Salmson Days




You will probably hardly remember me, but you wrote a splendid article in MOTOR SPORT on some of the cars I have owned. I think we particularly talked about the Le Mans Alfa Romeo — ex-Lord Howe — with which I had won the Pomeroy Trophy and the LSR Sunbeam “Tiger” which took me 12 years to rebuild and make it go and then in 1965 won the VSCC Itala, Vintage Seaman and Boulogne races.

Your article in the April issue on the 1920 MCC Exeter to Lands End I found so nostalgic that even at my age (88) I thought I would put pen to paper and tell you about my experiences in the London-Exeter and London-Lands End in 1924 and 1925.

In the London-Exeter trial of 1924 I was only 19, but allowed to use the family 8-18 hp Talbot. It was a nice little car but too heavy and underpowered. I managed to climb, however, all the hills — I cannot remember their names — before and after a very good breakfast at Dellows Café in Exeter, without making any mistakes. I think we would have won a Gold medal had my observer not gone to sleep on the way home near Staines so I was disqualified for being 12 minutes ahead of time!

The London-Lands End, Easter 1925 is far more vivid in my memory. On this occasion — thanks to a godparent — I had my first car of my own, a double-cam 1100cc Salmson Grand Prix model. This was a splendid little car, but unfortunately only had “splash” lubrication — causing dire results on the timed section of Porlock Hill! It was too steep for second gear, which meant over-revving in first to succeed. Near the finish I heard the ominous sound of a big end packing up, but we finished the timed section on time. I should have retired there and then to save further damage, but as my parents had taken a cottage at Porthcurno, close to Lands End, I was determined to carry on. With the engine knocking badly we still had Beggars Roost and the dreaded Blue Hill Mile to surmount and this was, I suppose, some 120 miles after Porlock. Incredibly, having to use the throttle as gently as possible, we got up these two fearful hills and checked in at Lands End to time — claiming and getting a Gold medal!

I see in your table of finishers in the 1925 Lands End Trial that there were three Salmsons, two of which won Gold medals, so I must have been one of them.

When I telephoned Salmson in Knightsbridge, they duly offered to bring the car back from Penzance by train and rebuild the engine at their expense — having advertised their success in the motoring press!

I wonder if I am now the oldest person alive who competed in the 1924 London-Exeter and 1925 London-Lands End? I have been an avid reader of MOTOR SPORT ever since those days.

Ralph Millais, Winchelsea, Sussex