The VSCC's need for speed

The Vintage sports-car club was formed in 1934 for those owning pre-1931 cars, often of the calibre of 3-litre Bentley, 30/98 Vauxhall and 12/50 Alvis, who thought the design and construction of more modern cars, even of sportscars, was declining because sales and cost-saving were taking precedence over good engineering.

I thought it might be of interest to consider how right or wrong they were, by looking at cars which followed the formation of the VSCC. So I consulted The Autocar’s road tests for 1935.

In those faraway days, acceleration was somewhat less a factor in judging the merit of a car than it is now. Maximum speed was then a more appreciated attribute — remember there was no speed limit on ‘open’ roads.

The £1000 4/5-litre Lagonda was timed over a half-mile (used for the faster cars) at Brooklands at 100.56mph, two up with screen flat (two-way run, 98.36), and at 96.25mph with screen up. The £878 Raikon Light Sports Tourer did 100.56 (98.9 two ways), and a Bertelli Aston Martin managed just 82.57 over Brooklands’ quarter-mile as opposed to the 83.33 of both the AC Ace sports fourseater and the £325 Triumph Southern Cross two-seater.

Several American saloons were much faster, and even the £220 3.6-litre Ford V8 saloon was timed at 86.54 mph. Done by The Autocar test driver H S Linfield, these figures are revealing, and the better vintage sportscars would not have kept up, until in tuned-up form.

One or two of the 1935 saloons could outpace easily the faster vintage sportscars. The £785 3.5-litre Hotchkiss Paris-Nice was credited with 95.74mph, the Chrysler Airflow with 92.78, and the s/c Graham with 91.84.

Creditable, too, were the SS1 saloon (83.33mph), the Rover 14 Speed coupe (82.57), the 1.5-litre Riley Special Series saloon (81.82), and the 2-litre FN-BMW cabriolet and Humber Super Snipe saloon, both of which managed 80.36. But in 1935, how sluggish some cars still were! An A7 Ruby could not quite get up to 51mph, the 7hp Jowett had to be content with 54.5 and the Standard 9 with 57. Lanchester’s Light Six saloon was hard-pressed to better 64.75 and a Morris 10/6 so-called sports-tourer did just 60. The Sunbeam 20 saloon attained a mere 67, while several large cars struggled to do 70. The sports Singer 9 Le Mans four-seater did 68.18, the Hillman Aero Minx coupe 71.43 — little advance in half a decade over a blown A7 Ulster or MG Midget.

But whether any of these cars would be as good 10 years later could have been a valid argument for the pre1930 machinery the VSCC chaps enthused over.