THE increase in the petrol tax can be said to have hit particularly hard at the vintage movement, because, although many old cars are distinctly economical for their engine size, most of them are lavish with the litres, and this, coupled with the unjust 25s. tax extracted for every rated horsepower, does make motoring in the better-known vintage sports cars an expensive business while Sir Stafford remains Chancellor of the Exchequer. Unfortunately, there are not so very many practical vintage cars under 1 1/2 litres, or shall we incur the wrath of the Salmson and Amilcar exponents for saying so ? Those who doggedly decide to give the Government not a penny more than they need, while still remaining vintage-car users, will have to search diligently for suitable vehicles, for not only is a good fuel consumption essential, but the rated horsepower must not exceed eight, otherwise the road-fund tax exceeds that paid by modern cars of all sizes.
The Gwynne Eight or an “8/18” Talbot would be just the job, but we suppose many people will be content with a pre-1931 Austin Seven. There is also the “7.5” Citroen, more “big-car” than the Austin Seven and with some endearing features, even if it is terribly leisurely about the place. In rather the same category is the amusing little “7/17” Peugeot, of course. Our choice would be a Gwynne, although we must not overlook the fact that the example we ran during the war was immensely improved by an -A.B.C. four-speed gearbox, the ratios of which suited the car admirably, and the addition of front brakes. The standard model had its rather wide-ratio three-speed gearbox mounted on the end of the torque-tube and in consequence the gear lever, reminiscent of that in the pre-1929 Austin Seven, used to dance about quite astonishingly. These particular “Cripps-copers” are getting rare, but do not overlook the fact that the “10/23” Talbot is a delightful little car (rated at 9 h.p. and good for about 35 m.p.g.), which surely isn’t too wide of the mark ? And neither is an “8/18” Humber.
* * *
Cripps or no Cripps, the vintage movement grows apace. There is no question but that well-preserved examples of the older cars exert a great fascination for many people. The reasons are not far to seek, and recently we encountered a new one.
“Leaving aside the vexed question of quality when comparing old cars with present-day productions,” said our informer, “when you seek out the quiet places of this country, surely you do so because, mercifully, they are largely unchanged from a past age, a time before the era of 9s. in the £ income-tax, nationalisation and the hydrogen bomb. Very well, if it is an escape through the unspoiled countryside and remote villages into an atmosphere of the past that provides you with relaxation, surely it is utterly illogical to make such journeys in a lozenge-shaped car possessed of the same kind of modern gadgetry that you encounter daily in your home and office?”
That is certainly a strong argument in favour of using a vintage car when motoring “off the red” of your road-map. Another factor that appeals is that in its details each vintage car has its own characteristics. Drive all the moderns and a certain “sameness,” born of assembly from proprietary components, is apparent. Perhaps we have forgotten that a standard C.A.V. lighting-switch-panel figured on more than one make of car from the Armistice onwards, which was when true individuality of detail commenced to disappear. Nevertheless, in the nineteen-twenties such things as complete instrument boards could not be bought by manufacturers from proprietary concerns, as is the case today, and consequently each car had its individuality emphasised by the arrangement of its detail fittings. For example, examining a 1926 “14/40” Sunbeam the other day we came upon the little handle on the crankcase for the remote sump level cock and those knurled controls, like the knobs of an early radio set, which onto always associates with this particular “14/40,” one on the dash for the throttle setting, that in the steering-wheel centre for the ignition. Could it be that the famous Wolverhampton firm bought up a host of Kaiserwar wireless parts and incorporated some of them in its post-Armistice cars? Whatever the explanation, in a world becoming ever more stereotyped, it is features such as this that bring true pleasure to the individualist.
Last month, naturally, the topic of conversation in vintage circles was the Silverstone Meeting of the V.S.C.C. Even if the venue was reminiscent of the Welsh Harp, some very fine racing resulted. But first we had the One-Hour High-Speed Trial, is a splendid event in every way. It was rightly confined to pre-1931 cars (unsupercharged) and its popularity was emphasised by the 43 entries. They covered most of the accepted vintage types. The 1,100-c.c. class had an o.h.c. Morris Minor Special and two “Brooklands” opposed by four Austin Sevens–French’s “special,” Lush’s orange ex-“works” T.T. car, entered by Birkett, and the “Ulsters” of Heyward and Armstrong. In the up to 2-litre class Lockhart’s short-stroke “12/50” Alvis tourer, with wire front and artillery back wheels, Carpenter’s long-stroke, home-bodied “12/50 ” Alvis two-seater, Edgar’s “12/50” Alvis-engined Riley Redwing, Julian Jane’s Lancia Lambda, a 2-litre Lagonda or two, Hope’s Type 40 Bugatti, a saloon 1 1/2-litre Alfa-Romeo, a 1,750,c.c. Alfa-Romeo, two early Frazer-Nashes, one with a very distinctive exhaust note, and Jay’s 2-litre G.P. Bugatti, made the running. The 3-litre division saw several Lancia Lambdas opposed by a “14/40” Delage, a “genuine” cycle-wing 3-litre twin-cam Sunbeam four-seater, a “22/90” Alfa-Romeo and two 3-litre Bentleys in the big-car class the “30/98” Vauxhalls of Alan May, Plowman and Binns did battle against five 4 1/2-litre Bentleys, a 1925 short-chassis 45-h.p. Hispano-Suiza, with later saloon body, which thundered round at speeds it was once accustomed to adopt down Routes Nationale, and a very able 5.2-litre Stutz Saloon. Denshams also ran their 1913 Calcott, which got along surprisingly well but was delayed during the compulsory wheel-change by the stud-fixing of its artillery wheels and by dirt in its carburetter.
Detailed results of this one-hour event are appended, for this is established as an annual vintage-car classic.
The reliability of the cars was remarkable, at all events until the last quarter-of-an-hour, when a few ran into difficulties. We believe Binns’ “39/98” Vauxhall melted a bearing at the very beginning, but it was near the end of the sixty minutes before Jane’s Lancia discarded its propeller-shaft. Leo’s 2-litre Lagonda began to overheat and slowdown and one of the Lancias to misfire. The Morris Minor was, however, never very happy. The Austin Sevens put up a fine show, except Birkett’s, which lost time through running out of fuel, because he had forgotten to turn-on the reserve tap before starting.
1950 V.S.C.C. HIGH-SPEED TRIAL
UP TO 1,100 c.c. :
J. S. French (Austin) … Qualified
L. H. W. Heyward (Austin) Qualified
H. Birkett (Austin) … Failed by 0.89 of a lap
J. V. Armstrong (Austin) Failed by 1.32 laps
J. C. G. Dancer (Morris) Failed by 2.62 laps
1,101-2,000 c.c. :
N. Arnold Forster (Frazer-Nash) … Qualified
M. R. Lovell (Fraser-Nash) … Qualified
E. R. Jay (Bugatti) … Qualified
C. F. N. Hope (Bugatti) … Failed by 0.28 of a lap
D. Roberts (Lagonda) … Failed by 0.73 of a lap
A. Scott-Johnson (Alfa-Romeo) … Failed by 0.85 of a lap
P. H. Thompson (Alfa-Romeo) … Failed by 1.31 laps
L. Leo (Lagonda) … Failed by 1.53 laps
A. J. Fisher (Lagonda) … Failed by 1.97 laps
W. P. H. Lockhart (Alvis) … Failed by 2.08 laps
D. Carpenter (Alvis) … Failed by 2.60 laps
D. A. Densham (Calcott) … Failed by 5.84 laps
J. Jane (Lancia) … Retired
2,001-3,000 c.c. :
L. S. J. Evans (Lancia) … Qualified
B. Morgan (Bentley) … Qualified
T. Goodman (Alfa Romeo) … Failed by 0.04 of a lap
J. Wadsworth (Sunbeam) … Failed by 0.10 of a lap
G. Robson (Lancia) … Failed by 0.23 of a lap
C. Batte (Delage) … Failed by 0.78 of a lap
Over 3,000 c.c. :
A. May (Vauxhall) … Qualified
T. H. Plowman (Vauxhall) Qualified
G. C. H. Kramer (Bentley) … Qualified
G. G. McDonald (Bentley) … Qualified
H. Kemp-Place (Bentley) … Qualified
P. Scott-Russell (Bentley) … Qualified
W. H. Stout (Bentley) … Qualified
J. R. L. McGildowny (Hispano-Suiza) … Failed by 1.66 laps
R. H. B. Mason (Bentley) … Failed by 2.24 laps
E. A. T. Moore (Stutz) … Failed by 3.17 laps
R. Briggs (Lancia) … Failed by 5.15 laps
P. J. E. Binns (Vauxhall) Retired
[These results are based on official distances supplied by A. J. Gibbons, one of the official timekeepers.—ED.]
* * *
The results of the half-mile sprints and races appear in “Reports of Recent Events,” and we are concerned here only with their vintage aspects. The acceleration of Clutton’s 10 1/2-litre V12 Delage, now painted a bright blue, was a distinct high-spot and it was a pity that it blew the gasket of one of its vast cylinders during its first race. Jack Fairman came through strongly to win the Historic and Vintage Racing Car event in Tony RoIt’s supercharged 3,442-c.c. Alfa-Romeo, from Rowley’s 1927 1 1/2-litre Delage and Little’s twin-rear-wheeled “2.3” Bugatti. Ewen in the 1908 Itala fended off a blown M.G. and a blown Austin Seven. The vintage Frazer-Nash of Parker and Geoghegan were second and third in the Frazer-Nash Handicap behind Norris’ handul of 3 1/2-litre single-seater A.N. Special, that passed for a F.N. Parker’s 1926 car is the old “Patience” of pre-war days, with Dubonnet i.f.s. and Meadows engine carburetted by two vast, polished Solexes. The Vintage Sports-Car Race was most exciting, and pleased the B.D.C. boys because Kemp-Place’s 1928 4 1/2-litre Bentley two-seater put it across Alan May’s 1924 “30/98″ Vauxhall four-seater on the last lap, Arklay’s A.C.-Frazer-Nash third. May had been heard to remark beforehand that the corners were a bit slippery for a “30/98.” Incidentally, his car has boxed-in front dumb-irons, Hispano-Suiza front brakes, transverse hydraulic front shock-absorbers and, in common with Plowman’s, a 48mm. downdraught Zenith carburetter Rowley’s 1930 team Talbot made no impression on Webb’s 1925 “30/98” Vauxhall four-seater.
The Vintage Handicap was immense and produced the spectacle of Briggs’ Lancia Lambda gaining yards on Towle’s “30/98” Vauxhall into Stowe Corner due to its superior anchors. But it could not hold off Hull’s incredible 1930 supercharged 1,750-c.c. Alfa-Romeo coupé, which, with top up, started 20 seconds later but passed the Lancia to secure a convincing victory, just as it had at Lulsgate. Webb’s smart “30/98” also displaced Briggs in the last lap. D. Allen’s beautiful 1922 G.P. Sunbeam, in original trim, wasn’t fast enough, but how nice to see it! Vintage honour was upheld finally in the Four-lap Mixed Handicap, when Heals 1994 supercharged G.P. Sunbeam, displaying magnificent acceleration, finished comfortably in front of Lant’s blown M.G. and Waring’s Alvis.
Moreover, f.t.d. was made by Fairman’s “historic” Alfa-Romeo, which averaged 69.71 m.p.h. and lapped at 74 m.p.h., and Heal’s G.P. Sunbeam was next best.
In spite of the rain there were no accidents had, heart-stopping moments were contributed by Marshall, whose Amilcar Six spun at Stowe, motored into a straw bale on the inside of the corner, and disappeared across the grass, and by Birrell, who slid to a stop in his G.P. Bugatti on the same corner in the path of the thunderous Hispano and Stutz saloons. Parker’s 1926 Frazer-Nash got mighty close to Webb’s “30/98” Vauxhall on the same corner, and Mrs. Ching (Bugatti) owes the V.S.C.C. one marker-bin!
For sheer enterprise on the corners, K. B. Lee, who drove a shortened Type 40 Bugatti, deserves to be coupled with Parker. In contrast, Raven took a very queer course in his non-vintage Railton, while Waine was in no hurry in his 1926 open Isotta-Fraschini, although he certainly wasn’t waiting for the kettle to boil, and something really should he done at club meetings about bonnets–a Bugatti and an Alvis were allowed to continue when theirs were obviously about to fly off–and did, in the former instance.
Naturally, the paddock was Utopia for vintagents. Two smart; Caleott two-seaters one 1921 the other 1923, were noticed standing side by side, and we spotted two Edge-A.C. two-seaters and the Bayliss-Thomas, etc. The whole day was immense fun and, if you missed going, make a note that there will be another V.S.C.C. meeting at the same place on June 24th.