Matters of moment, July 1951


In the past we have been cynical of rallies in this country as a real test of driver and car or as a worthwhile event for experienced competitors. This cynicism does not extend to the recently-concluded R.A.C. Rally for virtually-standard production cars.

To average 30 m.p.h. for over 1,800 miles with two nights rest thrown in may sound comparatively like a picnic. But the R.A.C.—all credit to it—devised many schemes to make the actual Rally a very stern test indeed.

First came the Half-Hour of High Speed round Silverstone’s Club Circuit. We want right away to thank Col. Stanley Barnes from the depth of our heart for this highly instructive test. Watching it, we had the most entertaining day we have spent for a long time. Imagine all manner of cars, going straight out to attempt high average speeds on a circuit many of their drivers had never seen previously, with plenty of other “traffic” about, the corners slippery with rubber dust, spilt petrol and the sun, and this after having driven upwards of 110 hurried miles beforehand! It was a terrific test and if the only apparent casualties were two Javelins with run big-ends, a Studebaker and a Vanguard sans rather necessary front wheels (in 1951!), and the Ferrari out because of a vapour lock in the fuel system, a high proportion of the entry must have suffered later on account of the “edge” that this Silverstone “dice”—there is no other word for it—took off engines and brakes. Indeed, 15 more fell out in the road section from Silverstone to Dunoon.

It is a thousand pities that there was a muddle over the position of the finishing line, so that the R.A.C. upset many of the competitors, who protested, which in turn upset the R.A.C., who scrubbed the whole test so far as loss of marks was concerned. Will the Javelin drivers and the Vanguard driver send the Competitions Committee bills for new bearings and a new hub, we wonder? (It seems the Studebaker merely shook its wheel nuts off.) The fact remains that we want to see this kind of test repeated wherever possible in all future rallies.

Add to the speed test a timed climb of Rest and be Thankful during the first 920 miles of the Rally, ascents of Hard Knott and Wrynose passes, with gradients around 1 in 3 1/2, as part of a regularity test (!) in the next 320 miles, with a driving test calling for good brakes, amongst other requirements, on arrival, and the Rally is seen in Its correct perspective, as a fine test of man and machine. Nor was that all, for in the following 320 miles came another timed climb in the Eppynt mountains of Wales and, finally, after finishing at Bournemouth, there was a stiff examination for faults or damage before the best 25 cars in each of the four classes took a driving test on the promenade calling for all the qualities that go to make a pleasant, efficient touring-car in the modern sense of that term. Incidentally, the R.A.C. sensibly docked marks in the timed climbs for exceeding “standard time,” so that the faster cars automatically increased the severity of the test for their less fleet rivals.

Altogether, then, this Rally was a Very Good Thing. There are some cars in which you know before sampling them that a journey is going to be a very pleasurable experience. There are others which even a tired businessman would pick as offering restful, safe, fast travel under trying conditions, if no XK120. There is a third broad category embracing cars which, while less effective than those already outlined, nevertheless contrive to provide not-too-bad travel over long distances. The fourth and final category covers those vehicles, both vintage and modern, in which any longish run is tedious and the anguish experienced exceeded only when motorists are compelled to use British Railways. With no shadow of doubt it can be stated that each of the winners of the four Rally classes, no less than the cars winning the S.M.M.T. Team Award, fall either in the first or second of the categories just described. Consequently we offer well-merited praise to H.R.G. (J. V. S. Brown) for winning the Under-1 1/2-Litre Open-Car Class, to Jaguar (I. Appleyard) for victory in the Over-1 1/2-Litre Open-Car Class, to M.G. (J. Readings) for finishing first in the Under-1 1/2-Litre Closed-Car Class, to Vauxhall (R. Harper) for being placed first in the Over-1 1/2-Litre Closed-Car Class and to Morgan for winning as a team.

Elsewhere will be found the full results. Meanwhile, take note that in this First International Rally of Great Britain, Jaguar, H.R.G., M.G., Vauxhall and Morgan proved that they make cars in which the doctor, the scribe, the cop and the bride, and others who desire to reach journey’s-end as quickly as possible, are assured of tedium-free travel no matter how difficult the conditions. The sales of these ears should multiply in consequence. All praise to them, and to the R.A.C. for devising an International Rally that enabled them to show their “touring” paces to the world.