5th Historic Commercial Vehicle Run (May 1st)

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Organised by the Historic Commercial Vehicle Club and sponsored by National Benzole, this run from the Museum of British Transport at Clapham to Brighton has become as important and popular as the R.A.C. Veteran Car Run. This year’s event had an astonishing entry of 164 vehicles, from the 1908 Unic taxi driven by Lord Montagu (with Lady Montagu and London’s oldest taxi-driver, who started on Darracqs, as the passengers, the fare for the entire distance being clocked up as 13s.!) and Leyland’s X-type lorry of the same date, to a 1949 Leyland fire-engine—but otherwise most of these vehicles were of pre-war origin. The weather set a record, too, for May Day warmth.

Only 28 of these very varied vehicles were non-starters ; this included at least four steam wagons, but perhaps these find they are so well catered for by traction-engine rallies these days that they can afford to miss the “Brighton.” There were also an astonishing number of missing Leylands, but that I cannot explain.

First to arrive at Brighton’s famous Madeira Drive was R.B. Brittain’s 1930 Albion-Merryweather fire-engine (but this isn’t a race!) and one of the last Jim Hutchins’ 1923 Super Sentinel, which steamed slowly in, the passenger’s face black from fumes, although there is a glass-windowed cab. To the splendid diversity of vehicles this event brings out, there were added this year motorcycles with commercial sidecars; David Oakley’s 1915 Royal Enfield twin with saddler’s box was a non-starter, and I did not see D.E.S. Main’s circa-1929 Chater-Lea, originally an A.A. patrol’s outfit.

All the old favourites seemed to be there, including those favourites of mine, the 1913 solid-tyred model-CR Wolseley truck and 1915 model-W Selden 2-tonner. Model-T Fords and Trojans predominated, one of the latter obviously waiting to be cleaned up if not restored. Bill Hodge’s 1926 Overland Whippet with detachable truck duo-body was very smart, as was the massive 1924 Tilling Stevens petrol-electric chassis, on loan to its entrant from the Montagu Motor Museum. Incidentally, the Museum’s 1914 Albion and 1922 Maxwell charahanc both made the journey successfully, Lady Montagu emerging from the depths of the Unic taxi to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air in the latter from the halfway mark. R.G. Joke brought a Gwynne fire-engine, which went home on a trailer—it had the clever pipework which enables the inlet manifold to be water-heated in summer, exhaust-heated in winter—if the union nuts don’t seize up!

The H.C.V.C. 1919 Leyland box-van in Chivers’ colours unfortunately broke down and had to be towed in, while a popular late arrival was the khaki 1914/18 J-type Thornycroft gun-carrier, crewed by “soldiers” in period uniform, mounting an anti-aircraft gun, and carrying appropriate “Tipperary” slogans.

This time, having been asked to be one of the Judges, I did without the pleasure of travelling down on one of the vehicles and spent a hot afternoon judging the fire-engines and municipal vehicles—a change from vintage cars! Just as I thought Ephgrave’s 1932 Leyland Cub HK1 had pipped G.D. Quinton’s 1938 Dennis for first place in the former category the famous Banfield 1913 Merryweather-Aster arrived a bit late, having needed water en route, and it was just impossible to fault any part of this fabulous rebuild. The “battle of the municipals” was between a 1935 Talbot AY95 ex-L.C.C. ambulance from the London Ambulance Museum, a 1927 W. & G. ambulance entered by the G.L.C. Motor Transport Apprentices’ Association, and the almost-too-clean-to-be-true 1934 Shelvoke & Drewry dustcart which was fully restored by Epsom Council workmen before they presented it to the Worthing & Dist. H.C.V.G. I felt first place had to go to the last named—its 3-litre transverse White & Poppe engine under the seat was so clean and its tramcar-handle steering and semaphore-hand turn-signal, etc., all so original. But between the ambulances, fully manned to lend a hand in the case of accidents encountered en route it was a close thing. I felt the Talbot just had the edge over the re-liveried W. & G. but surely the water pipes on a Talbot engine should be polished copper? This is the chassis with double-reduction back axle and I hope Georges Roesch goes to see it.

The Concours d’Elegance was the usual Banfield benefit but the best restoration of the past year by an H.C.V.C. member was won by A.J.R. Belton’s A.E.C. trolleybus. which was towed to Brighton on a bar behind a friendly i.c.-engined ‘bus—if anyone had told me you could house and restore a trolleybus on limited means, you could have knocked me down with something considerably lighter than its pole!—W.B.

Results :
Outright Winner, (National Benzole, Challenge Cup): M.J. Banfield (1913 Merryweather-Aster fire-engine)
Runner-Up M.J. Ranfield (1929 Chevrolet LQ coach)
Vans and Lorries under 30 cwt.: J.H. Sparshatt & Sons Ltd. (1914-18 Crossley tender)
Lorries, 30 cwt. and over : E.J. Baker & Co. (Dorking) Ltd. (1933 Bedford WB)
Passenger Vehicles with over 20 seats : M.J. Banfield (1932 Leyland Titan TD2)
Fire-engines and Municipal Vehicles: M.J. Banfield (1913 Merryweather-Aster fire-engine)
Passenger Vehicles with up to 20 seats : M.J. Banfield (1929 Chevrolet LQ).
London-type Taxis : M. Freedman (Strachan-bodied 1937 Austin LL)
Best 1920-1930 Vehicle : M.J. Banfield (1929 Chevrolet LQ).
Best Municipal Vehicle : Worthing & Dist. H.C.V.G. 1934 SheIvoke Drewry dustcart)
Best Bedford : E.J. Baker & Co. (Dorking) Ltd. (1935 30-cwt.).
Best Leyland-Group Vehicle : M.J. Banfield (1932 Leyland Titan TD2)
Best B.M.C.-Group Vehicle : M. Freedman (1937 Austin LL taxi)
Best Ford : V.W. Brewster (1922 Model-T 7-cwt. van).
Best Pre-1919 Vehicle : M.J. Banfield (1913 Merryweather-Aster fire-engine)
Best Restoration on limited means : A.J.R. Belton (1936 A.B.C. Type 664T trolleyhus).
Vehicle Coming Greatest Distance : D. Ellor (1934 Leyland Lion LTA5 ‘bus. from Blackpool).

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