Chain gangster at large

I have owned a 1935 “Chain Gang” Frazer Nash now for about eighteen months and during this time have reached the only logical conclusion—that there never was such an exciting and interesting car to drive, and never has any car had such unusual powers of road-holding and cornering. There is an old country saying that the only thing which makes as much noise as a pig squealing under a gate is another pig squealing under a gate. So it is with cars; the only thing for which I would ever change the ‘Nash is another ‘Nash.

This I was persuaded to do when I discovered the even more desirable qualities of a truly vintage Frazer Nash, which I think are best found in the Anzani-engined ‘Nashes.

It was at the Frazer Nash party last year (so many ‘Nash stories start there!) that I heard that Col. Ruck’s 1926 Anzani fast tourer was for sale, and during the evening, helped no doubt by the good god Bacchus, I determined to go and see, if not buy, this car at the first possible moment. This was towards the wee small hours, and after a wee small sleep, breakfast, and the traditional driving tests next morning, I set off.

Perhaps it could be said that I was in no fit state to drive to the heart of Wales, but I set out, after having first made sure that the broken spring on the Riley was still held roughly together by the crude clamp I had hurriedly made up the day before.

Just before dusk I was nearing Rhayader and glancing at the map, open on the seat beside me, I could see that the Rhayader-Llanidloes road was B 4518: I got a bit lost entering Rhayader, but soon saw a sign for B 4518 and followed it, thinking all was well. You can imagine my dismay when tired, cold and hungry, I found myself doing a tour of the Elan Valley dams by night, and in the snow! At one point, on a very steep mountainside, the Riley developed chronic clutch slip; the snow on the rear window made backwards steering hazardous to say the least, and I began wondering how often the mountain rescue teams did a routine cheek. By sheer coincidence I met a “mountain rescue” Land-Rover setting out from Rhayader on the way back.

Eventually I reached Llanidloes and after some time and searching found Col. Ruck’s house. I can now well believe that he first bought the Fraser Nash because it was the only car that would ascend the hillside to his house. Even with modern road surfaces, modern tyres and merely damp ground conditions I had difficulty 36 years later!

The next day I took the ‘Nash for a trial run. I must confess I was a little disappointed when I saw it, but the mechanical side didn’t seem too bad—until I broke the crankshaft.

It was almost a foregone conclusion, but I bought the car, collected it some time later and towed it home. If anyone has ever doubted it, I can assure them that a journey in an open car from mid-Wales to Surrey on the end of a rope is not to be recommended.

The next problem was the rebuild of the engine, and by good fortune the same friend who at the party had inspired me to buy the ‘Nash, was able to let me have a spare crankshaft. This was fitted, and after some more rebuilding—followed by repairs to the back-end when I broke a reverse pinion—we managed to get to Silverstone for the April V.S.C.C. Meeting. This was the car’s first public appearance in my possession and it was duly admired— though it might be better to say it caused considerable “interest.” Bodywork, as anyone who saw it can confirm, was in a pitiful state.

I am now in the process of building a complete new body. As I am trying to keep up with my college work at the same time, life is becoming somewhat crowded at the moment. However, it is very enjoyable; you see I haven’t yet sold the first Frazer Nash and can truthfully say, in a very offhand manner, “Of course, I have two Frazer Nashes!” The only drawback is that I’ve put a con.-rod through the block of the T.T. Replica and am now using yet another form of vintage chain-driven transport—a very old push-bike!—Keith Bowman.

Miscellany. A circa 1916 model-T Ford ‘bus, in excellent order apart from its tyres, and still displaying its route number and “Full” sign, has been found in N. Wales. It was operated by a local garage owner until 1923 but has not been run since. A 1928 23.5-h.p. Chrysler, which was used as a taxi in Rutland from 1930, has re-appeared in Oakham. Originally owned by Capt. Holfrey, he sold it in 1930 for £25, which seems a pretty sharp rate of depreciation! This Chrysler is said to have carried Field Marshal Goring, the Duke of Windsor, Lord Lonsdale and the Dowager Lady Gainsborough, and the back seat is still mud-stained where Von Ribbentrop slumped into it after a fall in the hunting field, while on a visit to England in the early ’30s. Never off the road until it was overhauled last year, it is claimed that this Chrysler has covered over 530,000 miles. A batch of old cars, mechanically apparently sound but bodily decrepit, including a Packard Twin-Six, early Daimler, various Lanchesters and Fiats and many American cars have been found, “dumped and forgotten,” by a reader, while the Keynsham Rugby Football Club want to find a good home for their 1924 Morris, converted into a field roller, as it has been replaced by a tractor and lives in the open. The query last month as to whether more than one Deemster is still in existence has resulted in news of a 1916 model in Sussex, a 1923 version in County Down and another well-preserved car at the Plough Garage, Minworth, Sutton Coldfield. Walsingham’s Garage, Botesdale, Suffolk, have for sale a twin-cam Salmson engine. A reader chanced on the 1928 SD 12/50 Alvis beetle-back, YU 4723, on the road recently and asks the owner to contact him—P. G. Stilwell, 3, Elmside, Onslow Village, Guildford, Surrey.

The V.S.C.C. has decided to charge a 5s. entrance fee to Silverstone Paddock at its future race meetings, in the hope of obviating the over-crowding at the April Meeting.

Old cars in France are now far fewer than was the case some years ago but on our journey to Monaco for the Grand Prix we encountered an Edwardian Zebre at the top of La Turbie, a 12/24 Citroen tourer in a remote village in the mountains, an early 11.4 Citroen truck in the Longres region, and a 7.5 “cloverleaf” of the same make on tow on the outskirts of St. Omer, and in an emporium near Nice we discovered a splendidly preserved Type 43 Bugatti with cast-alloy wheels and a rather more smoothly-contoured tail than that found on Type 43s that came to England, a veteran de Dion Bouton, a vintage Mors tourer, other small veterans, and what appeared to be a circa 1920 Panhard tourer and a circa 1915 de Dion tourer, also a “boy’s racer” with Amilcar chassis, an early vintage small chassis with a large “C” on its radiator, possibly a Ceirano(?), and a Type 46 Bugatti chassis. Some of these cars we encountered some years ago, so they have obviously not sold. Incidentally, the same yard contains an aeroplane, a Chevrolet Corvette and a 300SL Mercedes-Benz! At another scrap-yard in the suburbs of Nice there was a small Mathis coupe and a gaudily-painted but complete, circa 1928 9.5 Renault tourer, both of which could probably be driven home to England. But, apart from a few approximately-vintage Peugeot 201s, that was all we did see, in some 2,000 miles of Continental motoring.

In Spain, old cars seem even more scarce, for in and around Madrid we saw only an aged Leyland double-decker ‘bus still in service, a contrast to one of the very newest, special-bodied Leyland coaches, a rough old Guy ‘bus, an oldish BB Ford lorry, a broken-down model-A Ford and a 12/24 Citroen.

Appropriately, the winter 1961 edition of Bugantics arrived on that day in late May when the East wind was returning, to dispell any hope of an early Summer. Beautifully produced as usual, this belated issue contains an interesting article on her Bugattis by Miss Cynthia Turner (who used to run a Brescia in speed trials that had the most flared mud-wings ever) and a discourse on the missing Bugatti Type Numbers by R. Shepherd of Australia. The B.O.C. now has a new Secretary : J. H. Webb, 77, Longlands Road, Sidcup, Kent (FOOts Cray 8643).

Miscellany.—At a blacksmiths a Meadows engine and gearbox, said to be from a Salmons N.P. light car, have come to light. In the yard of a Berkshire garage we noticed an early Morris-Commercial lorry, apparently in process of restoration, and a circa 1930 P1 Rolls-Royce saloon.

3rd standard register rally (May 26th)

Driving Tests: F.J. Callis (1919 9.5-h.p. SLS-type 2-seater);

Concours d’Elegance: D.A. Newbury (1929 9.9-h.p. “Tourist’s coupe”).

Distance Award: J.O. Johnson (1930 9.9-h.p. “Selby” tourer – 183 miles.