A weekend of Welsh vintage

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The Welsh week-end of driving frolics, dining, and trialling which has long been an annual activity of the enthusiastic Light Car & Edwardian Section of the Vintage SCC and is thought by many to be one of the most enjoyable events in the calendar, took place on April 17/18, based on the Abernant Lake Hotel at sleepy Llanwrtyd Wells. The Section was formed years ago at the suggestion of Arthur Jeddere-Fisher and WB, to encourage the lighter or less-literage-endowed pre-1931 cars. It now admits Edwardians at the opposite extreme, originally because they had fewer events open to them than vintage cars, although these days the pre-1918-ers seem to run in most of the main events and even have a race to themselves.

Be that as it may and is, the Light Car fraternity has as much fun as any and enjoys a good selection of fixtures well suited to their low-powered motors. It now seems that a Cyclecar Sub-section may soon be needed, because at least 20 different makes from the super-simple “stick-and-glue” period are owned by LCES members. This was evident at the DTs during this year’s expedition to remote Welsh Wales. The entry embraced three GNs, Chris Gordon’s 1918 Tamplin, Mark Walker’s 1913 Bramble, and Mike Bullett’s recently-found 1912 Bedelia, all set to battle against 32 A7 drivers. The GNs consisted of Edward Riddle’s 1921 model with his push-rod vertical-oh-valve 1100cc engine, Tom McEwen’s 1921 Vitesse with chain-rotated oh-camshafts, and Trevor Johns’s 1922 Legère, with i o e valve arrangement. Sadly, the Bedelia had been taken for a ride over a rather adventurous road by Mike on this, its reincarnation after discovery in Italy and, perhaps thinking it was a Rollo, rolled over, rendering its tandem-seated, wire-and-bobbin-steered self hors de combat. A pity! It even has the original wire-spokes in its steering wheel. A second advent soon, I hope?

Mark Walker made up for our frustration in not seeing how a Bedelia with centre-pivot front axle would conform to the driving-tests by energising his unbelievable Bramble, found recently by Chris Gordon in Leicestershire. Having been made by a Coventry sidecar manufacturer explains why the Bramble is simply a sidecar on four ‘bicycle’ wheels, with an air-cooled single-cylinder JAP engine and tiny 2-speed, no reverse gearbox hung on the off-side. The engine, circa 1908, has a chain-driven magneto, atmospheric inlet valve, side exhaust valve, and the exhaust pipe had dropped off. Transmission is by a short belt to the cog-box and a long belt to a big drum on the o/s rear wheel, matched by a small brake drum by the n/s wheel, one wheel being free, to give a differential action. Suspension is by longish quarter-elliptics at the front and pairs of very small side-by-side vertical coil springs appease the back axle. The chassis frame? Two large-diameter bamboos form the side members! The track is narrow, as befits a single seater. Anyone daring enough to contemplate a night drive has a single gas headlamp and oil back illumination. I must say Mark coped very well. He reversed in the garaging tests by pedalling the Bramble backwards with his feet, there being a fortuitous absence of floor. He even cranked-up after stalling.

In contrast, Chris Gordon is an old Tamplin campaigner, having actually won an important race in his — so he had two pushers ready and waiting, to change the contraption’s direction when required. This time there were no Morgans to coax the GNs to duels.

The total entry numbered 67, but fewer cars, as many, particularly the A7s, were shared between two drivers. The DTs attracted 26 drivers, their machinery thought unsuited to a trial, and seven eschewed the tests to concentrate on Sunday’s trial. Barnett (1911 Knox), Rendall (1918 Stutz Bearcat) and Hickling (1911 Regal) were proving Edwardians capable of both kinds of contest.

There were some seven tests in the hotel grounds. The Bearcat was pristine, as were many of the Chummy A7s, Dickie’s Morris Minor tourer, and Crocker’s 12/35 Clyno, while the brasswork on Suzanne Hirst’s Fiat 501 shone in what sun there was, as did Georgina Kynaston’s yellow and black 5cv Citroën. There were two Singer Junior saloons trying to put the A7s in their place and Luscott-Evan’s Trojan looked down on proceedings with disdain.

It was thought that the recent dry weather — often when it is raining in London it is fine, contrary to legend, in Mid-Wales — would spoil the hill-sport on the Sunday. Not so! Because overnight it poured, and continued to do so all day.

When I went to live in Radnorshire Cecil Clutton asked me if it was wet there, and, told it often was, said firmly “That is what Wales is for!”. His opinion was certainly confirmed for the lightcarists on April 18.

So, getting ever wetter, the drivers set about the ten sections found for them by Seymour Price. First, a short sharp climb, Delia’s Dyke, on Lady Venables-Llewelyn’s estate, where only Riddle’s and McEwan’s GNs scored top marks, although Lloyd’s A7 nearly got there. Next, Delyfan, rather similar, where Riddle and Lea (A7) were top scorers, Tebbett’s A7 one mark down. Two long grassy sections followed, the first, which four cleaned, causing several failures, with Elizabeth Wilson (A7) and Stringer (A7) the only two to defeat the second hill. So to the coffee-stop and an adjacent nasty hill, which Stringer defeated.

Pennybank and the Gaufron, off the A44, saw Sellers (A7) and Stringer make the respective best ascents. Then a grassy gradient in one of my fields proved impossible, the cars slowed by having to circumnavigate a tree and go over two humps, on the second of which Riddle’s GN stuck. Best here were Tebbett, Stringer and Liz Wilson. There remained Camlo, where five drivers scored 20, and the dreaded Caefagu with a straight-up gradient steeper probably than the old Brooklands Test Hill, and with a slippery surface, and other awesome gradients before it was reached. All credit to Sellers, Riddle, Lea and Stringer, who all got to “18”, in horrid conditions. At the finish at the “Bell Inn” at Newbridge-on-Wye it transpired that Simon Price (1929 A7 Chummy) had again made best overall performance, winning the Llwynbarried Trophy. King’s Morris Minor and Stringer’s A7 had retired at half-distance. In the Driving Tests Simon Price made best showing, and the Edwardian Award was won by Chris Gordon’s Tamplin, and Trevor John’s GN took the Beaded-Edge Trophy, (grounds enough for a Cyclecar Sub-Section!). Other results: DTs: First Class Awards: S Price, T John, A Hall (A7). Second Class Awards: W Urry (Riley 9), D Marsh (A7 saloon), R Threlfall (A7). Third Class awards: P Tebbett, D Lea, Jane Brereton (A7).

Trial: First Class Awards: Stringer, Tebbett, Liz Wilson, Sellers. Second Class Awards: E Riddle, D Lea, W Lloyd, M Brereton (A7). Third Class Awards: S Price, A Thorpe (A7), B Ainscough (A7), Jane Brereton.

Last thought: What were those trailers doing in the car-park of the local station on Wales’s Scenic Line? W B

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