Veteran-Edwardian-vintage, March 1972

A section devoted to old-car matters

VSCC Driving Tests, Thruxton (January 30th)

It is not possible for me to write intelligently, or even unintelligently, about this wintery vintage happening, because I had been prevailed upon to compete, in the resuscitated 1924 12/20 Calthorpe, and you cannot compete, however ineffectually, as well as report. I agreed to have a go, not because I had any illusions about my ability to drive a motor-car in the complicated tests cunningly devised by the VSCC, but because I felt that having stood critically on the touchline for so many years, making scathing comments about others far more skilled, it was high time they had some laughs at my expense. These I provided in very good measure, stalling the engine, which has to be hand-cranked, in the very first “garage” I entered and thereafter becoming hopelessly lost in every test. The game little Calthorpe was not to blame; indeed, with three low gears in its four-speed box and reverse in-line beyond first in the rh gate, it should be a useful driving-test car, given a more able pilot.

What, then, can I say about Thruxton? It was infernally cold. The venue is an excellent one, with plenty of room for ambitious manoeuvres, no red-tape, an office for the officials and the excellent Thruxton Flying Club bar and restaurant made available to competitors. Out of the corner of one eye I noticed Keith Hill on opposite lock slides round markers in his very effective Alvis Silver Eagle, Lyles and Winder raising the dust in terrifying broadsides in the Lea-Francis Special, Robbie Hewitt driving her exciting 1934 TT 4 1/2-litre Lagonda, a car perhaps improved for this kind of competition by reason of its Alvis all-synchromesh central-change gearbox, and Liddell destroying the markers with the weight of his elegant 1929. 4 1/2-litre Bentley.

Some were in trouble, like Griffiths, who was working on the unusual-looking engine of his familiar Chummy Austin 7, Tony Jones whose 30/98 Vauxhall had back-axle maladies, and Jenkinson in Howard’s 1928 Amilcar, which cut out on him in mid-Helix-test, presumably because he was flinging it about, aided by a low-ratio back axle with differential from an Amilcar saloon, so enthusiastically that the carburetter was starved of petrol. In view of the Siberian weather conditions the Continental Correspondent had sensibly allowed the Amilcar’s owner to drive it to Thruxton, arriving himself in the 1930 Sunbeam Sixteen “glasshouse”. Unlike these troubled people, Condon nonchalantly stowed away the side curtains of his 1923 AC, as if about to set off on a summer tour, and Mrs. Hogg looked happily unconcerned about the cold, in Edwards’ Ulster Aston Martin, while Barry Clarke’s 1913 Singer Ten had received a smart coat of paint since last year’s racing appearance. As usual, Still (Frazer Nash) seemed to be doing it properly, a Chummy Austin had come all the way from Sheffield, and two MG Midgets with correct tails took part, both 1929 models, while Freddie Giles was back in his 1928 Frazer Nash.—W.B.

First Class Awards: J. A. Griffiths (Austin 7), K. Roach (Austin 7), P. J. E. Binns (HRG) and P. W. Still (Frazer Nash).
Second Class Awards: C. A. Winder (Lea-Francis Special), M. Fountain (Riley 9), Bruce-White (MG Midget) and C. P. Marsh (Morris Sports).
Third Class Awards: P. J. Selwyn Smith (BMW), Ann Shoosmith (4 1/2 Bentley), B. M. Clarke (1913 Singer Ten), R. N. T. Burke (MG Midget), and F. G. Giles (Frazer Nash).