Vintage Postbag, May 1984

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Making a stand

There have been many editorials and letters recently about the DVLC at Swansea, the ending of the old style log books and the issuing of new numbers. As readers are no doubt aware, the powers that be at DVLC made these decisions on their own accord independently from any Parliamentary decision. They are not acting within the law, and of course have no right whatsoever to tell you or me whether we can, or cannot keep the original number on our old cars.

My advice to everyone who has an old car which is either subject to a current dispute with Swansea, or which has an old style log book which has not yet been sent in for conversion, is to ignore DVLC and refuse whatever they offer. Obtain an MoT certificate and tax the car on a form V10 at your Local Vehicle Licence Office. They cannot refuse to give you a road fund licence, and if they ask where the log book is you can say it is at Swansea. A few weeks later DVLC will write to you asking for more details of your vehicle. Answer the question correctly. If after a few weeks they tell you that another number is to be issued to your car, then write back and refuse and complain to your MP.

If everybody refuses to accept these reissue numbers and continues to use and tax their cars on the original number then eventually DVLC will have to give in, or grind to a halt. Banbury JOHN H. ATKINS

[This modus operandi has the blessing of The Classic Vehicles Clubs’ Conunittee and is in their opinion perfectly legal. The Editor applied to retain original Reg Nos on three pre-war vehicles before November last year, but was unable to promise log books or old licence discs. He has been told that it may be possible for the original Reg Nos to be retained but has since heard nothing from DVLC, which apparently has a backlog of at least six months. The above recommendations of Mr Atkins and the CVCC are to be commended. — Ed]

Nails

Sir,

The article in the March issue entitled “Motoring as it Was” referred to the difficulties motorists had with many punctures caused by the years of horseshoe and cart nails. The Department of Highways of the State of New Mexico had a novel way of dealing with the problem by utilising a Ford Model TTT “Nail Picker”.

This unusual vehicle consisted of a Model TT Ford One Ton Truck chassis upon which was mounted a further Model T engine and radiator driving a DC generator which in turn powered a huge electromagnet suspended behind the rear wheels of the contraption. The magnet collected nails and other pieces of steel from the highway and, during early tests, an average collection of 4.27 lb per mile was collected. The “Nail Picker” was put into production and later models were based on the Model AA Ford chassis. I wonder whether similar vehicles were used anywhere else in the world? Cuddlington R. P. LORCH

Chairman — Model T Ford Register of Gt Britain

The Trail Grows Cold

I found your splendid article on the great Hawker car, “The Trail Grows Cold”, of very great interest. For the record there is one very small correction, if I may be allowed to make it. There is mention of Capt Broome. I think that this is, in fact, a reference to Capt C. Q. Brand.

On February 4th 1920 Col Pierre Van Rynveld set out from Brooklands in a Vickers Vimy with Capt Brand as co-pilot. They landed at Cairo and thence made the historic flight to the Cape. . . I know something of this, as Col Rynveld married a first cousin of mine, Enid Collard, daughter of Fred and Sybil Collard of Croydon. Fred was a fine surgeon who also served in the Great War as a Major in the RAMC. At Xmas 1920 the family had the usual Xmas Day party, we were 12 in all (avoiding the awful 13), and Van Rynveld was there with his pretty young future wife, and as a boy of 14, I was introduced to him. He was Knighted for his epic flight, as was Capt Brand. He then returned to his native South Africa and I think became head of the South African Air Force. He received the DSO in the Great War.

Hope you do not mind my mentioning all this, I know how accurate you are in such matters and so rarely miss anything!

Box R. CHAPMAN

[Capt Hunt’s friend Capt F. C. Broome started from Brooklands in 1920 with Capt S. Cockerell to fly to the Cape in a Vickers Commercial, G-EAAV, but after many forced landings due to trouble with the Rolls-Royce engines and other causes, they abandoned the attempt near Tabora, some 1,800 miles short of the Cape. Nevertheless, The Times, which had sponsored the flight, held a celebration lunch in Printing House Square. An ex-RAF Vickers Vimy bomber “Silver Queen”, G-VABA, sponsored by the S. African government, later flew from Brooklands piloted by Lt-Col P. van Rynveld and Major C. J. Quintin Brand but crashed near Kurusku, 530 miles from Cairo, after a previous crash requiring the tail to be repaired with con-rods and springs from a Model-T Ford! This crew then left Heliopolis in another Vimy “Silver Queen II”, but again trouble was experienced with the RR Eagle engines and the attempt ended near Bulawayo, the two pilots completing their flight to the Cape in a DH9. Another attempt on the Heliopolis-Cape flight by an RAF Vimy, flown by Major Welsh and Capt Halley, was abandoned after a crash near Kurushu. It was evident that flying in the African heat was far more of a test of the engines than flying the Atlantic, which a Rolls-Royce Vimy achieved in 1919. — Ed]

Harry Hawker

I refer to the article in February MOTOR SPORT concerning Harry Hawker’s Mercedes-Sunbeam. My father as a young man in Kingston-upon-Thames remembers the car as “monstrous” and Harry Hawker as “a small man”. Hawker’s local was the up-market Nuttalls restaurant and public house in Kingston Market Place — site of the present branch of British Home Stores. My father remembers the car when parked outside Nuttalls as taking up most of the frontage to the road! Apparently, Hawker also used a Model-T Ford which “he drove faster backwards than most folks drove forward!” Hawker was also involved with speed boats and my father remembers such a boat derelict after WWI, in the Thames at “The Swan”, Thames Ditton.

Hawker’s aircraft factory started in premises in Canbury Park Road behind the skating rink in Kingston (both buildings are still there, the factory being later used for the manufacture of the Ner-a-Car motorcycle, and the skating rink becoming the Regal cinema). Hawker’s seaplanes were tested on the Thames off Canbury Park Gardens. Later, aircraft production transferred to Ham — now British Aerospace.

My father worked as a car body builder for various coachbuilding firms in the Kingston area in the 1920s; notably Newnes of Thames Ditton who built bodies on AC (then run by S. F. Edge) and Lagonda Rapier chassis. My father was seconded to Capt Macklin’s Invicta works at the Fairmile, Cobham, which he remembers as having a curiously genteel atmosphere with the workshop having stags’ head mounted on the walls! While at Invicta, he built the body for the Invicta car in which Violet Corderey took a record at Montlhery. My father remembers coachbuilding in the 1920s as a very uncertain, precarious sort of business with regular bankruptcies, sackings, unsettled accounts, etc. To him it was simply a bl**dy hard way of making a living, and he thinks it odd, to say the least, that we enthusiasts should be interested after all these years! .

Stroud GRAHAM W. DAVIS .

[Besides being a very capable and successful aeroplane pilot and racing car driver, Hawker piloted em>Maple Leaf V in the 1920 International Trophy motor boat race at Cowes, the boat, which was entered by Sir E. Mackay Bt, having four V12 400 hp Sunbeam engines in its 39 ft-long Consuta wooden hull. Hawker sandwiched the race between the Air Ministry Competition with the Sopwith Antelope and racing the 350 hp Sunbeam at Brooklands. He flew between the various venues in the Sopwith Swallow monoplane. Maple Leaf V won the heat, had trouble in the first race when three of its engines cut out, but was third in the second race. — Ed.]

Atlantic City Track

I read with interest your February article on pre-war American race tracks. Your mention of a track at Atlantic City made me sit up, because I have been living and working in that area for the last three years and have never heard a whisper about such a facility — particularly one with such high average speeds. So I started to dig. It most have been quite a place. . . .

There is a market town called Hammonton in New Jersey almost halfway between Atlantic City and Philadelphia on the Whitehorse Pike. The US Government, having also condescended (your words!) to help out with WWI, directed its Ordnance Dept to construct an ammunition factory four miles east of Hammonton in March 1918. Eight thousand acres of scrubland were bought and cleared and within a few weeks the plant started to produce shells for the slaughter in Europe. Following the armistice in November the factory was closed and the work force dispersed. To house the workers, a new town had been built called Amatol, after AMmonia & Tri-Nitro-TOLuene. Amatol now went to sleep for eight years. In the early 1920s Atlantic City was in its heyday. You could not even set foot on the famous boardwalk unless you were properly attired. In order to add to the attractions in the area, a group of local businessmen decided to go motor racing. April 1926 saw a formal decision by them to construct a 1 1/2-mile banked wooden track on the abandoned ammunition factory at Amatol. The fragile, faded newspaper cuttings of the time show that the track closely resembled the one at Laurel, Maryland. In fact, there was really only one constructor of board racing tracks in the whole of the United States (Jack Price Construction Co of Oakland, Calif) so it is likely that both tracks were built by that firm. The track was 50 feet wide, with space on the inside apron for a 1 1/4-mile dirt track. Four and a half million feet of lumber were used and there was seating for 45,000 people, with space for many more on the infield. Crowd estimates of 30,000 to 40,000 are probably fair for the early meets, though towards the end they dwindled to about 15,000.

The track was already partly built at the time of the April decision to go ahead. Even so it is incredible that it was ready for the inaugural meet on May 1st, 1926. Two further meets were planned for that year in July and October. What turned out to be the final big event was held on May 30th, 1928. In its time, the Atlantic City Speedway, as the track was officially called, attracted all the leading American drivers plus some from Europe. Three Englishmen who competed were Captain John Duff, driving an Elcar, W. D. Hawkes in an Eldridge and E. A. D. Eldridge in an unnamed car. Harry Hartz won the first two 500-mile races. Bob McDonough set the inaugural qualifying speed at 143.6 mph, while Bennett Hill raised that later in the year to 147 mph. Timing was originally by electric tape, though at the September 1927 stock car race, five timers with hand-held stop watches were used indicating that possibly they had had problems with the electric tape. Ralph de Palma’s car caught fire near the end of the inaugural race, so he pushed it, flaming, across the line to finish sixth! His nephew, Peter de Paolo used to tie his baby’s bootees to the front axle for luck. At the 1927 stock car race, won by Tom Rooney, a feature of the day’s activities included an ambulance race. Two ambulances started together, picked up a “human form” on the way, placed it on a stretcher and raced for the finish. Each vehicle carried full equipment plus a Red Cross nurse, a surgeon and a hospital orderly! A dramatic innovation for the 1927 stock car race was that, apart from the factory cars and drivers, none of the drivers knew which car they would drive until their names were picked out of a hat by officials of the AAA Contest Board right on the starting grid! Imagine FOCA going for that one! The stock car races were literally that; cars from stock. Well known makes such as Dodge, Chrysler, Ford and Studebaker were entered along with Star, Auburn, LaSalle and Whippet. The oldest entry in the September 1927 race was a 1900 Winton, but 90 cu in engines were used from July 1926 onwards; these apparently approximated to the then European limit of 1,500 cc. In the latter part of 1928 the power behind the track, Mr Charles Schwab, moved on to other interests. Attendances declined and the track turned into a money losing proposition. The overall declining economy, leading to the 1929 Wall Street collapse, must also have affected the situation at Amatol. It was leased to auto companies as a testing ground for a while and then part of it was sold to the General Aero Corporation for flight training and aircraft refuelling purposes. Then, in 1933, the final blow fell when the sheriff sold the track to satisfy a lien of the caretaker. The demolition boys moved in and began to tear down the once proud Atlantic City Speedway, which at its highest point stood 200 feet from the ground. The millions of feet of lumber in the grandstand, track and fencing were removed and sold. Everything else was carried away.

Today there is not one single piece of this gigantic circuit standing. Just pine trees and bush. Rough sandy tracks used by a local: logging operation lead nowhere. There is however a sand road which traces the original track and you can see what remains of a man made banking, about head high, at either end of the old oval. Two 12 ft deep gouges in the ground, up and down, just wider than a car, cut across this sand road. These must be the old access tunnels, under the wooden boards, leading to the infield. The exact location of the old track can therefore be pinpointed here. It is eerily fascinating to stand in these “tunnels” in the now silent bush and to imagine those thundering monsters hurtling by overhead on the wood track at speeds approaching 150 mph. Sad, too.

Abescon, NJ T. HENDLEY

Alfa Tipo B

The piece on Patrick Lindsay’s cars was delightful, though it is far better to watch him in action in them. But Jeremy Broad’s letter apropos the Lindsay Monza prompted recollections of the Shuttleworth Tipo B, 50007 covered so well in Jenks’ article last year.

I bought the car through Erwin Goldschmidt, one of our quickest sports drivers in the ’50s, who also acted as agent in the States for Jack Bartlett. This was in 1959 and the car was at Pembridge Villas, where it must have sat a long time. I bought it sight unseen, but did have a friend vet the car for me and he commented that it was fit for a rather small driver. Fortunately I hadn’t seen it, and bought it anyway. But I can assure Mr Broad that a tall man could, in fact, drive it without removing the petrol tank behind the seat, and so exciting was it to drive that accommodation hardly mattered. Over the years I returned the car nearer and nearer to the original. Fortunately the lovely petrol tank which is its tail was still there under the sports car bodywork. Eventually I brought the car to England for an engine re-do, and there it has remained for racing, shared with Chris Mann. After tangling my feet in the pedals at Donington a few years ago we restored it to proper Monoposto and the luxury of a cockpit far roomier than a Monza.

So I have to say that I am very glad Mr Broad bought the Monza and left the Tipo B for me. His loss was surely my gain, Incidentally, I agree with Mr van Mesdag. Stick to mpg, mph and hp.

Paoli, Pennsylvania W. W. WESSELLS III

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