Vintage Postbag, July 1981

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Arab Information

Sir,

It was with much interest that I read the reference to the Arab cars and particularly the SR (Spurrier Railton) that appeared in the June issue. I can certainly confirm that the facts you quote were as given me by the late Chris Shorrock, of supercharger fame, when I visited him some years ago at Preston. My reason for paying him a visit was that the late Basil Davenport had told me that Chris Shurrock had owned and raced the SR round about 1926, and that he was personally acquainted with all the key personalities concerned with the beginnings of the Arab project. Chris and his brother Noel made it a fascinating day for me, telling me of their experiences with the car when they raced it at Southport and elsewhere.

The SR was bought from a Mr. Kenneth Parker, who was in the textile industry, as a 21st birthday present. In a 100-lap, £100 Southport race the brothers Shorrock were in the lead with the SR. They knew, however, that they were low in oil, and on the 97th lap when rounding the pylon marking the end of one leg of the course, oil surge momentarily deprived the high-set oil pump of its vital fluid and the car threw a rod. Coasting to a halt, Noel remarked, on surveying the damage, that he had a splendid view of the sea through the hole in the crankcase! The Shorrock brothers did a number of modifications to the car after that and sold the car some time later to a Leyland premium apprentice whose name they seemed to recall as being Soames. I was also privileged to see a number of photographs of the car when in the ownership of the Shorrock brothers, and can confirm the details given of its almost entirely standard sports Enfield-Allday appearance, even to the E-A radiator.

Its subsequent history seems obscure, though in 1936 this pre-prototype engine (numbered EA 20, and with a casting date on the block of August 30th 1923) was fitted to a low-chassis Super-Sports Arab, Chassis No. 5. which was then in the ownership of another Leyland apprentice, Fergus Clampett. This has been confirmed by yet another Leyland apprentice and ex-owner of the Super-Sports Arab, John Harvey. This Arab, with the pre-prototype SR engine as raced by Reid Railton, now reposes in my garage . . hence my interest in your references to it.

The Brooklands programme for the 1924 events you mention shows the car as having orange, not yellow, wheels. The Light Car & Cyclecar for April 25th 1924, reporting on the Brooklands meeting, illustrates most of the SR with Railton at the wheel, in a paddock scene (page 632) in which the car carries the number 2 that it carried in the 27th 75 m.p.h. Short Handicap, where it started on scratch with Cushman’s Bugatti. The Autocar, in writing up the 13th 90 m.p.h. Long Handicap, in which Railton again entered the SR carrying the number 3, remarked, “The SR showed some promise for the future”.

Finally, any further information on matters SR or Arab would be very welcome indeed.

Tenbury Wells, Worcs.

A.B. Demaus

Mays Sprint Car

Sir,

There is of course no mystery about the Mays “new sprint car” mentioned by Mr. Olley in the May Vintage Postbag. It is illustrated on page 162 of Mays’ autobiography “Split Seconds” (Foulis, 1951).

A purist might attribute the shape to Cisitalia 1100 rather than E-Type ERA, but the suspension is clearly shown to be (BRM) air struts, at any rate at the front. The car was said to embody “some highly original transmission/suspension features”. I recollect that the drive to the rear wheels was by short individual chains, the wheels being ahead of the driving sprockets.

This led to a protracted correspondence in one of your weekly competitors between the Technical Editor and a Col. Archdale, the former maintaining that this (unique) layout would fling the wheels down onto the track and thereby increase adhesion, the latter maintaining that Newton’s Second Law of Motion would ensure the opposite.

The car never ran in public as far as I know.

Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne

Jack Maurice

MG Magnette CGJ 295

Sir,

In V-E-V Odds and Ends, in the April edition of Motor Sport, you ask for any information regarding the above car and whilst I have already informed the present owner of the facts in my possession, I think that no harm would come from their being repeated.

This vehicle is not NA 0517, which as you say was one of the TT Magnettes, and the genuine car bearing that chassis number, and the correct Registration Number JB 4607 is owned by Mr. Peter Thelander in California, USA. I enclose a photograph of the car taken a few years ago which was sent to me by Mr. Thelander at that time.

Turning now to CGJ 295, this started life as a standard NB Magnette, and so far as I can trace it has no racing history, whether before or after the war. I first saw the car in November 1971 when it was on display in a garage in Worthing, and at that time it was virtually a standard road going NB fitted with its present nicely made but non-original Williams & Pritchard two-seater body. The salesman gave me the usual story about it being a very rare Brooklands K3 racing car, one of only two built, and driven by a famous Italtian racing driver — I am sure you are familiar with the standard fairy story which seems to surround most pre-war MGs! After explaining to him that the car bore more resemblance to a Sopwith Camel than a K3, I was ushered out of the showroom, but before going I was allowed to check the chassis number which was NA 0778, and the engine number 501 AN.

A couple of years later I heard rumours of a TT Magnette bearing the Registration Number JB 4607, living in the Chichester area, and on looking into the matter I found it to be the same car. I also discovered that the owner had decided that the car was no longer a K3, but was now an NE, and regrettably he had been able to persuade his next door neighbour, who happened to be the Licensing Officer for the area, to re-register the car from CGJ 295 to JB 4607. According to the Swansea computer, this Registration Number was vacant, and thus was re-allocated, but what they didn’t realise was that the number is very famous in MG circles, and that the original car bearing that number still exists although now in the USA. Eventually the fellow who owned the false JB 4607 admitted that it was only a copy of the genuine JB 4607, but he refused to give up the Registration documents, and stated that in all probability he would break the car eventually!

Shortly after this, which occurred in 1977 and early 1978, the car was sold, and after passing through the trade, came into Mr. Lake’s ownership, by which time the Registration Number had reverted to its correct number CGJ 295 although unfortunately the chassis number on the car and in the documents still show the false position.

Brighton. Sussex

Colin Butchers

Air Drive

Sir,

Recent mention of propeller-driven vehicles in Motor Sport prompted me to look up a photo I bought about twenty years ago from a house auction near Berkhamsted, Herts.

The vehicle looks rather crude, but was it maybe unfinished at the time of the photo? It would be interesting to see if any Motor Sport reader can throw any light on the identity of the vehicle, or even only the engine.

Lymington, Hants

Peter Prole

Royal Tour Cars

Sir,

It was interesting to read about the Buicks used on the Canadian Royal tour in 1939.

I thought I would enclose a picture of the 1930 7th series Packard Phaeton which was used by HM King George VI and Queen Elizabeth during their visit to the BC provincial capital of Victoria. The enclosed photograph shows them arriving at the Parliament buildings. I was eight years old at the time and saw them go by our house in this car.

Stevenage, Herts

Hans Edwards

An Elusive Buick?

Sir,

My father bought a 1932 Buick on the day I was born for £20 in part exchange against a previous 1928 Buick model, in 1938 from a garage on Putney Hill.

Some time in 1954, he sold it for £40 in part exchange for a 1940 Buick Opera Coupe to a Garage in Bournemouth. In 1955,I came across it in Portsmouth Dockyard in the tender hands of a Lieutenant Brotherton R.N. who shortly afterwards visited my father to show him the car for old time’s sake.

It has a straight eight OHV engine, rated in those days at 30 horsepower. The picture came from my father’s negatives and was taken towards the end of war out on the Downs near Wimborne in Dorset where he commanded a local unit of the Home Guard, but heaven knows where he got the petrol!

It would be nice to learn if it is still alive and kicking and even restored to its former glory: who knows, it may still be in this country.

Kew, Surrey

Gavin Kirkpatrick

“Supercharged Rolls-Royce”

Sir,

Perhaps I may ask the use of your columns to answer Mr. T.C. Clarke’s letter under the above heading in your May issue; the matter is perhaps of some small general interest.

I saw, and had quite a long chat with, the chauffeur in charge of this splendid vehicle.

The venue of our confrontation was the quayside of one of the English Channel ports. I was, I suppose, about 12, which would put the event in the year it was built. The thing which stood out to a car-conscious and Autocar reading schoolboy was a large metal chamber standing on the near-side running board, louvred and closed with bonnet-type clips.

Ott enquiry, I was told that the box contained the Amherst Villiers supercharger, driven by its own “12 h.p. motor”. Further enquiry elucidated that the main engine could be run without the supercharger, but the normal drill was to start up the auxiliary engine first. Looking at the matter with hindsight, I suppose the blower blew through the carburetter, which could also be normally aspirated. To my sorrow we had to board ship before this mighty powerhouse was run up.

Malta

Gerald Ruston

 

 

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