[Some readers seem to have tired of this series, while others are very emphatic in their requests that it should go on, so this month we are publishing a rather shorter article than usual, by E.J.H. Griffiths, who, like so many other contributors, was a firm supporter of the Vintage S.C.C. before the war. – Ed.]
I learnt to drive on a 1924 16-h.p. Wolseley tourer which we have at home and then I bought my first car, which was a 1926 Austin Seven 4-seater tourer. I tuned the engine and found that by setting the tappet clearances to 0.003″ and 0.005″ on the inlet and exhaust valves, respectively, I got 53 m.p.h. on the “clock.” This car went very well, my best run being from Beaumaris in Anglesey to near Oxford in 5 1/2 hours. I sold it eventually and bought a 1927 “12/50″ Alvis 2-seater with dickey. There is no need for me to say much about this as most enthusiasts know what marvellous cars they are. I discovered that it had been all over the Continent, touring with other cars, such as Hillmans and Vauxhalls, and that the Alvis was the only car which did not break down. When I had it rebored 0.040” was taken out of the bores, this being its first rebore in 12 years.
I had it for two years, in which time I covered many thousands of miles, including driving it in the Vintage Sports Car Club’s Chiltern and Gloucester Reliability Trials and in the V.S.C.C. and Bugatti Owners’ Club’s Night Trial in 1938. Unfortunately, my battery packed up at the halfway mark, so I slept the night in the car on Salisbury Plain. I woke up at six o’clock the next morning nearly frozen stiff, started up and motored back to town via the Phoenix Hotel at Hartley Wintney, where we thawed ourselves and had a splendid breakfast.
I also bought a 1926 “12/50” Alvis. I found this motor in a pigeon barn, where it had been on blocks for six years; it had only done 5,000 miles since it left the works. When I got the engine going, the tick-over was very quiet and there was no timing wheel rattle. I have had the engine down and it is in perfect condition; I started to make it into a trials “Special” just before the war started, but I did not finish it and probably won’t until this lot is over.
I then sold my first “12/50” Alvis and bought a 1928 six-cylinder O.M.; this was a nice-looking motor, having a maximum of about 80 m.p.h. and quite good acceleration. However, it developed little-end trouble within the first week, so I got rid of it and bought a 1926 s.v. Anzani Frazer-Nash. I only had it a week when it ran a big-end, also I found the centre main bearing had gone when I took the engine down. I had new mains and big-ends put in and the crankshaft reground, and when the engine was run in after reassembling I had great fun with her. I could take every corner I knew around the country at about 15 m.p.h. faster than I could with my “12/50” Alvis. My maximum speed was 76 m.p.h. at 2,800 r.p.m.; “gear” changing was a great joy and very quick indeed without the clutch at the right time; road-holding and cornering were excellent, and generally it was a grand car to drive. I bought my “12/50” Alvis back from my friend, who was returning to Switzerland, to save it from the scrapheap, as he could not sell it.
I had had four very cold winters of open-air motoring, so I decided to try a saloon. I bought a 1928 “4 1/2” Bentley after selling my “12/50” Alvis and ‘Nash. The Bentley was a grand car, with a perfect divan in the back, where I spent many a comfortable night on long journeys. She had very good acceleration (seldom did anything beat me away from the lights) and my top speed was about 85 m.p.h., doing 18 m.p,g.
I found the petrol situation hopeless when this insane war started, so I sold her and bought a 1932 Austin Seven saloon.
I was soon able to get a supplementary ration, being on war work, so I bought a 1935 21-h.p. Talbot drop-head coupé as the best approach to a vintage car I could find in the district. This was a very smart-looking motor and went well, but the Wilson gearbox packed up on me in a ford one night. The firm I bought the car from could only offer me a 1937 Morris Eighteen fixed-head coupé, with a boot at the back, in exchange. It went well, but was my idea of a typical smart modern car; the cornering was poor, springing like a rocking horse, and it needed four turns lock to lock on the steering and, of course, was all tin.
One day I was passing Wray’s place in Kenilworth when I spotted a 3-litre “Red Label” Bentley. Unfortunately, there was no time for running it in, as the engine had recently been completely overhauled; also in the garage was a very smart 1931 2-litre Lagonda, which I bought.
There was a G.P. 1 1/2-litre Bugatti, a modern-type Aston-Martin 2-seater, an Isotta-Fraschini, another Aston-Martin saloon and a “Speed Six” Bentley – the best collection of motors I had seen since the war started.
The Lagonda is a great success and a grand car to drive; my wife and I have had some very pleasant motoring in her. The acceleration is quite good with the clutch stop in use, the maximum is 78 m.p.h. at 3,200 r.p.m. and she does 24 m.p.g. and corners at speed very well; I think it is the best motor of its type on the road. There is a specially laid-out dash panel with a large rev.counter in the centre, all the essential gauges and independent light switches. On the front of the car are two 12″ Lucas P.100 lamps, which I am looking forward to using; there are also two Bosch horns, a Bosch windscreen wiper and the plugs are Bosch.
Last winter a careless idiot hit me and bent my chassis considerably; his Vauxhall Twelve was only fit for the scrap merchant’s, but I hope to have my car on the road again soon! Meanwhile, I am using a 1924 “Ulster” Austin, which goes like a bomb in spite of some wonderful noises from the engine and gearbox.