Matters of moment, January 1977

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The future of MCC long-distance trials

In a world in which motoring and motor-racing have changed down the years; about as much as the political and environmental scene, there has been a pleasing continuity about those classic long-distance trials organised by the MCC—the Motor Cycling Club, founded in 1901, and thus the oldest Club of its kind in existence, a body which has long catered for both the car and two The MCC held its first Land’s End Trial in 1908, when this long run from London was an adventure in itself. It developed this event, along with its Boxing Night London-Exeter Trial and its London-Edinburgh Trial at Whitsun, into three superbly-organised sporting events, which were run year after year on the same succesful formula and with only minor variations on the original theme. These long-distance trials, for which ordinary cars, well driven, were as suitable as factory specials, flourished in the vintage period, a fine tribute to the unflappable organising ability of “Jackie” Masters and his wife Bee. They attracted enormous entries, running into hundreds, were regarded as useful publicity for new models, and were reported very fully in the motoring Press of the day, whose statImen, from Sammy Davis of The Autocar downwards, used to compete therein, in a variety of cars ranging from the latest sports cars to staid touring cars and saloons. The more enthusiastic drivers would drive back from the “Land’s End” and the “Edinburgh” on the Sunday, in order to attend the racing at Brooklands on the Bank Holiday Monday . . . as they can do today, but to BARC Thruxton or a similar modern race-meeting.

Now the pleasing thing is that these MCC classics (in which, incidentally, drivers competed against the Club, for medals, not against each other) continued after WW2., and they still take place. The “Edinburgh” has changed its character. But the “Exeter” and the “Land’s End” remain much as they were in the hey-day of their fame, when they attracted miles-long entry cavalcades. Indeed, on January 7th-8th another MCC Exeter Trial will take place, starting (the former Boxing Night start was long ago abandoned) from Cirencester, Reading and Lewdown, from around 22.00 hours onwards on the Friday night, converging onto a common route and including such traditional things as breakfast at Exeter and “observed sections” at Simms and Fingle Bridge (with three new hills), before finishing at Sidmouth. Apart from the weather-vulnerable solo motorcyclists, one can expect all manner of sidecar, three-wheeler and car competitors to support this historic and “different” trial, the cars including anything from Perpendicular Ford Pop, Dellow„ VW-Beetle and trials special to standard and rally-rigged saloons. Entries, which have closed, were limited, note, to 300.

Some years ago Motor Sport re-enacted some of the earlier MCC “Exeters” as a completely informal run for vintage light-cars, starting traditionally from Staines or Slough on Boxing Night. We had, however, to abandon these runs before they got into hot water from the RAC for not having a Permit and the “competitors” (but there were no prizes) for being without entry-fee receipts (because we didn’t charge a fee) and Competition Licences. For much the same reason the MCC, which has for so long kept as closely as possible to tradition in its “Exeter” and “Land’s End” Trials in spite of Police and public objection to certain hills being used, now points out that 1977 may see the last Land’s End Trial. They refer to the Department of the Environment’s Report on the “Control of Motor Rallies”, which sets out the findings of the Advisory Committee that sat last year, under the Chairmanship of Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, to look into matters affecting the future of this branch of motoring sport.

While there was nothing hostile to rallying at this meeting last May, which was attended by representatives of Car Clubs, Chief Constables, District Councils, Rural Protection Councils and the rest, the rules governing such events were recommended to be somewhat tightened-up; and the recent spectator accidents during the RAC Rally will probably cause this noose to grow tighter—remember that when Giveen’s ex-Mays Bugatti broke a belligerent onlooker’s leg at Kop Hill in 1925, this proved to be the last straw that caused the banning for ever more of speed events on public roads. What is troubling the MCC is that the DoE has questioned the scale of charges levied on motor competitions, although quite how a Government Department can take on itself to legislate over what the Clubs pay for their sport is not clear to us.

Anyway, following a 150% increase made in the statutory level of fees in 1975/76, the DoE has made it plain that it would like the RAC to charge from £1-per-vehicle in events with a route-mileage of up to 100 miles, up to £5-per-vehicle where the route-mileage exceeds 200. The Committee, St. Christopher smile on it, thought the latter fee a bit steep, as “it would be excessive in some cases, particularly events such as the Brighton Run for pre-war vehicles”, the Stationery Office report says. It thought that “route mileage and not mileage limits” should be the chargeable basis (we usually have difficulty in following the reasoning of official documents!). It recommended the fee to be £4-per-vehicle for a route-mileage of over 200. Now this means that in future the Veteran Car Run might cost anything up to £290 in DoE fees. But the MCC, whose historic and classic trials (they are not rallies), although they do continue to attract vintage entries—we remember Michael Ware’s fine showing with the NMM’s 30/98 Vauxhall, and Trojan, Frazer Nash and other runners—are mostly for more modern entries. Thus the Authorisation Fees for future MCC events could exceed £1,000. For a Club of this kind, which has to meet the high costs of organising these long-distance events (the famous Triple Award is still offered), provide the prizes, print the complicated Regulations and the programmes, etc., this is not on, even with a £5-pervehicle entry fee. It is another happy aspect of these MCC trials that the same staunch families turn out, year after year, to marshal a “section”, as they did at “Jackie’s” behest all those years ago. But there are still heavy organisational expenses for the MCC to meet, and an increase in Authorisation Fees from £110 to well over £1,000 is likely to be another “last straw.”

So the MCC asks all who believe, as it does, that this situation is iniquitous, and unique in amateur sport, to write to their MP, to the papers (including the local Press in areas from which spectators who enjoy MCC trials emanate), Car and Motorcycle Club Secretaries, and to the nearest MCC Committee member, by way of protest, suggestions and help. As the MCC says, life should be enjoyed and fulfilled as much as possible, not infringed by impositions of this kind. It enquires pertinently why the control of rallies and trials has to he ./iiiwiciat, where the money collected would go, why it is needed, and how it is justified? The MCC intends to ‘fight, charging each of its members a small levy to finance an organised protest. The very best of luck to it.

We have devoted this New Year Editorial to defending the MCC in its desire to Continue to run its long-established trials, which give so much pleasure to so many people, competitors, marshals and spectators alike. We intend to report on the 1977 Exeter Trial, an event which first took place in 1910, and we hope Motor Sport readers will turn out in large numbers to watch it, which will help to emphasise the popularity of this and other MCC events that are now threatened by the DoE with financial extinction. We are confident that those who do this will behave sensibly, parking their vehicles clear Of competitors’, obeying marshals’ instructions, and keeping well back on the “observed sections”. Further spectator accidents, in this or any other event, could well represent another set-back for this class of motoring sport. A happy New Year to you!

Petrol Economy and Lubricating Oil

A rather interesting document has come to hand, which indicates how the right oil can improve a car’s fuel economy. It relates to a run made in 1938 by A. G. Throssell, then-Motoring Correspondent of the Daily rdegivph, who was using his Vauxhall Ten, a car with 10,000 miles behind it, to cover a rally. He happened to start out from LondOn for Scotland on Budget Day, the car’s sump filled with Castrol XXL At Largs, in Ayrshire, where he met up with the rally cars, he had an accurate check made, by draining the tank, of his fuel consumption, which came to 451 m.p.g. The sump was also drained, and refilled with the then-new Castrolite oil. The petrol tank was replenished with the same gallonage as before, but the Budget announcement had put the price of petrol up to 1/7 1/2 d a gallon (8 1/2p), from 1/61d a gallon the day before, as Sir John Simon, Chancellor of the Exchequer, the rotter, had slapped a penny tax on every gallon.

The point of this story is that the Vauxhall, using the thinner Castrol oil, did 50.4 m.p.g. on the return journey. As Throssell said, had the tax been 2d instead of Id-pergallon, this use of the thinner new Castrol oil would have represented a legitimate form of tax-dodging. The Vauxhall, incidentally, had standard carburetter-settings, ticked-over normally, and used no oil in the 1,000 miles —but one wonders about its mileometer. Anyway, Castrolite is now well established and we know that thin multi-grade lubricants can save a useful amount of (80p-a-gallon) petrol. Which is one reason why I use Castrol in my own engines and those of the cars I test.—W.B.

Who’s for Models?

As many Motor Sport readers like models and as the Model Engineer Exhibition contains many transport items, and a few with motoring connotations, we would draw your attention to the 49th of the series, which runs from January 4th-15th, at the new venue of the Wembley Conference and Exhibition Centre, on Empire Way, close to the Stadium. Admission 50p.

From January 1st the Bugatti OC and the Ferrari OC. will separate, hut the Ferrari Handicap at Prescott will continue. The BOC Secretary is G. Ward. Prescott Hill, Gotherington, Glos., the 170C. Secretary is G. Eaton, 40, Bartholomew Street, Newbury, Berks.

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