There are at least two miniatures in the Brumm series that I think you should see. One of these, No. 14 in their Oro “Revival” series, is a model of the Fiat “Mephistopheles Eldridge”. That is to say, of the famous 21-litre aero-engined car in which Ernest Eldridge so bravely broke the Land Speed Record on the road at Arpajon, near Paris in 1924, at 146.01 m.p.h. The model shows this great racing car in the form in which it was resuscitated after the war by a VCC member and run for a time in this country, before retiring into the Turin Museum. Thus the back of the off-set driving seat is too high, although this was not altered by Fiat when they took over the historic car. But the model’s detail is fascinating — the driving chains with guards over them, the tall tapering brass radiator with Fiat name-plate, the dumb-irons cross-bar, the drilled outside control-levers including what I take to be a (smaller) advance-and-retard lever, the huge external exhaust pipe over which the rear bonnet strap passes correctly, and the FIAT lettering in white on this red monster, although the latter is not quite correctly positioned. Even the chassis-bracing tie-rods, the dual rear shock-absorbers, the aeroscreen, and the Reg. No. XD-7117, are there. The wire wheels with knock-off type hub-caps, the long undershield, and the bonnet louvres and air-vents, are also very well contrived. I like this little model very much indeed; what a fine companion it would make to a Grand Prix Models’ miniature of “ChittyBang-Bang I”. Brumm refer to it as a 320 h.p. Fiat and GP Models and other specialist suppliers have stocks, the forrner charging £3.29 for the kit.
The other Brumm miniature to which I would draw your attention is No. 18 in the same series, described by the makers as a 1906 Renault GP 3B Corsa of 90 h.p. In other words, the car with which Szisz won the French Grand Prix that year, at Le Mans. As nicely-detailed as the Fiat, this miniature racing Renault is about 3¾” long (the Fiat measures 4½” in length). It has the correct wire-mesh sides to the coal-scuttle bonnet, three spare-tyres on the tail as during the race, the dashboard oiler, the big brass dashboard-radiator, and the correct artillery wheels. It carries the racing number 1, presumably intended to be that of the winning car, by someone not conversant with the numbering in the 1906 race. It has also a curly bulb-horn, steps for getting into the seats, with a cylindrical oil-tank on the n/s one, and an acetelyne headlamp mounted on the n/s. Not in keeping with the GP winner, you may say. This is partially true, and one wonders where Brumm modelled their model, as it were, especially as François Szisz carried number 3A in the Grand Prix. But wait!
The dramatic post-race history of this Renault must not be overlooked. The actual Renault driven to victory by Szisz in the GP was, it is said, in poor condition after that gruelling two-day 770-mile race, especially as it had been used by the entire team as the practice car. An Englishman immediately put in a bid for it, however. The story goes that Renault thought that in its worn-out state it would scarcely give him satisfaction and so they substituted one of the other cars of the team, probably Edmund’s, which had retired on the first day due to the dust-laying material on the road affecting its driver’s eyes. (Note that 3B was Edmond’s race-number, my dear Watson!) However, the new owner of this exciting Renault somehow learned of the transfer of number 3A to the wrong car (historians were having a rough path, even then!), and demanded the actual race-winner. In it the proud Englishman came to Dieppe to see the 1907 Grand Prix and went in this Renault to Fécamp for dinner one evening. Returning, he crashed into a tree and was killed. For two years the car was kept by those investigating the cause of the accident. Then it was sold at an auction. When the war came the old car, its fame forgotten, was impounded and used by a crack French Air Squadron for dashes between its base aerodrome and the front-line, from camp to the gaiety of Paris, and from point-to-point along the fighting-line. Famous pilots apparently drove it, at 10 m.p.g., and despite a tyre-life of 500 miles, under these conditions.
The war over, the old racer was sold, it is said, for a tenth of the price of 55,000-francs that the keen Englishman had paid for it in 1906. It was bought now only for re-sale. But there were no offers for the big, ancient, thirsty two-seater, and it was to be seen around Paris for some long time, before it finally vanished. There is evidence that since the race it had acquired front mudguards and a registration number, so the Brumm model’s lamp and side-steps can perhaps be accepted. Incidentally, when Szisz, for sentimental reasons, tried to find his old car in 1923 it had completely vanished. (Renault had made some small-scale duplicates (or copies in modern RAC jargon) of the winning car soon after the race and I had some experience of the one, run by Marcus Chambers, just before WW2.)
After this, who could resist the Brumm miniature? Even if you should really give it a more prominent starting-handle than it has, and a dumb-iron cross-member. It is available as a kit from model shops here, for about the same price as that for the Fiat kit.
* * *
Grand Prix models of 173-175 Watling Street, Radlett, Herts have come out with two more models in their famous “Classic” series. These are of the 1956 Type 251 Grand Prix Bugatti, the last effort of Ettore Bugatti to race in such events, and which I remember watching at Reims at the time, and, quite a contrast, a 1962 Porsche Targa Florio RS 1 coupé. They are, respectively Nos. 83 and 79 in this series of 1:43-scale miniatures that is soon, I am glad to hear, to include a model of the Napier-Railton, to line up with other Brooklands’ denizens from the GP Models range. The kits sell for £6.45 each. They also haves comprehensive 110-page model-car catalogue that takes in all kinds of models, ready-made as well as kits, metal, plastic, resin and the rest. It is available for £4.00 post-free in the UK, £5.00 to anywhere outside the UK, except to the Far East, when about 50p extra should be sent. — W.B.