Vintage Postbag, July 1966

Curborough correction

I feel I must write to correct a slight error in the report of the V.S.C.C. Curborough Speed Trials. This is no fault of your own as it was actually mentioned over the P.A. system that my 1936 Rapier was the first to be built by the Rapier Car Co. after Lagondas ceased to make them. What I actually wrote on the commentator’s slip was that it was one of the first. This obviously got lost in the excitement of the moment! I suspect that my car is the third to be built by the Rapier Car Co. I used to own the first one known (November 1935 registered), which is still on the Register, and my current one was registered in February 1936. There is another one which has a chassis number prior to the November 1935 car but was registered much later.

Londo N.W.6, J. Anthony Wood Hon. Publicity Officer, Rapier Register.

A glimpse of the ‘Twenties (continued)

Later, the same brother was serving in one of the aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean and was to be based on Malta for some time. He failed to find a suitable vehicle in Malta within his price. Petrol there was cheap, I think, and tax barely perceptible. The carrier was due to return to Portsmouth soon for a short visit and then to return to Malta. “N.O.”s were allowed to embark cars in empty carriers. My brother therefore wrote and asked if I could find a large old American car which would go, and which must not cost more than £30. I replied that he appeared to want a sort of mechanised monument, but I promised to try.

Some research in the Cambridge garages eventually disclosed a very old 5-seater Chevrolet, calling itself about 25 h.p., which I could have for £25. They started its engine, which made much, but, I thought, expensive noise. To ensure that power reached the back wheels I asked if I could drive it on the road. “Oh yes,” they said.

I took my seat and let in the clutch gingerly. With one tremendous bound the “thing” had me out of the garage and in the street! Luckily nothing was about. Once moving, the “thing” behaved most respectably. It turned out to have a leather-lined cone clutch whose characteristics were precisely the same as those of a dog clutch.

I thought this is it, bought it, arranged for the garage to get it to Portsmouth and sent a signal to my brother saying “Monument acquired.” It appears that my signal was handed to him in the middle of the night while he was on watch on the bridge. A night exercise was going on and there was a general air of tension. Next day I gather there were many inquiries as to what town his monument was to be erected in.

My brother found the “thing” awaiting him on the docks. Several delighted colleagues at once demanded a ride round the place. They mounted, my brother got going and let in the clutch (which I had forgotten to warn him about). In the ensuing leap the crew nearly broke their necks and the vast hood detached itself from the windscreen and streamed out about 15 feet astern. Roars of applause from all around!

They tried again, with the hood furled, and the owner (an aircraft catapult expert) warned all passengers to clasp their hands behind their heads during take off. This time they got away and had a merry tour, taking care on no account to stop.

This queer old horror was apparently a great success in Malta for several months. When the carrier left, no one, not unnaturally, was prepared to buy or even take it. A ghastly ceremony was therefore held. The poor old “Chev.” was started up, put in bottom gear and aimed at the top of a high cliff dropping sheer into the sea. Over she went and no doubt her bones are still washed by the blue waters of the Mediterranean.

Church Crookham. B. Wynne