Veteran Edwardian Vintage, January 1982




A talk with a Motoring Barrister

SOON after I had referred, in the August issue of MOTOR SPORT, to the hearing of an appeal against a 1932 Brooklands race decision at which John Cobb was represented by the Hon. Ewen Montagu (later a QC and then a Judge), Lord Montagu of Beaulieu happened to be lunching with the Barrister and mentioned the article to him, the outcome being that it was suggested that it would be worthwhile for me to meet Ewen Montagu. It was an interesting meeting.

First, I asked about this motor-racing appeal. It was heard at the RAC in Pall Mall, with Lord Halsbury presiding. As there was no retiring room for Ewen Montagu and Ernest Hancock, who represented George Eyston, the latter being of the opinion that he should have been awarded the race, the Barristers, parties and witnesses all used the Club bar for this purpose, which, I gather, was quite agreeable to them. It may be remembered that Cobb had crossed the finishing line first in this 100-mile outer-circuit race-of-giants (what a golden-age at Brooklands!, in the 10.5-litre V12 Delage, averaging 126.3 m.p.h., with George Eyston in the 8-litre sleeve-valve single-seater Panhard-Levassor only 1/5th-of-a-second slower. Eyston was persuaded. by Kaye Don, I believe, to appeal, saying Cobb had baulked him. The BRDC Stewards deliberated for 2.5 hours and then awarded the race to the Panhard. So Cobb had no option but to take his case to the RAC. He was a man of almost no words; all hr could say in his favour was “My car was faster”.

S. C. H. Davis realised this would just not do and recommended the Hon. Ewen Montagu to him, as a Barrister experienced in motoring affairs. Eyston responded by briefing Ernest Hancock to represent him. The case hinged on the fact that Cobb in the more accelerative Delage had led for six laps, but had then eased up to save his tyres, letting Eyston pass him. Eyston was also anxious to conserve his tyres and eased up in his turn, whereupon Cobb slipped by him on the inside along the Railway straight. Eyston immediately opened up again but was never able to repass the Deluge. He tried desperately but had insufficient reserve to succeed. The outcome rested on the fact that the Panhard, with the benefit of pulling out of the Delage’s slip-stream, could only get its radiator fractionally ahead of the other car on the Railway straight, and had then to drop back before the Byfleet banking. Using this argument, that Eyston had insufficient speed to out-pace Cobb, Ewen Montagu won the appeal and Cobb was given the race verdict. Afterwards George Eyston, always the gentleman racing driver, came up and thanked Ewen Montagu the the way he had conducted the cross-examination, although he had lost the race thereby. . . .

Sammy Davis had been quite right in telling Cobb that he could recommend to him a Barrister who knew something about cars. As a boy Ewen Montagu had been taught to drive in the grounds of his father’s, Lord Swaythling, estate where the mile-long drive and connecting roads provided ample space. At the time, Lord Swaythling’s cars were heavy De Dietrich landaulettes, his brother Gerald having recommended them, his first motor car having been of this make. The boy’s tuition was severe; if he no much as crunched a gear-change the chauffeur stopped the car immediately and made him get out and walk back to the house! Good chauffeurs at that time were personalities, and Gerald Montagu’s excellent chauffeur, Bell, considered it beneath his dignity to drive in London and a second chauffeur had to he employed, for driving his employer when he went to Town. The De Dietrich. unlike the first model that Ewen Montagu drove, had the then-advanced feature of high tension ignition but was exceedingly heavy on tyres, which were continually bursting. Palmer Cords were recommended but these fared no better and when Lord Swaythling suggested he be compensated, Palmer’s at first showed no interest. However, after His Lordship had threatened to take a stand at the Motor Show on which he would exhibit the failed tyres, labelling them “Only did 100 miles”, “Only did 200 miles”, etc., they saw the matter in a different light! In the end twin rear wheels were adopted.

Ewen Montagu rode a number of different motorcycles, including a Zenith Gradua, and he then graduated to a car in 1920, at Cambridge. It was a 1910 Lancia, “a joy to drive”, although it had to be used cautiously, as cars were barred by the Proctors to first-year Undergraduates. He then said the car in order to afford marriage and after his wife had had the misfortune to have her jewels stolen, they spent the insurance money on a new car. This was an air-cooled, flat-twin ABC, Ewen Montagu being influenced by the fact that S. C. H. Davis had had one of these, for many years. Like Davis, he ran his in the MCC reliability trials of the day and recalls an occasion when it shed a push-rod so that it was necessary, I believe, before continuing, to gain a bronze medal, to remove it from its nearly red-hot cylinder by the roadside and insert a replacement rod. Ewen Montagu is proud that, in spite of that, he maintained gold medal time. It was in this ABC that the couple drove to Lyons and back to see the 1924 French Grand Prix, in which Sammy Davis was riding as mechanic in Count Zhorowski’s 2-litre Miller.

Ewen Montagu became a competitor in many MCC trials and went occasionally to Brooklands; there he did a timed 100 m.p.h. but did not race. As a spectator he found the outer-circuit races rather dull, preferring those on the later Campbell road-circuit. The ABC was succeeded by one of the first Riley Nine tourers, which was entered immediately for a Land’s End Trial, the only running-in it got being from Coventry, where the proud owner had taken delivery, to the start of the trial. The clutch soon refused to free, so the Riley had to be driven all the way, including the test hills, with clutchless changes. Next came a 2-litre OM tourer, also used for MCC trials, with Ewen Montagu’s father’s chauffeur in the back to lend encouragement and, being very stout, to add weight to increase traction on the test hills. The attraction of a Talbot 105 caused the OM to be disposed of. Double-declutching was difficult on the Talbot, so the owner rigged up a Bowden-cable link between the gear-lever and the accelerator, which satisfactorily overcame the problem. Another interesting car Ewen Montagu owned was a Graham-Paige fabric four-seater which had been used for record-breaking. This keen motoring Barrister was a friend of H. M. Bentley, from whom he used to borrow 4.5-litre and 6.5-litre Bentleys, for the then-popular treasure-hunt frolics.

Ewen Montagu became well known for successfully defending clients summoned for motoring offences (he confesses to having been caught himself in a 20 m.p.h. speed-limit), and some of his work was for the Beardmore Company, at a time when their specially-designed multi-wheel lorries with trailers were permitted a higher speed than other similar vehicles, which caused much confusion both to the police and to Magistrates’ Benches around the country.

When family life precluded open cars, a Ford V8 station-wagon was bought through the Sales Manager of the Ford Motor Company. At the time a 30 m.p.h. speed-limit was imposed on cars with estate-car bodywork, the AA failing to win their test-case about this, probably because they chose to cite a chauffeur following his master’s car with a station-wagon full of personal luggage. The Ford was therefore sold to someone in Scotland, where speed-limits were of less concern, Ewen Montagu being appeased by Ford’s Sales Manager telling him he could get almost as much luggage into one of the new V12 Lincoln Zephyrs. That was followed by a rather remarkable car, a Packard Clipper which had done only 300 miles in the hands of a Far-Eastern owner and which had then been brought to England in an Aircraft Carrier.

In later years the subject of this interview succumbed to the charm and logic of Citroens. He has had a DS ever since, until his present Citroen CX with the torque-converter transmission. He also had a Citroen GS estate-car for a time, but using the M3 frequently for commuting between London and Buckler’s Hard where he kept his sailing boat, the buzzing of the little engine at 70 m.p.h became a nuisance. The point was made that although some people criticise Citroens for leaning over on corners, this never bothered Ewen Montagu, because the cornering ability is unaffected and still superb. — W.B.

V-E-V Miscellany:— A reader wishes to know who made the body of his 1939 Morris Eight ice-cream van, which is of the walk-through type, sign-written “Storer’s Ices” and registered in Northampton, W7013 (see above). He obtained the van from an ice-cream vendor in Sandhurst and before that it is thought to have been in the ownership of a Marine who kept it at the Royal Marine Barracks, Portsmouth, for several years, before he went overseas. The body is on a Series I van chassis. Letters can be forwarded. Although it is not a V-E-V matter, it is an historical one, the good news that the late Donald Campbell’s Land Speed Record car Bluebird K-7 is to remain in the National Motor Museum, where it has formed an impressive part of the special LSR display since 1972. The project dates back to 1955 and the car, with its 3,750 lb.-thrust Metropolitan Vickers Beryl engine, took the coveted record at 403.1 m.p.h. at Lake Eyre. Australia, in 1964, sponsored by Australian Ampol Oil, after BP had pulled out. After being at the Science Museum in London, Bluebird was taken to Beaulieu on loan. It has now been bought for £85,000, of which the NMM Trustees contributed £13,750, the Science Museum £4.750 and the balance by the National Heritage Memorial Fund. Even now the wheels and tyres belong to Dunlop Holdings Ltd., but fortunately are to remain with the car! The amount the sale realised goes to Donald’s widow and the executors of his estate. Sadly, Lady Campbell, wife of Donald’s famous father, died the day before the announcement that Bluebird had been secured for the nation.

E. D. Wooley has imported from Dublin, a rather unusual, early-model Type 10E Buick with the 22.5 h.p. 95 x 95 mm. overhead-valve engine, short-wheelbase, and the three-speed gearbox, not the planetary transmission of the Type 10, the conundrum being what constituted a 10E. The car has a racing-type body and quickly detachable mudguards and running-boards. Ted wonders whether this may be one of the 1909 Buicks sent to Ireland for sand-racing, or it could be one of the Bedford-Buicks which won gold medals in the Irish Reliability Trials that year. Can anyone assist, either with information about these Irish competitions or the car itself, and how does one tell a Bedford-Buick from an American Buick? With this Buick were some old motorcycles, including a 1926 sports-model Ariel, a 1923 350 o.h.v. New Imperial and a 1919 ABC Scooter. Wooley is also busy with a 1902 Type-O De Dion Bouton and a 1913 Type 144 Colonial-model Peugeot, the former possibly the oldest of its kind apart from the vis-a-vis De Dions. Two Phantom I Rolls-Royces and a H6C Hispano Suiza came up for auction in Paris last month, together with vintage examples of 8A Isootta-Fraschini and DlS Delage. The Amilcar Register has issued another of its very interesting illustrated Newsletters, edited by Brian Dearden-Briggs. It contains pictures of the Valz Amilcar / Salmson Rally, at which one arrival was one of these early four-cylinder sports Salmons with 1/4-elliptic front springs. A Lombard has turned up and is about to be rebuilt with yet another make of engine, a Salmson. If it is any consolation to the owner, we are told that the Lombard raced at Brooklands by Alastair Miller had one of his Wolseley Moth engines installed. When we reviewed “Schneider Trophy Aircraft” by Derek James last month we mentioned that the book referred to surviving Schneider Trophy machines but omitted to say that the US-built Cuniss R3C-2, oldest of the five survivors, is in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. It was the winner of the 1925 contest, flown by Lt. James Doolittle.

It is with deep regret that we learn of the death last month of Prince Marshall, Vice-President of the HCVC. He died in hospital after a kidney transplant. Our sympathy is extended to Prince’s wife Patricia and his two sons. The vintage commercial vehicle world will be much the poorer for the loss of this knowledgeable enthusiast, who specialised in the older ‘buses.

Arising out of the article on the 1.5-litre six-cylinder Autosports Singer, we have had an interesting letter from Johnny Clough, who had a Riley Sprite BFG 1, at a time when there was a team of these cars with Geoff Beetson having the prototype Sprite A KV 218. He also owned Singer KV 9246 after the war but gave up using it for trials after his marriage. As the original engine was very tired a 1.5-litre four-cylinder power unit was substituted, which was then supercharged, for one event, but the head bolts were too few and the gasket blew. Mr. Clough wonders if the engine is now in that Singer Nine team-car in Ireland. He also bought a Singer Nine Replica from Donald Barnes just before the war, and he makes the interesting point that he thinks these Singers were forced to race with the drop-arm steering, which caused all the trouble in the TT, because they had been designed with it and a drag-link would not have complied with the sports-car race regulations. (And we think production components could not stand up to the stresses of the TT). Three of these Singers were run in the 1938 Donington TT, remembers Mr. Clough, driven by Donald Barnes, Clough and Tommy Wisdom. Wisdom’s car was delayed half-an-hour due to a blown head gasket, but was still running at the end, Barnes finishing second, Clough fourth in their class. Clough’s car was sold to someone in Ireland when he joined the Navy. – W.B.