Through the London-Land’s End Trial on an Austin Seven. Including an Argument on the Value of Incessant Trials.
FROM every point of view this year’s classic trial, the London to Land’s End, so ably organized by the Motor Cycling Club, was undoubtedly one of the most successful and certainly the most popular in the history of this great event. Whatever may have been said about the lack of public interest in motor competitions, it was perfectly obvious that the last great Reliability Trial proved most conclusively that never before has the public been so keenly appreciative of the opportunity of observing the performance of the competing vehicles, handled with equal skill by experts and amateurs ; and, at the same time, reports of the trial including the various incidents occuring during the run, the minor breakdowns, the failures on hills, all go to show that the manufacturers have not yet reached the stage when their best products are beyond criticism.
One is tempted to say more about this important aspect of the trial.; for the writer, having an excellent car, a good knowledge of the course, and some experience of reliability trials, failed to obtain a premier award just on account of the very kind of defect such events are intended to reveal.
The Competitors and the S.M.M.T. Ban.
Arriving at Slough in good time to meet various old friends, whom one always encounters on these trials, we heard much discussion of the S.M.M.T. ban, and perhaps it might have been something of an education for the council had they been present to hear the views —always expressed with the greatest respect—of the trade and amateur competitors, on their action. The scene at the start was witnessed by a tremendous crowd, and the competitors were started with absolute regularity and absence of confusion. Ideal weather favoured the run, and, as usual, the journey to Taunton passed off without anything of special interest to report. The customary fog during the early stages of the trip did not make its appearance, and very few “lame ducks” were seen, only one competitor on a sidecar
being seen pushing his machine in the wrong direction, apparently having run out of juice after passing Reading. At the last named place, members of the local club turned out in force to pilot the competitors through the by-pass road to avoid passing the hospital.
One important experiment made during the trial was that of fitting an anti-glare device to the headlamp bulbs, which, known as the ” Y-Dazyl ” deflector, consists in two artfully disposed opaque discs fixed in such a way that the rays are deflected to one side of the road. Thus the glare straight ahead is diminished, without in any way cutting off the light or impairing the driver’s vision at night.
When the few oncoming cars encountered approached, the drivers seemed to be under the impression that we had dimmed our lights, for on each occasion their lights went down, though at the same time we had all the benefit of full light, without interfering with them in any way.
Remarkable Petrol Consumption.
During the first part of the trip the little Austin, which had excited much admiration owing to its smart “Gordon England” bodywork, ran just as sweetly as anyone could desire, and when replenishing the tank at the Taunton Garage, we discovered it had run the 1281 miles from Slough on exactly two gallons of petrol, which is a good average considering no effort had been made to drive economically or even to coast on the few ” coastable ” hills.
An excellent breakfast was served at Delters Café, and on re-starting from the garage of Somerset Motors, Ltd., we noticed C. H. Turner’s 348 c.c. Calthorpe abandoned in a corner, but it was impossible to stop to inquire as to the reason of his retirement.
Being mixed up with the small fry, we had no opportunity of discovering how the larger cars fared, but the covey of little Austins kept well together and were greeted in various ways by the spectators, some being amused at their minute proportions, and others astonished at their sweetness of running. On trying conclusions with the others on the few possible occasions, it was found that the Cup Model could show its rear number-plate with ease ; at least, before the plate had to be bent nearly horizontal to allow enough ground clearance over the rough roads.
The Somersetshire Hills.
Our Austin was going in such fine style that we had no misgivings about Porlock or any of the other hills between it and the end of the journey, but as a matter of fact, the little car hesitated for a fraction of a second before getting away on the stop and re-start. It quickly gathered speed, however, and approached the bend at a good “twenty,” where the corner was not taken so cleanly as we had anticipated, for the car suddenly
developed a marked affection for the stone wall on right-hand side. Indeed, it needed quite a jerk on wheel to create a skid for rounding the left-hand bend ; this struck us as curious, as hitherto the steering been remarkably light. Once over the summit of hill, however, the steering seemed to go a bit easier, and there was no trouble in checking in on time I,ynmouth, where the pause gave us a chance of the rugged cliffs and the houses amid the woods abruptly on the high rock above the little town.
At last, our turn to climb the hill arrived, and up sailed on bottom gear at a speed which made it tically certain that we should overtake the car in front. Of course, we did, when it became a question of down or else of taking a chance on the rough stones on left. Deciding to take the latter course, the little gamely responded, and in a second we had executed quick manceuvre successfully, thus avoiding the necessity of claiming a baulk.
How we Konked on the Roost.
The Austin climbed Lynmouth Hill so well that we forgot the ominous symptoms which had began on Porlock, and waited in absolute confidence in the long queue at Barbrook Mill for the signal to climb Beggar’s Roost. Eventually we were sent off, and up we went until the famous hump was practically scaled, when— horrors ! all the horses seemed to escape out of the exhaust pipe. We “bumped,” we cussed, we trod on everything, but nothing happened, and the machinery under the bonnet ceased to go round. We had” konked” utterly, lamentably and irrevocably ” konked,” until someone gave the handle a swing, and we made a restart without assistance. True, the wheels did not stop for more than a second, but the lapse lost us a gold. Even then we could not understand what had happened to account for the failure, but between Simonsbath and Launceston we had further difficulties with the steering, and on lifting the bonnet to fill up at that place, the actual facts of the case became clear. On trying to move the car into position for parking, we had great
difficulty, and the wheels absolutely refused to move on the left-hand lock at all. This was because the fulcrum pin for the foot brake pedal had slackened out of the steering column and, carrying the pedal over to the right, had jammed it in the slot on the floorboard, thus holding the brake half on. At the same time its end was fouling the pull-and-push rod, and prevented the latter moving in one direction. Poor little Austin, how could one expect it to go up the Roost with the brake half on ; but that is the sort of thing which seldom occurs except on trials, and that is how car manufacturers gain experience—or shall we say, used to gain experience—by participating in trials. In future, such things will be discovered by novices, and the coroners will make suitable comments. Now, it is one thing to discover a fault during the course of a reliability trial, and quite another thing to put it right without infringing the regulation which forbids any adjustments in the controls. Consequently,
we had to drive for some twenty miles with the in an uncomfortable condition until sufficient time gained to stop to put it right. However, we successful in doing so, and were thus prepared for last important hill climb of the Run, namely, the of Bluehills Mine.
By this time our confidence in the little Austin fully restored, and the sharp left-hand hairpin was without any difficulty, and the ensuing negotiated without the slightest falter.
From then onwards the run developed into a sort high-speed trial, in which the bunch of Austins ticipated, and then the value of saving weight bv the Gordon England system of body came strongly into evidence, for we found it possible get away from the rest, as and when we pleased, some of the others were by no means lacking in speed.
With the single exception recorded above, the Austin Seven behaved itself just like the little thoroughbred it is, and one can feel quite happy about putting it through any kind of trial with good prospects of success.
After checking in at the Land’s End Hotel, we returned to Penzance, and again found the benefit of our Y-Dazyl devices, and certainly the occupants of oncoming cars were very grateful in finding the glare from our headlights deflected in a way that caused them no inconvenience whatever.
As we were due at Brooklands on Easter Monday, we made the return journey to Town without much waste of time, and the whole distance from Penzance to Hyde Park Corner, including all stops, was exactly nine hours, which is evidence conclusive that the hard work of the trial had no ill-effect upon any part of the car.