Matters of Moment, March 1950

The 20th Monte Carlo Rally.

Hotchkiss won the 20th Monte Carlo Rally for France, with a British Humber Super Snipe in almost literally hot pursuit. At the Earls Court Exhibition last autumn the Hotchkiss exhibits looked real honest-to-goodness motor cars, their clean and business-like lines unsullied by chrome adornments, fancy wings or the now fashionable curves of allegedly-aerodynamic form. So we were not surprised when a 3,485-.c.c. Hotchkiss, ably-driven by the Frenchmen, Becquart and Secret, pulled off the arduous 1950 Rallye Automobile Monte Carlo.

Only a roadworthy and durable car can get through this 2,000-mile winter run without loss of marks and the fact that Hotchkiss won the Rally not only this year, but also in 1932, 1933, 1934, 1939 (tying with a Delahaye) and 1949, stamps it as a truly exceptional motor car, to be desired, and if possible acquired, by all who are in a position to consider one. The first Hotchkiss was built in St. Denis in 1903 and the make rapidly built up a reputation second to none, its radiator in the classic round shape which before the Kaiser War it shared with Delaunay, Belleville and a few others, proudly bearing the crossed guns of the great French armament house from which it emanated, and on the 120 by 140 mm. “40/50” cooling one of the earlier successful six-cylinder engines.

After the First World War Hotchkiss concentrated mainly on the 15.9-h.p. model, of 2½ litres capacity, which won the Rally in 1932, and in 1931 introduced the 80 by 100 mm., car which developed into the famous 86 by 100 mm., 3½-litre Rally winner. Fifteen years ago the “Paris-Nice” 3½-litre Hotchkiss saloon was capable of over 95 m.p.h. and of reaching 50 m.p.h. from a standstill in under 11 seconds. The specification of the present-day Hotchkiss which, out of 282 starters, won this year’s particularly arduous Rally, embraces a push-rod six-cylinder engine, Cotal gearbox, Lockheed brakes and a transverse leaf-spring i.f.s. layout. It is represented in this country by a concessionnaire whose showrooms are in South Kensington.

That a new 4-litre Humber Super Snipe driven by Gatsonides and Barendregt finished only one mark behind the Hotchkiss in final marking has put Britain very definitely on the map of Rally results. It proves that our luxury cars also possess a high degree of performance and road-ability.

Great credit, too, must be bestowed on the little French Simcas with their 1,090-c.c. and 1,221-c.c. Italian F.I.A.T. engines, which were the only other cars to get through to Monte Carlo without loss of marks. Their stout showing prompts repetition of a question we have put previously—is there any place for large-engined cars in a world of rationed fuel and undiminishing austerity? The Coupes des Dames went to ladies who also occupied a 1,221-c.c. Simca.

A few thoughts about the Rally itself. It is, in our opinion, quite the finest non-racing contest held. To get through to the finish at the average speed set is a test of both driver and car, even when adverse weather does not play a part, as it did this year. Add to this the acceleration, reversing and brake test taken on arrival at the finish and subsequent deduction of marks for damaged wings, starter’s that no longer work, lamps that have permanently gone out and similar defects which can mar a more leisurely tour, and the Rally is seen as a stern test not of man, not of machine, but of both in combination. That, we feel, is as it should be in an International event. Moreover, this event is won on the road section, unlike those rallies of the past when the long drive seemed pointless because some circus-like driving tests were the real outcome of the contest. In the Monte Carlo Rally this year only those who survived the road competition sans loss of marks took the final test—and, disappointing as this was, with a mere five cars, three of them too small to be spectacular, for the spectators at the finish, it is indisputably the correct policy to adopt. Add to all this the fact that the final test itself is a most ingenious affair that calls for driving skill and speed, braking, cornering and accelerative qualities on the part of a car in fair proportion, and you reach the conclusion that this Monte Carlo Rally is about the best and most searching test of a motor car, short of a road-race, that we have to-day. It only remains to state that entries are confined to production-type closed cars and the perfect competition has been fully described! All credit, we say again, to Hotchkiss for winning it on six separate occasions! The B.B.C.s splendid coverage will have ensured even greater interest, and consequently prestige, accruing to the 1951 Rally.

That voluntary helpers make possible this great event starting from places as far afield as Lisbon, Glasgow, Stockholm, Oslo, Florence and the Principality itself, and that the police of so many countries do all they can to speed the Rally cars on their way—is a sobering and satisfactory thought whenever one is inclined to regard the world as approaching International chaos.