A section devoted to old-car matters
(March 31st/April 1st)
The annual Welsh week-end of the Light Car Section of the Vintage Sports Car Club, now a flourishing organisation, this year took the form of a Gymkhana (driving-tests to you) in the well-suited site of the Royal Welsh Show Ground At Builth Wells on the Saturday, followed, after festivities at the Rock Park Hotel, Llandrindod Wells, by a sporting trial. The event was graced by the presence of VSCC Secretary, Peter Hull, who was flown into Shrobdon from Newbury in a splendidly period Tiger Moth, before being whisked off to navigate his 1923 Horstman, an excellent light tourer replete with a cockpit kickstarter (which functions) and a built-in sprag, which Whyman was conducting. Moreover, he had returned from an inaugural meeting of an Edinburgh Section of the VSCC in a somewhat faster aeroplane that very morning.
Some of the more interesting entries, such as Sant’s nice 1926 Clyno tourer, which had developed an ominous end-float on its crankshaft, Wood’s s.v. Riley coupé, which wasn’t ready, Hamilton-Gould’s 1921 Citroën, Dr. Payne’s 1919 Stellite and Griffiths’ 1930 Austin 7, didn’t appear. However, this left 21 runners, although Condon, having been at work on his 1923 AC until the early hours of that morning, missed the driving-tests and Mrs. Arnold-Forster, making yet another courageous journey in her 1921 GN, only just got to Builth Wells in time. Being involved with the Tiger Moth’s arrival this reporter also missed most of the tests, although it was apparent that there is nothing to beat a stark GN, in this case Riddle’s 1922 Vitesse, for good vision for coping with judgement in “as close as you can get to the pylons” frolics.
Having done well in the tests, the GN Vitesse fell sick, but investigation showed this to be broken-up brake-shoes and as Riddle carries a very full emergency-kit with him and GNs are easy to repair, only temporary alarm and despondency prevailed. It was good to see Arthur Jeddere-Fisher and family arrive in their E-type 30/98 Vauxhall. Arthur assisted in diagnosing the GN’s malady, assisted with the tests and marshalled a hill and he was, of course, closely connected with the early days of the Light Car Section, when he owned a brace of minute Lagondas.
In the trial rain greeted the competitors as they assaulted the first hill, a bumpy grass acclivity named Llwynbarried. Rooney’s Austin failed right at the top with wheelspin, but Dr. Gray’s Austin Chummy, with young passenger, made a very fast ascent and Thomas’ 1927 11/22 Wolseley made it look easy. The Horstman stopped halfway up, however. Mrs. Bell in her 1924 10/23 Talbot two-seater had the misfortune to come to rest on a nasty ridge adjacent to the “finish” pylon but, changing gear, Brett’s bull-nose 1926 Morris saloon made an excellent ascent of this short climb up the side of a field. Reed’s modified 1930 Mulliner Austin 7 two-seater was another impressive performer but lanson’s 1927 9/20 Humber, although revving strongly, its gears growling, and passenger-less, just made it, Rosemary Burke’s smart 1930 Morris Minor two-seater got up, the AC, on beaded-edge tyres, hadn’t a chance, stopping almost at once, Townsend’s 1924 Gwynne Eight, now on correct artillery wheels and beaded-edge tyres, was slow and only got halfway, but Coates’ nice 1927 Chummy Austin toured up. Mrs. Newens’ 1927 Cup-Model Austin 7 made a racing ascent, light weight obviously paying dividends, and Diffey’s 1926 9/20 Humber, hood down, refused to accept defeat, in spite of driving over a considerable hummock. Riddle then proved that you can’t keep a good GN down, with a nicely controlled climb, but Barry Clarke, braved driving his 1913 Singer Ten sans any kind of windscreen, another car on “proper” light-car tyres, appeared to jump out of gear when it had almost finished a very fast run, but it rolled on to clean the observed section. After an initial tail-slide Pam Arnold-Forster’s GN faded out.
Gregory’s 1923 Humber Eight Chummy, on oversize tyres but with contracting-band rear brakes as compensation, didn’t get far and after hand-cranking its engine, Wallace’s 1925 Standard failed near the top, after making a good attempt—soon afterwards it stopped with a stuck-up carburetter slide, but was soon on its way. The intrepid lightcarists, in pitiful rain, then entered the narrow, gated lanes of the Elan Valley. Following the route, I noted the inboard (back) brakes(!) of Riddle’s GB and the useful hood-cum-tonneau cover of Mrs. Burke’s Morris.
The final hill saw the Wolseley, which has another interesting braking facet, in the form of arms above the springs at the front to enable 1/4-elliptics to cope with the torque of front brakes, straddle at bank before its attempt but it was quickly extricated without damage and the cars returned for an excellent cold-table lunch at the New Inn at Newbridge-on-Wye, where Sue Blakeney-Edwards expeditiously announced the results. This frolic of the small cars made an excellent overture to a busy vintage season, which opened with the VSCC Silverstone Race Meeting on April 28th, too late to report in this issue of Motor Sport.—W. B.
Llwynbarried Trophy: R. E. Reed (1930 Austin 7), 239 marks.
First Class Awards: E. Riddle (1922 GN Vitesse), 226 marks, and Dr. B. Gray (1925 Austin 7), 225 marks.
Second Class Awards: P. J. Rooney (Austin 7) and D. F. White (1928 Ausiin 7).
Third Class Award: D. W. Brett (1926 Morris), and P. Diffey ( 1926 Humber).
A reader has sent us the following interesting and self-explanatory letter, about a fast, and we fear illegal, race which apparently took place one April Sunday in 1929, between an Essex Super Six and an unnamed adversary. The letter is on the notepaper of a Manchester garage, which, perhaps advisedly, was patented for the “Betafoot Brake”, although for Fords and not necessarily Essex cars. The first page of the letter carries a diagram proclaiming that its writer drove an Essex Challenger from London to Manchester in 3 hr. 40 min. for the 187 miles, which was very good going, even over the deserted roads of those days. Indeed, read on and you will see that the drive was quite hectic, and not at all well-planned in respect of refuelling arrangements. Does anyone know the make of car which the Essex challenged, and vanquished?
No doubt you will be interested to learn of a very wonderful performance put up by an Essex Super Six “Challenger” 4-door sedan, which I had the pleasure of driving personally on Sunday, April 21st, 1929.
During a conversation, the previous week, with a large Manchester distributor of a well-known make of car, I was detailing a few of the wonderful performances put up by the new Essex Challenger, in the hilly districts of Derbyshire, after which, much to my surprise he challenged me to put up a race with the car he was selling against the Essex, the contest being to leave Manchester together and the first at Marble Arch, London, to be the winner.
Starting at 5 o’clock on Sunday morning from the Manchester Town Hall, my opponent proceeded by Cheadle, Congleton, Talke, etc., myself proceeding by Altrincham, Holmes Chapel, Talke, etc. The first 52 miles were covered, by the Essex, in exactly one hour, and I was certain in my own mind that my friend was certainly left behind—well. This average was kept up with the Essex, until I arrived at the level crossing, 16 miles south of Atherstone. Here, I was to learn from a railway employee that my opponent had passed through five minutes previously, this was due to me underestimating the skill of the other driver, who must have averaged 53 m.p.h, and obtained the unexpected lead.
Now came the time for serious work both for car and driver, having only 80 miles to go to finish, with a handicap of 5 or 6 miles to pull up, so I then proceeded at 70 m.p.h., according to speedometer, for most of the time, ran for periods at 75 m.p.h., and twice clocked 80 m.p.h. At Fenny Stratford, I stopped for petrol and replenished with the 2-gallon spare tin, carried in the car, later stopping again at a shilling slot machine for petrol. My passenger and I had but two separate shillings in change, obtaining 1-1/2 gallons only. The next stop was at Dunstable, and here we were able to get filled up, the time being about 8 a.m., and still no signs of the other car.
Continuing to St. Albans at 70 to 75 m.p.h. then on to Radlett and Elstree, at which place we caught the first glimpse of the other car, since leaving Manchester. By this time only 10 miles from the winning post, I was on his tail for the next 5 miles, and was unable to pass owing to the other car hugging the right side of the narrow road, still doing 65 m.p.h., until we reached the tram track at Edgware Road Corner. I was not in a position to pass until Hendon was reached at 70 m.p.h., this pace being maintained along Maida Vale and Edgware Road to Marble Arch, arriving there at 8.40 a.m., with only 40 seconds to spare.
In conclusion I may say that the heavy calls made upon the “Essex”, during the latter stages of the run, to dispose of the handicap, which was imposed by myself during the first stages of the journey, justifies the name of “Essex”—”The Challenger”.
V-E-V Miscellany.— The Speed 20 Alvis which Sir Henry Birkin ordered before his death and which he intended to drive in the TT has, Rivers Fletcher tells us, turned up near Silverstone, after spending most of its life in Devon, and is in original condition. Someone in California is building a replica of the 4-1/2-litre Lagonda driven by Earl Howe in the 1936 TT. Near Tamworth a rather sad Singer Nine four-seater converted to a two-seater is being restored. Sunbeams of the STD Register, supported by Roesch Talbots, return to Wolverhampton, their birthplace, on July 1st, with a visit to the Severn Valley Railway at Bridgnorth planned for the previous day. The Trojan CC has published a list of known two-stroke Trojans around the world, which numbers 71 pre-war examples. The engine in Robbie Hewitt’s CGS Amilcar is a 1922 C4-power unit and not as stated in our VSCC Thruxton report. Ronald Barker has acquired a couple of Napier Sea Lion engines and threatens to install one in a road-going chassis, after converting it to aero-engine specification. He may also use one of their Arnal carburetters on his well-known 1908 Napier, after enlarging its inlet tracts to get back some of the original performance—as if the old Napier doesn’t go well enough as it is! There are not many old cars in regular use these days but near London recently we saw an immaculate yellow four-seater Anzani-AC on a trailer.
The National Traction Engine Club’s March issue of Steaming is devoted to steam in Cumbria. 1973 is the 50th anniversary of Citroën Cars Ltd. trading in this country and the Citroën CC wants as many vintage Citroëns as possible to attend its Beaulieu Rally on June 17th.