Vintage veerings

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The VSCC season opened with the third rally to Measham, for driving tests at the well-known Measham Motor Sales ground. This is an ideal venue for such tests, being spacious, ideal for spectators and having at hand a restaurant and offices where a control can be established. The VSCC is indebted to Mr GA Hill, M1ME, of Measham Motor Sales Organisation, who extends to them his hospitality.

The rally involved some 200 night miles, starting from Shrewsbury, on a map-reading basis, marks also being lost if halt-signs and the like were ignored. It is open to debate whether the route chosen and the character of the tests were suited to vintage cars. But clearly the event is popular, for an entry of 31 vintage, 19 thoroughbred post-vintage cars (VSCC’s definition, not Motor Sport’s !) and 34 visitors’ post-vintage cars entered. Unusual was the employment of No 13, which fell to M Vaughan’s 1925 “14/40” Delage—and we hope did not unduly hamper it. !

The rally was very efficiently organised by J Rowley, with the aid of A Oakes-Richards as his chief marshal.

We did not see any more of the night section than the noise and bonhomie at the start, where the hotel was littered with bodies sprawling full-length over maps and, in some cases, slide-rules. The rest of the time we spent examining the world’s oldest existing narrow-gauge passenger-carrying railway, at Tal-y-Llyn (LTC Rolt, VSCC member, is General Manager, but that is another story), and looking at the part of the Monte Carlo Rally route near Llandrindod Wells. But we arrived eventually, after vicissitudes similar no doubt to those enjoyed by some of the competitors, and observed with interest the last test, in which cars were required to lap the Measham grounds against the watch, pausing for a “pit-stop,” during which a front wheel had to be raised from the ground and lowered again. Cunning this, because vintage cars lift up so much more easily than modern ones—which may, or may not, be why the VSCC incorporated it !

Not all the cars took the test, because not all had qualified on the road-section-Grice’s 1923 Jowett, Routledge’s 1924 Morris-Cowley, Fenn-Wiggin’s 1935 Sunbeam saloon, McNaughton’s twin-cam 3-litre Sunbeam, which came disguised as a whale, Eaton’s 1935 Austin Seven Chummey and Arnold-Forster’s  stark Anzani Frazer-Nash with perspex navigational cover rigged over the passenger’s seat, being amongst the unfortunates. Sedgwick’s 41/2-litre Bentley had found the road-section tough going and was thought to have damaged its chassis. M Blackburn’s 1930 Silver Eagle Alvis four-seater opened proceedings, a ratchet-jack (subsequently shared amongst needy competitors) functioning well but the engine running on—and on (engines had to be stopped while jacking). BH Thompson, in a similar Alvis, did his own jacking, though his passenger did hand the mechanism out to him over the sidescreens. DW Showell, winner of the Measham Trophy, in a very covetable all aluminium 1924 3-litre open Bentley, took things calmly, helped by his passenger at the “pit.” Wild in comparison was BR Beebee, whose 1927 “14/40” Delage experienced a front wheel slide and locked its back wheels under braking.

A Jeddere-Fisher, in his vintage 2-litre Lagonda Special, roared round, smoke hazing from the cockpit. He contrived to drive his car onto its jack, but, alas, overlooked the rule calling for cessation of propellant machinery at the “pit”–a pity. WP. Clayton’s two-seater 41/2-litre Bentley emitted vast explosions as it tore round but managed very well, although he, like several others, forgot that his passenger couldn’t spin the jacked-up wheel unless the brakes were released. DF Myres (1928 Lea-Francis) suffered similarly from “stopper-consciousness.”

JG Vessey flexed the back tyres of his outside-exhaust 1928 Lancia Lambda on a fast circuit but his pit-work was slow. B Morgan’s 1923 “49/50” Rolls-Royce went through neatly, to the accompaniment of not quite appropriate sounds. C Robertson performed the test alone in his 1929 Riley Nine fabric saloon, aided by excellent brakes, and Peter Binns in his hairy (and hair-raising) “30/98” Vauxhall was entirely outstanding. LJ Stretton (1931 “12/50” Alvis saloon) and his passenger worked hard at a garage jack and even remembered to pick up the block with which they had chocked a back wheel. Outstanding was DP Harris, who lifted his 1934 Frazer-Nash onto a jack, aided by Alec Sears. JH Leigh brought his stark 1933 Frazer-Nash to rest at the “pit” in a tail-slide as the off-side stub of the front axle tore away from the axle tube and folded over under brake torque, bending the steering connections—chain-gangsters take heed ! The crew of Peter Reece’s 1935 Riley Sprite had the drill well taped, but left behind their jack pad.

First of the visitors was slim Nancy Rims,  Anne Newton, her fair passenger, struggled manfully with a condo jack which clipped on the front bumper of the Jaguar XK120—grand entertainment for vintagents !—after which Nancy selected reverse gear by mistake. The throttle-rod chose this moment to fall off and this modern Jaguar retired blushing before the rows of successful vintage contestants. Miss Mould (1940 MG) did her best to retrieve feminine honour, punching home the gears, but was hampered by her male passenger’s enormous length of jack. Even more wonderful was the drill of JM Collier, the bonnet of whose 1947 Austin had to be opened before the car could be elevated.

Using ‘a twist-grip jack aided the dispatch of H Whitehouse’s Austin A40, but the passengers of Oscar Moore’s Monte Carlo Rally Ford Zephyr-Six and T Leadbetter’s Standard Vanguard both had to lie prone on their stomachs to manipulate the jacks, while JE Newton, of Notwen fame, should have brought a monkey which could have perched appropriately on his passenger’s shoulder while the handle of the Stevenson jack was wound at fast “hurdy-gurdy” speed! Incidentally, Newton told us he likes his Bristol as much as any car he has owned. He has cunning “feelers” fitted to it to protect the tyre walls from kerbs.

JVS Brown’s HRG had two nonstandard holes in its bonnet for the carburetters to breathe through and a very non-standard set to its front wheels ! N Fennemore was amongst the fastest “tappers” in his blown Dellow, sliding excitingly, R Gouldbourn’s “TD” MG “ran-on” and oversteered but was away very quickly, JH Greenwood howled the tyres of his 1949 21/2-litre Riley saloon, and the Vauxhall Velox of F Adams required a tripod on which to elevate itself. The noise of crunched cogs and the rattle of a vigorously operated jack punctuated the run of SB Bowskill’s Vauxhall Wyvern, and this entertaining and instructive test concluded with the much louder (exhaust) noise of M Leo’s 1930 2-litre Lagonda.

The results were announced by Vice President Laurence Pomeroy, MRSA, in the absence of President and Secretary, and Mr Hill, of Measham, spoke a few words, generously saying how glad he was to extend a little help to the VSCC. We understand that none of the cars present was accidentally sold by auction.

Humber Register Vintage Gathering

On January 13th, a fine, crisp day, the Humber Register held their vintage gathering, meeting in the square at Aylesbury, so that the locals council benefited to the extent of many bobs in carpark fees. Eleven Humbers attended, consisting of Lt Demaus’ splendid 11.4 saloon, which motors him vast distances from Worcestershire to organise these happy events, the way before it cleared by its deep-bass trumpet bulb-horn, Denne’s very-artie 1911 Humber Twelve, Samuelson’s 1923 “8/18” twoseater, Ossmaston’s “14/40” saloon, Matthews’ rebodied “14/40” tourer, Woodcock’s “14/40″ tourer, five 9/20s,” and Smith’s and Barry Eaglesfield’s “9/28s.” Two Beans of the Association of Bean Owners, two Gwynne Eights representing the VSCC Light Car Section, and three Sunbeams of the Sunbeam Register contributed support.

 These one-make gatherings really are excellent value, providing unrivalled opportunities for owners of like vehicles to compare notes, in a manner not always so easy at general vintage-car meetings. And no one is likely to object to the convoy runs subsequently indulged in, for speeds seldom rise above 30 mph. On this occasion the venue was Kop, near Princes Risborough, one-time speed hill-climb course where the cars had first to descend, then ascend, the plot being to make the time of descent tally as nearly as possible with that of the ascent. Many citizens obviously derived enjoyment from the procession en route from Aylesbury, while at Kop local residents showed similar enthusiasm, some saying they only heard of the event by luck and that their friends would be disappointed they missed the show.

Here it is appropriate to remark that Humber Register members attain a high standard in the preservation and presentation of their cars. The competitors had already been called on to change a wheel against the watch and now found Kop’s gradient a good test of vintage brakes and climbing ability. Some had a theory that a fast descent assisted under the marking system in use, but whether the rather startling descents of the two Bean Twelves, a cream two-seater and a four-seater handled by Ravenseroft and Theobald, respectively, could be attributed to such obtuse mathematical calculation or because they couldn’t help it, we did not discover ! Samuelson, too, came down fast, but his “8/18” also climbed very quickly, only the final bit after the 1 in 5 hump bringing him off second gear. Before this, Demaus’ “11.4” stopped but rapidly restarted. The 1 in 5 section shook many, notably the Beans, Burgess in Carter’s 1929 Sunbeam Sixteen saloon ,as did Matthews’ “14/40” Humber. The “9/20” Humbers were collectively most impressive and Carter’s 1915 WD Sunbeam got nearly all the way in second, finishing strongly in bottom cog. Eaglesfield played gear-shifting games with his “9/28”, and others there were who soon sought a higher cog. Price’s interesting “9/20” tourer was slow but Denne crunched in bottom to finish strongly on the 1911 Humber. Not a single car needed manual assistance, so a good day was had by all. The results follow and it will be seen that in spite of being numerically inferior the Sunbeams came out of it very well

Vintage cars have certainly been in the news latterly. Mr Dale, of the BBC’s “Mrs Dale’s Diary,” used a “very old car” borrowed from his garage when his modern car broke down, and in the News Chronicle of January 5th we found the following : “Two gangsters. described by police as left Bank existentialists, entered a bank in a Paris suburb today, grabbed £9,000 in notes and got away in a 1924-model car which they had to crank up before it would start.”

From a letter in a contemporary : “For some time now I have been driving a British car with ifs both front and rear. Could this be one of those modern vehicles that look to be going both ways at once ?”

And–“As I was shopping yesterday in my long-awaited post-war car, a pedestrian accidentally knocked over a bicycle parked on the kerb so that it struck my car as I was passing. The damage to the aluminium door and rear panelling is such, that it will cost several pounds for repairs …”—a case of, they don’t make ’em like they used to, mister !

“Practically speaking, there is nothing that will pass one of the new vehicles, and a touch of the slender levers which serve to control these giants is sufficient to send the car flying along at a pace which brings a rain of tears to the eyes and bites the face of the drivers with a rude blast on it fairly warm day.”— Extract from an article on “The Momentous Motor” from a 1903 copy of the Windsor Magazine illustrated by photographs of the Gordon-Bennett Napier.

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