Veteran Edwardian Vintage, July 1984

A section devoted to old car matters
Talbots in London

At the instigation of Stephen Lally, the 80th Anniversary of the Talbot name, in particular the opening of the factory, Ladbroke Hall, in October 1904 for building the Earl of Shrewsbury and Talbot’s cars, at Barlby Road in W. London, was duly celebrated, with a rally at that very factory (likely soon to be pulled down, alas).

On May 26th, in wet, cold weather, a fine assembly of pre-war Talbots was ranged up on part of what was once the slightly-banked test-track round the then-palatial building, where, between the wars, the celebrated Gorges Roesch designed and supervised the construction of his famed cars — and from whence they went out, as had Percy Lambert’s “100-in-the-hour” 25/50 Talbot in 1913 to do battle on the race-circuits. On May 27th, the cars went on to the Syon Park Museum, to give the public the chance of seeing them.

Lally had persuaded a fine and representative line-up of Talbots t o attend, and had produced a souvenir programme. The oldest Talbot was Heeson’s ex-hill-climb 1913 25/50, in immaculate order. The next oldest was my 1922 8 hp Talbot-Darracq, first production example and sole survivor of its type according to Lally, driven part-way that morning from Wales, with, beside it, Lally’s 1923 8 hp Talbot coupé , seemingly with a slightly higher chassis than mine. Very desirable was Lloyd’s 1923 10/23 saloon, found in a scrapyard in 1964 and restored by late last year. Talbot 10/23 two-seater and a smart dh coupe kept it company, Allin’s with notably-large transverse Andre-Hartford front shock-absorbers. Alison Moores drove all the way there in her rare 1923 12/30 which was found in Yorkshire many years ago and which her late father converted from four-seater to more practical two-seater. Roesch’s meticulously-designed14/45 model was well represented, although Wilson-Kitchen’s had expired with Autovac trouble near the Crystal Palace. But Grey’s 1928 tourer, bought by him for £10 in 1958, Hadland’s dh coupé, Clarke’s coupé-cabriolet, and Anthony Rawlings’ well-used tourer, effectively covered this model, from 1928 to 1930.

Burnett’s 1935 65 six-light saloon, a one-family car, was in process of repanelling, Barker brought the smart two-tone 75 saloon he has owned for 25 years, Ward presented an ex-Fox & Nicholl bonnet-strapped 1930 75 tourer (GO 66) and we admired Bennett’s Noel Rees 1934 75 saloon, typical of these splendid cars in their hey-day, with Leat’s 1935 Special Sports saloon keeping it company. Lambert’s 1936 75 Corsica tourer, with Arctic runs and rallies behind it, sported VSCC and Brooklands Society badges headlamp covers and a bulldog mascot, and C. J. Ward had a 105-engined Talbot 75 with odd Brooklands-replica body, which someone unkindly dubbed bogus Blight . . .

Among the Talbot 90s were Beebee’s ex-Brooklands (Hebeler) single-seater, now with Elsom two-seater body, while Pat Stephenson had come in PL2, an actual team-car, bringing much nostalgia in its wake. Then there was a 1935 95 ambulance, still in the service of the London Ambulance Service and generously brought by its crew, Dodd’s Vanden Plas 105 tourer with impressive lamps, Rolph’s sister car, rubbed-down ready for a repaint, and another, very nice, example belonging to R. C. Godwin. Most impressive were a 110 saloon and Jarrett’s Airline 105 saloon, while the transitional period to Rootes take-over was represented by Wallingford’s Sunbeam Ten tourer and a Ten saloon, and Sunbeam-Talbot saloon. There was a good line-up of vintage Sunbeams, including Heal’s twin-cam 3-litre just cured of rear-end dental problems, discreetly facing the Talbots, whose day it was.

It was unfortunate that last-minute withdrawal of permission to tour the entire factory somewhat restricted the historians, the excellent buffet-supper, accompanied by a band, had to be held in the un-heated service area (the opening banquet of 1904 was held in the opposite building), and that the panelled board-room was rather small for the interesting display of many old racing films. But the rally was graced by a Talbot owner who had come from Stockholm and there were old documents, albums and a case of 1907 badges won by competitive-minded Talbot owners to inspect. In the course of the evening toasts were drunk to the STD Register and to the memory of Georges Roesch, while the old Talbots were left to their thoughts in the rain outside. There was even a tasty Talbot iced cake.

Not much remains of the old test-track, and a mural on an inside wall of the factory has been altered from “Talbot” to “Sunbeam-Talbot”. Yet it is unthinkable that this fine purpose-built factory, now used by a film company and by Peugeot-Talbot, should be pulled down . . . Nice that the latter Company, RAC Motor Services, the Stanmore Motor Co, and Burmah-Castrol had contributed to the cost of this memorable occasion. — W.B.

Those 2-litre Packards

In the course of reporting Alec Ulmann’s views on the origins of the V12 Packard in the May issue, we quoted him as saying that he believed racing driver Ralph de Palma tried to get Packard to build cars to the post-war 2-litre formula, without success. This could be taken as suggesting that such a car was never built or that it was, but was not successful. We will give Alec the benefit of the doubt, for, as historian Cyril Posthumus reminds me, Packard did build a team of racing cars for the 1923 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, which followed the Grand Prix rules of being run under an up-to-2-litres formula.

These Indy Packards had six-cylinder engines of 63.5 x 101.6 mm (1,997 cc), with two valves per cylinder operated by gear-driven twin overhead-camshafts, operating directly on the valves. The drive went through a single-plate clutch and four-speed gearbox to a bevel-drive back axle, of aluminium centre-section and steel-tube construction. The half-elliptic springs had sliding anchorages instead of shackles and the wheelbase was 8 ft 4 in. These slim cars had recognisable Packard radiators and weighed out at only just over the minimum stipulated weight limit of 1,400 lb, which it was said could have been reduced if the rules had permitted. The foot brake worked on the back wheels, the hand brake on the transmission and a fuel tank big enough to ensure only one pitstop in the 500 miles was fitted. Packard steering gear was used, the gearbox was from the same source, but the cars were actually started in the Miller shops at Los Angeles, where the Miller and Durant Indy cars were made, although they were finished in the Packard factory at Detroit. They undoubtedly had Miller influences, using a four-bearing crankshaft running in three ball-bearings, while the compression-ratio was higher than 7 to 1. But as Miller was building eight Durant-Millers for Cliff Durant, as well as three cars for himself, it does seem as if he may have been unable to complete work on the Packard team cars, although apparently Col J. D. Vincent, the great Packard Chief Engineer who had been responsible for the “Twin-Six” Packard touring car, took responsibility for them.

It is possible that de Palma influenced Vincent in producing Indy cars under the new 2-litre formula, for he had close associations with Packard, having worked on development of the V12 Liberty aero-engine there during the war. By 1922 he was regarded as America’s top racing he driver, having won the 1915 Indianapolis 500 in a 1914 GP Mercedes, following successes in many important American events the previous year, including winning the Vanderbilt Cup. He then finished second to Murphy’s Duesenberg in a Ballot, in the 1921 French GP, was sixth in a Packard and fifth for Ballot at Indy in 1919 and 1920, and in 1922 he had finished fifth there in a Duesenburg. In fact, I think Earl C. Anthony gave the order to de Palma. . .

For the 1923 Indianapolis race the Packard trio was in the hands of de Palma, Dario Resta and Joe Boyer — Packard could afford the best pilots! The cars ran on 30 x 5 tyres and used KLG “Bethlehem” plugs, which latter sounds like a prayer for success! De Palma qualified early at over 100 mph but in the race, which vindicated the new 122 cu in formula, Tommy Milton, driving the whole way himself, won in the HCS-Miller at 90.95 mph, compared to the 94.48 mph average of the winning 183 cu in

Deusenberg-Miller in 1922. No doubt de Palma had convinced Packard that victory at Indy in 1923 would enhance sales of the “Twin-Six”, of which more than 35,000 had been sold by 1921, and of their new Type 143 straight-eight model, due out a month after the race and soon to be made even more attractive with front-wheel brakes. However, it was not be. Before a claimed 150,000 spectators, three Durant Specials, built alongside the Packards, chased the winning Duesenberg-Miller home but, according to Motor Age, Boyer’s Packard retired after 59 of the required 200 laps, with back-axle trouble, de Palma’s and Resta’s going out after 69 and 88 laps, with blown head-gaskets.

This seems to have dispirited Packard’s for their name did not figure at Indy again until 1929, and then the Packard-Cable Specials were really 1½-litre Millers. There were three of them, in the hands of Ralph Hepburn, Leon Duray and Tony Gulotta, but they retired after 14, 65, and 91 laps, respectively. It is interesting that although Packard had introduced the first production V12 in 1915, they did not adopt this cylinder arrangement for these 1923 2-litre racing cars, although in the field of GP racing Delage was using a V12 power unit. – W.B.

ERAs Only

At Silverstone later this month the VSCC will include an ERA race at its meeting on the 14th. This had misled Sporting Cars into stating that this will be “the first ever race for ERA and ERA-engined cars”. In case anyone else is suffering from a short memory, it may be of interest to recall another race that was confined to ERAs (if the clause “and ERA-engined cars” was omitted, this was because no such hybrids seemed likely at the time.

It took place at the 1938 Brooklands August Bank Holiday Meeting, over five laps of the Campbell Road circuit. Called The Invitation Race for ERA Cars, the entrant of the winning car was to receive a prize of £30, that of the second car home £15, and the entrant of third ERA to finish the sum of £10. ERAs were then 1½-litre cars for voiturett racing and four private owners availed themselves the opportunity of this extra chance to race during the afternoon, the start being timed for 3.30pm. They were Billy Cotton in his green ERA with silver wheels (R1B), Arthur Dobson in his white / black one (R7B), Reggie Tongue in his all green car (R11B) and Johnnie Wakefield driving his blue / silver ERA (R14B). All had supercharged 57.5 x 95.25mm six-cylinder engines and they were flagged off together, as will be the ERAs in the VSCC’s special race.

After pulling out all the stops and making fastest standing lap at 69.63 mph, Dobson, in the car now raced by Dudly Gahagan, led all the way, to win by 6.4 sec from Wakefield, with Cotton third, the luckless Reggie Tongue having got off slowly and retired on his second lap due to drastic brake problems. Dobson averaged 72.35 mph for the (approx) 11 miles and his fastest laps were nos 2 and 4, both at 73.66 mph, although the best lap of the race was at 75.01 mph by Cotton. The experiment was never repeated. So now you know, and perhaps Philip Young, Editor of Sporting Cars, should be made to write out the results one hundred times. . .

Incidentally, it is a great tribute to those who have since kept the ERA flag flying (although it is now 50 years since the first of these cars was raced) that a much bigger field can be anticipated for the VSCC ERA race, over about five more miles, than there was at Brooklands before the war. It would seem, however, that some sort of start should be given to the 1½- litre-engined cars, over those ERAs now with 2-litre engines. A forecast? Our money will be on the Hon Patrick Lindsay. – W.B.

V-E-V Odds & Ends – The Amilcar Register’s Newsletter for April contained a very interesting translation of an interview with the French racing driver C.A. Martin, who apparently has retained every car he raced. In the course of the article it transpired that for Le Mans, where Martin finished 8th in 1932 and 20th in 1934, he used a four-cylinder Amilcar engine in an Amilcar Six chassis, as more suited to such a long race than a supercharged twin-cam power unit. Those who have queried what became of the pre-1914 Wolseley Gyro-Car that spent the war years buried but was later disinterred, may be interested to know that in Harald Penrose’s latest book “Adventure with Fate”, reviewed on page 805, the author describes how he drove the Brennan gyro-car, which was at RAE Farnborough in 1931. The book also discloses the fact that up to at least the end of 1934 the fire-engine at Westland’s Yeovil aerodrome was an ancient Ford, presumably a Model-T, equipped with six inadequate extinguishers. . . Incidentally, from it we learn that in the 1960s Westland’s had a big Humber and de Havilland’s a Rolls-Royce as guest transport at the SBAC Show and that after his A7 Penrose owned Wolseley Hornet, Jaguar, Swallow Doretti and an Automatic Austin Princess, among others, and that in 1957 multi-millionaire Onassis was using a chauffeur-driven Hispano Suiza.

And, returning to pre-war matters, although not stated in the book, Hal Penrose’s first motorcycle was a really aged 30/- Singer, followed by a single-gear Ariel, he tells me.

The Bugatti OC has its members’ Garden Party and Concours d’Eleganc at Prescott on July 22nd .

The VSCC held a speed hill-climb at the pleasant Wiscombe course in Devon on May 20th. The class winners were Nice (A7), Jones (Frazer Nash), Marsh (Bugatti 35T) and Spollon (Bentley) in the sports-car categories, with Marsh, and Jones in “Patience”, setting new vintage records, Spollon sports-car ftd and a new class-record, the 500 cc class being won by a Cooper Mk VI, Hickling’s Dodge four taking the Edwardian section, while among the rest of the racers the class victors were Campbell’s Austin-Ford, Giles’ GN-Morgan (new record), Sir John Venables-Llewelyn’s ERA R4A to another record, and ftd in 48.29 sec, Moffatt setting vintage-ftd with the 35B Bugatti in 49.16 sec, rain spoiling the second runs. The Trojan OC’s current Newsletter contains an account of the Singapore to London 12,000-mile overland journey by one of these cars in 1926. It also mentions the Crash-Box Club Powderham Castle Rally near Exeter on Jly 1st, at which the two-speed epicyclic Trojan should be the odd car out, and has its own Syon Park Rally on September 8th.

The Patrick Collection held a meeting at NMM last month to try to raise interest in getting Sir Malcolm Campbell’s “Bluebird” LSR car back to this country from America – and quite right too! – W.B.

Second Silverstone

The Vintage SCC’s Mike Hawthorn Trophy meeting should draw all old-car enthusiasts to see a full afternoon of racing over the Club circuit on July 14th, the first race being due to start at 1.00 p.m. The main event is a 15-lap Historic Racing Car scratch contest. This will be supplemented by two 10-lap races for vintage and later pre-war racing cars respectively, but the interesting happening will be the other 10-lap race exclusively for ERA and ERA-engined cars. This should have a full field of surviving 1½-litre and 2-litre pre-war ERAs, which means almost all of them, and it is likely that Marisa Levy will enter “Romulus”, after which the ex-Prince Chula / Bira car will probably be retired for all time. So that is another incentive to attend. The longer races will be supported by the usual VSCC four and vie-lap scratch and handicap events and there is also to be a 10-lap scratch contest for selected pre-1961 sports cars and a six-lap scratch battle for road-equipped, presumably pre-1940, sports cars.

Entries have closed. Spectators admitted if with less than four legs. – W.B.

The Things They said. . .

“On the day that the TT is discontinued we shall feel that Motoring Sport is indeed doomed, and this office will be consumed in flames” MOTOR SPORT, in an Editorial in 1927, about the decline of the Sport at that time. However, it was the ACU motorcycle TT the writer was referring to and, anyway, the offices were then in Victoria Street. – W.B.