V-E-V miscellany, May 1983, May 1983

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Pat Mather recently took his 1919 Baughan cyclecar, which gives he says 60 m.p.g. from its side-valve JAP vee-twin engine, back to its birthplace at Stroud for a new transmission bearing. The firm that made it now manufactures extrusions used by the rubber and plastics industries. Mr. Baughan gave this cyclecar away in 1964 for “a packet of fags”, but Mather has restored it and it appears in VSCC events. Another cyclecar item — J. M. Howlett, writing from St. Leonards-on-Sea, says that although he cannot confirm whether or not the Marshall Arter light cars won three gold medals in the 1913 MCC London-Edinburgh Trial, his late father, Dr. B. Howlett, did win such a medal in that event, driving an AC Sociable three-wheeler, for he has it in his possession still. After this success Bernard Howlett wrote to Auto-Carriers Ltd. and they published his letter as part of an advertisement, showing how the AC had got far behind schedule due to fog and stopping for the full breakfast halt, but had made up time in spite of heavy rain after Carlisle, finishing well ahead of the gold medal time-limit. This was when these single-cylinder, rear-engined three-wheelers sold for £75.

The front cover of the March issue of Citroënian, magazine of the Citroën CC, showed the rare Citroën Ranalagh tourer owned by Graham Bruce. The much-used Rolls-Royce of Miss Letitia Overend of Dublin, which featured in recent Rolls-Royce Motors’ advertising in The Times, is, according to the Irish Times, a 1926 Twenty Mulliner drophead which was imported to Ireland early in 1927, after Miss Letitia Overend had paid £1,700 for it in London. It apparently became a familiar sight around the family seat, Dundrum, and in Dublin, and was maintained largely by the lady owner herself, after she had gone to the Rolls-Royce Training School to learn how. She was Superintendent-in-Chief of the St. John Ambulance Brigade and used the car for her work, also taking it to England, and in 1972 it was used for a promotional film to publicise Rolls-Royce cars in America. When its owner died in 1977 the car passed to her sister, and it is now only used occasionally, but maintained in good order. It is nice to know that Brian Houndsfield, nephew of the designer of the Trojan, and his wife, have been taking part in Trojan OC events and followed the last Brighton Run in his 1926 three-door tourer. A pristine 1923 two-door Trojan tourer found a new home in Surrey recently; it is on solid tyres made for the restorer by Dunlop’s and he had fitted an electric starter when he felt advancing years made use of the seat starting lever too strenuous. The next event of the 80-strong Trojan OC is its Egham Rally on May 21st. Our recent reference to W. D. Chitty Ltd. of Diss has brought a reminiscent letter from a reader in New York, Bill Close. He says he remembers this motor business from the age of nine, when he moved to Diss in 1924. It was then the largest garage in the town and later a large additional building was added on nearby Victoria Road, before the business was renamed W. D. Chitty Ltd. Before that Chitty & West were Ford agents and in this rich farming centre sales of Model-T cars and trucks and of Fordson tractors were good. The firm was also agent for Dunelt motorcycles, the two-stroke with the patented double-diameter stepped piston that gave a “supercharge” effect to the crankcase compression. The Chitty garage, the letter says, prepared a special Dunelt for grass-track racing, which was ridden by Mr. Chitty’s schoolboy son. As they had removed all surplus weight, the machine and its teenage rider did very well in those old races round local football-pitches. Gymkhanas and “backwards races”, done in reverse, were part of the fun, the latter won by a short-wheelbase, light brown Brescia Bugatti with holster fuel tank, which our then-youthful correspondent had admired in the Victoria Road showrooms on his way home from Sunday-school. It was close-pressed by an Austro-Daimler owned by a Capt. Wait of Palgrave, who also had an Amilcar. Other memories recalled in this letter from America are of three Model-T Fords used for motor-polo matches, their exhaust manifolds glowing red in the dusk from the exertion, which was matched by that of their extremely acrobatic passengers, of the interest which the appearance of the first Model-A Ford saloon in the Mere Street showrooms occasioned, after many months of rumour as to what the Model-T’s successor would be like, and of how, after a disastrous fire at a brush factory, the Diss UDC replaced the two-horse manual fire-pump operated by the town’s volunteer brigade with a motor-driven pump, Chitty & West winning the contract to provide a tow-vehicle for this, whenever its services were required, day or night. As Bill Close says, even a quiet market-town like Diss bad its excitements for a small boy in those days.

Following on from Mr. Axel-Berg’s comment on Rolls-Royce chassis having been used as coaches by Silver Star Motor Services (Shergold & White) before the war, Frank Woodworth tells us that there is a picture of the fleet as it was in 1927 in “Buses Illustrated” of January 1965, among which can be seen a 40/50 h.p. R-R chassis awaiting a 20-seater body in polished aluminium by Wray Motor Body Co. of London, SW6. This seems to have had twin rear wheels and apparently Silver Star were so satisfied that they acquired another R-R chassis, XY 8727. Our correspondent says that the individualistic Silver Star concern became the Wilts & Dorset Motor Services in 1963. Members of the Northampton Section of the VMCC propose to ride their pre-1930 motorcycles over much the same route as that used by Albert Cate who, in 1911, set out to go as far as he could in six days on his belt-drive Triumph and ended up by covering 2,557 miles. Catt’s route was to London, Edinburgh, Northampton, Exeter, London, Northampton, Holyhead, Northampton, Southampton, Northampton, Coventry, and out again on the last day from Northampton to Norwich and back. He finished in poor physical condition, his hands so swollen that he could not extract money from his pockets to pay for fuel. It is to pay tribute to Mr. Catt that this 1983 re-enactment, in relays, will be undertaken, finishing at Thomas à Becket’s Well, Northampton, on May 7th. As in 1911 the Mayor will stage a welcome and some of you may wish to do so as well. 

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