Vintage Postbag, May 1995

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Highland Origins

Sir,
I was most interested in WB’s article on the RSAC’s Six Day Light Car Trials in June 1922. It becomes evident to anyone reading this splendid article that the two 11 hp Rileys were strong performers on this gruelling event; one model being a two-seater, competition no D30, reg no HI 104, driven by V G Wallsgrove, the other a four-seater, competition no E31, reg no SG 5358, driven by H Anderson.
Vic Wallsgrove’s efforts on this event his standard model being FTD on Little Gruinard and tying for FTD on Rest-and-Be-Thankful with a 16-valve Bugatti to list but two outstanding achievements, only to be robbed of a Gold award due to a failed magneto plus other notable performances saw him accredited with the title of competitions manager at Riley.
Wallsgrove left the Highlands with a mission. On returning to the Riley works it was decided that performance could be significantly improved by the fitting of a lighter body; so a lightweight two-seater aluminium sports body was fitted to the same sports chassis which had proved itself so successfully on the Scottish Trial. Over the ensuing weeks this car, now equipped with a long pointed tail and wire instead of disc wheels, won many awards during the mid-1920s, still carrying the number HI 104, and it was the fore-runner of the famous Riley 11-40 sports, known as the Little Red Winger.
Having further developed the sports model in competition, on trials, sprints, sand races and indeed ICC General Efficiency trials at Brooklands, he then took things a stage further with an even more stark and light machine. With a liberally drilled chassis frame 12 in shorter than standard, this was used initially for speed events, many of which took place on the sands, hence this particular car became known as the Sand Racer. It was marketed as “a new Sports Riley, a short-wheelbase model for the speedman”. It was an s w b Red Winger, only three of which were built.
So it can be seen that from an entry of two standard cars in the 1922 Scottish event, Riley’s name as a producer of sporting models became etched in motoring history.
R J Odell,
Silverstone, Northants.

The Quality of Mercer

Sir,
I enjoyed the article on the Mercer automobile in the March issue. However, I think the photographs did not do the great 1913 Raceabout justice. I thought you might enjoy some of mine.
By any standard – engineering, performance, looks, etc – this was a great sportscar. It is always a thrill to see one, and I’ve had that opportunity on several occasions.
The bright yellow car was photographed at Los Angeles City Hall in 1984. Another one was sold at an auction at a West Los Angeles commercial nursery in early 1969. The puchaser after spirited bidding was Phil Hill. The winning bid was $31,500. At the time I thought it was a terribly high price to pay for even a spectacularly original car like this one. I wonder what’s become of it?
I have been an avid reader of Motor Sport for more than 20 years and still consider it the best automobile monthly of all.
Brookes Treidler,
Pasadena, CA.