The 53rd Exeter Classic Trial

(organised by the Motor Cycling Club)

The great winter classic trial, with 300 entries (123 motorcycles, 177 cars) took place in very cold but dry conditions on January 9th/10th. Some delay was caused when Jones’ MG TC apparently collided with a non-competing Mini at Tillerton, Jones cutting his nose, but by normal breakfast-time the cars were arriving at Fingle Bridge, a varied cavalcade typical of this famous trial. Barry Clarke had his potent Austin 7 Chummy which he threatens to supercharge for future competitive occasions, Sue Halkyard and her girl-navigator were in great form, although the SU-fed via alloy-manifold engine of her Chummy was exuding oil, but 165-15 Uniroyals aided rear-wheel grip, Hayes was in his Ford perpendicular Popular, standard save for a bigger carburetter, and Stewart’s twin-SU Ford Pop, which has in its day gained a coveted Triple Award, was making its 17th appearance. The driver of the Singer 9 “Buttercup” was trying to lessen clutch-slip by a dosage of petrol, Stringer’s Morgan 4/4 sported a flower-pot and three daisies on its prow and Pettifer’s MG was jacked-up 3″. Threlfall was coping with a torn-out valve on a back tyre of his Ford-A saloon, Joseland was upholding Frazer Nash honours with his 1926 Anzani example.

Fingle Bridge proved easy. Watching at Simms we saw Huxtable’s Morgan Plus-8 fail after a series of lurid tail-wags at the rock outcrop but Goodall’s Plus-8 recover from the same predicament. Threlfall’s vintage Ford ascended with cheeky nonchalance but Campbell’s Ford-A failed at the outcrop. Langton’s remarkable Jaguar, starker than ever as he says he has removed the bits that fell off last year, blipped up, Andrews’ Dellow was fast, White’s Ford Escort just made it, to yells of “go on” from the onlookers, but the outcrop was too much for Harding’s BMW. Williams’ MG got up quietly, Miss Anderson’s VW just managed it, but failures at Simms, although the hill was dry, included Williams’ Mini, the TT Ford V8 with fuel-feed problems, Brudenall’s Standard Ten, Turner’s Peugeot, Boyce’s VW, after a hard try, Vowden’s MG, which wouldn’t leave the line, Porter’s TA MG, the Imps of the Paynes, Uglow’s VW, Proudfoot’s Morgan 4/4 coupe, Vanstone’s Ford Mexico and Moyse’s Cortina, the last two near the top.

Those who “cleaned” Simms (and remember that Class 6 cars had to tackle a stop-and-restart) also included Welch’s wheel-spinning MG, Le Couteur’s Dellow, that used the right hand side of the outcrop, Rule’s Ford, Frost’s VW Buggy, after a hesitant start.

Then Lutman’s Dellow made a slow but sure ascent, Potter’s Dellow had absolutely no trouble, nor did Jackson’s Dellow. With sideways bouncing assistance Ellison’s 1 1/2-litre Riley managed slowly, Hillier’s VW got away to a fast run, Turner’s VW Trekker swerved about but made it to the top, Hirst enjoyed a noisy ascent in his Sunbeam Stiletto, his passenger’s head appearing through the open sun-roof as he bounced, but it was touch-and-go for Wilson’s Jago Jeep. Sterry’s J2 MG fluffed at first but then got on song, and successful climbs were made by Plummer’s VW, Neal’s MG, Tucker-Peake’s Ford Pop and her husband’s Skoda 110R.

Others seen to be “clean” numbered Turner’s Ford, Hilliard’s 1172 Ford, Kempthore’s MG, Richards’ VW that was excellent, Neal’s Morgan that only just got up, Beckly’s Hillman Avenger, Litton’s Ford RS1600, another VW and Morgan etc. Now for the Land’s End, on April 17/18th. — W.B.