Letters, June 1991

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Opinions expressed are those of correspondents and not necessarily those of Motor Sport

***

Barson Specials

Sir,

I was delighted to read your article on Challenor Barson’s specials in the May Motor Sport with its photo of No 11 which I owned for a couple of years. For the record Barson sold it to an RAF Squadron Leader in South Africa who sold it to me when I was DPMO RAF in Pretoria. I couldn’t do much to it there, although I snapped the prop shaft with an over-enthusiastic take off (the Wilson epicyclic box was a bit fierce!). The shaft was only about 15 inches long and a friend of mine, an engineer at the SA steel corporation, welded it up for me. When finished it didn’t run quite true, so my friend smote it mightily with a sledge hammer — and it was perfect!

I eventually got it home, needing to get permission to export it from South Africa and it arrived just as I was posted to Germany in 1946.

Monaco at Watford overhauled it (having to order one gross of valve springs for the Alvis annular ring of 8 springs per valve!) and sent it on to Germany. There I got a new hood made from fabric by courtesy of the Dienstgruppen in Hamburg, and for fun they reclined two small oval steps out of broken airscrews: they weren’t necessary but they looked nice!

Again I got it home — but it was shipped on deck cargo in mid-winter and was soaked in sea water. Pat Whittet at Lightwater put it right but on the first outing I broke the prop shaft again! This also broke my heart and I put it in a small place between Wendover and Aylesbury — after which I lost track. I wonder how it got to the USA?

The engine was a masterpiece — two extra Speed 25 size “pots” and four SUs which looked most imposing.

Barson (he had not hyphenated the Challenor then) was great fun. When I met him in Cape Town, he was halfway through an even more fascinating creation. An Armstrong Siddeley Light 12-6 chassis, with the 20th Lagonda engine and gearbox for number 9-10. He was fabricating a secondary 2-speed gearbox out of heavy steel plate and had already made a body from a Topolino Fiat to the back of which he had welded (unbelievably, but it fitted perfectly) the boot from an old Hupmobile saloon.

Group Captain JD Tonkinson, Rtd,

Watford, Herts.

***

Chiribiri Lyrics

Sir,

Further to the article and correspondence in the February and May issues regarding the Chiribiri car, I am sorry to disillusion Mr Wadsworth, but the car, sadly, almost certainly has no connection with the “Ciribiribin”. The words of the chorus “Ciribiribin, you’ll always be my hearts desire, the one for me,” certainly expresses the emotions many of us feel about our cars.

However, who would then admit to being, in the continuing words of the lyric, “haunted by saucy smiles and roguish eyes,” the need to “prove our love is true,” and seeking “ways to prolong our ectasy?” Mr Wadsworth in a seductive Chiribiri perhaps.

Gareth Evans,

Stafford, Staffs.

***

In Another Place

Sir,

In your kind review of my book With Hindsight you refer to a letter which, on the last page of the book I said had appeared in Motor Sport. I should like to make clear that though there was such a letter, it was not in Motor Sport, to whom I offer my sincere apologies. My excuse must be that Motor Sport is the only motoring magazine I have taken regularly for the last forty years. I must have read that letter in another journal in the dentist’s waiting room!

Charles Mortimer,

Badby, Northants.

***

EYW 3

Sir,

“The things they say” in the May issue greatly interested me, EYW 3 being the first car I ever raced, and used in early engine assessment for Bristol engines.

After reading your column I asked the auctioneers to send me a copy of the catalogue. I did not see any reference to Parry Thomas, who of course never owned the car, only references to the original owner Mr Earnest Thomas, his wife Jill, and me. Thomas bought the car new, racing it mostly at Brooklands and Crystal Palace. Jill Thomas drove it for over 101 miles in the hour from a standing start, a while after Aldy Aldington did that in the lightweight 328.

I acquired it in 1943 from trader Robert Arbuthnot. Earnest Thomas was very helpful, giving me all the information as to what he had done to it. I ran it during the war as we got a petrol allocation on operational squadrons. One day in 1945 we laid out a “race track” on the perimeter of our airfields and on a Station Sports Day I displayed EYW 3 and my 2.9-litre twin-supercharged Alfa, in aid of the RAF Benevolent Fund. The winner of the sixpenny raffle ticket got a run round the “circuit”.

My first appearance in the car was at Rivers Fletcher’s “Cockfosters Grand Prix”, a demonstration of racing cars in a park in north London, some time before racing was permitted to restart. I got my first honourable mention in Motor Sport!

Racing restarted with sprints and hillclimbs and EYW 3 and I competed very successfully, appearing at the reopening of Prescott, Shelsley etc and appearances at the first opening of Goodwood, Blandford Camp and so on. Stirling Moss’ first races were in 328s as well.

The track at the wartime camp of Gransden Lodge was the first post-war race in England (1946) and resembled the “circuit” I had laid out on “my” aerodrome. I won the race there in EYW 3. At that time I was still with Raymond Mays at Bourne, having become a director of his concern whilst still in the RAF. He stood on the starting grid encouraging me in my first race. The set up at Bourne was to get in cars for competition tuning and enter his ERA (the famous R4D) and my 328 in racing and sports car categories respectively. His ERA was black and so was my EYW 3 when I got it.

One of the first 2-litre cylinder heads was fitted to EYW 3 which eliminated the gasket blowing tendency on the 328. The Bristol head had been designed with smaller sparking plugs than the 328, giving more metal between cylinders.

I was only with Mays for one racing season before becoming wholly Bristol and continued to run EYW 3 somewhere or other until 1950 by which time we had the Bristol-engined Frazer Nashes. The 328’s last appearance was at a Cambridge University Automobile Club meeting where I had become used to winning the ERA Cup! By now I had painted it in the “Bristol Red” which I used subsequently for all my cars.

I sold EYW 3 to a careful driver who only used it on the road, but the next owner had a very bad accident with it and I understand another 328 was acquired and the two blended together to become EYW 3. The last I saw of the car was when I spied it in the window of a BMW agency in Surrey now painted green.

I thought it had gone back to Germany until I read your May issue. If I had known it was being auctioned I might have gone along and tried to get it back, to put it alongside my last racing car which I still have. But being a bit of a fanatic for originality, perhaps I would not have known whether I was sitting in the front or back half of the car I first fell for some 45 years ago!

Tony Crook,

Bristol Cars Ltd,

Kensington, London

***

Relative Merits

Sir,

The Motor Sport Guide to Car Assessment is a powerful new tool in judging the relative merits of cars, but the example given all too well illustrates its subjectivity. Everybody knows that much more space to the left of the Morgan + 8 is required.

D R Riley,

Langport, Somerset.

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