An A7 Cameo

When I was in Somerset late in May I had the pleasure of calling at a very old manor house at East Lambrook, dating back to about 1470, not to admire the rare plants in the surrounding gardens laid out by Margery Fish in 1938 (house and gardens are open to the public, with 7,000 visitors a year) but to chat about the old Austin Seven days with Mr. FH Boyd-Carpenter. He is well-remembered as the instigator of the BC-Austin 7, and also as a successful driver of these cars at Brooklands.

Boyd-Carpenter was apprenticed to the Locomotive works in Sheffield and later served a three-year premium apprenticeship with Thornycroft’s in Southampton. After this he joined EC Gordon England at Putney, where the redoubtable Eric was making the Brooklands-model and Cup-model sports Austin 7s. Here Boyd-Carpenter was put in charge of the making of the Brooklands model (see Motor Sport, October, 1968). When Gordon England wanted to dispose of one of his premises, at West End Lane, Kilburn, Boyd-Carpenter took it over and started to run his own business of overhauling, tuning and making BC-Austin 7s. He also began to race two special Austin 7s at the Track, called “Mr Jo-Jo” and “Mrs Jo-Jo” for some unaccountable reason. One of these was based on a GE Cup-model and used for the longer races, the other being his sprint car. With his ultra-low red Seven Boyd Carpenter eventually lapped the Brooklands outer-circuit at 84.41 mph and was second in the 90 mph Short Handicap at the 1927 Autumn Meeting. His other, cream, Seven which Chase used to share, lapped at 74.66 mph In August 1927 Boyd-Carpenter and Capt Chase captured Class-H records at Brooklands of from three to twelve hours. Told that the Austin would take the 12-hour record, the Clerk-of-the-Course, CA Lindsay-Lloyd, asked at what speed and, on being informed “621/2 mph”, expressed his disbelief in emphatic terms. But the record fell — at 62.53 mph. The little car weighed-out at 832 lb.

After the JCC 200 Mile Race that year which, with its artificial corners, Boyd-Carpenter describes as “great fun”, both his Austins were put up for sale. HC Spero, son of an East End furniture maker, bought “Mr. Jo-Jo” and developed it into a very successful Brooklands car, but that is another story.

Parry Thomas had been very generous to Boyd-Carpenter in allowing him to use his workshop, but whatever racing Thomas had in hand, at 5 o’clock everything had to stop, so that those present could play with Mrs. Duke-Williams’ little daughter, at the bungalow inside the Track adjacent to Thomas’ home, and so often Thomas would just disappear, having gone off quietly to visit the sick children in the Great Ormond Street hospital in London.

The production £197 10/- BC Austin 7s had ash frames, aluminium-panelled. The West End works employed some nine workers, two making the body frames, two doing the panelling, and five working on the tuned engines. (One man, a war casualty, had a wooden leg and used to alarm customers by driving nails into it.) Boyd-Carpenter patented a rod-operated remote gear-lever for these cars, and normally used Zenith triple-diffuser carburetters, later changing to Solex, although I see that the BC-Austin which Motor Sport road-tested in 1930 had his overhead-valve conversion and a Claudel-Hobson carburetter. In conjunction with Laystall’s he developed a disc-web crankshaft which, being too large to fit easily into the Austin crankcase, was in two halves, its installation thus being simplified. It made the Austin 7 engine very smooth-running and enabled light flywheels to be used. Hollow steel con-rods and Martlett pistons were used.

Having given up racing, Boyd-Carpenter could concentrate on these BC-Austins and he made 32 on the A7 chassis, a few more on Wolseley Hornet and Standard Nine chassis, and one or two special-bodied Morris Eights. He thinks that half-a-dozen of these BC-Austins still exist, one in Switzerland, one in Austria, another in Cornwall, while an enthusiast is completely rebuilding one of them.

With war approaching, Boyd-Carpenter decided there would be more profit in aviation. He put his engineering sister in charge of the BC works at West End Lane and formed the Rumbold Company in Kilburn, which specialised in aeroplane seats and ancillary equipment. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter has owned 59 cars. His first was an ohc Rhode with the unusual lubrication system, and apart from many Austin 7s he has had an Eric Campbell, a number of excellent Gwynne Eights, ABCs that kicked badly when hand-started, and is now getting very good service from a Morris Ital estate-car, used in connection with the nursery-garden business. Before that he had quite a number of motorcycles, starting with a Campion when he was learning about loco engineering in Sheffield. I asked which had been his favourite and he said the one that was almost his last, a Scott Flying Squirrel.

While I was chatting with Boyd-Carpenter there occurred one of those odd happenings that some might suggest to be psychic, others due to co-incidence. He had just said that in the Malt House hung a photograph of one of his 1927 racing Austins (long-tailed, with brake lever protruding through the scuttle-cowl of its BC body) when a lady came in to ask the year of this car, because a visitor to the gardens had spotted it and said he had seen it race at Brooklands. . .

Leaving with memories of Boyd-Carpenter saying what fun it had all been and how very pleasant (with two exceptions) he had found the other Brooklands’ drivers in my mind, I drove on to Gittisham to visit Mrs Marker, whose husband raced Bentleys there and the 61/2-litre Bentley-Jackson which Vaughan-Davies is gradually rebuilding. The village has been part of the Marker estate from time immemorial and Mrs Marker has equally happy memories of the old Track — helping to change a wheel of a Bentley which resulted in her engagement and shortly afterwards marriage to Richard Marker, being able to drive from Brooklands to Honiton in 21/2 hours when the vintage Bentleys were well and truly wound up, of Marker trying unsuccessfully to complete the course of the Veteran Car Run in his primitive Crowden, and of how dangerously high on the bankings he had to take the Bentley, “Old Mother Gunn”, when passing quite small cars such as Doreen Evans’ MG Midget, etc at a lap-speed of over 130 mph. Today Mrs. Marker runs a car with motor-racing connotations, in the form of a Renault 5. — WB.

V-E-V Miscellany.

Rolls-Royce folk may well be interested to know that there was a fine picture of a disc-wheeled Rolls-Royce that appeared in the May issue of the Southern Counties HVPT’s Newscircular. It was used as a recovery vehicle by Moore’s of Brighton while they were engaged on military vehicle repair during WW2 and is seen crewed by an ARP squad. It could well be an early Silver Ghost and the R-R mascot was still on the radiator cap.

Terance Barnes has sent us a copy of some old invoices which showed that in 1930 Model-T Fords were being sold at the rate of £1 each. For instance, the North Worcestershire Motor Company sold a tourer with interchangeable body and a one-tonner truck “as inspected” to someone in Belbroughton for a couple of pounds!

We discovered recently that just after the First World War the Thorold family of Syston Park had a big side-valve Wolseley, followed by a Lanchester Forty then a 14 h.p. Wolseley, driven by a chauffeur called Griggs who was born in Syston and who learned to drive on a Model-T Ford at a local garage. It was at Syston Park that motorcycle races were held, over a circuit taking in the drive to the mansion, past the lake, and turning left to rejoin it through the nursery gardens. Later Inter-‘Varsity speed-trials were held up the same drive, after Mr. Clegg had moved there, these continuing up to the outbreak of the war. The same chauffeur later went to Devon, driving Sir John Thorold in a Humber Pullman which was laid-up during the war, when its driver was in the RAF, but was put back on the road with some difficulty afterwards. We also heard the splendid story of how Lord Hilton’s chauffeur was unable to keep up with HM the Queen during the Royal Family’s visits to Radstock, in the 18 hp Armstrong Siddeley he was then driving, causing it to be changed for a Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn in good order, which used to be sent to Derby for annual servicing. As with other former chauffeurs, this one still runs an old but immaculately maintained car, a 1966 Hillman Minx. WB