THIS year’s Historic Commercial Vehicle Club Brighton Run had a record entry and was a great success, the weather being delightful, the traffic comparatively light once Redhill was left behind and National Benzole, acting, as usual, as generous sponsors. I was able to travel the route, by courtesy of Lord Montagu (who was again driving his 1922 Maxwell charabanc in which I rode last year) in the Montagu Motor Museum’s 1914 model-A14 Albion 10 cwt. platform lorry, ably driven by the Museum’s Chief Engineer, Louis Giron.
This interesting veteran commercial represents the last of the famous Scottish firm’s light van designs. The A14s were in production from 1911 to 1914 and after the Armistice the Albion Company built heavier vehicles. A 4-cylinder monobloc 79 x 127 mm. (2,550 c.c.) side-valve engine is used, with an Albion carburetter on the o/s. Cooling, as befits a design conceived in a hilly country, is by pump and a 4-bladed fan driven by a wide flat belt. The lubrication system is of pressure type; the oil circulates at a mere 3 lb./sq. in., but there is a continual flow past the relief valve, an excellent system which ensures adequate oiling while obviating leaks. Ignition is by a Simms h.t. magneto on the n/s to K.L.G.’s plugs and the drive goes via a disc clutch through the propeller shaft to a worm-drive back axle.
The steering wheel on its near-vertical column has five brass spokes, with brass hand-throttle and ignition levers above it and a small extra-air control ahead of it. On the right are the gear and brake levers, brass-tipped and very massive for such a comparatively light lorry, the former working in a gate to give three speeds forward and a reverse, the latter operating the rear wheel brakes. The foot brake acts on the transmission, there is a small central accelerator, and only one dial, a small oil-pressure gauge (reading up to “5”) above the petrol tank, which occupies the front of the wooden cab at knee-level. The steering, devoid of centre-pivot assistance, is heavy at low speeds.
This particular Albion was discovered in Manchester when the historic commercial vehicle movement began to expand, was bought by the Glasgow firm which built it, and lent by them to the Montagu Motor Museum. It was a bare chassis when found, in which form it cost £411 when new, but a platform body has since been built on behind the windscreen-less cab.
The artillery wheels, which run on plain bearings, are shod with 880 x izo Dunlop cord tyres with the vintage herringbone tread and the vehicle has been fitted out with P. & H. gas sidelamps and an oil tail lamp.
Recently overhauled, the engine was scarcely run-in when, at about 9.15 a.m. on Brighton Sunday, we set out for the seaside from the Museum of British Transport in Clapham High Street, which makes an admirable rallying point—far preferable to the toilet-less Hyde Park of the Veteran Car Run. If you are a Londoner you should certainly pay a visit to this admirable museum.
The Albion was soon progressing strongly at some 25 m.p.h., amid considerable mechanical cacaphony, its gears going in with mighty clicks and crunches, the back-end not ashamed to display the backlash of 50 years’ hard labour. A little water vapour hazed round the filter cap of the brass radiator far below us but progress was purposeful and mechanically reassuring. The traffic up Streatham Place, of schoolboy ‘memories, was congested. But once onto the Brighton Road there was little to impede us until we came to Croydon, although every red traffic light seemed to be against us. The Trojan brougham overtook us, but we, in turn, passed Harrods’ 1919 Walker electric van and the sole surviving 1913 type-CR Wolseley solid-tyred truck, which bears an instruction that the load is not to exceed 3 tons in big letters on its back panel and the axle easing of which is stamped “Vickers Ltd.”
Further on another splendid vehicle, in the form of Tate & Lyle’s beautifully-presented 1913 McCurd 5-ton box van, also on solids, which has been painstakingly rebuilt from near-scrap condition had paused for inspection of its rear end, Drinkwater’s 1922 model-T Ford had stopped, but Hallum’s 1926 Austin 7 van, which is in daily use, was going well.
Croydon was moderately congested and some miles further on the Albion faltered, stopped momentarily, recovered, then came to rest in Redhill, almost opposite Kennings Garage where I had to abandon the Midland Motor Museum’s 1898 Decauville on the 1963 Brighton Run. We were not alone in our plight. Norman’s 1922 model-T Ford was just behind us, having it’s n/s rear tyre replaced, and just ahead of us Reynolds’ 5931 model-AA Ford ladder-truck, which had boiled in the Croydon hold-ups was having its radiator replenished. Behind the model-T the McCurd was again stationary.
Blowing through the petrol pipes cured the Albion’s hesitation, and after a tow by the attendant Land Rover, we were on our way, as strongly as ever. The Albion climbed the rise out of Redhill in its flexible top gear and was pulling strongly again. The only time it came near to overheating was on Pyecombe Hill and this was more a surge of hot water from a hole in the filler cap when negotiating the bad road surface than a boil-over.
Somewhere beyond Gatwick we came upon Lord Montagu’s Maxwell, now resplendent in new livery, and re-shod, stationary at the roadside. The ignition timing had slipped but Giron having attended to this, it was soon on its way, with Lady Montagu and members of B.B.C. 2 as its passengers. However, it was ascending the hills so slowly that another stop was made, to top it up with National Benzole and put on a fresh battery, after which it easily outpaced the Albion.
While we were broken down in Redhill the lone driver of the 1914 Foden 5-tonner, Arthur Wedgewood, went by, steering from his left-hand seat; he had set off alone from Blackpool on the Thursday morning. We soon caught this gallant entrant out during the pause to succour the Maxwell a Sentinel steamer went past, leaving the aroma of hot cinders in its wake. At Crawley Valliant’s 1931 Gifford coach was halted on the hill with a police van behind it and we feared an accident had happened, but it seems it had stalled and needed some water; it finished the Run, as did the McCurd. The Walker Electric, too, was making steady progress, a change of batteries being obviated this year by wiring two cells in parallel. The Wolseley was seen taking on water.
And so, in sunshine and light traffic, we arrived triumphantly in Brighton after a journey of about four hours’ duration—a unique experience and great fun.—W. B.
Commercial comments.—The entry was a record 132. Oldest vehicle was Phipps Brewery’s 1900 Thorneycroft steam wagon but it was steamed only from the outskirts of Brighton, while M. Scanlon’s 1917 International Titan tractor, with a top speed of only 2½ m.p.h., was too slow to be driven down, making the 1912 Belsize fire-engine the oldest vehicle in the Run. The youngest was B. A. Vandenreen’s 1944 Chevrolet C8A 4 x 4, but generally the H.C.V.C. appears to put pre-1940 as its date limit.
The Run was led by Lord Montagu of Beaulieu as President of the Club. The Mayor of Lambeth and his Wife made the journey in the Museum of British Transport’s 1920 A.E.C. K-type 48-seater ‘bus. First to arrive was R. B. Brittain’s 1930 Albion-Merryweather fire engine; it took less than two hours.
Most of the vehicles were old favourites, but I was delighted to see the 1925 Reo coach I saved in Hampshire some years ago, down from Yorkshire in a fine new coat of blue paint, new hood and with its windows replaced. It is owned by J. Hirst. Another “new ” one was C. W. Banfield’s 1920 30-cwt. Garford truck.
There were several later Reos in the Run, with those bars in front of their radiators, I. R. Watson’s 1931 Speed Wagon sporting twin rear tyres, while H. E. Taylor’s 1931 Reo Pullman coach got there in spite of recent cylinder head porosity.
D. Digby appeared to have a Trojan racer rather than a Trojan commercial, the McCurd carried a huge brass Royal fire-extinguisher in its cab, and R. C. Saunders’ 1930 GL-type Dennis a notice proclaiming that it still serves fish and chips in Beds. and Herts !
Brownhills Motor Sales’ 1917 36-h.p. 3-boner W.D. Leyland solid-tyred lorry had useful-looking sprags and carried a ” Kitchener Needs You” war-poster on its screen, while the 1935 3-ton alloy-bodied Albion platform lorry of Beech’s (Cardiff) Ltd. had as its load A. Taverner’s 1927 1-ton Chevrolet.
Driving tests involved balloon-bursting, a Ford Anglia full of balloons providing the spares, official vehicles included H. & B. Gardner’s smart Ford van and an Overland van, while a rough non-competing Morris-Commercial was noticed near Brighton and, incidentally, a very beautifully maintained l.h.d. 13/30 Citroen saloon was seen en route and an Austin 20/4 at the finish. There were two more of these now-rare Austin Twenties in the Run, in the form of private-car chassis with hearse bodies. Not all the commercials achieved the pristine appearance of, for instance, J. Keeley’s 1925 model-T Ford sided-truck. Two of the very scruffy ones were P. J. Stanver’s 1934 oil-engined 6-ton Foden, and one of the Trojan vans, not yet fully restored.