Career of an Amateur

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[Although his status is that of an amateur, K. N. Hutchison has a nice list of successes to his credit and has owned a variety of motors many professionals would envy. Here he reviews them, from his first G.N. to his well-known VI2 Lincoln-motored Allard-Special.—Ed.]

What  a beauty she was, with the narrow, sveldt body and up turned wings of an angel on earth—metaphorically speaking of course–and her two lusty cylinders peeping coyly and invitingly through her polished aluminium bonnet. Yes, she was a G.N. and in common with countless others she represented my first and very own mount for making an entry into, the world of motoring. Obviously the first thing to do with her was to pull off her wings, then her bonnet, then her lights, then even her body itself ; still she bore up well and gave infinite pleasure, but perhaps the greatest thing about her was the fact that she was my FIRST CAR.

Having made the plunge, a number of more ambitious and exciting models were acquired, amongst them being a finely preserved side-valve 30/28, supercharged 1½-litre Lea-Francis saloon, a 12/50 Alvis, front wheel drive Alvis—one of the supercharged models—and then a Frazer-Nash. I can honestly say that it was being the owner of this Frazer-Nash that first turned my thoughts to “Competition Motoring” and to this day the sport has never ceased to be a source of joy and delight to me.

The Frazer-Nash and I did our first trial together, and though the result was not at all brilliant the joys of skidding round hairpin bends and being confronted with what at first sight seemed impossible gradients, will live long in my memory. I don’t think any trials quite take the place of those early ones, which were undertaken in a much greater spirit of adventure than is the case to-day. This early Frazer was soon replaced by one of the T.T. Replica jobs, and thousands of trouble-free miles were covered on this new car. I did not take it in any trials but went to a few speed events with it, notably an early Bugatti Club meeting at Chalfont, and some of the Berkhamsted Club’s events. By this time I must confess that I was well and truly bitten by the “competition” bug, to the everlasting horror of my family, but to me it was a most welcome disease. About this time two things happened, both of which had a direct bearing on my future competitive efforts. One was the opening of the Donington Park road-racing circuit, and the other was the introduction, by the Ford Motor Co., of the famous V8 Unit. The first of these can be quickly disposed of. We paid a few visits to Donington with an unblown four-cylinder Bugatti which had been pretty thoroughly doctored by Papworth, the Bugatti specialist; this was a most reliable little car—for a Bugatti—but even it paid the .supreme penalty by eventually going up in flames at Starkey’s Corner. A blown 1½-litre took its place, and although this car was one of the nicest and most compact looking racing-cars ever built, it was also one of the most unreliable. Further acquaintance with this car made me reluctantly decide that racing was only worth doing if one could afford the time and money to do the job properly. The money spent in running a racing-car properly for a very few meetings would be sufficient to go in for trials and rallies, etc., in a very thorough way with good equipment; and the pleasure derived from the latter branch of the sport is, to my mind, far greater than the average of the ups and downs of actual racing. Apart from a glancing acquaintance with Dick Nash’s single-seater Frazer-Nash—”The Spook”—and a single-seater blown Ford Ten devised in collaboration with that genial Scots crack—John Eason Gibson—I have only used sports and utility type cars in competition work since that fateful day long ago, when my lovely Bugatti vomited its internal workings all over the Donington circuit. The introduction of the V8 Ford laid the foundation of future sporting activities being mainly carried out with the help of Ford cars and specials built out of standard Ford components. I have always had a “Flivver” of some sort for personal use, and nearly every one of these purely utility vehicles has appeared in some sort of competition or other—mainly trials. Curiously enough—and this is rather a contradiction of what I have just said—my first V8 Special was built, not for trials, but for an early road race over in County Down, North Ireland. The car started life as a cabriolet of the same type and model as the famous “Jabberwock” team organised by Walter Norton. A light aluminium two-seater body replaced the standard coupe and the sole non-standard part was a Vertex magneto. This car had a maximum of 90-95 m.p.h. and was hopelessly unstable at anything over about 60, but it was as reliable as it was wobbly and provided Eason Gibson and myself with great pleasure and entertainment for the race in question. We finished intact but last, and within a few minutes of the course being opened again to the public we were on our way to the Belfast Docks under our own power, which is more than some of the participants in that particular race could say they had done.

Trials and rallies and the peculiar type of car needed for such now took up 100 per cent. of my competition efforts and the development of the Ford Special became an important part of such participation. The earlier attempts were most crude—almost bare chassis being used with great weight concentrated on the rear end for maximum wheel adhesion. Competition tyres were, of course, the vogue then, and sometimes as many as four “comp-shod” wheels graced or disgraced the carrier of some of my trials V8s. The success of this type of machine, together with its reliability and low running costs made me feel that a rather more professional outfit was deserved, and this led to the inevitable—an Allard Special. Just Sidney Allard [Correct spelling: Sydney Allard] and myself were experimenting with, and using, Ford-component Specials for trials and when he sold his original car and decided to go into limited production with the Allard, I also sold my Special and decided to join him as a private owner. The outcome of hours of discussion and designing and scheming, etc., was my taking delivery of the first of the twelve-cylinder Allard Specials. This car, which was well reviewed in the motoring Press, was almost a revolutionary type for use in trials. At the same time it combined a high degree of comfort and refinement with an uncanny trials performance. The car was not particularly fast “flat-out” but such was the power developed low down in the rev. ranges that hardly any trials obstacle would stop the machine. At the same time as I took over this machine Allard and I joined forces with Warburton, and in that way the Tailwagger team came into being.

I can truthfully say that the formation of the team gave me, personally, a far greater interest in trials than I believed possible, and it formed the basic foundation of a delightful and lasting friendship between three groups of people. We all cursed each other heartily at times but throughout the life of our team we did, at any rate, try to work and act collectively rather than individually, and because of that I think we all came out of the team better people and drivers than we went into it.

The organisation of a proper season’s programme and the rigid adherence to original arrangements was very strictly carried out by all three of us—although at some time or another, both my teammates cursed me for dragging them off to some trial they had not previously heard of—and this working to a set programme was to my mind a deciding factor in the team’s success, as it spelt consistency. I must not use this article as an account of the Tailwaggers Trials’ efforts, but like all other enthusiasts I find considerable pleasure in slacker moments in living again the many happy hours and incidents of the past few years . . . The early morning runs to the start of local trials, the Friday night trips to trials that started in some village anywhere between Devonshire and Derbyshire, the winter trials in Wales when one nearly got drowned and the summer one in the West Country when it was so hot and dry that the motors boiled continuously and the entire entry got through without any failures; those lovely Colmore week-ends with the Sunbac’s main event on Saturday and the inevitable gathering at “The Plough” after the trial, the discussions, the drinking, the babble of voices, the oft-repeated “did you climb so and so?” and finally the late night dashes across country with the three team cars running smoothly to the hum of “comps” to another trial perhaps 100 or more miles away. Here again one found different company but the same good spirit and enthusiasm prevailed; anyway, who needs a formal introduction when the other chap’s car also carries two spare wheels and a competition number plate? Rallies, too, have their happy memories and incidents so dear to enthusiasts, but which might well surprise or shock the black hatted Mrs. Grundy of our time. Curious passengers come to mind also, notably one who turned up at the start of the Rally with a case of whisky as his sole luggage for a week, another who slept for the entire 1,000 miles of an R.A.C. Rally and, on arriving at the finish, immediately took the first train home without a single word, another who ate continuously throughout the Rally, and yet another that never ate at all.

Any competition driver could go on indefinitely recalling pleasant incidents from his experiences, but I think that one and all will agree that this much maligned sport that is so dear to us, has given us freely both of joyous entertainment and lasting friendships between our Fellow competitors—and what more could one ask from a sport?

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