Veteran - Edwardian - Vintage, January 1978

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A section devoted to old-car matters

VSCC Silverstone Driving Tests

It had been said that only mad dogs and Englishmen stay out in the noon-day sun. It might equally be said that only VSCC members enjoy driving-tests at Silverstone in December! Which they did, in the bitter temperature of December 3rd, an entry of 66 of them, their cars divided into three capacity classes. It was rather a case of one’s life preserve by Functional clothing (advert!). it is rumoured that this winter fixture may not happen at this venue again, although the reason seems obscure–perhaps the circuit-owners fear a glacial subsidence . . .

Looking at the cars lined up in the Paddock I noticed that Majzub Junr. had the hood up on his Brooklands-model Riley 9 as if for the opening laps of an Ulster TT, in spite of which he reported a very cold run to the circuit (his father, he tells me, has bought the ex-Rowley 2-litre V12 Delage), that Bullet’s 1928 Chummy Austin might have been going up aloft, looking over the folded windscreen of the only Edwardian running, his 1910 1.7-litre Adler, the brass of which shone not as diamonds. Ellison’s 1,550 c.c. Riley Special was one of the trailered ones, Scholes drove a Riley Kestrel Six, March presumably represented the Metal Box Company in his 1927 Austin saloon, which performed admirably, the angle of roll alarming and the cogs snicking in. Monro’s GN Special had shed reverse but this so-necessary adjunct to driving-tests was duly retrieved; it sports an SU carburetter with modern pancake air-cleaner to ensure hygiene for the Model-A Ford propellant.

It was pleasing to see that the tests had been laid out with plenty of ambition, so that highish speeds could be achieved. In one of them, involving driving round a pylon formed by the support of the bridge over the circuit, those with poor steering-locks came very close indeed to a solid brick wall, and no sandbags or Armco were in evidence, a fine swan-song for Clerk-of-the-Course Tony Bird! Disasters were fortunately avoided, and it was all more heart-stopping for those of us watching than for the drivers, who could presumably better gauge the proximity of mudguard to the hardware. It was apparent from this tests that Riley have commendably small turning-circles and that skilled Frazer Nash conductors can get the tail round in a handbrake turn, although one of them was too slow to effect this. It worked nicely for Dods, however, whose AC Special must surely have made fastest time in the previous tests at Copse, where Ghosh’s 30/98 had experienced furious back-axle judder in reverse and Mann’s 4 ½-litre Invicta overshot the finish-line, a thing in England did later in the round-the-pylon thing. The latter test would seem unfair to the longer cars but maybe the idea was that those with greater swept-volume would have the advantage in acceleration; but wouldn’t’ the bigger cars be heavier to stop? Many needed to reverse in this one, and those who had to reverse twice included Ghosh, Hayward’s sad Hillman 14 tourer, Batt’s Lagonda and the Invicta. Conway made shed a racing start in the faster of his Type 43 Bugattis, the GN shed a chain but continued undaunted, Steddy’s 12/50 Alvis was slow but neat, Binns was very quick, fairly hauling the steering-wheel round in his Riley, Odell’s Riley just missed the wall, and Rouse’s 1929 Singer Junior saloon, with correct telescopic shock absorbers, was among the many that reversed once. Tony Jones’ Austin Chummy had sheared a wheel stud, en route, but he took over a Frazer Nash.

When I left at 3.30 p.m. they were still rushing madly round bollards at Woodcote and a Broadspeed TVR 3000M which had arrived looked like something from another world. Driving home, I noticed Majzub picking off the moderns on the road from Brackley to Banbury in his Riley far better than I could do in an Alfasud. . . .–W.B.

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