There is no doubt about it, the Vintage Sports Car Club is a very successful and altogether exellent organisation. It runs a wide variety of worthwhile events for competitive types, issues a first-class, indeed inimitable, Bulletin, gets a large number of invitations to other club's events, and its members are the better class of enthusiast, favouring real motor cars in the traditional style. But it does seem to get into deep waters over its definition of eligible members. A vintage car is easily defined, as one made before 1931, although even this simple stipulation is sometimes complicated when the club says, "Cars made before December 31st, 1930," when it really means to say "Before January 1st, 1931"—hard on a chap whose car had its last nuts tightened on the last day of the last vintage year !
It is over its driving members that the VSCC gets confused, and we believe it would have done better to have restricted itself, as once it did, to owners of vintage cars (as just defined) and people either with the wrong cars or no cars at all but the right ideas. But at some time towards the end of the Hitler War the Committee began to fear that vintage cars would dwindle in numbers and that to-sustain the club's membership it would be advisable to let in post-1930 cars of the right kind, letting members owning them compete in certain of the club's events, as driving members. As it has turned out, vintage cars alone would have maintained the club pretty decently. But having admitted post-1930 cars, which it now terms "post-vintage thoroughbreds," the VSCC hasn't the courage to burn its boat and so it continues to recognise three doses of membership, Vintage, Associate and Driving, although limiting owners of non-vintage cars to 40 per cent of its total membership.
To draw up a list of suitable "post-vintage thoroughbreds," the club asked for votes from its members in favour of for or against a long list of makes and models. It published the result recently and we confess it puzzles us. For example, in most cases all models of obvious makes are acceptable, without attempts to sift "black sheep," but when we get to MG we find that the VSCC Committee dislikes the Magnas and Magnettes, except TT Magnettes, but is willing to accept, amongst others, the M-type Midget and its four-seater D-type counterpart. Now, without disrespect to a pioneer small sports car, the M-type MG is hardly in the vintage tradition, if by this we mean cars built in an age before block and crankcase merged as integral iron castings, valve covers were pressed from tin, and wheels held on by a few little nuts.
If you argue that, specification apart, such cars have their niche in history and therefore the VSCC has a duty to preserve them, we tend to agree. But this particular MG appeared in 1920 and is therefore eligible for vintage inclusion, which should surely be sufficient, without admitting later specimens. But, having decided in favour of all ages of M and D-type MG Midgets, how can the Committee complacently exclude Singer Nine Sports and post-vintage Porlocks ? Yet exclude them it does, for against Singer we read "Actual TT and Le Mans cars only.'' Another surprise is that the Austin Nippy is eligible as a "post-vintage thoroughbred," whereas surely vintage Ulsters would have been sufficient representation of the famous Seven. Then the Lancia Astura, Augusta and Aprilia are favoured, but the Committee does not think the Hotchkiss-Amilcar, brilliant light-alloy fwd design that it was, a "thoroughbred." However, all BMWs get by, although we always thought that, except in sports form, these were regarded rather as "people's cars" in their country of origin. Riley Imps and Gamecocks and the Fiat Ballila qualify, although, excellent cars that they are, we confess to regarding them as not exactly in the vintage style. But T-type MGs and Morgan 4/4s are verboten. Lots of makes are listed, like Ansaldo, BNC, Chenard-Walcker, de Dion, Donnet Zedal (this one the VSCC can't spell), Farman, Hampton, Itala, Mathis, etc, which it is difficult to visualise in post-1930 form. Deep waters, you see ...
The position is further complicated by the variety of vehicle classes within the VSCC. Besides vintage cars (pre-1931) there are vintage light cars (pre-1931, not over 30 bhp, or over 1,590 cc, or 12 hp, RAC rating, and not sports models). Edwardian and Georgian cars (pre-1916), and Historic Racing Cars (pre-1938 in 1952), while the aforesaid post vintage thoroughbreds have to be pre-1941. As a matter of fact the historic racing car position was complicated further in a recent circular, wherein they are defined as "actual racing cars of 15 years of age (ie, this year 1952 cars made in 1937 or before) or cars which have been converted for road use but were originally raced prior to 1937. "Now we do not really believe that if you have an old racing car built in 1937 but road-equipped it does not qualify for historic racing car races, whereas your neighbour's' old racing car, also endowed with dynamo and starter but built in 1936, is eligible. No doubt there was a slip here, but it only goes to suggest that the VSCC, which started as a small club for owners of pre-1931 sports cars, is blinding itself with its own science--which perhaps can he put down to the fact that Laurence Pomeroy is no longer President! Joking apart, surely its title should be changed to Vintage Car Club, for the majority of both its vintage and "pvt" cars are distinctly not sports models.
But, make no mistake about it, the VSCC is a thoroughly sound organisation, even if it does take a very level-headed person to comprehend its various eligibilities and vehicle sub-divisions. Its membership increases apace and hardly a post goes by without Motor Sport receiving requests for the name of its secretary. Its desire to cater for owners of vintage and Edwardian cars and to hold races for historic racing cars has our fullest sympathy, and its subscription rates---25s a year for vintage, driving and associate members, 12s 6d for overseas members, and 10s for junior members.— are notably good value. Unless you own a Chromeline Super Sleester or a recent Normal Negative Nine you should be eligible for one category or another— and you are missing something if you don't join. The next event is the Pomeroy Memorial Trophy Competition, on March 22nd. So make a note of the secretary and write to him about joining instead of to us. He is Tim Carson, Mallaha, Pack Lane, Kempshott, Basingstoke, Hants. And, wait for it, he runs a car which doesn't even qualify under the "Post Vintage Thoroughbred" heading—a Citroen Light Fifteen!
And just to show how confusing all this vintagery is, the secretary of the Vintage Aeroplane Club writes to say we did not get quite the right idea of his definition of a vintage aeroplane. The VAC, then, recognises only aeroplanes which have been out of production since before the last world war (ie, Tiger Moth and Magister, etc are out). One-off and lone survivors are obviously welcome. Here again, however, there is exception, for three pre-war Tipsy machines, not completed until 1940, get in. At Denham a Magister did aerobatics but is really a "post-vigtage thoroughbred," although its pilot, Nepean Bishop, pleaded he is very vintage even if his aeroplane isn't! Now is that clear, Smith Minor? Then write it out a thousand times!
After the excellent article in a recent issue of Lilliput about vintage cars in general and the VSCC in particular, we were not in the least surprised to find that, in a story "The Connoisseur" in the December-January issue of this magazine, "Mr. Chelifer's car was an open Bentley, quite 20 years old, but in excellent condition. "Never buy a new motor,' he said . . . 'These old ones are so much better made.' "
" . . . Stokes' fine vintage car, an open, dark green number with a strap round the bonnet."—Elizabeth Frank, writing of this year's Oxford boat-race crew in the News Chronicle of February 11th. Could it be a Bentley ?
Setting out in a 1929 Type 40 Bugatti to attend the VSCC Film Show at Hammersmith Town Hall on February 12th we failed to achieve our objective because parts of the machinery which have to function in precise relation one with the other to effect the Otto cycle failed to do so. A pity, because VSCC meetings are always worth attending and this Bugatti is essentially a car of character, firmly suspended, lively, with a delightful array of instruments before the front-seat occupants and with good weather-protection, while engine and gearbox were quieter than those of most of this breed. The next day, by way of appeasement, we were taken down to Lymington, where those excellent Al-fin brake drums come from, in a 1930 HE Six four-seater.
Much of the appeal of the vintage car comes from its individuality and this HE certainly had that. Beneath its long bonnet and behind its distinctive radiator is a 2.3-litre side-valve six-cylinder engine with triple carburetters (Amato on this car) nestling beneath an exhaust manifold of imposing diameter which runs into a forward off-take pipe. In the alloy head the plugs are inclined one away from the other at a jaunty angle no doubt deemed exceedingly scientific twenty years ago. Ignition is by coil and, although long minor-control levers depend from the steering-wheel centre, that for advance and retard requires no attention.
The controls are typical of the period.— central accelerator, rh gear lever in an open gate, rh brake lever with its grip bent inwards as on the Brooks Straker Squire. The brake shoes, in big drums, are actuated by a vacuum servo via a remarkable front linkage whereby longitudinal pull is converted to transverse pull via bell-cranks and the transverse cables pull hanging levers which work the brake-cams through worm gearing. It all works very powerfully, too, with a minimum of pressure. The multi-plate clutch, too, is exceptionally light, having a centrifugal action, although this calls for care at take-off. The whole car is very rugged, with its steering arm bolted to the stub-axle assembly, a vast, square-shaped rear petrol tank and a four-door four-seater body of metal, fabric covered.
It was nice to encounter one of these rare cars in the same condition, save for the sensible substitution of "truck and bus" tyres, as when it left the Caversham works of its maker, the Herbert Engineering Co a year before they went out of business. Perhaps the character of the car is embodied more in its specification than in its manner of running, for, apart from a pleasant howl from the indirect ratios, there is nothing unusual, except for a good deal of general clamour. Nevertheless, remembering that the car is very heavy for its engine size, the performance is quite useful, 55 mph being a happy gait, which can be increased to 60 mph with a little patience, when the engine is still turning at under 3,000 rpm. In 3rd nearly 50 is possible. Moreover, changes between 2nd and 3rd and 3rd and top, up and down, can be clutchless. Steering is direct, but exceptionally heavy ; the big radiator, slightly blanked-off, keeps the water temperature at 70° C on a cold day with no assistance from pump or fan. Yes, a pleasant car . . .
From the Vintage Postbag
I was interested to see a Triumph Super Seven mentioned in "Vintage Veerings" last month, and I enclose a photograph of my own 1929 model, which was at Bisley on December 2nd ; perhaps the one you mention ?
I have owned this car for some eight months now, and as far as I can make out it is in its original condition. I think the most notable feature is the four-wheel hydraulic brakes. I believe this was one of the first cars to fit them. Spares, which I expected to be rather difficult to find, have so far been surprisingly easy, and my despair on shearing a half-shaft was luckily only short lived: I was equally fortunate in finding a new cylinder-head gasket without any trouble.
I have only seen one similar model, and wonder if many have survived. I should be pleased to hear from other Super Seven owners.
I am, Yours, etc,
MJ Huckstepp. Walton-on-Thames.
[Yes, the Triumph Super Seven pioneered hydraulic brakes amongst the baby-car brigade and also boasted a three-bearing crankshaft. Later models had a ribbon radiator shell but Mr. Huckstepp has one of the genuine examples.—Ed]
Though a regular reader of Motor Sport, I have never seen a reference to the 1927 Wolseley 16/45 tourer. Wolseley Motors were having a chequered career at that period but of the 7,000 cars of that model made, surely one might have provoked interest or contention.
I recently acquired one through your advertisement columns, and have now unearthed an instruction manual, spare parts list and original road-test report. But I still have not seen another "Silent Six," as they were called. Its other nom de guerre—the one-gear car—is not without foundation, for with judicious manipulation of the manual ignition control the car will pull away steadily from 6 mph to 56 mph on top. I am now restoring it in the hope that once again it may provoke a comment made in the original road test : "This car gives a sense of peacefulness and soothing." Even if I have to pay somebody to say it I
I should be glad to hear from any other satisfied owners of a Wolseley 16/45.
I am, Yours, etc.,
DC Cooper. London, W2.
A most interesting article by Dr Ewen on the 1908 Grand Prix Itala has been brought to my notice, and which I find contains an erroneous statement which I hasten to correct.
It states that at the time the Itala was being raced at Brooklands I was employed as works manager by the Itala Company at Weybridge, whereas I was not connected with the company in any way. A Signor Landi was actually the works manager.
Will you be kind enough to allow publication of this correction, the error being entirely due to a misunderstanding on Dr Ewen's part.
Needless to say that having had very close association with the Itala in its early days, I am extremely gratified to know that it is still in existence and so ably tended and cared for by those two capable and enthusiastic Vintagists, Cecil Clutton and Dr Ewen.
I am, Yours, etc.,
R Wil-de-Gose. Pontefract.