Veteran Edwardian Vintage, June 1962

A section devoted to old-car matters

The first London-Brighton Run for historic commercial vehicles (May 13th)

Those using Clapham High Street on the morning of Sunday, May 13th, saw a most unusual sight, as a great many old commercial vehicles assembled at the Museum of British Transport for the first London-Brighton Run of the HCVC. An extremely good and representative entry travelled via Balham„ South Wimbledon, Sutton, Reigate and along the Brighton Road to the Madeira Drive just as “excursions to Brighton” did in years gone by. Traffic was comparatively light and the first arrival at the finish, a fire-engine, completed the journey in two hours.

The Editor of Motor Sport travelled in a 1909 type-WP3 11-seater Commer shooting brake, the property of “The Swan Revived” at Newport Pagnall, by courtesy of the Rootes Group. He reports as follows :

It is great fun to be “in at the beginning,” so I was delighted to find myself climbing into the sturdy, vivid yellow, chain-drive Commer, once the property of Lord Lonsdale, for this first HCVC “London-Brighton.”

We left at 9.45 am, and were soon bowling along in fine style, the crew exposed in front, the five passengers fairly comfortably ensconced on upholstered benches in the back, having entered through the back-door with the aid of folding steps. In Balham we overtook a Foden steam wagon going well, in the care of a white-overalled driver and fireman. Ahead of us was the 1918 Traffic truck, while coming up behind was Blacker’s 1927 Leyland Lion single-decker ‘bus most of its 35 seats filled and its destination board reading “Ilkley.”

In the interior of the Commer, if the noise level from the rattling, strap-lifted windows is high, the vibration from the solid-tyred wheels is indescribable! The driver has a tough task, too, for engine speed is controlled by a hand-throttle, the gears changed by a massive lever working in a segmented horizontal quadrant, and the clutch is extremely fierce. But, discomfort apart, we progressed in grand style, pondering on how many titled gentlefolk had ridden in similar splendour in the past, their visage’s reflected, as ours were, in a big mirror on the bulkhead of this yellow shooting brake.

We had overtaken the LGOC double-decker ‘bus, late No. 36 route, and after 3/4-of-an-hour were leading this fascinating and nostalgic procession of road transport down the ages. This was not to last, for the descent of Reigate Hill called for bottom gear and, even so, the brakes began to burn, and one by one other veterans came by. The Reigate level-crossing shook our windows as never before but the old Commer went on faultlessly. It had done everything in top, apart from use of the gearbox for safe descent of steep gradients, until Handcross Hill, when a drop to a lower ratio was required up-hill. But the Commer still showed a great contempt for upward gradients. The driver coped very skilfully with downward changes but really fearful crunches accompanied upward gear selection, as that brute of a clutch drove home. I can report that the roundabouts on the Gatwick by-pass were taken at speed with no trace of roll whatsoever!

As we clattered nearer and nearer to Brighton I reflected that, having returned from Spain but two days earlier, I could have called this piece “From Comet to Commer” and certainly there could hardly be a greater contrast. It was fun looking at the other commercials as they overtook us—the Tyler-AEC lorry steaming slightly, the FWD truck on a Scammell articulated, the 1931 Reo coach with a full load aboard, the Dennis Apprentices’ 1929 G-type Dennis fire appliance, its crew, including one sportsgirl, sensibly be-goggled . . . . At the coffee stops we encountered a very beautifully restored 1923 MAG-engined Morgan Family-model 3-wheeler, and the Run itself contained Trojans, model B & T Fords, a Bedford ‘bus and other familiar as well as rare carriers from the vintage era.

The Montagu Motor Museum 1922 Maxwell charabanc had paused momentarily at Gatwick and later the aforesaid Leyland ‘bus was being taken in tow by the 1935 Union Cartage tractor. So into Brighton, the outskirts of which the Commer reached after a completely trouble-free run of 31/4 hours, inclusive of a lengthy refreshment stop.

This great variety of vehicles lined up for driving tests, the award for which was the Trophy presented by National Benzole, who also laid on their usual hospitality for drivers and “mates,” without any extraneous advertising, for which they deserve warm praise. The most imposing vehicle on display was Redburn’s 1911 Belsize fire-engine with 4-litre T-head engine with six cylinders in three blocks of two, and John Morris equipment. Later Lord Montagu received, on behalf of the HCVC, the 1919 WD Leyland box-van, probably the best preserved vintage commercial vehicle in the World, which Chivers Ltd. & Schweppes (Home) Ltd. had generously presented to the Club. When I left to journey home by ‘bus, train, taxi and Renault 4L the Foden was still on its way, but steam was worthily represented at Brighton by Hutchins’ 1933 Sentinel wincher, of which only six were built.

To enjoy membership of most clubs it is desirable to own an appropriate vehicle, but the Historic Commercial Vehicle Club, to which the Vintage Passenger Vehicle Society and the London Vintage Taxi Club arc linked, is rather different, in as much as it incurs expense in housing historic vehicles it owns and which subscriptions help to preserve. So, even if you don’t possess an ancient lorry or ‘bus, you may care to know that Associate Membership costs 10s 6d a year, Full Membership 21s, Life Membership £20, car badges 21s. The Secretary being Prince Marshall, 60 Denison Close, London, N2. A magazine is to be issued and the Club has published an illustrated book which lists all commercial vehicles from 1900-1939, 201 in all, known to be preserved in the British Isles, those belonging to members having their official numbers appended, so that this book becomes a programme of any future HCVC events, of which the next is a rally at Dennis Bros, Guildford, on July 7th. Monthly meetings are held in London, and membership is nearly 300, with over 175 vehicles, of 53 different makes.—WB.

VCC Birmingham Rally (April 28/29th)

K Neve’s 1914 TT Humber won its class in the speed trials incorporated in this rally, clocking 20.96 sec, to beat, on formula, Grossmark’s 1907 7.7-litre Rapier and Lord Montagu’s 1912 Coupe de l’Auto Sunbeam. FDT was made by the 1907 21.7-litre Fiat “Mephistopheles” in 17.27 sec.

Brands Hatch Easter pre-war racing cars’ race

This was won by Waller’s ERA at 65.47 mph from Freeman’s Aston Martin and Tozer’s Amilcar Six. Waller lapped at 68.05 mph.

Fleet Carnival Rally.

Entries, at 5s per class, inclusive of tea, driver and one passenger, close on June 6th. There is a prize for most attractive lady and car, another for most appropriate dog and car, and many famous personalities, including SCH Davis, will be judging. Entry forms from Mrs. W Boddy, Carmel, Fleet, Hampshire.

We hear that in the tiny Angus village of Kingsmuir a 1928 model-A Ford, restored after running 38,000 Miles, a 1928 Morris Cowley saloon, several vintage Austins, a 1930 Morris Minor, a Scott motorcycle and various other old motorcycles, model-T Ford spares, Silver Ghost lamps, etc., are in the care of an enthusiast who drove his model-A Ford, after restoration, down to Dagenham, where it was much admired. Another model-A Ford owner claims performance for his 1929 roadster, made for export, as almost equal to that of the 3.2-litre version referred to in our recent article and says the smaller engine gave 42 bhp at 2,800 rpm.

US enthusiasts should look for an old T-head Seagrave fire engine in a salvage yard on Highway 1 in Petersburg, Virginia. A spanner marked “Alldays light” is offered free to anyone with one of these cars. A Dutch owner of a 1930 Silver Crossley saloon seeks a carburetter, Scintilla magneto and a handbook. A load of Talbot 65 axle spares and engine are offered in exchange for a donation to charity.

A 1924 Bean, the Art Director’s Rolls-Royce and the two model T Fords were apparently used by Shepperton Studios for the film “The Girl in the Boat” starring Norman Wisdom and Millicent Martin. A 7.5 Citroen cloverleaf, in poor condition, is at a farmyard near Selby, Yorks, for sale for about £15.

One of the nicest items the Editor has received for his “museum” is a wooden fan from an ABC car, donated by Mr. Chambers of Maidstone—when “WB” ran an ABC just before the war this fan was missing and when offered one he couldn’t afford the 5s asked for it, so he is delighted to make good the omission now. As a static exhibit it will not endanger the life of cats and dogs, as it did when they ran beneath moving ABC cars! A 1928 model 629 Graham-Paige has been located in good order in Rutland, believed to be one of only three imported into this country. EA Price, whose 39/32 Minerva was described last month, writes to say that the frame of this car and its brake linings are 1/4 in deep not 3/4 in. as stated, and that on a long run he gets 15 mpg.

Dagenham Town Show takes place on July 8th and includes classes for veteran and vintage cars. Entry fee 7s 6d. Details from K.Cope, 35, Arden Crescent, Dagenham, Essex.

Two Important June Fixtures. The VSCC Oulton Park Race Meeting on the 23rd and the VMCC’s Banbury Run for old motorcycles on the 24 th.

Isolated items out of history

A reader, Mr J Harvey of Luton, has supplied some motoring items from the past and claims that the registered numbers quoted are accurate. As vintage-car enthusiasts enjoy following up the most slender clues we print these items-, as they might lead to forgotten old cars or some of those named may be in the hands of VCC or VSCC members :— Apparently a Dr Nicolson of East Hill, Colchester, owned a 1909 Napier (DX 416) supplied by Botwoods of Ipswich. This was the doctor’s summer car. It had an exhaust-driven Gabriel horn, the musical note of which was well known in a 20-mile radius of Colchester, Halstead and Braintree, etc. The doctor’s winter car was a Bedford Buick coupe cabriolet supplied by Birks of Crouch Street, Colchester. In those days Mr. Summucks, who had men’s outfitter’s shops in Ipswich and Colchester, owned a couple of 2-cylinder 95 x 115-mm Alldays cars, DX 114 and DX 10, supplied by Egertons of Northgate Street, Ipswich. Known as “DX” on account of his cars’ registration letters, he used them on alternate days. Mr. John Fenn farmed at Ardleigh Hall, in Essex, and had a 12-hp Rover for his wife and daughter. One of his sons, Rowland Fenn, was apprenticed to Popplewells in Ipswich and rode back and forth every day, at first on a belt-drive, single-speed Triumph (BJ 608), later on a Sturmey-Archer hub model, said to be still in his possession. Later he opened an agricultural business on the Colchester-Clacton road, where he diligently supervised work done on the largest lathe in the country. Now retired, at Clacton, Mr. Fenn rode his Triumph on the Dedham straight road between 1913-20, being more than a match for many Club riders.

While on the subject of motoring memories, isn’t it time we tried to recall the sort of ‘buses that connected isolated villages in the old days ? For instance, when I used to visit an aunt at Waddesdon as a child, I seem to remember two delectable Country ‘buses in which the journey to and from Aylesbury was made. One was a Lancia, probably based on the war-time 30-cwt lorry chassis, with radiator like a Trikappa, which was used on busy days such as Saturdays. The other was a model-T Ford, unless memory plays tricks, with exceedingly rattly windows and much general vibration. It was used on Wednesday afternoons, the only week-day, I think, when the service operated. It would wait for any regular passenger not aboard at the published time of departure, the driver-owner would announce the time of the return departure as his passengers alighted, and, there being plenty of parking space in Aylesbury Market Square in those days-I am thinking of circa 1929—there would be the ‘bus waiting for everyone; it would return crowded with parcels as well as people, gossip in full flood again, as the miles rattled by. I think the return fare was in the region of 1s 6d, and the ‘bus hardly stopped on its 51/4-mile journey except, perhaps, to pick up a solitary passenger at the crossroads out of Waddesdon, by the far-gates of’ Lord Rothschild’s estate (his Lordship had recently given up Lanchesters in favour of a Rolls-Royce, the servants’ station-car was a 1921 Singer Ten, the estate employed a War Subsidy Albion lorry and the clock-winder drove in from Aylesbury in a pre-war 9.5 Standard 2-seater). I seem, too, to recall a Chevrolet ‘bus on this route. Then in the early years of the last war an Edwardian Fiat ‘bus, complete even to the conductor’s badge, used to stand behind the “Tumble Down Dick” in Farnborough, Hants, until removed to a scrapyard. Over what route, and until how recently, we used to wonder, had it carried fares ? If anyone has similar ‘bus memories, we might devote an occasional half-column to them.–WB.

Miscellaneous items.—The Editor’s collection of vintage sparking plugs is growing fast, thanks to the generosity of readers. Mrs Naylor, well-known driver at Goodwood, who took her BMCRC Gold Star on a Norton at Brooklands before the war, kindly weighed in with a very small Bosch, a very early and simply enormous Bosch and a KLG 221. A garage in Crondall, Hants, provided two Nissen plugs, an S5 and a BS2, a Champion X, and a Rajah, while Basil Davenport of GN Spider fame sent a large box full of a fine assortment of Lodge and KLG plugs of the 1926-30 era. So far this interesting collection lacks a lt plug, a model-T Ford plug and a self-priming plug but “WB” lives in hopes!—and is extremely grateful for everyone’s generosity. Incidentally, we have reported on ancient lawn-mowers„ typewriters, sewing machines, etc, but what has become of those model gas-engines you could buy at Bassett-Lowke’s, Bond’s, etc, in the 1920s ? A 1930 Sentinel G6 six-wheeler solid-tyred steam wagon, in poor condition, stands in a field near Brookmans Park Station, and is to be restored.