The February (VSCC) Brooklands Meeting

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With their customary capability the VSCC use Brooklands for their post-Christmas driving tests, a convenient and historic venue, even if a bit bleak so early in the year – in the old days it was then still usually under repair and did not open until March. This VSCC fixture is now a regular one, so it can be referred to as the February Brooklands Meeting, just as in the past we had the Easter, Summer and August Meetings, etc.

This year’s February Meeting brought in more than 70 entries, in three classes, if you include a few cars which appeared twice, in the hands of different drivers. Apart from the welcome regular entrants who lined up for the nine tests, there were other interesting runners which caught the eye, especially Blake’s delightful 1922 Amilcar C4, typical of the delicate small French touring cars of the period and original even to its centrally pivoted windscreen. Then there were Creed-Mills’ smart 1923 HE 14/40 cloverleaf, Watson’s solid 1926 Armstrong Siddeley 14 drop-head, top folded, and Hinds’ big 1936 Alvis Silver Eagle saloon, with sun-roof ajar. Howell had his rare Fiat 519 with fabric saloon body and those enormous brake drums out again. Ghosh pointed out that his ex-Alan May 30/98 Royce-Vauxhall was back at Brooklands for the first time since before the war, and Goodman had run up from Kent in his 1913 Napier 30/35 tourer, bringing Douglas Tubbs with him. To digress, Tubbs tells me that, anent my review last month of his new book “Art and the Automobile”, we were both wrong – Octave Mirbeau didn’t drive an II c.v. Renault on the pre-1914 Bonnard-tour, as the book states, although he did also use one, and I was wrong in following the TV programme and saying he did the tour in a Charron; the car he used was actually a CGV and the TV people employed Brian Goodman’s car of this make, for which he built the replica Roi-des-Belges body himself, from 1904 coachbuilders’ drawings. It was filmed near Reigate, not at Beaulieu, as I thought … Admittedly, Charron and C.G.V. are closely associated.

To return to Brooklands and the tests, a stop-and-restart up the famous Test Hill defeated the Amilcar C4 but it managed later by omitting the restart. The Fiat saloon displayed wheelspin and surprisingly good torque, and Roger Collings, wearing his appropriate leather motoring coat which is only nine years younger than his 1903 Sixty Mercedes, made light of the gradient. A garaging frolic followed, in which the Napier unfortunately folded a wheel under itself – fortunately, there were no competing Rolls-Royces to gloat over its misfortune. Moving on to watch the manoeuvres on the Members’ banking, these were seen to be so complicated, including reversing up the bank, that many competitors lost their way. Robbie Hewitt, driving bare-footed in her Amilcar CGSS, got it right but Judy Hogg (Aston Martin Ulster) asked “Have I gone wrong?” and Charmian Skinner, having charmed Barry Clarke’s 1913 Singer up the Test Hill, called out “Was that right?” as she brought it off the banking. She was, Judy wasn’t, if you follow….

Here the HE, screen flat, grated its gears, Dowell’s overpowering Sunbeam Long-25 with replica sports coachwork, killed a marker, and Conway, Junr., in the GP Bugatti, stopped to read the instructions, a pity, as he used opposite-lock elsewhere. (Someone remarked, seeing the Bugatti radiator, that an upside-down horseshoe is unlucky.) Howell, his Fiat groaning to itself, also stopped to “read the route”, and the Armstrong Siddeley, gears whining in reverse, gave up. In contrast, Tony Jones was notably neat in his Chummy Austin, and very good performances were put up by Newton’s Chummy Austin, the Singer, Bateman’s J2 MG, and Charnock’s 3½-litre Bentley fast-tourer which swished through quietly it has a fold-flat screen to prove it’s a sports car. Bull’s PA MG took it fast, Collis took his Speed 20 Alvis high up the banking before losing his way, the engine steaming in protest, the Swift Ten had it all sewn up, Elder’s 3-litre Bentley two-seater was very quick, and Gardner’s J2 MG did it well. Mrs. Ashton was in trouble in the 12/12 Replica MG Midget, being on three cylinders due to an oiled-up plug and she was also unable to select reverse. Hall’s 4½-litre vintage Bentley thundered about, Joseland’s Frazer Nash Fast Tourer and Murch’s Alvis Speed 20 were both excellent, but Hescroff’s AC 16/90 took it slowly. Still used his Frazer Nash TT Replica (not that sort of replica) effectively. It seemed, however, rather pathetic for mere driving-tests to be taking place on the once-noble banking. … All credit, though, to the Brooklands Society for having cleaned it up so well. Brooklands is a good venue, with so much space for all the cars, and we wonder if it will fill up again as effectively for the Re-Union on June 24th? On February 4th there was a great assembly of onlookers’ motors, among them a 12/24 De Dion Bouton, a 1904 Swift, and the Wolseley Moth I. – W. B.