A Section Devoted to Old-Car Matters
The V.S.C.C. Silverstone Meeting (April 18th)
Opening in sunshine, ending in rain, a record crowd watched some unique racing. None of the big cars, only five under-2-litres, qualified in the One-Hour High-Speed Trial. The 1908 G.P. Itala Trophy Race for vintage racing cars had an excellent field. St. John’s alloy-wheel 2.3 blown G.P. Bugatti proved able to hold-off a determined Arnold-Forster in Delage II, 3 sec. dividing them and both lapping at 73.28 m.p.h. The French cars kept ahead of Williamson’s 4½ and Morley’s and Sowden’s 8-litre Bentleys, the last-named as long as a recent VW advertisement! On handicap, Footit’s A.C./G.N. lost to Gilbert’s ex-Fielding Bugatti. The 1924 Rossiter Special A.C. and the Alvis Morris Special re-appeared in the hands of Worth and Smart, Holland’s “Paris Salon” A.C./G.N. had a plated, chain-driven blower, Bergel used all the road in his Bugatti.
More intense was the 10-lap Allcomers’ Scratch Race, in which three Connaughts, an H.W.M., the Rover Special, two Altas and a Cooper-Bristol were to challenge the E.R.A. contingent, (rather odd, as surely only one Connaught raced before 1952, while the Cooper-Bristol was actually declared as a 1952 car, whereas the V.S.C.C. limit is 1951.* The inclusion of these later historic racing cars is hard on drivers of E.R.A. and other pre-1940 cars which have brought crowds to historic car races in the past and tends to confuse such racing with that likely to be seen on other occasions). In fact, the pre-war school came out of it rather well because, although Margulies won in a vivacious canter in his Connaught, the H.W.M. non-started, and, although Lindsay’s E.R.A. was absent and Day’s in trouble, the Cooper-Bristol also made a pitstop, while in four laps Brown’s E.R.A. had taken Horton’s Connaught, which was then passed by Cottam’s and Waller’s E.R.A.s. Brown retired, Horton swapped places with Cottam on the last lap, so the final order was Connaught, Waller (E.R.A.), Connaught, Cottam (E.R.A.), Gahagan (E.R.A.). Margulies made fastest lap of the day, 81.08 m.p.h., but later Waller did 80.62 m.p.h. E.R.A.s are not yet old-hat!
* See letter from T. W. Carson in last months issue.
The Merrydown Trophy Race, for cider, was won deservedly by Footit’s A.C./G.N., Geoghegan’s Aston Martin-engined Frazer Nash following it steadily, Morley’s big 2-seater Bentley third. Rolt’s Austin Ulster had to be flagged down after a lap because back-markers waiting to start blocked the track—embarrassing! Goodman’s racy Lea-Francis with 3-carb. Alvis Silver Eagle engine won its class. Lord Montagu’s fixed-head blown 1,500-c.c. Alfa Romeo Zagato was towed in—discussing its coachwork, commentator Peter Full said he “preferred Mrs. Cherrett’s body”; she had driven an Alfa Romeo in the previous race.
The Spero and Voiturettes Trophy Race for vintage racing cars up to 1,100 c.c. was depleted by the disqualification of four Austin Ulsters as they had non-vintage 4-speed gearboxes. Yet the G.N./J.A.P. with hydraulic brakes was allowed to run. No doubt this mod. is excused on the grounds of safety, yet many cars ran pre-war and still do in V.S.C.C. races without hydraulic brakes, and these are probably a greater advantage than a wide-ratio 4-speed box, so the position is a difficult one. . . . And what about war-time cabin blowers on vintage and p.v.t. engines? The race was a walk-over for Binns’ smoky Riley Nine with non-original body, which lapped consistently at over 67 m.p.h. This was sufficient to hold off Charlesworth’s very accelerative ex-Thirlby 1921/26 G.N./J.A.P., which, through a broken brake-pipe and missed cog-swap, was also beaten by Rolt’s Austin on the run home.
The other races were all 5-lap handicaps. Stephen’s Speed 20 Alvis with 4.3 engine won the first easily from Marsh’s 4½ Invicta and Fearnley’s T.T. Rep. Frazer Nash. The field included the Centric-blown Hardy-J.A.P., Smith’s big-crank 328 B.M.W. with triple Webers and 9.5 c.r., and a scruffy Talbot 75 with 105 engine built in two months from a pile of bits—apparently moths had eaten its radiator, of which only the shell remained. Inter-Register dicers mingled in the next race, an Austin 12/4 beating a Talbot 14/45, as Moores’ blown 4-speed Austin Ulster ran away with it, from Blight’s Talbot BGH 23, with small front wheels. Paxton’s noisy modern-bodied A.B.C. had artillery back, wire front, wheels, and Clarke’s splendidly rebuilt 1926 G.E. Austin Seven Cup Model was good to behold.
Cramer’s slab-tank 1933 blown M.G. won two handicaps, in contrast to Pitt’s blown Magnette, labelled as “Powered by Nuffield” but badly needing more Abingdon horses so that its six cylinders could have an equal share. Blight’s Talbot beat Pascoe’s very “Le Mans” 3-litre Bentley to second place in one of these races, Fearnley doing likewise to Hennings’ 4-Amal Brooklands Riley Nine with doors, as it ran in a T.T., in the other. Archdale walked away after rolling his scientifically-conceived Frazer Nash.
Hicks’ Ulster Aston Martin and Bromley-Johnson’s Riley Nine duelled for four laps, then lost to Gahagan’s E.R.A., driven steadily from a good handicap in the ninth race. Horton’s Connaught seized its gearbox on the grid; Waller’s E.R.A. was fourth. Merrick (E.R.A.) spun, without damage, at Woodcote. Tiedeman, running his unblown Ulster Austin stripped (and presumably as a p.v.t. bitser), got his revenge for disqualification by running away with the last race, although the fascinating G.N./J.A.P., lapping at over 64 m.p.h., wasn’t far behind.
The course-car was a fine 30/98 Vauxhall; not having a vintage car I went in the next best thing, a 2-cylinder air-cooled Panhard .—W. B.
The Month of May.—Important vintage fixtures include the H.C.V.C. Brighton Vintage Commercials Rally on May 3rd; National Alvis Day, Crystal Palace, on May 10th; Rolls-Royce and Bentley Pageant, Goodwood, May 23rd; V.S.C.C. Sprint, Lichfield. and model-T Ford Brighton Run, May 24th.