The H.C.V.C. Brighton run

The Historic Commercial Vehicle Run from London to Brighton is becoming almost as much an institution as the Brighton Run for cars. This year it had two entries from abroad, the 1927 Scania-Vabis brewery truck from Sweden and a Triangle van of Tuborg Pilsner from Denmark. The public obviously love this event but traffic is nothing like so thick as for the car run, so congestion on the route cannot be held against it. This being so, it is quite unforgivable that the Metropolitan Police refused to permit the Run to start from the Museum of British Transport at Clapham – they allow protest marches which inevitably end in disorder and must cause them trouble but a rally of vehicles which thoroughly entertains the public and causes practically no congestion is banned by them. Who says the Police are not discriminating against the motorist? Even when alternative starting points at Battersea and Epsom had been found, the Police insisted on very early starting times and a limit on the number of London starters – shame on them! It is greatly to the credit of the Greater London Council of Parks Dept. and the Epsom Downs Authorities that these other starting places were available and to local London Police stations that many of the traffic-lights along the London route were policed in favour of the old vehicles. As ever, National Benzole sponsored this popular and instructive Run but even their top-brass was unable to sway the decision of the Commissioner of London’s normally-respected Metropolitan Force to try to ban the Run.

There were 150 entries, made up, in car parlance, of 63 vintage, 59 post-vintage or 30/40s, 22 Edwardians, and six post-war models down to 1945. Officially 28 non-started but as I saw at least two of those so listed at the finish, I prefer to ignore this list.

Last year I acted as One of the Judges but this time I could not resist the offer of a ride in the Best brothers’ solid-tyred Wolseley with replica WD truck body.

Most of the vehicles on the Run have interesting histories. This Wolseley is no exception. It was a not-very-successful product of Vickers, at their Adderley Park works, to WD specification, presumably put into hasty production to meet the insatiable War Office demand for more and more new lorries. It is not known whether it served under fire in the Great War, although apparently the Australian troops were issued with Wolseleys. Afterwards it was used by a furniture firm at Slough until about 1925, when it was fitted with a caravan body by someone in Hockley. This necessitated making the chassis into a forward-control vehicle with side-biased radiator. The new body proved too heavy for the never very powerful engine and the caravan was lett to rot. It was discovered by the enthusiastic Bests, who set about trying to discover what a forward-control Wolseley was all about. Eventually the truth dawned and they set about most painstakingly converting the controls and radiator back to the correct locations and making a new bonnet, cab with enormous cape-cart hood, and WD truck body.

Considering that they are not in the motor trade and only one of them has mechanical “green fingers” the result is extremely creditable. What they now have is a very good replica of a 34-h.p. Type CR Wolseley, the only known specimen, dated 1915 by the Wolseley Register. The design is quite straightforward, the 117 x 130 mm. 5.6-litre 4-cylinder side-valve engine having exhaust manifold and Y-type inlet manifolding on the n/s and magneto and water pump on the o/s. The carburetter is a very early S.U., which the Skinner Union restored free of charge and would like to have for their museum. The magneto is a Simms SR4. The engine has plain bearings and cast-iron 3-ring pistons. There is force-feed lubrication, with a glass gauge the only instrument on the dash, this enabling a check to be made that oil is flowing, because behind the glass there is an open tube from which a steady stream of oil is emitted when the engine is running. The small oil-filler on the n/s is labelled “Use Extra Heavy Wolseley Filtrate” but the Bests find that Castrol serves them well.

The plugs are Champion, in the centre of the heads, the cylinder blocks being in two pairs, the name Vickers appears on the tappet covers, and a fast-running cooling fan is driven by a flat belt. The radiator is in cast-alloy and sump and crankcase are also of aluminium. The drive goes through a smooth cone clutch to a 4-speed and reverse gearbox, for which a r.h. lever inside the push-on hand brake, which works very effective rear-wheel brakes, controls very slow gear changes, the lower ratios being on the outside of the exposed gate.

The wood-rimmed steering wheel is on a slightly raked column and beneath it for operation by the right hand are the ignition and hand throttle levers. There is a bulb horn, a r.h. accelerator, a huge brake pedal marked “B” which operates a massive contracting transmission brake, originally with water cooling to combat inflammability, and a pivoted clutch pedal. That completes the controls.

The body is very imposing. There are racks on each side taking three 2-gallon Pratts petrol cans, tow hooks, WD gas headlamps and oil side and rear lamps. The substantial track rod is ahead of the Front axle and has big leather gaiters over its joints, the scuttle bears an inscription “Load Not To Exceed 3 Tons” (in civilian guise 3 1/2 tons was apparently permissible), the fuel tank is under the seat (Consumption perhaps 8-10 m.p.g.) and the wheels, spoked not disc as on some WD Wolseleys, are shod with what could be the second set of solids the vehicle has had in its life, except on the n/s back wheel, where newer WD twin solids are to be found. When new the chassis, the only one of the Wolseley range to have a bevel-driven instead of a worm back axle, cost £764 10s.

It was this delectable and rare lorry that took me to Brighton. Apart from needing a split-pin in its fan pulley before it left Battersea Park it gave absolutely no trouble. All the hills, except Pyecombe and one or two of that calibre were climbed in third gear, these steeper gradients calling for second. The engine is governed to about 1,000 r.p.m. but the Wolseley grinds along stolidly at perhaps 15-20 m.p.h. Indeed, the journey, with two refuelling stops (for National Benzole, naturally) was done in roughly four hours. At the Purley refuelling stop we put in some water and later perhaps a quart of Castrol, until oil ran from the sump level tap.

As I have said, this is a really splendid piece of restoration and the Wolseley has successfully completed all but two “Brightons,” the first, which it wasn’t entered for, and last year’s, when a carburetter float needle broke halfway and it was towed in by the Bests’ Ford low-loader.

They were fortunate to find a second WD Wolseley chassis, under a pile of snow, in Birmingham, which it was hoped to rebuild in like manner. Unfortunately it was far gone, and a side member broke in shifting it, but it has provided useful spares. The silent-type timing chains of the engine, for instance, although these are badly worn and will probably be replaced by Reynolds roller chain on new sprockets.

While Norman Best made a fine job of driving the Wolseley, Bill Best started out on a very fine sleeve-valve Y-type Daimler lorry of circa 1915, which they have just added to their fleet and rebuilt. It is 100% original, having been stored in a barn at Upminster since 1928, after making runs to Covent Garden with loads of potatoes. It was discovered three years ago and is now as presentable as the Wolseley. Indeed, it is a far superior vehicle. But it was on its first outing in the “Brighton” and after its throttle connections had come off near Purley it resumed, only to have the h.t. leads in their bakelite conduit catch fire from exhaust heat at Redhill. That was the end of this year’s run but the Best brothers, who had started from Hockley at 4 a.m., cheerfully set off to collect it from Brighton, returning home the same day. I feel sure it will get there next year. – W. B.

Brighton Breezes

Cole’s 1918 Model-A10 Albion bore the legend “Regular Service – Leeds-London” and the slogan “As Sure As The Sunrise.”

Blower’s 1928 Model-A Ford Life and Advent Gospel van was covered in religious quotations.

Brittain’s 1930 Albion-Merryweather fire engine had borrowed the old racing-car nickname “Mrs. Frequently.” 

Six-wheelers were driven by G. Budd (1929 Morris Commercial troop carrier) and C. Groombridge (1943 Studebaker US-6 x 4-48).

Wood’s Model-AA Ford had a brightly plated radiator, whereas one 1939 Morris 10 cwt. van was in sorry condition.

Banfield’s Merryweather fire-engine was towed in with a big-end going.

A rare entry was a 1910 Panhard taxi, a flat-rad. Morris-Oxford tourer was in use for selling programmes, and the arrivals included a 1929 Morris ice-cream truck and a Chater-Lea A.A. sidecar outfit. The Tate & Lyle McCurd 5-tonner was as usual quite splendid.

National Benzole again laid on refreshments for competitors and officials.

Billy Cotton’s Brooklands

Billy Cotton was one of the guests in the Eamonn Andrews ITV show on May 7th. To recall his Brooklands days there was an E.R.A. in the studio and Cotton was presented with a model of one of these cars. He did not have much to say about motor racing but at the end of the show he managed to get into the cockpit of the car – whether he ever got out again we do not know. Films of Brooklands were shown, and although they were a mixed bag, with Mountain races suddenly changing into outer-circuit events, the atmosphere of those days was effectively captured. Andrews said Cotton won the last race ever held at Brooklands, which is incorrect. That honour belongs to E. L. Baker in his straight-eight Graham-Paige. However, Cotton did win the last Mountain handicap, at 77.15 m.p.h., by one-fifth of a second from Maclure’s Riley. He was driving his green 1 1/2-litre E.R.A. Andrews mentioned that 17 E.R.A.s were built, confining himself, quite properly, to the Types A and B cars.

Another guest on the programme, Patrick Campbell, recalled seeing Carraciola driving a Mercedes-Benz at Phoenix Park. After the race he went round the circuit in his bull-nose Morris which he overturned at Mountjoy Corner!

Bugatti’s twin-cam engines

In the March/April issue of The Bulb Horn, the magazine of the V.M.C.C. of America, Alec Ulmann, whose suggestion that W.O. Bentley cribbed from Birkigt’s 1914 Hispano-Suiza overhead cam gear when designing his 3-litre Bentley engine was so badly received here, has looked at the theory that when the time came for Ettore Bugatti to go over to twin-o.h.c. valve gear from single-o.h.c., he copied the engine of the 1 1/2-litre racing Miller.

This is generally accepted, the story that Leon Duray accepted three Targa Florio Bugattis and some cash for two f.w.d. Millers being substantiated by the discovery of two such Millers at Molsheim 13 years ago. Ulmann gives further reasons for thinking that Bugatti used the salient features of the Miller engine which Leo Goosens designed, and which, of course, was founded on the engines of the Henry Peugeot. The most significant, he considers, is the manner in which the sparking plug apertures are formed in the head, as conical funnel-shaped cups forced on a cylindrical extension of the combustion chamber and held in its upper end by being a force fit and rubber sealed from the water jacket. Ulmann has been told that the cylinder blocks had to he heated and the cups soaked in ice before they could be forced home.

How many owners of Type 51 and other twin-cam Bugattis have considered this point, as further confirmation of the Miller-crib theory? – W. B. 

High speeds in Belgium

As usual the Bentley D.C. was well represented at the speed trials held at Ghent during May by the R.A.C. des Flandres. Cars were timed over a two-way flying kilometre on a specially-closed section of autoroute. In spite of wind and rain the Hon. Patrick Lindsay clocked the truly remarkable speed of 159 m.p.h. in the Napier-Railton. This is considerably faster than the car’s previously recorded highest speed at Brooklands, where it did just under 152 m.p.h. over a one-way kilometer in 1935.

Rues-Turner’s ex-Birkin blower-4 1/2 Bentley single-seater was timed at 111 m.p.h., Rose’s Le Mans 4 1/2-litre Bentley at 103 m.p.h., while Nutter’s Speed Six Bentley did 98 m.p.h. and Brogden’s 3/4 1/2-litre Bentley and Rose’s Le Mans 4 1/2-litre Bentley (presumably the non-s/c car) both did 89 m.p.h. Lindsay must be extremely proud of the performance of the 1933 Napier-Railton, which made f.t.d. in spite of having Crabbe’s Aston Martin 214, a Lamborghini and other fast modern cars amongst the opposition. It will lend glamour to the old monster’s appearance at Brooklands on June 11th. The cars were warmed up on a public road, the carefree Belgian authorities looking the other way, and we gather that the sight of the 24-litre Napier-Railton threading its way at speed through the ordinary traffic of a Belgium road was indeed a sight to be remembered! – W. B.

An early driving school

A reader has sent in an interesting pamphlet relating to-a pre-First World War driving school. It was Motor Schools Ltd, of Heddon Street, off Regent Street, which advertised a course of 12 driving lessons for £5 5s. and also ran technical courses which embraced lectures on the low-tension magneto, chain drive and other items which typify the period, including removal and replacement of tyres. ‘The instructional team consisted of five dual-control cars with differing features of change-speed gear, etc, so that students became acquainted with different types of controls – modern schools please note! One of the team was ”a powerful 30 h.p. car” which was at the disposal of “more experienced students, in order that experience may be gained in the handling of cars of this nature.” The school was agent for the Pilot car, which had a 16/20 h.p. White & Poppe engine developing 21 b.h.p. at 1,360 r.p.m. and a West back axle. It would seem that at least two of the touring cars and a taxi in the instructional fleet were these Silent Pilot cars. There was a lecture hall with various exhibits, some of which may have been Iris chassis.

The school also advertised a course in aeronautics in conjunction with its guinea course in motoring. This consisted of lectures by T. W. K. Clarke, B.A., A.M.I.C.E., “the well-known aviation expert,” illustrated by his models of monoplanes and biplanes. Visits to aeroplane manufacturers were mentioned. But these courses were apparently not for the workers, because they were timed for 3 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Were any of our readers taught by M.S. Ltd? – W. B.

The Hudd motor

No association as far as we can discover with the illustrated weekly Hudd, this refers to details of a flat-twin engine sent to us by a reader, which was advertised before the First World War. Described optimistically as “the best all-British petrol motor yet produced,” the Hudd vibrationless motor had its own starting valve, sparking plug, ignition gear, compression cock and carburetter.

This flat-twin engine had its cylinders exaetly in line. They had a bore and stroke of 3 1/2 in. x 3 in. and an output of 5 h.p. at 1.000 r.p.m. was claimed. There were some novel aspects, such as two crankshafts geared together and a small-bore tube from one cylinder to the other “so as to exactly equalise the compression in both”! It was claimed that the Hudd had explosions more equal in both cylinders than in any other double-cylinder motor. The engine measured only 30 in. x 16 in. x 10 in. (deep) and it was said that it could be fitted parallel with the axle of a car and give splendid latitude to coachbuilders – there was no mention of a gearbox!

The Hudd compression tap had a steel ball in it to obviate air entering on the suction stroke, the Hudd ignition system incorporated centrifugally-controlled advance and retard and the Hudd carburetter was a constant-level spray instrument without a float-feed. These engines were priced at £60 each or less if a number were bought, and an 8 h.p. version and also 4-cylinder engines were mentioned. The Hudd starting valve sold for 12s. 6d., the Hudd plug for 6s. 6d., the Hudd compression cock for 5s., screwed de Dion thread, and the Hudd ignition gear was priced at from 21s. Like some of Hamley’s stage tricks and illusions that intrigued me as a boy, it was price-on-application for the Hudd carburetter. It was all looked afier by the Hudd Syndicate, of Furnival Street, London, E.C. Were any cars fitted with these Hudd motors? – W. B.

V.E.V. Miscellany. – The Frazer Nash Section of the V.S.C.C. hopes to have a rally and parade of G.N.s at its Castle Combe race meeting on August 5th, including three 200-Mile Race replicas, Kim 11, the Spider, a Vitesse and perhaps a pre-war belt-drive car. This is splendid, because although Motor Sport suggested a G.N. rally many years ago in the course of an interview With Basil Davenport, it never happened, and the only post-war G.N. gathering was a lunch in London many years ago. Hampshire Education Committee has sanctioned a day devoted to lectures and films about vintage cars, at Totton Further Education Centre on June 17th, together with a Concours d’Elegance. We cannot help wondering how much people like Bernard Kain, Pat Lindsay and Arnold-Forster would gaits from the hour-long lecture entitled “Preparation and racing of vintage cars”!

The Daimler & Lanchester O.C. has opened its membership to B.S.A. cars which have Daimler-type transmission. A stark two-seater Bentley was seen outside the Catherine Wheel at Kingston Blount recently, a pre-war Armstrong Siddeley, was noticed motoring briskly through the Silverstone paddock on April 29th, and a l.h.d. Chevrolet “stove-bolt six” coupé was seen going well near Reading, but was actually a 1956 model. There was also a Crossley Ten saloon struggling through pouring rain near Chobham Common last month. Graham Hill was pushed in a 30/98 Vauxhall through Hyde Park by the Kodak girls to advertise the Kodak Trophy Race for Historic Racing Cars – why didn’t the man drive it ?

A big pre-war Morris saloon was noticed at a garage on the Hereford-Worcester road recently and in Hampshire a 1934 Morris 10/4 saloon in good going order was sold for £1 and presumably scrapped. Nearby, someone has bought for 10s. a pre-war Morris Eight complete with M.o.T. certificate.