There is some division of opinion among enthusiasts as to whether the “Rembrandt” series of meetings should be continued indefinitely or whether the existing motor clubs should be left to take over once more the organisation of social gatherings for motorists. There can be no argument, however, concerning the success of the 14th and (provisionally) final gathering, held at the Rembrandt Rooms, Kensington, on December 2nd.
Proceedings began at noon with a cocktail party, and before long the centre and both sides of Brompton Road were lined with assorted sports cars. The weather was hardly suited to hoodless Bugattis and the like, for it rained hard until after lunch, but they turned up just the same.
The usual unorganised talking session continued inside the “Rembrandt” until the lunch check was reached at 1.45, about 200 “competitors” clocking in for this.
After lunch, the chairman, Earl Howe, read apologies for their absence from Eric Giles, Raymond Mays, Howard Godfrey, W. Boddy and Lord Brabazon of Tara. Speaking as one who had been away throughout the war, Earl Howe commented that the “Rembrandt” meetings had achieved widespread fame and had undoubtedly done a world of good. He hoped the meeting would produce a good discussion and that nobody would hesitate to “tell the old gang where they get off”! He then proposed a toast to the organisers, Anthony and Penny Rivers Fletcher.
Replying, Rivers Fletcher paid tribute to the large amounts of work which others had done to help organise some of the gatherings, especially Messrs. Clutton, Pomeroy, Tubbs and Capon. To him, motor racing was not so much a hobby as a way of life, and on behalf of the new generation of enthusiasts he paid tribute to the value of experience gained by the pioneers. Responding to demands for “a pennyworth,” Mrs. Rivers Fletcher expressed her pleasure at being richer by 210 friends.
Proposing a toast to “The Sport,” Sammy Davis said that news of the “Rembrandt” meetings had made folk abroad quite homesick. As regards the future of the Sport, the situation was certainly not hopeless; the motoring enthusiast is as popular with the Government as a polecat at a garden party, but this had always been the case anyway. We should thrive on opposition, and he had no doubt that we would get Brooklands and Donington back, eventually.
Davis emphasised the importance a using the experience of existing drivers, who were often sporting enough to coach even a rival. If he were ever reduced to a jet-propelled bath chair he, personally, would not rest until it went a damn sight faster than anyone else’s, and he expected to end up doing a timed mile in a hearse. In toasting the Sport, he also toasted Earl Howe, the most perfect-mannered driver in any race and Britain’s best racing ambassador.
Replying on behalf of the Noble Order of Polecats, Earl Howe said that, although we might not see much in 1946, motoring sport would certainly go on. A serious campaign to secure the release of Donington Park began recently, when the War Office listened to the views of motorists, cyclists, campers, and even M.P.s.
Proposing a toast to “The Press,” Cecil Clutton said that our motoring journals were the envy of the world, free from commercial taint and renowned for their artistic technical draughtsmanship. He paid tribute to the work of Pomeroy, Cresswell and the late Gordon Crosby, and hoped that now sports correspondents Davis and Walkerley had been demobbed they would soon have races to write about. As for Motor Sport, modesty forbids our repeating his compliments here.
In reply, Laurence Pomeroy said that Pressmen represented a sort of fourth estate, being paid to do the things most folk spend money on and receiving small monthly cheques as well! He hoped our motoring journals would never fail to express a wide range of opinions, but if ever the Government appointed a Peoples’ Commissar for “Rembrandt’s” Rivers Fletcher should get the job.
An interval followed, while the staff cleared the tables and the visitors went the round of the parked ears. A quick survey revealed the presence of A.C., Alfa-Romeo, Alta, Alvis, Aston-Martin, Bentley (A. and M.), Bugatti, Cord, Delahaye, Frazer-Nash, Lagonda, Lancia, M.G.. Mercédès, Peugeot, Riley, Rolls-Royce, Singer, Sunbeam and Vauxhall. Incidentally, fewer varieties of uniform than usual were in evidence, though there was at least one visitor from the Antipodes.
Returning indoors, Sammy Davis was called on to open the discussion, and indicated that the most general interest seemed to be in means of getting racing on fast cars at low cost. He quoted 500-c.c. racing (proposed in Motor Sport in 1941) as one way in which 80-90 m.p.h. might be obtained from cars costing little more than first-class motor-cycles. Tuning might be restricted, rather as 1 1/2-litre motor-boats are limited to a maximum pull when tested against a spring balance.
Anthony Heal then rose to say that, although he personally held that nothing under 4 1/2 litres was any good, the Vintage Sports Car Club had officially decided to make provision for 500-c.c. cars in their future events. They were all out to help any scheme which promised racing at a reasonable cost.
L. M. Ballamy then rose to plead the cause of 750-c.c. racing, in which he admitted having a vested interest. He claimed that Class I was an illegitimate breed not indigent to this country, and made the amazing statement that no engines of that size are available.
This impelled John Bolster to “rise from his chain-driven, jet-propelled bath chair,” pointing out that 500-c.c. engines, as potent as V-twin J.A.P.s he once used, are available, rendering times of 43 sec. at Shelsley or 21 sec. at Lewes possible. A 750-c.c. limit would lead to multitudes of cylinders and new-fangled devices like blowers, as well as rendering frills like steering and springing desirable. Anyway, the Bristol folk had already staged two sprints, one enabling him to do 110 m.h.p. in the rain, which was pretty frightening, and the important thing was to infect others with their drive.
Peter Monkhouse confirmed that serious 750-c.c. racing is exceedingly costly. A 500-c.c. car should be a young racing car, however, not a flying bedstead which only a Bolster could handle.
Cecil Clutton supported the theory that a 500-c.c. car with a T.T. motor-cycle engine should approach the 100-m.p.h. mark. He, however, favoured the racing of large elderly cars, which would soon be cheap once again.
Robin Jackson was also attracted by Class I, for motor-cycle engine spares and service are cheap, while single-cylinder engines are easy to work on. If a standard design is to be used, the R.A.C. would be the folk to pick it, but who would do the scrutineering?
E. C. Gordon England begged us to think big and live dangerously. His contribution to this end was certainly considerable, for he suggests that we beg-borrow a few hundred lend-lease Jeeps and race them. Wow! A. C. Armstrong was not hopeful of our scrounging these Jeeps, and thought they would be unexciting. Pomeroy, on the other hand, after a spell in Germany, thought it too cruel to ask drivers who had survived shells, bombs, bullets, doodle-bugs and rockets to try Jeep racing.
W. M. Couper said that Class I or Jeep talk was all play-racing; our job is to wake up the manufacturers. They need it, having produced nothing new in 12 months’ work! His view was that, if a sports car race was held in Hyde Park, no big firm could afford to be out of the resulting publicity.
John Eason Gibson agreed that we must try to interest the car manufacturers, whom he regards as financiers rather than engineers or craftsmen! His idea of how to do it was for us all to run foreign cars. Meantime, as now, folk must do their best with old racing cars until they could afford something better. Eason Gibson also pointed out that the Army Benevolent Fund wanted sports organisers to hold events and give them the proceeds, which would fit in well with a race in Hyde Park, Richmond Park, or even Battersea Park.
Answering the discussion, Earl Howe pointed out that racing costs money, and the Government’s new powers to control investment may prevent the formation of a company to provide standardised or 500-c.c. racing cars. In any ease, the Fiat “500” race at Brooklands was fun to drive in, but caused some awful wangling and was hardly spectacular. A rodeo on Jeeps, say at the White City, was something he and others would go a long way to see. [Sir! — Ed.] As regards racing in Royal Parks, the King’s consent would be needed for a race in Hyde Park or Richmond Park. (But is not His Majesty still patron of the British Racing Drivers’ Club?) Battersea Park belongs to the London County Council, who might not like the idea of a race very much. Sports car racing certainly improved the breed, and the T.T. should be held again in 1947.
Two M.G.s with i.f.s. attended; one a “Magna” with Dubonnet grafted on, the other a saloon with “Magna” wheels, bent wire gear lever and wishbone i.f.s. The latter was parked out of sight till dusk fell, but this spy carries a pocket torch!
When the rain stopped, Pomeroy went home for his “Prince Henry” Vauxhall. It starts readily on the handle, except when I tried to swing it!
“D. S. J.” took one look at the weather and sold his ticket to F/Lt. Mallock. When the rain stopped, after lunch, he turned out!
Bob and Diana Cowell turned up in a nice “Competition” Delahaye. — J. L.