London, January, 23rd
Before the rally started came news of roads snowed-up and the intensely cold weather threatened more snow to come. But conditions improved before January 22nd and the Glasgow contingent got away in good order, the first car flagged off by the Rt Hon The Lord Provost, Sir Victor Warren, from Blythswood Square, which, must now seem to the drivers so very far away !
The only hazard on the 300-mile run to Llandrindod Wells was patchy black ice, which made exposed corners on high ground treacherous. But the competitors made good time and could afford to take the final twisting section from Welshpool to the Control cautiously at 20-25 mph. Little knots of spectators had gathered at the worst corners, but no untoward incidents rewarded their vigil.
At the Hotel Metropole in Llandrindod floodlit in a bedecked town, there were rumours that the first car was due in at 9.10 pm and as 10 pm approached with no sign of rally cars anyone driving anything at all sporty was eagerly peered at, cheered on and offered 100 octane from two-gallon cans at the petrol stations. But the arrival time had proved incorrect and soon competitors came quietly in, on time. Mostly they came in small groups, a Jowett Javelin amongst the first four, but the intrepid Reece brothers, in a Ford Anglia, came by alone, going quicker than most on the ice and with a healthy exhaust note. Although quite a lot of cars had obviously overtaken them, as they had been first away at Glasgow. Zetter’s AC was wellup, with a crew of four. The only car in a hurry on the ice here, blowing an old fashioned Klaxon-style horn, was a Standard Vanguard. Many drivers, including a Mark VII Jaguar with Jack Newton (of Notwen) at the wheel at this stage, had used an easier route.
As cars refuelled in the two flood-lit petrol stations, with Dunlop and Mintex Service vans in close (and we suspect optimistic) attendance, or, after checking in past a Lucas-lit official, parked, lights off, behind the Metropole, interested crowds inspected them critically. FP Ground’s Javelin, with twin spare wheels on its roof rack and a roof spot-lamp, was already taking on oil. The “works” .Jaguar Mark VIIs, in one of which Gordon Wilkins and Raymond Baxter were coping with both the rally and BBC broadcasts, were seen to be minus their rear-wheel “spats,” to have had their knave-plates removed from the hubs and to possess louvres in the bonnet top panels for screen de-icing. Some drivers had mere heater-strips on their screens, others more ambitious healer-panels. The latest Lucas spot-lamps were on nearly every car. Most of the cars were very clean at this stage. notably CF Bartlett’s blood-red Vauxhall and the Ellisom/Mason fixed-head Jupiter bodied by JE Farr of Blacburn. Mrs Johnson’s Riley had extended sides to its luggage locker and a roof spot-lamp. Some competitors did not seem to mind carrying big loads in roof-racks, amongst them the Warwicks’ Jaguar and Flockhart’s Ford Pilot.
Knave-plates could be carried inside the cars if desired, and apart from the “works” Jaguars, Bolton’s Vanguard had them removed from the wheels. An interesting car was Vard’s 21/2-litre Lagonda, which carried no snow-chains, incidentally. The front-seat passengers in Hobson’s Austin and Ofiley’s Sunbeam-Talbot had dental-type head-rests behind their seats. One Riley sported an Order of the Road badge and an Armstrong-Siddeley sphinx rad cap mascot, no doubt from the owner’s well remembered old car.
As we prepared to leave Llandrindod, Dorothy Stanley Turner came in driving a new 3-litre Alvis, crunching in a gear. Opinions were divided on whether the Hereford or Worcester route was the better. Ice persisted for some miles, and there were occasional dust-clouds, but there was practically no fog, at all events as far as Oxford. Little groups or enthusiasts stood at vantage points right through the night and police and RAC scouts waved the cars on through the towns—surest sign that Britain is at last truly motor-minded. Nor could the passage of the cars, widely-spaced and running quietly, have troubled anyone. Garages were open in Moreton and Chipping Norton. Russell’s Javelin, Collins’, Morris Minor and Guero’s Hillman Minx Utility were not in a hurry, but most of the competitors were cruising at a brisk speed, so that during a very pleasant night run we had to keep the Motor Sport Morgan Plus Four at 70 mph, and corner fast to overtake them. Ellison’s coupe Jupiter pulled up in a town, probably dazzled by the lights of a car behind it and a few others had stopped by the road-side. But the Hilliman Minx saloons of Kelmsly and Walshaw were certainly pressing-on, very impressively for 1.265 cc side-valve cars. Indeed, in Moreton-in-the Marsh spectators “got their money’s worth,” for, misled by a Riley, one of the Minx followed in at speed and in a cloud of dust, up an escape road labelled “Unsuitable for Motors”—and let us confess, the Morgan followed them both ! On the other hand, a non-competing Austin A40 was going much faster than Ellison’s Jupiter, faster in fact than a competing A40——reminder that the rally is not a race and that under good conditions there is no need to exceed 60 or even 50 mph to hold the required average speed. Up Fish Hill we carne upon a Javelin going strongly, but rolling somewhat as it cornered, smoke and showers of jolly sparks coming from its “Wyresoles,” tyre treads–incidentally, a third of the British competitors were using these retreads, although RC Porter’s Riley relied on Swedish Wittmer Skid-Safe tyres on its back wheels and the “works” cars on standard Dunlops.
If the weather in England was lenient, competitors still had plenty of worries. They knew that snow had fallen in Monte Carlo itself, an almost unheard-of occurrence, and that on its way there the Sunbeam-Talbot 90 of Stirling Moss and John Cooper had had to be towed out of a snow-drift. They knew too that, after Louis Chiron had hit a wall in his Alfa-Romeo while trying the course for the Regularity Test, the speed required for this had been dropped from 50 kph to 45 kph, upsetting many very elaborate and painstaking calculations. However, many drivers were probably secretly relieved, for not many thought the speed for this decisive test possible of attainment, although Sydney Allard, using to the full his Allard’s acceleration, had pronouneed himself satisfied he could do 50 after a pre-rally trial. So, with the rally Cross-Channel steamer sailing a calm sea, at our printer’s request we must leave the competitors to the adventures ahead of them. A detailed report of the Rally is planned for next Motor Sport.
NB—Later report’s stated that Gerard’s Sunbeam-Talbot 90 was delayed momentarily due to a short circuit and that Baxter got lost for a while in Brussels. Foster changed a punctured wheel on his Javelin without dropping below schedule, and on this route a Swedish Ford-Zephyr was first into Hamburg Control. The Munich starters experienced bad snow conditions for some hundreds of miles after the start but most routes were ciear. Those late at controls on the second day numbered the Harper/Turnbull Vauxhall Velox, the Franklin/Burgess Austin (at Hamburg), Holt’s Ford Zephyr (at Lille).