugged “14/40” Delage, very purposeful and open-air.
Then there was a run up to Warwick from London in an eminently satisfactory motor-car, in the form of a Type 49, 3.3-litre Bugatti saloon. Through town traffic it felt secure, taut and businesslike, but its owner was displeased, saying all eight “pots” were not equally busy. A stop at a garage in Dunstable, after E.R.A. Ltd. had disdained to tackle the job, resulted in a severe shock for the garage-boy when, asked to “clean the plugs,” he lifted the bonnet and saw all sixteen of them. After that we went along much better and the open bends at the latter end of the run were sheer joy.
Having seen all we wanted to see at Healey’s, but missing our run in this wonderful car through a carburetter-flange breaking, we took our place behind the wheel of the Type 49. Astonishing, how one feels at home from the commencement in a vintage-type carat least, we nearly always do. This particular Bugatti was said to steer badly because of incorrect castor action, but it seemed to go round corners in a most satisfactory manner. The gearchange, with patience, went through delightfully and the howl of third was distinctly stimulating, matched by real acceleration that few American saloons cared to counter; second gear served as a reminder that, if reasonably overhauled, this was not a new car. The visibility and the sensible placing of the wheel, the traditional long advance and retard lever protruding from the righthand side of the facia, the comfort and cosiness of the elegant body and the cunning anti-dazzle blinds on the screen, in a car well-braked and able to get along easily in excess of 70 m.p.h., combined to make us realise how very good new cars must be to compete against the better vintage jobs. And the Bugatti’s owner, even then, was saying that he found the Healey very good indeed . . .