A racing Buick

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The Michigan-made Buick was respected here and even achieved Royal status when HRH The Prince of Wales and Mrs Simpson used Canadian-built Buicks at the time of the Abdication. But it was not regarded as a racing car in America and the Argentine maybe, but not in England… Bedford-Buicks had been raced at Brooklands before the ‘truck stigma’ implied by the Bedford title, but that was in the long-forgotten Edwardian days.

So when a Buick was entered in 1927 for Brooklands races, the Weybridge cognoscenti were mildly interested. The more so because the entrant was H Hubert Hagen, closely associated with the 996cc vee-twin ohc Montgomery-British-Anzani that was then the world’s fastest motorcycle, ridden at 113 mph by the debonaire, fearless Claude Temple, who had described his experiences in the very first issue of this magazine. Had Hagens breathed his magic into this racing Buick?

The handicappers were cautious, setting Hubert to start with Malcolm Campbell’s s/c Bugatti and a 2-litre GP Bugatti, and putting him on scratch in a slower race. Alas, no magic; he was a non-starter. But in 1928 versatile Alastair Miller took on this Buick. On scratch, it lapped at 95.05mph, broke, was mended, and took a third place. It had a 1924/28style radiator, six-cylinder 3395 cc engine, the expected ‘contract-tostop’ FWB, and cantilever back springs of a touring Buick Light Six, the wheelbase shortened from the normal 9ft 5½in, wire instead of wooden wheels, and an unpainted aluminium two-seater body. G K Clowes then won two races in the Buick at a Surbiton MC day at the Track, at an average of 91.05mph from a heavy re-handicap in the faster one. So, a 100mph Buick! Rumours spoke of a twin-carb, twin-cam motor under the ‘hood’ but I was never able to look…

Busy with other racing cars he had two wins and a third in Delage I that same afternoon Miller let plump, cheerful E H C ‘Tiny’ Schoefield, Vickers’ Chief Test-Pilot, have a go at this September Surbiton Meeting. It was his first motor-race at the place over which he had flown so many prototype aeroplanes, and also his 13th anniversary of being taken a German prisoner-of-war, but oiled-up plugs spoiled things. Entered again for the Autumn BARC Meeting, Tiny’ appeared on the racecard as ‘Professor’ Schoefield (obviously of languages, someone said!). It was a bit of a lark, really. The Buick, like Queen Victoria, was not amused, and again non-started.

Obviously the car was beyond its prime; had Miller, the baronet-to-be, perhaps hired it, or lent it to the pilot, hoping he might want to buy it? Tragically, Schoefield was killed only a month later, testing the Vickers Vanguard over Brooklands… I next saw the Buick on sale in 1930 for £375, road-equipped, in Great Portland Street, London’s then famous ‘street of cars’.

There is a whiff of topicality in this, because an overseas reader intends to make a replica of the racing Buick, having found a derelict 20/60 tourer of this type in a farmyard.

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