MOTORING SPORTSMEN. Mr. John Donald Barclay. By THE Forrok.
THE photograph reproduced at the head of this article will be recognised at once by all our readers
as that of John Donald Barclay, better known, perhaps, as Jack Barclay of ” T.T.” Vauxhall fame. For a long time it had been our intention to include his history in our Motoring Sportsmen series, but though Jack Barclay is never wanting for words in explaining the merits of the various cars he handles in the way of business, most of the information contained in the following notes had to be extracted from his partner, Mr. Robert Wyse.
When, however, we explained that an interview of this kind was one of the disadvantages of being famous and that our readers really must know who’s who in the racing world, we gradually became accepted as an unavoidable nuisance and the conversation proceeded.
Jack Barclay was educated at St. Lawrence College, Ramsgate, where his lively spirits soon made him a great favourite amongst his schoolmates and he figured with some prominence in the College football and hockey teams. He also showed a decided inclination towards wheeled amusements and became a very keen cyclist, until his first motor bike came upon the scene, which soon began to absorb his spare moments.
Leaving school just at the outbreak of war, he managed to enlist, possibly by forgetting within a year or so the exact date of his birth, and whilst in the R.A.F. drove various kinds of lorries, tenders and cars on military duties. In the year 1919, he determined to start out on business on his own account and carried on very successfully by trading in cars and motor cycles. A little later he
joined the firm of Coppen & Allen, Ltd., of Great Portland Street and since 1920 has been engaged in motor trading in a district where, as all the world knows, the keenest competition prevails and where efficiency alone is rewarded by success.
Early in his business career, Jack Barclay realised the value of motor trials, both as a recreation and as a means for extending practical knowledge from a business point of view, and in various important events he has been successful with motor cycles and cars. One of his early experiences as a passenger in a sidecar during an M.C.C. Trial was somewhat unfortunate, for instead of checking in at the end of the trip, he was laid out unconscious owing to his companion overturning the outfit and crashing into a brick wall. This incident did not deter him from further participation in similar events, nor could bad luck prevent him from getting through any run he entered. On another occasion, when going to the start of a run, the failure of a gasket on his car drowned the magneto, so stopping at the roadside, he pulled the instrument to pieces, appealed to a householder for the use of his oven and after drying out the wet magneto, re-assembled it and proceeded to gain a gold medal. On this occasion also, he and his passenger excited some comment by appearing in bowler hats ; a form of head-gear, which by the way, was invariably used by Mr. Lisle of the ” Star ” company in all trials some years ago. Whether this was selected as a form of crash helmet or no, we are not in a position to state.
In the spring of 1922, Barclay went into partnership with Mr. Robert Leslie Wyse and the firm took premises in Great Portland Street, and from comparatively small beginnings the business grew until the firm expanded with the acquisition of the handsome corner site it now occupies.
Before enlarging further on the business side of Barclay’s career, his sporting achievements demand attention, for realising the great possibilities in dealing with cars of performance, Barclay felt that an intimate practical knowledge of sporting and racing cars was an essential qualification. Furthermore, the sport of motor racing appealed to him greatly from a recreation point of view, so we find him on the look out for a car that would serve the dual purpose he had in mind. Business ties have, so far, prevented him from taking part in Continental events and in many speed trials and hill climbs in remote parts of this country. Brooklands was convenient in that racing there could be carried on without taking too much of his time or interfering with business, and he began his series of successful appearances in the Spring Meeting of 1923, his car then being a big
Ballot. His first experience of a real skid on the track came during the June meeting of that year, his gyrations, however, were entirely eclipsed by the historic skid on the “T.T.” Vauxhall in the Easter meeting of 1926.
In the September meeting of the B.A.R.C. Barclay gained one first, one second and one third place in the three races in which he took part, again driving the Vauxhall. He has raced with three different Vauxhall cars, all of which be has specially tuned in the service department of his firm. The following year brought a further series of successes on the track, when he gained three firsts, four seconds and five thirds, besides winning the Pawthcawl Cup on
Pendine Sands and the Cup of the Grand Sports Committee at the South Wales Championship. Encouraged by the performance and wonderful reliability of his Vauxhall, Barclay began to think about attacking World’s Records and in 1925 set out for the job. He was successful in annexing no fewer than eight up to and including 10 miles in the International Three-litre class, one of our photographs showing Barclay with Edwin Plaister, one of his salesmen, who always acts as his mechanic for racing.
Last year Barclay with his Vauxhall went to Southport and notwithstanding the formidable local talent, familiar with all the tricks of sand-racing, came away with seven firsts and also put up the fastest car time of the day.
During last season, also, he set up new times for the 50 miles and the 50 kilometre classes, all of which goes to demonstrate that he is fully qualified to express an opinion as to what a sports car should be and to advise any customer who has leanings towards this class of vehicle.
As there have been so many varied accounts of the historic skid referred to above and as details throw valuable light upon one of the most discussed factors in track racing, we think it fitting to give Jack Barclay’s own description of the occurrence. ” I was proceeding down the Railway Straight in the second lap at a speed of about 116 m.p.h., rapidly overhauling a bunch of slower cars ahead. These cars mounted the Byfieet banking about 200 yards ahead of me, and it had become apparent to me that in order to pass them, I should have to mount the Banking considerably higher than I had originally intended, this I did and at that time I had ample room to pass. Unfortunately, however, some of the cars ahead, the drivers of which were unaware I was about to pass, mounted still higher on the Banking, thereby making it impossible for me to carry out my original intention of passing. My speed was such that it was impossible for me to wait until a more favourable opportunity occurred and I was forced to mount the Banking still higher in the hope that one of the drivers ahead would draw down. At this moment for some unaccountable reason my car started skidding
with the nose pointing down the banking and the tail overhanging the top ; we skidded sideways for about 50 yards practically covering this entire distance with both the rear wheels about 1 inches from the top of the track. The car then turned completely round and skidded right down to the very bottom of the Banking. I was now going in a rearward direction at a speed of well over 80 m.p.h. and the danger was really increased as a car which I had passed a few moments before was now facing me and in grave peril of running me down, owing to my rapid slowing up. Luckily, however, my car gave a complete half turn and I found myself facing in my original direction. My engine was still running and I started to continue with the race. Mr. Plaister, my mechanic, however, pointed out that my tyres must have suffered considerably by the skid and he therefore persuaded me to draw in.”
It will be remembered on this occasion, Jack Barclay took part in a later race on the same meeting and won at an average speed of 105.78 miles per hour !
Speaking of his business activities, Mr. Barclay says he considers the selling of a car merely as the commencement of business relations with a customer, as his policy is to continue giving service as long as may be needed. “Sooner or later,” he says, ” that customer, or one of his friends will want another car, and it is up to the seller to conduct his business in such a way that there is no hesitation for the man to come back the next time.”
As far as we were able to judge from a short inspection of the stock and showrooms of Messrs. Barclay & Wyse, the policy stated above is proving its worth and though the bulk of the business is done with such high class vehicles as, Vauxhalls, Rolls-Royce, Hispano-Suiza and Sunbeam cars, the needs of sporting motorists of any class always receive the individual attention of Jack Barclay, whose wide experience enables him to solve any of the little problems confronting the purchaser.