A Series of Interviews with Personalities famous in the Realms of Motoring Sport
No. 5 — Cecil Clutton
Cecil Clutton has largely antiquarian interests. This is apparent not only in his connection with vintage and veteran motor cars, but in his other hobbies, which include collecting old watches, of which he has some fine examples, dating as far back as 1693. He is also a keen student of ancient music and keyboard instruments of the 16th/18th centuries.
He has great knowledge of the methods of organ building, about which be frequently writes in the musical Press. Saxon, Norman and Gothic architecture are also within the bounds of his interest and understanding. But it is in cars that his greatest interest lies and all readers of Motor Sport will be familiar with his learned writings on this subject.
It must not be judged from the foregoing that Clutton delves only in the past. Far from it. It will be recalled that he road-tested for Motor Sport a Type 57 S.C. Bugatti, a “2.9 Alfa-Romeo and the Aston-Martin “Atom,” and his numerous articles in Motor Sport have dealt with modern development as much as with ancient history. Prior to the war he was using his 1923 3-litre “Red Label” Bentley drophead coupé, for touring and for towing his 1908 G. P. Itala (which he shared with Peter Robertson-Roger) to competitions. He was, and still is, a committee member of the V.C.C the V.S.C.C. and the B.O.C.
During the war he had done very little motoring. He sold his Bentley in 1940 and bought a 1932 Type 49 Bugatti saloon, which is now being completely rebuilt. This car is of 3.3 litres and a straight-eight with a single cam-shaft. He describes it as the “Bugatti Chevrolet.” Whereas it has no great performance, it has Bugatti steering and is probably the most reliable model made in its class. He quotes an average of 21 m.p.g. on “pool” with a top speed of 80 m.p.h. He says it has the Yanks equalled for flexibility. In the Home Guard he learnt to ride a motorcycle and ran a 1925 “S.S. 100” Brough whilst the “basic” was going. From 1943 to 1945 he was engaged in a considerable amount of aerial motoring in the R.A.F. as a pilot, though his age precluded him from any operational flying.
Clutton started serious motoring in 1934. He gained various minor successes in the V.S.C.C. Reliability Trials using an Anzani-engined Frazer-Nash and an “E” type “30.98” Vauxhall.
He did most of his competition driving on the Itala, in which he ascended Shelsley in 50 sees., Prescott in 58 secs., and also lapped the Crystal Palace circuit at 47 m.p.h.! These speeds are only rivalled by the very fastest modern sports cars and, at Prescott, the Itala has beaten such formidable opposition as “57.S” Bugattis and 2.3-litre Alfa-Romeos, despite their four-wheel brakes.
Concerning his future plans, he is looking forward to touring his Type 49 Bugatti and competing again in the Itala, and, at some later date, when things are properly normalised, entering the newly acquired 10 1/2-litre ex-John Cobb Delage in sprint events.
His stable at present comprises:
1932 Type 49 Bugatti, 3.3 litre, 72 x 100 mm., single cam. Two plugs and three valves per cylinder. Plain bearings.
1911 Fafnir tourer, 4-cylinder, 80 x 120 mm. (The only car that his father ever had from 1927 to 1940. A completely reliable and delightful vehicle. Max. about 50 m.p.h., 23 m.p.g.)
1925 “S.S.100” Brough motor-cycle. 1,000-c.c. Jap twin, 90/95 m.p.h., described by Clutton as “very frightening.”
1908 G.P. Itala, 4-cylinder, 12 litres, 153 x 169 mm. (Finished eleventh in 1918 G.P. driven by Cagno. Handled better than winniug Mercédès but quite outclassed on power/weight ratio. Has lapped Brooklands at 101 m.p.h. in 1910, winning Whitsun Gold Plate. Last driven in 1940 at Brooklands when, with full touring equipment, and in poor tune, it did a s.s. quarter-mile in 20 seconds and a flying ditto at 85 m.p.h. A very handy car and quite suited for touring. Does 13 m.p.g. on the road.)
1923 10 1/2-1itre V.12 Delage, 90 x 140 mm., shared with Peter Vaughan. (At present needs a good deal doing to it. Took world speed record 1923 driven by René. Thomas at 143 m.p.h. Then used most successfully in French hill climbs. Later migrated to England where it became one of Brookland’s most successful racers, largely driven by Oliver Bertram and John Cobb. Should make a nice car for Shelsley.)
Clutton cannot recall ever having been particularly frightened in a car. He contends that if anything frightening happens you are probably going so fast that you have no time to be scared. He knows nothing more frightening than being out of control on (a) a horse and (b) a penny-farthing bicycle. Concerning his private life, he says he is too busy to have any. He is 36 years of age, is a chartered surveyor and a Fellow of the Surveyor’s Institution, and an Associate Member of the Town Planning Institution. His advice to the less experienced is that if you have not a lot of money or the determination of Raymond Mays, give up all idea of competitive success and motor for fun. Small club events are more fun than most. Don’t buy high efficiency cars. They are either expensive to buy or else expensive to tune and maintain. Small capacity classes also involve “works” competition. Large cars (4 1/2 litres and over) are relatively inexpensive to buy, do not need much tuning, require very little maintenance and the competition is not sp keen. They afford the easiest way of getting a good power/weight ratio and therefore of going quickly. As a long-term policy he thinks a good quality, fairly large, and old car is the most pleasurable way of getting fast economical motoring. Clutton says he finds no pleasure in small cars.
With regard to improving the Sport, he is pleased to see that the Competition Committee has revivified itself. “What we really need,” he says, “is to convince the people who now go to the “dogs” and horse racing that motor racing is a more exciting sport.” This would require (a) a big publicity push such as only the R.A.C. and S.M.M.T. could back, particularly directed at schoolboys, and (b) enough events to be within easy reach of the most populated areas.”
With nation-wide enthusiasm aroused, the Sport is bound to improve itself. But, as Clutton remarks, both (a)and (b) are easy to say, but difficult to put into effect.