Words of caution
In his article on why people shouldn’t buy vintage cars in the Aprii issue, Bill Boddy asks how many owners of vintage cars can say they can cruise at 55 mph or better.
Quite rightly he mentions Frazer Nashes as one marque that did, even the humble Anzani, the most representative vintage Nash engine, is good for 55-65 mph depending on gearing, wind, gradient etc.
It was also nice to find ourselves in company with Bentleys and 30/98s in this performance bracket, as they were certainly part of the heavy-metal-baiting Nashes used to engage in the vintage period (before all 3-Litre Bentleys had 41/2-litre engines and all 30/98s had Delage front brakes!).
However; what’s all this about rich Frazer Nash men? Even if it were true (which I seriously doubt) that the average Nash owner is as rich as the average Bentley or 30/98 owner, you shouldn’t promote the idea. It’s bad for our enfant terrible image!
TJ. Tarring, Captain, Frazer Nash Section, VSCC Weybridge.
(I didn’t say people shouldn’t buy vintage cars, only that they are perhaps better in the hands of genuine enthusiasts for such cars. I have for a long time attempted to stop the unrealistic inflation of vintage-car prices, and have often been criticised for so doing, the fact remains, where can I now obtain a viable Frazer Nash for less than £10,000 to £15,000? WB.
Pomeroy Trophy Competition
Following the letter from Anthony Blight on the merits of various cars, it is a fact that the Type 43 Bugatti engine requires major servicing at 15,000 to 18,000 mile intervals, on account of the primitive lubrication system. The figure of 5,000 miles is often quoted in relation to cars used regularly for competition, when the old saying that one racing mile equals ten road miles should be:borne in mind. It is also true that the design combines a racing engine in a touring chassis, but this statement does not do justice to the result which was carried out by Ettore Bugatti in such a way as to produce a car which could be started from rest in top gear, and of which over 300 examples were built for sale to the general public, followed by, perhaps, half as many of the Type 55 twin-cain version.
Now that the Pomeroy regulations admit cars of all types, perhaps Mr Blight would care to consider entering his Talbot with the 110 engine again which, if it develops 150 hp, should,have about a 30 hp advantage. In the meanwhile, Type 43 Bugattis will continue to be used both for competition and touring – my own car has been used for continental touring on three occasions, each time with two adults and two children and full camping equipment including enough food for a fortnight. I also used the T43 on my wedding day!
If Mr Blight happens to be in the Midlands, he is welcome to have a go in it.
I note that we are encouraged to go to Oulton Park VSCC race-day to see the unique little Morgan three-wheelers or the mighty 8-litre Le Mans Bentleys, according to the Brands Hatch Circuit insert in your May issue. This must mean that the VSCC is supporting Fakes, as no 8-litre Bentley ran at Le Mans. Oh dear – and what will DSJ. say?
Michael Bovington, (Aged 14), Solihull
The Barson (Challenor) Special
Mr Vincent Freedman’s letter (January issue) rekindled a cherished memory, since the straight-eight Alvis engined Barson Special once sojourned under a tarpaulin in my parent’s driveway in New Malden and gave me my first experience behind an open-car wheel (Brooklands sprung type too).
My Uncle Jack, who lived with us off and on throughout my childhood, was responsible for my developing an interest in the more proper sort of vehicles. During these formative years he owned a variety of interesting cars: various types of four and six-cylinder MG’s, Ford V8’s, coupe and “woody”, Roesch-Talbot, Sunbeam (a super vintage coupe de ville with vee-screen division, speaking tube, etc), SS and Mk V Jaguars, a couple of Railtons and various
Alvis. Amongst these were SC Speed 20 dhc, which, on one thrilling summer evening returning from a trip to the Ace of Spades, clocked 93 mph on the swoop down Tolworth Rise towards New Malden (Kingston By-Pass) to see off a post-war 2-litre AC Saloon, SB Charlesworth saloon, TA14’s and, later TD21’s. With all these vehicles I was allowed to assist with various important tasks – such as washing out sludgy sumps, wire-brushing plugs and acting as general spanner-passer and tea fetcher.
The Barson, actually, I recall it had a small chromed shield-shaped badge on the radiator cowl engraved Challenor Special, but the instruments were marked Barson Special (the builder being Challenor Barson, and this but one of a number of specials he constructed), arrived sometime around 1949 or 1950 I think. Uncle collected me with it from a friend’s house one afternoon, the arrival being marked by a notable amount of noise (the four SU’s were a bit out of sync and the exhaust not whole) which prompted my friend’s mother, sight.unseen, to remark “that sounds like an Alvis”. Evidently she had been well brought-up or had amazing intuition.
The car was somewhat tatty, in black, but provided a powerful thrust in the back under acceleration. It had a pre-selector ‘box, Lancia sliding-pillar IFS, a Ford V8 rear axle and looked rather like a Le Mans Aston. Subsequently Unck went away for a while, leaving the car – I used to peer under the tarpaulin and sniff its perfume – before later returning and embarking upon some tidying up. The car was properly tuned, etc, and then put out to be repainted, which is where my “drive” came in.
Nothing special but thrill enough at 12 (which makes it 1951-ish), I was entrusted with the helm on a tow from New Malden to Raynes Park – behind one of those largish Morris-Commercial vans with oval rear door windows, the J Lyons livery barely hidden by a thin coat of grey paint and, past which, I could see nothing.
Being sternly instructed about keeping the rope taut; all went well until Motspur Park level crossing where pride in my skill took a blow when I found the handbrake (a pretty poor thing compared to the rest of the car) still firmly on. Thereafter, the Morris speeded up a bit and I broke the rope exiting to the Kingston Road.
When the car came back, in the BRG but with silver painted panels around the bonnet louvres – horrid, I couldn‘t understand Unck’s lapse in this – it was fitted with a new aluminium fascia panel my uncle had made up. This was secured to the body frame with dozens of chromed, round-head, 1″ x 5’s – another job for me, with ructions on the several occasions when I burred the screw-head or sheared the screw.
The car went soon after that (perhaps to Mr Freedman?) and being Alvis-orientated I always hoped to find it again one-day or at least the engine, which was very similar to a Speed 25 but with two extra cylinders, one extra SU, whose dashpot neck protruded through a hole in the bonnet, eight-cylinder BTH mag, etc, etc, but this was not to be.
Present whereabouts? So far as I know still in the care of David von Schaick of Pennsylvania, USA, who acquired it in, I think, the early 70’s .. Incidentally, there is an illustration of the engine in Ken Day’s Alvis book and the car is featured in the Alvis Owner Club bulletins of December ’75 and March ‘76. The former bulletin contains a very good write-up of the car, with excellent photos, by Tony Cox. Apart from a rather odd “racing number” and another device painted on the side, it looked then, very much as I last saw it.
Unfortunately, there are no more of these straight-eight engines to be found lurking somewhere. Only two were built and that in the Barson is the sole survivor.
Laurie Merriott, Wokingham, Berks