Vintage Postbag

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91

The V.S.C.C. and 3-wheelers

Sir,

I was interested to read Mr. Boddy’s article in the June issue on the classification of vintage cars and motor-cycles, but I am surprised that the splendid photograph of the rude end of an Aero Morgan two pages later did not prompt him to comment on the annoying position regarding the present classification of vintage three-wheelers.

There has been controversy since the Great War as to whether a three-wheeler is a car or a motor-cycle, and during the vintage period three-wheeled cycle-cars competed in various types of event in three basic classes: (1) in the 1,100-c.c. class with four-wheelers, as in the early 200-Mile Races, and in the Light Car Club Relay races, (2) in the three-wheeled cycle-car class, as in the New Cyclecar Club’s meetings at Brooklands, and (3) in the sidecar class.

The present position is that, as three-wheelers, Morgans come under the jurisdiction of the Auto-Cycle Union, not the R.A.C., so that any meeting where we run must have an A.C.U. permit, and we must carry passengers, or riding mechanics, to give brave men their correct title. For various reasons the V.S.C.C. does not accept Morgans, vintage models being eligible for membership of the Vintage Motor Cycle Club. Our own club, the Morgan Three-Wheeler Club, caters for all models, and with the help of the Motor Cycle Club, and the Vincent Owners Club, are running several races and high-speed trials this year, at Silverstone and Cadwell Park, in addition to a monthly magazine, social meetings, and the usual club services. For the small number of owners of vintage Morgans, the two-speeders, the V.M.C.C. social, Concours, and touring events, such as the Banbury Run, are second to none. However, apart from competition against other post-vintage Morgans and modern touring sidecars, there is no opportunity for any vintage racing. There is very little interest in the V.M.C.C. in road-racing for solos, and none at all for racing vintage sidecars. The A.C.U. does not permit solos and three-wheelers to race together, so that we are unable to compete in events such as the vintage motor-cycle race at the V.S.C.C. OuIton meeting.

All this makes it somewhat galling to see our old enemies in the 1,100-c.c. class, the Austins, Amilcars, Rileys, etc., being harried only by the odd vee-twin in a G.N. The V.S.C.C. claims that one reason they cannot cater for Morgans in speed events is that they are heavily over-subscribed. This was hardly the case in the Spero Trophy race (for 1,100-c.c. unsupercharged and 750-c.c. blown cars) at the April Silverstone meeting, even allowing for the disqualification of several entries. I also think that if approached diplomatically the A.C.U. and R.A.C. question could be solved. I am not suggesting that all Morgan racing should take place under the auspices of the V.S.C.C., but it would be very nice if two or three Morgans could occasionally compete in selected V.S.C.C. events, say the Spero Trophy and a Prescott meeting, by invitation, to remind people that in the vintage period Morgans were very much in evidence in the 1,100-c.c. class. I know that a lot of V.S.C.C. members who saw Morgans in action at Brooklands and Donington Park would enjoy the sight again, and for the “post-war” members, racing Moggies make a very fine spectacle, as the enclosed photograph indicates.

Roger S. Richmond, Honorary Secretary, Morgan Three-Wheeler Club, London N.W.8.

* * *

What is a Vintage Car?

Sir,

The following true example of unconscious humour happened to me recently.

I was on an errand in the centre of Leicester when I saw a vintage Lagonda disappear round a corner. I followed it and found it parked, but by that time the driver had disappeared. In the passenger seat was a young man. After a respectful interval the following conversation took place:

Myself: “Is this a 16/80?”

The Passenger: “No, it’s a 1930!”

When I recovered my sanity I ascertained that the passenger was a hitch-hiker student not versed in such matters.

J. H. De la Rue, Leicester.

* * *

Sir,

It is unfortunate that your article “What is a Vintage Car?” has rather missed the point, inasmuch as it will undoubtedly, the power of the written word being what it is, mislead others.

A vintage car is fortunately far more than an object and a certain age; it certainly has nothing at all to do with chairs in attics, an analogy which stems entirely from fashion. It is something which is inherently good and worthwhile, standing out not only from its contemporaries but from the whole motoring scene by application of certain objective standards.

The founders of the V.S.C.C. had sufficient courage in their own convictions to say what was vintage when such cars were only four years ancient. Do we have to be so spoon-fed that we shrink from doing only the same? What is so worthless as to merit no recognition in a 1954 Bentley Continental or a 1964 250 Ferrari? My only concession is that unfortunately such vehicles are much more the rare exception in this day and age than they were forty years ago. Such is the price of a decent wage for the men who provide the labour to build them.

As with land, where you fix the supply and encourage the demand, prices must rise, not always proportionately. It is only five years ago that I bought an excellent Type 43 Bugatti for under £250; look now!! One can acquire an equally good DB2 Aston for £395 today; or a Type 40 Bug. for £850! Has reason gone mad; or has it been driven that way by artificial barriers and attractions.

Any thoughtful individual, and certainly the Committee of the V.S.C.C., can say, after five years, what is vintage. Let them do so; let good cars help be preserved thereby; let prices, by restoring supply, return to sanity. I am pleased you note the stupid situation in acceptability, hence price, between 1930 and 1931; it shocks me.

Preach to prevent this, not to perpetuate it.

V.S.C.C. Member 2735, Oxford.

* * *

An O.M. in the I.o.W.

Sir,

I read with interest your correspondent Mr. R. F. Stimson’s letter.

The O.M. YO 1021 he mentions is now in my ownership and restoration is well in hand. It is a 2-litre (not 1/2) Type 665 with the twin Zenith carburated 6-cylinder s.v. engine, and a Cadogan 4-seater tourer body. I have the complete registration history, three owners from delivery before me, but it was never, to my knowledge, in the hands of a travelling circus.

The other O.M. mentioned, APL 114, remained in the hands of the owner of both the cars at the time recalled by your correspondent, until his death some two or three years ago, when it passed on to a relative, and left the Isle of Wight.

I feel that the description of the car as a “fabulous old monster” is a little misleading; it remains a very well balanced and well mannered machine, with a pleasant gearbox incorporating a delightfully quick change between third and top. I can well remember seeing the car often in my schooldays in the New Forest area in the hands of its first owner, and coveting it in those days; it took me thirty years to satisfy my ambition!

Peter E. Gill, Seaview.Seaview.

* * *

Austin Seven UX 5333

Sir,

In reply to Leslie Gronan’s letter of May 1963, which appeared in these columns, I would like to make it clear that Austin Seven, registration number UX 5333, manufactured in 1929, completed her 3,000-mile tour of the Continent without a single mechanical failure.

This August and September I intend taking the same car through Yugoslavia to either Albania (if visas obtainable) or Greece. Any information, help or advice would be greatly appreciated.

D. N. MacLennan, Bramhall.

* * *

The Rover Nine

Sir,

I was interested and amused to read the letter from Mr. Granville-Jolly as I owned one of these “duds” from about 1950 to 1959; a 1926 model, car No. 50791. Although living in London I paid visits to Worcester quite frequently and it is quite possible that it was then that the car was seen. The description tallies – unpainted aluminium body, and front wings. The rear wings were made of steel and painted. During the time I owned this car I never saw another one similar – probably disappointed owners were pushing them on to scrap heaps from 1927 onward, when a considerably modified model was introduced. I have seen a 1926 tourer and, of course, a number of 2-cylinder models survive. A few years ago in your columns, Sir, appeared a letter from a gentleman suggesting the formation of a vintage Rover Club. I wrote to him but received no reply.

Reverting to the Rover Nine Sports; on my model there was no external petrol filler cap – few were the petrol-pump attendants who knew where to find it. The crank handle was a fixture and covered by an apron secured between the dumb-irons by two wing nuts. If the “electric engine starter” failed to function, as frequently it did, quite a traffic jam could build up whilst they were removed and replaced. Mr. Jolly mentions slipping clutches. I also encountered the same trouble, until I modified the oil thrower in front of the flywheel and fitted a main-bearing housing from a 1927 model which I fortunately had by me.

The other perpetual trouble was in the oil seal to the worm shaft. Before starting on a journey it was a routine check to lift up the filler cap on the differential housing (spur diff.) to see if there was enough oil. I could make and fit a new oil seal in 35 minutes. The speedometer pulley was driven by a small belt from a similar pulley on the propeller shaft. I have no idea of the maximum speed but would hazard 55 m.p.h.

It was a delightful car to drive – when it was running – and I had many very happy times with it, but it could never hold a wife and four children so it had to go. Tears were shed not only by me.

My father possessed a 1925 model from new, and always said it was the best car he ever had. He must have been lucky. I could go on at great length, and if Mr. Granville-Jolly would like to write to meI am sure I could describe every nut, bolt and component in the vehicle.

R. W. Beckett, Wallington.

* * *

The G.P. Delage Cars

Sir,

I was interested to read the excellent article on the Grand Prix Delages by Alan Burnard, who asks for additional information.

Malcolm Campbell purchased two of these cars from the Delage Company. I do not know any of the Delage chassis numbers, but I do know that four of these cars were made and they were known as Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4.

No. 1 was the prototype and was driven by Benoist at Montlhéry in their first event in 1927, and subsequently Benoist, who was their top driver, drove No. 2 throughout the 1927 season. Nos. 3 and 4 were also raced by the team and, in my opinion, No. 1 was the car that was raced later by Senechal.

The cars purchased by Campbell were Nos. 2 and 3, and Campbell used No. 2 himself, and I was his riding mechanic in his first event with the car, when he won the Junior Grand Prix at Brooklands in April 1928 – of course, it was really only a single-seater and it was a bit of a squash for two of us; the exhaust pipe and the “Brooklands” silencer was right up against the nearside of the cockpit and I remember that it was a fairly “hot ride,” and there was a distinct smell of “burnt boy”! After that he won the 1928 200-Mile Race in that car (the caption is wrong for the photograph in your article in this respect – Campbell did win the 1927 200-Mile Race but not in a Delage; he won this in his Bugatti).

Campbell’s second car, No. 3, was sold to W. B. Scott, who raced the car for quite a time before he sold it to Capt. J. C. Davis, who also raced it quite extensively in this country.

As Alan Bumard says, Campbell sold his own car to Earl Howe and this was the car he crashed at Monza in 1932, and although the chassis was written off the engine and gearbox were o.k., and since Howe also bought the No. 1 car from Senechal, he continued to race a Grand Prix Delage for quite a long time, and the engine and gearbox from the No. 2 car were kept as spare, together with a lot of spare parts, and also the No. 3 car that Howe acquired from Capt. J. C. Davis.

I was most interested to learn the complicated history of these various cars during the post-war period. How nice it is that these wonderful cars are in such good hands today and that they will be properly preserved.

There must be quite a lot of further information available if required. I quite often see Giulio Ramponi who is, of course, a mine of information on the Delage, and Lord Essendon is perhaps the only person readily available who drove the cars in their original state; I remember he tested the Campbell car at Brooklands and practised in it for the 200-Mile Race in 1928 as second driver to Malcolm Campbell – he did not in fact drive in the race as he took over a Frazer Nash.

Incidentally, I seem to remember that there was something odd and unusual about the gear positions on that car. Campbell twice forgot the position of 1st gear and had to check with Villa before starting a race, and I remember being quite certain he had put it in the wrong slot before the start of the Junior Grand Prix – I was quite wrong, it was in 1st gear o.k., but I am sure the positions were unusual. Perhaps Mr. Burnard can tell me about this matter?

A. F. Rivers Fletcher, Group Public Relations Officer, The Owen Organisation, London, W.1.

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