The VSCC at Brooklands

Brooklands was the surprisingly sunny and warm venue for the February Driving Test meeting of the Vintage SCC, by courtesy of British Aerospace.  This fixture can be said to follow motor sporting tradition, in as much as long before the war the Junior Car Club, now the present-day BARC, held a similar meeting at the track, although in March.  That for 1932, for example, had more than 100 entries, but this year’s VSCC equivalent frolics did not lag far behind, with 64 pre-1940 cars enetered, the runs increased to 80 as some of these were each manipulated by two drivers.

The VSCC had devised six testing tests, which were conducted on parts of the hallowed Surrey ground that included the Campbell Circuit Members’ Hill Section, the Members’ Banking, and the Test Hill.  It wasn’t possible to have a timed half-mile, as it had been at the 1932 JCC meeting for example, and it might have been fun if there had been emulation of the quick-starting Test used by the JCC.  But it was great fun, as normal, and a fine social occasion, with the Paddock well-filled with visitors’ cars, including the one-owner Sunbeam Twenty All-weather brought by Anthony Heal, a car purchased new by his father and recently restored by his son.  Beside the old Campbell Circuit straight there was a gathering that might have been the inaugural assembly of the “12-cylinder Club”, because a modern Daimler “Double Six”, a fine open drophead Lagonda V12 (with two Tapley meters on the fascia) and Joy Rainey’s V12 Jaguar coupe were parked side-by-side.  And, as a reminder tha variety is one of the rich spices of old-car life, a veteran vis-a-vis De Dion Bouton was pottering by, as if just released from one of those “Old Crocks” races (hastily changed to Veteran Car Handicaps after the VCC of GB had been formed) that the Brooklands ARC used to run on the Mountain Circuit.

Coming to the competing cars there were no Edwardians entered but Michael Crouch’s light blue 1921 Swift Ten tw-seater is virtually a 1914 design.  Among the bevy of inevitable Austins, of which Barry Clarke had broken a halfshaft on his and was hammering in the offending component in time honoured manner, was an Austin 12/4 All-weather, conducted by J.W. Blizzard and Kelvin Price, and Mike Bullett had his Austin 7 Burghley out again.  R.V. Watson was seated in lofty isolation in his 1926 1.8-litre Armstrong Siddeley with scuttle-mounted fuel gauge to remind him of its petrol thirst and it was nice to see a Lancia Augusta saloon performing in the hands of John Millham, a car much-respected at pre-war meetings of this kind.

Malcolm Ryley was in his 1928 Aero Morgan three-wheeler, J. gray in a 1934 Singer Le Mans, and F. Bruce-White had had the bad luck to clobber the rear-end of his 1929 M-type MG Midget on the test hill – where from a standing-start the intrepid drivers had to stop soon afterwards, roll back, and re-start, to a “stop-astride” finish – which Robbie Hewitt in her ever-smart 1928 Amilcar CGSS failed to do.  It is often the cars one would have liked to see that are posted as non-starters, in this case an SA Alvis Speed 20, Joseland’s well-known Frazer Nash Fast Tourer, a Wolsley Hornet Special and Briscoe’s 1922/29 GN Special with Ford-B power unit.  Yet variety persisted, with the Threlfalls, Di and Tom, driving their V-twin, air-cooled Type TB10 BSA light-car, Creed-Miles his cloverleaf-bodied 1923 14/40 HE, P.M. Adorian the rare disc-wheeled Type VF 1922 Berliet, while there were many MGs of various types present, and bob Burrell really had his 1936 4 1/2-litre Bentley Special tearing out its rubber in the pylon encircling manoeuvres.

The banking, where two of the tests were being conducted, was very slippery, despite the lovely sunny weather, and there were spectacular power slides to be seen from more sporting machinery such as Derrick Edwards’ and Nick Mason’s Ulster Aston Martins, Michael Dods’ AC Special, Nick Lees’ Riley Special and Tim Llewellyn’s 4 1/2-litre Bentley.

The last test involved a rather tight turn around a bollard in a narrow part of the track, and it was interesting to see the difference in techniques employed – Stanley Mann tried power with his 3-litre Betley, but changed his mind after spraying the spectators with the tiny gravel chips which cover the concrete surface and employed his handbrake to good effect.  The small cars, for the most part, simply drove round on full lock, but one or two found themselves understeering off towards the steep grass verge – Martin Eyre being one such, while Charles Leith, with whom he was sharing his Ulster Austin, was taking things rather more sedately and steered round the bollard with plenty of room to spare.  sadly, John Howell had retired his enormous 1924 519 Fiat limousine from the competition by this stage, for it would have been instructive to observe his handling of this test in this huge, and very unlikely but regular driving test car.  Tony Jones was the only 30/98 Vauxhall exponent to enter one of these fine cars, but D. Combe had a 14/40 example.

We were saddened to see that honesty about classification of cars within the VSCC is not what it might be: some members are over careful about describing their cars – for instance, it was surprising to see Hugh Conway’s immaculate ex-Bergel Type 35 Bugatti running in the Modified and Special class, but presumably Hugh knows something about the car that we don’t, while on the other hand, there were certain cars running in the Standard class which appeared to have such obvious non-standard features as small diameter/large section tyres.  Perhaps the rules have changed to allow such blatant modifications as “Standard”. – W.B.