On January 30th, just before the snow came, some of the more active, and hardy, members of the VSCC assembled at Brooklands for driving-tests. It was rather early in the year to be at the old Track, even for these frolics, although the late, lamented JCC (now the modern BARC) used to open the season thus, in those Februaries before the war. That the VSCC had 95 drivers, some sharing cars anxious to compete, indicates that the sporting spirit is as strong as ever, although, in fact, 130 cars were entered for the JCC Brooklands event of 47 years ago.
This year, starting at 1.15 p.m., there were eight tests to be tackled, laid out by Grant Peterkin and Jim Whyman. It being impossible to be everywhere at once in the generous expanse of the “Forty Acres” where the event was held, I watched at first the ascents of the Test Hill, a frolic in true Brooklands tradition. Most of the entry had to stop at a line a short way up, roll back, and restart, although the older cars, like Collings’ 1903 Mercedes 60 which roared up, were excused the restart.
Rouse’s 1933 SA Alvis Speed-20 saloon suffered from clutch slip and failed to complete the ascent, but Brettall’s Frazer Nash Falcon ascended fast, Sturgess’ 1927 Austin 7 Chummy had no trouble, Booty’s 1928 Brooklands-model Riley 9, stripped for racing, stopped at the restart line with squeaky brakes and seemed to lack revs, climbing slowly, whereas Cann’s 15/95 h.p. Aston Martin had no difficulty. Lock’s 1927 Austin Chummy took it gently, Foster’s Montlhéry MG Midget being impressive in contrast, revving strongly, with a raucous exhaust-note, and Gardner’s J2 MG made a fine climb.
There were some “new” old cars to enliven proceedings. For instance, Gilbert-Smith had brought his 1927 Type Z2, Chenard et Walcker 1.3-litre tourer, which stopped well over the line but afterwards managed to just get up the 1 in 4 / 1 in 5 hill. Another newcomer was Barry Clarke’s 1920 Lemaitre et Garard, a 750 c.c. French sports-car with staggered seats, said to be original apart from windscreen, lamps and metal-covered instead of fabric body. The engine has a fixed-head, valves under valve-caps along the off-side, and a magneto ahead of it, its origin thought to be Benjamin. It has a neat little chassis with half-elliptic springs front and back. All very interesting, but with a top speed of 39 m.p.h., according to Barry, it had arrived on a trailer and refused to look more than a few yards of the Test Hill. Mrs. Skinner had her 1922 GN Legere out for the first time and must have been pleased that, once on its own wheels, it made light work of restart and ascent.
Smith stopped too soon in his 1928 Austin 7 but was OK, likewise Johns’ smoking 1930 Austin 7, while Tony Jones leapt away in his Chummy. Tom Threlfall was notably skilful, clearly knowing his BSA like ABC, Batchelor’s 1925 Morris-Cowley, radiator rugged up, was quick to restart. Riddle’s yellow.and-black 1924 Morris-Cowley two-seater was excellent, Pat March adopted kangaroo tactics in his 1925 Chummy, Hugh Conway drove very neatly in his road-equipped Type 35 Bugatti, Russell’s 1930 Austin Twenty-Six saloon treated all the nonsense with disdain, sucking at its carburetter, but Lincoln’s OM failed near the sumnut, and then just got up. Mrs. Threltall was persuaded on foot by an athletic husband, Mrs. Shapland in her 10/23 Talbot made it look like a shopping-trip, Rawlings showed that a Talbot 14/15 can rev., on a good run, both Nick Mason and then Derek Edwards, in the Ulster Aston Martin, made it look like a speed hill-climb, Nick braking so hard at the restart line that the radiator shed coolant, Mrs. Cherrett’s 6C Alfa Romeo saloon and Summerfield’s 3-litre Bentley six-light saloon made it look simple, and Ernst actually changed-up, in his KN MG Magnette. Blake’s Boulogne took it as a Frazer Nash should, Bull was neat in his J2 MG, Barwell’s 30/98 Vauxhall was fast and fierce, even apparent fuel starvation half way up being disregarded, and the Metz stopped with its front wheels over the top of the hill — bad luck indeed. Some cars were sent back down the Test Hill, shades of the JCC again, who staged brake-tests that way! I was then given a lift to the Members’ banking in Colling’s Mercedes.
Here cars were going higher up the banking that I had seen them for a long time — well, since the Brooklands Re-Union anyway — but vertically, as necessitated by the tests. The mossy surface was death to those with rear-wheel brakes, the BSA and GN included. — W.B.
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