Vintage Light Cars in Wales

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The annual Welsh Week-end of the Light Car and Edwardian Section of the VSCC took place on March 29th/30th, based on the Abernant Lake Hotel at Llanwrtyd Wells, where the spacious grounds were well suited to the driving-tests on the Saturday afternoon and there is ample space both for parking competing cars on private ground, and for the film-show and the dinner. I make no excuse for reporting this quite minor happening in the vintage motoring world, because it is one of the happiest events of the year, free from the commercialism and bickering that can mar other, more prestigious, sporting occasions. 

The increased price of petrol caused no drop in enthusiasm, for 44 entries were received by the capable new organiser, Simon Colledge, although this didn’t involve quite that number of cars, because it is a notable feature of the Section that wives and daughters drive those entered by husbands and fathers. There were also a few non-appearers. Clive Jeddere-Fisher had just failed to get this Fiat 509A ready in time, nor did Wallace’s Standard Canley, Rosie Shapland’s 10/23 Talbot, or the 5cv Citroën arrive. The star effort must be that of Branislav Sudjic, who drove down from north of Edinburgh on the Friday in his ex-Maxwell twin-cam Salmson, and set off on the return nine-hour journey to Scotland, on the Sunday. 

There were five tests on the Saturday, consisting of the usual garaging and “mind-those-pylons” frolics, plus a final one in which a wheel had to be removed and replaced. Hard on the girls’ finger-nails, this last test provided the spectacle of Tony Jones lifting his Austin 7 both on and off the jack, Elaine Drake doing it very well with her Amilcar’s centre-lock hub, a long-handled jack assisting Wheeler and Wendy Cooksey (separately, of course) to elevate the Morris-Cowley, its engine idling quietly meanwhile, Seymour Price doing the test methodically and very quickly on his hoodless Austin Chummy — shades of one of my pre-war — finally pushing it off the jack, and Harper (M-type MG) and Nutter (Morris-Cowley) using hydraulic jacks. Elder was equipped with vast garage trolley-jack and big wheelbrace but, alas, his 1924 sports Bayliss-Thomas had broken a tooth in its crownwheel and pinion in a previous test and this finally caused its retirement after two hills in the trial on the morrow. The Salmson claimed non-detachable wheels, so Sudjic was made to change a plug instead, which involved removing the plate between the camboxes. I had entered the 1924 12/20 Calthorpe Mulliner-bodied two-seater but, having no jack-handle, opted out with the excuse that the NUJ would probably not approve of a working journalist doubling up as a garage mechanic. . . . 

After the Rivers-Fletcher Club Film and Bill Mason’s great film “The Titans” had been shown by Russel Wilson-Kitchen, and a good dinner had been partaken of, the 1979 awards were presented by Winifred Boddy. Mike Hurst collected the Llwynbarried and Colin Crabbe Trophies, the latter a GP Mercedes-Benz piston, Ruth Hirst the Ladies’ Trophy, Tony Jones the De Salis Trophy, Jack McEwen the Lady Rachael Trophy, Barry Clarke the Edwardian Trophy, Simon Coates the Talbot Trophy, Peter Morgan the Douglas Fitzpatrick Trophy (an unbelievably enormous piston from a 21-litre Maybach aero-engine, mounted on a plinth), Anthony Costigan the Navigator’s Trophy and Mick O’Callaghan and Mick Pratt the Marshall’s Award, etc.

The first hill on the Sunday was a successful “stopper” but among those who scorned its ever-steepening gradient was Nancy McEwen (Mk. IV Riley 9), while Tom Threlfall did very well in the 1924 vee-twin BSA, banging in the clutch and relying thereafter on this oil-filled Hotchkiss component not burning out. Price’s Chummy Austin, in contrast, was experiencing clutch slip from unwanted oil on that component, but Robin Batchelor’s 1925 Morris-Cowley tourer, with Julian Ghosh conducting the bouncing from the tonneau, ascended to marker-13, aided, it was rumoured, by hot air from the balloon that its driver sometimes substitutes as another form of sporting transport. . . 

Most drivers failed below the rocky outcrop of Section 1, even Odell who, having unloaded all surplus weight, except Hamish Moffatt, tried it in reverse in his 12/24 Lagonda all-weather. The Amilcar was suffering all day from boiling, Hill’s Triumph Super 7 was down on power (so that my Calthorpe actually overtook it, up one ordinary-road third-gear gradient), and Peacop, having performed well in the driving-tests, was now finding his 1930 sunroof Morris Minor saloon apt to play up. Dr. Andrews’ Riley 9 tourer was blowing oil-mist over his feet, and Wheeler’s 1926 Morris-Cowley, with copy-Chummy body, developed gearbox trouble after the last hill section. Clarke’s Austin was reported to have carburation problems but this didn’t prevent his daughter “cleaning” Section 5 in fine style, where Peacop also had no trouble, and Matt Vincent in his 1924 Austin 7 Chummy on b.e. tyres clinched victory with faultless ascents of these last two earthy sections. Phip Diffey was out of luck when we saw him on the first section, in spite of his two sons bouncing enthusiastically in the back-seat of his 9/20 Humber tourer and the rumoured insertion into its sump beforehand of some rocket fuel, but he got to marker-7. As a change from the Chummy brigade, de Salis drove a smart two-tone “top-hat” Austin 7 metal saloon which was about the BSA’s equal on Section 1. A spectating novelty, until it blew a valve-cap out, was Rosemary Burke’s air-cooled vee-twin Peugeot-JAP, and the only competing Edwardian was Ron Knight’s practical, 1914 Clegg-Darracq touring-car. The event, ably put on by Keith Hill, ended at the “New Inn” at Newbridge-on-Wye. — W.B. 

The results were announced promptly, as follows:
Uwynbarried and “Beaded-Edge” Trophies: M. Vincant (1924 Austin 7 Chummy). 
First-class Awards Overall: B. Clarke (Austin 7), T. Jones (Austin 7), T. Threlfall (BSA). 
Second-class Awards Overall: M. Ellis (MG), J. Peacop (Morris Minor), S. Price (Austin 7). 
First-class Award and “Beaded.Edge” Award, in Driving-Tests: R. Beebee (Austin 7), Second-class Awatd: R. Hill (Triumph Super 7). Third-class Award: M. Hirst (Morris Minor). 
First-class Award in Trial: P. Diffey (Humber), Second-class Awards: Nancy McEwen (Riley), Eleanor Clarke (Austin 7), Ruth Hirst (Morris Minor). 

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