Rumblings, May 1952

Old masters

Once open a time deciding what to put in Motor Sport was comparatively simple. Grand Prix racing took precedence, and after that anything on two or four wheels that was pretty slick about the place was worth inclusion. Today, interest in the sport in this country and all over the world has grown to such enormous proportions (we have ample proof of this here and in America; it is evidenced, for instance, by the membership figures for the SCCA, which have risen from 250 in 1949 to 2,240 this year) that motor sport politics, both national and international, have to be considered, and to Grand Prix is added Formula II and III, to sports cars are affiliated “hot-rods,” trials specials and the impecunious enthusiast’s means of motoring. The number of competition events has grown from one major Grand Prix and a handful of favourite sprints and trials to astronomical dimensions.

Over and above the activities of the present we are reminded constantly that a considerable proportion of our tens of thousands of readers finds the past nostalgic. So a space should be given on occasion to Old Masters..

To us, that term fits the cars which competed in the great French Grand Prix races front 1906 to about 1927. To some, however, there is preference for more useable machinery, such as the immortal team “blower” Bentleys or the Le Mane and TT Mercedes-Benz. Another line of thought is that the later GP cars are more exciting, like the 8CTF and CTL Maseratis which continued their careers at Indianapolis before and in the years following World War II, or those very fast road-equipped cars such as Clarke’s 3.3 Bugatti, Crampton’s Maserati, Rob Walker’s Delahaye and Gale’s Darracq. Wherever your interest lies, there must be a tinge of sadness that old racing cars fade away. One day, perhaps, the VCC or VSCC will compile a Register of all known survivors. It would be a sizable one !

For instance, the Sunbeam driven by Rigel in the 1912 Coupe de l’Auto race sounding the death knell of enormous racing cars, is in New Zealand, as is one of the 1914 TT Sunbeams. Stanley Sears and Sir Francis Samuelson each own a 1914 TT Sunbeam and another went to New Zealand; Heal has one of the 1924 GP models and also a 1921 straight-eight. Two 1922 GP Sunbeams exist, there is another 1921 straight-eight in New Zealand, and one of the 1925 Darracqs* was heard of in the Midlands a few years ago.

The 1908 GP Itala is in good hands, so is the 1908 TT Hutton. Heal has a 1911 GP Fiat, a 1921 GP Ballot is about somewhere, and Lord Charnwood is restoring a 1911 Coupe de l’Auto Delage. A 1914 GP Peugeot seems to be in Hollywood, and Lindley Bothwell maintains another in perfect trim in the States, but the earlier GP Peugeots that came to Brooklauds after the Armistice have vanished, as have many other pre-1914 cars known to be intact up to the late 1920s. Ellis has a 1922 GP Aston-Martin, Neve a 1914 TT Humber, both 1914 GP Opels are fairly intact. Nash stores a 1912 GP Lorraine-Dietrich. Alas Clark sold his 1914 GP Mercedes to America. The 1903 GB Napier, too, bas “crested the big pond.”

Turning to more general racing cars, Clutton has the V12 Delage in safe keeping. the Napier-Railton In “Pandora” guise is at a film studio, Brooks has nicely restored the Vauxhall Villiers, Ellis has the Aston-Martin “Razor Blade,” another 16-valve Aston-Martin ex-Cook, has turned up in a London garage, a 1922 Austro-Daimler is in London, Chitty II is being restored, the 1922 11/2-litre and 1924 2-litre Mercedes-Benz exist, and a sand-racing sv Riley remains. Zborowski’s 1923 Miller went to New Zealand Stafford-East has the Monday-Special and there is a 5-litre Indianepolis Sunbeam in Buenos Aires. Of record-breakers, CC Wakefield preserve the Golden Arrow, Rootes the 1.000-hp 200-mph Sunbeam, and a “Bluebird” is in America. P2 Alfa-Romeo and rare rarcng Fiats survive in museums abroad, America houses several of her own historic racers and some early Mercedes. A 200-mile race Marlborough is believed to be partially intact, likewise an AC and a Newton from this race, but efforts to locate them have yet to come to fruition. HR Godfrey has the GN “Kim,” dismantled. Two Thomas-Specials are partly intact, one however with Yank motor, a fate which has befallen the Scriven-Speciel. Delage I and the ex Straight Duesenberg. A Brooklands car in our midst is Sears’ 1904 Mercedes, and examples of 5-litre 1919 Ballot and Sunbeam are hiding somewhere, while Pratley has restored the exciting V12 Sunbeam single seater to 1921 trim. Cars so comparatively modern we have scarcely got used to calling them historic include two GP Delage, Bugatti of that year, a 1932 2.6 Maserati and 1934 Maserati and ERA etc. Of historic sports cars the BDC can point proudly to three genuine 41/2-litre team cars, for example. But if we continue we shall have written this proposed Register ourselves ! 

We will, therefore, conclude with a brief list of those historic racing ears the fate of which remains unknown. Most of these we have referred to previously, but as the circulation of Motor Sport leaps upward monthly there is is faint chance that new “clues” may come to the Editorial desk—and the task of locating historic racing cars should appeal to all true enthusiasts. They must not be “written off” until proof is to hand that they are beyond recall. Thus, a 1914 TT Straker-Squire was licensed up to 1933, a 1914 GP Nazant was for sale in London late In 1925, someone on the Autocar staff converted a 1914 GP Piccard Pictet to road-trim in 1919, and a 1911 record-breaking and Indianapolis Sunbeam, with touring body, was at Duxford RAF Station in 1926. The Wolseley Viper and 1914 GP Nazzaro existed at least into the 1930s, and that slim Brocklands Calthorpe was in a Camden Town loft up to 1939. One of the Wolseley “Moths” converted to a two-seater, was seen near Henley about 1930 and Ivy Cummings ran a Coupe de l’Auto Sunbeam at Brooklands up to 1924, probably the car seen afterwards in the Paddock in road trim for many years before it finally disappeared. The Cantons Fiat “Mephistopheles” is believed to be still in the North of England, but where is the ex-Noel 17.8-litre Mercedes which was in use on the road to the mid-1930s ?

One final thought In 1950 we had a most enjoyable parade of Historic Racing Cars round Silverstone. Couldn’t we have a similar parade this season ? We commend the idea to the Daily Mail in connection with its Festival of Motor Sport at Boreham during August Bank Holiday weekend.

New blood

Jumping back to the present day with the facility of an HG Wells’ time-machine, we confess to being mightily intrigued by “releases” of three new sports cars destined to enliven the Le Mans 24-Hour Race next month. First, there is the latest New Blood Cunningham. These very exciting American cars, Type C4R, now have bodies reminiscent of the Mille Miglia Frazer-Nash, slimmer and sleeker than last year’s. Weight-saving magnesium disc wheels replace wire wheels, retaining centre-lock hubs, and the 13-in hydraulic brakes are most generously finned. The chassis is tubular, with coil-spring and wishbone de Dion coil-spring rear suspension. The engine is the ohv V8 5.4-litre Chrysler Firepower, which, with four down-draught Zenith carburetters, has been developed to a claimed output of 300 bhp at 5,200 rpm. There is a five-speed gearbox and 50-gallon tankage. The wheelbase is 8 ft 4 in and the weight is given as about 211/2 cwt. A team of these Cunninghams is scheduled for Le Mans, although they were not ready for Sebring. The output is pretty sensational, and more than twice that of several Formula II, and not so much less than many Formula I racing cars ! Chrysler claims to get 310 bhp at 5,200 rpm from the same size K-310 engine mainly by enlarging the valves and raising the compression ratio from 7.5 to 8.1 to 1, so Cunningham’s claim is acceptable, although they retain the 7.5 to 1 compression ratio.

Secondly, there is the new Type 300SL Mercedes-Benz, to run as a team at Le Mans in aerodynamic coupe form. Normal doors are dispensed with, windows and roof hinging to provide access to the interior. The 3-litre six-cylinder engine is developed from the Type 300, and with triple Solex downdraught carburetters gives 172 bhp at 5,200 rpm on an 8 to 1 compression ratio. The wheelbase is 7 ft 101/2 in, there is a four-speed gearbox, and 150 mph is expected. Front suspension is coil-spring and double wishbones, anti swing-axles are found at the back. Tankage is 371/2 gallons.

Thirdly, the. Type 8-V Fiat was the surprise of the Geneva Show. It will be available to “freelance” drivers, and will compete at Le Mans. The 70-deg V8 2-litre engine gives 110 bhp at 5,600 rpm. Integral construction is employed, front suspension is by double wishbones and enclosed coil-springs, and this system is also used to provide independent rear suspension, and there are five forward speeds. Overhead valves are push-rod operated, the weight is quoted as 171/2 cwt, and over 120 mph is expected.

Certainly these three makes will add enormous interest to Le Mans, and Jaguar, Aston-Martin, Frazer-Nash and other British high performance cars look like having a tough task before them if they are to retain their high honours. We shall hope to be with you on June 15th to see them again victorious.