In the air at Elstree

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As regular readers will know, I contrive to see one Air Display a year, for old times’ sake, and as the V.S.C.C. were putting on a demonstration of historic racing cars on the runway at Elstree on June 4th, where they had held their first post-war speed event, this seemed the one to go to. So we got out the Ford GT (Cortina, not 40!) and got there by an uncongested back route, considering how fine and hot this Saturday dawned.

On arrival we were ushered into the Members’ Car Park, where we only just escaped being well and truly boxed-in, and were issued with a Steward’s Badge in lieu of a Press pass, which caused spectators, who swarmed into the V.S.C.C. enclosure, to inquire of us the way to the lavatories, why Douglas FitzPatrick’s Maybach-Metallurgique has four foot-pedals and the top speed of the Cosmic Wind. . . .

An excellent array of vintage cars arrived, including a beautiful open 1929 D8 Delage with original Vanden Plas fabric body, whose owner has a 6-litre GL, sports, Delage, Type 40 and 43 Bugattis, several Alvis and Riley, the inevitable Rolls-Royce, etc. The display included Clutton’s Itala, the Metallurgique and Barker’s big Napier, all driven to the venue of course, as well as a couple of E.R.A.s, Arnold-Forster’s Delage, G.P. and Brescia Bugattis, and Millar’s Maserati, thus enabling North Londoners to see and hear real racing cars in action. The nicest noises were rendered by Douglas Hull in “Remus”, the most nostalgic sight was Delage II in silhouette with two heads protruding from the cockpit, for all the World as if Alastair Miller and a mechanic were taking the Railway Straight at Brooklands.

The flying display, I thought, went just a trifle flat. The wind felt moderate, but stopped parachuting and the take-off of the replica aeroplanes from “Those Magnificent Men.” The Spitfire and Hurricane were missing, nor did the pilots of the Aero Club de Leon Biancotto keep their engagement.

However, London Flying Club pilots showed a high degree of precision in formation flying in four D.H. Chipmunks, and an R.A.F. Jet Provost from Manby gave a heart-stopping display which ended in a bunt, and then touched its wheels down on Elstree’s runway, thereby making history, as the first jet to use this pylon-girt aerodrome, albeit momentarily. The pilot waved to Control, and seemed reluctant to depart.

He had to make way for Lt.-Cmdr. Arbuthnot, who demonstrated the Fleet Air Arm Museum’s Fairey Swordfish, complete with 18-in. torpedo and gunner-passenger. It is the sole flying “Stringbag” and seemed to fill the blue sky.

The Skyframe Aircraft Museum’s Airspeed Oxford also performed (it doesn’t seem so long ago that Motor Sport chartered one for race-reporting!) and then Sqn. Ldr. Street showed off the VC 10 like HS-I25 or Dominie, descendant of the D.H. Dove of nearly a quarter of a century ago. Fully-pressurised, with all mod. cons., this one came from the R.A.F. Central Navigational School—an aircraft which is a good British export to America. This one also brushed the runway, the second jet to do so at Elstree.

A B.O.A.C. pilot then flew about in a splendid 1914/18 German Pfalz biplane, said to be the genuine article, although there were rumours that it had a replica Gypsy engine. Four R.A.F. Jet Provosts from Manby gave the expected polished display of aerobatics, Peter Phillips flew “impossibly” in the Australian Airtourer side-by-side seater, for which he was sales and demonstration pilot until it ceased to be made, and Desmond Penrose displayed the 1925 D.H. Cirrus-Moth, doing all of 20 m.p.h. against the wind.

Lasham yielded a Slingsby Dart display, the sole surviving Hawker Tomtit, flown by a pilot in period overalls, scarf and helmet, was well received, and the show ended by Phillips’ gusting about in the American Cosmic Wind racer, owned by the Tiger Club of Redhill. Perhaps the event was a bit lacking in variety but the sun shone, there were some interesting static exhibits, and no-one crashed any historic aeroplanes, as two pilots did their D.H. Tiger Moths at gusty Wisley the next day.—W.B.

A mirror for towing

For those who tow their competition cars on trailers behind the family hacks the problem of adequate rear vision must, on occasions, be an acute one. A centrally-mounted interior mirror usually gives no more than a splendid view of a nose cone and wing mirrors are hardly good substitutes. We recently tried an instrument which provides a rear view over the roof of the driven car. In principle a 3-mirror periscope, the Retrovisor, as it is called, is housed in a tough, plastic case, and can be fitted to the roof just above the windscreen either by plastic suction cups or by more permanent means. The portion which is viewed through the windscreen is no bigger than a conventional mirror and affords a view rearwards through the upper aperture which can be either ten or twelve inches above the lower. If, therefore, the combined height of trailer and competition car is no more than, say, six inches greater than that of the towing vehicle, a Retrovisor will afford an excellent rear view straight over the top of the complete entourage. Being suspicious of anything which clings merely by suction, we drove a car to which a Retrovisor was fitted at 100 m.p.h. and, although there was a slight vibration, the instrument did not become dislodged. There was no vibration at legal road speeds. On a previous run, when the Retrovisor carne away from its mounting due to incorrect fitting and purely our own fault, a fall on the tarmac did no more than scratch the surface finish. Useful, too, for towing a caravan, provided the latter has windows front and rear. The unit costs £6 5s. 0d., from & A. Burden & Co., The Quay, Poole, porset.—G.P.