Veteran to classic miscellany, May 1991

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The VSCC Light-Car Section has acquired the Main Section’s secret of ensuring good weather for its events, because sunny splendour made the Welsh Weekend (13/14 April) very pleasant. This year a treasure hunt passed the Saturday afternoon, replacing the former driving tests, prior to the annual dinner and prize-giving at the secluded Abernant Lake Hotel at remote Llanwrtyd Wells. The able organisation was by Jane Arnold-Forster, aided by Richard Moore.

The traditional trial followed on the Sunday, with choice sections arranged by A7-enthusiast Seymour Price. Dry conditions made most of the hills easy, so the driving test in the parking lot of Orbital Gears in Rhayader were useful for deciding ties. With ten sections, the entry of 52 had lots to do, especially as it was all over by lunchtime, well served at the Bell Llanyre.

The Light Car section generously allows Edwardians to join in and a 1907 Mercedes-Simplex, a 1912 Buick 28, a 1914 3-litre Charron, a 1913 Metz 22 and a 1914 Darracq availed themselves of this opportunity — against, for instance, 22 A7s, some driven by girls as well as the boys, and four GN cyclecars, the latter once again displaying varying types of valve-gear, ioe and pushrod vertical oh-valves, of which Riddle’s had his own push-rod plan to prevent these from becoming wayward. In fact, the Edwardians were mostly conspicuous by their absence, on the Sunday. . . . and the Charron broke its diff on the first hill.

The hills produced little to report, although Gray’s GN just lost power at the very summit of Llwynbarried Bog, nor did the road sections cause much havoc, although Ian Walker made an adjustment to his Gvvynne’s clutch, Chris Gordon’s A7 Chummy was losing water, and the Bereton’s A7 Chummy had carburettor problems. FTD in the test was made by Peacop’s ohc Morris Minor but Peter Rosoman was also very quick in his 9/20 Humber tourer, front axle juddering under reverse-braking; but he bashed a bollard, as did Riddle in the GN at the final reverse. P Rosoman’s A7 saloon overshot the stop line, where Marsh’s Chummy just escaped the same fate. Miss March’s smart Chummy made a steady run, whereas Mrs Harper’s stopped too soon, the two spare wheels in the stern being of no avail on such a situation. Barry Clarke’s A7 top-hat saloon sounded as fast as it went, but rumour said that Mrs Tomlindon, who was sharing it, had put a wheel outside a marker on one of the hills. Simon Price (A7) nearly got up the dreaded Caerfagu-2 but in the test his speed was balanced by the bollards.

Hill’s Crouch-Helix made a good job of the garaging and reversing, Bullett was neat in his GN, a real GN as it sports a gas headlamp. Chris Gordon made a great bid for FTD DT time in his Chummy, but Mrs Lemon stalled her Churnmy’s engine. Then Diffey set best non-A7 time in his 9/20 Humber. R Threlfall’s hoodless Chummy displayed furious back-axle judder on a spirited run, but bagged two bollards. J Jeddere-Fisher did it sensibly in the Fiat 509 but Gledhill’s A7 Chummy, also hoodless, was quick, but juddered and stalled. Moore’s M-type MG’s brakes squealed in alarm, but a flying finish followed two bashed bollards. Carlisle reversed his GN carefully, Urry was good in the Riley 9, but Gray got it all wrong in the GN, to despairing comments from his daughters. Ian Walker caused amusement by getting out of the Gvvynne to re-read the instructions.

Through all of this Mrs Kynaston’s 1921 5cv Citroën brought with it a touch of Paris chic, a yellow beaded-edge-tyred two-seater, except that it is red; it performed well, if not rapidly.

Llwynbarried Trophy (best performance): Martin Shaw (1930 Morris Minor)

Beaded-Edge Award: A. Carlisle (1921 GN).

1st Class Awards: A Carlisle (GN), B Clarke (A7), Miss Hutchings (A7), P Livesey (A7), P Coleridge (Riley 9), C Gordon (A7); 2nd Class Awards: M Shaw (Morris Minor), S Moore (MG-M), Miss P Thorpe (A7), J John (A7), Mrs Livesey (A7); 3rd Class Awards: W Urry (Riley 9), M Bullett (GN), W Ackworth (A7), R Threfall (A7), Miss A Thorpe (A7). — WB

***

As we have shown, ask a question in Motor Sport and invariably you can expect an answer. The correspondent who inquired about a Daimler his father drove and who has discovered from records held by York archives that it was registered DN 350 (does it still exist?) asks whether anyone remembers speed trials being held on Knavesmire Road. York, in the late 1920s, where he recalls watching something of the kind; the road is still there?

***

A rather handsome brochure describes the Rallye Du Siècle which is being organised for up to 100 pre-1961 cars by Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and the Marquis de Goulaine, to take place from September 27th/29th in Brittany. Entries have just about closed but final selections will be made in May and copies of the brochure are available from the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu.

***

In the February issue we announced that, after looking at sites at Donington Park, Syon Park, Milton Keynes, Barnsley Hall and Lickey Grange, as an alternative to their present Studley HQ, the British Motoring Industries Heritage Trust, headed by Mr Peter Mitchell, was building new premises at Barnsley Farm, Bromsgrove. Although we were not informed, the BMIHT has apparently changed its mind again and is now looking at the 80-acre ex-Austin/Rover proving ground at Gaydon, in Warwickshire. That apart, it would be a terrible blow if Lickey Grange, Lord Austin’s home until his death in 1941, were to be demolished, of which there now seems to be every possibility. The house stands in 27 acres and is much as it was when Lord Austin lived there and where the A7 was designed in 1921/22. The premises, with this historic background and staff houses, residential accommodation, sports field, indoor swimming pool, etc, would make an ideal motor museum, especially one with A7 connections. Les Gammon, Hon Editor of the excellent A7CA Magazine, is Hon Chairman of the Lickey Grange Appeal. If anyone can help in any way towards preserving this endangered piece of British Motoring Heritage, they should contact Mr Gammon at 5, Larch Grove, Warwick, CV34 5TA (Tel: 0926 497641).

***

The Things They Say!

“. . .this famous car covered 101 miles in the hour at Brooklands driven by Parry Thomas’s wife.” — From Coy’s auction catalogue, about the Frazer Nash-BMW EYW 3, which was bought new by EM Thomas and which his wife Jill drove 101 miles in an hour in 1939. Parry Thomas did not have a wife and he was killed at Pendine in 1927!

“The comfortable little car museum has Denis Jenkinson’s ex-Ferrari and a Whitney Straight track Duesenberg single-seater as centrepieces. . .” — Eoin Young, in his column in Autocar & Motor, describing the Brooklands Museum. Actually it’s one and the same car.

“The beauty of country roads and the majesty of the Hockenheimring, a world class race circuit.” Road & Track’s opinion of this German racecourse. As DSJ comments, “Believers in the Nürburgring, Francorchamps and Osterreichring must be astonished; it’s like comparing Greenford Speedway with Brooklands.” — WB

***

The Corporate Aircraft Division of British Aerospace is joining the HGPCA in running three race meetings this year for 1950s sports cars, the dates being May 18th/19th at Spa, July 27th/28th at Silverstone and August 10th/11th at the Nürburgring.

Ferrari, Maserati, Jaguar and Aston Martin cars which competed in the leading car races of the period are expected, such as the 3-litre Testa Rossa Ferrari that won four out of six world titles in 1958, the successful Maserati 300S and Nick Mason’s Birdcage T60, C-type Jaguars which had six important victories between 1953-57 and Aston Martins of the kind that won the 1959 world title, including the DBR1. British Aerospace see this shared promotion as appropriate, since many HGPCA members own or operate business aeroplanes like the 1000 Intercontinental and the 800 Transcontinental versions of the BAe 125.

***

The Veteran CC of GB’s annual awards were presented at its AGM at the RAC last March. Numbering 29 main prizes, it is not possible to list them all but the Lord Victor Ludorum Trophy for best overall performance was won by Brian Moore, the Milex Cup for greatest formula mileage by John Tanner (1904 Berliet), the Blake Memorial Trophy best performance by a tube-ignition car by Mrs Ruth Moore (1892 Panhard et Lavassor), the Philip Shaw Memorial Victor Ludorum Trophy by S Curry (1908 Clement Bayard), the Overseas Trophy by J Newell (1908 Vauxhall) and the Derek Nicholls Trophy for highest aggregate formula mileage by Brian Moore’s Rolls-Royce, which recorded 921 miles, eight more than the Berliet as scored by Tanner in main events. Membership stands at about 1500, including 256 Overseas and 24 Junior members.

***

After reading the “Forgotten Makes” article on the Guy V8, Tony Guy, nephew of Sydney Guy who founded Guy Motors, contacted us to say that, although it is a forlorn hope, he would like to hear of any such car, or remains of one, anywhere in the world, to restore and share appropriate events with his 1935 Guy Wolf 20-seater ex-Llandudno single-decker bus. We can forward letters. — WB

***

Can anyone help a reader to trace what became of two Bentleys? The first a 1925 3-litre, Reg No XX 5105, chassis 1019, engine 1025, a Speed Model with black/polished aluminium VDP body originally used by Hillstead as a demonstrator, until sold to a German called Deutsh. It was purchased by Raymond John Holford-Abrahams in 1936 until 1940 when he was called up urgently to serve abroad, so disposed of the car to the Station Garage, Hemel Hempstead for £2. The other a 1934 3-1/2-litre Park Ward saloon, Reg No BLL 333, chassis B 30CR, bought in 1967 by Glyn Holford and sold 18 months later for £165 to a man called Kit from Muswell Hill, when the main bearing failed and soaked the clutch in oil, causing the owner to walk 14 miles to Crouch End, as it would not climb the hill past the Horniman Museum. Mr Holford, of 14, Monks Road, Exeter, EX4 7AY (Exeter 51318) would be glad of any information.

***

Another Brooklands landmark has been lost with the demolition of the “Hand & Spear” Hotel by Weybridge Station, which is to be replaced by a modern public house. It was where many drivers stayed and the motorcycle riders celebrated after race meetings, and before that was where Robert Louis Stevenson stayed while writing Treasure Island. It will be sadly missed, and it is odd that big business seldom sees the value of an historical heirloom.

***

Sue Lathan of Iris Productions Ltd, Brown Street, Sheffield S1 7BS, tel 0742 725946, fax 0742 754915, is researching a television series about women’s fascination, attitudes and relationship to driving and cars. She would like to hear from any woman who may be a vintage enthusiast, a classic car collector, a mechanic, rally driver, truck driver, involved in the motor industry or just an enthusiast.

***

Sherlockian Problem

I have been reading Round England In An Eight Pound Car by Terence Horsley, published in London in 1932. It describes a tour which started and ended at Newcastle, taking in Kelso, Cambridge, London, Lynton and Manchester. The author was accompanied by his engineer — aged ten! The car, in fact, cost £7 10/- so this can be regarded as a formidable journey. The book describes the tour in a light-hearted style, not dwelling too long on the places and persons encountered. But nowhere is the make of the car disclosed, hence the problem, of trying to name it from the few clues provided.

All I know about the author is gleaned from his book — that he had written previouslyThe Odessy of an Out-Of-Work, had had a friend with a water-thirsty steam-car, knew people living near Chester who owned a circa-1907 De Dion and a modem six-cylinder car, and may have been to Oxford. He had known motoring in earlier times, for he mentions, “Begoggled eyes, narrow roads between dust-coated hedges, breathless passage down the hills, and a perspiring chauffeur toiling at wired-on rims (he means tyres?) with tyre-levers stuck like toreadors’ daggers round the wheel.”

In fact Horsley says he took the trip to see again this pleasant land and in a car costing less than the price of a new overcoat because it added a spice of adventure, apart from preserving his bank balance. In it he hoped to capture some of the flavour of motoring in earlier days.

I do not know exactly when this tour was undertaken but it seems likely that the mss was written in 1931, so perhaps 1930 was about the year. There are a few clues which may confirm or contradict this, by a few years. For instance, the remains of a burnt-out car remained on the grass verge near Alnwick, a steam-waggon was encountered refilling its water tank from a stream, the notice showing the correct way to lead horses up 1:3.9 Sutton Bank, erected by the National Equine Defence League, was observed (the old car had to climb the hill in reverse), at the summit of Shap Fell they passed “an extraordinary advertisement — a clocktower, intended to portray the excellence of a make of motor lorry,” (a Leyland clock, no doubt), AA Scouts were on duty, and a fishing ticket at Kelso cost 2/- (10p). What do you make of that, Watson?

The author studiously avoids quoting car makes, apart from that De Dion and a Rolls-Royce from which its chauffeur took a sparking plug for Horsley’s car. So what of the slender clues from which someone more expert than I may be able to deduce it make?

Going through the book reveals that it was a four-seater, the back seat of which was removeable (to take the luggage). It was “conceived in another decade.” Thus, if the book was written in 1931 it dates around the 1920s. The dashboard carried a clock, an ammeter, and a petrol gauge, the yellow fluid from which dripped onto the latter. The steering colotunn was upright “like that of a bus”, the steering wheel chipped, which suggests a celluloid rim. The gears were “noisy, almost vulgar”, the four-cylinder engine filled the bonnet space, the body was “full of seating space”, and there is a hint of a 3-speed gearbox, with perhaps a low bottom gear difficult to engage in an emergency, because when the old car ran away down Shap it was “crammed into 2nd gear”.

The petrol tank held five gallons, assuming it to have been filled before starting out, and almost certainly fed by gravity. The sidelamps were on the front mudguards, the front seats (plural) were of “extreme comfort”, upholstered in real leather, and of course there were running-boards.

As for performance, cruising speed is quoted as about 23 mph, which sufficed to overtake a Ford truck early on the tour, the average speed on ordinary roads 19 mph, so that they reckoned on nearly a mile every two minutes. Flat-out, with a following wind, 33 mph was attained. Remember it was very much a used car but I don’t think it was a pre-1914 model, because when they met the owner of a two-seater and discussed the prospects of climbing Shap with him, his car is described as pre-war “Handsome — far finer in looks than ours” and Horsley would hardly have mentioned it as pre-war had his own car been of such antiquity. His tourer had a grey bonnet (it is later described as “brass” but no doubt the radiator was intended, which presumably had once been nickel-plated)?

Shap was successfully ascended, and Porlock descended with difficulty amd smouldering back brakes. Here we get perhaps the most pertinent clue of all — the handbrake was so positioned that almost every time it was applied it skinned the driver’s thumb. But whether because it was in the centre and too close to the gear lever, or on the right and too close to the side of the body, isn’t disclosed. Otherwise there is little to help. There were no side curtains, and water found its way between the divisions of the windscreen, so this was either two-pane or a vee-screen. The hood was blown from the windscreen near Kendal and secured with copper wire. In one day, including Shap, they did 112 miles, at 18.5 mph. The weight of the old car is roughly about 15cwt. and at the end if the tour of around 1500 miles it went into a dealers’ showroom, valued at £5. Its Reg No may have been NL 3530.

So what was this car which prompted this little book? Whether you can deduce it or not, I think many will agree with the author’s sentiment that the motor car might be ruining England but is probably no greater menace than a government, a public house, or a bishop. And few VSCC members will be at variance with his comment that “It is satisfying to stagger into rain and wind without thought of sun; when the weather clears and an old car takes on a new lease of life, the world seems especially made, for us.” — WB

***

New Limited Edition Print

A new limited edition from the famous Cuneo painting of a pit stop of the winning Jaguar in the 1953 Le Mans race has become available from Richard Lucraft Limited Editions of 13 Pinceton Court, SW15 to mark the 40th anniversary of the C-type. Although well known for their railway and aviation prints, this is the print publisher’s first motoring subject.

The print run is limited to 850 copies with each one individually signed by Terence Cuneo and ‘Lofty’ England. When these prints become available in May, they will be priced at £115 unframed. Their launch was marked in a gathering at the Stratstone Showroom in Berkeley Street at which ‘Lofty’ England, Duncan Hamilton, Jack Fairman and several of the original team mechanics were present.

***

Writing Bugatti History

A tribute to motoring historian Griffith Borgeson in a contemporary motor journal which I read recently repeated the oft-told story of how, in 1929, the American racingdriver Leon Duray (not to be confused with the veteran Belgian driver Arthur Duray) exchanged two Miller 91 racing cars with Ettore Bugatti for three Type 43 Bugattis. What I found particularly interesting was that the author of this tribute to 72-year-old Borgeson said that Bugatti wanted those Millers to study their front-wheel drive, ignoring the popular theory that he copied their twin-cam engines when foresaking the Bugatti three-valve head for twin-cam valve-gear and inclined valves. That seems to me far nearer the mark than this latter theory, although many writers, including that great Bugatti expert, the late Hugh Conway, adhere to the twin-cam crib.

Duray’s Miller 91, entered as a Packard Cable Special, after qualifying second-fastest at over 119 mph, retired from the 1929 Indianapolis 500-mile race, as did both the other Packard Cable Millers, driven by Gulotta and Hepburn. Duray then crossed the Atlantic to Montlhéry, where he took five Class-F records, the fastest the fs mile, at over 143 mph. He then hired or sold one Miller to the ex-Delage driver Bourlier, who entered it for the Grand Prix at Monza, where Duray drove the other fwd Miller. Bourlier gave way to Duray, who knew the car better, but the car retired from the first heat, while Duray’s retired in the second, so both cars failed to run in the race final. After that Duray made his deal with Bugatti.

Did Ettore copy the Miller valve-gear? Or was he interested only in the front-wheel drive? The Monza race had taken place late in September, so by the time Duray had returned from Italy it must have been well into October 1929. Yet by 1930 Bugatti had completed his first twin-cam car, the supercharged 5-litre luxury Type 50, and had it on show at the Paris Salon by September 2nd. Discounting WF Bradley’s assumption that Bugatti could design, build, and test a new racing car in 13 days, for Bradley was first and foremost a journalist, would that have left sufficient time for the drastic change in Bugatti valve gear to have been influenced by the acquisition of those Miller racing cars?

Those who think so point to the piston-type cam-followers and Miller-like sparking-plug bosses of the revised Bugatti engine. But most designs incorporate past ideas, twin-cam engines had been widely used since 1912, and it would have to be shown that Miller, and only Miller, had used these features, for the argument to be substantiated. I suggest that, as the aforesaid article has it, what Ettore Bugatti was interested in was the front-drive aspect of the Millers. He apparently tested the cars at Molsheim, but when his 4WD Type 53 racing car appeared in 1932 (a quite effective hillclimb car, in spite of Jean Bugatti’s practice crash at Shelsley Walsh) it was seen to have transverse quarter-elliptic front springs, not the De Dion tube of the FWD Millers. So what, and how much, if anything, did Ettore Bugatti crib from the Packard Cable Millers? Something for Bugatti historians to ponder? — WB.

***

VSCC Wessex Trial

Trials form an important part of the VSCC’s programme, and take place in many different parts of Britain. That held over the weekend of March 16/17, was based at Priddy in Somerset, and included a Max Hill film show on the Saturday evening. From an impressive entry of 89 cars Barry Clarke won the Wessex Trophy in his 850cc Austin-GN and Roger Collings the Andrew Blakeney-Edwards Trophy driving his 1903 Mercedes Sixty, tying with his son’s Bentley. First Class Awards were won by both drivers and also by D Pearce (MG), A Carlisle (Trojan), R Thwaites (A7), J Evans (A7), C Collings (Bentley), C Rides (Invicta), and N Garland (Alvis). Second Class Award winners: K Hill (Crouch-Helix), P Blakeney-Edwards (Frazer Nash), S Diffey (A7), P Stringer (A7), P Tebbett (Riley), H Monro (30/98), D Marsh (30/98). Third Class Awards: W Uglow (HRG), G Burridge (Riley), P Weston (A7), A Jones (A7), R Spence (Lea-Francis), J Ghosh (30/98), Mrs Tomlinson (A7), P Longden (Ford). Only two marks separated Clarke from Roger and from 200 scored by the former, the lowest award-winning number of marks was 83. — WB

***

The new editor of the Riley Register’s Bulletin is GL Holland, with Tony Bird lending a hand with contributions. The March issue contains articles amongst others, on War Department Rileys and the 1939/40 Riley Twelves. — WB