VSCC Measham Rally

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(January 3rd/9th)

The great gale had subsided in time for the “Measham” to happen, and cooperation by the local authorities cleared fallen trees from most of the route, very little of which had to he changed. So the usual scenes were re-enacted at the Sandford Hotel, Church Stretton, on the Saturday night, as drivers and navigators, particularly navigators, prepared for the forthcoming ordeal. Of the 44 entries, Hamilton-Gould, substituting an Alvis for a Frazer Nash, had had two punctures close to the start and was testing inner tubes in the Gents, and Malyan’s Frazer Nash had blown a head gasket en route to the hotel and was suffering from mis-firing. Barker had spent the day persuading his 1930 Model-A Ford to motor and in spite of carrying lorry-size batteries he was plagued all night with deflating electrics because, he said, the current refused to flow uphill from one end of the car to the other. A few miles from the start the engine shed all its water and the driver continued until his air-cooled Ford cracked its head. Another of these Fords was driven by Abbott, a 1928 manx-tailed two-seater with improvised unpainted body and a garage-jack slung across its rear.

High spot was Hamish Moffatt in Stuart Saunders’ Type 35C Bugatti, from which he felt he should blow away the cobwebs while its owner is in Australia; navigator in the cold-seat was Don Griffiths, who reads routes in modern rally-cars. Last year’s winner, Keith Hill, was marshalling this time, but his ace-navigator Rosemary Burke was in the first car away, Joseland’s Anzani Frazer Nash. Non-starters included Adnams, who had sold his Austin, and Ridley’s Alvis. A deep water splash sounded likely to produce good journalistic “copy” but although my navigator found me one in apparently the right place, no vintage cars came anywhere near it. Just as I was becoming resigned to a barren night until the halfway stop we picked up Arnold-Fors-tees Anzani Frazer Nash and for many difficult miles thereafter, as we followed competitors. discovered that the Triumph Stag was less controllable on iced-mud than many vintage cars. We came upon Moffatt inspecting his under-seat battery and lashing up a broken rear-mudguard stay, after which he, in company with many others, became badly lost and a nice four-seater 12/50 Alvis ran out of road harmlessly. Incidentally, the Bugatti in full-cry made this nocturnal stint well worthwhile!

At the halfway halt the aftermath of the storm meant no hot-dogs or loos but the petrol pumps were functioning and, indeed, were brightly lit.

Here Rosemary Burke, in spite of feeling unwell, brought “her” Frazer Nash in first, closely followed by Tony Jones, who immediately made up a new exhaust-flange gasket for his 30/98. The Marsh brothers refuelled their Wensum 30/98 with BP Super-Plus in deference to its rather special pistons, Moffatt dipped the Bugatti’s fuel tank with a borrowed broomstick, asking for “that much” petrol as he indicated the unwetted section of it, after which he thoughtfully oiled the king-pins, and Arnold-Forster, lacking dynamo charge, nevertheless repaired his lamps. Newton had retired his Frazer Nash after contact with the scenery, Binns came in on a tow-rope. having lost his Riley’s ignition for a while, but Gregg seemed untroubled in his very smart 1930 AJS fabric saloon, although probably hampered by its 3-speed gearbox. Stoyel had been forced to drive his Frazer Nash some way on a wheel rim, after a puncture, and was so late he retired, Mrs. Thetford had restyled the n/s front wing of her 12/60 Alvis Special en route, Price’s Austin Nippy was losing water and could have done with better anchors but was doing well, :Ls were Rooney’s Austin 7 and Sevier’s big Sunbeam. Hill’s Triumph Super Seven, sporting five frontal lamps, reminder of Donald Healey’s early Monte Carlo Rally appearances in these cars, had mysterious magneto trouble. Nutter’s splendid open 8-litre Bentley seemed to treat it all as a trouble-free tour but had run out of petrol ten miles from the check-point, suggesting a fuel consumption of under 5 m.p.g.

Ron Footitt was driving Giles’ Frazer Nash with Freddie navigating, it being difficult to decide who was the brayer, or whose idea it was to adjust the brakes. When sleet began to fall Freddie was heard to ask if Ron would he able to see anything, with or without his glasses! Ghosh’s 30/98 proudly displayed scars earned on the Lakeland Trial and unfortunately Reeve’s very nice 1925 5th-Series Lancia Lambda with the rare two-seater body arrived at the halfway check desperately late. Roger Richmond was acting as a genial Guardian Angel to the “Chain Gang” and VSCC President Bernard Kain was helping anyone he encountered who seemed in need of help.

Altogether, an excellent “Measham”, in the traditional pattern, with a tougher route this time, which resolved itself in terms of success as shown by the appended results.—W.B.

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