Club News, January 1940

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There is a little more activity to report this time in the way of socials, and we look forward to more such meetings, perhaps enlivened by short road events and film displays, in the near future.

750 CLUB

On Saturday, December 9th, the 750 Club met to discuss motoring in the Dive Bar at the “Horseshoes” at Tottenham Court Road, most of those who attended -coming in public service vehicles, although Secretary P. H. Hunter dedicated a coupon to the cause. Those present were:– Hunter and his lady, Frost and his lady, Head, Brown, Kipps, Giddings, Slade, Ambrose, Brymer, Boddy and friend, Birkett and Adams. The possibility of holding a future competitive event was discussed and motoring photographs were inspected. Incidentally, only Head was in uniform. Surely, if such a social, announced more or less in haste, could attract fifteen persons, a motoring film show put over by one of our larger clubs could be sure of attracting at least five times that number, which would make the thing entirely worth while? And just a muster of sportsmen in general at some convenient place would give enthusiasts an object for burning their Pool, instead of wandering about with isolated bursts of acceleration, rather like Lost Souls, as not a few intriguing motors seem to have been doing since September 3rd. So, once more, what about it?

C.U.A.C.

The Club dinner took place on December 2nd at the Red Lion Hotel, Cambridge. Kenneth Evans, Mic Pringle, Brian Twist, Reggie Tongue, Raymond Mays and Gordon Brettel were amongst the prominent speech makers.

ASTRA M.C.

This Club is going right ahead with social events, and had its Christmas feed on December 10th at the Salisbury Hotel, Barnet.

Hon. Secretary: S. Richardson, “Merrill,” Mount Pleasant, Cockfosters, Herts.

HORSHAM & D. M.C. & L.C.C.

Club meetings are to take place every Tuesday evening from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Bell Inn, Park Street, Horsham, which is indeed good news. Short runs are also under consideration. We feel sure that Secretary B. G. Smith, who drives the twin-gearbox Austin Seven so effectively in trials, will welcome outside visitors. Horsham is 36 miles from London and the Secretary’s address is “Merlewood,” Guildford Road, Horsham.

LEAMINGTON & D. M.C.

This is another club which has short organised runs in mind and which holds socials every Wednesday and Sunday evening at Binswood Garage, Trinity Street, Leamington. Motorists serving in any of H.M. Forces will be especially welcome.

Hon. Secretary: W. S. Willis, 40, Clarence Street, Leamington Spa.

WEST CORNWALL M.C.

Apparently Film Shows are in mind, as the Club appeals for the loan of good motoring films. Please communicate with E. A. Radbourne, 111a, Market Jew Street, Penzance, if you can assist.

B.A.R.C.

The Club room is still very much in action and it is hoped that at least a section of the Track can be kept open as a rallying place or for limited competitive events. The annual subscription is now £1 1s. 0d, and it is guaranteed that to both new and existing members the sub. will not exceed that of last year, when war is over. Ladies badges are defunct under this scheme.

LANCASHIRE A.C.

The clubroom will remain open at County Bank Chambers, New Market Street, Blackburn during business hours.

BENTLEY DRIVERS’ CLUB

An informal lunch was held at the Rembrandt Rooms on Sunday, December 10th, in lieu of the annual dinner.

WAKEFIELD & D. M.C.

Club headquarters are now the White Horse Hotel, Westgate, Wakefield, where a social evening happens every Wednesday.

WEST MIDDLESEX A.M.C.

Every Sunday morning enthusiasts will find a “get together” at “The Myllet,” Western Avenue, thirty members attending the very first.

GENERAL NOTES

Motoring has been transformed by the War from specialised dicing in unusual cars for almost entirely motoring ends, into common or garden driving from here to there for almost all of us, and not very much driving at that, with fuel rationed as it is, so that only very brief runs are possible if one still contrives to motor almost every day, adventure or unexpected happenings being rare in consequence. Nevertheless, there was that entirely soul satisfying run one bleak winter’s day in Peter Clark’s Le Mans H.R.G., when the joy of real motoring returned in full measure, albeit the emptiness of the road to Southend, together with the frequent meeting of army vehicles and camps, reminded us that the world has gone insane. Curiously, on another day we confirmed the very intense fascination of the vintage motor-car and our belief that motoring to-day is not a patch on what it was in earlier times, quite as soundly as we have done in the spacious conditions prior to the outbreak of War. We left home early in a Fiat “Mouse,” which proved as willing to convey us to our destination at Beaconsfield as other examples of this breed have been to take us on other urgent errands, the little car riding, too, very well indeed over some of London’s more notorious surfaces.

Arrived at Baylin’s Farm we found Anthony Heal’s 1919 5-litre racing Ballot (which he described for us last month) and his well known “30/98” OE Vauxhall tourer, drawn up outside the door. Barely had we warmed ourselves within than Peter Clark arrived with his wife in the Le Mans H.R.G., and our party for the day was complete. Heal went aboard the Ballot, accompanied by his faithful mechanician Len, and after oil pressure had been pumped up by hand and the air pump operated, and the two carburetters flooded, the old car was vigorously pushed until she fired, departing down the drive with a delightful exhaust note reminiscent of an Alfa-Romeo or Maserati, amid the scent of P.M.S. 1. The Clarks got into their H.R.G. and we scrambled with Sam Clutton into the “30/98.” Unhappily, Walter Norton, we learned, was detained by business preparatory to sailing for America, and could not accompany us in his newly-acquired, ex-Hunter 328 B.M.W., as he had hoped to do. A brief stop at the local garage, where the 1910 Fiat is recovering from its recent inversion, even to a new and shorter tail, and we were all hounding down the road to Burford. The Ballot led, and so effectively that we never got very close to it, although Sam drives fast, and Peter’s exhaust note showed that the “Herg.” too, was in a hurry. Our photographs last month do not completely emphasise the stark charm of the old car. Heal has turned her out really beautifully, in matt blue finish, with the compact Ballot radiator painted to match and the steering connections highly polished. A better example of the fierce, built-absolutely-for-business racing-car of the period does not exist. The car now has a new short tail in place of the original bolster tank, an f.w.b axle and a radiator badge taken from a 2-litre radiator—otherwise she is as Guyot and Rene Thomas knew her. Meanwhile, as Heal experimented with her as a road motor, we were able to explore the appeal of his “30/98,” which tows his racing cars to so many speed events and is his own, everyday hack. Sam told us it is very different from a normal “30/98,” having been built up of various vintages of the marque and, feeling front-heavy, takes quite a lot of practice to handle safely, which Peter later confirmed. It is a 1925 tourer with the distinctive sloping “V” scuttle and very high seats, so that it seems a quite short car from within. It has the Munday engine, now with single carburetter and touring camshaft, the deep instrument panel is well stocked with dials and a pressure pump, Ashby aero screens supplement the main screen, and the minor controls on the wheel centre are original Vauxhall.

We followed the others mostly at 70, bends included, to the typical “30/98” exhaust note and the sound of real machinery beneath the bonnet. An occasional drop to sixty felt as if we were stopping and frequently we had an effortless 80, equal to 2,600 r.p.m. on the huge, finely graduated Jaeger rev.-counter. When additional acceleration was needed for passing obstructive vehicles, third would go in and the urge came well and truly, accompanied by truly tremendous gearbox noise, until 60 m.p.h. was reached and top regained. Along the Oxford By Pass we held 90 m.p.h., in spite of having the big screen erect and on what they now serve us out as fuel. Yet I doubt if we exceeded about 2,900 r.p.m. all day. The oil pressure sat at 20 lbs. as soon as the engine was warm, at 70°-75° C. water temperature, and the brakes, squeaky but very powerful, and the entire absence of rolling and sliding when cornering really fast, made the run a rapid one in a pleasantly fierce manner. From the rear compartment one discovered that, although the big car rides in a lively manner, bumps and undulations are smoothed out very effectively. The “30/98” was ever an astonishing car and defies the moderns as much by its undisguised potency as by its accompanying performance, true as it is that engine and gearbox make more of their presence than those of most present-day lorries. Later, in congested High Wycombe, docility was seen to be another aspect of the car, and the accuracy of the steering was appreciated in negotiating the crowded roads.

After a pause for plug inspection (she had ordinary plugs in) and the addition of water to the radiator, the Ballot resumed with Clutton now wedged in beside Heal. At the next stop we were all elated to hear that she had reached 3,200 r.p.m. along the Oxford By Pass, equal to 106 m.p.h.—I hasten to mention that she has new tyres all round. There was still a suspicion that No. 1 plug was out. After a halt for the inevitable “bitters” I went as passenger beside Heal. Pressure was pumped up on the two pumps by the passenger’s left leg, the pushers fell too, and after some clutch judder, she accelerated with a high pitched howl of the indirects. Sitting right over the rear axle, with definitely racing suspension, the floor boards far from the seat cushion and no “grabs” on scuttle or tail, it was not easy to keep clear of the driver. The central mirror confronted one, both occupants’ tense faces reflected therein, and the bonnet, terminating in the compact radiator, seemed very long, and the flapping near-side front wheel far away. Almost at once we were above 80 m.p.h., the wind coming unbroken by a screen, so that the exhaust was inaudible, though on occasion one could hear the whine of gears. The instruments, which are small and few, are set well under the scuttle as a separate, polished panel, not easy to see, but when I could see the rev. counter it appeared to be at between 2,400-2,800 r.p.m., and I believe our maximum was 92 m.p.h. Along the narrow winding road to Burford the Ballot was most exhilarating, very definitely “alive” and seemingly quite a handful. The front end feels curiously isolated and vague, perhaps because the engine is mounted on a sub-frame, while the brakes are powerful but not exactly all-square. As other cars approached Heal would ease up momentarily, the Ballot would sway, be held, we would pass, and another burst of speed could be indulged in. She cornered well, albeit the near side kerb came uncomfortably close on one occasion, so that the proximity of the flying telegraph poles became of some interest for a while after. But Heal is the master, as he is master of the even older Fiat. This Ballot is the “real thing” with no reservations and when you consider that it has done 125-130 m.p.h. and has .acceleration to equal 328 B.M.W.s and the like, you must write it down as a most desirable property.

This brief run ranks as one of my most exciting experiences, and one can well imagine the fatigue that a long distance race in such cars could bring about and admire Sammy Davis’s very real enthusiasm when he claimed that 117 m.p.h. along the straight at Lyon in the Miller in ’24 was an experience he would have willingly prolonged for ever . . . This Ballot, of course, is the father, as it were, of all American racing-cars, and as we ran over the deserted road to the Cotswolds in the wintry sunshine we might well have been back in 1919, testing the car for a forthcoming race, instead of burning a little hard-come by racing fuel in the most soul-satisfying manner imaginable. After lunch at Burford, the Ballot sent out a truly immense smoke-screen, the oil having been inadvertently left on, and the disgust of the locals was very evident. Mrs. Clark was in the passenger’s seat at the time and it is greatly to her credit that she showed no concern at all, and not at all to her discredit that much later, at tea, she admitted to the assembled company that a ride in the Ballot is just a wee bit frightening . . . Another stop beyond Witney, where assorted aircraft were busy overhead, while plugs were changed and photographs taken, and Sam took over, but soon had to stop hastily so that a front wing could be re-secured. Heal, in the passenger’s seat, wore his beret and the back view reminded one very much of that classic picture which appears in “Motor Racing,” showing “S.C.H.D.” wedged in the Miller’s cockpit beside Zborowski. One observed, too, the curious sort of bunched up hop of the Ballot as it passed a slower vehicle and swung back to its own side of the highway. Later, the wing trouble overtook Peter while he was having his initiation in handling the car. As Heal prepared to take over again a friend came past at speed in a curiously-bodied Anzani Frazer-Nash, but it was quickly disposed of after a spell at what Sam would term a “moderate ninety,” the Ballot getting up to 95 on one occasion and being home nicely before black out time and, indeed, stored away ere the “30/98 “arrived, preceded by the H.R.G., which Sam took up to 86 m.p.h. on the Oxford By Pass. Thus concluded a very great day’s motoring which shouts a mile that for real fun you must motor in vintage machinery. After tea, conversation touched many aspects of the game, from Marcus Chambers’s masterful appearance in Naval uniform and Gordini’s driving skill, to the splendid performance and organization of Bugatti at Le Mans. Peter’s intention to entirely strip Mrs. Clark’s 1914 Mercedes car before using it (to which Sam responded that the Sixty Itala has long had a cracked frame and still has, for he believes that a car will always throw away anything it doesn’t really want . . .) and the excellence of the modern Balilla Fiat and the little Simcas. So that it was dark when we emerged and, finding the “Mouse’s” battery flat, gladly accepted a lift to London in the tonneau of the “30/98” which did not seem unduly hampered by limited illumination. Next day, much valuable “Pool” had to be sacrificed in the Austin in recovering the Fiat and it seemed that our luck had changed, for soon this car needed more fuel, which we had not bargained for. A leather-clad driver of a well-kept Morris Eight tourer kindly towed us into Amersham and while the necessary attachment was being done we were enthralled by seeing a Cluley two-seater go by. Often have we mentioned this marque in attempting to name makes unknown even to enthusiasts, but we must confess to knowing little about it.

“Fletcher’s”gives the later specimens as 2-litre “14/30” and 2.1-litre “14/50,” both with cone clutches, but this particular example was apparently a 1924 model, sold by a local garage in 1935 to someone who wished to learn on it, the price being about £4. So sound did it prove that it has been in regular use ever since, and it does some long distance early motoring business runs very successfully, all of which rather bears out the vintage-light-cars enthusiasm which we have several times expressed in MOTOR SPORT.