Vintage Postbag, May 1992

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Riley Result

Sir,

You may be pleased to know that my recent letter in the January edition, “The Life of Riley”, produced a result.

A friend of a lady whose late father purchased the vehicle when new in 1933 remembered the Registration Number OC99.

This lady kindly sent me a most interesting letter and would appear to still have in her possession cups, etc. won by her late father in Pre-War Rallies with the car.

Thank youMotor Sport!

Clifford H Williams,

Bristol.

Babs and the Beach Hote

Sir,

Mr Belcher’s letter raises two points of interest to the Brooklands Society and all those who wish to see the successful growth of the Brooklands Trust and the Museum it manages.

On a number of occasions Babs has been in action at the Society’s annual Reunion at Brooklands to the great delight of spectators and it is to be hoped that it will be possible to repeat this. It would be a great pity if Babs became yet one more car that never leaves the confines of a museum.

The Brooklands Museum is still at an early stage of development and there will be few who will not agree with Mr Belcher that the story of Parry Thomas and other great Brooklands men and women, some of whom lost their lives in the race for more speed at the centre of Brooklands history, must be told

K R Day,

Surrey.

College Cars

Sir,

Having read your article on the 1991 veteran Run in the December issue I find myself unable to resist putting pen to paper (so to speak) because of your words about Greville Neale being a student of Loughborough College. Being a graduate of that august establishment myself (1952-57 Auto Eng) your article brought back many happy memories. In fact I knew of Vaughan Skirrow; didn’t he drive a Chain Gang FN in those days? I remember it having a rather distinctive exhaust note, although I cannot remember why.

There was also John Baker-Courtney and his black blown MG TC. He contrived to run it on LPG during the Suez crisis, but sans blower. Someone else had a white low-chassis 4.5-litre lnvicta, another a Le Mans replica FN that you could hear coming from the other end of the town. Happy days indeed! I wonder where all those fellows are now? In those days I used to own a 1935 Riley Lynx 1.5 with slightly warmedup engine. Later after graduating I obtained a 1937 Alvis Silver Crest with triple SUs and a massive fuel consumption. It was quite a strain to fill its 16.5-gallon fuel tank.

Now? I drive a very ordinary locally-built Fiat 131 with Regata-like body and 1600cc OHV engine and 5-speed gearbox. Good for 99mph and 31mpg but somewhat dull. Nevertheless vastly more comfortable than the Riley. One was young in those days; I remember driving about at night in freezing fog with the windscreen lowered, as otherwise it froze and we could not see out, except by sticking our heads out, whereby our faces froze. Arriving at a dance hall with both the driver and the girlfriend with ice on eyebrows created a stir, and later someone stole some of our petrol. Suez, remember?

Dogan Karaosman,

Istanbul, Turkey.

Delage Delights

Sir,

It was a great delight to read your article on the Grand Prix Delage. As the owner of the 1923 car I would like to make some comments.

Like Pomeroy and TASO Mathieson before you, you give the name of the Delage designer as M Plancton, but it is my belief, supported by all the references in French that I have read, that the great engineer’s name was Planchon. Great indeed; as well as being the father of the Delage GP car he was also responsible for what have been argued to be the most successful hill-climb cars ever. Interestingly, he was also Louis De!age’s cousin. Planchon’s V12 engine design received the go-ahead at the end of February 1923, and it was therefore constructed in some 120 days. Such a race against time was this that the new Delage never even practiced before the race. Imagine that today! The car’s engine was revolutionary, being the world’s first V12 racing engine. The chassis, however, had been rumoured for some time, and had been tested earlier using another engine. We can therefore surmise that the chassis and body were conceived and designed in 1922; the torpedo-like shape of the tail is indeed more reminiscent of 1922 cars than looking forward to 1923 aerodynamics, which favoured pointed tails a la Fiat or Bugatti. To say, however, that Delage achieved a cleaner outline for 1924 is unfair. The 1923 car was sleek and extremely well streamlined. It had a lower radiator than the 1924 car (unique for Delage in being horseshoeshaped like a Bugatti) and was appreciably narrower, particularly around the cockpit. Although a front apron was not used, all the front chassis members were faired-in, using balsa and tape. Even in terms of weight, at 13cwt the 1923 car was lighter than subsequent versions.

We were told that Thomas retired in 1923 because a stone ruptured his petrol tank. There is no evidence of this on the tank today, and indeed it would seem to be so strong as to be bullet-proof. Furthermore, it is in a wellprotected position. Funny how Delage had a ‘fuel tank’ problem so often; see also the retirements in the 1924 San Sebastian GP and in 1925 at Spa. I don’t think Delage liked admitting mechanical problems. Another report gives the reason for the 1923 retirement as cooling problems (probably oil) and I think this may be closer to the truth. Certainly for the 1924 seaspn the engine oiling system was extensively modified, and even thereafter the engine was known to be fragile at prolonged high revs. In 1924 the Delages ran on higher gear-ratios to save their engines.

The 1923 GP car can hardly be described as a successful competitor. It was however, a prototype. and was the forerunner of a series of cars which swept all before them. It is a bizarre twist that this car is the only one of the GP Delages in regular competition use today, albeit with a different engine. For some, success comes later in life!

Alexander Boswell,

Newport Pagnell, Bucks.

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