VSCC Driving Tests

VSCC Driving Tests, Enstone (Dec. 2nd)

Moved from Silverstone to this new venue on the lofty heights of Oxfordshire beyond Chipping Norton, these annual driving-frolics were, would you believe it, over-subscribed, with 70 entries, in three classes, proving quite conclusively that vintage-car owners are masochists. Because at this bleak aerodrome icy winds added to winter’s touch. However, with the suave comfort of an Opel Senator 3.0E saloon at my disposal, the icy, then foggy, journey from Wales was no hardship. One goes to these events to meet friends and see interesting motor cars, rather than to report, but the latter having become a habit, a few disconnected jottings follow.

Veteran and Edwardian cars are becoming more evident in these tests, which one might have thought unsuitable to them. This time Pack was running his delightful 1904 tonneau-bodied Darracq, which looked like those veterans of early Punch cartoons, especially with a cluster of people pushing it round and round in circles to try to get the 1,182 c.c. engine interested, and the lady passenger sheltering under an umbrella.

Roger Collings had a more aggressive-looking 1904 1.7-litre Humber, the twin-cylinder engine of which fired on the “bang-bang-nothing-nothing” principle when it wasn’t icing-up like most of the onlookers. Ryder-Richardson’s 1910 Adler, also of 1.7-litres but boasting four cylinders, was cocking its rear snubbers at the others and protecting its owner with a fine hood and side-pieces when he wasn’t doing the manoeuvres. Barry Clarke was sharing his 1913 Singer light-car with Tom Threlfall; it was nice to see this pretty little car out again, its bolster-tank body based on that of the 1913 Cyclecar GP Mathis, its radiator now graced with a Singer badge, and its wheels shod with 26 x 3 Dunlops. There should have been another Edwardian but Lloyd’s 1911 Renault was defeated by the weather from emerging from its garage.

In spite of the intense cold many ladies were competing, The overalled Judy Hogg was using Edwards’ Aston Martin Ulster, Mrs. Binns was in the 1,100 c.c. HRG, in which she corrected an error in gear selection when reversing so competently that her husband, who had done a very fast run in the car in Test 1, probably didn’t notice, while Mrs. Harcourt-Smith sensibly drove carefully about the pylons in a nice 1926 12/50 Alvis tourer, and Angela Cherret was in the comfort of her four-light closed Alfa Romeo. Among the men Hamish Moffatt was having problems, because having opened up an oil-gallery to cure banana-seizure (I am referring to his 1923 Brescia Bugatti) which he had experienced on a trial, the plugs were now oiling-up in spite of suffering high tension from twin magnetos. This made the task of Lyles, the second driver, difficult, apart from audible evidence that he could not change the Bugatti’s gears.

The VSCC is getting quite frivolous, the ten tests being named, respectively, “Bentley Burn-Up”, “Nash Thrash”, “Austin Acrobats”, “Sunbeam Saunter”, “Riley Riddle”, “Alvis Antics”, “Talbot Tangle”, “Leaf Lean” (very complicated), “Humber Hover”, and “Wolseley Whirl”. Whether this was a comfort to those driving cars so-named, or gave them an unfair advantage, I leave to psychologists. MGs were well represented with Secretary Smith of the Triple M Register in his PB, Bateman and R. C. Smith in J2s, and Hill drove a four-seater Morgan 4/4, which indicates how liberally-minded is the present-day VSCC. There were many Chummy Austin 75, from near-standard ones to “racers”, Ulster Austins, and Hirons was out again in his i.o.e. touring GN. It was definitely a day for fold-flat windscreens but Hirons is able to look over his inclined single pane of glass…. Macmillan handled his Cockshoot d.h. Rolls-Royce in his usual most un-Royce-like fashion, Sharpe slotted the wrong gear for reverse in Test 1, his smart 4¼-litre Bentley saloon, and Burrell treated his Bentley Special like a racer. Somehow Thomas’ 11/22 Wolseley managed to raise steam (all right, water vapour) at its radiator-cap, Costigan’s Riley scored a bollard in Test 1, Edwards wasted no time, taking his own route in this test, and Mason was in AM LM21-mounted. Diffy was in an all-aluminium Humber the bonnet of which is so long that it was alleged that he had installed a straight-12 power-unit. As I have said, reporting such frolics is rather futile and although a Papermate pen may write upside down, it doesn’t always do so on wet paper, so that is my excuse for sparing you more of these jottings.

– W. B.