Veteran – Edwardian – Vintage

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A section devoted to old-car matters

Thoughts about P.V.T.

THE V.S.C.C. has been under fire recently in another journal about the cars it accepts for membership. There are those logical critics, like Martyn Watkins, who consider that because it is registered as the Vintage Sports Car Club Ltd. only good sports cars should be eligible. Conversely, there are people who love all aspects of motoring history and would be happier if the V.S.C.C. were re-named the Vintage Car Club, admitting all the ancients up to 1940.

My own views about this have been expressed previously, but the time does seem to have come when the question of p.v.t. –– post-vintage-thoroughbred, a clumsy but difficult-to-improve-upon designation –– should be openly discussed.

It came into being in 1945, the argument in its favour as expressed by the V.S.C.C. Committee being the fear “that in time pre-1931 cars would become scarcer and, with their decline, the Club would founder” –– I quote from its official history. In other words, the maintenance or increase in Club membership was the object in view. (From the beginning, in 1934, associate membership had been open to Associate Members, who were persons with the right ideas but the wrong cars, or no cars at all, which can be construed as a desire to enlarge the kitty or, more charitably, as foreseeing the desirability of educating morons in moderns to the joys of vintage motoring.)

I have no grumble against restricting road-equipped cars in the V.S.C.C. to pre-1941, which follows the same logic as having a date limit line for antique furniture and the like as pre-1831. A line has to be drawn somewhere, or the whole joy and mystique of antique collecting falls asunder –– and one sees, in the age-limit accepted by the Antique Dealers’ Association, a good deal of sense reflected in the V.S.C.C.’s acceptance of pre-1931 as a practical limit for vintage cars. (Possibly the early acceptance of non-sports cars by the V. Sports C.C. stemmed from its decision to foster the cars of 1905-1915, some of which were of non-sporting demeanour?)

Be all this as it may, or is, the fact remains that after 1945 the club permitted Driving Members to run p.v.t.s. The non-logic of recognising, say, a Singer Junior Porlock but refusing to accept a 1931 version of the same car as a p.v.t. is attributable to the Club’s concern to see its membership (and therefore revenue) maintained but only by admitting good cars made after 1930.

Either you agree with this approach, or you don’t. I do. (Some members resigned when the p.v.t. ruling was adopted, among them Alvis-exponent Michael May.) It is the composition of the exclusive p.v.t. list which is open to question. It covers the following cars of 1931-1940, plus “certain rare cars and specials at the Committee’s discretion” —

A.C.

Alfa Romeo.

Alta.

Alvis.

Amilcar.

Aston-Martin.

Austin (Nippy, Speedy and Ulster only).

Bentley.

B.M.W.

Bugatti.

Cadillac (certain models).

Citroën (F.W.D. only).

Cord.

Daimler (8- and 12-cylinder and sleeve-valve only).

Darracq.

Delage.

Delahaye.

Derby.

Duesenberg.

E.R.A.

Fiat (Balilla Sports only).

Frazer-Nash.

Hispano-Suiza.

Hotchkiss (excluding Amilcar).

H.R.G.

Invicta.

Isotta-Fraschini.

Lagonda.

Lincoln (excluding Zephyr and Mercury).

Lancia.

Lea-Francis.

Maserati.

Mercedes-Benz.

M.G. (K3, Q, R, C, M, J3 and J4, 18/80 and T.T. cars).

Minerva (8-cylinder only).

O.M.

Packard (12-cylinder and certain 8-cylinders only).

Railton (Open Sports Models only).

Riley.

Rolls-Royce.

Salmson (French).

Salmson (British).

Singer (actual T.T. and Le Mans cars only).

Squire.

S.S. 100.

Stutz.

Sunbeam (except Dawn).

Talbot (Roesch).

Talbot-Lago.

Voisin.

It always seemed to me that the list was drawn up rather casually, by persons who either had little knowledge of, or had forgotten, the specifications and characteristics of the thoroughbreds it encompasses.

Looking at first superficially at these additional cars they choose as worthy of carrying the V.S.C.C. badge, it is hard to appreciate why pre-1931 examples of AC., Alvis, Riley, Sunbeam, Frazer-Nash, Lea-Francis and French Salmson, were not deemed sufficient, the better models of these makes extending but a year or two into the p.v.t. era. Or, if membership decline was so much feared, why thoroughbred status wasn’t confined to specific models. As it is, the post-1932 A.C. with conventional suspension and gearbox location, leading on to the Ace (its long-established light-alloy engine apart), is not very different from the SS 100 in vintage regard, yet it is listed as a p.v.t. The great 12/50 Alvis reappeared in 1931 and it is correct to include the only slightly-different 12/60s of up to 1932, while the earlier Speed 20s are in the vintage tradition. But how odd that the V.S.C.C. loves Fireflys, Firebirds and Crested Eagles as much as it does 12/50s –– Scott-Moncrieff, in “The Thoroughbred Motor Car, 1930-t940,” says of the Alvis Firefly that “the best part of this nasty little car was its appearance. It looked neat and workmanlike, but apart from that it had little or nothing to commend it, and the quality of the coachwork was far from good.” He dismisses the Firebird by remarking that “All that can be said about this is that it was nice to look at and a bit better in all respects than the Firebird.” Yet to the V.S.C.C. Committee, both are thoroughbreds. . . .!

At first sight it seems right to include Amilcar. But pause to consider what Amilcar made after 1930 and the dismal performance of even the straight-eight and one wonders why the make, sporting to a high degree in the vintage years, was Included as an exclusive thoroughbred.

Aston Martin lets in the complicated but desirable Bertelli cars. But why a side-valve Austin 7 Nippy is a thoroughbred when an o.h.c. Singer Junior is not will be defended by 750 M.C. fanatics if not upheld by historians, and surely, because the 328 B.M.W. was such a splendid and technically advanced sports car there is no need to let in every model from Munich? The inclusion of “certain models” of Cadillac is conveniently vague, but what have the V16 Auburn and supercharged Auburn Speedster or V16 Marmon done not to merit acceptance?

Perhaps the f.w.d. tin Citroën got in because a Committee brought up on 30/98s and 3-litres thought it churlish to ignore a specification embracing front-wheel drive and torsion-bar suspension (or was it because the Secretary and some of the Committee owned them?). But in that case, shouldn’t the pre-war f.w.d. Adlers and those D.K.W.s with transverse twin 2-stroke engines à la the later Issigonis (After all, Pomeroy and Tubbs raved about them at the time when p.v.t. was under discussion in the vintage circles they supported and apparently Tubbs’ car is deemed worth rebuilding today.) Especially as all Lancias, and, not merely the brilliant Aprilia, are permitted? If it is on the score of good handling, having regard to the car’s date of manufacture, that the Citroën of the French peasantry are elevated by the V.S.C.C. to the level of thoroughbred –– and thoroughbreds selected only by very discerning judges –– shouldn’t the saloon Fiat Balilla, the rubber-sprung Georges-Irat, the Atalanta and those D.K.W.s. Tracta, etc., get a look in?

Is the Cord really such a thoroughbred, or did its curiosity value get the better of a Committee which was trying not to remember the Burney Streamline, rear-engined Crossley, and similar oddities?

Daimler is confined to sleeve-valve straight-8 and V12 models, causing one to wonder why the V.S.C.C. has this obsession with poppetless power units when such are well represented in the vintage division of the Club. After all, no less an engineer than Laurence Pomeroy’s father caused the Daimler Company to roll up their sleeves and woo poppets in 1936. I would have thought the 4-litre straight-8 Daimler worthy of inclusion in a category that accepts the Citroën Light 15 and Big Six, and the 3-1/2-litre Daimler Light straight-8 good enough to rank with the Alvis Silver Crest, even if post-vintage 6-cylinder Daimlers are beneath the V.S.C.C.’s notice –– but perhaps they were under the mistaken impression, when compiling the p.v.t. list, that all multi-cylinder Daimlers had Knight engines. . . .?

With Darracq, Delage and Delahaye there is no quarrel, even if some model differentiation would be desirable. But why include Derby, unless on account of the committee’s obsession with f.w.d. (quite right, of course, except that pre-war front-drive cars were not in the same category of handling perfection as Minis) or their misty memories of the exploits of Gwenda Stewart, accomplished, in fact, with a rebuilt Miller.

I see that an M-type M.G. is listed as thoroughbred; at least it’s a sports car. But Singer supporters will immediately ask why they have to produce “actual T.T. and Le Mans cars” before they can put up the V.S.C.C. badge. Surely these models are historic racing cars anyway, and the production Le Mans Singer scarcely a vintage-style motor car? Yet, if an M-type M.G., which is scarcely more than a Morris Minor with a pointed tail, gets in, why not the o.h.c. Singer Nine Sports? The Railton open sports models are in; the Brough Superior Alpine isn’t listed. I suspect what is intended is the Light Sports Railton, a different matter from any open version of this Hudson-powered hybrid.

If any post-1930 Riley is a thoroughbred the ethics of the V.S.C.C. have undergone a change—may I refer to Cecil Clutton’s forthright Editorial in the first V.S.C.C. Bulletin of March 1937, in which he fearlessly disposed of the “buzz-box” and “Anglo-American sports-bastard,” recognising only Lagonda, Aston Martin, H.R.G. and Bugatti, B.M.W. and Delahaye as worthy successors to cars of the vintage period. Yet by 1945 the Club revered the SS 100, the Railton and small Singers, Austins and M.G.s as thoroughbreds in the vintage tradition. . . !

One notes that the Sunbeam Dawn is specifically excluded, but is it any less “vintage,” or less satisfactory, than an Alvis Firefly, a 1-1/2-litre Invicta –– which has been described as “Invicta Cars’ worst mistake”—or the Citroën Light 15? If it was excluded because it was the least successful model of this make, why include the Bentley, of which J. R. Buckley in “Cars of the Connoisseur ” writes: “The result was a car . . . of no performance at all, and one at which Bentley customers just wouldn’t look.”?

The inclusion of E.R.A. must surely have been the first flutterings of all historic racing car conscience, for the 4.3-litre sports E.R.A. is unlikely to be encountered –– and if that was intended, why omit the V8 Raymond Mays and the Marendaz Special? Why is Lanchester omitted? And does not the Siddeley Special, and even some of the open semi-sporting Armstrong Siddeleys, merit inclusion alongside things like, for instance, the 1932 1.7-litre Mercedes-Benz of which even that staunch supporter of Stuttgart products, Bunty Scott-Moncrieff, has proclaimed: “The less said about it the better!” Are these Coventry-built cars, indeed, any more dreary than certain Sunbeam or Lagonda limousines? Why, again, if a straight-8 Minerva is a p.v.t., are the better-known 6-cylinder 32/34 model of the great Belgian car and the 31/100 Excelsior disregarded?

In some cases, of course, an early post-vintage car incorporates worthwhile modifications not found in the equivalent vintage model. For instance, although enthusiasts tend to look for pre-1931 12/50s as being more in the tradition of the V.S.C.C. than the 1931-32 revived version of this famous Alvis model, soon designated the 12/60, in fact in these just-p.v.t. editions you get knock-off wheels, choice of magneto or coil ignition, a vibration damper, unproved brake mechanism, better gear ratios, a wider track, twin carburetters, a tachometer on the sports models, and the very desirable Hardy-Spicer prop.-shaft, improvements G.T. Smith-Clarke and his assistants found desirable as the car was developed down the years. What applies to Alvis is true of other makes. One authority, for instance, quotes 1932 as the “vintage” year for the Sunbeam 16, 20 and 25, on account of improvements incorporated in them during their production run.

Thoroughbreds apart, fortunately there is absolutely no need for the V.S.C.C. to admit all 1931-40 cars to full membership. Most cars in this loose category are adequately catered for by the excellent one-make Clubs and Registers, which do not worry about the affinity or otherwise of the cars they foster with thoroughbreds of other eras. Conversely, it is clear why, with staff commitments of £3,000 a year and a magazine which costs £2,000 per annum to print, the V.S.C.C., with £600 in the bank, is concerned to maintain its membership at full strength. But it would be interesting to know how its list of acceptable p.v.t.s was arrived at and whether the present Committee is in unanimous agreement that it is fair to all cars, if not to all men, and beyond improvement. It is the composition of the p.v.t. list that requires overhaul, rather than the exclusion of p.v.t.s as such –– the logic of encouraging the latter was seen in the entries for the most-recent competitive event organised by the V.S.C.C., the Driving Tests at Maxhull, inasmuch as, out of 38 entries (admittedly a very low figure for V.S.C.C. fixtures) 20 of the cars were vintage, 18 were p.v.t.s—amid, incidentally, sports cars outnumbered non-sports cars by 27 to 11. — W. B.
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The Renault Owners Club has formed a veteran and vintage section, and has opened registers of Renault cars up to 1930, and later in the case of certain of the rarer models. They are in contact with Renault owners in U.S.A., Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Spain, Switzerland, France, Italy, etc., and would be glad to hear from the owners of appropriate Renaults. The Hon. Treasurer of the Club, H. C. Mackenzie-Wintle, is co-ordinating the new section and the registers. His address is: 2, Bedford Gardens, Wokingham, Berkshire.

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Vintage miscellany.—A 1914 20-h.p. Austin Vitesse tourer features in a film made for the Carpet Manufacturing Co. of Kidderminster. At a Belfast display an early Austin Seven Chummy was on show, said to have been the first of its kind to arrive in Northern Ireland, and to have been in the same hands since 1932. In Surrey a 1934 Austin Light 12/4 tourer is said to be functioning perfectly after covering 124,000 miles. The A.G.M. of the V.M.C.C. takes place at the Castle Hotel, Tamworth, at 2.30 p.m. on March 7th. Boddy has saved from destruction a 1921 3-litre Lèon Bollee. It was in use by the Star as a delivery van from 1921 to 1933, the van body being made by Elliott’s of Vauxhall. Six of these Lèon-Bollee private-car chassis were purchased by the Daily News Ltd, in 1921, partly because they had had such good service from a fleet of a dozen lorries of this make bought in 1912, and partly because early delivery was promised by the Long Acre agents. They were the first Star delivery vans to have self-starters. In 1933 the body was converted into a truck and the Lèon-Bollee towed a roller and gang-mowers at the Star sports ground at Morden until 1960. It had lain idle for four years when rescued.

One of the latest recruits to the fiercer side of historic car racing is Cameron Millar, now in New Zealand with his 30/98 Vauxhall, who has acquired a 250F Maserati.

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The Standard Register now lists 156 cars, from 1907 29.5-h.p. 6-cylinder Roi-des-Belges, down to 1930 models. It contains notes on the rally appearances and interesting comments about where found and the present state of the cars, many of which are apparently for sale. The Register is run by J.R. Davy, Standard-Triumph Sales Ltd., Fletchhamstead, Coventry, and there is no subscription. A post-vintage section is operated by R. E. Levin of the Engineering Division, at the same address.

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The Austin Seven Register of the 750 M.C. now covers 315 cars, made up of 72 1931-34 saloons, 50 Chummy tourers, 34 Ruby saloons, 33 Nippies, 27 1926-1930 saloons, 18 coachbuilt-bodied Sevens, 15 Ulsters, 13 1931-34 tourers, 10 Opel tourers, nine “65” sports, eight miscellaneous, six each of 1931-34 2-seaters, fabric saloons and Pearl Ruby cabriolets, three Ruby tourers, two each of 1929-30 2-seaters and Speedy sports, and one lone Grasshopper.

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