A section devoted to old car matters
The Future of Brooklands
The Brooklands Society is acting with urgent vigour and responsibility in the matter of preserving as a National Monument the site of Brooklands Track and Aerodrome, which was a daily feature of British life and mechanical activity from 1907 to 1939, and distinctly one of the more pleasant places to visit or be posted to. We have already referred to the Society’s well-produced “Brooklands—The Future?”. This was followed up by a public meeting last January at Weybridge Library and by the issue of carstickers (posters are also visualised).
When I founded the Society, Brooklands was actively occupied by Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd. and the aim of restoring the old Track was then too ambitious to contemplate, unless an astronomical sum of money for the purchase of this valuable land had been available—I used to say to the Committee, when I was Secretary, that if they would give me a quarter of a million pounds, as a deposit, I would approach the owners!
Since then the place has become less important to this branch of the BAC, and it may soon come on the market; thus the position has changed and excellent work has been done, particularly by ex-racing drivers Kenneth Evans and the Society’s President, T. A. S. O. Mathieson, in preparation for the exciting possibility of the Society acquiring this historic place. At one time the old Brooklands appeared to belong so much to the past that it seemed it might be better to let only happy memories of it remain, rather as it once seemed that the Thomas Special “Babs” should not have been disinterred from its 1927 grave beneath Pendine sands. But the pleasure so many people have derived from Society Reunions at the Track, following those initiated by Motor Sport, and the interest now shown in “Babs” since the resuscitation of that monster racing car, tend to have reversed such opinions. So, while we approach the ideal of a rebuilt Brooklands with an open mind, we strongly applaud the great efforts the Society is directing to that end, together with the magnificently tough job a few of its members have made of cleaning up the existing circuit. It is significant that the DoE has already placed Preservation Orders on certain buildings there.
If it does prove possible to return Brooklands to its original function, after the cooperative British Aircraft Corporation has finally vacated the site, it would, as I originally visualised, make an ideal National Transport Museum Complex. Whether this can be achieved without a big injection of Government finance, such as is liberally given to near-derelict Industrial companies these days, is open to debate. Other questions that would need to be resolved are whether, if this historic site is rescued, it should be restored simply to its former status and format, or whether it would be permissible to arrange non-motoring facilities within its perimeter, and even run railway-lines where these were not run before, for the fostering of historic railway interests. The Society has outlined the latter possibilities; but probably because this might be the best way of encouraging public and/or Government financing of the project. These problems apart, it is most satisfactory to those who wish to see Brooklands preserved for prosperity that this energetic action has been instituted.
Apart from looking to the future, the Society has just brought its magazine out in high-class printed form and it continues to reunite former Brooklands personalities with this magazine, its London dinner, and its Weybridge Reunion. Those who wish to offer support should note that the new Secretary is Robert J. Willis, of 21, Heath Park Drive, Windlesham, Surrey.—W.B.
V-E-V Miscellany.—A 1934 MG Magnette, Reg. No. JB 4146, thought to have been an ND converted to NE specification by Dudley Walsh for trials purposes after it had been a factory demonstrator and later raced at Brooklands by Freddie Thatcher, has been bought by a reader in Durham, who seeks its full history. The Vintage MCC is holding its 2nd International Veteran & Vintage
Assembly on June 26th/27th, based on Cheltenham, with an informal reception on the Friday evening, a road trial of up to 100 miles through Cotswold scenery on the Saturday, and a Concours d’Elegance prize-giving at a buffet lunch in the Town Hall and a Parade through the town on the Sunday. Open to motorcycles and three-wheelers built before 1951, details are available from: D. Pritchard, 6, Jenner Close, Hucclecote, Gloucester, GL3 3DZ. The same Club’s Saundersfoot Run will celebrate its 21st Anniversary this summer, by using an extended course, starting from the original starting place, Llandovery, with time checks thereafter. Johnnie Thomas is rebuilding the actual 1927 Sunbeam motorcycle which Motor Sport road-tested that year and which was a reserve machine for the TT.
Clive Windsor Richards, Brooklands driver and one-time 30/98 exponent, has taken to motorcycling, on a Honda CB200. It was nice to hear recently from George Took, who joined the Junior Car Club in 1920, on leaving the Army, and raced at Brooklands with a blown Lea-Francis (in the 1930 “Double-Twelve”), a Vernon Special and an International model Wolseley Hornet.
Vinot et Deguingand
Publication of the “Fragments on the on Forgotten Makes” article about the Vinot has brought news of one of these cars which was bought by its Dutch owner in Crowborough, England, many years ago, minus its radiator and many other parts. Indeed, a tree had grown through the chassis. Fortunately, Depanoto in France supplied a replacement radiator, although there were difficulties over obtaining the correct pre-1914 Vinot badge. The car is thought to be a circa-1911 Type AL. The remains of the coachwork bear a plate inscribed with the Great Portland Street address of Vinot in this country and a dashboard plate gives the body-builders as Crown-Hughes and Straghan Ltd., of Shepherds Bush and Holland Gate.
The chassis no. is 13411 and the history of this British-bodied Vinot is sought; there is a rumour that it was once used in conjunction with a fairground.
The restorer of this car sent us a French Vinot catalogue that depicts some massive pre-war camions, one supplied to the Ministére de la Guerre in 1909, another in 1910, a van used by Continental Tyres, and, happy coincidence, a good picture (see page 257) of a Vinot van used by the London Vinot concessionaires when they were at 20, Regent Street, W1.—W.B.
At the suggestion of her son, I went to lunch the other day with Mrs. Barton, formerly Mrs. Crossley, at her country house near Ross-on-Wye. If I hadn’t been told, I would never have believed that this lady is 87, especially as she took me out to the garage to see the Lancia Fulvia that she uses regularly.
Her motoring career started before I was born. In fact, her photograph-albums show what we would now term veteran De Dion Bouton and Peugeot “autocars” outside the grand houses on the family estates. Mrs. Barton’s own driving experiences commenced, apart from sorties on early motorcycles, after she had married Alan Crossley, of the wellknown car and industrial company, and she drove with him over the course of the Scottish Six Days trial in 1911, with a 16/20 Austin. There is a picture of it on the Ballachulish Ferry, then a simple rowing boat with the car abreast on a couple of planks. This Austin served very well. It had been bought in 1907 and was re-bodied for the trial. It had to be reversed to get up Kirkstone Pass, however. It stayed with Mrs. Barton until after the Armistice.
Her husband was killed at the Front, and his young wife, who as Miss Hatt-Cook had been presented at Court only two years earlier, volunteered for the FANYs and when the British would not have her, she went with a friend to France, being posted to 2nd Army Headquarters. Here growing up with motors served her well, for she was given a Delahaye Paris ‘bus to drive, converted into an ambulance. She also drove De Dion Bouton and Renault ambulances and could fill a book with her war-time adventures. Where these big ambulances couldn’t penetrate, Model-T Fords took over. Mrs. Barton still has the typewritten instructions for one of the longest runs she did in France—at night, without lights, over shell-pocked roads. Dated 1-10-18, it reads: Bar le Duc, St. Dizier, Chalvraines, Thirbault, Martingy-les-Bains, Dejeux (bifur), Rimancourt (halte, regroupment), and back to Bar le Due. On this occasion, patients were not carried; instead, the ten ambulances were taking officers to see the latest tanks.
Another journey was from the Monastery of the White Feathers, presided over by the Cardinal, Lord Bishop of Reims, where the two girls slept, to Epenay, and on to Chalons, where the champagne cellars were used as bomb-shelters. The priory was eventually completely smashed up by the shelling and the Chapel altar had to be used by the First Aid for amputations. When the American Expeditionary Force arrived the girls had to beware but when driving their ambulances they found that if they had a puncture the Italians would always stop to help but were apt to depart with all the vehicle’s tools! The Delahaye is remembered as “a wonderful goer”.
Leave was taken, and on the train from Bar-le-Duc to Nancy, en route for the coast, the FANY officer noticed a French pilot reading Kipling’s “Kim” in English. She spoke to him and it turned out that he was De la Tour, one of the aces of the great Georges Guynemer Fighter Squadron. They became friendly and she was later presented with a cartoon of the Squadron, which still hangs in her house to this day. It will interest Hispano-Suiza enthusiasts to know that of the six famous pilots depicted, one is leading a real stork. This could have been artist’s licence; but it seems far more likely that the Squadron actually had a tame stork, on which their La Cigogne Volante mascot, painted on their aeroplanes, and later used as the Hispano Suiza radiator-cap mascot, was based.
Reverting to the family cars, in 1911 a two-cylinder Renault had been bought as tender to the Austin. Mrs. Barton went to Brooklands to see Paulhan fly and, due to her husband’s connections, was driven round the Track by Cecil Bianchi, who was associated with Crossley. After the war she farmed extensively outside Hereford and got as a maid-of-all-work a brass-radiator Model-T Ford, which was very dependable but apt to pin her to the garage wall as it crept up on her after being cranked! Then came a Crossley two-seater which used to skid right round if too much load was carried on the back, and later a Golden Crossley saloon. There was, she also recalls, an unhappy interlude when the chauffeur advanced the little Renault’s ignition without warning his Mistress, who in consequence broke her arm when starting it on the handle during her shopping visit to Hereford. The Crossleys remind Mrs. Barton that her husband Mr. Crossley served for a time in the Crossley TB Sanitorium in Delamere Forest, Cheshire.
After she remarried there were Buicks, one of which broke its track-rod when she was driving it over the Horseshoe Pass in Wales, with near-disastrous results. That was not long before another World War, and in 1938 Mrs. Barton ran the 1st ATS camp in Malvern. Much earlier there had been an Austin 7, bought for about £120, which cheerfully made journeys up to N. Scotland and back and “never let us down”.
After the war they went in for Triumphs, a 12-h.p. saloon and a larger model, which led to Rovers, and then to the Lancia, because at the Motor Show Mrs. Barton was looking for a car with wide doors which would suit her husband and the Fulvia coupé seemed, and was, ideal. Not surprisingly, her son also became an enthusiast. There are pictures of an Austin 7 Special, of a pre-1914 Rolls-Royce saloon, regrettably sold, and even a veteran Wolseley with beehive radiator. These led to Lancias and then to his present Ferraris. An intriguing glimpse a a motoring family.