Charge of the Light brigade
In 1961, I reminded the VSCC Light Car & Edwardian Section that in 1924 the RAC had held a Six-Day Welsh Trial based in Llandrindod Wells, to publicise the then-increasingly popular light cars.
They had to be strictly as-sold, a £250 deposit to accompany entry forms for forfeit in the event of cheating — a good idea! Two routes were used on alternate days, a total road mileage of 1010, ending with strict examinations at Brooklands for any damage, defunct starters, lamps, etc, together with a one-mile flying start speed test and an 80-yard acceleration check. Fuel consumption was based on how much of each farthing’s worth of petrol had been consumed.
The hills, including the dreaded 2533-yard-long Bwlch-y-Groes, the highest pass in Wales, were timed. Works drivers were involved, and the overall winner was Brooklands man D Chinney in a Gwynne 8 (46.2mpg, 55.21mph). Price-class winners were Trojan, Rhode, AC and Palladium, while HE Taplow’s Lea-Francis was ‘hero of Bwlch’, being fastest up the 1-in-4/1-in-7 gradient on all three days. The failures here were Poppe’s Austin 7, the Derby and Captain Marendaz’s hastily-prepared Marseal.
The VSCC’s LC&E Section decided to have a rerun of the 1924 trial in 1975, using the southern route, involving Senn, Panne and Erwood hills (all still climbable, as is Bwlch), with its traditional own trial on the Sunday. In ’77, it tackled the northern route and Bwlch defeated a large part of the entry. In ’24, the cars would have been carefully prepared makers’ entries, but in the same year Bwlch, ‘The Pass of the Cross’, did not bother many of the cars in regional trials, such as Birmingham MC’s 24-hour event; so perhaps Anno Domini does impose a certain toll?
In 1925, the Rover Company submitted a six-month-old 14-45hp Weymann saloon with its unusual overhead valve-gear (32 cwt, 20.3:1 bottom gear) to an RAC-observed test of 50 consecutive ascents of the Bwlch Pass, non-stop except for a closed gate, sheep, and a 5sec delay when the carburettor backfired. The 150 miles took 12 hours, in rain, and afterwards it took only half-a-pint of water to refill the radiator.
In 1956, Ken Best, Competition Manager of National Benzole, and I did 100 ascents of the Pass in a 425cc 2CV Citroën, under RAC observation. We changed drivers every three hours and stopped the engine only once in the 18.5 hours, to put in half a pint of oil. The little car puttered up in its 25.9:1 bottom gear but descended briskly, until the brakes wore out…
This year the southern section of the 1924 event was used again by the VSCC LC&E Section, with reduced mileage. It had an overall entry of 130, including 35 A7s, 11 Morris Minors and 10 GNs and, as this is the 70th anniversary of the VSCC, a dozen Edwardians were allowed to compete.
The long mute, a little shorter than in 1924 at 120 miles, was attempted by 81 and a milder route by 21 cars. In the Sunday trial, the Llwynbarried Trophy (best performance) was won by R Parsons (1921 GN), the Winifred Boddy Trophy (best newcomer) by R Scott (1927 A7), who took a First Class Award, as did I Rendall (1918 Stutz Bearcat), M Brereton (1928 A7), B Gray (1925 Austin 7) and Suzanne Woodward (1930 Morris Minor).
The Kate Hutchings Trophy (best driver under 23) went to J Rishton (1927 A7) who gained a Second Class Award, which were also won by Nondus Banning-Boddy (1930 A7) and B Clarke (1922 Sahnson). Thirds went to C Hamilton-Gould (1930 Morris Minor), C Hudson (1927 A7), I Walker (1923 Gwynne 8), P Tebbitt (1927 A7) and S Rich (1924 GN).