I read as always with interest your comment on Dr. Brian Hamilton’s letter reference Dick (R. B.) Howey’s tragic death in 1926 in the Ballot.
It is not often one is able to correct the Editor! So it is with a little malicious pleasure I am able to write to say that the accident occurred not during the speed trial, but during the hill-climb which was also part of the Boulogne race week.
I was an eye-witness to the accident, being over there with the Bentley team for the George Boillot Cup sports car race – with John Duff and Thistlewaite, both 3-litre Bentley drivers.
The accident occurred on a left-hand turn on the “Bainethun” hill which formed part of the circuit. Howey failed to complete the turn, and crashed into a small copse of trees just opposite to the spot on the inside of the bend where we were standing.
Safety for spectators was at a very low level in 1926. The speed trials proper were held on the switchback straight – also part of the circuit – and the road was barely wide enough for two cars to pass. We used to watch the cars from the ditch and could practically touch them as they went past.
The spectacle was particularly hairy when Parry Thomas on the Leyland Eight, Eldridge on his enormous FIAT and Segrave on the new 4-litre Vee-12 blown Sunbeam came past at around 140 m.p.h. on the undulating badly surfaced road, and the suspension of the cars left a lot to be desired. I remember we were all very much upset at the Howey accident – the Howey brothers were very well liked at Brooklands.
I am indebted to Harold Hastings for the correct spelling of the hill, I could only recollect the phonetics: from the French loudspeakers of that day!
Kenilworth. Walter Hassan, OBE
A Postcard Mystery
As a regular reader of Motor Sport, I am very interested in veteran and vintage cars. My main hobby however, is deltiology (the collecting of old postcards), and I have a large collection of Old Plymouth and Old Devonport, as well as a growing collection of early cars and early aviation postcards. My interests in Old Plymouth and old cars coincided with the purchase of the enclosed card at a recent postcard auction. The registration number – CO 416 – shows that it was one of the earliest cars registered in the Plymouth area, perhaps in about 1908. I am wondering if any of your readers could identify this car for me, as I like to append full details of each card in my album.
I am also wondering if the garage could be that of Messrs. W. Mumford and Co., which is one of the oldest established in Plymouth? My late father, Commander W. H. Rundell, purchased our first car, a Swift two-seater with dickey-seat, from them in 1923. They were also agents for Daimler, Riley, Napier, Maxwell, Star, Durrant and Straker-Squire cars in the early twenties.
Stevenage, Herts. Roy Rundell
(Can anyone identify this car for Mr. Rundell? The VCC, perhaps? – Ed.)
A Submerged Crouch
With reference to the photograph on page 39 of the January issue: It was almost certainly taken on January 1st 1925. The gentleman in riding breeches on the side of the bonnet was undoubtedly my father and the small boy in the large cap on the right hand side of the picture was myself. The car was a Crouch 11.9 h.p. two-seater owned by a Mr. Paul and he was acting as “tender” to the racing Crouch which my father had been driving with some success earlier in the day.
A few minutes before the photograph was taken, the car had been submerged in about 18″ of sea water, but after attention from my father it started, and was driven back to Manchester.
Even after a lapse of 54 years the memory of that drive home to Manchester in the “racer” is still vivid. My father and I were wet through, the car had no windscreen or hood and only tiny sidelights, to say nothing of almost solid shockabsorbers and high pressure beaded-edge tyres which did not take kindly to the almost universal stone setts of Lancashire.
By a strange coincidence I recently came into possession of a photograph of the Crouch racer but it is badly faded and not worth sending to you. The registration number was HP 9688. I often wonder what became of that car, which was owned by the Crouch Company of Coventry and was sometimes driven at Brooklands by Stirling Moss’s father.
The races at Southport in those days were one-mile sprints and participants included Basil Davenport, the Jackson brothers of Blackpool, J. A. Joyce, Major Segrave, Bullough of Atherton in a Morgan and a very fast Star which was disqualified for trying to run as a 1½-litre car whereas it was known to be over 2-litres. The amazing feature of the incident is that “the sea never comes in” at Southport. But it did that day!
Amlwch. F. E. Greaves
(As I have observed before, if you want an answer, ask Motor Sport‘s readers! – Ed.)
Memories of T & Ts
I’m delighted that Ralph Beauchamp has decided to put down on paper his memories of working with Parry Thomas, Reid Railton, and Thomson and Taylor’s. What he has to say fills in some very significant gaps in the history of motor sport and it is splendid that he is devoting so much of his time to doing so. This is rendered all the more important by the fact that virtually all of T & T’s pre-war and immediately post-war records appear to have disappeared, a sorry state of affairs.
There are a couple of points which arise from the story so far. First, Parry Thomas and my father, Ken Thomson, in fact met before the First World War, when both were students at the City and Guilds Institute. Ken Thomson continued his association with Parry Thomas during the development of the Thomas Transmission which, as Hugh Tours has pointed out, was partly financed by Ken’s brother, Hedley Thomson. This association was broken during the First World War, with Parry Thomas involved in development work at Leylands and my father, commissioned into the Royal Engineers, involved in building a railway to serve the allied troops in Salonika, along which he travelled incidentally in Model-T Ford railcars, photographs of which now rest somewhere in New Zealand. After the war, the association was renewed, with the formation of Thomas Inventions Development.
Second, there is a chance that one of the two Pipe cars used by Parry Thomas as a demonstrator for the Thomas Transmission may still exist. In the late 1940s, aged about 11 or 12, I distinctly remember exploring this car which was stored on blocks in a stable behind Hedley Thomson’s house at Woodford Green. It resembled an early taxi-cab with a screened off, compartment for passengers, resplendent with buttoned cloth upholstery, railway carriage-type windows with leather straps for raising and lowering them and a voice pipe for communication with the chauffeur. The driving compartment, open to the elements on both sides, was notable for the vast bulk of the transmission unit which occupied the centre of the floor area and an enormously imposing array of switches on the dashboard. As far as I can recollect the main control for the transmission unit was placed on a quadrant on the steering wheel … but the recollections of someone aged 12 at the time are obviously not all that reliable.
In the early 1950s Hedley Thomson decided to return home to New Zealand, where he later died, and sold up the contents of the house at Woodford Green, including the Pipe. This, I heard, was bought by a Canadian and was presumably shipped across the Atlantic, where for all I know it still remains, with or without the Thomas Transmission. Hopefully a Canadian reader of Motor Sport may be able to cast further light on the car’s subsequent history and, possibly, of some fascinating sales literature for the transmission, which I remember seeing in a room, adjacent to the stable where the Pipe was stored. This referred, if my memory is correct, to a successful attempt to gain the Dewar Trophy with the Thomas Transmission Delahaye.
Finally an apocryphal tale, which may or may not be true, the sort of story elderly uncles delight in telling young nephews – this I heard from Hedley Thomson: Parry Thomas, I was told, took the Delahaye to Germany around about 1912 on a demonstration run. The car was then equipped with an extraordinary horn, in the form of a set of pipes mounted in a row which could be traversed across the exhaust outlet of the Delahaye giving forth a very loud yet pleasing sequence of notes. The story has it that Thomas was driving down the Unter den Linden in Berlin when, for some reason or other, he blew his horn. The results were amazing … all traffic immediately screeched to a halt, hordes of army officers snapped to attention and saluted, Policemen stiffened into icy rigidity … the Unter den Linden literally froze, all except for Parry Thomas who sailed serenely on until eventually stopped by an apoplectic police official. It appeared that the only cars permitted to use such a horn in Imperial Germany were those of the Kaiser himself and that he was to remove his immediately. No doubt he did. But, as far as I know, there was thereafter no continued German interest in the Thomas Transmission.
Milton Keynes. Ian Thomson
May I have space to thank Mr. R. H. Beauchamp for his articles on T & T’s. This was some of the most absorbing and exciting material I have ever read in Motor Sport.
On the morning of Christmas Day, 1925, when I was 19, my father and I went to Malcolm Campbell’s showroom in Knightsbridge. In the window was the 350 h.p. Sunbeam which at that time held the LSR at 150 m.p.h. Much to our surprise the shop was open, and in sole charge was a very nice young man who seemed lonely and glad to have someone to talk to. He willingly showed us over the car, and then said, “Downstairs in the cellar we have something that is going to do 180 m.p.h. Come and see.”
Set up on blocks in the cellar was a pair of enormous frame members, without axles, or anything else, except a Napier Lion engine mounted slightly forward of amidships.
I believe the car was in its original form when it took the record at 174 m.p.h. Reporting this event in the issue of March 1927, Motor Sport commented: “We feel sure that Capt. Campbell will not rest on his laurels until he has attained the self-appointed goal of 180 m.p.h.”
I assume from Mr. Beauchamp’s first article that the frame members I saw remained in service until the arrival of the Rolls-Royce “R” engine in 1932.
Banwell. W. A. Taylor
I was most interested in the letter from J. C. Northals Altes regarding the comments about the possible engines in Chitty III arising from my letter.
It is probable that your own comment is more accurate and I enclose a print of the offside of the engine lent to me by Bill Selby who took the photo when he was with me for some years in the 1930s and who looked after the car, amongst others, for me and remembers it well.
The photo confirms the skew-drive o.h.c., and shows the large magneto mounted at right angles at the front of the engine; this meg. supplied two distributors for the twin plugs in each cylinder.
There were two valves per cylinder, and the engine was in very good condition, smooth, quiet and powerful, b.h.p. unknown but, as R-R is wont to say – adequate!
I always thought it was a Maybach, but as you and your correspondent believe it was evidently a Mercedes aero-engine.
Hindhead. Clive Windsor-Richards
A Vale Special
I recently bought a 1935 Vale Special (advertised in Motor Sport) which although obviously not “vintage” within the meaning of the Act is certainly so in spirit!
Unfortunately, the windscreen is missing and the car is fitted with spurious P100 headlamps. Nor is there a hood, or any signs of one having ever been fitted.
I suppose that it is asking too much to hope that anyone has a Vale Special Catalogue or a large clear photograph of the car’s original appearance?
Any such would be very helpful to me. Incidentally, I wonder how many Vales still exist? Apparently only 103 cars were made, two of which were out and out racers. Production ceased in 1935, but my car, Chassis No. 335, was not registered (RN 2919) until November of that year.
No doubt someone, somewhere, knows the whole story!
Leicester. G. B. Woolley
Around the end of September last, a customer when calling at Vintage Tyre Supplies, Neasden, produced a photograph of that boat-tailed rarity, the Vauxhall Hurlingham. Until this, it was believed that only three models existed in this country: (1) DR 9000, dark green, in recent years based in the Chichester area; (2) 9907 AP, chocolate brown, based at Ditchling near Brighton; (3) My Own, MV 734o, aluminium, based at Chiswick.
So that the car which has now come to light can be recorded on the Vauxhall Register, I would be glad if someone could give me any information as to its whereabouts.
London, W4. Stanley Irving
(Letters will be forwarded. – Ed.)
I notice with some surprise that no-one came forward in November with an answer to your “Historical Conundrum” on page 1436 of the October issue, in which it was suggested that Parry Thomas may have been the first to use a single-plate clutch.
De Dion Houton cars from 1905 onwards, the models not fitted with the expanding-clutch gears, had single-plate clutches. A drawing showing that the principle was substantially the same as in a modern clutch will be found in Mecredy’s “De Dion Bouton Motor Carriages” or its Autopress Ltd. reprint.
Tranmere, S. Australia. G. H. Brooks
I was very interested in the enquiry for coachwork construction details of the 1927 Talbot 14/45 six-light saloon. I well remember the coachwork construction. Except in the case of the bonnet, the fabric covering was not stuck on to metal panels as one might imagine. The wood framework was a very clever design by Weyrnann with insulated joints to prevent creaks which were such a problem at that time especially on the medium-priced cars of the day. The wood joints of the Talbot body were attached by very strong steel brackets resulting in a very rigid structure for this type of coachwork. The wood frame was then covered in chicken wire, tightly stretched, and reinforced with perforated zinc sheet on some of the curves to maintain the required shape. Next, a quite thick layer of cotton-wool quilting was applied and finally the exterior material was tightly stretched over and secured with tacks disguised by fabric-covered beading. The exterior material was a type of Rexine with a glossy surface but had very little “give” by comparison with modern plastic-based trim materials. The result was a considerable saving in weight over conventional coachbuilt bodies giving improved performance and possibly better sound insulation. However, the snag was that damp usually found its way through the exterior fabric, the surface of which all too readily cracked, and serious rot set in amongst the material and timber frame.
My late father, Frederick Wilcock, was closely connected with the management of Clement-Talbot and his partner in his accountancy practice, James Todd, was the Chairman. F. W. ran Talbot cars of every type for 15 years until Rootes took over in 1935 although it is only fair to say that they were second-string to his 4½, Speed Six and 8-litre Bentleys. I have always been particularly fond of the 14/45 Talbot, probably because we had so many at home when I was a boy. By the way, although Georges Roesch was a close personal friend of the family, they never seemed to be called “Roesch” Talbots in those days, this must have come about with the passing of time.
The 1927 model referred to by your correspondent would be an “AD” series and these did give a great deal of trouble, I think Roesch was persuaded to put it into production before it was developed. The biggest snag was overheating and I remember my father telling me that the queue outside the Service Dept. on a Monday morning would stretch right up Barlby Road! By 1929, modifications including cooling fan blades fitted to the flywheel, sprung steering wheel, larger brake drums, more powerful Rotax Dynamotor and modified pistons. The pistons were a two part design consisting of aluminium crowns with cast iron skirts and were not too successful. It was not unknown for the piston to fracture and break up and very frequently the gudgeon pin would come adrift from the clamp bolt in the small end. The result would be a neat pair of tramlines up the cylinder bore usually requiring a sleeve to be fitted. By 1929, Roesch had realised this was due to the slender gudgeon pin and increased the diameter from, I think, 14 mm. to 16 mm.
The 14/45 was somewhat unusual in that the Smith’s 5 jet carburetter was situated at the front of the engine and whilst it kept the front cylinders well supplied, the rear ones were not so fortunate at least in theory. On one occasion I asked Roesch why he had chosen this unusual arrangement and he replied “your father would not sanction the money to put it anywhere else!”
Jersey, CI. F. M. Wilcock
Director, Jersey Motor Museum