The Club’s aim to hold a war-time sports-car race seems likely to be defeated by the R.A.C. No-Permit Ruling. No other restriction stands in the way, a quite favourable reply having now come to hand from the Department of Mines. We understand that plans have not yet been abandoned, so we can only hope that the Vintage S.C.C. will be able to make the R.A.C. reconsider its verdict, and get Harry Edwards’s consent to use the Crystal Palace circuit. Failing this, can we have a social gathering for owners of the many real motor cars still taxed and running?
A social was held on April 6th at a pleasant room over the bar of the “Sunderland” in Sackville Street. Quite a good gathering of members turned up, one right up from Pevensey (per rail), but the MOTOR SPORT representative had to leave early to go on duty at his Ambulance Station. An officer of the R.A.F.V.R., who daily uses an “Ulster” Austin Seven for official duties, an Army officer, and a private of the R.A., mingled with civilian members, and some even came in cars, notably Secretary Hunter, in his new-tuned Arrow Austin Seven four-seater, while there was also a special present, in the form of an old ex-Army Austin Seven with well-preserved Chummy body. Members also were able to examine a fine open 3½-litre S.S. 100 and a smart Frazer-Nash-B.M.W. cabriolet bearing a Belgian registration, though these had nothing to do with the Club. It was decided to hold an indoor social every seven weeks, together with outdoor meetings, the first of which is scheduled for May 5th, at the Ashdown Park Hotel, Coulsdon—there are some nice hills nearby. The R.A.C. has neatly squashed plans for a small trial. The excellent plot of finding spare seats in club vehicles for non-car-running members continues; the wish has been heard that more fairies would join up . . .
A dance is to be held at the Botanical Gardens, Edgbaston, in aid of the British Red Cross Society, on May 2nd, from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Tickets from Leslie Wilson, 75, Silhill Hall Road, Solihull, at 7/- each.
The Bugatti Owners’ Club held another successful social, in the form of the A.G.M. and the usual dinner and film show, at the R.A.C. on April 10th. We hope soon to hear of a roadside gathering, for observation reveals that not all Bugattis are stored away in glass cases.
The M.C.C. commenced its war-time socials with a dance at Pagani’s on April 27th and others are to follow.
In the April issue, in his article “This Rally Business,” “Cayenne” suggested that the R.A.C. Rally, with its breaks for a night’s sleep, has become too easy. While we personally agree, the thought arises that the event is intended to cater for all motoring competitors, not all of whom have the outlook of the 100 per cent. enthusiast. Amateur tennis-players would be aghast at commencing play at 8 a.m. and continuing until evening without any interval, and amateur swimmers neither wish to swim the Channel, nor could they do so if they tried. To drive non-stop for long distances calls for a high degree of physical fitness, and unlike other sports, driving decreases, instead of improving this quality. We believe the R.A.C. had something like this in mind when introducing lengthy rest periods into its once fairly strenuous rally.
Now that the British Navy is getting very much to grips with Germany, Peace does not seem so far away. When sanity returns, let us have plenty of sprint events at which amateurs can compete without too great an expenditure, and lots of those excellent Donington clubmen’s race meetings, which are such an excellent fill-up between the lesser speed trials and expensive, classic hill-climbs like Shelsley and Prescott. The Vintage S.C.C., in particular, deserve every credit, in conjunction with Fred Crammer, for enabling many enthusiasts to do some real racing for a really small outlay, at such meetings. The lamented Relay Race of the Light Car Club is another event we would like to see revived when peace breaks out.
What a thing it will be to go long runs again! Early plans for pooling “Pool” within a syndicate, thus making possible runs of 200 miles a week-end, having come to naught, we have preferred to spread our ration over a number of short journeys rather than blue it all at once and be compelled to wait a month for the next dose. Consequently, going 15 or 20 miles out, to hike in daylight or to grip a tankard and a handful of darts in some country pub if night has fallen, seems quite a hefty journey, and that we used, once upon a time, to put in something like 200 miles, as often as not, between early tea and a sort of dawn-of-day-supper, with no real objective, is now something almost unbelievable. Even getting to Brooklands and back with the Georges-Irat seemed a reasonable day’s motoring, so that we overlooked the torrential rain along the Kingston By-Pass and took with great good humour every incident of the dice. Of course, this spreading of the precious ration over a number of short runs does lend variety to the going and enables more of one’s friends to participate in what is now a luxury-pastime, it being most desirable, however, that they shall find even war-restricted motoring, and in a glass-box at that, a trifle more pleasing than visiting a cinema or dancehall, while if the charm-factor is high, so much the better. Under such conditions, motoring adventure is at a low ebb, though a kind and very excited pedestrian did act heroically in the blackout in telling us to “stay where we were and remain calm, because we were about to drive into a river,” whereas that is just what we had intended to do, braking to a standstill to spare the distributor a wetting and not from any momentary revision of suicidal tendencies . . . And one evening we used quickly a quarter of a gallon of Pool for no better reason than that we got behind a beautifully turned out “12/50” Alvis, circa 1927, occupied by three obvious sportsmen, the dickey seat passenger professionally eyeing a slightly smoking rear brake drum at each traffic hold-up. We followed the Alvis as far as we could, and it so happened that the Austin was then able to tail home an obviously-tuned M.G. Midget, with bonnet strap and trials size rear tyres.
It is instructive how much you can learn of your home countryside when you have to motor with a watchful eye on the fuel gauge. It so happened that before the war we had a favourite short run out to a certain R.A.F. aerodrome, which we often used to do on spring and summer afternoons when we were too lazy to work. Although quite close to tram-infested roads, this hideaway was approached by a narrow, long and winding climb of an alleged 1 in 5, useful for checking the tune of your car, and the adjustment of brakes on the return run. Often we would go there, to watch aircraft from the road beyond a notice which warns carters and others to remain seated on their vehicles in case low-flying machines should unwittingly dislodge them—reminder of an accident of this sort which once happened there. Or we would walk a little on the surrounding common, until the advent of small schoolchildren reminded us of tea, when less than half an hour’s run would see you home. Naturally, on account of these excursions, and because we knew this spot many years before (in those days the landing ground was entirely un-fenced, so that an excited small boy, approaching from the rear, thought quite justifiably that the “Gamecock” before him had force-landed!) we thought we knew it all pretty thoroughly. Yet recent explorations on foot have revealed much that is new, including some excellent venues for car-photography and certain trials, going—and even more might have come to light if we could overcome a temptation to follow most of the guide-book hiking-route in the car itself! However, these near-London explorations have been confined to Surrey, and with luck, we expect this summer may reveal similar surprises in Sussex, Kent and Bucks—or will we soon be walking on entirely new ground? With decreased scope it has been possible to occupy one’s leisure in lazy appreciation of appealing scenery and enjoyment of fresh air and sunshine, where once one would have been restless to get off to some motoring event, or to prepare the car for the next long run. Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park, those big open spaces within such easy access to S.W. London, have proved a Godsend when fuel has been very low, whereas in the past they were visited only for a preoccupied, hurried walk or because some bothersome person wanted, to see them—incidentally, what a disappointment the “Test Hill” in the Park is, at any rate to all but owners of the smaller Edwardians. We have found peace, too, along the tow-path near Richmond, and these walks have aroused an interest in amateur motor-boating, and ambitious in this direction, though whether they will ever be realised is quite another matter. While it seems likely that you could compete quite successfully in outboard racing events for an expenditure very much less than that entailed in constructing a satisfactory sprint racing car, there is the feeling that something would be lacking unless one knew as much of this sport as one does of motor-racing, and, while more sober boating would cost no more than the acquisition of a good road-motor, somehow there seems something less desirable about arising in the early a.m. to play with a slow boat than thus breaking open the bedclothes to start a journey in a funny motor-car—why, we confess we cannot quite explain. However, we have become interested enough to go to the local library about it and, are, in consequence, greatly enjoying C. S. Forester’s tours of France and Germany which he made rather more than ten years ago in “Annie Marble,” an Evinrude-outboarded (later Elto) 15 ft. punt-built dinghy, so you never know. Albeit, friends say that we are sufficiently covetous of this world’s Good Things not to flirt with a boat until we have an entertaining road motor and a racing car to put on the trailer first, which perhaps is the truth. Anyway, such plans are out of the question at present, and the immediate future looms large with a proposed run right out to Box Hill, to inspect the Goat Track, for we have previously wrongly regarded the path up between the Box Hill road as this one-time trials hill, and now desire to have a look at the real thing. That alone shows how times have changed, and we believe we have -even committed ourselves to a whole Sunday using the Austin as transport at a wedding, for which there would certainly never have been time to spare eight months ago . . . Coming back from one of our brief runs we recently came upon a really fine 3-litre Bentley outside a house at Wimbledon, and, what is more, had ample time for worship. We have more than a suspicion that it may be old “No. 7,” though perhaps by mentioning it we are only exposing our ignorance of that famous car’s real whereabouts? Amusing as these collective short runs are, already there is a desire to motor further afield, and maybe, if the special we have in mind should come into successful being, it will be possible to baptise it at Nailsworth, taking in a certain road in Gloucestershire we have always vowed to return to, on the way, while when the sun gets too unbearable in London, doubtless the sea will call, irresistibly. In between all this, of course, there is A.R.P. duty. The first exciting rush of last September, when you “stood-by” all night in a new tin battle-bowler and spent the day, dazed for want of sleep, rushing wildly around on the business of evacuation, is but a memory. Albeit, it is very satisfying to recall how a certain elderly lady was so concerned with personal evacuation of self and property that she gladly rode in the trials Chummy Austin Seven, brakeless, noisy, comic-looking, and dirty as to both interior and exterior as that little car was! And, using it when the “Ruby” saloon wasn’t available, at this most solemn period with the future quite unpredictable, helped quite a bit in keeping our spirits up. Later, A.R.P. became a drudge and now resembles going to business in the ordinary way (but at extraordinary hours and with more loss of sleep than the troops suffer), with every opportunity to perfect one’s dart and table-tennis play, the idea of real action seemingly quite remote. Mostly you drive Yanks, but some interest attached to taking out the depot’s Sunbeam Sixteen fabric saloon. Motor traders to whom it was offered for sale laughed it to scorn; you would expect them to. Yet the gearbox, in spite of a loose gate, is sheer delight; the change down from top to third, necessitating a considerable movement of the rigid right-hand lever, especially pleasing. Always the engine started instantly, and idled impeccably. The minor controls are reminiscent of those of a modern Bentley, the steering is accurate in the old-school, springy style, the brakes rather poor, but with very positive hand brake. The doors shut beautifully, the windows slide easily, the wheelbase is immense and the interior extremely spacious, and all the instruments work, the oil gauge showing a most healthy pressure, varying with engine speed. The clutch winds-up somewhat in taking the drive, the gears howl noticeably, and the chassis flexion, undisguised by the fabric body, is most pronounced on rough going. Yet the body fabric is only just going round the scuttle and the leather upholstery is like new. Acceleration is not at all bad, and you can corner her until the tyres squeal and she comes round clean. The engine layout is delightful and you find filters in all the fillers. This Sunbeam must be at least a dozen years old, worth perhaps a couple of pounds as scrap, yet she is a delightful motor-car still, though I believe heavy on fuel. So if at times we fill much paper—and paper is valuable now—discoursing on vintage motors, perhaps there is reasonable excuse for so doing contained in brief acquaintance with this old saloon Sunbeam.