SPORTING CARS ON TEST. THE GRAND SPORTS AMILCAR. With Comments on its Performance in the Surbiton Grand Cup Trial.
By RICHARD TWELVETREES.
GivE it a good caning,” said Mr. Bob Porter, of Messrs. Boon & Porter, Ltd., the Amilcar Concessionnaires ; and, taking him at his word, I entered the little ‘bus in the Surbiton Grand Cup Trial, the course of which certainly provided the wherewithal with which to inflict the said “caning.” The few who were enterprising enough to take cars through this typical ” murder course ” will know what it meant and many of the spectators also will agree that any car capable of emerging in one piece undoubtedly merits all respect. The Amilcar did and, moreover, was good enough to climb all the hills non-stop, excluding
one where we were badly baulked by no fewer than three other competitors. But that will be dealt with in its proper sequence.
The start was made from the Talbot Hotel, Ripley, in uncertain weather, and before we had gone very far it was difficult to follow the route, as the rain had washed the dye practically away. Thus, before reaching the first Colonial Section, we had covered about six more miles than were indicated on the route card but the delay at the first bill brought us up with the others, and we were in time to watch the supercharged Mercedes gamely struggling to get up a greasy slope—a forlorn hope, as it proved to be. Other chainless cars had similar trouble, but by dint of pushing and shoving we eventually had a clear course, and up we sailed without a falter. Arriving at Newlands Corner, we had a better taste of what is termed a “Colonial Section,” and from that place to Gomshall the route ran over very loose country, the mud being between eight and ten inches deep. The humorists who chose the route had evidently been watching motor gymkhanas, for part of the course lay through virgin woods. Here one had to travel at high speed to keep a move on at all, and the only way to get between the trees was to arrange skids in the hope that the tail of the car would come through without crashing. Once and only once, during the whole trip, were we troubled
.with wheel spin, and this was on the section referred to above ; for here the chains failed to give a grip, and it was only by perseverance with the accelerator that we managed to plough our way through on to the moderately hard stuff.
Quite early on inIthe run we passed:a:motor-cycle soloist, who was busy digging the mud from his front mudguard to allow the wheel to go round, a little job that had to be performed fairly regularly by the two and three wheelers during the course of the trip. Before Slippery Sam was reached, two motor-cycles and two cars were forced to retire, and the hill prevented eight motor-cycles from unassisted ascents, whilst only two cars were successful in gaining the summit unaided. I forgot for the moment which was the other car—I
believe it was Watson’s Surrey, but I know one was the stout little Amilcar.
Watson, by the way, put up a remarkably good performance until his jet developed the habit of swallowing bits of straw, and this prevented his gaining the premier award which, personally, I should have backed him to win.
Dingle’s Lea-Francis was another star performer, but he eventually got into tyre trouble and finished with difficulty. The next part of the trip was unobserved, for which we were truly thankful, for just on reaching the top of Leith Hill, we bounced across a little mound and finished with our front wheels in the air, the car peacefully resting on the base-chamber. J. 0. Kerrison, driving a Morris-Cowley, and his passenger sportingly came to our aid, and in a few minutes we got on all our legs
again and floundered down the hill on to the Dorking Road.
Running through Dorking, literally plastered with mud, we came to the Goat Track, where six motorcycles and four cars failed to make non-stop climbs— the Amilcar was not included in the list of victims. A quick run down the Box Hill zig-zag brought us to Burford Bridge, whence the route took us to Ranmore Common, for another little dose of mud-slinging.
Whilst crossing this part of the joy-ride, it was a case of putting one’s foot down and charging through the mud and gorse bushes with the eyes shut, for the mud and water were literally thrown right over the car in sheets. Bump, bump, skid, swish was the method of progress here, but again we came through without a stop, passing several unfortunate riders on solos, sidecars and three-wheelers by the way. After enduring quite a lot of that kind of stuff, we began to wonder how long it would be before the car
broke in half, and it would have been a matter of no great surprise had the chassis packed up altogether ; but, somehow, the worse the route got, the more the Amilcar liked it and stuck to its work in an absolutely marvellous way.
It was something of a relief to arrive on the hard main road once again, and when we ran into Ripley we were a few minutes late ; but the delay was counterbalanced by the baulks on the way. As a matter of fact, the route was so severe that the club officials deleted all checks, rightly considering it was hard enough to get round the course at all, leave alone any question of running to schedule time. During the lunch stop, the rain fell in torrents and, accompanied by hail, made things look very black for the afternoon circuit ; but thirty-nine motor-cycles
and nine cars braNed the trip once more, which was even more sporting than that of the morning.
Netley and Ranmore Commons had not been improved by the passage of partly-bogged vehicles and the torrential downpour, but we were a little better off in knowing the sort of stuff lying ahead. By this time, also, we had come to the conclusion that nothing short of a brick wall could impede the Amilcar (Animalcar, someone called it!), and we did another spell of ploughing through the morasses, which made the tit-bits of the Cohnore and Victory Cup Trial routes seem like mainroad sections. This time we had to descend Slippery Sam and the Goat Track, but the climb of Leith Hill up to the Tower added interest to the run. Waiting for a while to get some hopes of a clear run, we started up the lane which forms part of our ordinary car test, and reached the first part of the climb in good style. Here, however, we were stopped by a marshal, as someone was in
difficulties on the next part of the ascent. We were then signalled on, but just at the most ficklest part of the I-in-2/ bit, a solo motor-cyclist fell off in front, and we had to slow down, leaving no earthly chance of continuing the climb non-stop. Twelve motorcycles and five cars failed on Leith Hill, and many more fell out on the second passage of the Gomshall to Newlands Corner Colonial Section, which by this time was in an absolutely indescribable condition. Lovers’ Lane was another humorous little part of the run, but the Amilcar must have been in an amorous mood, for it took the trip in its stride, much to the chagrin of some of the car drivers who saw they had no chance of getting to the top without the help of the pushers. Lovers’ Lane is not aptly named, but might be useful as a place to get rid of an unwanted admirer, or where a quiet mud bath could be taken for the benefit of the complexion—but as a country walk—never
Just as we thought all our trials were over, and it was only a matter of asking Mr. Barnes to hand over the Cup, we got into severe difficulties. Stopping whilst Mr. Dingle was amusing himself with the tyres of his Lea-Francis, I gave the engine a rest and, like a jackass, used the starter to set it going again. The starter did not start and, what is worse, it became jammed good and proper. Now, it is supposed to be an easy matter to release a jammed starter. All you have to do is to work the car backwards and forwards in gear, and the Bendix un-bendixes itself. At least, that is what is supposed to happen ; but in our case it was altogether different. We pushed, we pulled, we ran the car forwards in gear, turned romid,. ran it down backwards, and did everything that could be thought of. We jumped on the handle, cursed, said prayers, and in sheer desperation I lay down in the mud and chivvied about with a spanner until the motor was slackened off and the pinion freed itself. There was no time to tighten it up again, so we did the remaining fourteen miles leaving a trail of oil behind. Then the chains began to have enough of it and started rattling against the wings. Not that the noise mattered
much, but as the links began to tickle our ears, it was thought desirable to take the worst offender off, which delayed us more than we liked. A little later the second chain developed similar symptoms, and after rattling itself to death peacefully wound up on the brake drum and trailed the rest along the ground, in which state we ran into Ripley amid pouring rain.
If there is a trial circuit good enough to break up the Amilcar, I do not want to go round it ; but I do not think anything short of dropping the machine over a precipice would have any ill effect to the machinery.
Thus the Amilcar had its “caning,” and at the end cheerfully held its hand out for more. And after the trip it did not go into dock, but did me quite well for a long week-end tour, and after the removal of the mud, ran just as happily as ever it did in its sweet young days.
Just in conclusion I will say, ” The Amilcar is GOOD, REAL GOOD,” and a good car is good enough for most critics.