OUT OF THE PAST, June 1965

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The photograph above was sent to us by the grandson of the owner of the historic car it depicts. Originally built by Messrs. G. & J. Weir Ltd. of Glasgow to provide M. Darracq with extra entries for the 1904 Gordon Bennett race in Germany, Darracq also entered cars built at Suresnes and at the Opel factory in Russelsheim, thereby obtaining entries of French, German and British nationality in this national-team contest. G. & J. Weir, as engineers who had never built a car before, had a raw deal. They had just ten weeks from seeing the drawings to completing the three cars but, spurred on by A. Rawlinson, the English Darracq concessionaire whose indefatigable exploits in repelling German zeppelins over London and roaming the Western Front in a T.T. Hudson have been referred to previously in these pages, spurred on the 150 men working non-stop on them, last-minute work on the still-unpainted racers being continued on the special train which bore them to London.

These Weir-built Darracqs had four-cylinder 160 X 140 mm. (11,259 c.c.) splash lubricated, l.t. ignition, i.o.e. engines said to give 100 b.h.p. at 1,200 r.p.m. They were driven in the I.O.M. Eliminating Trials by Edmond, Hernery and Rawlinson but failed to qualify. A vivid account of their lack of preparation, feeble brakes, shattering exhaust noise and so on is given by Lord Montagu of Beaulieu in his book “The Gordon Bennett Races,” and a chapter is devoted to these cars in “Motoring Entente,” the story of the S.T.D. combine. The perplexity of the Scottish company which had been persuaded to build the cars was reflected in the ? on their hub caps ! One of the team was bought by Sir Algernon Guinness, who rebuilt it and drove it in the Eliminating Trials for the 1905 G.B. race, in which it broke its crankshaft.

The Darracq illustrated was bought in two, probably from a persuasive Rawlinson, who was no doubt told to recover some of the loss on these unfortunate Darracqs. (The late Capt. Bunbury, writing in The Vintage and Thoroughbred Car of April 1956, thought this was the Guinness car, and in view of its engine maladies and the aluminium body used by Morris (the G.H. body replaced ?) this may have been so). The new owner found the car uncontrollable and gave it to the grandfather of our present informant. It was still in racing trim, so a two-seater body was made for it, at a cost of about £25, as seen in the photograph. The engine proving anything but reliable, it was scrapped and a four-cylinder poppet-valve 130w 150 mm. (7,964 c.c.) Daimler engine installed. In 1913 the car was sold to a friend, Capt. E. Oscar Morris. This gentleman, a private owner, raced the car, as a Daimler, at Brooklands. In ” The History of Brooklands Motor Course.” misled by contemporary reports, I described the chassis as that of Sir Algernon Guinness’ zoo h.p. Darracq, but although the chassis of this car was divorced from its V8 engine for many years, it had wire wheels, whereas the Weir Darracqs had artillery wheels, which the car in the photograph obviously possesses,

Oscar Morris did extremely well at Brooklands. Although the brakes were still feeble, the cumbersome body still unpainted and the gear change tricky because the quadrant VMS devoid of notches, he won the 1914 Whitsun Private Competitors’ Handicap, lapping at 79.1 m.p.h. By June the old Daimler, now in workshop grey, was lapping at 80.3 m.p.h. on its 1.25-to-1 top gear. At the last Brooklands meeting before war broke out Morris won the Private Competitors’ Handicap on the run-in from Elwell’s 2-litre Calthorpe and the 100-m.p.h. Long Handicap from Nicholson’s Alfonso Hispano-Suiza, the Daimler’s best lap being at 87.53 m.p.h. Unplaced in its last race, although it lapped at 87.68 m.p.h., it does not appear to have survived, Oscar Morris apparently removing the Daimler engine after the war and using it to drive a circular saw. I am indebted to the correspondent who supplied the picture especially as, although Lord Montagu devotes a very interesting chapter of his Gordon Bennett book to the subsequent fate of G.B. drivers and cars, he does not include this Weir Darracq which was winning races at Brooklands ten years after its disastrous debut in the I.O.M.—W. B.