[One day someone may succeed in defining the elusive but subtle differences between the now-numerous one-make Clubs, all of which serve a useful purpose to a greater or lesser degree and tend to render unnecessary any additional general-purpose Clubs for old cars which do not qualify for VSCC membership. Meanwhile, there has been considerable one-make activity of late, about which we report below, with the proviso that we can only cover those events to which we are invited, or otherwise attend.—Ed.]
Rovers at Ledbury
The 15th National Rally of the Rover Owners’ Association was held over the Whitsun week-end in the Deer Park of Eastnor Castle, near Ledbury, by permission of Major and The Hon. Mrs. Hervey-Bathurst, themselves keen Rover owners. In this splendid setting a great many caravans towed largely by Land Rovers, although a few BMC and Fords were evident, assembled for the rally is a co-promotion with the Caravan Club. Mr. A. B. Smith, Managing Director of The Rover Co. Ltd. was there, an obviously enthusiast camper, and the various competitions were in the hands of the Midlands ROC, ROA, Pennine LRC, Staffs & Shrops LROC, Southern LRC, Anglian ROC, and the SWROC, all supporters of One of Britain’s Fine Cars and of the universal Land Rover which some people suggest is the truest of sports cars.
The events laid on consisted of a Concours d’Elegance, a gymkhana and a Safari through the grounds which occupied some 1 1/4 hours, ending up at the Castle which was built about 1920 and has a fine lake, an indoor model railway and other attractions. There was also a very tough trial for Land Rovers, for which rain was prayed for and in which some of the competitors drove special competition Land Rovers brought on trailers. We confess we went mainly in anticipation of seeing scores of immaculate “Auntie Rovers” and “Great Aunts” and some pre-war Rovers, in the Concours d’Elegance. So it was a disappointment that only two “Aunties” took part, a couple of smart Rover 100s, and apart from one 2000TC the remainder of the small entry consisted of immaculate and lavishly-equipped Land Rovers – no pre-war cars. This seemed a pity when so many old Rovers still roam the roads (we saw more “Aunties” on the drive home than in the Concours’ park) but may be due to the fact that the once-active Rover Sports Register seems to have been going slow of late – we have not seen its magazine for a long time. Perhaps, however, Rover owners are reticent people who prefer trials to beauty shows, for in spite of the inducement of a free bottle of champagne the Concours d’Elegance entries were very few. However, there was an Edwardian Rover in the Static Display, just back from the VCC 1,000-mile Trial.—W. B.
Fordsport Day (May 24th)
In May the Fordsport Club in association with the BRSCC organised the third ever day of racing in honour of Ford. There is nothing new about such an idea for it originated in 1939 at Brooklands, while BMC, as they then were, have also organised successful Mini festivals. On a beautifully hot day an estimated 30,000 people, including the drivers of Ford vehicles who were admitted free of charge, watched as some F1 drivers played with standard Ford Capri 3-litre GTs supported by some excellent Club racing and various sideshows.
The big attraction was undoubtedly the BEA Trident Trophy 15-lap Capri race with Courage, Hill, Surtees, Miles, Elford and Stewart facing up to a varied opposition including saloon-car drivers Gardner, Craft, Fitzpatrick, Birrell and Mansfield; Broad and former Gilby F1 driver Greene represented racing saloon-car constructors’ interests. Also in the 20-car line-up were former GP men Trevor Taylor and Hobbs, plus two representatives of the fair sex, Mrs. Birrell and Miss Susan Tucker-Peake.
We watched the race from South Bank and did not know the cars had started until the tyre squeal and sounds of close racing wafted across from Paddock. Into Druids the enormous bunch of Capris tramped their axles in unison and presented themselves, headed by Courage and Craft; Hill’s Capri, which had been on the front row of the “drawn-from-the-hat” grid, stalled on the line but did get away with the pack. Courage led for just a lap when Craft nipped past on the inside at Paddock. Courage then pressurised Craft to the point where he spun on the exit of Druids, the De Tomaso driver hanging on to the lead until the end, despite some hairy opposite-lock driving from Elford. Miles was third, Greene fourth and Stewart fifth after some really close racing with Broad. Fastest lap went to Mansfield (who works for Ford AVO and helped in the setting up of the cars) with 1 min. 5.2 sec., a speed of 68.47 m.p.h. What next? Perhaps VW Beetles around Spa in the rain ?—J. W.
Alvis Golden Jubilee (May 31st – June 7th)
Starting from London on May 31st, the 12/50 Alvis Register and the Alvis OC held an ambitious Tour of Britain for all types of Alvis cars, to mark the Golden Jubilee of Alvis Ltd., who made their last car, the Mk. IV TF21, in 1967, having commenced a long line of “Masters of the King’s Highway” with the 10/30 in 1926. The organisers were Brian Ledwith and John Burnell.
The Tour was sponsored by BP, with help from Trust Houses Group Ltd., and the complete itinerary took in eight active days’ driving from London to Harrogate, from there to Eddleston, Edinburgh to Perth, Perth to Dundee, Dundee to Windermere, from thence to Salisbury and then to Hereford for the final Saturday evening before the grand finale in Coventry on the Sunday. So the distances did not spare those Alvis drivers who took part, 32 doing the entire route. Yet, in spite of the very hot weather which prevailed throughout, few breakdowns were reported. E. Chilcott changed a magneto on his 1930 Silver Eagle and Frank Spencer, joining in on the last section, had to put his white 12/60 Beetleback on a trailer, because of a broken crankshaft. Otherwise, the Tour did not trouble the vast and varied cavalcade of Alvises, which made such an impressive show, in this week of nostalgia, past memories, and pleasant motoring. Some of those who joined the Tour at local points were old gentlemen with Alvises bought new and still in regular use. The lunch stops were at hotels recommended by gastronomic-expert Tony Kyd and en route old-car collections at West Woodburn, Edinburgh and Keighley were visited, reminder that motor museums are on the increase in Britain. The value of the Tour was further enhanced by the issue of an excellent Souvenir Book and Route Card. which contained some historic pictures, one of them a reminder that Alvis gatherings are not new, the crowd at the 1926 Alvis Day at Brooklands being surely as big as that which was to assemble at Coventry on June 7th ?
Through the courtesy of K. R. Day, President of the Alvis OC, I attended the final dinner at Hereford, where familiar faces and familiar cars were met in foyer and garage. Indeed. the garage in the “Green Dragon” was an astonishing and inspiring sight, with over one hundred Alvises of every sort packed in apparently haphazardly, but with loving care, every foot of floor space occupied and only one gatecrasher, in the guise of a vintage Rolls-Royce.
This whetted the appetite for the Sunday programme, so I set off early from Wales in an Alfa Romeo en route for Coventry, one-time home of Alvis cars. (To go in anything but an Alvis seemed sacrilege until I heard that Mr. Day himself was in his 2.6 Alfa Romeo.) In Leominster a TA14 was seen going in the opposite direction, later a picnicking 12/50 was passed, and in Stratford we came up behind a fabric-bodied 12/50 two-seater wearing a notice ”Now Check the Oil” over its petrol-filler cap, although we do not think this implies that these cars have an abnormal oil-thirst! The rendezvous point was the Massey-Ferguson training farm at Stareton. In these pleasant and spacious surroundings the Alvises which poured in were parked, and picnic lunches produced. Children were given rides on Rolls-Royce-powered Alvis wading and cross-country vehicles and a new Jaguar XK-engined light-alloy Alvis military vehicle was demonstrated over a test-course which the Company shares with Massey-Ferguson.
Pre-war Alvis cars were parked in two long facing rows, with the later Alvis models out of sight in another big park. To describe the 350-cars present would fill many pages, and the task would be difficult because, although they each bore their date of manufacture, owners’ names and car-types were not revealed, nor were the cars numbered, which made me realise that I am far from being an Alvis expert. But every type seemed to be there. The works FWD two-seater, carrying racing number 44, had completed the entire Tour, two Alvista fabric saloons arrived, long lines of familiar 12/50s proudly wore their Hare mascots, original and replica, and several of the thought-to-be-rare beam-front-axle Speed 25s were present. There were non-original Specials, including a white “racer” and Tim Kennard’s exciting single-seater, a well-engineered 12/50 with Roots supercharger and protruding SU and a Speed 20 with cycle mudguards and exposed transverse leaf-spring i.f.s. A very impressive Speed 25 tourer with lattice bonnet sides caught the eye, as did a quietly smart Crested Eagle saloon, every bit as dignified as a similar Rolls-Royce, Sunbeam or Daimler but with an added touch of “Alvivacity”. Nearby was a really big Crested Eagle limousine with a thought-to-be prototype body. There was a well-used 12/50 called “Clara” to foil those with Sotheby intentions, a 12/70 drophead, Speed 20, 25s and 4.3 litres, etc., the biggest-engined model distinguishable from the others by the closer spacing of the verticals of its radiator grille, and, in the other park, row upon row of all the later varieties, from sombre TA14s to elegant 3-litres. There were splendid examples of all those nicely-named Alvises, like the Silver Eagle, Silver Crest, Crested Eagle and Grey Lady, named perhaps with a sideways look at Rolls-Royce’s Silver Cloud, Silver Wraith, and Silver Dawn, although I believe the choice of Grey Lady was the subject of some controversy at Holyhead Road.
S. C. H. Davis had seen the start of the Tour and at Coventry Mr. J. J. Parkes, Chairman of Alvis Ltd., was present to inspect the cars and present the prizes. Gerry Dunham was there, so was Mr. Wiltsher, the Alvis PRO, and Tom Rolt, and we met George Davies, who hopes to have the ex-Duller FWD straight-eight Alvis running next year.
The Police had agreed to lead the long line of Alvises from Stareton to the Alvis factory in Holyhead Road, where the famous red triangle badge is still proudly displayed on the old and new buildings. At about 3.30 the first in this great cavalcade of Alvis history arrived and soon the car park was yet another concentration of Alvis diversity and progress. The No.1 racer was there, with its dry-sump lubrication system from a long tank on the n/s of the chassis and a small-port head modified to big-port, and I noticed that many of the 12/50s had open sports-tailed two-seater bodies, even if not all were original duck’s-backs or beetleback backs, although there were plenty of these. There was a yellow Doctor’s coupe, plenty of tourers, immaculate saloons, but beyond that the unique sight of so many Alvises is impossible to describe, and it stretched so far that it was difficult to photograph! There were girls in the cars who might have been daughters of the Super Sports flapper I referred to last month. but in even shorter skirts. There was one white Alvis which wasn’t sure whether it wanted to be p.v.t. or modern, with its belt-driven blower topped by a big downdraught carburetter and apparently too special to be taxed for road use. In short, there was something of everything Alvis present, a fitting conclusion to this most adequate celebration of the 50th anniversary of one of Britain’s better motor cars ….
Driving home, I met two Austin 7s from another one-make event, and was glad to see that a Nippy which had arrived in Wales the day before with a stripped axle-shaft key was now mobile again. I also encountered a Morgan three-wheeler, presumably coming away from Prescott, where this make had been celebrating its 60th anniversary – a pity the Alvis and Morgan dates clashed, but I consoled myself that I should be seeing Morgans racing at Oulton Park a fortnight later.