Vintage Veerings

There is no need to state the case for vintage machinery on this page, because those who read it are converts anyway, and because the points in favour of even the less-spectacular vintage touring car were set out in “Rumblings” towards the close of last year.

Enthusiasm for vintage cars looks like continuing at a high level, and rather more old cars will come on the market this year as people who regarded them merely as necessities, not as cherished possessions, at last take delivery of their new automobiles.

This raises the matter of the disposal of old cars, both through the Trade and the private advertiser. Prices have fallen, it is true, but we still incline to the view that they are on the high side and that a quicker turn-over would be made by those firms specialising in vintage cars if they dropped prices still further.

As we see it, certain classic vintage types, such as Frazer-Nash, Bentley, and “30/98” Vauxhall, if in good order and possessing original bodywork, components and accessories, should command, like Old Masters, very high prices. But the less well-known types are of lesser value by far. After all, in 1939 £50 would buy quite a sound example and £100 something very good indeed, and since then most of them have either seen another ten years’ service or have been stored for a goodly part of the time—and neither circumstance can, by any stretch of imagination, be said to render such cars worth much more than before the war. We know that the cost of living has risen, that everything is more expensive these days, that dealers have higher rents, wages and general overheads to meet. But we are also aware that lots of people who crave a vintage car, probably on account of something they have read in Motor Sport, are likely to lose interest if they are asked a stiff three-figure sum for an old tourer of dubious mechanical condition which will involve them in the additional expense of a respray, a new hood and a set of tyres before they can feel proud of it as a possession. Vintage cars are rarer than the post-vintage types, and the very numbers of the latter one sees in showrooms and mews up and down the country suggests that the prices of these later, in the vintage sense less alluring, but often more practicable, more easily shod and serviced, and more economical cars, must in time come down. As soon as this happens less well-preserved vintage types will drop appreciably in value. So, with vintage enthusiasm at its present high level, and rightly, we venturesomely say to dealers in these car—slower your prices still further and do good to both yourselves and the less well-off enthusiasts.

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Arising out of the reference to “23/60” Vauxhalls last December, we have received the following letter from Mr. N. A. Wiseman:—


My “23/60” Vauxhall is recorded in your December issue to have climbed “no fewer than nine Swiss passes, the Stelvio included.” It is further said “The only trouble was three punctures.” Well, I think that is a bit of an understatement. We did in fact have two burst beaded-edge tyres and a mysterious deflation. Nor is that all—for we were fortunate just in that for the critical 2,000 miles nothing actually went wrong. Mr. Gill, in his excellent article, speaks diffidently of the Lanchester Harmonic Balancer. The instruction book is more explicit. It tells you to leave it alone. That’s all very well provided the thing doesn’t suffer from any of these modern psychological complexes. Mine decided it was not having enough attention paid to it, so one day, at 2,500 r.p.m., it flew into a rage and little pieces. And the driver, blaspheming horribly, on looking under the car, found he was being watched by the beady eye of the crank-shaft. Since then I’ve taken a jaundiced view of L.H.Bs and when, on the way out, halfway across France, the new balancer sounded a trifle quarrelsome, albeit it had only been in darkness for a week, it was hauled out and no nonsense about it. Since that moment I’ve done thousands of miles without, it and never missed it.

Nor was that all, for just after we’d got back to England, a bolt used to hold down the tappets sheared. To replace it the whole engine had to be taken down. And, of course, had another tyre burst it would have been the end of our holiday—as the two that did so went within the first four days of a three-week tour. I feel, somehow, the Vauxhall household gods were looking after us to make sure that the reputation of one of their best products was not tarnished.

I agree with all that Mr. Gill said about these cars, though I think he is unduly modest about them and his own car in particular. I think I look after mine well but I’d be ashamed to put it next to his. The performance figures he gives are on the slow side in my experience, but my car never did, nor will, pull away like his, from 5 m.p.h. in top. There are, however, other differences between his and mine besides the balancer. In general, if one wants sedate, though not stodgy, vintage motoring at its best, one could go farther and fare worse at greater cost than if one obtains a “23/60” Vauxhall.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Leatherhead. N. A. Wiseman.

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The vintage cult has developed until, today, it is admirably catered for amongst the clubs. The Bentley Drivers’ Club, for example, has not only sorted out much valuable data on the vintage Bentleys for its members and compiled authoritative technical articles on these cars for Motor Sport, but has issued a remarkable register of known Bentley cars, listed not only under members’ names, but under registration numbers and geographically. The Aston-Martin Owners’ Club has a somewhat similar list of Aston-Martins, including the s.v. cars, a Register of vintage Alvis cars is issued monthly and the 2-litre Lagonda register fulfils a like function for owners of vintage Lagondas.

Then there is a Fraser-Nash section of the V.S.C.C., an attempt is being made to form a “14/40” Delage register, something of the sort has been started for vintage Lea-Francis owners, and has been suggested for “14/40” Sunbeam users. The Lagonda C.C. recognises the 11.1-h.p., 11.9 h.p., and 2-litre models, the A.C. Club is conscious of the gearbox-in-back-axle S. F. Edge four and six-cylinder A.C.s, and so on.

All this is to the good, because, whether you own one of the better-known vintage types or prefer something more rare, much of the fun obtains from meeting owners of similar cars and comparing performance notes and servicing experiences. The Vintage Sports Car Club is, of course, the premier body catering for vintage cars, which are cars built before 1931.