The VSCC goes to Thorpe Park

The disastrous fire at the British Aerospace hangar at Brooklands last January having made it imperative to find another site for the February VSCC Driving Tests, these were transferred to the spacious car-parks of Thorpe Park, at near-by Chertsey. Tony Jones had had this in mind for some time, as a possible alternative to Brooklands, and the owners proved most co-operative over the last-minute change of venue. Personally, I think it was believed that the nude female-statuary at the park might be an antidote to the loss of the bankings of old Brooklands . . . The fact remains that, on this wet winter Sunday, that is where a big entry of pre-war cars gyrated round markers and performed other un-roadly evolutions against the stop-watch, and to where no doubt many members will return for a future visit. The place contains many replica (D.S.J. would say fake) WWI aeroplanes, etc.

The competing cars on February 3rd were mostly familiar to regular attenders at VSCC events. Some came on trailers, from a somewhat non-original looking Ulster Austin to the Threlfall vee-twin BSA. There was a good selection of Chummy Austins, including Neill Bruce’s original 1930 specimen, which had its hood up and all its side-curtains erect, Patrick Marsh’s example which scorned weather protection and lifted its inner back wheels as he coaxed it quickly round the turns, Cooper’s Chummy that had its sidescreens up in typical disarray, and the “racing” Chummy shared by its owner Adnams and Ian Taylor.

Lake’s 1934/5 N-type MG Magnette was all-alloy, mudguards as well as body, a ploy shared by the earlier Frazer Nashes. The latter make was out in such force as to have a class to itself, the aftermath of the unveiling of the “Archie” Frazer-Nash commemorative plaque in Kingston-on-Thames the day before, a ceremony that culminated, I gather, in some memorable parties. However, the hang-overs had dispersed sufficiently for the more ambitious members of the “Chain Gang” to do some spectacular hand-brake turns during the tests, in spite of the Thorpe Park tarmac being too adhesive for the full exploitation of such driving skill. Those who pulled it off included Pugh in his 1928 Super Sports Frazer Nash, although he lost time by not having the first-speed dog in engagement when the flag fell at the start of Test One. Still, who got his 1937 TT Replica (not that sort of replica, I hasten to add) sliding splendidly, and Hopkins, who did likewise, on a very good run indeed, in his 1935 TT Replica. In contrast, Joseland had to reverse at one of the hazards in his 1926 Fast Tourer Frazer Nash, from the radiator overflow pipe of which warm water-vapour was now beginning to issue, but the aroma of burnt castor-oil from Tony Jones’ “Patience” was enjoyed, and this ‘Nash seemed to lean its front wheels over under stress as if its one-time independent front suspension had never been removed . . . Newton was neatness personified in his 1932 Frazer Nash Exeter, but Stirling in the 1933 Nurburg Frazer Nash suffered from a restricted steering lock in Test One, which caused a diversion from the required route of swervery. David Thirlby also got lost, driving his 1927 Boulogne Frazer Nash, as we realised when he flung both arms aloft and later raised his hat!

Robbie Hewitt, driving bare-footed in her handsome 1928 Amilcar CGSS, likewise got lost and gave up when she couldn’t see through a wet windscreen and the engine was boiling. A Riley Special was laying a smoke-screen from its external exhaust, Rouse was doing the tests in dignity from within his smart 1933 Alvis Speed-20 saloon, but Howell seemed to have vision-problems from inside the vast expanse of his 1925 Fiat Tipo-519 saloon, not helped by its big turning-circle. We noticed a big AA badge on Hamilton-Gould’s 1920 Type-A Citroën tourer, and a child’s seat in the back of Hare’s 1925 Frazer Nash Fast Tourer which suggests that someone is being properly brought up! There were two Edwardian runners, Collings’ big 25/35 h.p. Zust tourer and Barry Clarke’s little Singer Ten that needed a push-start and later some oil. When it came to too little steering lock for even the generous area of the Test One tarmac, Dowell had to reverse twice in his 1928 Sunbeam Long-25, and Batho in an Ulster Austin 7 took it slowly. The front-wheel angles of Cox’s noisy FWD Alvis had to be seen to be believed, Twyman’s 1928 4½-litre Bentley understeered noticably, and a truly spectacular run was performed by Stanley Mann’s very quick 1925 3-litre Bentley, including an excursion onto the grass. Binns went well in his HRG, a 1939 “1100”, but just couldn’t really make the back wheels breakaway, as did Dr. Andrews in his 1930 Riley Nine tourer. There were also three 1932 Riley Gamecocks entered, and Costigan and his wife drove an original-looking Ulster Austin 7 with appropriate Brooklands exhaust-system. King’s Talbot 105 was another that needed too much space when turning, Edwards was as fast as expected in the well-known 1935 Ulster Aston Martin, Bateman drove neatly in his J2 MG, and Baughan was informed of his times by his young son, as his 1935 NA MG Magnette completed its runs. Green’s ND MG spun its wheels, Taylor, kangaroo-ing off in Adnam’s Chummy Austin, was very exciting, and was yanking on the handbrake for the “astride-line” stop, Creed-Miles’ HE was wearing its radiator muff, as was Marsh’s Chummy Austin, Elder’s 1926 TE Alvis 12/50 was admired, its hood erect, and it was interesting to see Mazzotti’s 1923 Type DS 16/50 h.p. side-valve Benz in action, even if it did have to reverse twice in Test One. — W.B.