Cotton’s 1,203-c.c. Cotton-Special Comes Through Tough Event with No Marks Lost
On February 19th the Southsea M.C. held its annual President’s Trophy Trial, a thoroughly pleasant, and well-run event, of the kind which embraces not only very severe “sections” of pleasingly varied characteristics, but also an excursion into some charming Hampshire scenery.
L. Onslow Bartlett finished his new 10-h.p. trials special at 3.30 a.m. on the morning of the trial and it was soon surrounded by interested “bods” when it arrived at the start. It is an ingeniously contrived and nicely executed example of the more advanced Ford-Austin trials car. The Ford Ten engine, with twin slightly inclined S.U. carburetters having stub air intakes and ignition by Lucas sports coil, occupies the mid-position in an Austin Seven chassis on the lines pioneered by Imhof. The axles are Austin Seven, the front one having a van-type spring, the rear one a ratio of 5.25-to-1; 2 LS hydraulic brakes have been cleverly adapted to the Austin back-plates. The bonnet and cockpit form a one-piece light-alloy shell, which lifts off easily after the quick-action clips have been released. Ahead of the bonnet is a Ford-type radiator block. Naturally the cockpit, is cramped—ask Mrs. Onslow Bartlett!—but is neater than Imhof’s. A Ford pull-out handbrake is used, the starter switch is a trigger lever on the Ford gear-lever, and the horn-button is foot-operated. A Ford 90-m.p.h. speedometer is mounted on its own near the floor. On an extension of the Austin chassis at the rear are two neat small fuel tanks, each with a quick-action filler cap, flanking the centrally-mounted battery. Bartlett was musing Dunlop 4.00-19 front tyres and 5.50-16 Oxborrow retreads on his rear wheels. Incidentally, 23 entrants had Ford Ten engines in their cars.
We went first to Vale Wood. Most competitors made light of the thick mud on the level going by the start and thereafter only had chassis-twisting ruts to contend with to register a clean climb. However, Len Parker’s remarkable mid-engined Mercury was boiling, Turner’s four-seater Allard went up wagging its tail, and Jackman took his Price Special up cautiously. Imhof failed to arrive, his Special having developed axle trouble. The only failure while we were present was Taylor, whose Ford-Morris Special stripped its final drive-pinion.
Cow Track proved a grand hill, thick mud and a deep galley preventing a fast approach to the steep gradient, while at the top a sharp right-hand hairpin awaited the all-but-triumphant. Onslow Bartlett got his new special into Section 2, then Hopkinson made a splendid climb as far as Section 3, aided by bouncing rendered effective by Austin Seven ¼-elliptic back springs. Failure followed failure, as cars bounced over the gulley and spun to rest in the slime. Then Frost’s 4,390-c.c. Allard, which is soon to become Ralph Venable’s’ road motor, got higher up than anyone so far. Poor Pentony had a troublesome time, in his Morris-Vauxhall, for the gulley broke the track-rod, causing him to motor amongst the trees, petrol poured from the tank before he could be retrieved, and mud had interfered with the self-starter, as it had with several others. Shades of the reliability trial! However, a garage effected repairs and Pentony continued.
So bad was Cow Track that the starting marshal was able to start competitors and then run with them until they failed, whereupon he took steps to prevent them from reversing over the bank—and it wasn’t long before his shirt was wet with perspiration! Goltz-Mann’s Ford Eight Special was trying to shed a wing, and failed early, Maklin’s Ford-Austin’s starter went on strike, but Brooks’ Ford Special ERP made a gallant attempt. Chairmen’s Ford Ten-engined Lotus, with Meccano pulleys as part of its throttle control, got right into Section 3, but Smith’s F.M.B. had to be content with Section 2, in spite of notable speed and urge. Roberts’ Mercury-Allard then got even higher than Frost, Price did better still in his Price Special, and, the hill seemingly becoming easier, Biggs took his blown Ford Ten Special well into Section 3, stalling suddenly at the very top. Waring’s blown Dellow, as expected, did almost equally well and then, amid enthusiastic applause, Rumfitt, in the ex-Imhof Allard with out rigged twin spare wheels, got right up the entire gradient, only to muff the hairpin, which was difficult for a long-wheelbase car. White (747-c.c. Auswyte) failed early with furious valve bounce: more early failures followed, but Jackman was good in Price’s original Price V8, and Denyer’s Lea-Francis was very creditable for a vintage car.
Then louder applause as Cotton, with soldier-passenger, took the entire Cow Track in his stride in his 1,203-c.c. Cotton—he subsequently scored the only clean sheet of the trial. Sweeney, whose beetle-like blown Ford Ten Special had a notice, “smoke-room,” at the aperture in the tail where the exhaust-pipe emerged, stopped low down. Roberts’ Falcon well into Section 1, after a rapid start, and then—Clayton’s Ford Ten-engined Clayton went all the way up in manner most polished. Richards’ Ford-Austin crawled almost out of Section 1, Yeates’ Ford-F.I.A.T. coupé displayed effective suspension but failed early, and then Best had the bad luck to roll his blown “PB” M.G. over and over down the drop on the left of the gradient. Fortunately, a doctor-spectator dealt with him calmly and efficiently, and although it was deemed wise to remove him to Chichester Hospital for an X-ray, he was able to leave later that day, while his passenger drove the M.G. to the finish. This episode was sheer bad luck, no blame attaching to the organisers. We understand that this was confirmed by the B.T.D.A. Steward.
After the lunch-stop and a special test, competitors tackled The Warren, where Geoffrey Ansell was amongst the spectators. A long muddy climb, the real gradient could be approached at speed, and it failed fewer than expected. Successful were Onslow Bartlett, Smith’s F.M.B., in a wild, very fast dash, Biggs, Waring, and Chapman’s Lotus, his passenger wearing a fine “inter-com.” flying helmet. “Good failures” were scored by Lang’s Austin Seven, Fuller’s F.M.W., Boyes’ Batten-Special, converted from four to two seats, and Jackman’s Price, amongst others. Roberts’ Allard slid about a lot and seemed to jump out of gear, and Mead took a long time to reverse his Allard down—all cars had to reverse down this hill, even the successful. Denyer’s Lea-Francis was in trouble, with ignition before reaching The Warren.
In misty rain, after a sunny day, the trial ran on, embracing Wheatham and Old Stoner, to Lythe Farm Right, an old favourite which several competitors, including Watkin’s “TC” M.G., failed to find. The finish came in nice time for tea and Onslow Bartlett left to drive his wife to Wales, while Sweeney’s Ford went home on an elaborate trailer.