Sorting out the TT Vauxhalls

When I wrote up Alistair Templeton's recreating of No. 1 TT Vauxhall last year I remarked that I would have liked to have sorted out which one of the three team cars was which, in the subsequent career of these 1922 racing Vauxhalls, but considered the task too fraught with problems, at all events to obtain a reasonably-accurate result. However, the matter niggled me, until I thought to ask Mr. Anthony Brooke, who owns and drives the ex-Raymond Mays' Vauxhall-Villiers, to come to my assistance.

This he has most generously done, producing a table showing the fate of each car, as far as this is known to him, on which I am basing this article.

In the 1922 TT race for which these cars were built, designed by Ricardo and Kings, M. C. Park, drove Vauxhall No. 1 and retired, O. Payne drove Vauxhall No. 2 and finished third, and E. Swain drove Vauxhall No. 3 and retired. (Incidentally, Mathew Park was the Apprentice Training Officer at Luton in the 1950s, Terence Barnes tells me). Alistair Templeton has re-created Vauxhall No. 1, giving it the unpainted aluminium bonnet which it had when it first emerged from the Vauxhall factory, before it was painted red all over, like the other two Vauxhalls. Incidentally, Tony Brooke joins me in praising Templeton's work, even to the use of unbuffed aluminium, etc. When the actual No. 1 TT car was tested on the road for the first time, the late Bill Ward went as mechanic, quite an honour, for he was at the time a Vauxhall apprentice.

The car was registered NM 1795, which number Templeton's Vauxhall now carries, car No. 2 was registered NM 1875. It appears that Vauxhall No. 3 was never registered for road use, presumably operating under Trade numberplates; Mr. Brooke tells me it never had a Log-Book when Tim Carson owned it. Apparently six spare TT engines were laid down, one of which was rushed to the Isle of Man during race practice.

When Vauxhall's entered for other competition events, following their rather disastrous TT, Park retained his original car, with its correct engine, repaired after the TT mishap, as detailed in my discourse in the December 1982 Motor Sport. Vauxhall Motors gave up racing after 1922 and the amateur 30/98 driver Humphrey Cook acquired Vauxhall No. 2, the only one of the team to complete the TT course. Presumably he decided on the car which had proved itself, had given the least trouble, and had not been thrashed by Park throughout the 1922 season. After his two seasons of successful competition work Cook disposed of this car to Jack Barclay, all of which was recounted in my article of last December, except that I omitted to say that in 1923 he took short-distance class records with it, including a flying 1/2-mile at 109.69 m.p.h. The car weighed 2,596 lb., was on alcohol fuel, and had the engine out of the Swain car.

Meanwhile, Park's car was used for a time by C. G. Brocklebank, but he never achieved much with it and on his retirement from racing it was acquired, in 1925, by H. F. Clay. The Clay brothers were well-known in Northern competition circles, H. F. having done well from 1920 with a 30/98 Vauxhall, while he also shared an Essex with J. H. and by 1922 had got hold of one of the 1914 GP Vauxhalls to supplement his 30/98, whereas J. H. was by then using a 3-litre Bentley, to which he remained faithful until changing in 1924 to a 20/70 h.p. Crossley. It was this Vauxhall No. 1 of TT days which in 1928 became the property of Mr. (later Sir) David Brown, when it changed into a Vauxhall-Villiers, with supercharged engine.

It appears that Vauxhall No. 3 stayed unused at the Vauxhall factory until the young Peter Gurney bought it in 1923, his worried parents insisting that someone else drive it for him at Brooklands. Jack Barclay, Vauxhall agent and racer of a 30/98, obliged and Jack took this car over in 1925. As Cook had used No. 3 17 engine in 1923, obviously rebuilt after its TT mishap, a spare engine was presumably put into the can Gurney bought.

So from 1925 to 1927 we have Clay campaigning Vauxhall No. 1 in North Country sprint events and sand-races, and Barclay running the other two TT Vauxhalls at Brooklands, although Dan Higgin, who seems to have had a penchant for unusual and sometimes forlorn old racing cars (including the ex-Zborowski 2-litre Miller and one of the old four-cylinder 1-1/2-litre Talbot-Darracqs) had Barclay's No. 3 Vauxhall in 1927.

Barclay may well have taken over Gurney's car, which he knew so well, as an insurance against needing spare parts. Certainly, when he broke records at Brooklands in the ex-Payne Cook car in 1925 he still had the engine from car No. 3. One of the six spare engines was apparently afterwards installed in this ex-Gurney Vauxhall, to make it mobile again. That would account for all six spare engines, i.e. one used as spares, in rebuilding No. 1 Vauxhall after the TT blow-up, another used in this way to repair Swain's car after the TT, one rushed to the TT during practice, suggesting that if a spare engine had been taken over for each of the three team-cars, one must have already been used up, No. 3 used for car No. 2 in 1925, and No. 5 engine, now in the Templeton car.

Barclay's ex-Cook car went to Raymond Mays in 1928 and was drastically developed by Amherst Villiers, and re-registered TL 1113, as the Vauxhall-Villiers. It had a sensational career as the Vauxhall-Villiers Supercharge and in 1935 it was acquired by the pioneer Brooklands driver and dealer Sydney Cummings. who kept it until 1937, after which Hanson had it for a year, Tony Brooke taking it on from 1939.

The other Vauxhall-Villiers was used by David Brown up to 1931, after which Arthur Baron, the Bugatti-fancier, took it over from Baker in 1933, Tim Carson acquiring it in 1938.

Reverting to the TT Vauxhalls, streamlined bodywork was put on the Clay car and on the ex-Cook Barclay car, by 1925, whereas the other Barclay Vauxhall retained its TT body and external details, being used by Higgin at Colwyn Bay speed-trials in 1927. Clay removed the front-wheel-brakes from his car (they were on a 30/98, until used for the Templeton car), put on a long tail, reduced the size of the scuttle-scowls, and it looks as if he somehow reduced the height of the radiator.

Jack Barclay had a very nice staggered-two-seater, long-tailed body put on his car, as can be seen from Plate 58 of my "Brooklands History" (Grenville, 1957 / 1981). By mid-1927 this Vauxhall had been further streamlined, its radiator now being cowled-in (but the Vauxhall flutes retained along the bonnet), the front dumb-irons enclosed, and a fairing placed over the passenger's seat. It was in this form that John Cobb drove it with the No. 4 engine.

I have a vivid memory of watching Purdy in the Thomas Special lead Cobb, both from the scratch mark, the latter in this well-streamlined Vauxhall, in the Sporting Life 100-Mile Handicap at Brooklands in July 1927, the two cars only a length or so apart until the Thomas broke a back spring and pulled up (to my youthful dismay, as I was a Parry Thomas fan) Cobb winning and raising the Class-D Hour Record to 111.64 m.p.h. in the process. Cobb then finished third, after a race-long duel, in the Autumn 1927 50-Mile Brooklands' Handicap, losing by less than a length to Purdy and the Thomas Special. Incidentally, this was a demonstration of progress, for the 3-litre TT Vauxhall design was laid down in 1920/21, and a car of half its engine-size, supercharged, and planned for road-racing by Parry Thomas in 1925/26, was now fractionally superior in high-speed performance.

Although Barclay had this streamlined version of the old Vauxhall, he did not forsake the more original No. 3 car (I believe indeed, that he was driving it when he had that alarming skid at the 1926 Easter Brooklands Meeting, as described in the earlier article, the car that inadvertently baulked him being Meeson's 30/98 Vauxhall, which was high on the Byfleet banking, running behind Barnato's 3-litre Bentley. The wily Parry Thomas meanwhile passed the lot on the inside, in the big Lanchester Forty single-seater, to win the race, although before the contretemps Barclay had overtaken Thomas. Barclay certainly drove this original-bodied Vauxhall in the News of the World 100-Mile Handicap at the 1925 August Brooklands Meeting, when it seems to have had a mauve bonnet and was delayed by tyre trouble.) Tim Carson, later to be the first Secretary of the VSCC, took over this car, still in original loM form, in 1928, winning Brooklands races with it and even taking the Class-D 200-kilo. record with it, at 96.61 m.p.h. However, it finally threw a rod while being warmed up at Brooklands in 1930 and Arthur Baron took over the remains. But Tim bought it back, together with Baron's Vauxhall-Villiers, in 1938. Whatever was in mind for these two historic cars, the war intervened, after which Tony Brooke acquired both of them. (Incidentally, I was incorrect when, in that earlier article, I said the Carson Special had the TT engine in an inverted chassis — that was the 1934 Carson Special, which used a special E/OE 30/98 engine).

After Mays had started altering the ex-Cook/Barclay Vauxhall to form the Villiers-Supercharge the chassis and body were apparently scrapped, but the front axle has survived. The re-created No. 1 TT Vauxhall made its first competition when Alistair Templeton drove it in last year's VSCC Colerne speed-trials. It was paired with Brooke's Vauxhall-Villers and not unexpectedly the supercharged car beat it, but the TT car's 34.77 sec. for the s.s. kilo. compares well with Cook's 33.3 sec. in 1923. And it recalls the 1928 kilometre sprint on Skegness sands, when Raymond Mays in the then-new Vauxhall-Villiers beat Carson's TT Vauxhall.

That is as far as I propose to go in attempting to sort out the individual careers of the three 1922 TT Vauxhalls. I wouldn't have attempted the task without the help from Anthony Brooke. There is one point I must make, though, before closing.

Just as I thought the foregoing made sense I consulted the official record-books of the Brooklands Automobile Racing Club, to discover they represent the fly in the proverbial ointment. However, after much cogitation, tracing the history of individual old racing-cars being what it is, I think I can see light at the end of a long tunnel.

The TT Vauxhall with which Jack Barclay took Class D records in 1926 was declared to have the engine from No. 3 car, in which chassis wasn't specified. It weighed 2,391 lb. incidentally, whereas Payne's car in 1922 TT trim weighed out at 2,526 lb. We know it was the ex-Cook No. 2 car but it seems that thereafter, because it had been using engine No. 3 since 1923 it was regarded as being car No. 3. When Thomas drove Barclay's Vauxhall in the 1926 Evening News 100-Mile Handicap (because Barclay had laryngitis) and finished third, taking the Class-D hour record at 104.08 m.p.h. on the way, the record-book says he had TT Vauxhall No. 4. with TT engine No. 4, although only three such cars were built in 1922. . .

It seems logical to assume that Barclay had put engine No. 3 back in the correct chassis and replaced the unusable No. 2 engine in the ex-Cook car with a spare engine — No. 4 — and that because the car now had this engine, it was erroneously entered as car No. 4, as car No. 2 was entered as No. 3 because of its engine. (It could be that Thomas was using car No. 3, into which engine No. 4 had been installed after its own engine has been transferred to car No. 2 but, if so, the same theory holds good.)

When Cobb won the Sporting Life 100-Mile Handicap in 1927 (and contrived to break the Class-D hour record in the course of it (although the race distance was over eleven-and-a-half miles less)) this Vauxhall was declared as using the same engine (No. 4) as Thomas, but in car Na. 3, which, as Barclay's No. 2 car, which this was, had been mistaken for car No. 3 for the aforesaid reason, if my theory is correct, makes sense (the weight was up by four-lb. over that of 1925, no weight being quoted for the car used by Thomas, which raises the conundrum of how J.G.P.T. got away with this, and if Cobb had the car weighed before or after the race in order to claim the records he expected to break?). When, later in 1927, Cobb used the car he again declared its engine to be No. 4 but this time no chassis No. was quoted, either due to an oversight — or perhaps Barclay had told him he was actually using chassis No. 2 . . . For some reason, although the full streamlining had been used on both occasions, the car had gained 74 lb. in a month. That Barclay had put No. 3 engine back into the ex-Gurney Vauxhall is borne out by Carson declaring his Vauxhall as TT3, with TT3 engine, when he broke records in his turn, in 1928. It is possible that Parry Thomas had breathed on No. 4 engine and may have evolved the improved steamlining of the Cobb Vauxhall since Barclay used it at the 1927 Easter Brooklands races.

That is as far as I can go but if anyone can do better I would like to hear from them. — W.B.