THAMES ESTUARY A.C. “CATS’ EYES” RALLY
FEBRUARY 3rd/4th was the evening of the ” Cats’ Eyes ” Rally organised by the Thames Estuary AC.; this was the fourth of a series of similar rallies ruts its previous years and 250 cars were entered on this occasion. Starting points were Southend-on-Sea and, for the benefit of Northern competitors, Dunstable, all of whom congregated at a cheek point on the north end of London Bridge before proceeding southwards. Time control 2 for all competitors was situated at the Spring Tavern, Wrotham, a few miles north of Maidstone, where all ears were parked and drivers took advantage of the refreshments available. It was from this point that the rally started in earnest.
Section 2 was designed to split the entry up a little by having a number of control !Mints which could be approached from different directions and in a different order, there being seven points spread Out on either side of a lino from Wrotham to Ferryfield, all of which bad to be visited. The following two sections were centred on the supper stop at Ferryfield Airport, Lydd, where competitors had a compulsory stop of 1 hr. 15 min. for refuelling and relaxing generally in the comfortable headquarters of the cross-Channel air service. After this a short closed route of a stiffer nature than previously encountered was offered, the fifth section consisting of difficult subsections for navigators involving areas of East Kent, centring on Sandwich and Chartham; the remaining sections consisting of routes in the Canterbury, Wrotham, Sevenoaks, Tunbridge and finally East Grinstead areas. The driving tests took place on the Sunday morning at a point south of Linglield.
Soon after 5 p.m. on Saturday night we drew up at the north end of London Bridge in a borrowed Ford Pilot to meet the Press Secretary of the club and collect some more ” gen ” on the route. Having done this we proceeded to Wretham, where competitors were expected to be cooling and going between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Some time was spent here photographing and watching the cars depart at short intervals from the spacious car park of the Spring Tavern; an excellent selection of clean and shiny motor ears could be seen, Sunbeams appeared to be present in fair numbers, with a fair sprinkling of M.G.s and Fords, but rather fewer TR2s than expected. Our next pert of call was Bearated, just south of Maidstone; here was the headquarters of the rally, situated behind many greenhouses off the main Ashford road. In spite of concise directions, however, we spent a little time locating this ” Nerve Centre,” where the whole rally course and the numerous controls were displayed on a large map. Having taken stock of the situation we decided to move on direct to Fereyfield to watch the early arrivals clock in. The road to Ferrylield branches off the Lydd road and it was at this point that a control was situated. Following M. W. Baker’s Ford Anglia, which was nipping along smartly on slightly icy roads, we arrived at this control, where we stayed awhile to see other ears have their cards stamped and then proceed along to the fuelling station, after which all occupants disembarked for their supper. D. Smith’s TV Fiat came in sounding like a three-cylinder job but was Soon off again, A. C. Davis’ Ford Zephyr had a sporty exhaust note and was followed in by Freeman’s XK 140 Jaguar, which made a rapid start. 3. Poceek then drew in with his Mk. VII Jaguar, had his card stamped
and screeched off towards his supper. A. Blair, however, was a little early so he stopped his Morgan before the control and waited a fele minute’s, P. W. Watkin did the reverse and overshot the control but cense back, as did F. W. Scott in his Hillman Minx, the transmission sounding rather ropey when reversing: this car was fitted with chains, thought to be on unnecessary encumbrance by the onlookers at the time, but they proved to be a very sensible precaution in view of some of the road conditions to he found later. G. E. Todd’s Ford Anglia drew in, followed by Byford’s Morris. Oxford Its we left for the press H.Q. in the airport administration block. As midnight drew near a number of ears had arrived in the main park, and Woolley’s Porsche. Fischer’s M.G., Terry’s Ford Zephyr and Leader’s Zodiac were coining in as we prepared to move on the next leg of the route, which proved to be a very short route as far as we were concerned. Turning north again we chose a seemingly remote country lane signposted for Ashford. eonditions worsened as the hard snow-packed surface of the road and the edges of banked snow narrowed in slightly; we later found ourselves in the awkward predicament of having to face some of the oncoming rally cars, and the memorable incident of the evening occurred as we approached a sharp icy corner flanked with high hedges, a Citroen coming down an incline in the opposite direction, unable to atop, almost succeeded in passing but a dull thud of metal resulted in two cars in ditches on alternate sides of the road with just. enough room between for other ears to slither past. All kinds of salvage operations were tried, including a wire hawser round the wheel hubs and round a nearby telegraph pole but our efforts were in vain. A muffied bang from around the next corner up the hill heralded the arrival of yet another unfortunate in the ditch and we set off to investigate : F. G. Kelshaw’st M.G. Magnette had a ernmpled front wing and broken lamps. The M.G. seemed to be a ” h,,1ieftil ” as regards recovery so all hands set to work to make it roaduorthy once again. Having done this the party moved round to the Citroen, where the same procedure was used and bouncing or lining operations began, the near-side front wheel having to be lifted
a foot or so out of the ditch. And so to car number three. Hopes began to fade as the seven-man team surveyed the massive but helpless Ford Pilot reclining at an angle of about 30 deg. on the Sinus -covered bank. Again the only solution was to lift the front and then the rear of the car out by hand—none or the other cars ettuld be used to tow it owing to the slippery road surface. Eventeally the seven pairs of hands lifted the car bads On to the-road. The same situation prevailed, however, on other parts of the same hum: ears were strewn about in all directions. Finally a breakdown lorry arrived on the scene.
We breakfasted on sandwichesand cold coffee and. wear) from our efforts, headed towards London as dawn began to break: dry reads appeared as we left the south of Kent and we wished that competitors had been a little more fortunate iu their night adventures than we had.-1. G. Results I
THE MORRIS-AUSTIN MERGER
The motor industry is asking whether the £64,000.000 MorrisAustin merger was all a terrible mistake.
” This question may bring in its train bitter disputes and recriminetion, because it involves two of our best liked industrial personalities—the charitably disposed Lord Nuffield and the forceful, magnetic Sir Leonard Lord.
” They were joined together it bare four years ago and now many in Coventry and Birmingham believe that they should be forcibly put asunder.
“They say that the Morris executives east envious glances towards Austin’s Longbridge assembly plant—where short-time working is now in force—and would like to take it over.
” And they say, too, that the Austin executives resent this interference and believe that the whole vast B.M.C. organisation is weakened by too many models from the Morris stable.
” Tough, competitive times are coming to the motor industry. As the draught blows cold and the selling temperature falls, Lord Nuffield may realise that to have been 75 years old was not sufficient reason for handing over control of a 11114ille1454 he still hail the vigour to master. Age alone is no handicap. It is the spirit and the ability which count.”—Edward Westropp writing in the Sunday Express of February 5th.