A Mystery Solved

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We have often proved that if a difficult historical motoring problem arises, the best way of getting an answer to it is to air it in MOTOR SPORT. This has never been better proved than in the case of Lord Donegall’s request for information about an aero-engined car he owned for a short time when he was up at Oxford in 1924-25. Unregistered when he bought it, but known as a Hall-Scott, this presented a poser of some magnitude. We made .a few suggestions as to what the giant car might have been, but now a true solution to the mystety is at hand.

A friend who knew His Lordship in those far-away Oxford days, Mr. Robert C. Calburn, BA, now resident in Johannesburg, writes to tell us that he well remembers the car and others owned at the time by Lord Donegall. Apparently this exciting acquisition was bought, not at Brooklands, as Lord Donegall thought, but in London, our correspondent recalling that he “kept dinner waiting in their rooms in King Edward Street, while maintaining a watch from the third-floor window for his friend to arrive”. Mr. Calburn continues: “Suddenly, there in the rain below me sat a diminutive figure in a grey car with a tiny two-seater body and the longest bonnet I had ever seen on a road-car. Across its radiator was hung a large notice inscribed ‘For Registration’.” This was clearly the forgotten Hall-Scott.

It is remembered as having a six-cylinder Allison engine with two sets of plugs, which may be why Lord Donegall thought of it as a V12. The cylinders were separate and one of them was rumoured to have been replaced by a spare from one of Zborowski’s Mercedes, which perhaps explains some of the other legends about the car.

Mr. Calburn remembers the starting procedure as a sharp downward push with the feet on the starting handle while the owner rotated the exciter-magneto on the dashboard—”the thrill of that vast engine bursting into life never palled”. He says the chassis was a shaft-drive Austro-Daimler, with the spitskuhler (vee) radiator and that the “quite magnificent” four-speed gearbox was from a Mercedes. He confirms that the Hall-Scott was remarkably docile but says care was necessary with the accelerator, especially on a wet road. The last our in formant saw of this exciting car was in 1925, when he followed Lord Donegall in his Chrysler on a run to London. It ambled along the Oxford-Henley road at 65 m.p.h. but the engine was popping and banging, with alarming, vivid carburetter explosions from under the bonnet. So they abandoned it at a garage in Henley, continuing the journey in the Chrysler. But Lord Donegall returned and himself got the timing right, although “he never claimed any mechanical expertise— a remarkable young man”. He sold the monster soon afterwards.

So this clears up the conundrum, and I am indebted to Mr. Calburn for his very interesting letter. In fact, now that it has been established that the car Lord Donegal wwned was not one of the Brooklands’ hybrids, it occurs to me that it almost certainly possessed .a 127 x 178 mm. 1.3.1/2-litre Hall-Scott engine, as used in the production Californian-built Fageol cars of the war years. If there is a tie-up between Hall-Scott and Allison, the evidence would seem to be complete.

Robert Calburn’s letter refers to Lord Donegall’s other cars of the period, commencing with his mother’s blue Wolseley Ten, followed by his 1924 14/40 HE with turquoise-blue, clover-leaf three-seater body, our correspondent going with his friend to Caversham when he took delivery of it. Next there was the 1925 Chrysler, which had the s.v. engine and external-contracting hydraulic brakes, and was one of the first of its kind to reach England. A replica of the HE’s body was built for it, finished in red and black, end it would get to an indicated 75 m.p.h. very easily indeed.

Mr. Calburn also confirms that Rtunney Summers’ Vauxhall, which I referred to as appearing in Inn-Keeper Fothergill’s book, would have been a 30/98. “He had first a beige-coloured side-valve, then a turquoiseblue and green o.h.v. model, of which Rumney was rightly proud”, he writes.—W.B.

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