Silverstone Meeting on May 3rd.
The outstanding vintage happening last month was the VSCC Race Meeting at Silverstone, on May 3rd. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day’s sport in spite of the damp, and the VSCC must have been enormously proud that so many people came to watch. The new grandstand opposite the new pits was quite packed, these enthusiasts were rewarded by a meeting run to schedule in spite of the hampering weather conditions.
Another high-light of the day’s sport was that while not every race was confined to vintage cars, all were duly won by pre-1931 cars. How popular this sort of meeting is can be gauged by the entry received, which totalled 99.
The One Hour High-Speed Trial for vintage sports-cars opened the proceedings, and the schedule speeds set were almost too easy, in spite of the wet track. The only unfortunates who failed to qualify were Mrs Gibbs’ Riley Nine which lost its fuel pressure, and Bonham-Christie’s aluminium Anzani Frazer-Nash which went round and round very sedately, probably because it had lost some chains. JG Vessey’s Lancia Lambda, which retired and the Rolls-Sunbeam which boiled away its cooling water. The remaining starters all qualified, the 1,100-cc cars at 42.5 mph, the 1,101-2,000-cc cars at 46 mph, the 2,000-3,000-cc cars at 49.3 mph and the big fellows, comprising four 41/2-litre Bentleys, at 52.7 mph, proof positive of vintage ability. Nigel Arnold-Forster in his stark Anzani Frazer-Nash enjoyed a duel with DM Jenkinson’s GP Bugatti, the ‘Nash spinning on one occasion at the new Beckett’s Corner, Dr Pinkerton drove his “Ulster” Austin neatly and BH Thompson pressed on in his “Silver Eagle” Alvis four-seater. FB Copeland’s Bentley shed its exhaust system, but it wasn’t penalised.
After lunch came a five-lap Handicap Race, H Gilling’s 1925 Salmson, looking rather like a dirt-track car, but sounding extremely healthy, led throughout to win at 55.59 mph. CM Sears in his 1934 Frazer-Nash drove splendidly into second place from the 42 sec mark, with RHB Mason’s 41/2-litre Bentley four-seater third. PB Denton’s Alta sounded like—an Alta, and it took four and a half laps to wash out the 12 sec start given to Dr Ewen in the big V12 Delage.
The vintage cars then had a five-lap Handicap to themselves. M Vaughan’s 14/40 Delage tourer led valiantly for nearly four laps, but in the end it, and T Goodman’s 22/90 Alfa-Romeo, gave best to JH Pratt’s Type 37 Bugatti, with LJ Sergeant’s 11/2-litre Riley and WF Moss’ blown 11/2-litre Alfa-Romeo following him home. WJ Frost gyrated at Beckett’s in his blown 11/2-litre Alfa-Romeo, but it was left to DH Gahagan to really play ninepins with the marker bins—his Type 37 Bugatti scored five ! Previously, RE Hardy in his Hardy Special–Riley engine, Morgan front end, GN transmission—had entered Beckett’s far too fast, collecting several bins but contriving, unlike Gahagan, to continue, the while stooping to administer to his astonishing machine.
The big race of the day came next—the 10-lap Scratch Race for the 1908 GP Itala Trophy, confined to vintage racing cars. JC Byrom’s beautiful 1930 blown 2.3 GP Bugatti, with the authentic alloy wheels, which finished second in this race in 1950, was never challenged. It lapped with extraordinary consistency, winning at the day’s highest average speed, 69.41 mph, pursued at a discreet distance by Clutton in the V12 Delage, which was making ‘orrid noises from the region of a front-brake back plate. For nine laps third -place was occupied by JA Williamson’s sports 41/2-litre Bentley with 3-litre chassis, but JG Sears in his father’s immaculate 1914 TT Sunbeam pressed it hard and got by on the last lap when the Bentley shed a float chamber. Heal’s 1910 chain-drive Fiat proved a shade faster-than Dr Ewen’s 1908 Itala and the sight of those two monsters from-a past age in throaty action alone made the Itala Trophy Race worth while. Edwardian hilarity knew no bounds-when Sir Francis Samuelson’s 1914 TT Sunbeam disposed of CPM Green’s Amilcar Six, which seemed to lack anchors. NL Barber’s 1923 200-Mile Race Alvis went magnificently, but spun on two occasions at Beckett’s, so came in last.
A well-fought Scratch Race of five laps for vintage sports-cars followed, divided into capacity classes. HJ Wilmshurst’s “Bluebelle” 41/2-litre Bentley had things all its own way, winning at 64.69 mph, from Sergeant’s not-to-be-denied Riley and GHG Burton’s 41/2-litre Bentley.
There was one ugly moment at the new club Woodcote Corner, when H Spence’s Lea-Francis ran wide on to the grass and shot back across the path of Ft/Lt Morgan’s Type 43 Bugatti with “3.3” engine, which was fortunately just far enough astern to miss it. Wilmshurst, Sergeant, Goodman’s 22/90 Alfa-Romeo and C Treen’s Riley Nine enjoyed class victories.
In unrelenting rain another 10-lap Handicap was run off, Sergeant’s Riley taking the lead on lap four to win at 66.07 mph. Emminson’s 11/2-litre GP Bugatti took second place from WJ Frost’s blown Alfa-Romeo on lap six and they finished thus. LS Richard’s “Speed Twenty” Alvis experienced a nasty slide coming into Beckett’s that developed into a spin, but it went back into the battle later. LT Easdale’s blown 11/2-litre Alfa-Romeo lost its grip and shot straight on at this acute hairpin. The back-markers, Sears’ Frazer-Nash, Crozier’s whale of a Bentley, Margulies’ Talbot and Goodhew’s 41/2-litre Lagonda were handicapped out of it completely. A five-lap vintage car Handicap saw Pratt’s Type 37 Bugatti going beautifully and driven hard only to be caught on the last lap by BE Brown’s Frazer-Nash. AJ Hollington’s Bentley was third. A sadness here—Copeland’s Bentley broke its crankshaft. In the 10-lap Handicap, which followed, Byrom’s GP Bugatti again lapped with extreme consistency, its best at 70.66 mph, but it had to be content with third place, the 41/2-litre Bentleys of Major Bailey and RHB Mason having a grand battle and gradually closing on Jean Bode, who had gallantly kept the Gilling Salmson in the lead for eight laps. The Bentleys duly caught her, the Major not only making up his 47 sec handicap on Mason, but leading him comfortably to the chequered flag, at 64.43 mph.
The Motor Sport Trophy five-lap Handicap saw everyone of the eight starters trying really hard. On the last lap Len Gibbs’ Riley Nine, its fuel feed now restored, snatched the lead from Mason’s thundering Bentley, to win at 62.67 mph. Behind, Wilmshurst was in hot pursuit in third place. On that hard-fought last lap Major Bailey’s Bentley and Gandin’s Alvis got past Moss’ Alfa-Romeo, but Crozier found his 8-litre Bentley a handful in the wet and was last but one, passing only Burton’s Bentley and that not until the last lap.
The foregoing is a general account of this opening round of the 1952 Silverstone Club season, the tabulated results -appearing on page 271. There were some significant high-lights : The sight of Peter Hull’s “beetle-back” 12/50 Alvis with authentic flowing wings, the Frazer-Nashes and GP Bugattis in close proximity in the High-Speed Trial was highly reminiscent of a JCC Sporting Car Race of long ago. WE Edgar ran the Alvista 12150-engined Riley Redwing, MH Bland a disc-wheeled Brescia Bugatti and both qualified. Marcus Chambers, returned to England, was flagmarshal at Woodcote Corner. John Bolster chose Silverstone for his commentary in preference to Snetterton or Castle Combe, another cause for VSCC jubilation. During their spirited duel in the Itala Trophy Race, Major Bailey’s Bentley took its corners close in, under-steering, whereas Sears’ 1914 TT Sunbeam tended to oversteer and ran wide. Lord Charnwood drove his very exciting-to-behold 1911 Coupe de l’Auto Delage, which had a most imposing exhaust to bellow, but which obviouslywasn’t running quite as it should. Bluebelle Gibbs and Jean Bode were the only lady competitors—are the girls afraid that if they turn out at a VSCC meeting they will be referred to as “vintage-ladies” ? Miss Arnold-Forster should have, driven T Craxton’s Riley Nine in the High-Speed Trial, but she non-started—contenting herself with driving to Silverstone in her brother’s venerable Trojan. Why have all the 30/98s faded away ?—only EN Whiteway’s 1922 example and Quartermaine’s 1921/6 car were entered and the former missed starting in the High-Speed Trial, while neither were placed. One of the Vernon Balls’ Crossley Tens turned up, in the care of DG Homshar. A 41/2-litre low-chassis 1932 Invicta had the name “Honey” on its long bonnet—perhaps as some compensation for not being a true vintage car. Kent-Karslake was noticed driving about in a most expensive-looking Rolls-Royce Bentley.
Andre Derain was reported by the Sunday Express as saying. when a painting he sold with nine others for £100 in 1906 was purchased by the Royal Academy for £1,500, “Here am I driving an old Bugatti which knocks me on the head every time I go over a bump. I could have had a new car for that.
Front the April issue of that much-enjoyed journal, “The De Havilland Gazette” :—”The (Vintage Aeroplane Club) Rally was well-attended by old-time aeroplanes and it momentarily recaptured the vanished leisure of dying club meetings in the early ‘thirties; elderly motor cars and “vintage” leather coats added an appropriate touch of period authenticity.”
Fro “The Story of a Norfolk Farm,” by Henry Williamson : “Ten years ago (over 150,000 miles) this all-British car left the Coventry works, but I could not part with it. It was part of my life, and had a soul, which is a sense of continuity. If we were destined to die together, let it be now; so open the throttle and hear once again the roar of wind in the ears. Seventy . . . seventy-four . and the needle quivered there. Oil pressure only 10 lb, those big-end journals were worn oval, and the oil spurted fast through them.” (A book for a library list ?)
After reading the letter by Mr Longhurst, of Kenton, in February’s issue of Motor Sport, on his 1926 12/25 Humber saloon, I am prompted to write to you about a 1924 11/4 Humber tourer which a friend and I acquired in 1948.
This car was in immaculate condition, having had only one owner since new. The paintwork was original, a horrible stone-yellow colour (no doubt popular at the time), which we soon altered to black, with the help of Robbialac paints. The results can be seen in the enclosed photographs. The braking system was by external contracting handbrake, and similar type foot-brake, working on the transmission shaft. The wheels were of artillery type with 760 by 90 BF tyres, this being the only weakness, but after much patching we were able to run the car for many enjoyable miles, to the amusement of the public and with great pride to ourselves, They say every dog has its day and this grand old-timer had its day when it appeared in a film made by the Data Film Co, London, W1, concerning the tailoring trade in Leeds, and was used for several period shorts. This incident was reported in the local press. We resorted to many strange ways, and ideas, to keep the car on the road. One of these was making a king-pin from a 1930 Ford starting-handle. This lasted for a while, but eventually we had the front end overhauled, having new king-pins and bushes made at the local engineering works, being unable to find a garage to do the job.
We had varied receptions at the many garages we visited for service and help, some being very helpful and interested, others just didn’t believe it. But we had great faith in this grand old lady, and she proved it many times, with unfailing starting, and plodding on where many of the more modern “bouncing-boilers” had failed. Soon after petrol came back on the ration we came across several of these cars stopped, with bonnets open, and owner’s heads buried in the superfluous sheet metal they call the body. This was not so with the Humber, you opened the bonnet and everything was there to hand. The engine had magneto ignition. Autovac petrol feed, with large carburetter, which we never changed for a new or better one.
This story had to come to an end, and it came in breaking up the car for scrap (a vandalous act, no doubt, to the vintage owners). The reason for this being we were unable to obtain tyres and tubes, these being an essential part of the car, We were not at the time subscribers to your excellent book Motor Sport, and therefore ignorant of the fact that there are firms who cater for vintage enthusiasts. With this knowledge the car would have been running still. We have regretted our hasty act in disposing of a fine piece of British workmanship, and we still have a few pieces to remind us of her passing—magneto, odd tyres, tubes, Seats and headlamps–but we cannot resurrect “Faithful.”
I am, Yours, etc.,
J Dallas, Leeds.
I went for 12 days to Switzerland in my 1927 Austin Twenty, we crossed Dover-Dunkerque and came back the same way. In 12 days we did just over 2,000 miles and had absolutely no trouble whatsoever.
We made our base at Leak in the Berriere Alps, and from there, we motored to Montreux, Lausanne, Gruyeres and lnterlaken. The photograph enclosed was taken whilst climbing the Col de Moses, which was just opened before we went through.
The performance of the car, especially for its age, was quite extraordinary. We did 282 miles in the day with chains on and 18 degrees of frost, and got 20 miles per gallon. She did not like the pave at all in Northern Franee and this I took very gently. Our best run was between Charmont and Troyen in France, where we averaged 50 miles in the hour. Every mountain pass and all hills I climbed on the third speed, with plenty in hand; never once did the engine boil.
The sole modifications were fitting a large Smith’s heater in the driving compartment, two Berkshire defrosters and an aluminium sheet in front of the radiator blocking the lower half off to get heat from the heater. The radiator has enough Bluecol in it to withstand 45 degrees of frost.
I am, Yours, etc,
J Oldham, Piltdown.
I have had the honour to work on a 1923 14-hp Bean. When I use the word “honour,” I mean it ; as compared to the modern stuff, this old Bean was really wonderful. I gather that there are very few !eft in circulation, but the present owner has given me permission to answer any queries regarding this model. This particular car has only had one previous owner. The original exhaust system is still fitted and does not show a spot of rust. The owner uses the car daily, and does frequent runs to Glasgow’ from here, a distance of nearly 400 miles return. The handbook is still intact and includes a list of spares and maker’s numbers. Two plugs per cylinder are fitted for dual ignition.
I am, Yours, etc.
LDM Simpson (Capt), Inverness.
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