Rumblings, January 1943

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The Veteran C.C. and the Edwardians

The Veteran Car Club of Great Britain, which had previously existed to foster interest .in veteran cars constructed prior to 1905, announced, on 14th November, that it had extended its activities to “take under its protection” vehicles built up to the end of 1912. Enthusiasm for all the pre-1914 cars which still exist in good functional order causes us to regard this as good news, although it is rather difficult to see why the Veteran Car Club should have entered the previously exclusive preserves of the Vintage Sports Car Club, in as much as this body was fully aware of the need to foster 1905-14 veterans before the war, and as one of the most active and go-ahead motoring organisations in existence, did so very adequately. This being the case, we cannot resist heralding the Veteran Car Club’s announcement of its changed policy by publishing in this issue an account, by Cecil Clutton, of what was done with and for Edwardians by the Vintage Sports Car Club from 1936 up to the outbreak of war. The need to preserve and restore, and, above all, to derive enjoyable use from these veterans is so strong that we hope that both bodies will foster them in the peace. The Brighton run, organised in later years by the Veteran Car Club and the R.A.C., was certainly a wholly delightful and desirable happening. The very first, in 1929, was more adventurous than any motoring event for many a long day. Speculation as to whether really antique Daimlers, Panhards and Benz would cover even a quarter of the distance was tempered with astonishment at the pace and efficiency of the better 1903 and 1904 cars. This was the time when trials and racing folk started unearthing really early machinery from the most unlikely places, gleefully bearing it away, first to unravel its mysteries and then thoroughly to restore it. The late Richard Shuttleworth found a Panhard for 50/-, and great was his wrath when a real pioneer accused him of crashing its gears. Later he competed with a 60 m.p.h. de Dietrich, which tended to offend the purists because of alloy pistons and an imitation Paris-Madrid body.

Those Saturdays before the run, when the competitors brought their cars to a big public garage for scrutineering, were amongst the most intriguing that the Sport has had to offer. Celebrities like Humphrey Symons and S. C. H. Davis came elbow to elbow with meek and elderly owners who had run a veteran car for countless years without thinking very much about it and who had entered to see what it was all about, or perhaps to give “the missus” an outing. Most at home of all were people like John Bolster, Powys-Lybbe, Kent Karslake and Dick Nash, who found the run just another outlet for their versatile motoring enthusiasm and who hid an earnest desire to perform successfully with boisterous good humour. Nash, of course, did a very great deal all on his own to foster the early cars, with his inimitable International Horseless Carriage Corporation concern.

With the passing of the years the ability of pre-1905 ears to make the 60-mile journey was taken more and more for granted, and as the same cars, with a few additions and disappearances, ran each time, it became possible to anticipate fairly accurately individual performances and setbacks. With the later veterans, however, this position has hardly arrived. Numbers have yet to be restored and run, and there is interest in comparing them not only one with another, but in their relations to the moderns. They offer quite unique pleasures in handling to those who appreciate driving for its own sake, and whereas most pre-1905 examples strike one as rather frail and, indeed, too precious to use very frequently, the more rugged Edwardian of sound design may be regarded as a very satisfactory motor car for everyday journeying. If both the Vintage Sports Car Club and the Veteran Car Club put on road events for such cars we may expect to see more of them than in the past, for proud owners will have an incentive to tax them for more than an odd month or so per annum—tyre and insurance problems are not likely to be too severe, especially with the blessing of the committee of the Veteran Car Club. So, taking it all round, let us congratulate the Veteran Car Club on its decision and let us preserve what veterans we may. They are getting very scarce; they are, to state the obvious, never going to happen again, and you can hardly blame Motor Sport if you suddenly desire to possess one when none remain in need of restoration!

Continental fans

A friend tells of an amusing incident which befell him recently and which very nicely portrays the difference in the national outlook on Continental motor racing between the peoples of this country and the Continent. Wishing to converse with some Italians at a prisoner-of-war camp, and having no Italian at his command, our friend hit upon the idea of uttering “Alfa-Romeo-Milano, Tazio, Nuvolari.” Instantly the prisoners’ faces lit up and an interpreter was sent for. Nor was that all, for a man who had been “Nuver’s” mechanic in many races was introduced and famous names were reeled off amid general excitement and good feeling. The climax came when our friend showed his October issue of Motor Sport, with the photograph of Nuvolari in the Auto-Union on the cover. Motor racing has not got Italy very far in this war, but we may hope that a more universal appreciation of the Sport after the armistice will result in international better feeling, of which this incident is a rather pleasing example.

Best wishes

Cecil Clutton, who did so much for vintage and veteran motoring before the war and who has done so very much for Motor Sport since the war, is joining the R.A.F. in the New Year. He felt suddenly that office life was intolerable and volunteered for flying duties. He was accepted, and has been studying to qualify as a navigator ever since. The very best wishes of the motoring world will go with him in his latest undertaking.

Cornering tactics

Discussion arose the other day on a subject debatable enough in all conscience between enthusiasts. It concerned the matter of rapidly negotiating the swerves and queried which of two varying tactics is the more hazardous. One driver is in the habit of cornering at the absolute limit of his car’s capabilities, while another is not so expert in judging how fast he can go round a given bend or corner without gyrating or sliding off the road, but makes up time lost thereby by leaving his cut-off very late and then braking heavily before the corner in order to reduce speed to that at which he can cope adequately with happenings on changing direction. One school of thought argues that the first method is the more liable to end in disaster, as if the safe limit of cornering is exceeded nasty things will follow, and the margin of safety is very small and, withal, difficult to assess. The rival school of thought believes that the second tactic is more likely to bring disaster in its train, on the reasoning that a car is unstable under heavy braking, especially if over-zealousness requires such retardation. to be continued while commencing to corner. Our own view is that, in theory, the first method is the more unpleasant, because the driver who does not try to corner at his car’s limit is unlikely to even approach this critical speed, but that, in practice, he will probably be the man to buy it, because, realising he is losing ground, he will rely more and more on unnecessarily hard braking, until he finds himself entering a bend at critical speed after all, with the dice loaded against him because of his inferior judgment and the fact that his car will be unstable under the action of the brakes. Ponder it!

Correcting an error

In “Rumblings” last month, in describing the 1924 straight-eight G,P. Mercedes, we misquoted Laurence Pomeroy as saying that these cars competed in the French and Spanish Grands Prix of 1924. A letter from Mr. Pomeroy points out that the Mercedes did not run in the French race that year, but in the Spanish and Italian Grands Prix. He adds the interesting information that in the former race Sailer and Masetti drove these cars and both retired, while in the Italian G.P. the team comprised Masetti, Count Zborowski, Neubauer and Werner. At half-distance these drivers were lying 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th, but three laps later Zborowski crashed fatally and his team mates withdrew. On another Pomeroy subject, the suggestion made in his letter in the last issue that the 17 mm. dimension quoted for the diameter of the crankshaft of M. Lory’s suggested Formula G.P. car probably refers to crankpin length, is negatived by the fact that J. Lowrey, who reviewed the Lory design, definitely quotes a diameter of 18 mm. and the length of the big-end rollers as 1/2″. With two big-ends side by side this gives a crankpin width of at least 2.54 cm. or just over 25 mm., and a big-end width of about 12.5 mm.

Some facts

A contemporary last month published such inaccurate information about that rather obscure French small sports car, the B.N.C., that we have turned up some notes on this make which appeared in Motor Sport in July, 1929, together with two photographs of the car. The unblown “Monza” model had a Ruby engine, specially made for B.N.C. and having pump cooling. It won the 1927 Bol d’Or and established a class record at Le Mans in 1928 by covering 2,270 kilos. in the 24 hours. The guaranteed velocity was 78 m.p.h. More exciting was the “Montlhery” model, which stripped was said to be guaranteed to do 103.5 m.p.h. It had a 4-cylinder 62 x 90 mm. (1,088 c.c.) engine rated at 8.9 h.p., but giving, it was claimed, some 62 b.h.p. A supercharger was driven from the nose of the crankshaft, but was accommodated beneath the bonnet behind the inclined Silentbloc-mounted radiator ; it sucked from a Solex carburetter. The gearbox gave three speeds and reverse, and transmission was through an open propeller shaft to a solid rear axle. Suspension was by half-elliptic springs, underslung at the rear, and the brakes were of Perrot type, fully compensated. The body was a typical French pointed-tail 2-seater, with cycle-type wings. J. A. Driskell used to drive a B.N.C. in British events, and Charles Brackenbury finished third in a B.A.R.C. short handicap race with one in 1929. The makers, Bollack-Netter et Cie., of Paris, came into being in 1924.