VSCC light car section Welsh Weekend (April 2nd-3rd)

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Bill Boddy

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This year the traditional annual devolution of the vintage lightcarists into Wales took on a stern assignment—that of tackling the Northern route used in 1924 for the RAC Six Days’ Small Car Trial. Simon Coates had done the mapping, as he had of the Southern route used in 1975. Although the roads have been improved in the past half-century, the going made a good test for vintage machinery of the less-powerful sort. Nevertheless, 27 pre-1931 light cars turned out.

Whereas in 1924 the entry had comprised an Austin 7, two Trojans, two Gwynnes, a Clyno, a Derby, two Rhodes, a Surrey, a Marseal, three Galloways, a Lea-Francis, a Seabrook, a Wolseley, an AC, two Argylls, a Palladium and a Lagonda, with a Gwynne 8 the outright winner, the 1977 re-enactment was done with two Morris Minors, an Amilcar, two different sorts of Rileys, four Humbers, a Triumph Super Seven, a 1920 Hillman, a Morris-Cowley saloon, a GN, a Lagonda, and 14 Austin Sevens, proof, perhaps, that more afterwards people “invested in Austins” than in the other makes. A Swift, a 7.5 l.h.d. Citroen and another Morris Minor joined in later.

The “terror” was Bwlch-y-Groes. This “Pass of the Cross” stopped most of the entry, and there had been a surprisingly steep bit of hill beforehand, to add to drivers’ anxiety. In the end all got up, mostly after shedding their passengers. (In 1924 an observer, Mr. Lightbody, had been given a medal for pushing Waite’s Austin most of the way up, which his official capacity did not entail —my guess is that he was to cold and bored that he saw this as the only way in which he could get back to the hotel and a hot bath! Your heavy-Boddy reporter did not have to emulate the willing observer of the RAC event by pushing anyone up!) Colin Crabbe, however, put his wife out of the steaming Hillman and brought it up the last 1-in-4 part of the 2,533-yard 1-in-7 gradient in reverse. Proctor’s Amilcar had no trouble, treating the whole thing as if it were a modern car. Rosemary Burke’s Morris Minor was boiling but never faltered, Peacop’s Morris Minor was going well, although it later suffered o.h.-camshaft-drive maladies and had to be repaired from Rosemary’s spares source. Although McEwen’s Riley 9 tourer got up, it, too, was boiling. Riddle’s GN Vitesse had no bothers, Hill’s Triumph Super Seven sent out a super steam cloud and stopped; it resumed but later unfortunately broke its back-axle worm wheel. Rankin reversed his African-tour Austin Chummy up, the Burghley-sports Austin went well after shedding the passenger, as did Moore’s Austin, Gregory’s 1923 Humber 8 made a steady ascent, Townsend’s Austin made it, but the bull-nose Morris was overtaken by Tony Jones, whose Chummy made a splendid ascent after it had been topped up with petrol. The 1924 Lagonda of the Jeddere-Fishers came up in slow but sure fashion, Gledhill’s, Austin, passenger-less, went very well, as did Bebb’s Austin 7 metal saloon, brought up by a lady driver—which showed consideration for one’s navigator! Whereas the luckless passenger pushed Grey’s Chummy, and Cochrane’s Chummy arrived sans bonnet.

So thy old Pass proved fum and food for thought. Then the cavalcade dropped down to the scenic lake at Bala for the lunch stop at the White Lion Royal Hotel, as competitors had done in 1924. After which it was a long haul through more fine Welsh scenery to the finish at Llandrindod Wells, taking in Gibbet hill, which was less troublesome than it had been in the original Trial. There was then a hilarious evening at the Glen Usk Hotel, where John Rowley was a fluent Guest Speaker on the subject of his vintage motorcycles and cars. The Sunday was occupied in taking in hills in the grounds of LIwyn-barried Hall and at local farms, the Welsh mud of the former defeating even the GN Vitesse. The only further casualty of the Saturday run, a Morris Minor with a broken back spring, had been satisfactorily jury-rigged but Hestor Chappell, who now runs the Section so enthusiastically with his wife Liz, ditched his modern conveyance and had to be towed out by the Swift. After lunch at the New Inn at Newbridge-on-Wye it was announced that Rosemary Burke had won the Llwynbarried Trophy in her 1930 o.h.c. Morris Minor two-seater, a very popular outcome, which received much well deserved applause. W.B.

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