My light vintage frolics

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The light car & Edwardian section of the VSCC celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, which is a good excuse to recall its first event. The thing was my idea, and the reason for my affinity with the smaller pre-1931 cars was a miserly one. Not only were they cheaper than a 12/50 Alvis or Lea-Francis, but I had the quite erroneous theory that light cars, however aged, would be less worn out than sportscars, because they were likely to have been driven less abruptly.

How wrong I was! My first, a 1922 air-cooled flat-twin ABC, lasted three days before it shed a conrod; in my dreams I still see the smoking big-end rollers escaping down Stokenchurch hill. The next, a 1924 ohc Rhode, had bent nails instead of cotter-pins to retain its rockers. When one broke, the errant rocker arm hit the valve cover with aloud report, and you were on three cylinders. The VSCC had greeted my membership with the comment in its now-famous Bulletin that “comrade Boddy is amongst us with his 1,5 ABC”. As I then lived in lodgings in Tooting I thought it apt; but when years later I reminded the Bulletin editor of this phrase, he denied having written it Anyway, the LC&E Section was started, a light car regarded as anything under 1500cc and developing less than about 30bhp — definitely not sportscars.

The first meeting was held at Adstock, Bucks, on 14 April 1951, based at the Folly Inn. However, before that, the Lagonda Club had invited its 11.9s to an assembly at Thame, which gave rise in the pages of Motor Sport to the couplet: They were joined by a Bayliss Thomas, an 8/18 Talbot and a Trojan, and the VSCC Light car ‘Folly’ was on. The first Hon Sec was Arthur Jeddere-Fisher, androhn Wrigley and Hamish Moffatt were on the committee under my chairmanship.

As Arthur had an E-type 30/98, his enthusiasm was impartial, and he and his wife Marcia could take part also in their 1913 Lancia Theta cabriolet. Wrigley was a Morris Minor man, but had also an 8/18 Talbot which, one tried not to notice, had been provided with a Ford back axle to obviate the rapid demise of its beaded-edge tyres, caused by lack of a differential. As Hamish had driven from London to Cape Town in an 11.9 Lagonda, he could have looked at our efforts with some amusement.

When the vintage light-carists met for the first time, Lt Naish, RN, had driven all the way from Portsmouth in his tiny Peugeot Quad, Meredith Owen from Birmingham in his neat ohc Wolseley Ten, and Marks had brought an immaculate AC from Worcester. The assembly also included a 1927 9/20 Humber, two more small Peugeots, a fabric saloonlowett, a Riley 9 tourer, Utley’s rare Woodrow with a water-cooled vee-twin Precision engine, a side-valve Riley, my 1926 Clyno and a 1919 Stellite. It was then off to Stowe School where Arthur had devised a number of tests, and a water splash.

Thus was born a new section of the flourishing VS CC. Down the years I have had quite a few appropriate cars: the 1922 Talbot-Darracq, two Trojans, three Gwynnes, a Morgan Family three-wheeler, the 12/20 Calthote, a Singer Junior, a Rover 8 coupe (now in the Gaydon Museum), an FN — alas, not what you may think, as it was made in Belgium — and sports, Chummy and Special A7s. Some were kept for very short periods, mostly because Jenks didn’t approve. For instance, I was driving him up Poached Egham Hill in my very original Trojan saloon, which had a lazy-tongs sunroof and was either an Apollo or an Achilles, which I could not identify until the splendid Trojan History was published.

When two cyclists overtook us, Jenks said: “Bod, you must advertise it in Exchange & Mart and get rid of it.” In fact I used The Autocar, and a man from Croydon rang. I thought it only kind to explain to him the oddities of the Trojan, but he got cross, saying he was an expert who could drive any car. He came, paid, and drove off in a thick fog, ignoring my advice to come again later. A few weeks afterwards, I got a postcard telling me of a rare kind of Trojan in a Croydon yard, which appeared to have hit a tram. Vintage light cars? Never a dull moment!