Around and About, May 1976

VSCC Light Car Welsh Week-End (April 10/11th)

This informal but efficient affair, confined to light vintage-only machinery, has become one of the most enjoyable happenings in a ‘crowded VSCC calendar. This year 38 cars, minus three non-starters, converged on the Royal Welsh Showground at Builth Wells for eight driving tests (attempted by 30 cars) that took in plenty of the available terrain and consequently caused competitors to attain quite brisk speeds before curbing their light cars for the garaging, to-ing and fro-ing, zigzagging, and other deviations from the straight-ahead.

Spencer’s AV Monocar preferred the security of its trailer and its rear-hung JAP engine refused to give more than one explosion, even after ministrations from Tony Jones. Diffey had fitted his 1924 8/18 Humber with 5.25 x 16 Henley rear tyres, leaving the “bicycle-boots” to do the steering, but without conspicuous success. Liz Bell and Rosie Shapland demonstrated that ladies prefer Talbots, both driving two-seater 10/23s, During the first test, a simple (?) garaging manoeuvre, Crabbe executed rapid cog-changes on the 1920 Hillman, Tony Jones jumped away from the start, his Chummy’s clutch differing, perhaps, from that of his 30/98, and he was quick in spite of momentarily preventing the crankshaft from rotating, and Wood did some frenzied conducting of his 1923 Riley disc-wheeled coupe. McEwan had a bonnet-strap on his Mk. IV Riley 9 tourer to restrain its 30 horses, Riddle in the GN Vitesse Was neat, as usual, his 1922 cyclecar conveying him from Kingston and home again after the trial, as willingly as any modern car (and very much more so than a mis-firing SonicCortina I had taken over the previous evening).

Blake’s Chummy Austin and Brett’s gear-whining bull-nose Morris-Cowley saloon were well driven, Miggy Bruce performed in their immaculate 1930 Chummy Austin under the eye of her picture-making husband, Sloan in the ex-Milner AC actually slid at the stop-line, the Fisher Fiat 509A tourer was notable for a quiet o.h.c. engine, and Gledhill’s 1928 Chummy Austin was an obvious potential winner of the combined teats and trial.

After taking tea at Llwynbarried Hail and dinner, with Peter Hull as Guest Speaker, at the “Glen Usk” in Llandrindod Wells, competitors had the Sporting Trial to face on the Sunday. Dry weather (in Wales!) had rendered the intended sections too easy, but five varied gradients were found in the grounds of the Hall, a nasty restart had been contrived on a hill in the Evan Valley, and there was then a scenic route of some Severity to the finished lunch at Newbridge-on-Wye. The first restart looked a walk-over but defeated almost everyone, although the Riley 9, Hill’s Triumph Super Seven, Peacop’s .o.h.c. Morris Minor tourer (he drew the dinner-menu cartoons), Thomas’ also o.h.c. Wolseley, Lockhart’s 9/20 Huntber with four-up, Newens’ Cup Model Austin 7, and Riddle’s GN of course, cleaned it. Later Wallace’s Standard Canley earned applause by getting up a difficult section that was stopping more probable climbers –W.B.

Jaguar Racing Delayed

Contrary to what we forecast last month, Leyland’s racing Jaguar XJ 5.3 Coupes did not appear in the European Touring Car Championship round at Salzburg. Nor are they likely to be seen at Mugello on May 2nd, and their debut may be delayed until Brno on May 16th. Insufficient time for testing is said to be the reason.

Motor Sport sends its condolences to the racing Jaguars’ creator, Ralph Broad, and his wife Jean, whose 19-year-old daughter Jackie was tragically killed when the RangeRover she was driving collided with a lorry near Leamington Spa in mid-April. Ralph Broad was following her in another car. Jackie, whom Broad described as a talented driver, would have made her racing debut in the 1275 GT Mini Championship this month.

Mini Marcos lives on

Once you could find a producer of glassfibre sports car bodies for Mini components round every street corner. VAT practically finished the kit car industry and we thought that these Mini specials had had their day. “Not so”, thinks Harold Dermott, the 28 year-old one-time project engineer on catalytic exhaust system development for Jaguar, who has bought the rights to the Mini-Marcos from Jem March and is building this “world’s longest established kit car” in a converted mill in Oldham. Replicas of his own 1275-based Mini Marcos can be built up at Oldham for £1,100 plus the customer’s Mini. A basic body/chassis unit costs £395. Details from D. and H. Fibreglass Techniques Ltd., Heybottom Mill, Greenfield, Oldham, OL3 7EP.

Leyland’s heritage

One of the good things we all inherited when we took over British Leyland was a collection of over 130 historic vehicles, ranging from the 1896 Wolseley, the first British car to go into production, and a Thornycroft steam lorry of the same year to the last E-type Jaguar and a pretty fair covering of most things produced by the individual companies within the group in the intervening years (as this includes a number of vintage sports cars, does this mean that we all qualify for membership of the VSCC?). For years many of the interesting Austin-Morris cars have languished in a tunnel beneath the Longbridge works, others have been loaned out to Selected people, some, especially the record-breaking MGs, have done the rounds of showrooms and exhibitions but never have Leyland been able to display them under one roof.

Now the collection is to he put on permanent display in special halls at Tom Wheatcroft’s Donington Collection, at Donington Park, Castle Donington. A new company, Leyland Historic Vehicles Ltd., has been set up to develop “our” £1.3 million worth of vehicle and archive collection into a self supporting unit. Many vehicles will be available in running order for rallies and displays, for advertisers and for British Leyland distributors. Earnings from such hirings will be used to renovate and restore the collection, which will open in the Autumn.

The display will be yet another addition to the awe-inspiring collection of fascinations at Donington Park; there’s no doubt that when the circuit opens for racing, Donington will be Europe’s motoring Mecca. Amidst all the brick-bats slung at Leyland, it’s nice to be able to congratulate them on this intelligent venture.

2CV Cross

The first round of the Citroen 2CV Cross British Championship will take place near Taunton on May 29th-30th. These unlikely competition vehicles may be slow, but their softly-sprung antics over the “loose” are exciting to watch and even more exciting to conduct, as we found out when we competed in a two-day event at Clitheroe, Lancashire, last year. Other dates in the British Championship are : June 19th-20th near Camberley; July 3rd-4th near Wolverhampton; August 21st-22nd near Blackpool; September 4th-5th near Southend-on-Sea. The Camberley and Southend events will be part of the International 2CV Cross Trophy, which should encourage the Continental flavour.

Kitten Laps Up “Petrol-Globule GP”.

Well, what we mean is that a Reliant Kitten made best-performance in the Total Economy Drive, with a figure of 55.11 m.p.g. This is a more realistic event that some recent economy contests, because, except in the Modified Class, the competing cars had to be standard models, on tyres inflated to normal pressures, and the Hants & Berks MC, experienced in these matters, ensured the accuracy of fuel-consumed figures. So the event, like the late-lamented Mobil Economy Run, gives a realistic result, although the cars had to be driven much harder over the 900mile rally route than ordinary drivers would normally accomplish.

Deciding to economise on petrol ourselves, we confined our reporting to looking-in at a checkpoint a few miles from home, at Llandrindod Wells. We found no drama, mostly bored crews, as the clean, quiet competing cars came in. The only retirement reported was of a Dealer-entered Fiat 131, in the Modified Class. Although the cars would have passed for holiday-makers’ vehicles, apart from their rally insignia, the Police, usually tolerant of rallies even of the size (and noise) of the RAC, had banned street-parking for some inexplicable reason. So the 52 expected cars had to be slotted into the “Metropole’s” car-park, before Nancy Mitchell welcomed the crews. As we have implied, a Kitten driven by Young and Swindells, lapped the globules least, to return 55.11 m.p.g. Even the winner of the Modified Class, a “works” Chrysler Avenger with special camshaft, Thermac air-cleaner, electric fan, Laycock old., lightweight bonnet and boot lid, spoilers, etc., managed 46.2 m.p.g. The other class winners were a Morris Marina Super 1.8 (41.27 m.p.g.), a Honda Civic (45.51 m.p.g.), a Mini Clubman (50.72 m.p.g.) and a Ford RS2000 (35.51 m.p.g.).—W.B.

Good News From Dunlop

On April 8th Fort Dunlop held an “At Home” for guests of Lord Montagu, Philip Pollock, and Ray Nairn of Vintage Tyre Supplies Ltd., so that they could see how tyres in obsolete sizes are made by Dunlop, to keep vintage and veteran vehicles on the road. Such tyres, together with racing and light aeroplane tyres, are made in a surprisingly large, separate building in the Dunlop factory complex, by operatives many of whom are beyond normal retirement age. Hugh Harben’s 4 1/2-litre Bentley. Diffey’s 8/18 Humber, a GN with the chain-drive o.h.c. vee-twin engine, an Aero-Morgan the VSCC President’s Ferrari and Vintage Tyre Supplies’ Morris Commercial van attended and Cecil Bendall arrived in time for tea in his p.v.t. drophead Austro-Daimler. Those present were delighted to learn that supplies of Dunlop tyres for veteran and vintage vehicles are assured for at least another ten years. The visitors saw how carefully beaded-edge tyres are made and, in a different context, how straight a Leyland Princess (Reg. No. Al) ran, after one of its front Dunlop Denovo tyres was deliberately punctured at around 80 m.p.h.—W.B.

Are the Police Always Right?

A case has been reported from Scotland in which a Police Ford Consul 3000GT, going to a call, passed a Renault at about 50 m.p.h. before a blind right-hand bend, skidded, and hit a BMC 1800 coming the Other way on its own side of the road, with sufficient force to kill both occupants, and severely injure both the Policemen. A charge of reckless driving, and causing two deaths, was dismissed by a jury of nine women and six men. During the hearing it was suggested that Michelin XAS tyres on two other Police cars had been unsatisfactory and had been replaced by different tyres. The Fiscal said he regarded this as something of a “red herring” and asked the jury if it would not occur to them that there was “some element of a cover-up”. Having for many years been favourably impressed with the road-holding imparted by many kinds of Michelin tyres on many different cars, including XAS on a BMW currently in use, we wonder whether the Michelin Tyre Company has any comments to make about this disturbing outcome?

Under Seventeens Car Club Formed

Following response to his letter in the March issue of Motor Sport, Alexander Barrie informs us that he has formed the Under Seventeens Car Club to provide opportunities for under-age drivers to develop skill on private ground under close supervision. There is an upper age limit for full members of 17 and no lower age limit—but an applicant must be able to start up a car, engage gear, move the car smoothly at least its own length, stop it and apply the handbrake to qualify for membership. The Club is nonprofit-making and national in scope.

Mr. Barrie can be contacted at 33, Manor Way, London SE3 9XG (01-852 0867).

Also in Europe saloon car

Former British Champion saloon car driver Alec Poole is to drive a Derek McMahon-entered Escort RS1800 in all 10 scheduled rounds of the European Touring Car Championship this year. The Ford complies with the new Group Two regulations and has a 250 horsepower Brian Hart-modified engine.

C.R.’s Sultati Samuri

Motor Sport’s Assistant Editor will be debuting a 240Z-engined Datsun 1200 in the Tricentrol Super Saloon Race at Silverstone on May 8th. C.R.’s car is devised and built by Spike Anderson, of Samuri Conversions, Hanbury, Warwickshire (whose impressive 240Z Super Samuri we tested in 1973) and backed by Brian Harvey’s Grand Prix Models. An interesting feature of this roadlegal car is Hesketh-like Aeon Rubber suspension. More about the venture when we find out whether or not the car works.