A Section Devoted to Old-Car Matters
The First V.S.C.C. Fixture of 1969
Driving Tests, in the snow, at Wolverhampton (Feb. 9th)
The Vintage S.C.C. moved its traditional steak-and-kidney-pudding Marshals’ Dinner from London to Wolverhampton this year and consequently, in a snowstorm, we found ourselves inquiring for the “Racecourse”, which naturally prompted the reply “No racing in this weather, mate!” This party is a private function for those who help the V.S.C.C. by marshalling and otherwise officiating at its events, so does not get reported in the public prints—suffice it to say that the rather cold banqueting hall became somewhat warmer after the Club’s President had told some jokes, another tradition.
The driving tests on the Sunday are another-matter, deserving some comment, as the first get-together at a V.S.C.C. competition meeting this year. They took place at Wolverhampton racecourse, an excellent venue, with enormous grandstands overlooking the cavorting area, and an open buffet. The snow ruined what could have been some excellent and highly competitive tests, but it is typical of V.S.C.C. enthusiasm that brooms and shovels were in action even before the racecourse tractor appeared, to clear a small area, sufficient for two revised tests in the morning and two more after a pause for sustenance.
Originally there were 39 pre-war cars and 41 drivers entered, but naturally, under the prevailing wintry conditions, there were many non-starters, including Cecil Bendan’s 30/98 Vauxhall. Eight entries were in the Touring Car Class, an innovation being that sports saloons are now permitted to run as touring cars, as limited visibility hampers a closed car in driving tests, 25 in the popular standard sports-car class, and half-a-dozen in the modified sports-car class. Marks were awarded for wheelbase lengths above 6 ft. 10 in. and for saloon bodies, the only cars to benefit from the lowest category being two Austin 7s.
Two cars arrived on trailers and had got so cold in the process that they didn’t want to start, these being the A.C./G.N. which also had a sticking throttle, and Chris Winder’s newly-acquired, ex-Bromley Johnson 1928 Riley 9 Special with stark two-seater body and twin Amal carburetters, which refused to respond even after a tug from a Michelin-shod Land Rover.
Marsh’s well-known 1929 Austin 7 fabric coupé did remarkably well on the frozen surface, its driver leaning out to see where to reverse. In contrast, Griffiths’ very smart 1930 blue Austin 7 tourer on 3.50 x 19 tyres started well in the first test, which involved entering three “garages” but overshot the second “garage” and lost most of its traction in the round-and-round-the-pylons affair, which came next. Giles’ 1926 Morris-Cowley two-seater, very original-looking, with exposed Dagenite battery and those tiny brake drums on all four wheels, took big sweeps from the first “garage” to the next but stilled its engine subsequently at a pylon, its driver jumping out to wind it up, which presumably made him nearly as warm as the rug-covered bull-nose radiator. Dr. Andrews carefully controlled wheelspin in his very nice 1928 Riley 9 fabric tourer, which sports a discreet fantail on the end of its exhaust pipe, Franklin was cosily ensconced in his 1929 10/25 Rover coupé, its Viking-head mascot frowning on these undignified frolics at a horse-racecourse.
There were penalties for sliding out of the ends of the “garages”, even though there were no walls to demolish; Organ contrived to do this in his 1936 Rapier, the twin-cam sort, as did Franklin, in spite of valiantly engaging reverse to aid locked wheels. Incidentally, his Rover was one of several immaculate cars present but it acquired whitewall tyres due to the snow, and not on account of Concourse d’Elegance aspirations, in the same way that wire wheels soon resembled disc wheels.
The new V.S.C.C. President, Phillip Mann, drove a very “Le Mans” 1928 4½-litre Bentley with consummate skill and restraint, but perhaps the most polished performance of the polished pylons route was that of Day, in his impressive 1929 4½-litre Bentley two-seater. Another nice Bentley was Marsh’s 1926 open 3-litre, with outside handbrake. The Rapier two-seater spent a very long time in and out of the pylons, where it indulged in enormous tail slides, Pack drove his 1926 3-litre Bentley with its screen flat and only just stopped in time in the last garage, and Rippon had rather a wheel-twirling reverse in his boat-bodied 1925 Brescia Bugatti.
Buckle’s open 1929 Lancia Lambda, two spare wheels out on the end of its boot-lid, hit a couple of markers at the first “garage” but made up for this with excellent acceleration, the engine spitting a protest. Max Hill’s 1929 O.M. was quick and neat, a “G B” plate no doubt reminding it of warmer climes, but the huge fog-lamp on Tony Jones’ 30/98 Vauxhall was no help in this sort of competition and it was not his day, for he failed to enter the second “garage” without reversing and the wheels just would not grip. In contrast, Rowley’s 30/98 Vauxhall was driven with commendable precision, but he found the garage markers difficult to see, so luck may have been allied to judgement. Hill seemed to get lost in mid-pylon, taking the wrong route, but cheerful Mrs. Hill went well in that very effective Alvis Silver Eagle.
A differential-less back axle being just the job, Dr. Harris went splendidly in his 1934 Frazer Nash with BMC registration letters, just missing three marshals in a meteoric reversing act—the marshals also reversed pretty smartly! Sismey’s big Alvis had big back boots, took big sweeps, but overshot the last “garage” in a big way. (His flying helmet is very period.) There were two H.R.G.s and three Rapiers in the entry list, Newton driving his H.R.G. quickly, and a 1934 straight-eight Railton with odd two-seater body, was very smooth running and quiet—but what odd cars get into V.S.C.C. circles these days. Kain’s Type 44 Bugatti, screen-flat, took off very gently indeed. It carried a plate saying it is a “Bugatti G.B.” and was snowballed by the retiring President. Hill in the Helix benefited by having a “solid” back axle. One of the more covetable cars present was Blake’s 1927 12/50 Alvis sports saloon, probably the only surviving example with this bodywork.
First Class Awards : C. P. Marsh (1929 Austin 7), A. W. Ripon (1925 Bugatti), and D. P. Harris (1934 Frazer Nash).
Second Class Awards : C. P. Pack (1926 Bentley), R. G. Firmin (1936 H.R.G.). and B. B. D. Kain (1929 Bugatti).
Third Class Awards : J. A. Griffiths (1930 Austin 7), R. M. J. Andrews (1928 Riley). D. R. Marsh (1926 Bentley), and C. R. Newton (1936 H.R.G.).
V.E.V. Odds and Ends.—Daimler-Benz have added two more exhibits to those in their Museum at Stuttgart. They are a 1929 SSK Mercedes-Benz, believed to have been a Mille Miglia car, which left Germany in 1935 and was bought by one of the Conan-Doyles, and a 1902 2-cylinder, chain and belt-drive Benz which spent 67 years under a heap of coal in Ireland, after having been abandoned on the outbreak of the 1914/18 war. It was rescued some time later, which involved removing and rebuilding a wall, and has taken part in many Brighton Runs. The Daimler & Lanchester O.C. has issued an attractive brochure containing an abridged history of the makes it serves and of the Club, with 20 pictures of well-known Daimler and Lanchester cars, for recruitment purposes. The Members’ Secretary is Mr. I. Venables, 11, Fairham Road, Stretton, Burton-on-Trent, Staffs. We have heard that Bournemouth was a popular place for Lanchester Tens, so it is interesting that a 1933 model is advertised from that town in the current issue of the Club magazine The Driving Member. With a view to writing a history of the British Motor Cycle Racing Club from its inception in 1909 to the present, its Secretary, Jim Swift, asks for any old records, photographs or personal recollections. His address is P.O. Box 75, Kingston-on-Thames, Surrey, and if he writes this book it will cover the much-needed story of B.M.C.R.C. motorcycle racing at Brooklands. The Sunbeam Motorcycle Club’s Pioneer Run—the motorcycle “Brighton”—takes place on March 23rd. The A.G.M. of the V.M.C.C. is scheduled for March 30th, in Coventry. A single-seater Riley 9 of the vintage period, thought to have been a Victor Gillow car, perhaps used for dirt-track racing, has been discovered recently. We regret to learn that J. Pares, who was the riding mechanic in an Austin 7 which crashed during the 1925 J.C.C. 200-Mile Race at Brooklands, and who later owned the ex-Waite lengthened, supercharged Austin 7, was killed some time ago in a road accident. The Shuttleworth Trust is anxious to contact the mechanic, named Neal, who used to work on Richard Shuttleworth’s cars in the Brooklands days.
V.E.V. Miscellany.—A story in the Berkhamsted Gazette last January, clippings of which were kindly sent to us by readers, gave some interesting information about Wright & Wright Motors of Tring, where some of the present staff have been since the showrooms opened in 1926. Robert Wright, who took over the business in 1910, had served with Hoopers and Napier, experience which came in useful when he developed this old coachbuilding and wheelwright firm, founded in 1870, into a motor business. Around 1910 they made a body for a Belgian chassis and by 1912 the staff was increased from six to 30 and bodywork was constructed for Ford, Daimler, Hurtu and Mors chassis, especially the last-named, the Wright & Wright exhibit at the 1913 Motor Show including one of their bodies on a Mors. Later Vauxhall sent cars to them for bodywork and when war broke out several such chassis remained in the works, with unfinished coachwork. During the war the made small trucks for the War Office but resumed civilian contracts afterwards, including bodies on Swift and Fiat chassis. In 1919 they built the prototype Cubitt and later a number of two- and four-seater bodies for these cars. They also made the “Pride of Berkhamsted” coach and a double-deck body for a ‘bus used on the Aylesbury-Watford service, and in 1921, by then agents for Ford, Morris, Rover and Wokeley, they showed a special two-seater body on a Seabrook at Olympia. The article is illustrated with pictures, one of a pre-war Mors with a body Wright & Wright built for Marlboro’ Motors of St. Albans and another purporting to show one of their bodies on a 1913-14 De Dion, although it looks to us more like a Cheswold.
An article in The Optician refers to numerous old Model-T Fords. bull-nosed Morris Cowleys and elderly Chevrolets still in regular use in Uruguay. The Rand Daily Mail published a picture recently of a 1907 Diatto-Clement lent to the James Hall Museum. It is said to be the only survivor, has a radiator like a Clement-Talbot, and was bought from Witwatersrand Technical College during the last war, and has been used ever since. A reader who is working on a book about the expatriate British racing driver of the 1920s, “W. Williams”, seeks any papers and pictures, which would be carefully treated. Letters can be forwarded, as they can to an American enthusiast about to rebuild a 1932 Singer Le Mans. The February issue (No. 79) of the Porsche house-journal Christophorus contained an article, in English, by Heinrich Goldhann about the Austro-Daimlers he has collected since 1939 and others known to exist. The article was accompanied by some fine pictures of various models of this marque, including racing and sports versions.
In last month’s article on the cars owned by Col. Rixon Bucknall, because a sentence was not properly transposed, his Uncle Leslie’s 20-h.p. Mercedes was quoted as being used in 1905 by Comdr. Montague Graham-White; in fact, it was this gentleman’s 1902 40-h.p. Panhard which was used later by the Commander. In his book “At the Wheel Ashore and Afloat” Graham-White refers to driving to Hastings in it at the time when the Fleet was being reviewed by King Edward.