1995 was the third successive year in which John Brown has run his Land’s End to John O’Groats Reliability Trial, promoted by the Historic Rally Car Register and assisted this time by Heritage Insurance. The aim is to achieve the style and testing nature of the continental marathon type events but to do it in Great Britain. The awards system is loosely based on that of the Motor Cycling Club, which has been running events from End to End since shortly after the turn of the century, and declares no winner — just Gold, Silver and Bronze awards. The fact that the 1995 entry of 111, plus a further 17 on the Touring Trial, was some 50 per cent up on that of 1994 must indicate that the aim is being achieved, and that the entrants enjoy Brown’s arduous event.
The programme included a dozen pre-war cars ranging from the Nobles’ imposing 1924 6 1/2-litre Lanchester Tourer, via Branislav Sudjic’s 1927 Bugatti T44 and Bill Ainscough’s 1930 Frazer Nash Nurburg to the Dutch entered MG PA of Ernst Krudop and the 1936 Lagonda LG45 of Macko Lacquer. From the post-war period there were a pair of TD MGs; three Jowett Javelins; three MG ZA Magnettes; four Jaguars from 2.4 to 3.8; seven Healey 3000s; eight MGBs; nine Volvos of 544 or 122 type; and by no means least a fine red 1959 Ford Thunderbird, entered by John van der Stegge and Ben Roetgerink in the eclectic spirit of this event.
The 07:30 start from Land’s End on the Saturday was enlivened in the rain by Arthur Senior’s 1958 Riley 1.5 breaking both of its half-shafts just outside the dining room window of the hotel in which the later participants were enjoying their breakfast.
Arthur had been attempting the first “Manoeuvrability and Handling Test”, and was held up only as long as it took him to extract from his boot fresh shafts and the necessary broomstick. He then continued on his 1650-mile route. LE JOGgers are nothing if not resourceful. More tests followed at Porlock on the old toll road hairpins, and then in Wales in places with such vowel-challenged names as Cwmcarn, Doldowlod, Dinas Mawddwy and Bwich Esgair Gelli.
After Sunday breakfast at Charnock Richard on the M6, reality was re-established by a visit to Clapham (near Settle), where the control was located inside the New Inn, in the manner of the 1950s. The ford at Stanhope (15 miles west of Durham) was used for a timed test and (for some) plugdrying practice before the rally moved up to spend the night just west of Edinburgh. A very damp and gloomy Knockhill circuit was used for regularity tests on the Monday morning tests at which the Alvis of Ken Burnett and Heather Milne-Taylor seemed to excel. The Scottish Hydro-electric Company’s private little Stelvio, at Kenknock, was used for a timed climb and the museum at Alford was visited. Then the route was via the Lecht road (well advertised by weathermen in winter) to Tomintoul and Inverness.
Brown’s version of the Loch Ness Monster was a 76-mile regularity stage around the loch in the middle of the night. The test has been used for the majority of JOGs and the 1995 version was up to the usual standard. After disposing of the monster the competitors had a fairly hassle-free 200 miles to the culinary delights of John O’Groats and the fine views across the Pentland Firth, which can be better enjoyed when it is not raining or snowing. John O’Groats is one of the places which must have prompted George Ade to remark in 1901, “The time to enjoy a European trip is about three weeks after unpacking: Having made their marks on the marshals’ sheet the competitors did not linger, but set off eagerly for Wick, where they changed into dinner suits and assembled for the last time in 1995 at the nightclub beside the rather under-used harbour on the Tuesday evening, to essay the local haggis and hear about the results. The three Alvis Hares being punctual and gregarious (driven by Podger, Tomlin and Burnett), had won the Heritage Insurance Trophy for the best marque team, and The Automobile’s trophy for the best pre-1960 team.
The Tomlins in their Alvis had also won a Gold award, the other going to Neil Wilson and Willy Cave in their Porsche 356. Silver medals were won by Ainscough and Faircough with their uncharacteristically reliable 1930 Frazer Nash, Jayne Wignall’s/ Kevin Savage’s Porsche 356 and the MGB of Ron Gammon/Jayne Bourne.
There were 17 bronze medals, the top two. of which went to the vintage Alvises of Podger and Burnett, with the next taken by the Dutch-based Lagonda of Lacquer/Gahagan. Sudjic, William Hall and Helen Smeed all crammed into the T44 Bugatti win the over-2 1/2-litre Vintage class, th.e Tomlins won the 1 1/2 to 2 1/2-litre class in the Alvis, and the Ainscough Frazer Nash Won the under 1 1/2-litre category. The punters, as one, expressed their delight at Brown s event and vowed to return for more of it next year. They probably will; it was rather good. T J T