V to C Miscellany, February 1991

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Before the RAC took to forest stages, for reasons made clear in GP’s Rally Review in November, 1990 this and other long distance rallies, even the Monte Carlo Rally at one time, were public road events with driving tests used to decide the winners. Necessarily low average speeds and cars that by 1932, when the first RAC rally was held, were comparatively trouble-free, prevailed but such rallies were very Popular nevertheless, gaining enormous entry lists. The night sections contributed to what many drivers, even the famous, found to be at least mildly adventurous events.

Thus it is a welcome move on the RAC’s part to try to recapture something of the spirit of its earlier rallies, by organising an event of this kind for Historic cars, to take Place between March 7 and 10, starting from Bath and finishing at Torquay, as did the original RAC Rally. Unlike Veteran, Edwardian and Vintage cars, the dating limits for which are clearly defined by the VCC and the VSCC, no-one seems to know whether a classic car is one made prior to 1965, 1970, 1974 or 1980. However, the RAC has decided that this important event will be open to cars built between 1931 and 1965, with an extension to 1974 for competitors in the National Part of the event, who do not have to tackle the 100-mile regularity section in the Welsh ‘mountains’. Roll-over bars are, We understand, recommended but are not compulsory.

The Rally mileage will be 1000 (or 900 for the National Rally), which is in the tradition of those pre-war rallies (but remembering that my 1922 8hp back-braked Talbot-Darracq, owned then by Hal Hill and driven by his son, the late Ivan Hill, completed the road section of the 1935 RAC Rally, involving a total of 1027 miles, without loss or marks, this 1991 Rally should not trouble today’s meticulously restored and prepared, later historic cars). However, there are to be 17 special tests and a couple of driving tests, as well as the regularity test, to even things up.

Entries, limited to 90 cars for the main event, 30 in the National section, have already closed. They were priced at £450 per car, or say, about £17 in terms of 1930s values. WB

* * *

Although the future of Lickey Grange, former home of Lord Austin, which would make such an appropriate site for an Austin Museum or headquarters of one of the many Austin car clubs, remains very uncertain, as does that of the old building which was once the proud and elaborate home of the Argyll Company at Alexandria, near Glasgow, it is good news that Britain’s oldest surviving purpose-built motor factory, that was once occupied by Dennis in Guildford, has been saved after great efforts, led by Lord Montagu of Beaulieu’s organisation set up for this purpose. The building is likely to be renovated for business and community usage.

* * *

At the other extreme, the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust is developing a new centre for its exhibits on a 115 acre site at Barnsley Farm, Bromsgrove, involving a glass-coned exhibition and archive complex covering a total area of 123,000 sq ft. The site is to the north of the M42, bounded by the M42 and the A38 at Lickey End roundabout, close to Longbridge and well placed for existing Rover Group locations.

* * *

Alfa Romeo fans should note that the Design Museum, Butlers Wharf, London, SE1 is staging an exhibition of these cars from January 17 to March 10, with emphasis on those from the 1954 Bertone Giulietta Sprint to the 1989 SZ, including cars from the Milan Museum.

* * *

Last month we had a feature about three pre-war racing drivers who drove a Wolseley from London to Baghdad in 20 days. The publicity following this 1936 trip claimed that this was the first time a woman had successfully undertaken it (Mrs Elsie Wisdom was accompanied by her husband Tommy Wisdom and the Hon Brian Lewis), the running time representing 11 days. The crew flew home to Croydon in a Handley Page 42 powered by four Bristol Jupiter air-cooled radial engines. Whereas the car took 20 days the aeroplane should have done the return trip in five days, presumably by way of Bahrain, Basra, Cairo, Athens, Rome, Marseilles and Paris — unless anyone knows better?

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