A section devoted to old-car matters
WE HEAR a lot these days about Motorway madness. Measham madness is different, inasmuch as it is an innocuous form of insanity, indulged in by the more competitive members of the VSCC, who annually take part in this all-night rally in the wilds of Shropshire and Wales. Named after the now-defunct Motor Museum from which it originally started, the Measham was later transferred to the Long Mynd but in recent times has started and finished at Church Stream. The 1973 event had an entry of 60 pre-war cars, divided into three classes. It took place on the dry, mild night of February 3rd/4th, over a tortuous but easy, well-surfaced route.
As the cars assembled for the start at the Sandford Hotel, Showell’s 1929 4 1/2-litre Bentley was seen to have its all-weather equipment in use but the top of the hood rolled back for check cards the more easily to be handed-out to the marshals, and Bothamley’s 1924 Blue Label 3-litre Bentley also had its hood up. Vessey’s 1927 Lancia Lambda had a radiator muff ready for unfurling should the temperature drop, Turner was in an enormously long 1927 Lancia Lambda with a noisy engine, and Harwell was conducting Rowley’s black 30/98, his navigator equipped with a miner’s head-set to illuminate the route card. Payne’s 1925 Amilcar was again tackling the 200-mile route on 26 x 3 Dunlop Extra Heavy Motorcycle Cord tyres, typical Frazer Nash hoods were erect on the cars of Bill Morris and Fearnley, and whereas many cars had modern spot-lamps, including Chilcott’s Alvis and Hutchings’ 328 BMW, Turner’s Lancia had equipped itself with four big period headlamps.
The Scottish team wore National flags. Waine had again brought his very “pre-war Monte Carlo Rally” gull-wing Riley coupé, with a spade on the roof, and Bosten’s Riley Gamecock had a box of food secured to the tail. The bodies of Rooney’s 1928 Austin Seven and McEwen’s 1930 Riley Nine were of fabric, and Jones’ Treen Riley had perspex side valances on its windscreen, while Odell’s Riley Lynx was wearing fog shields on its headlamps.
Malamatenios’ Zedel and Binns’ Riley Nine were among the non-runners and Hamilton-Gould’s 1921 Citroën tourer arrived at the start after trouble with the only part which has so far received restoration—the magneto. Thomas found his crew missing when the time came for his 1927 Wolseley to be dispatched. A surprisingly large crowd watched the intrepid motorists start, led by Freddie Giles in his 1928 Frazer Nash. Soon after the first time-check, 14 miles out, Frazer Nashes were encountered going in both directions over a misty hillock and beyond Melverley Arnold-Forster tried a little hedge-clipping with his 1924 Delage. By the halfway halt Wickham’s Alvis had got itself mislaid, Giles, who had never lost his No. 1 position, had nearly lost a rear lamp, which he now replaced, before oiling the chains, and Tony Collings in the 1928 4 1/2-litre Bentley had noticed slippery roads on his racing tyres and was changing the battery. Tony Griffiths was suffering the effects of a charge-less dynamo, Tony Mitchell had damaged a front wing and the steering of his 327/80 BMW when it argued with a Welsh stone wall, and Phillips had less illumination than he had started out with, on his trials’ type 1929 Alvis.
Otherwise there was little bother. Cameron Millar had complained at the start that the tappets of his 1928 Lea-Francis had tightened-up but when we saw him at the fifth Control from the finish the car was going well, Mrs. Millar a passenger, as she has been in 14 previous Meashams. Small knots of interested onlookers had been encountered in remote villages and even out in the country up to midnight but as the night wore on and the rally entered Wales, only those directly concerned, plus an uninterfering police Panda car, watched progress. The good weather made this a comparatively uneventful Measham but a successful one nevertheless.—W.B.
Measham Trophy and Class 1 Winner: F. G. Giles (1928 Frazer Nash).
Class 2 Winner: S. R. Waine (19343 Riley)
Class 3 Winner: Mrs. K. M. Hill (1930 AlS).
First Class Awards: N. Arnold-Forster (1924 Deluge), R. A. Hutchings (1937 BMW), T. Griffiths (1930 Austin), A. C. M. Millar (1928 Lea-Francis) and D. Johnson (1933 Frazer Nash).
Second Class Awards: N. J. W. Stovel (1928 Frazer Nash). J. Turner (1927 Lancia). D. P. Harris (1934 Frazer Nash), D. H. Fearnley (1933 Frazer Nash) and R. N. Arman (1927 Humber).
Third Class Awards: L. J. Wickham (1929 Alvis), C. R. Pack (1926 Bentley) and H. F. Collis (1934 Alvis).
Circuits which never happened
SOME twenty years after Brooklands had opened the prevailing great enthusiasm for motor-racing resulted in plans going ahead for ambitious new circuits, in various parts of Britain. There were ideas for tracks at Birmingham, where they are currently hoping for a round-the-streets race, on the South Downs near Brighton, close to lvinghoe on the Dunstable Beacons, on the shores of the Wash, and at other places. In 1927 a proposed road circuit in Salop got nearer to reality than most. It was to have been a splendidly twisting and undulating circuit of some 3 miles to a lap, based on Wallop Hall, about eight miles west of the fascinating riverside town of Shrewsbury, on the Montgomery road.
Having the previous day been for some hours Birmingham-fettered I thought a run out over the deserted roads of this remote area would not come amiss and set the BMW to explore some of the tiny hamlets lost among country lanes of the most astonishing acute-cornered narrowness which still abound in Shropshire, wondering whether I would discover anything more about this never-to-be race track of the ‘twenties.
The original plot had been quite far advanced, with plans to convert the 30-room Hall into an hotel. The route of the track with its many bends, a bridged crossover, and a banked corner at the end of a straight-mile had been surveyed and a private company was floated to run the circuit. A subway under the course at the Westbury end was visualised and it was hoped to retain the countrified nature of the place; as the necessary materials were within the grounds, construction was expected to be inexpensive.
It sounded most promising, especially after the Midland and Cheshire ACU Centres had viewed the site on several occasions, a motorcycle scramble had been run over the path of the suggested course, and Major H. O. D. Segrave, still the hero of the 200 m.p.h. record-breaking run at Daytona, had come to see the site and had agreed to become Chairman of the Company (I wonder whether he nosed his way down the narrow lanes in a twin-cam Sunbeam?).
Thinking that perhaps I might discover what went wrong, all those long years ago, to render the project still-born, I made my way down the aforesaid lanes and was soon being directed to Lower Wallop. A madman with twinkling blue eyes and a brightly patterned shirt under his light leather waistcoat was happy to lean on his broom, on the apex of a very blind bend, to tell me there was a person locally who would know all about the history of the Hail, that one of the maids who had worked there was still about, and that his wife might well remember the race-track episode, although he himself didn’t. A few yards further along I came to a farm gate with “Wallop Hall” inscribed on it with creosote. Driving over a cattle-grid I continued up a long, well-surfaced drive. The plate was clearly fully farmed. The wooded country of which I had read was much in evidence, with groups of trees standing out against the winter afternoon sky at the top of the more distant knolls. The long drive wound across fields and over cattlegrids but obviously was not the 30-foot-wide road of the proposed race-track. It petered out into a farmyard beyond a house, outside which stood a Mini. I got no reply when I knocked and the only other house I could see, approached by a muddy track, did not look like the Hall I had expected to find. I left without learning anything more about this once-exciting project but scanning the broad sweeps of unpopulated countryside it was easy to see the possibilities the venue had had for a race-track in the 1920s, which, had it been completed, would have beaten Donington to the title of the first English road-circuit by some half-a-dozen years. Does anyone remember this Salopian venture, and can anyone say why it never got going?
Another intriguing circuit matter concerns a rumour that Brooklands may have been intended originally for Essex instead of Surrey, based on the fact that an area of Clacton is called Brooklands and that roads therein are named after makes of cars. Has any reader photographic evidence of this, and did Mr. Locke King perhaps own land there in addition to his Sussex and Surrey estates, where in 1905-6 he may have contemplated building his race-track?—W. B.
V-E-V Miscellany.—A pre-war Berliet was seen by a reader in Monte Carlo late last year.
Amherst Villiers has bought a Rolls-Royce Phantom II I chassis and wants to build for it a replica of the body he had on a 1925 Phantom I, which he ran from 1930-38. Can anyone supply him with information about this James Young d.h. coupé? The car was originally fitted with a supercharger to the order of Jack Kruse, Director of the Paris Daily Mail, and Barker, the coachbuilders. C. K. Giryan of New Brunswick is anxious to trace the pre-war history of the 1933 Packard Victoria convertible, Series 1002, which he bought about five years ago from someone in Grimsby. It seems that the car was originally supplied to the British Government by Leonard Williams and that its colour then was probably cream. A two-door Brough Superior saloon has been seen at the back of a Staffordshire inn and may be for sale. The Rapier Register, whose Hon. Sec. is J. Batt, 80, Brooklands Avenue, Sheffield S10 4GD, this year celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Rapier, which made its appearance at the 1933 Motor Show, although production did not commence until 1934. A birthday issue of the Rapier Register News was duly produced. It is thought that at least 200 Rapiers still exist, out of about 400 built: indeed, only 40 are known to have been broken-up. The Register has about 130 members, including one in Germany and two in Australia.
The ex-James Allday two-cylinder 8 h.p. 1898 Benz which was for many years in the Montagu Motor Museum has been purchased by the Daimler-Benz Museum in Stuttgart.
I MET Walter Weston the other day and seemed to cheer him up on his 85th birthday by chatting about Brooklands. He joined the Calthorpe Company before the 1914/18 war and became a riding mechanic in the works’ racing cars. He showed me photographs of the three handsome vee-radiator 1911 Coupe des Voiturettes Calthorpes being checked over at Boulogne before the race: Mr. Weston was mechanic to the works’ driver, Russell Fletcher. There is another picture of these cars outside the works’ showroom. After the war Weston remained with Calthorpe and went to Brooklands with the very slim single-seater which Hillhouse entered for the works’ driver Humphries, who was with Mr. Weston at a BMC factory until a few years ago. The car was always driven to and from Brooklands on trade plates, said Mr. Weston, except on one occasion when a prop.-shaft universal joint gave trouble and it was sent back by train. The crew used at first to stay at “The Ship” in Byfleet, the car being garaged in one of the Brooklands’ sheds behind the tunnel entrance road. One day, as youngsters will, the Calthorpe mechanics had set up some of the many discarded bottles they found lying about near the sheds, relics of past drinking parties, and were aiming stones at them. Count Zborowski drove up in Chitty-Bang-Bang, which was garaged in the next shed, and seeing what was going on, said, “I must have a go at that!” He was soon handing out wagers for the best shots.
Calthorpes always suffered from an incurable wheel shimmy, recalled Mr. Weston, which a change of steering box didn’t cure: the racer was not immune. He remembers Mr. Rose improving some parts of the Calthorpe, such as introducing a well in the oilpipe line to stop the oil-pressure plunger from fluctuating, rather than designing a complete car. Apparently Palmer were anxious to supply the racing Calthorpe with tyres but Dunlops proved more satisfactory. A mysterious knock in a Director’s Calthorpe was cured by fitting some new-type sparking plugs given to Weston by K. Lee Guinness. One of his non-racing jobs was to move the Mulliner coachbuilding works front Gas Road, Birmingham, to new premises adjacent to the Calthorpe factory when they bought out this Company. Mr. Weston remembered being at Brooklands when Wilkinson’s 27 h.p. Benz failed to pull up at the end of the finishing straight and sailed over the top of the Members’ banking: crawling up on all fours, the Calthorpe mechanic was the first to reach the scene, to find the steering wheel hanging from a tree. I was shown some Brooklands’ picture postcards including one I hadn’t seen before, a photograph of the Paddock Clubhouse when it was brand-new, with four of the uniformed BARC staff lined up in front of it and builders’ ladders still propped against the walls. Having let so much of the old track fall into disrepair, let the British Aircraft Corporation destroy this historic building at their peril!—W.B.
The excellent magazine of the Austin Seven Clubs’ Association has not been published since last summer. The ERA Club’s Dinner takes place on March 5th.