Itala Memories

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From Lt.-Col. Sir Stewart Gore Brawn, D.S.O.

Sir, I have been sent your article in which you refer to an account of a motor trip in a 50-70 Itala, made by my Uncle and Aunt, Mr. and Dame Ethel (as she afterwards became) Locke King more than so years ago, to Brescia and back, with the intention of seeing the race for the Targa Florio.

It was the poor showing made by British competitors in this race which, as you rightly say, decided my Uncle to build the Brooklands racing track on his own estate in Surrey in order that British drivers might get the chance both to race, and to practise for racing, in their own country, where road racing was forbidden by law.

You may be interested in a few personal comments on the account you quote, though this is in the main perfectly correct. The suggestion that my Uncle was the driver is certainly wide of the mark. For all his interest in Motor Ors and motor racing, Mr. Locke King himself never drove anything larger than a 6-h.p. Siddeley, which was his favourite car for many years. He used to say: ” You can’t have a very bad accident with a very small car!” Brooklands was the family home of the Locke Kings, but at the time of the Brescia trip the big house was practically shut up, and they were living on their Sussex property at a house called Rowner, near Billingshurst. This, as you rightly guess, was why it was convenient to test any car they fancied on Bury Hill.

My own connection with the 50-70 Itala and the trip to Brescia begins with the following entry in my diary under the date August 26th 1905. I was a gunner-subaltern at that time, stationed at Aldershot: ” Spent week-end at Rowner, where there was much talk of 50-70 Italas, 60-h.p. Napiers, etc.,” followed by the information a few days later that my Uncle had bought the Itala, and that they were going to drive to Brescia in it for the races. The next entry is: ” To Rowner to see the car. Frightfully impressed. To Southampton with them, Pope (the Itala agent) driving. Frightfully impressed and pleased, particularly with the going down ‘ Fairmile ‘, Saw them off, sadly, at Southampton. Slept at the South Western Hotel.”

Actually the 50/70-h.p. ” Hun ” was not a very great success. We were inclined to think that it never really recovered from the Mont Cenis accident (which occurred when Pope was driving). In July of the following year, 1906, my Aunt went over to Turin herself to bring back ” Bambo ” the 24-48 Bala, which became her favourite car for many years. and in which, she, with Mr. Locke King beside her, opened the Brooklands Track on June 17th 1907. She also, as you say, drove it in a Ladies race, but it never belonged to Lord Montagu, though, as you say, it had won the Targa Florio in 1906. There was also a smaller Bala, ” Hunny,” one of the most useful and satisfactory cars I’ve ever known, and there were two other Italas at Brooklands House, a little racing car called “Tommy,” and what we should now consider a station wagon, of uncertain age, called a Ceirano. Myself, I used to race, amongst a good many others, a 60-80 Itala, for Mrs. Prioleau, another enthusiastic lady amateur. So the luta firm was well represented in our entourage! But my Uncle never had any business connection with it, though, as you say the Bala people built a factory alongside the track, Which later became part of the Vickers’ establishment there.

Those were great days, before the War, The last time I was in England in 1957, I attended the Brookland’s Jubilee, but as Lord Brabazon said on that occasion, it was a Memorial Service really. There is also, as you no doubt know, a memorial to Brooklands put up by the Duke of Richmond at Goodwood.

                                                                     I am, Yours, etc.,

Shiwa Ngandu.                                                                   STEWART GORE BROWNE.

[Surely the ltala factory was at Weybridge before Brooklands Track was built, thus necessitating the reverse-curve at the Fork ? Hence the mystery.—ED.]