The Vauxhall assembly at Luton
As rported elsewhere in this issue of Motor Sport, Vauxhall Motors Ltd. celebrated their 75th Anniversary with a party at Luton on May 21st, at which the largest collection of Vauxhall cars representative of this period ever brought together was assembled at the Vauxhall Motors' Sports Ground. There isn't space for a full report of this auspicious occasion but I cannot let it pass without some coverage although I note that another such "gathering of the flutes" is due to happen in the year 2003....
I looked first, naturally, at the 30/98 park, for this Vauxhall model is undoubtedly the finest of all vintage sports cars. Only about 25 had been invited, because the intention was to spread the display over the full 75 years of Vauxhall production but, as David Marsh said in his speech at the luncheon, many more could have come had they been wanted there was plenty of room for them. Those assembled were mostly cars well-known to the VSCC. Milligan's OE Velox had come down from Norfolk, its original under-bonnet jack still in evidence after more than 3oo,000 miles. Quartermaine presented the E/OE model he races, with enormous Voisin front brakes, and Cameron Millar's blue Wensum had a VSCC badge neatly forming the centre of its mudguard-bracing stays. There was the replica Velox now owned by P. L. Morgan, behind which Jack Moor used to tow his ON " \Vasp", Mike Bullett's hydraulic-braked OF Velox, David Marsh's rebuilt Velox, blue with alloy bonnet, which was once a saloon, Palmer's ex-Plowman OE Special two-seater with a huge Power-bulge on its bonnet, a car that has covered Over too miles in the hour at Montlhery (not merely "hit too mph", as the programme had it), Parker's very smart grey Wensum, said to have been raced at Brooklands by Major Cole (this I don't recollect perhaps it ran in High Speed Trials?), and Stollen's yellow Wensum, bought in Eire last year.
One of the nicest 30/98s present was Dr. Barnard's 1924 low-radiator Velox, rebuilt from "a bag of bolts" and now resplendent with engine-turned dashboard and on 880 x 120 tyres no wonder it gained the prize in this section (a Griffin mascot, suitably mounted). Almost equally pleasing was Buckley's 1920 E-type Grosvenor-bodied two-seater. Streeter had brought his very nice ex-Lord Donne 1922 Etype, once enmeshed in the Sword collection, Jeddere-Fisher came, complete with wife and black labrador, in his well-known car of the same age and type, and Bunty Scott-Moncriett had his 1924 OE Special present, which he still races, notable for a central gear-change, Dunlop Racing tyres, and many tins of Duckhams oil in the tonneau.
The less-ancient Vauxhalls made a great display. One has tended to think of them as undistinguished tinwear but Ron Shier, Secretary of the Vauxhall OC, has shown that these cars are just as diverse and interesting as any others. My eye was drawn immediately to his 1938 25-h.p. GY Martin Walter cabriolet, in cream, with matching wheels and one of those hoods that furl like those on typical German drophead bodies of this period. It reminded me that when I motored in a Morris Eight through the night to report the sand-races at Southport for Motor Sport before the var, and back again through the next night (no lolly for hotels in those days!) we had some spare passes and stopped, naturally; to offer one to a girl who was walking towards the beach. After the racing we told her we intended to eat before our nocturnal return journey to London, inviting her to join us. We were considerably shaken when she accepted but said she must first collect her car which turned out to be a similar cream Vauxhall drophead, but on a smaller h.p. chassis, I think.
To return to Luton 78, Gillham's 1930 DX Mk. 2 14-h.p. saloon was in nice "everyday" order, Mullen had a 1936 DY 12-h.p. with a Wingham cabriolet door-pillarless body (not a "pillowless" body, as a pre-war Motor Sport tester once wrote, of a similarly-bodied Bianchi), another open Vauxhall was Forrest's 1935 DX 14-h.p. Airline Sports, Tony Hull produced a fine slab of Vauxhall in the form of his 1939 GY 25h.p. saloon, Horn's 1935 DX Mk. 1 had its h.t. leads carefully spaced out, Brown's 1939 H-type Ten carried many plaques, Whittaker's 1934 ASY Light Six had its Tickford hood neatly furled, Butter came in an ASX Stratford Sports, Mackenzie's. 1951 L-type Velox reminded me of a past Motor Sport road-test (yes, really!) and all the way from Holland was a 1933 VX Cadet with smart Denton d.h. body, in cream and red.
There were two 20/60 Hurlingham sports models, on down to a 1964 HA Viva which has done 80,000 miles on its original engine in its original owner's care. Kilby's 1932 VY, claimed to be Britain's first car with a synchromesh gearbox, boasted window blinds, Jones' 1951 L-type Velox is (I expect) awaiting restoration, and very impressive were two 1939 GL 25-h p. Grosvenor limousines, Cyril Smith's a car once owned by the Marchioness of Lansdown (her crest is on the doors) and rebuilt after being gutted in a fire, and Douglas Sharp's still doing a little hire-car work in Portsmouth. Both have leather upholstery in front, Bedford cloth in the parlour, and wind-up glass partitions. Malcolm Marsh's was similar but a year younger, without the partition and with leather upholstery throughout. Davey's 1938 12-6 was given a reconditioned 14-6 engine in 1966; it had come all the way from Cornwall, adding to its 398,000 miles. In terms of long-mileage, the Five-Nines Club had three entries, of which a 1953 E-type Vauxhall Velox claimed 347,5oo miles, on the original engine. Another prize was awarded in this section, of a more modern Vauxhall mascot on a plinth it went to Mr. and Mrs. \Vhittaker's 1934 Light-Six Tickford Saloon, judged the nicest car present, on a practical rather than a beauty, aspect.
That was all I had time for before lunch was served. In the tastefully-arranged marquee was the 1905 Vauxhall lent by the Science Museum, so this really was a full-representative display. The veteran was offset by some Vauxhall Styling Research vehicles and out in the field were all the veteran/vintage cars the Company owns (most of which I have driven), from the 1904 6 h.p. to their 1926 30/98, and embracing the famous Prince Henry and war-time 25-h.p. tourers, and a fine 1923 back-braked 23/60 tourer, the latter supplemented by Sharp's 1924 23/60 with those kidney-box front brakes. In curious contrast were the modern racing and rally Vauxhalls, DTV's racing Firenza "Old Nail", Gerry Marshall's "Spa" Magnum 2300, the saloon-racing "Baby Bertha", a Rally Chevette 2300 HS, and Gerry Marshall's own (13-o m.p.h. they say) road-going Chevette 2300 HS Special.
A formidable display indeed, from which I was privileged to drive effortlessly and rapidly away in 3 road-test Vauxhall Chevette 2300 HS saloon, its engine possessing twin-overheadcamshafts actuating four-valves-per-cylinder, as in the 1922 TT Vauxhall racing cars. - W.B.