Veteran Edwardian vintage

A section devoted to old-car matters

In cold but dry weather the V.S.C.C. ran off its annual Silverstone driving tests, taking an entry of 68 cars through eight manoeuvres, some of which involved a considerable amount of high-speed reversing, which broke the back axle torque-arm of A. D. Jones' 30/98 Vauxhall.

Remembering that the title of the organising club is Vintage Sports Car Club, I looked first for sports cars, and was glad to see performing Arnold-Forster's Anzani Frazer Nash, the later Frazer Nashes of Dr. Harris and Malyan, Woods' 4 1/2-litre Invicta, Clutton's Type 43 Bugatti with Type 49 wheels, Kain's G.P. Bugatti, Combees 1 1/2-litre twin-ram blown Alfa Romeo, as well as some sporting p.v.t. machinery, including Horton's 1934 Riley M.P.H. with those enormous brake drums, but distastefully advertising itself for sale, which isn't done when competing at V.S.C.C. Meetings (after all, it might do us out of one of our tastefully printed small ads!).

My interest in open sports cars was justified, because I made the pilgrimage as passenger in the Continental Correspondent's 1938 328 B.M.W., a l.h.d. ex-Works car raced by a Nuremburg team before the war. With only a small aero-screen for protection it was as cold, but not as uncomfortable, as Dudley Gahagan's Bugatti in which I made the journey the previous year – Gahagan must agree, because this time he came in a Ford Consul saloon! Reverting to the B.M.W., we came in convoy with another l.h.d. 1938 328 with body built for the Countess Moy – ours was the Persil-white one. It was running temporarily without water pump or fan but while on the move kept at just below 100˚ C. but seemed to consume fuel at the rate of about 15 m.p.g. at moderate cruising speeds. The smoothness of engine and suspension and lightness of the gear change (now by remote control) is in contrast to many vintage sports cars….

Reverting to the driving tests, Sam Clutton was thought to be playing Bingo under the shelter of his Bugatti's bonnet but was actually changing its multitude of sparking plugs. In the Zig Zag test he stalled the engine on the line and went off in the wrong cog, but mostly this nice motor-car was very rapid. Johnson's 1939 Viz Lagonda Freestone and Webb saloon rolled around but accelerated well, and didn't roll nearly so much as Walker's very long 193r Rolls-Royce P.II Hooper limousine. Edwards' 1935 Aston Martin Ulster, the ex-Faulkner Mille Miglia car, arrived on a trailer, as did Barry Clarke's special Austin 7 Chummy, which was entered as a vintage touring car! Cole's 8th-series Lancia Lambda fabric saloon went very nicely with water pouring from its radiator overflow and Williamson bent the front tyres of his Lancia Aprilia in approved style during the Figure-of-Eight. A very nice and original 1926 3-litre Bentley was driven by Pack. Holland's 1936 Derby-Bentley saloon sported aluminium wheel discs. Riseley's 1931 Aston Martin aped the moderns, with tuned exhaust system and Webers.

Binns in his Riley and Winder in his Humber supplied the racing effects, the former sliding for yards on locked front wheels while trying to stop in the Go-Stop test. At the opposite extreme we had "Emmett" Bendall in his lofty Edwardian Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, making sounds as if the brake shoe rivets were rubbing on the drums.

Mrs. Hogg crunched the gears of her 1923 ex-Lambert s.v. Aston Martin "N****r II," which was in shamefully scruffy condition, and as usual there were sedate Rileys which shouldn't rank as p.v.t. cars, including Mrs. Roberts' 1932 2-seater with illegal mudguards and an outside exhaust. An Austin Nippy got in as a p.v.t., Allison produced a very oddly-bodied 1934 M.G. and mice had apparently eaten the original back mudguards of Hare's 1930 Lea-Francis 2-seater, which he is, however, apparently rebuilding. Much nicer to look at and listen to was Pilkington's 1931 Alfa Romeo! Coates apologised for the appearance of his 1935/7 4 1/2-litre Lagonda, which has a 3-litre radiator and was rescued from a field in Carlisle, explaining that he uses it for V.S.C.C. trials.

In the Go-and-Stop-Astride-The-Marshal test Kain's Bugatti went after a couple of pull-ups on its handle, Arnold-Forster looked the essence of the athletic-man as he leapt into his Frazer Nash, unencumbered by inside gear and brake levers, but McLellan's Alfa Romeo coupé had to be push-started, while sawers' Alfa Romeo coupé obligingly shut its own door. A pleasing car was Mills' 1930 Riley with "Brooklands" chassis and a good replica of this type of body. Hill drove a sedate 1924 15.9 h.p. o.h.c. Delaunay-Belleville coupé, the ex-Norton car, which, unlike the landaulette I once owned (Guy Griffiths now has it), has a r.h. gear-lever.

Amongst the spectators' cars were a Marshall-blown M.G. with slab-tank tail, an Aero Morgan, a vintage Armstrong Siddeley tourer, a smart Singer Junior Porlock, an Anzani AC. to keep Milner's competing car company, and Teague's B.M.W.-engined Chain Gang Frazer Nash. – W. B.


First Class Awards: N. Arnold-Forster (1925 Frazer Nash), R. Pilkington (1931 Alfa Romeo), D. H. Coates (1935/7 Lagonda) and B. M. Clarke (1928 Austin).

Second Class Awards: B. B. D. Kain (1926 Bugatti), J. Malyan (1928/30 Frazer Nash), Dr. D. P. Harris (1934 Frazer Nash), A. M. Westmacott (1934 Lagonda), M. F. Allison (1934 M.G.), C. G. Franklin (1929 Rover) and C. A. Winder (1923/8 Humber).

Third Class Awards: D. A. Bennett (1930 Alvis), D. Edwards (1935 Aston Martin), P. J. E. Binns (1929 Riley), J. R. Horton (1934 Riley) and J. Miles (1928 Austin).

Fragments on forgotten makes

No. 25 – the J.M.B.

Last month this feature dealt with the Bleriot-Whippet cyclecar conceived by Mr. G. H. Jones and told how, having sold the idea to the Bleriot factory at Addlestone, Mr. Jones went on to join the Granville Bradshaw organisation, at Preston.

The slump of 1925 put paid to these 350-c.c. single and 500-c.c. flat-twin oil-cooled engines, because the finance had come from cotton tycoons who decided to cut their losses. Dorman's of Stafford were about to manufacture these Bradshaw engines but they, too, decided to make spares and leave it at that. So Mr. Jones joined Ernie Humphries who was making O.K. Supreme motorcycles, and developed these to T.T.-winning standards.

But the urge to produce a car of his own was too strong to resist and by 1932/33 he was down at Ringwood manufacturing the J.M.B. 3-wheeler, to his own design, about which there has been some recent correspondence in "Vintage Postbag."

As with the Bleriot-Whippet, Jones used a wooden chassis, of 7 in. x 1 in. ash members. The body was of fabric. An 85.7 x 85 mm. 497-c.c. side-valve J.A.P. single-cylinder engine, chosen as a "good slogger," was laid horizontally, below the seat, its cylinder head facing forward – the cooling fins were unchanged – between the passengers. The engine drove by primary chain to an Albion gearbox and thence by a 5/8. x 3/8 in. chain to the back wheel. The gearbox gave ratios of 15.0, 9.8 and 5.77 to 1 with a 19-tooth sprocket, or 15.8, 10.3 and 6.1 to 1 with an 18-tooth sprocket. All three wheels were detachable and interchangeable, as were the cable-operated brakes. The engine was fed from a 3 1/2-gallon tank under the bonnet, and lubricant was contained in a 3/4-gallon tank under the back seat of the 2/4-seater body. A kick-starter was provided, the well-base rims were shod with Dunlop 25 X 3.25 tyres, the steering had a reduction of 3 to 1 and the little vehicle turned the scales at 5 1/4 cwt.

The prototype had a very sleek, pointed-tail body but production versions had a flat-ended tail, the panel of which lifted up to give access to the back wheel.

Although cars like the Austin Seven and Morris Minor were by this time emerging as 4-speed, rear-petrol-tank saloons, 3-wheelers such as the Morgan, B.S.A., Coventry-Victor and Omega were quite popular, being taxed at only £4 a year, although they had powerful twin-cylinder engines. Mr. Jones sought to offer something less costly and more simple; indeed, the J.M.B. leaflet spoke of it as a car for "Jack and Jill, the New Motorist, the Sidecarist, Motor Cyclist, Lady Motorist, etc." The fabric bodies were built by a supplier on the outskirts of Bournemouth, and it was possible to sell the J.M.B. the initials being those of G. H. Jones, R. W. Mason and C. S. Barrow who sponsored it, for £75 10s. in Standard form, and £83 10s. in De Luxe form. A speed of 55 m.p.h. and 62-68 m.p.g. was claimed.

Kings of Oxford and other good agents were appointed, but the project unfortunately failed to make the grade, for another trade slump coincided with the J.M.B.'s appearance and it had to compete with used Austin Sevens selling for around £45. Some trials appearances did nothing to save the situation and an experimental engine with cooling fins cast horizontal was no improvement on the normal J.A.P. As Mr. Jones, today retired and living in Shrewsbury, says, he was always either ten years too early or ten years too late with his designs. In 1923 the J.M.B. should have caught on and in the petrol-bleak period around 1943 it would have been welcome. Some hundreds were made but the end came about 1936. An optimistic agent called for an improved J.M.B. with bigger tyres, metal-panelled bodywork and so on, but keeping the same J.A.P. engine, and the lack of performance in this form sounded the death-knell.

A last effort was a 4-wheeled version powered with a 350-c.c. Villiers two-stroke, but this was merely a one-off experimental job. – W. B.