Veteran to Classic - Looking Back

One of the pleasant things about working for MOTOR SPORT, as DSJ and WB have emphasised, is the number of letters received from those of like mind and enthusiasms. Not necessarily for publication, but enjoyable to read and a measure of how widespread is the interest in our subject. One such letter received reflected on a number of items we had raised, when the correspondent recalled how in the late 1930s he used to be able to buy 1½ gallons of ROP petrol for 1/11½d. (less than 10p), the price per gallon being 1/3½d and how although the farthing change was always omitted, he could still invest in a half-penny bag of chips with the change! Before that his mother was able to refuel their 28hp Buick with petrol at 10d a gallon. . . . three gallons for the equivalent of 12½ new pence.

This same letter writer remembers how heavy his mother found the steering of the Crossley tenders she drove during 1914/18 became after a front tyre had punctured and the spare wheel had been fitted, giving a double front wheel on one side; also how adept she was at going from forward to reverse speed on the Model-T Ford’s epicyclic gearbox. He also recalls RAF armoured cars defending the Kirkuk-Haifa oil pipeline, stationed at Basrah and Mosul (No. 1 Company) and at Ramleh and Amman (No. 2 Company); having sat in one of these vehicles as a small boy when he was in the East, our correspondent has bought one of the recently introduced Lesney models of just such a Rolls-Royce armoured car. The writer of this interesting letter enquires if we remember the Nairn Transporter Co which ran a ‘bus service from Beirut and Damascus, averaging about 13½mph overall for the 600 mile desert journey. After American tourers failed to stand up to this treatment the Nairn brothers commissioned chassis from the Six-Wheel Co of Philadelphia, with a 21ft 3in wheelbase, six-cylinder Continental dual-ignition petrol engine developing 105 bhp at 2000 rpm (the bore and stroke were 4½in x 5¾in), driving through a six-speed Brown Lipe gearbox, and using Westinghouse front air suspension giving the appearance of the Gruss air suspension used on Gifford buses and some Crossley six-wheelers. And back to petrol, Mr Desmond Aherne of Edinburgh also recalls how they used National Benzole in a Vauxhall Fourteen with that Dubonnet ifs, the ignition advanced to suit this fuel by turning a knurled knob on the distributor appropriately marked ‘Octane Selector’.

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The Manx Motor Racing Club are already organising the Manx Classic for later this year. The provisional programme at the time of going to press is practice on the Willaston Circuit on Thursday, 26th September, the Douglas Promenade Sprint on Friday, 27th September, Willaston Circuit Race Day on Saturday, 28th September and the Gordon Bennett circuit tour on Sunday, 29th September.