A Second Devoted To Old-Car Matters
THE firmly established link between Mumm Cordon Rouge champagne and vintage cars was further cemented last year when Robin Wodehouse of Cock Russell Vintners, led a team of five vintage Lagondas to the cellars of G. H. Mumm in Reims to see the end of a great 1973 vintage.
The five vintage and near-vintage Lagondas were quickly recognised as they made a lap of the Reims Grand Prix circuit and a crowd gathered at the Mumm cellars to inspect the cars. The local press described the visit as “fres britunnique“. Lagondas are seldom seen in France, but their name is celebrated, for they won the Le Mans 24-hour race in 1935. Twelve members of the Lagonda Club had braved the first autumn frosts for the journey from Dieppe to Reims. This ordeal was fully recognised “vin d’honneur” at the Mumm cellars at a celebration dinner in l’Hotel Munun, whose kitchen would immediately rate three stars if it were open to the public and not reserved for the friends and customers of G. H. Mumm. The oldest car was Michael Hallow’s 1930 16/80 two-seater, which was accompanied by 2-litre Lagondas owned by Roland Morgan, Alan Elliot and Mike Gaber. Robbie Hewitt in her immaculate 3-litre added a female touch. Unfortunately, Robin Wodehouse’s own Lagonda could not join the party, as a major rebuild had been delayed by his recent marriage and honeymoon.
All five vintage cars completed the 500 miles return trip without mishap, despite the hospitality provided by G. H. Mumm.
The year ahead
IF the Middle East permits us sufficient oil and the political connivings out there do not erupt into a World conflict and cause us all to be obliterated, along with all the old and not so old cars, there should be a good 1974 season in vintage circles. The VSCC has announced its customary fixtures, which are to include the Pomeroy Trophy contest, in which modern cars meet vintage and pvt. on an equal footing, the two Silverstone Race Meetings, the splendid OuIton Park race meeting, the traditional Prescott speed hillclimb, another at Shelsley Walsh in conjunction with the long-established Midland AC, a fourth race meeting which could be held at Donington Park if it dots not happen at Llandow, this to replace the Thruxton Meeting, and the usual trials, driving-tests and beauty-shows. Towards the end of the year the Welsh and Lakeland trials loom large and the Light Car Section (conservers of fuel) intends to have its Welsh week-end, this time based more on the 1924 Six Days, and its Summer rally.
So the prospect is bright, if . . . The VSCC seems to scoop the biggest gates EU its race meetings, but at the JCB, BDC, AMOC and other meetings the post-war historic sports cars get a look in, joined by post-war historic racing cars which the VSCC also encourages. Perhaps becoming a trifle troubled about recent trends, the VSCC has been taking a look at the employment of post-war engines and parts in cars purporting to be pre-war pvts. There must be a terrible temptation to use a “modern” Bristol power unit in a 328 BMW or as the motive power of what is otherwise a vintage special. So the vigilant VSCC Committee has been taking stock of such possible ploys. Although not yet perhaps of what someone has described as so-called vintage cars clutched by Borg and Beck, braked by Lockheed, cooled by Ford Transit water pump and steered by Ford couplings, etc. There is also the vexed question of whether a post-war Jaguar gearbox should be allowed to serve in a pre-war car, especially one of a different make. The problem is a difficult one to solve if fields are to be maintained at decent numbers, performance to be what spectators like to see transmitted to the road, and Scrutineers allowed to retain their sanity. The thing is the more difficult because there are so many much-admired cars about these days which, from sheer necessity, have had to have many of their component parts, not to mention their bodywork, newly-fabricated in very recent times, because otherwise they would never run again or look anything but bare chassis.
I think all we can do is not to take vintage affairs too seriously, while being very thankful that it is controlled by a Club which will not let degeneracy, if such is happening, go too far.
Incidentally, I made the point recently that criticism in certain purist quarters that a 4½-litre vintage Bentley engine should not be installed in a vintage 3-litre Bentley chassis can be countered by the fact that that is just what Bentley Motors did in 1927. Now I am told I was overlooking the other fact, namely that at Le Mans in 1927 the works used the larger engine in a 10 ft. 10 in. wheelbase chassis because on the wheels and tyres then available the 9 ft. 9 in. chassis would have been uncontrollable with such power, although with today’s tyres the shorter chassis Bentley is controllable when endowed with a 4½-litre engine poking out maybe 180 b.h.p. and weighing around 19 cwt. Any comments?—W.B.
The Brooklands society dinner
SOME three hundred members and their guests attended the Annual Dinner of the Brooklands Society held in the Lord’s Tavern last November. Guest of Honour was His Grace the Duke of Richmond and Gordon with the Duchess. The Duke was a popular and successful Brooklands racing driver, winning a ‘Double-Twelve” race for MG and a BRDC “500” with S. C. H. Davis in a supercharged Ulster Austin Seven. Responding to the toast of “The Guests”, he emphasised the everlasting debt the British motor industry owes to the lessons learned on the Weybridge track and went on to recall nostalgically the magic of the place — a spell which no modern car racing circuit has ever been able to exert.
Many pre-war drivers and Brooklands personalities attended the Dinner including the Marquis of Camden, Mr. R. Dicker, who was associated with the Alcock and Brown historic trans-Atlantic flight, E. C. Gordon England, ABC and Austin Seven driver and pioneer airman, and Charles Gardner, Public Relations Manager of British Aircraft Corporation whose epic commentary on an aerial dog-fight above Dover is one of the wartime broadcasts which will always be remembered.
Raymond Mays, holder of the lap records over two Brooklands courses, Cyril Paul, Michael May, George Abecassis, Harvey Noble, H. T. H. Clayton (whose Amilcar finished in a tree after going over the top of the track during one race without injury to the driver), Li Col. Hazlehurst, the Salmson exponent, etc., etc., Ian Connell, W. B. Scott, Victor Horsman, Bert Denly, for many years associated with G. E. T. Eyston and Leo Villa, the list is inexhaustible.
The Chairman was the Brooklands Society President, T. A. S. O. Mathieson. One of his tasks was to perform the unveiling ceremony of a splendid portrait, commissioned by the Society from Miss Josephine Aveline, of the late H. F. Locke-King, who created the Track and aerodrome over part of his Weybridge estate.
A place of honour has been reserved for this picture on a wall in the Steering Wheel Club—the mecca of modern motor racing enthusiasts. [A pity it couldn’t be hung somewhere in Mr. Locke-King’s old house. But the Society did unveil a plaque in the Brooklands Clubhouse recently and its members are to be very warmly congratulated on having cleared the member’s banking of so much natural and man-made post-1939 litter.—ED.
THE British Racing Mechanics Club is now a well-known organisation. But delving into office archives the other day I came across a note about its origins. The first dinner was held at Pagani’s on February 15th, 1936. The late Ken Taylor was in the Chair and the dinner had been organised by “Dunlop Mac”, F. G. Skelton, Jock Pullin, D.
McLeod and A. Hodge, so that the drivers they slaved for “could see them with their overalls off”. Hugh P. McConnell replied to the toast of the Guests. It seems that it was then that the Club was formed, at the suggestion of Percy Bradley, Clerk of the Course at Brooklands. Among others present were F. G. Craner of Donington, Sammy Davis and Tommy Wisdom. We have a note of everyone, in fact, but it would make sad reading, because so many have passed-on. Let it be said that every racing mechanic of note was present, except for Bert Denly, who was working. Amusingly, the racing mechanics were referred to in those days by the initials BRM.—W.B.
WE hear that Alec Woodhead’s Car Recovery Service Club, which exists to get any broken-down vehicle back home from anywhere on the British mainland, has caught on so successfully after being advertised in these pages that he has had to order four new trailers for next year. Apart from collecting a car, the CRSC can also convey them to any address in this country.
The advance of the bogus
LAST October, at the time of the London Motor Show, we received an intimation that Jackie Stewart would be driving to the Press Day at Earls Court, which clearly isn’t the sole reserve of working journalists, in a replica 1901 Ford runabout, and be followed by some glamour girls in a replica 1901 Oldsmobile. While I was held up in a monumental petrol-wasting traffic jam opposite Harrods the other day, two of these replica things passed in the opposite direction. Anyone acquainted with veteran cars could tell at once that they were bogus. Now no-one minds Stewart having fun with the Pets before settling down to family life with Helen, which was the reason for his retirement from racing. But if he wanted to cut a Show-time dash on an old-type car, why on earth didn’t he ask the VCC to provide one? I am sure many of their members would have been very glad to oblige, with genuine veterans.
I see that last year at Penshurst, where nearly 400 genuine old vehicles were rallying, a replica electric child’s GP Bugatti was listed along with the four genuine Bugattis and that a Dri-Sleeeve was sandwiched between a pre-war Dodge and a 1939 Ferrari in this Pageant of Motoring. The advance of the bogus.—W.B.
V-E-V Miscellany.—The person who was reported last month as having discovered a Talbot-Simmins has also found the remains of a 10/30 Alvis in a sorry state, which it is hoped to restore. The 1930 M-type MG Midget which was raced at Le Mans and Spa by Sir Francis Samuelson, is being rebuilt in Worcestershire by someone whose father saw the Fiat-Napier Match Race at Brooklands in 1908 and who rook him there in 1924, and who learnt to fly in an Avro in the mid-‘thirties. The Austin Seven Special with the Reg. No. OK 7055 is about to be made into a proper replica of the car which carried that number in 1923 and which was successfully raced at Brooklands by Capt. Arthur Waite, even to its fabric-covered body.
The Syon Park “History On Wheels” Museum has added to its collection a 1929 Jensen-bodied Avon Standard two-seater, a 1913 1,300 c.c. four-cylinder Henderson motorcycle, a 1927 Citroën Kegresse and a 1913 Lancia armoured-car. The Citroën was found derelict in 1972 in a Normandy farmhouse and restored last summer. Three others exist in this country but this is the only military version remaining. The Lancia is claimed to be the only completely authentic pre-war armoured-car in existence. It seems that 16 were ordered by the War Office and used on the Austrian/Italian border and as patrol cars in Syria. Only six appear to have survived and these were shipped to Ireland for use by the Royal Ulster Constabulary against the IRA in 1920 and were rearmoured for the same purpose in 1950. After which they were sold as scrap and the plating removed from all but one, which was found in a Dover scrap-yard last year. It is said to be mechanically perfect, in which case it could not have been the sorry specimen we encountered at art auction-sale in Frimley many years ago. It seems possible that some of these Lancias also served in the London Anti-Aircraft Force during 1915-1918.
Ever since Raymond Mays persuaded Mumm, the champagne people, to let him use the name “Cordon Rouge” on his Bugatti in 1923 they have shown much pleasure in the association. This came to a head last November when they gave a luncheon for Mays at which the Managing Director of Cock Russell Vintners presented him with a painting by Dexter Brown of the Bugatti in action. Amhurst Villiers, who tuned the Bugatti to run on methanol fuel, flew from Majorca, where he now lives, to the luncheon. The Mumm Cordon Rouge link with vintage racing is to continue in 1974. Indeed, a replica Cordon Rouge is being prepared as part of a Mumm advertising campaign and there is to be a special Cordon Rouge/Mays meeting at Prescott this year.
Further to our recent report about sonic old cars for sale in Sri Lanka, mainly post-vintage Austins, we now learn that these also include a 1935 Buick and a 1928 Ford. The Alvis CC of NSW held a 24 hour/1,000-mile Anniversary Run, in which two 1923 duck’s-back 12/50s took part, owned by Rob Gunnell and Max Honston. Both covered 1,004 miles in the time-limit, using ordinary roads, although Honston had to replenish his radiator with water every 50 miles because an old weld in the head had opened up. No tender cars or spares accompanied the cars and the time included the refuelling and meal stops, The Veteran CC has issued its eleventh “Veteran Car Handbook” containing voluntarily-contributed articles by Bill Roddy, Cyril Posthumus, J. C. R. Dennis, Tom Brahmer, G. N. Georgano and George Brooks.
V-E-V Odds & Ends.—An MBW advertisement in a 1973 issue of Paper featured Lord Northcliffe leaving Victoria Station in 1909 accompanied by Louis Bleriot after the latter’s pioneer cross-Channel flight, to a positive barrage of waving straw-hats. The car is obviously Lord Northcliffe’s Mercedes. It carries the Reg. No. LB 5500. It would be interesting to know whether it was another Sixty, which has not survived in this country, as it is not one of the three reported on in the August 1973 MOTOR SPORT.
If all is well, the VSCC Measham Rally will take place on January 5th/6th but it looks as though the RAC ban on rallies may well apply to it. An Austin Seven van belonging to City Caterers was seen motoring in London recently. The owner of a Peckenham Special, Reg. No. HPB 270, seeks information about it.
The 1930 M-type MG Midget which Sir Francis Samuelson raced at Le Mans and Spa is being rebuilt in Worcestershire by its war-time owner and someone else is starting a reconstruction of the works Austin 7 OK 7095, which was raced successfully at Brooklands in 1923 by Capt. Waite.
“Bristol to brands hatch Exhibition at Beaulieu”
WHEN the 500 c.c. racing car was mooted just after the war, it was expected to provide truly inexpensive racing, the cars likely to be simple, even belt-driven cyclecars of modernised Bol d’Or conception. This was how Kenneth Neve and Joseph Lowry and others had seen it, when writing articles for MOTOR SPORT during the war. It was not to be! Soon expense increased as twincam Norton and other costly engines were put in the back of Cooper space-frame chassis. In the end, 500 racing died. It was not unlike present-day Formula Three in some ways and academic interest in it has been revived of late by the creation of the 500 Association.
Lord Montagu now has an exhibition of the old 500 racing cars, at the NMM. It opened on December 16th and closes on January 27th. At a special luncheon at Beaulieu on January 13th, well-known 500 racing personalities will be present and if any have not heard of this gathering, Lord Montagu would like to hear from them. If there is by then little petrol available, this may well resemble war-time motoring parties, with ingenious travel methods being employed. It is hoped to have Cooper, Kieft, Emeryson, Staride, Strang, JBS, Monaco and Wasp 500s on show, with suitable background material, and I hope they will start at least one of them up.—W.B.