A “REPLICA” LONDON-EXETER-LONDON TRIAL A Boxing Night Adventure for the Light Car Section of the V.S.C.C.
ON Boxing Night, 1954, the Editor of MOTOR SPORT drove his 1922 8/18 Talbot-Darracq light car over the course of the appropriate M.C.C. London-Exeter-London ‘Trial. for which “Jackie “Masters of that club had kindly produced the original 1922 route card. Gerry Crozier came along in his Trojan for company, and both these intrepid motorists thought the whole thing jolly sound fun.
Boddy duly suggested to the Coinrnittee of the V.S.C.C. Light Car Section, of which he is Chairman, that this revival of motoring in the gay nineteen-twenties might appeal to a number of fellow enthusiasts and John Wrigley, the Section’s Secretary, agreed to stir up interest among owners of the right kind of light cars.
The result was that thirty members intimated that they would venture forth last Boxing Night on a semi-official V.S.C.C. re-run of the Exeter Trial of 1922/4. In fact, their numbers were somewhat depleted for various reasons, ranging from domestic difficulties and Christmas hangovers to electrical failure beforehand in the ease of Miss Stockers’s 1928 Trojan, a crash which unhappily eliminated Nelson’s 1925 Morris-Cowley, and ill-timed mechanical deficiencies which prevented Wood’s 1923 Riley Eleven coupe and Sewers’ 1927 Singer from starting—while some completed entry forms but just -didn’t turn up.
However, on Boxing Night an excellent and representative array of seventeen vintage light cars and their keen, if queerly clad, occupants, assembled in the Market Square at Staines, mere yards from the M.C.C. assembly-point of the ‘twenties, which is now full of Super Cinema. Their task was to re-enact, reasonably closely, a traditional vintage Exeter, the route being virtually as it was from 1922-24 except that breakfast was taken outside instead of in Exeter, the lunch-stop on the return journey was at Blandford instead of at Salisbury, and the average speed was 24 m.p.h. instead Of the 20 m.p.h. or less called for originally because this speed limit prevailed throughout the country.
Instead of finishing at Staines a halt was celled at Hartley Wintney, which obviated tired drivers of old cars having to drive against the blinding lights of homeward-bound holiday revellers in modern vehicles. But the three observed hills and much the same time checks as intimidated the adventurers of long ago were incorporated, while the present-day Highway Code had to be strictly adhered to, a secret check being incorporated to ensure that this was so.
At midnight the first car, Buddy’s Talbot-Darracq, was dispatched into the night by Wrigley, the little blue two-seater, its dickey laden with petrol, oil and water .cans, and tools, vanishing over Staines Bridge until its original 1922 rear lamps faded from view. The moon, whirls up to then had lit the scene, elected to disappear behind dark clouds and coon rain was pelting down, as the procession wended its ,zay through Basingstoke and Middle Wallop, over the Plain to
Buddy ‘vas roping on sidelamps alone, as use of a headlamp resulted in a dead ” short.” and his hood fabric bad blown away long before the first refuelling stop at the Phoenix–but vintage sidelamps cast ample light. Mr. and Mrs: Peacock also faced the elements sans hood and sans dynamo charge, in a 1925 Gwynne Eight only just back on the road after being endowed with a very nicely-made replica ” hip-bath ” body to replace a lorry body which was on the car when Gwynne-exponent Peactsek found it.
An unfortunate early casualty was Capt. Mason, who, having brought his smart 1925 Standard tourer all the way from Norwich, was unfortunately obliged to retire with magneto trouble. In Yeovil an astonished constable saw the wide variety of early small ears shuffling about trying to follow the town’s ill-signposted
diversion system. Beyond Yeovil, at that exceedingly obliging Hazlebury Garage. George Staddons dispensed National Benzoic in the wee sma” hours. It was here that Nigel Arnold-Forster and his wife disappeared, like pantomime demons, in showers of sparks, when their Trojan unfortunately broke a back spring—the anti-vintage-minded are hereby publicly informed that it wasn’t a vintage spring whirls eaused this retirement but a brand-new replacement in modern steel made by present-day spring specialists! Now, with nearly 120 miles already behind them, the survivors tor* Chard and Yarcombe hills on the main road run, the former reducing many to brief spells in their losvest gears and Yarcombe winding upwards round seemingly never-ending corners for lf At Honiton Bowker’s 1925 10/23 Talbot two-seater went smartly past Boddy’s earlier 8/18 Talbot, but stopped soon afterwards for radiator replenishmeut. It was still dark as the drivers entered
Sidmouth and set about finding a rather elusive Peak Hill, first of the “observed sections.” Winding at first, Peak is a mile long and concludes with a 1-in-5 pull up the cliffside above Sidnsouth. Stott’s 1929 Morris-Cowley coupe stopped and ran back, needing the help of other drivers to clear the road.
Ten miles beyond this hill, with dawn breaking, weary drivers followed Wrigley’s 1927 Lancia Lambda saloon to an excellent breakfast, promptly served, at the new Motel on the Exeter By-pass. Most unluckily, Wason’s 1920 10/30 Alvis two-seater, oldest car in the run, broke its crown and pinion as it was reversing into the car park; fortunately, a V.C.C. member from a nearby garage took pity on the stricken Alvis and its crew obtained lifts home. So far only three had dropped out but a stiff route lay ahead, for after tackling Salcombe Hill, outside Sidmouth, another mile of 1 in 5, there were many miles of hilly going, calling for considerable bottom-gear work, before White Sheet Hill, mile of 1 in 5, had to be ascended. The drop into Lyme Regis was certainly fearsome, one lady finding it so alarming in spite of her Ford’s Girlings that he was promptly overtaken by an aged light car possessing diminutive brake drums on its rear wheels only On Saleornbe Boddy’s TalbotDarracq failed, as it did on White Sheet, whereas in 1954 it had climbed both hills non-stop, a startling reminder of what Anno Domini does to us ! The 10/23 Talbot went up strongly, likewise the 9/20 and 12/25 Humbers, the Trojans and Rogers’ little 1923 7/17 Jewett two-seater. Less sure was Dickens’ attractive 1925 Swift two-seater, while the diminutive engine of Lockhart’s 1928 7/17 Peugeot tourer called for a little assistance from an agile passenger near the top, Gaber’s 1926 Clyno tourer would have succeeded if the gear-lever hadn’t jumped out. and Peacock in his Gwynn° failed on a gradient which a passer-by informed him wasn’t anything like the real Salcombe
Before the contingent reached White Sheet rain returned in earnest, and all except those who lived in London were relieved to learn, at the Blandford check, that the finish would be moved to Hartley Whitney. So they came home in the early afternoon, taking the historic route, after Salisbury, through Middle Wallop, Andover and Whitchurch, to Basingstoke. Boddy was seen adding Castrol 40 to his Talbot’s sump, suspecting a loose bearing, and the Swift was passed with its bonnet open, its cheerful crew announcing that there was trouble but that they would fix it.
In all, thirteen of the seventeen starters checked in at the finish, after a stern and strenuous run of 307 miles.
They did not have the bad roads, the mud, the prinsitive tyres and tubes, nor in all cases the feeble lamps, that competitors of thirty-three years earlier had to face up to, but very definitely they arrived at the Phoenix with a pleasant sense of accomplishment, and we wouldn’t be surprised if the V.S.C.C. runs this ” Replica Exeter ” as a full-scale light-car contest next Christmas.
All finishers are entitled to buy themselves V.S.C.C. plaques and they can claim a full appreciation of what the M.C.C. Exeter Trial finest have been like in the days of long ago.
Finishern : Roddy (1922 8/18 Talbot-Dareacq), Dickens (1925 9.5 Swift), Bowker (1925 10/23 Talbot), Dighton (1928 ‘lumber 12/25), Mathew (1925 Fiat 501), Jopling (1927 flumber 9/20), Rogers (1923 7/17 Jowett). Lockhart (1928 7/17 Peugeot), Peacock (1923 Gwynne Eight), Gabor (1926 10.8 Clyno), Atkinson (1928 Trojan), Crozier ((928 Trojan), and Stott (1929 Ntorria-Cowley). Nonfinishers : Arnold•Forttor (Trojan), broken back Apringi Capt. Mivion (1925 Standard), magneto foilore; Wagon (1920 10/30 Alvis), back axle failure; Collins (1927 10.8 Clyno). foiled to cheek ht. ************** 1010•4t**********