Vintage Postbag, January 1961

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76

Clutton’s Criticisms Criticised

Sir,

I have noted with interest some recent letters taking exception to comments by Mr. Glutton when referring to the Duesenberg.

It would appear he enjoys criticising certain marques, drawing particular attention to what he has described as weak points (possibly again on second-hand information). He will then begrudgingly allow that it has some compensating factors but still would be bettered in some manner by, usually, a Vauxhall.

How could a knowledgeable vintage enthusiast compare the performance of two cars by means of a contemporary road-test of a standard sports tourer with that of a lightweight and vastly modified vintage model as it existed nearly twenty-five years later ? I refer to the 38/250 Mercedes and the late F. Lycett’s Bentley. If he had wished to make an honest appraisal, comparison between an S.S.K.L. and this Bentley would have shown less partisanship. He also describes the 33/180 (freely admitted in Mercedes circles as not the best vintage model) as ” having a pathetic performance easily beaten by a 30/98,” when in an earlier book he had to admit it made faster time than the Vauxhall ” on its own playground.”

Vintage cars all have their good and bad points but, please, less vitriol and more fairmindedness.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Peter T. Rees.

* * *

The 1931 Le Mans Alfa Romeo

Sir,

I am venturing to write to you about the 2.3-litre Alfa Romeo which won in 1931 at Le Mans.

This car was given to me as a wedding present in 1933, the last owner was the late Sir Malcolm Campbell, and it was sold through University Motors. It could have been fitted with either the original gearbox or an Armstrong Siddeley Wilson type. Unfortunately it was fitted with the Wilson-type box, which was too heavy for the chassis and broke on the starboard side during my honeymoon.

After this there was a certain amount of litigation about this car and no doubt the absolute facts are available in legal archives. The chassis was strengthened by fitting tie-rods.

I raced this car twice at Brooklands and I finished second in the Gold Star to Earl Howe. I sold the car in 1935 or ’36.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Hitchen. C. R. A. GRANT.

Sir,

I was interested to read the comments in your footnote to the letter from T. W. Carson, Secretary, V.S.C.C., concerning Sir Ralph Millais’ beautiful 2.3-litre Alfa Romeo, claimed to be the 1931 Le Mans-winning car.

You state that this Alfa Romeo exactly resembles the Hawthorn car (which, by the way, is in the Montagu Motor Museum) and which has always been accepted as a 1932 car. You may be interested to know that the chassis number of the Millais Alfa Romeo is 2311201, while that of the Hawthorn car is 2311204, which would rather indicate that the two cars were from the same factory team, and almost certainly it dates the Millais car as a 1932 model, so I do not really see how it could have won Le Mans in 1931 or be a vintage car. As you so rightly say, there were numerous differences between the 1931 Le Mans four-Seaters and the 1932 Le Mans four-seaters, the original cars being lithe and rather spidery in appearance, while the 1932 cars were more chunky and solid.

In any case there is no argument as the 1935 Le Mans Alfa Romeos had chassis numbers in the 2111000 series; Sir Henry Birkin’s car, of which he took delivery in June 1931, being a sister car to the 1931 winner and having the chassis number 2111005, which Mr. Carson can confirm with the Alfa Romeo Section of the V.S.C.C.

Though not in a position to challenge such authorities as Count Lurani and the Earl Howe, I would be most interested to know what proof they have to substantiate their claim that the Alfa Romeo Reg. No. CGP 901 and chassis number 2311201, owned by Sir Ralph Millais, is the 1931 Le Mans winner. In MOTOR SPORT for December 1958 there appeared a photograph of the two Alfa Romeos in question, taken when Mike Hawthorn was comparing his car with the Millais car, and I enclose a further view of the tails of the two cars, which are identical. The 1931 cars had completely different rear treatment of the bodywork.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Odiham. DENIS JENKINSON,

* * *

A Burney Streamline Car

Sir,

We note with interest in Lord Montagu’s recent book ” Lost Causes of Motoring ” his article on the rear-engined Burney-Crossley streamlined saloon.

Having recently acquired one of the remaining examples and put it into daily use, we would like to take this opportunity to defend this unusual vehicle with many ” ahead of the times ” features.

His lordship’s criticism of the cooling system appears to be unfounded and the car will cruise at 50 m.p.h. with four adults and as yet no apparent ” tail wag.” The spare wheel has not caused any consternation to the rear passengers; and with today’s reliability of the modern battery starting has as yet proved easy, but admit we would not like to change the battery in a hurry !

It certainly is an ugly brute but once one is behind the wheel and on the open road the quiet efficiency and silkiness of the six-cylinder engine, the high ratios of the E.N.V. gearbox coupled with its accompanying high-pitched whine, all add up to pleasant, most unusual and reliable motoring.

I am, Yours, etc.,

London, S.W.8. Ray Goodey.

[Pressure on space has resulted in many letters being held over.—ED.].