As regular readers of Motor Sport know, old racing cars reputed to be in retirement act on the Editor like the proverbial red rag to a wide-awake bull. Consequently, when a reader wrote and said: “I suppose you know about the 1914 racing Hillman at Boroughbridge,” we were hot on the scent. Pressed for further details, this reader told an intriguing tale. During the Kaiser war, he said, a R.F.C. officer was wont to journey up and down the Great North Road when he went on leave from his aerodrome in Yorkshire to London. His mount was a pre-1914 ex-Brooklands single-seater Hillman. One day the car failed him and he left it in a garage at Boroughbridge, intending to collect it. Time went by, and be did not return. Perhaps his Camel had got into a spin once too often. … At all events, where the car had been left, there it stayed. Our informant said he had seen it frequently outside the garage some ten years ago and had again enquired after the car in 1941. The son of the garage proprietor had taken him to a small shed beside the river (near where Pickford’s lorry fell through the bridge some months ago), and there the car was, beautifully preserved. The garage proprietor was relining the clutch by way of a hobby and would not hear of selling the car. It had a “copper exhaust pipe outside the narrow body big enough to put your head into,” a facia adorned merely with a rev.-counter and a big oil gauge and, it was believed, artillery whees. The garage concerned faced a hotel, where the York Road entered the town.
Well, that was enough for us and as the ugly town. of Boroughbridge, so well known to travellers who use “A1,” was only a quarter-of-a-gallon of “basic” away, per Austin, off we set. Several garages faced hotels, but enquiry brought no response and one man, who said he had been there 20 years, showing us a photograph of a very early Weston steam car to prove it, could not recall a single detail of our story. Not to be outdone, we visited the police station. Yes, the sergeant recalled hearing of the car, had seen it himself in the garage, and he had only been in the town three years. But, he told us, the garage owner was a thought eccentric and might not take kindly to the Press. Without any persuasion he got on to the telephone, but the person we so desired to meet was out. However, we were advised to visit another policeman at his house, as he had been there 20 years and would know more about it. This gentlenian confirmed that the Hillman was not mythical. but said it was abandoned after, not during, the 1914-18 war. He gave us the name of a motor-cyclist, said to have ridden in the early T.T. races, who lived on the outskirts of the town and might know where the car was now, as it had not been seen of late. Our next step was at the garage, but, as we had been told by the police, a curtain was drawn across the windows (which still bore legends of the early twenties) and we could not see in. We then telephoned the proprietor and stated the nature of our mission. At first the old gentleman denied any knowledge of the car — “Never had a Hillman in my life.” Then he said perhaps we meant the racing car — ” a very fast car, in its time.” We assured him vehemently that we did. “Ah,” he continued, “it was crashed ten years ago and went for scrap — even the tyres have gone.” Well, there it is. Can anyone throw any light on this interesting story and say what Hillman this was and why it was abandoned? It seems possible it may even have been Bedford’s famous car, which, in 1920, took the 1 1/2-litre Hour Record at 78 3/4 m.p.h. We should like very much to know.