Rumblings, March 1943
The second hand market
Speculation as to where the sports cars go to when wars happens gives rise to two theories. One is to the effect that dealers are clinging on to once easily acquirable cars, expecting the value of interesting fast cars to soar when peace returns. The other is that before the war dealers in second-hand sports cars may have had a carefree habit of advertising several variations of one model, or of freely inserting the phrase “Choice of three”, when, in fact, they had in stock only one of the type, so that one is, consequently, apt to overrate the available numbers of vintage sports cars. Both these theories are interesting, but we refuse to take sides. The fact remains that in spite of all the present obstacles in the way of motoring enjoyment, people still seek sports cars, and in far larger numbers than supplies of known vehicles can meet. All of which rather saddens one when the breaker’s hammer is observed to soullessly destroy an unusual sports car or an Edwardian tourer. The time may well be in sight when those who have taken steps to save even the rarer fairly poor specimens of the rarer types may have good and sufficient reason to rejoice, while those still seeking such ears will go unappeased. Be this as it may, the rosy period for the impecunious appears to have been 1928, or thereabouts. Picking a Show issue of a weekly motor paper of this date at random, we turned to the “classified smalls” and amongst a large selection of interesting announcements were large numbers of “12/50” Alvis, 3-litre Bentley, Amilcar, Bugatti, HE., Lancia, Lea-Francis, Mercedes, M.G., Salmson, Senechal and “30/98” Vauxhall cars. Admittedly, these were then current models, usually not over four years old, and the prices were very much higher, obviously, than one would pay for like vehicles now; but the significant feature was the big choice of real sports cars offered, compared, for example, with the 1934 vintage sports cars on the market in 1938. To-day, an advertisement of a vintage sports car is quite a startling discovery, and when you reflect on the numbers of such cars which must have been scrapped, judging by the diminution in advertisements for them between 1928 and the present day, the sanity of saving even breaker’s-condition examples becomes apparent. Apart altogether from the evergreen topic of vintage cars, those with limited purses were far better catered for in 1928 than in 1938. Cars costing under £25 were quite lavishly advertised, and even £5 “bargains” were thought to be worth announcing in this happier era. Variety, too, was then at the buyer’s command. In the “smalls” in this Show issue of 1928 we have counted 92 cars of makes then no longer available on the British market, those still popular ” defunct” marques comprising Albert (2), Ansaldo (2), Arrol-Johnston (9), Aurea, Belsize, Belsize-Bradshaw, Calcott (4), Ceirano (2), Charron-Laycock, Crouch, Deemster (2), Diana, E.D.F., F.A.S.T., Flint, Galloway (4), Kissel, Lombard (3), Lorraine (4), Marseal, Mathis (6), Metallurgique (3), Napier, Oldsmobile, Paige-Jewett (2), Panhard (5), Rhode (4), Rollin, Ruston-Hornsby, Schneider (6), Scripps-Booth, Senechal (9), Sizaire-Berwick, S.P.A. (2), Spyker (2), Unic (2), Vinot and Vulcan. Add to these the many makes then on the new car market which have since succumbed, and breakers’ arms must surely ache! Clearly, in 1928 many more second-hand sports cars were available than has been the ease in recent years, many more really cheap cars were advertised, and many more cars then regarded as of “vintage” age were offered for sale. This was the state of things until 1928, and we seem to recall that it existed at least up to 1934. Allowing that cars wear out and that war does not encourage the vendors of used motorcars, comparison of to-day’s “smalls” with those from which we have quoted is apt to suggest that sentiment alone is not responsible for the adage “old times were best”.
The Editor’s correspondence is, of necessity, sadly neglected these days, but he wishes to assure those who write that their news and good Letters wishes are much appreciated, even although they may have to go unacknowledged. The response for contributions has been excellent, and the continuance of Motor Sport far into the future is assured as a result, although fresh matter will continue to be very welcome. The Instruction Book Library has hardly had time to get under way yet, but we have to thank M. D. Tooley, B.Sc., Grad.I.E.E., A.I.R.E., for a quite unique document, in the form of an instruction book for the Rover “Eight,” together with a power curve which reveals that the output of this air-cooled twin was 13 b.h.p. at 2,800 r.p.m„ later increased to 16.5 b.h.p. at 3,000 r.p.m. Mr. Tooley remarks that he once contemplated putting this engine into an O.E.C. motorcycle, so the information now to hand may yet assist those with ideas of using this engine in a similar manner. Meanwhile, we have a book for the “17/95” s/c. Alfa-Romeo and a 1931 “12/50” Alvis instruction book has been loaned to us. An interesting letter from W. G. Battersby encloses two catalogues, in German, of the Type 57 Tatra, an example of which he is improving for after-the-war use. This interesting car has a tubular backbone chassis and a 2-stroke flat-four engine of 70 x 75 mm. (1.16 litres), developing 20 b.h.p. Front suspension is by twin transverse leaf springs, resulting in i.f.s. without wishbones, and rear suspension is by a single transverse spring above a swing axle. The top gear ratio is 3.5 to 1, with 5.25 in. x 16 in. tyres, and the chassis weighs just over 8 cwt. and the 2-seater just under 15 cwt. Battersby’s other car, which he has had for five years, and which he still uses for business and A.T.C. duties, is a 1,600-c.c. backbone-chassis Hansa. From Scotland comes long overdue news of R. G. J. Nash. He confirms that most of his veterans were destroyed by enemy action, but we are relieved to hear that the 1912 Lorraine-Dietrich “Vieux Charles Trois” is safely stored near Oxford while, although the twin-blower 1.5-litre Fraser-Nash-Union-Special “Terror II” was hurled some 15 ft. by a bomb and landed upside down, it can be repaired for further dicing—although Dick thinks that rubber and fuel rationing may delay the resumption of racing for quite a time after the armistice. We hope “R. G. J.” will write an article for us on his many and successful sprint cars, amongst which the supercharged s.v. Anzani-Nash “Terror 1” and the o.h.c. Anzani-Nash “Spook” are well remembered. Meanwhile, does anyone know what has become of the “production” Anzani-Nash 2-seater, which was built by Nash for a client in 1934? It had a Laystall roller-bearing crankshaft and was blown at about 21 lb./sq. in. by a No. 11 Cozette supercharger, and “R. G. J.” recalls getting it up to nearly 120 m.p.h. on test, before the wings were fitted.
When “Ebby” died most of us realised that Brooklands, come what may, will never be quite the same again, and the death of H. P. McConnell reminds us of this only too forcibly. Hugh Patrick McConnell scrutineered at all the big Brooklands meetings, usually assisted by Hudlass or H. R. Godfrey, and his technical knowledge was amply tempered by his ready wit, his love of motor-racing and his practical understanding of requirements, when he encountered enthusiastic entrants of rather amateur or hastily-completed cars. “Mac” was with the Bianchi concern until 1916, when he set up as an independent consultant.
He assisted in organising the first J.C.C. 200 Mile Race in 1921, and his technical qualifications included membership of the S.A.E., I.A.E., I.M.T. and I.Arb. He possessed a fluent command of French, Italian and German, and counted nearly all the British and Continental drivers amongst his friends. His car was a vivid-hued Riley saloon. McConnell died at the age of 59 and was laid to rest at Putney Vale Cemetery, where Guinness and Seaman were buried.