A Section Devoted to Old-Car Matters
V.S.C.C. Silverstone Driving Tests (December 7th)
The traditional driving tests of the Vintage S.C.C. took place, in traditionally damp and cold conditions, at Silverstone, haying brought in an entry of 55, divided into three classes, 50 pre-war cars being shared in five instances by more than one driver. Standard sports cars, as recognised by the V.S.C.C., predominated, but there were seven modified sports cars and 19 touring cars. Unfortunately the only Edwardian entry, Goodman's 1913 Napier, did not make an appearance. The tests, of which there were seven, were more elaborate than usual and some of them, like the zig-zag acceleration sprint in front of the pits, quite long, although a limit of 200 yards, as you may or may not know, has to be set these days to keep the R.A.C. happy.
As the competing cars lined up to go out to the first test, which was a matter of garaging correctly four times against the watch, we noticed that quite a number had the appearance of being in everyday use, which makes a change from the better-than-new type of restoration which tends to scare the impecunious away from vintage motoring. Perhaps the better cars are kept for summer events, for there were some quite worn-out bodies about, apart from this reporter.
This observation apart, Hood's 1926 4½-litre Bentley had a Sarthe look about its front mudguard; Pack's Aston Martin, a 1931/38 model, sported bonnet straps and long radius arms to locate its back axle (but had the decency to call itself a Special), and Dodds' nice 1928 Riley Nine tourer seemed to have a somewhat "quick" clutch.
Mark Joseland was driving the Footitt A.C./G.N., which arrived on a trailer and missed one of the "garages". The Marshes drove their 1929 Austin 7 Mulliner coupé with about as much abandon as is usually reserved for the E.R.A., three-wheeling on the quicker manœuvres, Mrs. Cardy braved the December nastiness with hood down and screen open on her 1925 Austin Chummy, Crouch produced that splendid rear-wheel-braked 1925 Citroën light lorry which must surely have crossed over the Channel by mistake and found itself being timed by V.S.C.C. officials, and Hannis' 1934 Riley Nine tourer was one of the "everyday" ones. So was Haywood's 1932 Alvis coupé, which had cycle-front wings, but Lee's 1935 3½-litre Lagonda had a workmanlike replica tourer body finished in a two-tone blue-and-aluminium scheme done with an artistic brush. Conway was driving his very covetable "real" Type 43 Bugatti, non-originality apparently being confined to a Lucas quartz-halogen spot-lamp.
For comfort in cold tests it would have been hard to better Cole's 1930 Lancia Lambda saloon, with original wicker front seats. There were a couple of neat two-seater Mortis-Cowleys competing, both 1926 models, of which Naish's had an Oxford engine, which assisted it to bend its o/s front tyre in the test which involved making 360 deg. circles as fast as was expedient, at Woodcote corner. The Marsh Austin looked top-heavy for this task, but Wrapson's 1936 Riley tourer was very sedate in spite of having its screen folded down. The Clark/Winder Meadows H.R.G. demonstrated the meaning of understeer, Arnold-Forster did some very fine intended tail-slides round the markers in his Anzani-engined Frazer Nash, and Hainsworth really threw his 1931 Meadows Frazer Nash about, in spite of the touring demeanour of its fabric Wilder body, which actually has a door. It was wearing a badge on its filler cap. Giles' 1931 Frazer Nash over-slid and lost time in consequence.
In the Zig-Zag Johnson's interesting 1930 straight-eight Amilcar with replica touring body was smooth and quiet, a higher gear snicking in towards the end, and in this test Farquhar's ex-Dixon Riley Nine, in the running for the Lycett Trophy, was extremely fast, as was Moffatt's wicker-seat Brescia Bugatti, after a hesitant start. Edwards' Ulster Aston Martin was another quick one, and to these cars the term "roll" must be beyond comprehension. Jones' 30/98 Vauxhall took it just on sliding point, to the accompaniment of fine vintage noises, Lee in his Lagonda was a bit more cautious, Marsh got into top gear in his snug Austin, and Lilley was also able to change up, in his 1935 4½-litre Lagonda. Marshall's 1931 18/80 M.G. was at sliding point.
After this the cold drove us into the Paddock, where we were intrigued by Bill May's 1934 Frazer Nash, an o.h.c. Gough car which Collier and Mitchell-Thompson drove at Le Mans in 1935. It has twin quick-action fillers on the scuttle, another on the valve cover, and the drives for the twin blowers, although the engine is fed by two large S.U.s. There are even the saw-cuts on the screen frame, caused when a piece of radiator hose was hastily cut to size during a Le Mans pit-stop.—W. B.