Vintage postbag

A Brooklands romance


Having recently acquired a number of old copies of your excellent publication, I was interested to read in the August 1964 edition an account of the Brooklands Reunion of that year. Reference is made to the incident which occurred at the Track on Easter Monday 1938 when an MG went over the banking, and it suggests that H. T. H. Clayton was the driver. Re-reading "The History of Brooklands", however, I see that on page 714 it is stated that the driver was R. C. Fleeting. Can someone please confirm who was driving the car? [See footnote — Ed.]

My wife and I witnessed the whole thing, and I have always been of the opinion that the accident was caused through the MG being driven too high on the banking. A. P. Hamilton's Monza Alfa Romeo was coming up very fast, and was forced to dive below the MG but just touched the tail of the slower car, thus sending it over the top. Although this all took place 44 years ago, it is well remembered by me as the day which changed the whole course of my life. The lady to whom I was at that time engaged, albeit rather unhappily, had been packed off by me to the Midlands, and I had taken with me to Brooklands another lady with whom I was deeply in love. Immediately after the car disappeared over the banking we ran through the tunnel and watched the ambulance men lift the driver of the MG over some railings. On the following day the daily papers had photographs of this and my companion and I were clearly identified, with our noses pressed to the railings. All this of course caused my fiancée to realise that my affections were definitely elsewhere, and the engagement was broken.

My wife insists to this day that the driver of the MG was Clayton, and I have always maintained that it was Fleming. Which of us is right?

Barry Peters 

[I always have maintained that everything happened at Brooklands! I, too, was three when the driver of the MG was lifted onto a stretcher and over the railings. The 1964 report was correct and it is also given correctly in my 1950 Brooklands History which puts right the error in Vol. 3 of the former Brooklands History, the MG driver being H. T. H. Clayton. He recovered and is now a member of the Brooklands Society and President of the Amilcar Register. The ex-Horton MG was entered by R. C. Fleming, front whom I used to hear from time to time; he ran a garage in Clapham, from where, in 1936, I hired a red Austin Twelve tourer with which to widen my youthful driving experience. — Ed.]

Lieutenant Torin's Maserati


Further to my letter relating to the 3-litre Maserati FGC 412. It had been suggested to Torin that it might be the car which Nuvolari used to win the 1933 Belgian Grand Prix and he rather liked to believe it. However John Dugdale of The Autocar came to see it and stated categorically that Nuvolari's car was a monoposto (I assume that he saw that race and could vouch for it). I thought I would mention that as I'm sure someone else will point it out.

The reason why the car did not appear for the opening meeting in 1939 was because poor Torin unexpectedly found himself on urgent duty and could not get away. I believe that there was sorne sort of naval panic on in the channel or the North Sea (after all it was 1939).

Richard Winby

Bugatti's bowler


You whom we love dearly can sometimes get it wrong! Ettore Bugatti had more than one bowler (chapeau melon in French) and his typical one which he bought in Bond Street (where else!) was black; he had another brown. So the picture of the hat on a 57 Bugatti is not wrong.

Hugh Conway 
London, W2

[Sorry — W.B.]

Sports car performance


I feel that I have some views in common with you, having opposed in the House of Lords debates on the compulsory wearing of seat belts, the 70 m.p.h. speed limit and the construction of road humps. I thought that the following might possibly be of some interest to your readers. I was most interested to read under the heading "Sports Car Performance" in the January issue of your quite excellent production of Motor Sport, D.S.J.'s account of the hour run by AFN's Type 328 BMW in 1937 at Brooklands. My father had just completed an hour's run at Brooklands in his saloon Lagonda at a speed around 104 m.p.h. Aldington had written to me asking if I would drive his 328 BMW on a similar unofficial second run, suggesting that it would be a rather nice sequel following father's attempt in his 4-1/2-litre Lagonda. But most unfortunately for domestic reasons I was forced to refuse Aldington's kind invitation, a decision I have always regretted, eventually my old friend Sammy Davis drove the car covering the distance at 102.22 m.p.h. Incidentally my own 328 BMW which I had bought before the war for under £1,000 new from A. F. P. Fane was sold after passing through various owners to someone in Chicago, USA. I only wish I knew of its whereabouts now.

The Earl Howe
House of Lords

Brooklands v Mary Rose


Mr. Peters' comments on Brooklands are almost entirely wrong and exclude much important information.

The rude comments about the Brooklands Society Committee are irrelevant as, in 1975, the Society established Brooklands Track Ltd. to handle the situation which might arise if the owners of the estate wished to sell or lease any part of it. The Society, thanks to the permission given by the owners, have run annual Reunions and obtained listed status for parts of Brooklands while dedicated volunteers have cleared the track. It is difficult to see what else could be achieved by a voluntary body with few resources on property they do not own, might never be offered for sale and which, if it was, would be at a price which cannot be raised by voluntary effort in advance of an event which may never occur.

Last year it was announced that 40 acres of Brooklands containing its most important historical features but accessible only via a new bridge, had been sold. Further, a different part of the site would be included in a gravel extraction enquiry. This company is professionally represented at the enquiry but I have yet to hear any expert on the subject assert, as does Mr. Peters, that a motorway through Brooklands would stop gravel extraction.

Thanks to the efforts of the above mentioned voluntary bodies, the Vintage Aircraft Association, the prospective owners of the 40 acres, our Member of Parliament, local council, county council, two Government departments and this Company's architects, the day when part of Brooklands can be opened for the first ime since 1939 may not be too far away. This world famous part of the country's industrial heritage will then be saved for posterity and what has for long been regarded as impossible actually achieved.

K. R. Day,
Brooklands Track Ltd.

Motoring as it was


I too have been enjoying your articles "Motoring As It Was".

My earliest recollection is of my father's car, a 1906 single-cylinder Rover which "enjoyed" a quadrant gear change under the steering wheel working on a particularly stiff crash gearbox. I recall my father descending Box Hill in Surrey and breaking his wrist in an endeavour to change down. He subsequently re-fitted the gear change with a semi-circular quadrant on the floor.

His next car was a Trumbull (American in origin) of which little has been heard over the years, owing (I gather) to the main consignment from America being the victim of a German torpedo during the first World War.

I am currently assisting my son in restoring a 1923 flat-twin, air-cooled Rover 8, which presents problems — mainly lack of compression from the rather brittle cylinders.

J. H. De la Rue 

[Another article in this series will be fount page 163. — Ed.] 

Out of the past


I have been a reader of Motor Sport for a good many years now but of an age when I the vintage section and "Letters From Readers" more of my scene than the sport aspect.

I was interested to read of the reference to Harry Preston in your December column of "Cars in Books". I recall as a small boy in 1919 the ebullient Harry Preston calling to see my father who was a doctor in Hove. My father thought he was a patient but it turned out that he wanted to buy my father's 1912 Delaunay Belleville for £800 in cash. My father was more than a little annoyed and a somewhat less ebullient Harry Preston was firmly escorted to the door!

In 1929 I accompanied my father in the Delaunay, which had a capacious coupé body some years ahead of its time, to the Great Portland St. premises of a motor traders Ben Sashoua. who appeared to specialise in quality used cars, for I recall Ballot, Delahaye, Hispano, 3-litre Sunbeam and Alfa Romeos in his stock. In the event my father bought a 1926 21/70 Alfa Romeo with a pretty powder blue saloon body for £395, which was £200 less than originally asked for, together with an allowance of £25 for the Delaunay which Sashoua eventually decided he did not want, so it was driven home again and the Alfa was delivered some days later.

There was a deal of anxiety as the log-book was not forthcoming for about three weeks and in view of the considerable reduction in price the possibility of it being a stolen car was a horrible thought!

Motor cars have changed a lot since those days and no doubt are much more efficient but sadly lacking in personality if one can refer to a mechanical object in such a term.

R. P. Lumsden

Further Napier natters


Haying just read Paul Foulkes-Halbard's letter in the January issue of Motor Sport, I feel I must make a number of comments as follows:

First of all, I arn sure we will all applaud Bob Chamberlain's marvellous effort in the recreation of Samson. Bob Chamberlain when he first contemplated the project went about things the right way and approached the appropriate Club (i.e. the Veteran Car Club) asking their views as to whether this car would be eligible to be used in the Veteran Car Club Events. The Dating Committee (the writer being a Member) at that time did give the matter considerable amount of thought and felt that a car such as this, however historic, could not be truly representative of the original vehicle if the only original component was the engine. Nevertheless, having said this, I am sure we will all be delighted to see the car in England, but of course it cannot compete in VCC Events, a fact which Bob Chamberlain knew before he started any work at all.

One is always delighted to hear of any Napier cars or bits thereof being found, it certainly sounds as though Mr. Paul Foulkes-Halbard has some interesting Napier remains. Altogether the writer has tried three times to make an arrangement with Paul Foulkes-Halbard to see these remains and another vehicle, so at least one could have the knowledge of the amount of original components at the beginning of the "recreation", but has teen rebuffed each time.

Mr. Paul Foulkes-Halbard refers to his own records wherein he claims that all Napier prototype cars were numbered with simple engine numbers such as 111, 222, 333 and so on. His "records" have unfortunately led him astray in this particular instance as the original factory Napier engine / chassis / gearbox books which I collected from Acton before they closed show this is not the case, and does not apply at all.

I do hope if Paul Foulkes-Halbard is going to "restore" the two Napiers he has he will do the right thing in the initial instance as Bob Chamberlain did, by contacting the appropriate Club before he commences work on these vehicles, so that it could be determined in the initial stages the amount of original components or recreated components, rather than present a complete recreation which is so much more difficult to determine the degree of originality of the various components.

I am sure the last thing all the old car enthusiasts want, whether of the Veteran Car Club or Vintage Sports Car Club, is to see a line-up of cars at Events intermixed with recreations however well manufactured. They only serve to confuse the old car enthusiasts and they must totally bemuse the general public who turn out in good faith to see old cars on these Events, not recreations.

D. R. Grossmark