Damply to Exeter

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The Motor Cycling Club (MCC) held its 68th Exeter Trial on January 5-6 last; the event attracted a full house of 220 cars plus 100 motorbikes. The preferred four-wheeled transport seemed to be the rear-drive Ford Escort, the larger-engined VW Beetle, the Skoda, and coming up the chart at number Four — the vintage Austin Seven; there were a dozen of those in the programme, of which four won Gold awards. They were driven by Jeremy Flann, Dave Basham, Pete Treliving, and Barry Clarke. The mechanical members of the mid-1930s MG PA/PB Cream Cracker team were also taking part, though the original drivers were expectedly unavailable. The team was led by Ian Williamson, who won a Gold. Robin HarcourtSmith’s vintage six-cylinder Alvis was climbing well, bounced by James Diffey in its dickey seat, who had found an early edition of The Times at Exeter services; the papier became macho as the day wore on.

Rain later was the forecast, and it was right; there was wind, too. Tabloid papers became more suitable for the open cars, and then even they had to be abandoned. Of the later-built cars the Marlin seemed to be as popular as any, with 20 of the marque running; Harvey Harrison’s won him a Gold with its 1993cc Ford engine. The others mostly had Marina (MGB?) motors, which are a mite heavy by current standards. The Citroen 2CV has been a popular MCC mount on occasion, but this year there were only a couple entered, of which Martin Hounsell’s brought home a Silver after stopping on Waterloo. The best front-drive competitor was David Haizelden in his VW Golf, which climbed everything except Simms. Neil Bray did well to get his Skoda up that particular hill, since much power is needed — not a known Skoda feature until the car grows up and becomes a Tatra.

The results revealed that a quarter of the entry had won Gold awards — quite a high proportion for the Exeter. Derek and Simon Pearce won the pre-war class in their 1708cc TA MG — another ex-works team car. There was a post-event celebration in Torquay, but insufficient information had come in by then for accurate results. The consensus was that it had been a better-than average MCC event, and that the rain had made some hills easier by washing the mud off them; or perhaps not, as the case may be. T J T