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The Historic Vehicle Silver Jubilee Tribute

Pride of place in this issue has to be given to the great assembly of Rolls-Rouce and other vintage and veteran cars which collected at Windsor and Ascot over the weekend ot May 7th/8th. Because, whether you are an R-R enthusiast or otherwise, the whole conception was fantastic, immense, impressive, or whatever term of this kind you care to apply, and its like will probably never be seen again. That HM The Queen, in the Jubilee Year of her Reign, permitted a cavalcade of some 500 pre-1940 Rolls-Royce motor cars to enter the Inner Quadrangle of Windsor Castle and be graciously reviewed by her can do nothing but good for the whole historic-car movement. It is to the eternal credit of the once-small Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts Club, under its Secretary Lt. Col. Eric Barrass, OBE, that this astonishing idea grew to fruition. W. H. Owen Ltd. sponsored it and to round it off the Historic Vehicle Trust, helped by the leading specialist historic-car clubs, organised an even bigger assembly of interesting vehicles of all kinds at Ascot Racecourse on the Sunday, totalling a mint boggling 1,038 exhibits. Proceeds went to the Silver Jubilee Appeal and other charities

When the Clubs are prepared to organise on a scale that knows no bounds, the outcome is beyond the scope of our reporter to fully record. One arrived at The Home Park, Windsor, to find more Rolls-Royces than seemed possible parked in type-groups, with the Castle forming a more stately backdrop than any other building anywhere else in the World could have provided. On the greensward, under an uncertain but relenting May sky, the owners and their passengers formed up, and you could sense the air of expectancy, feel as you noted the Ascot clothes, the grey “toppers”, young officers in dress uniform, and more formal suits than ever seen before at a motor-rally, at all events in recent times, that something quite exceptional, something memorable, was about to take place. The Rolls-Royces were called in order of seniority and interest and dispatched to drive up and be received by Her Majesty. As they began to move off one noted that it solitary sleeve-valve Daimler motor-carriage had parked itself by the exit gate. Quite appropriately. . .

To pick out individual cars among this great and magnificent collection would he invidious. Thanks to Lord Montagu, who was at the wheel of his 1909 Willis-bodied Roi-de-Belge 40/50 tourer, we were able to see the cavalcade from the sternsheets of his other entry, a 1925 Phantom I tourer. There had been anxiety when a pipe to the Autovac had fractured, six miles front the start of its journey from Beaulieu that morning, and the engine fluffed out again as our number was called. Quick work with the insulating-tape and all was well, even though the car that once towed a gang-mower on a Somerset playing-field was now out ot numerical order in the miles’-long procession.

So it was through bedecked Windsor and into the Castle, in the Spring sunshine. Interested crowds lined the route and waved to the seemingly never-ending line of Rolls-Royces of all kinds. And what a good natured day this was! We were not searched, before making this unique debut before Her Majesty. Mounted-police were not in evidence, the foot-police were directing the long procession of cars, valued by those impressed with such things at perhaps £8-million, almost informally; there was no sign of hooliganism then, or at Ascot on the Sunday. (Perhaps Governments should take note and do all in their power in future to encourage this harmless form of public entertainment.)

Three two-cylinder Rolls-Royces, the kind of Decauville that prompted their construction, the only 3-cylinder R-R still in existence, Stanley Sears, over from Portugal specially to drive his 20 h.p. replica TT model, the original “Silver Ghost” with Dennis Miller-Williams in command, Kenneth Neve’s “London-Edinburgh” 40/50 that had come from Edinburgh ‘Castle to Windsor Castle entirely in top gear, bringing greetings from the Provost of Edinburgh to the Mayor of Royal Windsor and Maidenhead, commemorating former top-speed runs Is?: this model Rolls-Royce, an Armoured Rolls-Royce with gun-turret and saluting soldier, through every type and body-style down the years, to the massive Phantom Ills. They were all there, including the Wraiths and the Bentley versions. And, at Ascot, 300 more, the post-War R-R models were already assembled.

Her Majesty gave generously of her time standing beside John Schroder of the RREC as the cars drove by, in hushed dignity. So long was this, procession that it occupied more than the entire three miles of The Long Walk, even though the cars were not in single file, so that, to prevent congestion within the Castle, we were deflected down an adjacent drive. Just then, as if as a special tribute from the VSCC, Tony Bianchi, in the Hon. Patrick Lindsay’s Rolls-Royce “Merlin”-engined Supermarine Spitfire fighter, dipped his wings over Windsor Castle and flew loss and level over The Long Walk, along which the cavalcade was wending its quiet way to Ascot. In the opinion of many, this was. one of the best moments of the entire Tribute – and we must always remember the couplet :

If the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton, the Battle of Britain was decided over Calshot Water (where R-R engines powered the winning British seaplanes and thus led on to the war-time R-R “Merlins”). Thus this memorable, stupendous occasion passed off as intended. Raymond Baxter ably handled the commentary for the BBC, taking on the mantle of Richard Dimbleby.

* * *
The Editor continues. It was delightful to be watching this spectacle from the comfort of the smoothly-riding, quiet yet powerful. Phantom I open tourer. Later that day I was rejoined with the Renault 30 I was using as an official car (and which had been left in The Home Park) in John Fasal’s 1922 Barked-bodied barrel-sided Rolls-Royce Twenty, the 20th of this model to be made and once owned by the Maharana of Udaipur, being found years later in the Temple of Nathdwara. I was confronted with the neat dashboard typical of the earliest of these “Buick-controversial” models, with the vertical ratcheted-control-lever for the radiator shutters and the neat array of five dials, with, beyond, the shapely riveted bonnet and a radiator outline like that of a baby 40/50. This Twenty was well able to keep pace with the modern traffic and, apart from a transmission rumble, ran quietly, its gears changed by the central lever. What a pleasant little tourer must have seemed, back in 1922, and in fact still is. It was followed by Fasal’s 1928 Twenty Park Ward saloon, driven by the Editor of the RREC magazine, from which my wife had greatly enjoyed seeing the unforgettable day’s proceedings

* * *

For the Sunday, a distinct contrast. I took an Austin 7 belonging to Tom Lightfoot, who had had two pre-war 40/50 Rolls-Royces in the Cavalcade, to the Ascot Rally. Described as a 1930 Ulster, it is more representative of all Austin Specials down the ages. It has reassuring hydraulic brakes, a remote gearlever for the 3-speed box, an outside handbrake, a Simms magneto and electric fuelfeed. The engine has the pressure-fed crank, so that the oil-gauge showed around 20 lb./ sq. in pressure, instead of the near-zero reading I used to get from my own Sevens with their spit-and-hope oiling. The external 4-branch exhaust manifold on the n/s feeds into an impressively large, straight exhaust pipe. Carburation is by a d/d SU and an aluminium Whatmough-Hewitt cylinder head is used. Bowden levers for ignition and throttle have replaced the original Austin minor controls, a spring steering-wheel is fitted, and the dropped front axle and its radius arms are copiously drilled. Fixed cycle-type mudguards cover 4.00/4.25 Pirelli Aeroflex tyres at the front, 4.50 x 15 Dunlop Racing covers at the hack, and there are quick-action radiator and fuel filler-caps.

The little car made all the expected noises but seemed reluctant to rev beyond about 3,500 r.p.m. on the Smiths tachometer readings to “55/60”, so that I did not exceed about 40 m.p.h. The clutch, less fierce than anticipated, became difficult when we came to the inevitable traffic hold-up in Ascot and with a fast tick-over I had to punch bottom cog home. And in spite of a water-pump. the radiator was soon on the boil. But what fun…!

* * *

Tom Lightfoot caught me up, in his well-known 1902 60 h.p. Mercedes, as we turned in to the New Mile, which served as an overflow from the Silver Ring. There seemed to be almost everything on show, from ancient bicycles and historic motorcyels through the veteran and vintage cars, to steamers and other commercial vehicles. I can but touch the fringe of this incredible assembly, which was also a considerable social occasion. There was that Daimler R1 Ham-Shaw landaulette again, Cdr. Woolles’s 1897 Daimler Grafton phitetem, and Brian Smith’s discreet 4-litre straight-eight Vanden Plas Daimler saloon, reminding me of another couplet, which I will refrain from quoting on this Rolls-Royce weekend…! I noticed a 1926 Barker R-R Twenty finished all in wood-veneer, a nice 1914 Clegg Rover tourer, rare “Blue Train” and Sports Ten Rovers, the GNs of Hirons and Riddle, and “Kim I” on a trailer. There were racing cars of the calibre of the 1911 Coupe de L’Auto Delage, the 1922 Strasbourg Sunbeam, an 8C Maserati, a Le Mans-winning 4 1/2-litre Lagonda, and 1924 Targa Florio Mercedes, etc., and there was Milligen’s great SSK Mercedes-Benz two-seater. Light cars were out in force—Stellites, flat-twin and flat-four Jowetts. Trojans, nice examples of Rover Eight and Wolseley Ten, and two very early Morgan 3-wheelers. Also a Baughan cyclecar and an FWD BSA tricar. Stanley Sedgwick’s 1910 28/60 Mercedes, a big open Benz tourer, the 1911 Fafnir, a 1913 Leon Bollée, 1914 Mors, 1908 Vinot, 23/60 and so-covetable 30/98 Vauxhalls, some splendid open Cricklewood Bentleys, an immaculate Model-Y Ford Eight saloon, and, of course, the Model-Ts. Especially nice was a 1924 Chenard-Walcker fabric-bodied tourer, a rare, smart and sporting car with some unusual features. There was even something resembling an F1 racing-car, but actually having a V8 T-Series Bentley engine, blown with a Wade supercharger sticking from twin SUs, its chassis fabricated from T-Bentley components. Yorkshire Biscuits had risked bringing their bogus Austin vintage van, which apparently escaped being lynched, and their biscuits are rather nice. . . .

There were two Austin Twenties towing vintage caravans, an unpainted FWD Alvis, that splendid Gordon England 3-litre Sunbeam coupé, a White steamer. But I could fill this issue, just listing them. To convey to those who were not there the scope of this display, the makes entered but not mentioned above may be of interest: De Dietrich (the Shuttleworth racer), AC, Adler, Alfa Romeo, Ariel, Armstrong Siddeley, Aston Martin, Bugatti (including Conway’s Type 43), Citroën, Clyno, De Dion Bouton, Erskine, Fiat, Frazer Nash, Amilcar, Bean, Ballot, Frazer Nash-BMW, Hillman, Humber, Invicta (two low-chassis 4 1/2s), Lancia, Lanchester, MG, Morrises of all kinds, Napier (a 1901 car), Napoleon, New Orleans, Opel, Panhard-Levassor, Perry, Pick, Renault, Riley (including the Maclure model car), Robinson, SSI, Suinbeam-Mabley, Jaguar, Singer, Standard, Star, Stephens dog-cart, Stutz, Swift, Talbot, Unic, Triumph, Willys-Overland, Winton and Wolseley and, in the other park, an 18/50 Aster coupe, Armstrong-Whitworth, Bianchi, British Salmson (including a 20/90), Brough Superior, Buick, CGV, Calcott, Calthorpe, Charron-Laycock, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Crossley, Darracq, De Soto, Delahaye, Delaugere, Dennis, English Mechanic, GWK, Gladiator, Graham Paige, Monica Whincop’s HRG, Hampton, Hispano-Suiza (Alfonso, Karslake’s 1919 tourer and a Boulogne), Hotchkiss, Hudson, James & Browne, Lea-Francis, Lincoln, 1896 Lutzmann, Metallurgique, Minerva, OM, Packard, Peugeot, Plymouth, Railton, Salmson, and Wolseley-Siddeley. With the more popular makes, almost every Model was there. Further words fail me… – W.B.

[Colour photographs of the RREC Silver Jubilee Tribute appear on page 708]

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