VSCC Brooklands

The Hill is alive!

For or its February driving-tests the Vintage Sports-Car Club went to the Museum site at Brooklands, commencing proceedings with ascents of the 80-year-old Test Hill, which has been recently restored almost to its former glory. At the very summit, on the 1-in-4 gradient, there was a stop-and-restart, in the interests of safety, in case cars leapt too high in the air — how safe can you get?

The vintage cars were in fine fettle, and while I was watching the only ones to falter were de la Willis’ 1924 short-chassis Jowett two-seater, which stopped because the wrong cog was engaged at the start but then climbed well, and Stuart Bennett’s smoky 1922 Talbot 8/18 coupe, which needed human assistance at the re-start. Incidentally, this Talbot and Pritchard’s slightly later but identical two-seater were declared to have different-size engines — one larger and one smaller than history has taught us was Coatalen’s intention …

The oldest car competing (Roger Collings having elected to drive his 1912 Brixia-Zust instead of the Mercedes) was Dowell’s little 1911 Renault,complete with Lucas Landalite headlamps and exhaust-whistle. On the Test Hill the Zust was slow but sure, while Rawlings’ muddy 14/45 Roesch Talbot tourer got up but found its clutch badly adjusted for the re-start; Mazzotti’s lofty 4.2-litre Benz went well, Dawes’ smart Riley Monaco fabric saloon made it safely, and Rouse’s big Alvis saloon showed contempt for the hill. Cornelius’ Singer Porlock was easily seen, but slower than Rosomon’s game A7 saloon, and Livesey’s and Ives’ Chummy A7s were both very presentable, even stretching to bagged hoods. The equally-smart 1925 Amilcar performed well for Isobel Willis after a push-start.

Malyan’s ioe ON crawled up the steeper bit, whereas Tony Jones’ Cup Model A7 showed traces of wheel spin at the start and went up quite quickly. Splendid chirps and chatterings indicated the clutch withdrawal on Barry Clarke’s fast Ruby-GN, Still’s Frazer Nash went up well after a flooding front carburettor had been attended to, Mark Garfitt changed-up early on his Frazer Nash-BMW, and so it went on, Brooklands alive again to the right sights and sounds.

This being Weybridge, the ten driving tests were appropriately named Joyce’s Jolly, Cobb’s Corner, Purdy’s Parking, Mays’ Maze, Bira’s Bends, Dunfee’s Deviations, Tim’s Turns and Zborowski’s Zig-Zags; two more involved drivers endeavouring to avoid contact with an electric cable which would light lamps to give them penalty points, feats which passeth understanding!

I have said before, and will repeat, that you cannot adequately report Driving Tests, especially if you do not enter for them to make a fool of oneself, but it was great fun. The Museum was open at £2 a head, but the onlookers’ cars were an entertainment in themselves — modern saloons looking more mundane than ever in such company.

Elgood’s old Brooklands Bentley, a GN in full hood-up touring rig, an impressive disc-wheeled P1 Rolls-Royce tourer, a Hyper Lea’ Francis, a vast Austin Six with flowers vased in its spacious parlour, three non-competing 30/98s, Aston-Martins ancient and modern, a big Roach Talbot drop-head, a Delage two-seater “La Campanale”, another 14/40 Delage, an early Lancia Lambda tourer, that Chenard-Walcker, plus Singer, Lagonda, Alvises and MGs of various kinds — the list of cars parked by the historic Brooklands tuning-sheds could be almost endless.

An entry of 70 was divided into three classes, with light-car and saloon sub divisions in Class One. In Test Three drivers cavorted about the Members’ Banking, in the lee of the new Members’ Bridge. It is good to see the bridge back but, alas, these days it doesn’t go anywhere!