A Section Devoted to Old-Car Matters
V.S.C.C. Silverstone Driving Tests
This chilly but inevitably entertaining December event was cancelled because of the foot-and-mouth outbreak. It is not known at the time of writing whether this month’s V.S.C.C. Measham Trophy Rally, due for Jan. 13th/t4th, will be held, although the Club is pressing ahead with it, this nocturnal adventure having had troubles with route approval by the R.A.C. apart from the prevailing cancellation of competitions at the request of the Ministry of A. F. & F. But whatever the winter holds or does not hold for vintage enthusiasts (and nothing should stop the V.S.C.C. London Film Show on Jan. 24th) we can be certain that the V.S.C.C. will once again put on its programme of races at Silverstone, Oulton Park and, one hopes, at Castle Combe, and its speed hill-climb at Prescott, later in the year. At one of these race meetings it seems likely that the Club’s President, Ronald Barker, will cause to be held a Parade of Lancias, while once again the Motor Sport Brooklands Memorial Trophy Contest will be decided on points earned by those driving pre-war cars at these race meetings.
The Clapham Transport Museum
Very disturbing news is to hand about the future of the Museum of British Transport at Clapham High Street, in South-West London. We quote the following from the November Newsletter of the Historic Commercial Vehicle Club:—
“The recent publication of the Minister of Transport’s future plans for the railways has at last brought out into the open something that many of us must have suspected for some time: that the Clapham Museum is to close down. We have come a long way since the enlightened days when Sir Brian Robertson, as head of the now defunct British Transport Commission, encouraged the formation of the Clapham museum as a genuine museum for showing the development of all forms of public transport in Britain. At one stage there was even a hope that a number of smaller museums dealing with transport development on a local scale might also be established in various parts of the country, but the only one that ever came to fruition was the excellent little museum based in a converted church at Swindon. The beginning of the end came when the B.T.C. was wound up and the three museums, Clapham, York and Swindon, were placed under the “care” of tile British Railways Board. Since then the emphasis of preservation has inevitably switched from general transport to railway transport only as we have seen from the disposal of most of the road exhibits with the exception of most of those owned by London Transport. Now Barbara Castle, the Minister of Transport who seems determined to upset the nation’s entire transport set-up irrespective of cost to the user and the taxpayer, has told us what she intends to do with the museums. The recommendation to transfer the York railway museum to the Department of Education & Science is a sensible one that has been advocated for some years, not only for York but for all three transport museums. The decision to close Clapham is a terrible one, and most short-sighted.
“Inevitably opposition to the closure scheme has come from local M.P.s including Mr. John Fraser, the member for Norwood. He has put down a motion in the House which reads thus: `This House recognises the need to transfer the responsibility for transport museums from the Railway Board to the Department of Education & Science but is resolutely opposed to any decision to close the Clapham Transport Museum and deprive the Metropolis of a unique collection which attracts increasing interest and which is a valued social asset in South London.’ The motion is backed by Margaret McKay, M.P. for Clapham, and Marcus Lipton, M.P. for Brixton. How can we best support it? By writing to our M.P.s we suggest.”
It will be a tragedy if this excellent Museum is closed.
Motoring in 1911
An interesting fragment from the past has come into our hands, which serves as a reminder of how motorists used their cars prior to the First World War. The book in question is one of those “Motor Registers” or diaries published by The Car, in which could be kept a detailed log of how automobiles behaved, where they were driven, and how much they cost to run. This one is dated 1911 and was kept by the chauffeur employed by Mr. J. L. Lee of Weybridge. The car it deals with was an 18/20 De Dietrich, valued at £1,000. This seems rather steep, because the chassis price at the 1910 Olympia Show was £420. But specially ordered coachwork and accessories could inflate this considerably.
A log was kept of the daily journeys of this car, from which I see that the longest one it undertook was 170 miles, from Southampton to Lyndhurst, etc. There were other longish daily drives, such as 135 miles from Stratford and home via Bambury, and 154 miles coming from Hereford and Ross and home via Oxford, after the car had been away two days going to Ross and Gloucester, back to Ross, then to Symonds Yat and to Hereford, involving 239 miles. Mostly, however, it was used for quite short outings, for shopping, fetching children from school, dancing lessons, and visits to the dentist and hospital. Often, though, this De Dietrich would be required to go up to London and back, the distances varying from 46½ to 72 miles, presumably according to the route taken or the travelling done in town. It was out most days and was sometimes away on tour. The busiest month was, surprisingly, November, when it covered 1,452 miles, but it ran more than 1,100 miles in January, April, June and September, so was clearly used in all weathers. But it was laid up for the whole of August and for part of July and September, probably while the family was abroad.
The total mileage for the year was logged as 10,177, if we add 492 miles for part of July, which the chauffeur has omitted from the summary at the end of the diary, possibly because he was allowed the use of the car at this time for his own holiday. In this period the De Dietrich was given 642 gallons of petrol, costing from 1/1½d. to 1/6d. a gallon. If we discount the quantity put in on the last day of 1911 and not used, this works out at 14.8 m.p.g. The running costs for the year came out to £102. 12s. 3d. for chauffeur’s wages and expenses, £76 3s. 3d. for tools and equipment, £48 4s. 11d. for petrol, £7 16s. 6d. for oil and grease, £40 7s. 0d. for repairs, and £2 10s. 1d. for keeping the lamps alight, but the tyre bill came to £58 5s. 11d. This is a bit confusing, however, because whereas an item of £55 for overhauling the car, fitting shock-absorbers and revarnishing it is entered under “tools,” an item of £12 12s. for painting the car and fitting it with doors comes under “repairs.” The fact remains that the cost of using this De Dietrich for some eleven months in Edwardian England was less than £336.
The car’s requirements read oddly today—carbide, horn-bulb, Shino (for polishing the brasswork?), exhaust-whistle, step-mat, spoke-brush, etc., but it required very few spares apart from two fanbelts, two speedometer wheels, a few 4s. plugs, a brake-adjusting screw, a door knob, a horn push and a speedometer cable. The Stewart Speedometer was the most unreliable item and was eventually returned to the makers for the second time. The overhaul, carried out at Shank’s Garage (which is still in Weybridge) took the car off the road for 17 days, after which it was driven 24 miles on test. During the year the steering was also overhauled and it spent another three days at Shank’s, possibly with more steering trouble. It was sometimes garaged out, at 10s. a time, and its accumulator charged (for 2s.). The chauffeur may have lived out, as he earned 50s. a week and was able to charge for having the car washed; his expenses were items like 1s. 6d. lunches and 9d. teas!
The tyres were a motley assortment of retreaded Michelin non-skid, Palmer ribbed and Dunlop plain, backed up by a new Palmer ribbed, Palmer non-skid and two Wood-Milnes, one of which lasted 2,120 miles. Two of the Wood-Milnes were given early the next year to the chauffeur, who made a cash sale of 1s. on them. Happy days! It would be remarkable if this De Dietrich has survived; its Reg. No. was LD 9085.—W. B.
V.E.V. Miscellany.—At a Bentley D.C. meeting at the “Hand & Spear” at Weybridge last month, S. C. H. Davis officiated at a presentation by Roy Nockolds of a painting of the duel at Brooklands in 1923 between Parry Thomas (Leyland Thomas) and E. A. D. Eldridge (F.I.A.T.), Nockolds having given this painting of his to the hotel on indefinite loan. Amongst those present were W. Boddy and S. Sedgwick, both Founder Members of the Brooklands Society, the latter being also President Of the B.D.C. Incidentally, we were told recently by an ex-employee of the Brooklands estate how, before this match race, Thomas had asked that a damaged part of the Track be repaired, as it was on the only part where he could overtake the big F.I.A.T. Apparently this was done and, sure enough, Thomas passed at exactly this spot. . . .
We note that among new members to the Morgan 3-Wheeler Club, of whom 27 were elected in November last year, two have vintage Aero Morgans. One of the “Three Musketeer” M.G. Magnetic team cars is in good hands in Oxford. It has the bored-out 1,408-c.c. Marshall-blown engine and the 8/33 straight-cut back axle gears, and cruises effortlessly, 65 m.p.h. being equal to about 3,000 r.p.m. This is “Aramis,” the M.G. driven in pre-war trials by Langley. The current issue of the Morris Eight Tourer Club Journal refers to the pictures of the three pre-war Morris saloons we published recently. The cars depicted were a 10/4, a 12/4 and a 16-h.p. Oxford, all of 1935 type. The biggest car is owned by a clergyman and works hard, acting as parish ‘bus and towing half-a-ton of boat on holidays. The pictures were taken in Plymouth but the 12/4 hails from Leighton Buzzard. A former fighter pilot, now aged 71, who first flew in Vickers and FE2b machines, is planning to fly again; his 18-year-old granddaughter is already learning to fly. A circa 1921/22 Bean chassis, complete but minus body from the scuttle back, is available for rebuilding, in Ireland, and we hear of some old Canadian Fords in Nova Scotia, while A. E. Guy seeks a V8 Guy Car of the kind his mother used to drive. Letters can be forwarded.
The Thames Estuary A.C. are planning an entry-free Vintage Car meet on June 23rd, at Thorpe Bay, Essex, with trade support, a drive along the sea-front, a Concours d’Elegance and period costume contest, to V.S.C.C. car classifications, etc. Details from Police Inspector F. H. Jauncey, 66, Castleton Road, Southend-on-Sea. George Clegg, now aged 81, who worked under Royce from 1906 onwards, had an interesting letter published in the Guardian last year. In Australia John Goddard is said to be negotiating for the ex-Jarvis Q-type M.G. and an Amilcar, described as a supercharged monoposto, and a 1934 Dixon Riley are for sale there.
It seems that aero-engined cars are not entirely a thing of the past, for if rumour is correct, someone is putting a Rolls-Royce engine into a chassis of his own construction, for road use, and someone else is contemplating installing a Napier Lion marine engine in the Sunbeam “Tigress” chassis. Our old “Boxing Night Exeter” had to be abandoned when the M.o.T. made such a fuss about non-permit runs, but recognised clubs can still have such frolics; the V.M.C.C., for instance, announced daylight Boxing Day runs in the Birmingham and Stonehenge areas. The December issue of the Bulletin of the Riley Register, under the new Editor, Tony Bird, is full of interesting items. including Hugh Bergel reminiscing about riding as mechanic in a Brooklands-model Riley with Brian Lewis during the J.C.C. “Double Twelve” race, Gordon Wilkins’ pre-war memories of driving Tim Ely’s T.T. Riley round the Crystal Palace circuit and comments on the origin of the White Riley, some notes on Prince Birabongse’s pre-war racing exploits, etc. An article is reproduced from Motor Sport on Riley recognition, which, as it appeared may years ago when information was sparce, is liable to be shot at, while we are flattered to note that a correspondent remarks that Motor Sport “is a journal that never minds sticking its neck out on Opinion but isn’t too proud to apologise and correct when errors of fact are pointed out.”—see page 12 in this issue! The blown single-seater Austin 7 which Castollo raced without success at Brooklands in 1939 is being rebuilt in Norfolk and that Daimler Double-Six 50 saloon mentioned in these columns some months ago may soon be seeking a new home. A 1934 Daimler two-seater and dickey was scrapped in London a year or so ago.
In Malaysia the Lord Montagu Trophy of the M.V.C.C. has been won by C. Mellaart for the superb restoration of his Bugatti and in the M.M.S.C. Batu Tiga races, the vintage and p.v.t. race saw Austin 7 Chummies in the first two places, from a 1929 Morgan-J.A.P. and a Fiat 509, while the entries included an Armstrong Siddeley and that very Brooklands-looking Marlborough which was in England some years ago. The Morris Eight Tourer Club reports in its Journal a holiday last summer by a member and his wife in a 1935 Morris Eight tourer; they got as far as Russia and back, covering a total of 4,681 miles. Kay Petre is said to have returned to England from Canada.