Veteran Edwardian Vintage, June 1977

A section devoted to old-car matters

Brookland’s Fastest Cars

In the stop-press report of the VSCC Silverstone Meeting I wrote for last month’s issue I mentioned that the Hon. Patrick Lindsay had the Multi-Union II in a race for the first time since 1939 and then, inadvertently, I said that it was the second-fastest car round Brooklands. In this I was wrong, and no doubt my nose will be well rubbed in this stupid error. At the time of the last pre-war appearance of the Multi-Union II, Oliver Bertram’s Barnato Hassan had gone faster, Cobb’s Napier RaiIton faster still, to put the outer-circuit lap-record at 143.44 m.p.h.

Mark you, there are those who think that the Multi-Union might have broken Cobb’s record, had the war not intervened. Entered by J. B. Emmott for W. C. Devereux, with C. S. Staniland as its driver, the car was scheduled to make an attempt on the absolute lap-record as the finale of the 1939 BARC August Meeting, as the record had to be made on a clear course, not during a race, and be electrically-timed. It already held the Class-D lap-record, at 141.45 m.p.h., and had since been considerably revised. In practice it was said that the car had done some 160 m.p.h. along the Railway-straight. Now vague speed estimates mean nothing in motor racing. But it is interesting that when Parry Thomas had brought “Babs” out on the Track 13 years earlier he, too, had been credited with having got up to some 160 m.p.h. on the Railway-straight, having to use the car’s hand-brake to kill speed before placing it for the run onto the Byfleet banking. The fastest officially-timed speed on Brooklands was 151.97 m.p.h., over the flying-start kilometre, by Cobb in 1935 when he established his 143.44 m.p.h. lap-record. Neither Thomas nor Cobb had any real retardation on their big aero-engined cars, so it is likely that they had to shut off somewhat in order to safely negotiate the difficult entry onto the Byfleet banking. Multi-Union II, with superior track-holding and four-wheel-brakes, which the other cars didn’t possess, might well have been able to maintain 160 m.p.h. along the entire Railway-straight. If so, this advantage could, perhaps, have given the lighter car the out-and-out lap-record, at some 150 m.p.h.?

In fact, before its scheduled lap-record bid, the Multi-Union was due to run in two handicap races. It non-started in the first of these, and that its engine was giving trouble was evident when it went onto seven of its eight cylinders during the second race. It completed the three laps, its last at its fastest-ever speed of 142.30 m.p.h. But it had to be withdrawn from the record attempt – I believe because a valve had broken. So we shall never know by how much it would have been able to improve on the race lap-speed it achieved on seven cylinders, which was within 0.98 of a second (1.14 m.p.h.) of Cobb’s best speed. Of course, I do not know whether the trouble struck at the beginning or later, on this final lap of the race, which was 1.21 m.p.h. quicker than the speed Staniland had achieved on his second lap. But unless the engine packed-up on the slowing-down lap, which was not the story given out at the time, the Multi-Union clearly had more potential than this 142.30 m.p.h. lap indicated. Incidentally, what a splendid Brooklands finale this lap-record run would have been, had it happened!

While on this subject, I append a list of the six fastest Brooklands’ cars. It is interesting that all still exist, if we accept Neil Corner’s Sunbeam as the type used by Kaye Don and remember that our Continental Correspondent owns the Straight 4-litre Duesenberg in dismantled form. W.B.

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Ulster TT Golden Jubilee – 1978

Seventy years ago next year, on August 18th to be precise, the first of the Ulster TT races attains its 70th anniversary. These exciting and important sports-car races have every reason for their claim to fame. Organised from 1928 to 1936 for the RAC by the locally-based Ulster Race Committee, they brought factory-teams from all over Europe whose drivers of International calibre, including Nuvolari and Caracciola, named the 13.6-mile Ards road-circuit as one of the most demanding in the World, for cars and drivers. The race, which was won by Lea-Francis, Mercedes-Benz, Alfa Romeo (once each) and by MG and Riley (three races each), brought to Ireland half-a-million spectators every year, the equivalent of a third of the native population. A great sports-car classic, which must not be forgotten! The Ulster Vintage CC is determined that it shall be remembered.

In 1971 this Club was responsible for a group of enthusiasts locally and abroad causing a row of pit-counters to be erected on the exact spot where the original TT pits were situated, these being opened by His Excellency The Governor General of Ireland, after which 25 cars of representative type did a demonstration run round the famous course that runs in a triangle between Dundonald, Newtownards and Comber. The Governor rode in a TT Invicta. . .

Next year something more ambitious is planned, for the 70th anniversary of the race won by Kaye Don’s blown Meadows Lea-Francis, at 64.06 mph from Cushman’s FWD Alvis. It is hoped that a fortnight’s attractions will be available to bring enthusiasts to the Belfast area and that on Saturday August 19th a parade of genuine TT cars will leave the pit-area and be driven round the circuit. The Royal Ulster Constabulary have promised their support, so that the roads will either be closed entirely or traffic largely diverted from them, to give the demonstrating cars a clear passage.

Apart from this return to the circuit over which some 300 cars raced in the TT, it is intended that memories associated with these races will be revived, such as by visits to places connected with the races, inspection of TT material in the Ulster Transport Museum, etc. In addition, the traditional Craigantlet speed hill-climb will precede the Golden Jubilee celebrations, as it used to herald the TT, and there will be classes for those coming over with vintage cars who might wish to compete.

It is clear that these Golden Jubilee celebrations are in good hands – a Steering Committee has already been formed to organise them, led by the Rt. Hon. Lord Dunleath, TD, DL, who owns sn ex-TT car, his 4 1/2-litre Lagonda (as well his Frazer Nash) and who lives near the old circuit. At the 1971 event seven of the cars taking part were genuine TT cars in original order, two Rileys, an Invicta, a Talbot, an Aston Martin and an Alfa Romeo. In 1978 the Ulster VCC hopes to do better than that, and it asks all those who have such cars, anywhere in the World, who would be interested in bringing them back to the place of their pre-war racing fame, to please make themselves known. Apart from genuine Ulster-TT cars it is hoped that many TT personalities will attend – Kaye Don, Eddie Hall, Ian Macdonald, A. V. Wilkinson, Sammy Davis, Urquhart Dykes, George Eynon, Bill Aldington, R. F. Oats, Cyril Paul, Vic Horsman, C. R. Whitcroft, Dan Higgin, Robin Jackson, Guilio Ramponi, A. F. Ashby, A. C. Bertelli, Charles Goodacre, L. P. Driscoll, Prince Bira, Kenneth and Dennis Evans, and A. C. Dobson are some of the drivers who come to our mind – and then there are the mechanics. Will they also please get in touch with the UVCC.

So important is it that the TT is properly commemorated next year, as Brooklands will be on June 28th this year, (when Brooklands Society members, but not the public, will re-enter the grounds of the old Track), that the entire Association of Northern Ireland Car Clubs and the Royal Irish AC have unanimously agreed to suspend all other motoring events on August 19th, 1978. And if the souvenir programme is anything like as good as that produced for the 1971 event, it should be in great demand! So Motos Sport commends this Golden Jubilee to all those who know what a great series of races the Ulster TTs were, run off when the trams ground their way up the Antrim Road, Baltic Tank engines hauled trains on the Belfast and County Down Railway, and, as Lord Dunleath also reminds us, if you felt in the mood and had a 4 1/2-litre Bentley or similar car, you could drive the 20 miles from Ballywater to the City Hall in 24 minutes… – W.B.

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V-E-V Miscellany Vintage cars are still being unearthed, and restored. For instance, Rosemary Burke, who is on the staff of the VSCC, returned triumphant from winning the Light Car Section’s Welsh Week-end Competition in her 1930 Morris Minor and promptly bought a Bugatti. It is a Type 30. straight-eight chassis, quite original although bodyless, which has not been run since the 1930s. It was found to be on Rapson Super Comfort beaded-edge tyres, which retain their air, although, as Rosemary says, “they show the canvas, in the proper manner”. The interesting thing is that the car appears to have originally had hydraulic (glycerine and water?) brakes on all four wheels, with a cable hand-brake on the back wheels for parking, whereas legend says Ettore Bugatti fitted hydraulic anchors only to the front wheels of early Type 30s. A light torpedo body is to be made for the chassis and, as it has its correct oil and air-pressure gauges, only horn, headlamps, front shock-absorbers and a few more instruments are needed to expedite the return of this Bugatti to the road.

A Gordon England Austin Seven Register has been formed by M. A. Lee, 3 Miles Hill Crescent, Leeds, Yorkshire, LS7 2EU, who would like to hear from owners of Austin 7s so bodied. To date the Register lists ten “Brooklands”-models, 19 “Cup”-models, five “Stadium” two-seaters, three “Silent” saloons, and two “Wembley” saloons. A Law Suit may be pending over a 1929 Dodge cabriolet sold at an auction in Holland as in “fair to good” condition but after purchase alleged to have a twisted chassis. The Bullnose Morris Club is holding its Summer Rally at Hollycombe Park, near Midhurst, on July 17th. The Fiesta 1977 Rally of veteran, vintage and pre-1956 cars is being organised by the Metropolitan Borough of Wolverhampton, to take place at West Park, Wolverhampton, as part of the town’s Fiesta celebrations on June 12th. Commercial vehicles and motorcycles are included. Details from: D. E. A. Evans, 9 Compton Drive, Oakham, Dudley, DY2 7ES, West Midlands.

A tribute to S. C. H. Davis, who needs no introduction, is to be staged by “BEN” at their annual veteran and vintage rally at Lynwood, the Motor & Cycle Trades Benevolent Fund’s headquarters, on June 25th. It is hoped that Sammy Davis will attend as Guest of Honour and that Bentleys and other makes of cars and motorcycles with which he was associated will be present. Details from: Paul Finn, Press Officer, BEN, Lynwood, Sunningdale, Ascot, Berks., SL 5 0AJ (Phone Ascot 0990-20191). A Yeovil reader has sent us cuttings from a 1919 American aeronautical magazine which advertises the Jennings biplane powered with a model-T Ford engine! It seems that the engine was adapted for flying by fitting aluminium pistons, improving the splash lubrication system, adding an oil-gauge and baffled one-gallon crankcase, and using a special carburettor, a ball thrust main bearing, and a Bosch magneto. It was claimed that the thermosyphon cooling was satisfactory and that the engine would run up to 1,900 r.p.m.; it was supplied by the Auto Motor Repair Co. of Brooklyn. We regret to report the deaths of George Boyle, the well-known racing-car mechanic who worked for the Bellevue Garage before the war and BRM subsequently. Christopher Matthews, a BDC and VSCC member who ran only pre-war cars, two vintage /lumbers and a side-valve Morris Minor saloon, has died in Wales of lung cancer; our condolences to his family. H. G. Conway informs us of the death of Roland Bugatti, of a heart attack, at Aix en Provence last March. He was buried locally.

A reader who is researching the Bath engineering firm of Stothard & Pitt is anxious to receive information about their products, which included traction-engines, and to learn about the Crowden light-car which was the work of Charles T. Crowden who was trained by them, and when this gentleman died. Another reader seeks information about the V4 two-stroke A.B.F. light-car with racing body that was built in Kidderminster in about the year 1912 and of Mr. Ford who built it. A 3-litre Bentley-owning reader wonders whether the two early De Dion Bouton trucks, old aero-engines, and a 1920s American touring car, abandoned near Cannes many years ago and reputed to have been used by a film company for producing wind and noise effects, are still in situ? Letters can be forwarded. In New Zealand, a 1937 Singer Bantam, in good condition after 66,000 miles, is being put back on the road, and a 1914 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost is being rebuilt in the Midlands.

We are sad to have to report that Douglas Hull, brother of VSCC Secretary Peter Hull, died some time ago. Douglas will always be remembered for his fast and enthusiastic driving of his Alfa Romeo drop-head coupe (which he always treated as a true racing car!) and the 2-litre ERA, Bugatti and other faster cars to which he graduated. With the ERA he won the 1959 Seaman Trophies Race and many other events, as so entertainingly described in Peter’s book “Racing an Historic Car”. Ex-RAF, Douglas Hull also retained his interest in flying, in the right kind of aeroplanes, and with Peter was rebuilding a DH Gipsy Moth. The Pre-’50 American AC has its Rally of the Giants at the Cotswold Wild Life Park, Burford, Oxon from noon on June 19th. Its current issue of’ Multicylinder, which now has a new American editor, carried an interesting discourse about the V16 Marmon.

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“The Red Baron”

Will the producer of the film “The Red Baron”, shown on BBC1 TV on the evening of April 18th, please tell us how a flat-radiator Armstrong Siddeley 15 tourer came to be in France and used by the German Flying Corps, and particularly how it was able to project itself back some dozen years in time? This unconvincing documentary was about Baron Manfred Freihher von Richthofen, the First World War German fighterace. W.B.

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That Austin 7 Record Bid

From the Pre-War Austin Seven Club’s Newsletter we have gleaned some more information about the 1931 Austin Ulster’s unsuccessful long-distance record attempt, referred to in last month’s Editorial. The car, which had a replica body, was flagged away at Goodwood by His Grace The Duke of Richmond and Gordon but had oiled its plugs, necessitating an immediate pit-stop. It then lapped consistently at 57 to 61 m.p.h. all day and all night, in rain and fog. Top speed down Lavant straight is said to have been nearly 80 m.p.h. One good headlamp sufficed for the night spells. After about 3,000 miles the cylinder block worked loose. The engine was removed, new studs fitted, and the car resumed after five hours. The trouble re-occurred on the Saturday night and as spares carried on the car had to be used to effect repairs, some of the wheel studs were pressed into service, welded ingeniously to the broken block studs. A head gasket was inserted under the block to reduce the c.r., in a search for greater reliability, and the Austin was off again after a delay of some ten hours. Eventually the trouble returned and although a clever jury-rig was tried, with a big piston (intended as a jack) equipped with a half-shaft through its gudgeon-pin holes placed on the head and tied down with a brake cable(!), which stood up for a further 4 1/2 hours, the car was then again pushed to its pit, with a faulty condenser, and it was discovered that the block had shifted sufficiently for the con.-rods to foul the cylinder bores. The next record was 700 miles away, so the car was sensibly retired. It had run for 103 hr. 17 mitt 03 sec., or 4,147.2 miles, at an average of 40.16 m.p.h. While it was running reasonably it had, it was announced, subject to RAC confirmation, taken the British Class 4 (former Class H) 1,000 kilo and 5,000 kilo records, respectively at 54.45 and 54.02 m.p.h. In fact, it seems that the 1,000 mile class record is intended, because the British Class H 1,000 kilo record was established at Brooklands in 1930 by a supercharged Ulster Austin 7 driven by Davis and Goodacre, at 82.81 m.p.h. – an indication of the efficiency of professional record-breaking in the vintage years. It seems that no British 1,000 mile or 5,000 kilo class records were previously set up, however, the replica 1931 Austin, in spite of the set backs, has presumably established these. A good show! Incidentally, the RAC fees of £150 were paid by the Pre-War Austin 7 Club and Fina Petroleum contributed generously towards the total cost of the attempt, which was in the region of £4,000. – W.B.

V-E-V Odds & Ends The Riley Register’s

– 22nd Annual Coventry Week-End is centred on the Euro Crest Hotel, Coventry and takes place on July 2nd/ 3rd. Concours d’Elegance for pre-war Rileys divided into various classes will be held. Open to Register members only, entry forms being available from: Mrs. A. Cole, 108 Wainbody Avenue South, Coventry, CV3 6BZ. We note that one class is for Rileys regularly used for transport and that the current Register Newsletter mentions a 1935 1 1/2-litre Falcon and a 1936 Merlin 9 so used.

The Midland Rolls-Royce Club is holding its 17th annual Concours d’Etat at Charlsworth Park, near Stratford-on-Avon, on July 10th. Open to all R-R cars and post-1931 Bentleys, entries close on July 5th, to Mrs. C. Knight, 138 Tanworth Lane, Shirley, Solihull, Warwickshire. A London reader who has recently acquired 1928 Chenard-Walcker saloon with 1.8-litre side-valve engine seeks historical and technical details about it. The Singer OC is holding another National Singer Day at Chrysler’s Whitley plant on June 12th. Last year it had over 200 Singers present and hopes for more this year. Its Singer Owner for last March contained pictures of several pre-war Singers, including a 1931 Porlock, a 1933 sports-coupe and a Ten tourer, etc., not forgetting a 1923 Singer Speedy bicycle and a Singer motor-roller. The magazine also carries technical tips appertaining to the pre-war cars. The Membership Secretary is: Mary Freeth, 31 Rivershill, Watton-at-Stone, Herts. HRH The Duke of Gloucester visited Lord Cranworth’s Banham Motor Museum by helicopter last April, spending 45 minutes there before leaving for Kensington Palace. Myreton Motor Museum offer an interesting illustrated catalogue of their exhibits for 50p. UK post paid, from Aberlady, East Lothian, Scotland. A 1913 12-hp Darracq was among the cars present when the new Leisure Centre of Grose Ltd. was opened in Northampton recently. The Company has in its time been associated with a car, in 1897-99, steel-studded tyres (fitted to one of King Edward VII’s Daimlers, among other cars), early Rover distributorship, a ‘bus service from 1912, and coach-building from 1924. They are now Vauxhall/Bedford distributors.

Among 70 modern tipper-trucks at the recent Road Haulage Convention at Harrogate was a splendidly restored DT-type vertical boiler Atkinson 6-ton undertype steam waggon, the only known survivor of this make. After working for a Perth brewery from 1918, it saw service at a gold mine and was retired during the Second World War. It was later destined for an Australian museum, but the project was abandoned. In 1976 Tom Varley took delivery of the vehicle, in bits. It has since been fully restored, replica tipping-gear being made for it with the help of Bromilow & Edwards, who made the original single-ram 3-way gear. The Atkinson has been named “Her Majesty”, to mark its reappearance in Silver Jubilee year.