Club News, March 1943

We hear . . . .

John MacLagen, of the Scuderia Chemvamo, has sent out another newsletter to his Scuderia mates, and mentions that there is a very early 2-port, 2-stroke, single-speed belt-drive Connaught motorcycle at Bradford’s Garage, Sherburn, near Malton, Yorks., in case any motorcycle folk are interested. We regret to hear that Sgt. Pilot Pierre Bell, of this Scuderia, is reported missing. Gordon Woods is very anxious to acquire yet another Frazer-Nash, although he is not disinterested in a Squire. At present he uses an Austin Seven. The editorial Lancia “Lambda” has been laid up and a 1928 “12/50” Alvis drophead coupe succeeds it, but Boddy also plans to install a big-port “12/50” engine in one of the 1924 duck’s-back aluminium 2-seater cars for speedier, if anti-social, occasions. He has also been made a most acceptable present by H. G. Symonds of the ex-Davenport 1.5-litre G.N. “Spider,” which he intends to have rebuilt for postwar club sprint events. Holland Birkett is thinking very much in terms of Bugattis, having sold his special 4-seater Austin Seven to Phil Hunter, and he hopes to obtain the Type 40 owned by Shapley if he can get it up from Torquay. The proprietor of Motor Sport has become a D.K.W. enthusiast and would be glad to find some oversize pistons to suit, and a reader seeks any sort of roomy, family car, in not too poor order, and for which spares are available at a breaker’s, “at between £5 and £300”, a requirement it should be relatively easy to satisfy. We know of a Lancia “Lambda” 6th Series tourer, recently overhauled by Lancias, and complete with its special set of tools and instruction book, which sounds to be in very good fettle, for sale near London for £50. Charles Mortimer has bought a very fine car indeed for after-the-armistice exercise, in the form of the blue single-seater 2.9-litre Maserati which Count Villapadierna ran in S. African events. Rowland, of Byffeet, is storing it for him “until afterwards”. Jenkinson should be busy for the remainder of the blitz, even if peace is further away than we all hope, for he plans to install an A.C. Six engine into a Frazer-Nash chassis putting on a duplicate of the “T.T. Replica” body for a fast road car and to build up a sprint car consisting of a G.N. chassis, with 1.5-litre 4-cylinder Powerplus or V-twin J.A.P. alternative power-plants, and a Morgan independent front end. T. P. Breen has sold an old Lea-Francis coupe to a Major, R.E., who is rumoured to be getting excellent everyday service from it; Breen has for sale a 1931 4.5-litre Invicta (high type) chassis, with tyres, at £15, and he would like to find a boat-bodied or other open-bodied 1921-31 Hispano-Suiza at a reasonable price, to preserve as a museum piece.

E. T. Barnard, 194, Luton Road, Dunstable, Bedfordshire, who, as mentioned last month, has acquired a 1937 “Competition” 3.5-litre Delahaye (DXE 66), is very anxious to obtain data, spares and a handbook about it, and to correspond with past owners. This is the car once owned by Count Heyden, with Cotal gearbox and an Abbey drophead coupe body; it has been carefully stored since August, 1941, and is reported to be in very fine condition. Barnard is contemplating a light body for post-war sports car racing. A Sheffield reader has come upon a 150-c.c. o.h.v. engine which apparently adorned an A.B.C. Scoota-Motor in the dark ages. At last comes news of what seems to be one of the now almost extinct “22/90” Alfa-Romeos. Charles Lambton, of the 5th Btu. Coldstream Guards, has seen a coupe example, in poor condition, but with a complete engine and four tyres, at a breaker’s at Semley, in Wiltshire, and he thinks that £15 at the very outside should buy it— if anyone is disposed to save a now quite unique model of a great marque. There is a 1906 single-cylinder de Dion in Tonbridge, which is not for sale, although spare cylinders and connecting rods exist, and would be sold to any one needing them. Ian Metcalfe has added some fresh stock to his intriguing sports car emporium at Shepperton and sold others, the newcomers including a 7th Series Lancia “Lambda” coupe, an open 3.5-litre Hotchkiss, Orlebar’s pre-1914 Mercedes fire-engine, an Edwardian 14 h.p. Mors 2-seater, and a supercharged Austin Seven 2-seater with Ford radiator, known as the Copper-Special, with the ex-Cowell sports Alta, the Eccles-Special and the ex-Monkhouse chromium and black Amilcar Six amongst the quick stuff.

Down at Bristol, Watson dreams of a rosy future for his special sprint G.N. and “Red Biddy’s” former owner has re-acquired this desirable property, which was in danger of being sold as scrap, while an elusive G.N. is rumoured to be around. The Veteran C.C. announcement has further increased keenness for the Edwardians. Richard Shakespeare’s touring Mors and Enfield-Alldays are safely stored in Surrey, and Boddy is trying to save a sporting 1912 16-h.p. Gregoire which lies exposed to the elements beside a country garage, its fate uncertain. There is a very sound 1931 “12/50 ” Alvis saloon for sale in South London, at £80, with many spares.

The Midland Motoring Enthusiasts’ Club

Enthusiasm for the Sport is certainly in a most encouraging state, even to the formation of yet another club, the Midland Motoring Enthusiasts’ Club, which has as its aims the following: (1) To maintain contact between enthusiasts during the war; (2) to enable members to exchange ideas and spare parts to their mutual advantage; (3) to hold debates from time to time on various motoring subjects; (4) if sufficient enthumsiasm can be raised and maintained, to try to induce well-known motoring personalities to give lectures and talks; (5) to visit members who have interesting cars and, with their permission and co-operation, to browse over them to their enlightenment; (6) to co-operate with similar clubs in other towns; (7) to endeavour to bring about normal motoring as soon as possible after armistice; (8) to enable members to loan to one another motoring books, periodicals, textbooks and instruction books which they may have in their possession; (9) to look after enthusiasts’ interests, whether members or not, who are in the Forces.

This new club was formed at the suggestion of Stewart Forrest, and it is hoped that monthly meetings will be held at the “Bull’s Head”, Bishopsgate, Birmingham; two meetings had already been held by the end of January. Mr. Forrest was elected chairman and D. F. Mallalieu secretary, at a meeting on 18th January. The annual subscription is 5s., and all enthusiasts are welcome, members of the Services being invited to join free of charge. It is hoped to hold meetings on the third Wednesday in each month, and co-operation is being sought with D. L. Gandhi, secretary of the Enthusiasts’ Car Club. A club-room at the aforementioned hotel has already been acquired, and we wish this new organisation well. Hon. Secretary D. A. Mallalieu, 81, Olorenshaw Road, Sheldon, Birmingham, 26.

Junior Car Club

The Junior Car Club continues to hold its Council luncheons in London, and has issued its Gazette for October to December, 1942, this issue containing an account of the early years of the “Double Twelve” Race. From it we learn that Norman Freeman, Dunlop Competition Manager, is a Home Guard Lieut.; John Cobb is joining A.T.A. as a pilot; Lieut. the Earl of Brecknock is at Area Headquarters, London; Reuben Harveyson is an Assistant Regional Officer, Ministry of Supply; C. W. D. Chinery is also with this Ministry; R. E. Rushbrook is in the Middle East; Miss Watson drives for the Y.M.C.A. and Miss Woodhead for the W.V.S.; and Major H. C. Dryden is engaged to Dorothy Stanley Turner, Secretary, H. J. Morgan, 14, Lime Grove, Ruislip, Middlesex.

Veteran Car Club

The Veteran Car Club has recently issued some more announcements relating to their decision to extend their scope to embrace cars built up to the end of December, 1912. Cars built prior to 1905 will be known by the club as veterans, and those built between January, 1905, and December, 1912, for the time being, as Edwardians—presumably “Georgians” will be adopted later. Four classes have been constituted, as follows: Class A, 1895-99; Class B, 1900-1904; Class C, 1905-1909; Class D, 1910-12. Ardent veteran car collectors who seek to draw a line somewhere may now aim at a minimum of one car per class. It is proposed to extend the scope of Class C by “one year in every five”, so that by 1948 1913 cars will be eligible and by 1953 1914 cars come in, and so on. We rather wish that August, 1914, had been taken as the last limit date, although admitting that “pre-war” is now a very confusing term.

A very sound and sensible ruling is that Class C and D cars shall not compete in the Brighton Commemoration Run or act as tender cars, or run over the course on the day of that event. These cars will be allowed to compete in other club events, in their own categories. The Edwardians are being looked after by a sub-committee, to which Cecil Clutton and Anthony Heal have been elected, as well as having been elected to the main committee. The club hopes to have central premises after the war. A running buffet was organised at the Waldorf Hotel on 13th February. Hon. Secretary, Capt. J. N. Wylie, 38, West Cromwell Road, London, S.W.5. (Western 3032.)

General notes

Motoring experiences come all too infrequently now, but they have not entirely ceased, for many individualistic motor-cars are still in use on work essential to winning the war and our personal good fortune holds. Thus there was a journey all the way to beyond Bristol and back in an “eleven-hundred” H.R.G., which, postponed, led to a long day in a train. But eventually it came about, and very welcome it proved to be. Only once exceeding 50 m.p.h., the roads were so deserted that over 20 miles were put into the half-hour periods quite effortlessly, in spite of a few short stops for the purpose of map-cogitation and for clearing the windscreen of a thick layer of mud slung up by Army vehicles as we climbed the latter part of Salisbury Plain, when passing a convoy, which also caused some hectic slides on the far from clean road surface. The run home in the dark was equally satisfactory, after an annoying electrical short-circuit had been cured, although the night was bitterly cold. Later, there was the urgent need to find another “official” car, resulting in the purchase, for a modest sum, of a stately, but somehow pleasing, and well-shod “12/50” Alvis coupe, which ran home in a manner inspiring every confidence that it would render good service on future occasions. On third gear 35 m.p.h. seemed ample, the howl and clatter from the doubtless hard-used box terrific, and the low ratios, and the gaps between them, were not too welcome after many months’ experience of a Lancia “Lambda.” But once in top we rattled along without effort, albeit with a healthy burble of exhaust note, at 40-50 m.p.h. Thoughts of economy and dependability compensate for a lot these difficult days, and the steering, if the lock was quite unbelievably small, was yet very light, high-geared and reasonably accurate, the brakes were spongy but effective, and the car was somehow endowed with breeding which suggested not altogether touring ancestors. Moreover, everything functioned, even to an aristocratic electric horn and an oil pressure at all times above 15 lb./sq. in., and, anyway, we like a right-hand change.

The Alvis had to be used for several pleasing official journeys, and then a friend murmured that he had to deliver a 4-speed Austin Seven “special” to a nearby town, using those so valuable white-and-red plates, and that he intended to get on a train and go to Torquay to bring home a Type 40 Bugatti by the same means. A little long-overdue leave being possible, we went as well, of course. The Austin took us the first few miles on a perfect morning without incident, and there followed a seemingly interminable train journey which made up for a lot by taking in some magnificent coastal scenery on the last lap. Unloading two boxes of tools and spares, we had a brief look at the Bugatti, finding the appearance of the car, with its black body on the lines of a scaled-down Type 43, a stimulant for what was to come. In the failing light we murmured of Molsheim magic as we took our hostess home in an Austin Twenty taxi. Next morning a smaller Austin taxi took us to the garage where the Bugatti awaited our ministrations—the fuel system had to be cleared, we knew, but it was with alarm that we regarded the aperture where the ignition distributor should have been. Telephone calls to the owner elicited the information that it was nowhere to be found, and that two friends, on work of national importance in a “12/60” Alvis, had suffered stripped timing gears on Dartmoor and were coming on by train in the hope of a lift back to their base. So the writer met every train as it emerged from the picturesque tunnel into Torquay station, by a sea front deserted of cars save for the inevitable Austin taxis. That afternoon the distributor was found, and late that evening our friends arrived, to find the Bugatti almost ready to take the road, although we had not been able to commence the engine. Supper in a lounge-bar facing the sea did much to restore our spirits ere yet another Austin taxi conveyed us away for a well-earned sleep. Next day the Bugatti’s engine commenced after a downhill push, and we were away by mid-day, four up and loaded with luggage. At once the magic of the whole business came back to us. The rising whine as each higher ratio went in, the typically Bugatti exhaust note which turned into a calico-ripping sound above “two-five”, and the taut, live feeling of the little car, allied to the glimpses of a Devon sea deep blue in the clear sunlit atmosphere, blended into an experience valuable beyond price. That this was an isolated journey necessary because the car had to be moved to a new locality became a pill more bitter to bear in consequence. Even the exhilaration of this now completely rare motoring could not blind us to the fact that the engine had a bad misfire, a reason for apprehension, with the distributor a very jury-rigged affair and held on to the rear of the cam-ease by perished rubber-bands and hope. This trouble became worse, necessitating many stops, some involuntary as the timing slipped at intervals. The dynamo not charging, the batteries began to fail, and by Exeter our drive temporarily terminated. Some frantic telephoning resulted in a Scintilla Vertex magneto of trustworthy quality being put on a night train from Reading. We retired to a miserable railway hotel after nothing more inspiring than an immense supper in a fish-and-chip bar, one member of the party deeming a train the surer method of returning to his toil, notwithstanding that it left at the ungodly hour of 1.20 a.m. At breakfast next day – which day was now becoming a detail requiring immense thought!—the box containing the magneto was borne triumphantly to the table, and very soon a garage was dealing brutally with the task of changing the driving pinion.

Life was thereafter immediately enlivened by a run in a vintage Dodge taxi, which we insisted on taking in preference to the all-too-modern Austins, being rewarded with hard suspension, 38 m.p.h., and very powerful rear-wheel brakes. An hour sufficed to fit the Vertex in place of the offending distributor, and we were on our way again. For a time we tailed an R.A.F. officer in a 4.5-litre Bentley drophead coupe, until we passed at speed downhill, only to be promptly re-passed, and left, on the very next uphill stretch. Thereafter we had the road up from the West very much to ourselves, and the Bugatti cruised in a most spirited manner at 3,000 r.p.m., the exhaust note the kind of sound one could go on listening to for ever, the gear hum adding to the car’s Molsheim manner of going in the few congested areas through which we passed. Once or twice we stopped for no very apparent reasons, the plugs, K.L.G. K.1’s, remaining quite healthy, and we had an excellent lunch in Yeovil. Just beyond Lobscombe Corner the fuel required replenishment, whereafter we motored on not slowly until, a mile out of Whitchurch, an “expensive noise” occurred. We examined the engine sufficiently to ascertain that the lubricant had not been going to all the places where it is essential, and then pushed the car into the town. Another train journey, a run through brilliant moonlight with the trade tow-car to bring the Bugatti in, and one of the longest, most strenuous and most absorbing “weekends” we have spent for some four years or more concluded. Certainly this motoring hasn’t lost one iota of its fascination for us, although such experience of it seems possibly to have terminated now until after the war. Reminiscences of this run must keep us inspired until then, and we shall long remember the little old lady who looked over the fence as we worked on the Bugatti and sadly observed that it never would go properly, that we had wasted our money, but that perhaps the metal would do for scrap.