A Section Devoted to Old-Car Matters
VSCC Driving Tests (Dec. 5th)
Miraculously the weather was dry, but cold, for the traditional December frolics of the VSCC and the tests were run at comparatively high speed, involving driving skill and being a test of a car’s better qualities. But the entry was comparatively small, only eight in the Touring class and 49 all told.
The tests are difficult to portray but the cars are worth a few words. For once “ropy Griffiths’ Chummy Austin was not quite on form, a broken half-shaft having to be driven inwards, leaving but one driving wheel. But the brakes worked well and second class honours were achieved. Tony Jones was in his newly-acquired Dubonnet-i.f.s. Frazer Nash “Patience”, once owned by Mike Parkes, the front-end intended originally for Mays’ ERA causing severe understeer, which necessitated several reverses in the Pirouette test, which took place in alarming proximity to the pits wall.
Bough’s Riley Gamecock was propelled by a 1934 1 1/2-litre Riley engine, Roberts’ Frazer Nash was silenced by grace of a Courage Jackpot tin, and J. M. Hill had his 1930 Type 49 Bugatti out for the first time with its handsome replica Type 43-like body, the underbonnet scene of 16 plugs in a row fed from a single distributor and the original Schebeler carburetter splendid to behold.
Knight was there in his bogus-sports Riley Special, its headlamps professionally covered, Winder was really going in his Silver Eagle Alvis-powered Lea-Francis (both these vintagents obviously thrive on fresh air!), but Harding seemed to be preserving his 1928 Frazer Nash for better things to come. Two Austin Sevens actually rode to the tests on trailers, Raeburn, asked if his Nippy had its correct engine, replying “No, but it has a 1 5.16-in. crank”.
The Morris Sports driven by the Marsh brothers ate two teeth off its crown-wheel, the Frazer Nashes were in their element tail-sliding the pylons, Still being terrific and May in his 12/70 Alvis-powered car also doing hand-brake turns, but several of the Chain Gang lost time engaging reverse, like Upston and Giles, the latter with a beach ball on one side of his car, “to bounce me back if I overturn”. He also performed on a replica penny-farthing bicycle.
Nice’s Ulster Austin did the spirited manoeuvres on correct-size tyres, Newton drove a sports Frazer Nash-BMW Type 45 with Type 55 engine, and Black proved that the beautiful 1933 2.6 Alfa Romeo Castagna coupé, ex-Summers and the Hon. Patrick Lindsay, could do the tests effectively with no loss of dignity, in spite of having the high-speed blower. Mrs. Hogg added the feminine touch at a most unfeminine speed, in the well-driven Ulster Aston Martin, the white-helmeted Hayward was losing 7s.-a-gallon petrol from his 12/60 Alvis’ filler cap, and (dare I say it?) Fitzgerald was taking it gently in his i.f.s. Alvis Speed 20 tourer. Mark you, gentle driving often wins driving tests. In the “Pirouette” Cole’s Lancia Lambda fabric saloon had to use the grass, Perkins’ Riley Monaco fabric saloon spat back, Dr. Andrews’ Riley Nine fabric tourer spoke with its tyres, and if a blue Ulster Austin stopped at 45°, Conway Junr. in the Type 37A GP Bugatti (another bogus sports car but in a different idiom!) slid to 90°. It was all thoroughly good fun, after which many people went off to Leamington Spa for another Frazer Nash Section’s Christmas Party, at which tests of a different sort took place.—W. B.
First Class Awards: J. A. Griffiths (1930 Austin 7), K. Knight (1930/5 1 1/2-litre Riley), P. W. Still (1937/8 Frazer Nash), P. J. E. Binns (1939 1,100-c.c. HRG), and C. R. Newton (1938 1 1/2-litre HRG).
Second Class Awards: R. M. J. Andrews (1928 Riley 9), B. Harding (1928 Fraser Nash, R. G. G. Firmin (1936 1 1/2-litre HRG), and H. G. Conway (1928 Type 43 Bugatti).
Third Class Awards: K. M. Hill (1930 AJS) and B. Sismay (1934 2 1/2-litre Alvis).
The late Rex Judd
We regret to have to report, too late for inclusion last month, that Rex Judd, the great Brooklands racing motorcyclist, has died, at the age of 69, after a long illness. He will always be remembered in motor sporting circles and by a wider public, mainly for his great successes on Douglas and other machines and the enthusiasm he had for vintage motorcycles and the Sunbeam MCC Pioneer Run.
V-E-V Odds and Ends.—The Scottish Evening Express reported last December that a 1932 (1933 model) Morris Ten saloon had come on the market in Aberdeen, its total mileage since new a genuine 163, because its original retired school-master owner became ill soon after buying it and it had remained in his garage ever since. The garage dealing with it referred to it as “a very unusual motor car, to be offered to the highest bidder”. A gentleman, now over 80, son of one of the original partners in the boiler-making firm of H. Coltman & Sons, of Loughborough, recalls driving a Coltman car in a Herefordshire trial in the summer of 1909; he thinks only six of these 20 h.p. 4-cylinder cars were made between 1908 and 1909, although it seems that they were listed until 1913.
VSCC Lakeland Trial (November 14th)
Kirkstile Trophy: J. A. Griffiths (1930 Austin Seven).
Kirkstile Plate: B. B. D. Kain (1929 Bugatti Type 43A/44).
First Class Awards: K. M. Hill (1930 Alvis), R. C. Batho (1927/8 Riley-Amilcar) and C. R. Newton (1938 HRG).
Second Class Awards: W. L. T. Winder (1924 Humber), R. F. Griffin (1930 Morris), R. L. Heath (1929 Alvis), W. S. May (1926 Frazer Nash), D. A. Weeks (1929 MG), J. W. Rowley (1925 Vauxhall) and C. J. Bendall (1924 Vauxhall).
Third Class Awards: F. G. Giles (1928 Frazer Nash), C. A. Winder (1929 Lea-Francis/Alvis), P. R. Gledhill (1928 Austin) and P. Glover (1927 Alvis).
Ulmann attacks W. O. Bentley again
Alec Ulmann has a habit of raising interesting technical conundrums relating to motoring history, in Bulb Horn, the journal of the VMCC of America. Some time ago he sought to prove that W. O. Bentley copied unashamedly Mate Birkigt’s 1913 overhead camshaft Hispano-Suiza engine when evolving his famous 3-litre sports car. Ulmann remembers that he “received a reprimand from Mr. Bill Boddy, the very knowledgeable Editor of ‘Motor Sport’ Magazine” on that occasion. This has not deterred Ulmann from having another knock at Walter Bentley, in the Sept./Oct. 1970 issue of Bulb Horn.
He starts off by saying that having last summer been able to examine an o.h.c. four-cylinder 1913 Hispano Suiza engine, in a pick-up truck now being rebuilt near Gerona in Spain, he is more than ever convinced that in bringing out his 3-litre engine in the short space of time which elapsed between the signing of the Armistice and its announcement in late 1919; Bentley cribbed this Birkigt design. We have admitted the similarity of the Bentley engine to the 1914 GP Mercedes engine but unless Ulmann can show how W. O. could have come into possession of Swiss engine drawings during his military service (mostly in this country, temporarily in France) his charge in our view remains unproved.
Ulmann now attacks W. O. on another score. He compares the BR-1 and BR-2 rotary aero engines of the war years with the French Clerget 9-F engine and its Chiswick-developed 9-BF, suggesting that Bentley’s first aero-engine was a direct copy of the French one, having exactly the same number and size of cylinders, but weighing 31 lb. more and producing 156 rated h.p. at 1,300 r.p.m. against 202 rated h.p. at 1,350 r.p.m. of the Clerget. In saying the BR-1 was, power and weight apart, a “direct copy of the French-produced Clerget and also the British (172 mm.) variant” the American researcher has presumably compared these engines, detailed drawing by detailed drawing? The only evidence he has to reinforce his Bulb Horn article is hardly convincing—just a well-known photograph of a complete BR-2 engine, a cross-section of the 130 h.p. Clerget engine, a picture of a complete Clerget 7-F engine and a similar external view of a BR-1 engine.
As I remember it, Bentley was called in to eradicate unreliability in the RFC and RAF rotary engines and adding a little weight for a little less power at fractionally lower r.p.m. could well be his solution to this. Without knowing the intimate arrangements of Clerget versus BR-1 the fact, remarkable I agree, that they had the same 120×170 mm. bore and stroke, does not prove one to have been a crib of the other. I am on neutral ground in this argument, so little documentation on aero-engines, as distinct from aeroplanes, being available, apart from G. A. Burl’s WWI text book published by Charles Griffin & Co.—I am surprised that Putnam’s have consistently ignored this subject in their otherwise comprehensive aeronautical reference list.
Ulmann says, “rather than take the chance of being imprisoned in the Tower of London” he this time passes the onus to Glenn D. Angle, using data in his “Aircraft Engine Encyclopaedia—1921”. [If this was an annual reference work, perhaps it should be summarised and republished?—Ed.]. Ulmann says that after comparing illustrations and sectional drawings in that work, he is convinced that Bentley started his aero engine career by copying the 9-F Clerget, thus debunking any idea, for which the American researcher craves forgiveness for the blasphemy from the BDC, that W. O. Bentley’s BR-1 engine “bristled with great originality and daring design, with the object of obtaining a lighter and more efficient rotary engine than the Clerget”.
W. O. has plenty of admirers to defend him and on this occasion I cannot help much. It is obvious that his BR-t engine wasn’t lighter or more powerful, on Ulmann’s data, than the 9-F Clerget. But was it more efficient, in the vital sense of being more reliable? Ulmann himself says that the BR-2 engine “differs considerably from the prototype BR-1… and shows substantial increase in power and improvement in design”. So his criticism merely relates to BR-1 v. 9-F, for he goes on to say he is sure W. O. then “modified it, in a most brilliant way, I am sure”.
Well, what do W. O. Bentley’s supporters make of this? And does Ulmann have more evidence up his sleeve than his short article in Bulb Horn suggests?—I seem to recall that W. O. had infinite difficulty in obtaining financial reparation for his aero-engine work from the War Office, which could have been because they felt Clerget had initiated the work. We would seem to need a modern Geoffrey de Holden Stone to sort this one out!—W. B.
The Frazer Nash Section of the VSCC held its Christmas Party at Leamington Spa on December 5th, 228 people attending. The guest speakers were Michael Parkes and W. Boddy.
A remarkable Bentley
In “Cars In Books” last month I referred to the book (“Wild Irishman”, by Peggy Hamilton) about the career of C. W. F. Hamilton, who, among other things, came to England on holiday from his native New Zealand, bought a 4 1/2-litre Bentley four-seater and won three races at one Brooklands meeting with it, as this well-written book recalls.
I would not go as far as to say Hamilton was the only driver to score a triple-victory at a pre-war BARC meeting—I am too indolent to check, but it is probable that in his day Parry Thomas achieved this.
Nevertheless, for an amateur driver from down-under, this was quite a performance. Hamilton and his wife watched the 1929 Le Mans race on their way to England. Although this was won by the Barnato/Birkin Speed Six Bentley, 4 1/2-litre cars of this illustrious make occupied 2nd, 3rd and 4th places ahead of the Stutz and Chrysler opposition. So perhaps this decided Hamilton to get a Bentley when he got to England.
The car he bought was a used one, and as he is said to have worked on it at the factory (or had work done on it there?), and Bentley Motors had several used cars for sale in 1930, he probably bought it from them. The BDC archives reveal that it was given hour-glass pistons, flat-headed inlet valves, etc., and its springs were corded, while Hamilton borrowed a Brooklands silencer—so apparently he had no intention of staying long in this country!
He had entered the Bentley for two races at the March 1930 Brooklands meeting but non-started in both of them. It was at the Easter races that he put up such a remarkable performance. He came out first for the two-lap Bentley Handicap for the Woolf Barnato Cup (valued at £30). Seven 4 1/2-litre Bentleys were entered, by J. W. Anderson (driver, C. W. Fiennes), the Hon. Dorothy Paget (driver, Major H. Butler), M. O. de B. Durand, H. N. Holder, The Hon. Richard Norton, Hamilton, and Major H. Butler (driver, Noël Guinness). Three of these Bentleys were green, two, including the New Zealander’s, were black, one was aluminium and red. They were allowed to be in racing trim and a handicap was somehow worked out, Guinness and Hamilton going off first, 23 sec. before Fiennes in the scratch car. Holder was the only non-starter.
Whereas Guinness in Major Butler’s car only managed 78.79 m.p.h. for his opening lap, Hamilton did his at 85.57 m.p.h., the most accelerative lap in the race, only Durand getting anywhere near it. He then did his flying lap at 103.11 m.p.h., and, although Durand made best lap in the race, at 103.76 m.p.h., this was insufficient to make up a seven-second handicap deficiency. Hamilton had won his first one!
He was due out again for the Bedford Long Handicap, after watching Birkin set a new lap record of 135.33 m.p.h. in the blower 4 1/2 single-seater Bentley. The handicappers, Ebblewhite and Dutton, were by now wary of this unknown New Zealander and his second-hand Bentley. He had been down to start second in this race, 1 min. 21 sec. after “Nobby” Spero had been flagged away in his Austin Seven. But now Hamilton was put back another five seconds, behind Daybell’s 1922 TT Sunbeam, Pole’s mysterious 3,385 c.c. Mercedes and D. M. K. Marendaz in a Graham-Paige. There was, however, nothing to catch the Bentley. It opened at 87.38 m.p.h. and, lapping at 105.74, 107.80 and 105.52 m.p.h., again came first past the finishing line, to the jubilation of Mrs. Hamilton and her friends, who had gone to the Members’ Bridge to watch. Birkin, on scratch, equalled his recently-established lap record on two laps, but to no avail against Hamilton, who was followed home by E. M. Thomas’ Bugatti and Dunfee’s Bellot.
Determined to have his money’s worth while in England, as a change from racing his 1914 TT Sunbeam on New Zealand beaches, Hamilton had entered for a third race on this Easter Monday, The Sussex Long Handicap. In the race card he had a start of 52 sec. from Chris Staniland’s scratch blown 1 1/2-litre GP Bugatti. But by now the handicappers were scandalised, and they added another 20 sec. to the Bentley’s start. So there was Staniland, now only 32 sec. behind, Malcolm Campbell’s blown straight-eight Bugatti only 20 sec. in arrears. And off before the black Bentley went 14 other cars, led by Victor Horsman’s little Triumph Super Seven. The latter, unable to lap at more than 63.84 m.p.h., perhaps hardly counted, but there were Austins, Bugattis, two Amilcar Sixes and Durand’s Bentley to overtake. Hamilton was equal to it. He did his s.s. lap at 89.1 m.p.h. and continued at lap speeds of 106.42 and 105.29 m.p.h. to gain his third victory of the afternoon, finishing ahead of Cyril Paul in Mrs. Miller’s 21 1/2-litre Benz and Campbell’s Bugatti. On his holiday down at Weybridge he had won the Barnato Cup and other awards, to a total value of £90—not bad for a first appearance at the Track, playing very much “away”!
Hamilton does not appear to have raced again in this country before returning home. But (was it coincidence?) his Bentley was shipped out to New Zealand by someone else, after the war, and is today owned in that country by a BDC. member.—W. B.