A section devoted to old-car matters
V.S.C.C. Driving Tests, Shrivenham, February 5th: Traditionally (and, as I have observed previously, the Vintage S.C.C. is closely associated with tradition) the first daylight event of the year in this Club’s fixture-list is a series of driving tests. These are held every other year at Charterhouse School, where the Club’s present Secretary was educated before graduating to Brooklands.
Nineteen sixty-seven was the non-Charterhouse year, so the venue was changed to a new location at Shrivenham, reached through some very nice country in Berkshire and N. Wiltshire by many of the competitors. Here the tests were conducted in a vast square in the grounds of the Royal Military College of Science, by courtesy of Lt.-Col. J. Weeks, the loose gravel surface enabling drivers to understeer their way round with little risk of overturning.
Proceedings commenced at 11.30 a.m., when some of those present were still feeling the effects of Mecca steak-and-kidney pie eaten at the V.S.C.C. Marshals’ Dinner, this also traditional event having taken place in London the previous evening. This gives me an opportunity to digress, and remark that credit for the success of the V.S.C.C. goes very largely to the Committee, which realised early in the life of the Club that a proper paid staff was essential to its effective operation. Tim Carson, who sold 30/98s and beer, was appointed full-time Secretary, perhaps as much because of the latter as the former! He has held this position ever since, very ably assisted by his wife and, more recently, by Peter Hull and Tony Bird. Many Committeemen are now of long standing but it is good to see younger members serving thereon, notably Tony Jones, an expert in the repair of 30/98’s. It was at the aforesaid Marshals’ Dinner that the Committee welcomed as guests the marshals and officials who are absolutely essential in making the Club’s competitive events run as smoothly as its office organisation. In the course of his speech President Ronald Barker addressed Dean Delamont of the R.A.C. Competitions Department, saying he hoped that in spite of prevailing difficulties the V.S.C.C. would still be allowed to run its traditional road events. This evoked a reply from Mr. Delamont — is the next Measham Rally to take place in the Isle of Man, or did I hear incorrectly?
Hastily returning you to Shrivenham, let us look at happenings in the first of the six tests, the traditional Figure of Eight. The entry numbered 54 modified sports cars, 17 touring cars, and 25 standard sports cars, all vintage or p.v.t., as is traditional, competing against one another. Oldest was Collings’ 1913 4.7-litre Brixia-Zust; youngest, Maskell’s 1939 328 B.M.W. There were very few non-starters although Gahagan’s Bugatti wasn’t there, its excuse being that once again a mudguard-stay had broken.
Pronounced understeer slowed many of the cars at the pylons; including Kahn’s Type 44 Bugatti with neatly furled hood and twin Michelin-shod spare wheels at the back of its coupe body. Roberts’ Frazer Nash swept round in very wide arcs, Wood’s low-chassis Invicta, nursing a high-speed secret, needed even more room on a hairy run, Binn’s oddly-bodied Riley Nine slid its tail neatly, but Ely’s Riley Ulster Imp, with a diamond-shaped rear-view mirror, stalled, like Fuller’s 4-1/4 -litre special-bodied Bentley ” racer,” almost to a standstill at the second turn. The Helix displayed a vast turning circle, clouting a kerb, Moffatt in his Brescia Bugatti, rumoured to have but one decent compression, grappled with the steering wheel and went sideways in stopping at the safety line. Weeks in the neat if not very original Vernon-Derby was slow but neat, Mrs. Roberts was cautious in the Fraser Nash, Mrs. Wood faster in the Invicta. Cardy, displaying his competition number in both scuttle-mounted headlamps of his Chummy Austin 7, almost stopped at one pylon but failed to halt at the safety line, Hill indulged in splendid tail wags in his A.J.S., and Mrs. Cobb handled her Riley 12/4 Lynx neatly.
Roger Richmond’s Trojan on its ample cantilever springs was too slow to roll. This was hardly true of Marsh’s metal-bodied Austin 7 saloon, which looked very unstable. Macmillan treated us to the best tail-slides yet, in his smart Rolls-Royce, whose radiator shutters were fully closed but the hood of its unusual landaulette body open. President Barker rather surprisingly kept all four wheels of his Peugeot Quad on the ground, taking wide turns, McEwen’s Riley saloon with lots of bonnet louvres, k.o. wheels and a “racing” side-outlet exhaust, made lots of noise, Leach’s 9-20 Humber tourer was really quick round the pylons in spite of carrying a box on its luggage grid, and I’Anson’s similar Humber was not much slower, in spite of a smoky exhaust—very impressive, these Humbers.
Harris was really trying in a blue Austin Ulster with yellow wheels, the rear ones shod with oversize tyres, Griffin’s o.h.c. Morris Minor saloon was bouncy and unstable in understeer and had apparently shed its spare wheel. Dodds produced noise and speed from his nice fabric-bodied Riley 9 tourer, Condon’s Anzani A.C. was immaculate in respect of both appearance and handling and accelerated well, the Brixia-Zust thundered off and used its gearbox, Harper’s hoodless Chummy Austin on oversize rear tyres was extremely quick, J. M. Harris yanked his Riley 9 round, its screen flat, Bell’s 12/50 Alvis duck’s back (with replica body, but you would never know unless you were told) ran out of steam momentarily at the third turn, Buckle made good use of the excellent steering lock of his Lancia Lambda, Cole really pushed his 3-1/2 -litre Bentley saloon round, perhaps in the hope that we should not notice that he still hasn’t finished painting it, Erskine, appropriately in an Erskine saloon, was quiet and neat, Mrs. Hogg drove well in an unfamiliar Le Mans Aston Martin 2-seater, and it was very nice to see an original alloy-bodied Anzani Frazer Nash that has come out of retirement after being laid up some 20 years ago going well in Borthwick’s appreciative hands. Arnold-Forster was very fast indeed in his replica Anzani Frazer Nash, changing down in mid-test ; later he shed the spare wheel. Giles made a nonsense of the third turn after a good run in his T.T. Replica Frazer Nash, Grist was very fast in his splendid D8 Delage with Vanden Plas open fabric bodywork, clean gear-changes being possible thanks to the use of Vim in its clutch, Dr. Harris took very wide sweeps in his Frazer Nash, the 4-1/2-litre Lagonda saloon driven by Kennedy rolled but was very quick, its silencer nearly scraping the ground, Kneller’s beetle-back 12/60 Alvis made a fast run, Lee twice overdid the tail-sliding technique in his home-bodied 3.6-litre Lagonda, Maskell’s B.M.W. smoked but was unobtrusively fast, both Sismey, returning to the fray in his special Alvis and Pilkington in his blown 1750 Alfa Romeo took it very fast indeed, as did Swann’s 3-litre Invicta, leaning heavily on the outer front wheel. Mitchell drove a very nice looking 3-litre Bentley, Edwards in the Aston Martin was another who didn’t hang about, Dymond drove a Riley Lynx, Tony Jones had the floorboards out of his 30/98 Vauxhall before a wheel-spinning start, and Binns thought he had taken a tooth off the pinion of his Riley’s back axle.
Apart from the performing cars the onlookers had some interesting ones. There was a V8 Talbot-Darracq with enormously long cantilever back springs, fixed cycle-type front mudguards, trafficators, and 6.50 x 20 rear tyres, and Woolley’s gigantic Renault 45. A girl drove off in a Standard Nine fabric saloon, the marque Delage was well represented, there were blown and unblown Alfa Romeos, a very smart 14/40 M.G., two different ages of Riley 9 saloon, and some non-vintage M.G.s, one with a Ford engine and oversize tyres on its front wheels and another with non-original i.f.s.—W. B.
Modified Sports Cars: First Class Award: H. F. Moffatt (1923 I-I/2-litre Bugatti); Second Class Awards: E. R. Fuller (1937 4-1/4 -litre Bentley) and C. B. L. Harding (1928/30 1-1/2 -litre Frazer Nash); Third Class Award: T. Ely (1934 I,089 c.c. Riley).
Touring Cars: First Class Award: R. F. Griffin (1930 847 c.c. Morris Minor); Second Class Awards: K. M. Hill (1930 1,018 c.c. A.J.S.) and Mrs. K. M. Hill (1930 1,018 c.c. A.J.S.); Third Class Awards: C. P. Marsh (1926 747 c.c. Austin) and D. Macmillan (1928 3,I26 c.c. Rolls-Royce).
Standard Sports Cars: First Class Awards: N. Arnold-Forster (1925 1-1/2 -litre Frazer Nash) and R. A. Pilkington (1931 s/c. 1,750-c.c. Alfa Romeo); Second Class Award : B. Sismey (1934 2,511 c.c. Alvis); Third Class Awards : F. Giles (1931 I-1/2 -litre Frazer Nash), Dr. D. P. Harris (1934 1-1/2 -litre Frazer Nash), and A. D. Jones (1923 4,724 c.c. Vauxhall).
V.-E.-V Miscellany. —Items about vintage cars crop up in most unlikely places, such as in Tab, the official journal of the National Tyre Distributors Association, in which there were appeals for 715 x 115 b.e. tyres for a 1927 Renault, for 710 x 90 or 19 in. wheel for a gentleman called Moffatt, and for 12-14 Bibendum tyres required for a 1929 Peugeot 201 which the Headmaster of St. Stephen’s School, Worcester is rebuilding. A 1931 Ford Model-B van, used regularly by an old gentleman since 1937, is seeking a home in the Manchester area. Vintage cars that have changed hands in Wales recently include a 1926 Austin 12/4 which had been converted into a platform truck, a 1923 13.9 h.p. Standard stripped down and used as a farm tractor until 1950 and a 1922 Standard SLO two-seater that was rotting away in a farmyard after having been dolled up for a local carnival in the early ‘fifties. The Standard Register is on the track of an old Standard which was seen in India during the war and may be one of the fleet of cars belonging to the Nizam of Hyderabad. Humber Company apprentices are restoring an 8/18 Humber Chummy. The Trojan O.C. is contemplating a holiday tour of Monte Carlo and has taken over the first Trojan, the 1913 model that used to be in the Montague Motor Museum. An Austin Sixteen with Salmons cabriolet body, of which only two or three others are known, has been found derelict in Kent.
“The Cars Nobody Wants”—a further sequel.—Our recent experiences pointing to the fact that post-vintage pre-war Armstrong Siddeleys are remarkably unwanted cars have been confirmed by subsequent investigations. For instance, a 1936 Twelve tourer which was notified to A.S.O.C. members as being for disposal last September was run to earth over four months later, beneath piles of theatre furniture, one flat tyre, the engine solid, in Clapham Park, a part of London as yet largely untouched by building developments, so that many large Victorian houses with mysterious basements still stand and narrow alleyways and unchanged side streets still abound. News of another of these cars, also known to be for disposal for a modest sum many months ago, took us to an obscure shed in a Surrey country town; here a 1935 17 h.p. saloon, upholstered in Bedford cloth, keeps company with a splendidly restored flat-nose Morris truck and a Model-B Ford van waiting to be restored. But the Armstrong Siddeley is partly buried under rubbish and is another that is apparently unwanted. But on the last Sunday in January, as a result of these remarks in Motor Sport, a 1937 o.h.v. saloon left the garage of a charming old house in Surrey where it had languished for many years, its engine solid, flats formed on its 19 in. Firestone tyres, for restoration in Oxfordshire, the tow being arranged by another reader of this magazine.
At the last count the A.S.O.C. had 180 members but of the cars owned, only 20% were of the period we described as unwanted and only 6% of this membership owned pre-1931 cars. So it is a fact that very few people seem to care for these 30/40s Armstrong Siddeleys; and why do their engines go solid if they are left standing for any length of time ?
V.-E.-V. Odds and Ends — A 1909/10 E.N.V. V8 water-cooled aero engine has been restored by someone in Surrey. The Hon. Patrick Lindsay has acquired a vintage Morane high-wing monoplane powered with a Salmson radial engine. The February Bulletin of the Morgan 3-Wheeler Club contained articles on the 2-wheeler Morgan Monotrace that is in the Cleres Museum and Chris Booth’s beautifully restored 1922 G.P. Morgan. A Type 13 Bugatti, towed from Czechoslovakia behind a Type 44 Bugatti is expected to compete at Prescott this year, partly financed by a friend of the Bugatti O.C. A 20.9 h.p. Crossley Super Six is being restored in Staffordshire. The Alvis O.C. reports that a 1920 Stafford motor scooter has been found, with a T.G. John engine. It is being restored.
The Vintage Motor Cycle Club’s fourth South-West Coast run takes place on May 7th from Bristol to Weston-super-Mare, via Portishead and Clevedon. Veteran and vintage motorcycles, cars and commercial vehicles are eligible and the Bristol Section organisers expect about 100 vehicles to take part.
The 8th Standard Register Rally is being organised at Packington Park, near Meriden, on May 20th, when Cyril Scott will be airing some of the interesting cars from the Herbert Museum. Owners of all pre-war Standards will be able to take part in driving tests during the morning and a Concours after lunch—details are available from Mr. J. R. Davy, c/o Standard-Triumph Sales Ltd., Fletchamstead, Coventry.
Times do not change !
“We are sorry to hear that the Royal Automobile Club has refused to grant a permit for the proposed race in the Isle of Man.”—From The Autocar dated Feb. 11th, 1911.
Readers' letters, July 1984, July 1984
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