A Section Devoted to Old-Car Matters
V.S.C.C. Driving Tests, Shrivenham (Feb. 4th)
The Vintage Sports Car Club season opened with this event, on the day following the traditional Marshals’ Dinner in London, the venue used last year being substituted for Charterhouse School on account of the foot and mouth epidemic. An entry of 71 pre-1940 cars was obtained and it wasn’t the Club’s fault that a bitter wind produced intense cold and made conditions thoroughly miserable. There were four classes, to cater for different types of vintage and p.v.t. cars, and act as an equaliser. The Modified Sports Car Class attracted 17 entries, the Touring Car Class 16, which included such sporting (we would have thought) motor cars as-Goodman’s Amilcar Italiana and Conway’s 16-valve boat-tailed Bugatti, while there were 38 Standard Sports Car entries. Naturally, there were some nonstarters, like Hill, whose O.M. had flung a rod through both sides of its crankcase on the way from Wolverhampton to London the previous day (and not on a Motorway), Dods’ 1936 A.C. the oil-pressure of which was getting too low for it to continue, and Eyre’s Lea-Francis, which said it didn’t want to risk bringing F. and M. germs with it.
Looking round the assembled cars in the biting wind the mind was numbed but contrived to register that Angela Cherrett had brought her very nice 1933 2.3 Alfa Romeo with somewhat later Figoni two-seater body, with helmet wings, the spare wheel being partially recessed into the o/s front wing, that St. John’s Type 55 Bugatti two-seater, another Figoni-bodied car, was very smart, had Bosch headlamps and was shod, perhaps not surprisingly, with Dunlop Racing tyres, and that Van Essen’s open Railton straight-eight had the Power Dome s.v. head and single dual-choke Carter downdraught carburetter. Marsh’s Ulster Austin 7 had a non-original belt-driven Ventor supercharger on the n/s and 4.75 x 16 Dunlop Universal rear boots, and Peter Moores’ smart Ulster Austin was also blown in non-standard style, with a big S.U. carburetter protruding from its bonnet, and hydraulic brakes.
Ely was using his Riley Ulster Imp this time, and Riley and Austin cars were very well represented, the deceptively loose surface of the Shrivenham Parade Ground favouring Chummy Austins. The car park for spectators also revealed a few items of interest, such as a modern Alfa Romeo needing a push-start, Tony Mitchell and an enormous dog departing in a most unusual Rolls-Royce Twenty sedan with interesting mudguards not, we think, made in Derby, and a rare S.S. tourer with bonnet straps. Brian Morgan had brought Tom Rolt in his Lamborghini P400, with which he is extremely pleased. We found the glass-windowed body of the 1930 Sunbeam Sixteen a blessing under the prevailing circumstances, even if one does not have much privacy when lunching.
There were six tests, the Zig-Zog, Garaging and a Back-Out (watch those ancient back axles!) before lunch and three more afterwards, a Figure of Eight, and two more parking frolics, for those who could be persuaded to leave the warmth of the Shrivenham pubs and return to business. Not all could, the Conways, for example, leaving early. We did likewise, making the excuse that we wanted to enjoy the run home through the interesting Lambourn valley, where the Danes repelled those invaders, to the “Home of the V.S.C.C.” and beyond, in daylight. But it was bitterly cold!
However, we had watched the driving in the Zig-Zag test. Tooth’s 1933 Riley was fast, Mrs. Cardy very neat in her Austin Chummy which left an oil-haze in its wake, Day’s 4¼-litre Bentley was a bit tail-slidy, and the only Edwardian entered, Collings’ splendid Brixia-Zust, thundered round with an occasional deep-throated pop-back, by no means disgracing itself. In contrast, Collins’ well-known Star was dignified and sedate. Even more sedate was Condon’s Anzani-A.C., on its b.e. tyres.
Mrs. Cattermill was inclined to be untidy, in her beetle-back Alvis Silver Eagle, Goodman’s smart Amilcar was fast, tail-sliding to the stop-line, Harper drove bravely, correcting deviations in his Chummy Austin, which had ridiculously small-diameter back wheels, King sensibly kept the hood up on his 1929 Chummy Austin, Lock’s similar car had the hood down and was driven raggedly, and Marsh’s Ulster Austin Special lurched to rest after quick zig-zagging. Macmillan made his usual determined run in the Rolls-Royce, which rolled like a drunken dowager, Richmond’s Trojan gave the best tail-slide yet in ceasing forward motion, Valiance put up the neatest Chummy Austin run, rolling to the stop-line, but Cox’s Riley, half its cooler blanked off (I’m not surprised!) tended to untidiness. Young Conway was neat and fast in the multi-valved Bugatti, an erect hood and side curtains did not detract from the fire of l’Anson’s handling of his 9/20 Humber, and Pilkington was fast, too, in the blown 1750 Alfa Romeo, which, like Dodds’ Mk. III Riley fabric tourer, had its radiator blanked off in deference to the winter wind.
Hannis presented a somewhat scruffy Riley Lynx, Arnold-Forster didn’t look all that fast in his understeering Fraser Nash, whereas Bell did, in his duck’s-back Alvis, which also understeers. Bowman created the first real diversion, when he understeered into the l.h. finish-pylon, knocking it down and having to reverse so as to stop on the line. Buckle used fistfuls of steering wheel to master his Lancia Lambda, which locked its back wheels at the finish, Conway’s Type 43 Bugatti made lovely blipping noises but he seemed cautious, Firmin’s Meadows H.R.G. was extremely rapid but braked a trifle early, Fletcher put up a very good run in his Alvis 1926 TE tourer, but perhaps Giles was the best of them all, a rug covering the radiator of his Frazer Nash. He stalled at the line, but by then the test was over. Griffin worked hard on a fast run in his M-type M.G. Midget which has a petrol tank instead of a pointed tail and very squeaky anchorage, Grist drove neatly his big 4-litre Delage but its brakes belied their promising appearance, because he overshot the finish and was obliged to reverse.
Harris (Frazer Nash) didn’t seem as fast as he usually is, Hutton provided light relief by appearing in a sort of fabric look-out tower built on to a 4½-litre Invicta chassis, and Maskell was truly deceived by the loose Shrivenham surface, spinning his 1939 328 B.M.W. as he opened up too quickly out of the last “sag.” St. John also accelerated between the swerves but his Bugatti remained in control, May was neat in the Anzani Frazer Nash, Sismey’s driving was matched to the racing appearance of his big Alvis, Jones, who was seen adjusting the front brakes of the 30/98 Vauxhall on arrival, only just managed to turn into the stopping area, Swann’s Invicta was neat, the Railton very neat, stopping with quite a tail-slide, Weatheritt’s nice 3-litre Bentley, the top panel of its screen open (which you cannot do in any of the 1965 cars!) was quickly through, and Winder’s Ulster Austin was really racing.—W. B.
V.E.V. Miscellany.—Two dates for the diary—The Singer O.C. has its National Singer Day at Routes’ works at Ryton-on-Dunsmore outside Coventry on July 16th and the Daimler & Lanchester O.C. has its National Rally at Beaulieu on May 12th. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the Morgan 3-Wheeler Club did not issue its usual printed monthly magazine at the end of last year but the duplicated circular which replaced it referred to engagements, marriages and births amongst the membership. Could this be a consequence of the tight fit of a Morgan cockpit? The Delage Section of the V.S.C.C. has introduced a duplicated Delage Journal, the first issue of which appeared last autumn.
The very ambitious four-day London-Edinburgh Run of the Veteran Car Club will take place from May 16th-22nd and promises extraordinary excitement. Amongst the “Autobook Workshop Manuals” published by Autobooks of Brighton is one on the De Dion Bouton, covering models D of 1899 to models AU to AZ of 1907 and selling for 40s. Last rear a Welsh newspaper published an item which reminded us that Mrs. Beatrice Phillips, who lives in Penarth and still has a driving licence, was one of the first three women in Wales to drive a car, using a single-cylinder Alldays & Onions in 1903.
John Oldham, author of “The Hyphen in Rolls-Royce,” who is Chairman of the Jersey Old Car Club and owns four Rolls-Royce cars, is having a special five-seater Victoria coupé body built on his 1930 Phantom II chassis, by Wilkinson, Oldham driving the chassis up to Derby for this purpose last December. This car has an interesting history, being owned originally by Sir Julian Cahn, who had an Arthur Mulliner limousine body made for it. It passed later into the hands of Mrs. Bower Ismay, who used it in Africa in 1933. When it returned to this country it was endowed with an 18-seater Grose ‘bus body and employed as the estate car at Heselbech Hall, Northamptonshire, where it remained throughout the war, and was left to Mrs. Ismay’s chauffeur, together with five other cars, when she died, aged 91, five years ago. Oldham acquired the car, had the interior converted into a four-berth luxury caravan, and has used it to tour Scotland and Ireland. It cruised at up to 65 m.p.h. and gave 12 to 14 m.p.g. Incidentally, this body is for sale and would fit any long-wheelbase Phantom Rolls-Royce.
Some pre-war Austins, possibly Twenties, are in use as hire cars in Wales, where a large ironfounders keeps a Burford truck as a works hack, operating on private roads, and an A.J.S. saloon is reported standing derelict on a small-holding.
A 1937 6-cylinder Lanchester saloon lies derelict in Dunbartonshire and could be useful for spares. A single-cylinder Sizaire-Naudin, with Spare engine, has left England for Malaya. Among the old vehicles reported in Madeira are two Willys fire-engines still in use, and several Nash sedans used as taxis, while a Boyd-Carpenter Austin 7 exists in the Azores. This year’s Shuttleworth Trust Open Days are on March 31st, April 25th, June 30th, July 28th, August 25th, and September 29th; in addition, flying will take place on June 15th and July 13th. Admission to these old aeroplane displays is 5s. per adult, or 4s. on the last two dates, children half-price, car-park free. They hope soon to acquire a 1909 20 h.p. 3-cylinder Buchet aero-engine which stood for years as an ornament on an occasional table. An invoice on the wall of Mr. K. K. Gibbs’ office, at the James Walker “Lion” gasket manufacturers’ premises, refers to a Spyker delivered to the founder of the Company in 1906; it cost £485, but a 12½% discount was obtained. Renault announce April 21st, at Mallory Park, as the date of this year’s Rallye Renault. which features all ages of Renaults and is this time to include a “lost Causes,” or defunct makes, class.
The Club is installed in its new offices at Newbury, these being modern premises because it was impossible to find a suitable period building that would not soon fall down. During the Marshals’ Dinner the President asked for a big hand to be given to guest Dean Delamont of the R.A.C., who has personally looked into the question of the Napier-Railton being allowed to go on racing, providing its disc brakes are equipped with dual master cylinders and a guard is fitted over the exposed prop.-shaft. This is excellent news but we felt like asking for a big hand for the late John Cobb, who drove this splendidly-engineered car very fast for long distances without disc brakes and with no cover over its prop.-shaft. . . . But it is good to know that the Brooklands lap-record holder should be seen in races again this year. The Pomeroy Trophy Contest this month is not open to spectators but the first 1968 Silverstone Race Meeting definitely is—more details next month but the date’ is April 20th. A number of very fast post-War historic racing cars not previously seen for many years may compete. The Course de l’Age d’Or race at Rouen in. which V.S.C.C. members take part has been cancelled. Club membership stands at 4,250 Full Members and 1,425 “other ranks.” The Club has been invited to the V.G.C. hill-climb at Prescott on June 29th-30th and may promote a race meeting at Thruxton this year or next. it has no intention of departing from its ruling that vintage cars are pre-1931 and that only specified 1931-40 cars are eligible for membership. There is a possibility that revenue may be earned from allowing the TV cameras to operate during historic car races but the V.S.C.C. (and the Bentley D.C.) have stated that advertising will not be permitted on cars competing in their events.—W. B.
V.E.V. Odds and Ends.—A member of the A.C.O.C. is building a replica of the racing Anzani A.C. that Meeson drove in the 1924 200-Mile Race and which was afterwards owned by Sir Ralph Millais. The same person is hoping to rebuild a pre-war Raymond Mays sports car, a V8 Standard engine having been found for it. A very exciting recent discovery has been that of the steam-driven G.N. built years ago by Alex Moulton of Hydrolastic suspension fame. It has been rebuilt over a period of some 30 years and may be seen in action again, later this year, running under its own steam! An o.h.c. Rhode light car has changed hands within the V.S.C.C. The drawings of all the Wolseley cars ever made were rumoured to be in danger of being destroyed but should now be in appreciative hands. The road transport exhibits now in the ill-fated Museum of British Transport at Clapham are apparently going to be looked after by the L.P.T.B. after the railway exhibits go to York and the latter hope to open a museum of their own.
The history is sought of a 1922 10.4 h.p. Calthorpe, Reg. No. EH 3611, which is now in Leicestershire. It has a racing body but does not appear to be one of the Brooklands cars and is probably the one which we discovered in the North during the war, with an odd tool-box formed as a dumb-iron cowling. In the same area a blown 2.2-litre O.M. is being restored. Another 1908 Napier is in good hands in Yorkshire. We learn with great regret that Gordon Hendy, who raced Austin 7s Brooklands in the 1920s, notably in the J.C.C. 200-Mile Races, died about 8 months ago.
It’s All Happened Before . . .
Owen John, writing in The Autocar dated November 26th, 1926: “In Pittsburgh (Pa.) the city traffic is so dense that the local authorities solved the Gordian knot by forbidding all traffic to come within a fixed distance of its centre. In London it seems that something very similar will shortly have to be done, unless some stronger man or body than at present appears to exist can be discovered.”
Wolseley Register Rally
The Wolseley Register, which caters for all Wolseleys built prior to 1941, including those active when Capt. A. G. Miller was racing cars of this make, as described in this issue, is holding its Third Annual Rally at Putterden Manor, near Lingfield. Sussex, on June 30th. Details from: R. S. Burrows, 17, Hills Avenue, Cambridge.