The Junior Car Club used to open the Brooklands season with driving tests there early in the year and in recent times the Vintage Sports Car Club has followed suit at the famous venue — the difference being, alas, that there is now no racing to follow. Nevertheless, it was nice to spend an almost Spring-like day there in the sunshine on January 31st, after the winter snows. There is so much space within the historic estate, which still retains a modicum of its old magic.
Perhaps it was this, as well as the prevailing enthusiasm for vintage cars, that brought 80 competitors to contest the eight VSCC tests. One of these consisted of ascents of the 74-vear-old Test Hill, with a roll-back and re-start near the foot of the 1 in 5 / 1 in 4 gradient. (The JCC used to make cars go down the hill, for a brake-test, but in those days there was the length of the Finishing-straight to receive any who were unable to anchor…)
In the VSCC Test Hill Test Joy Rain, in the bulbous 8C Alfa Romeo and Burrell in the 4¼-litre Bentley Special were firm contenders for f.t.d., Roger Collings made a thunderous ascent in his 1903 Sixty Mercedes, stripped for racing, and most of the drivers were very competent. Britnell’s De Dion Bunton and l’Anson’s 9/20 Humber, however, both stopped about ¼ of the way up, and the courageous Hickling in the Metz 25 delighted the onlookers by making what must have been the most pedestrian ascent ever, his old motor-car just crawling up. It is not easy to drive, for the “clutch” pedal has to be pushed down for take-off, apart from its other idiosyncrasies we have told you about previously. It used tithe said of the Trojan that it was cheaper than walking: you could say of this 1914 Metz that it is slower than walking, at least up I in 4 hills! But it succeeded and its driver got out and bowed to those below, to endorse it…
To describe all eighty ascents would be tedious, so let on just record that Geggus was having stalling-fits in the Amilcar, Briscoe was changing up and down and up again inns attempt to keep the transmission chains of his GN-Ford intact, but some, She Gardner in his replica C-type MG Midget, Hescroff in a 16/90 AC, and Derrick Edwards in Aston Martin LM21, showed distinct one-upmanship, by changing up after the restart. Some stalled the machinery while rolling backwards, this being a compulsory manoeuvre before the restart, like Wilson in the big Type 49 Bugatti saloon and Malyan in the 328 Frazer Nash BMW.
Stretton must have displeased the RAC by failing to apply the brakes in his Super Sports Frazer Nash at the summit, and Cox’s FWD Alvis and Winn in an Alvis Firefly didn’t like the re-start. Howard seemed to be in the wrong gear in his 12/50 Alvis and was slow in consequence. Otherwise, nothing to report, for mostly the performances were highly competent.
The Paddock was nothing like as congested as on Re-Union days. but was as interesting as ever, two low-chassis 4½-litre Invictas and a Morris Minor pick-up truck being particularly noted, while Ellison’s trials type 1½-litre Riley on a Mercedes-Benz 190 chassis, and Lupton’s smartly-bodied 1938 1.6-litre Lea-Francis Super Sports were interesting competing cars.
Test 5 was one of four tests taking place on the Members’ Banking. It involved something of a feat of mem, as well as considerable driving skill, for the test-path involved one rearward and two forward lunges up the moss-covered banking with loops around bollards, placed on the gravel-covered, flat, inner-track, thrown in.
We only saw about half the entry attempt this test, but it was noticeable that one in three failed to take the correct route around the bollards, and nearly half the competitors suffered chronic understeer when trying to loop one particular marker placed purposefully close to the finish line. Grip was lacking in some cases, Burrell’s 4, Bentley Special on its Dunlop Racing rubber failing to climb the banking until its third attempt (that he was trying to reverse up the banking when he should have been going forward is beside the point). Malyan, on the other hand, took advantage of the grip of his Frazer Nash BMW to climb yards further than necessary. Small cars were at a distinct advantage; the Marsh brothers being particularly impressive in their Austin Chummy. No drama, no wheelspin, no sliding, but times good enough to give them both first-class awards. Briscoe had trouble with a slipping chain, chronic understeer, necessitating use of reverse, made things worse, and a stalled engine combined with lack of a starter-motor led to the GN-Ford’s steam-shrouded retirement. Hickling’s spindly, but fascinating, Metz made a valiant attempt at the banking, but the friction drive was not up to the task. Collings, on the 60 Mercedes, was extremely neat, his time in the oldest car competing putting many younger vehicles to shame. Mazzotti’s Benz of 1923 must have been the biggest car taking part — a credit to its driver that he only had to have two attempts to get round the tight bollard. Mrs. Cherrett amused the crowd by nudging the start line marker with her delightful Alfa Romeo saloon, upsetting the bollard and the start marshal’s liquid refreshment which had been resting unit. Cox just managed to scrabble up the banking in his FWD Alvis, front wheels spinning madly. Conway, accompanied by superb Bugatti noises was neat and very last, in the Type 43. Gardner’s diminutive MG was also neat, but was caught by the tight turn round the bollard. — W.B.