Memories!

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Looking through old scrap-books or photograph albums can evoke many nostalgic memories. This was the case when a thoughtful reader lent us some interesting pictures taken from the album of the late Leslie Kesterton of the SU Carburetter Company.

It starts with a faded portrait of a very early motorcycle, make unknown, but of the veteran period. Then come pictures taken in NSW in 1925 of a couple of Bugattis, one the fourcylinder sixteen-valve model with the pearshaped radiator, the other perhaps a Type 30. The latter is seen being worked-on in company with a Continental-looking car I cannot recognise, spare wheels piled behind the latter’s front seats. One page, obviously removed from the album, depicts a 1914 stripped chassis, again unidentifiable, a German-style 1924 tourer with sharply-pointed radiator and screen, plank-decked touring body, disc wheels and a bulb horn branching into triple trumpets. This might be a Stoewer, or a NAG. On the same page Kesterton seems to be driving a 40/50 Napier landaulette but again not enough of it shows for proper identification; the long outside hand-brake lever seems odd, on such a car. The final picture on this page is of Kesterton in a 1924 Wolseley Ten two-seater with chow dog in the passenger’s seat. On the reverse side there is an exceedingly good picture of Dennis Poore, the 3.8-litre Alfa Romeo, and its many trophies.

The snapshot of the start of a race is puzzling, because it looks very Brooldands, but the railings are wrong—perhaps a NSW happening? Validity is lent to this suggestion by a picture of the touring Bugatti which Kesterton tuned and which broke the record for Artillery Hill, NSW, with a run in 39.8 sec. This was after Kesterton had qualified at the Central Flying School, Upavon, for service in the RFC, in March 1918, his certificate being signed by the Commandant, Lt. Col. Jack Scott. Mostly, however, the pictures are of later episodes, involving SU tuning. Gardner’s records in Belgium with the MG, Barbara Skinner at Shelsley-Walsh in the Morris-Hudson, and Kesterton on Brooklands in a Le Mans Bentley, etc. One is reminded of the splendid performances put up by Gardner and the MG when looking at the 1951 Christmas card from Enever and Jackson, recalling the record runs at 203.5 m.p.h. in six-cylinder 1,100 c.c. form in 1939 and over 204 m.p.h. after being bored-out to 1,500 c.c., 159.15 m.p.h. in 1946 in six-cylinder 750 c.c, guise and 154.86 m.p.h. as a four-pot 500. So Syd and Jacko queried 1950 as a 350 c.c. year, and what of 1951? (In fact, the 350 c.c. MG did over 120 m.p.h. and by 1957 Moss had achieved over 245 m.p.h. on 2-litres. Would that Britain and MG could put up this kind of convincing show, today!) Then there is Gardner’s 1947 Christmas card on the same theme, an invitation to Kesterton from Earl Howe to attend a luncheon at the Savoy to celebrate the victory of the MG Magnettes in their class in the 1934 Mille Miglia, an invitation from Kensington Moir & Straker Ltd. to attend the opening of their showrooms in Hanover Square, after the Bentley successes at Brooklands and Le Mans in 1929 and—a coloured plan of a Merlin carburetter. A letter from Cecil Kimber of the MG Car Co. Ltd. to T. C. Skinner of the SU Company expresses gratitude for Kesterton’s help in Italy in 1933, endorsed with a cheque for him in appreciation, and there is a picture of Les proudly pointing out to some children the BRDC badge on the front of his ( ?) MG Midget (MG 6963). It is accompanied on the badge-bar by those of the BARC, Brooklands Acro Club and other organisations. Kesterton is also seen tuning the Birkin blower-4.1/2 Bentley single-seater, and there is another snap, of J. C. Ford’s MG which, won its class at Le Mans in 1933. How long ago it all seems! – W.B.

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