Veteran-Edwardian-vintage, March 1971

A section devoted to old-car matters

VSCC Driving Tests, Oxford (January 31st)

The Vintage SCC has alternated pleasant driving-test venues with some very dreary ones, like the Slough Trading Estate, Blackbushe in the snow and Silverstone in December. But a BMC car park at Cowley in teeming rain, this year’s substitute for Charterhouse, was scarcely any better. However, VSCC members are gluttons for punishment and the tests started in sleet and continued, after a brief lunch break, in heavy rain. Entries were down on previous years, totalling only 49, of which 19 were pre-war touring cars, ten were modified sports cars and 20 consisted of standard sports cars. The tests embraced “boxing” or garaging, a zig-zag, “coming or going?”, which involved much reversing, and complicated manoeuvres called “pairing off”, “perplexity”, “safety-pin” and “Irish threesome”.

From the comfort of a Renault 12TL I observed the zig-zag. Griffiths was getting very wet in his completely open Austin 7 Chummy, the lusty Zust had come all the way through the snow from S. Wales, with its cape-cart hood erect, Collings having the only Edwardian performing, and Sunbeam honour was upheld by Elder’s 1930 two-door four-light sixteen coupé. Fountain’s 1933 Riley 9 two-seater tackled the zig-zag with inner rear wheel clear of the ground, headlamps blazing, Grey’s nicely original 1925 Austin 7 Chummy, hood down, pulled up astride the finish-line without drama, while Gledhill’s 1928 yellow Chummy had its hood erect but the back panel rolled up for reversing vision and bounced round with inner rear wheel about a foot off the deck.

Kane’s 1922 Morris was sedate, taking big sweeps but requiring to reverse, and even Macmillan’s 1928 Rolls-Royce hesitated somewhat, but Odell’s 1933 open Riley 9 was fast, making wide arcs, wheels juddering, to pull up with a squeal. Perkins’ nicely-original 1929 Riley 9 Monaco fabric saloon displayed a good steering lock and stopped easily, aeroplane noises heralded the going into action of Warburton’s delectable 1923 Crossley two-seater, the steering of which looked muscle-developing, and Mrs. Hill twirled furiously on the steering wheel of her AJS. She braved the rain, hood furled, at all events to start with. Mrs. Burke drove cautiously in a 1930 Morris Minor saloon with squeaky brakes and half-blanked radiator, Cuss wore a deerstalker in lieu of a hood in his 1933 Riley 9, Knight’s Riley “racer” did its best to oblige when its driver wished to accelerate and became enveloped in steam from its outside exhaust, Harding was neat in his 1928/9 Frazer Nash, hood down but screen up, and just as I was thinking that aero-screens for better vision seem to have had their day, there was Ferris making a good run in the Cuss Riley behind two of ’em. Mrs. Mountfort also had two aero-screens on her 1930 4 1/2-litre Bentley, which almost stopped to find the correct route but was quick in-between the pylons. Still was very impressive as usual in his 1937/8 Frazer Nash, with the main screen erect in spite of possessing aero-screens. Alas, he momentarily grated to a standstill.

Cleave’s nice 1927 4 1/2-litre Bentley carried racing roundels, Millar’s twin-cam 3-litre Sunbeam was masquerading as a modern special, and was unimpressive, needing to reverse (it is a long car), but Binns’ 1939 HRG was fast and neat, in spite of emitting queer graunching sounds. Bolton, alas, had to pause in mid-run in his nice 1928/39 Frazer Nash, which had a tonneau cover but no hood in use. The Cherretts performed neatly in the 1928 1 1/2-litre Alfa Romeo two-seater, Barker had his navigation lights on, on the first appearance in such tests of his I.h.d. Model-A Ford sedan, which rolled about but was most effective, with a notably small turning circle (in the entry list it was pretending to be someone else’s Bugatti, which may have put it on its mettle).

Tony Jones, the Measham winner, was exceedingly good in his 1923 30/98 Vauxhall, really getting it wound up, Buckle picked his way carefully, his well-known 1929 Lancia Lambda presenting an unusual spectacle with a hood over the front seats only; Hayward met the lack of a hood on his 1932 Alvis two-seater by wearing a white bathing cap, as did Edwards in his Ulster Aston Martin. On this subject of element exclusion, Hill’s Type 46 Bugatti had full weather protection, Stafford’s 1932 Riley 9 had a sort of decrepit tent but extra hood irons to rearward for use when required, and Newton had the screen folded flat on his 1936 Frazer Nash-BMW. Merriott’s 1933 Alvis Speed 20 accelerated well to the stop-line, but was a big car for zig-zagging, Moffatt rushed through the tests in his 1923 Brescia Bugatti, but, for my money, the best turn-out of this filthy wet day was Weightman’s real Salmson (1928 twin-cam) really motoring, the whole turn-out looking splendidly period, even to its driver’s flying helmet.—W. B.

First Class Awards: J. A. Griffiths (Austin 7), P. W. Still (Frazer Nash), P. J. E. Binns (HRG). Second Class Awards: P. B. Gledhill (Austin 7), R. Newton (Frazer Nash-BMW). Third Class Awards: R. M. J. Andrews (Riley 9), J. R. Perkins (Riley 9), B. Harding (Frazer Nash), D. J. P. Edwards (Aston Martin).

V-E-V miscellany.—The ABC Chassis once owned by Roger Paxton has changed hands again. The engine, body and other parts of a Clarkson steam omnibus exist but a chassis is required for completion of this exciting and historic vehicle. Can anyone assist? The GP Sunbeam which Rootes retrieved from exile in Monaco was shipped to Zeebrugge on Townsend Thoresen’s Free Enterprise V for display at the Brussels Show—good for Chrysler UK Ltd., who now own this historic car. A move is afoot to form a Register of vintage Rovers, the idea being to include all Rover models up to 1933, as these were identical with the pre-1931 cars. As the Rover Sports Register covers mainly post-1933 cars and we seldom hear of it these days, this appears to be a good idea. The instigator is S. C. Marsh, who owns a 1929 2-litre Rover. His address is: 66, Church Road, Banks, Southport, Lancs.

One of the exhibits at the VCC of Australia’s annual show at the Claremont Showground, according to The West Australian, was a fully restored 1910 6AS Talbot six-cylinder Roi des Belges tourer, one of four exported to Australia out of 52 made. The present owner, John Gloyn, spent more than 4,000 hours restoring the car which, it is nice to know, he says is the last thing he intends to sell, when asked its present value. A 1936 Austin Nippy is being restored in Switzerland.