Rumblings: 1938 Earl's Court Motor Show & Donington Grand Prix

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36

 The Show . . .

Yes, they are still talking of Earl’s Court, and in an unbiased wander round we have gleaned some assorted impressions for you. We thought of taking a portable Lucas horn to clear the way through the crowds of tired sightseers. Not, of course, such an ingenious idea as that of a friend, who vows that accidents would decrease if all vehicles carried a large mirror front and back—so that you would see yourself sailing into the accident . . .

Wearing a MercedesBenz coat-lapel star, given to us at Dover by one of the twenty-five Mercedes racing mechanics who landed with the team cars, and carrying a notebook, we might well have been thrown out of the Show as a spy. However, here are the impressions. The well-lit hall possessed a most pleasing appearance, and, of the stand exhibits, perhaps Frazer-Nash-B.M.W. take the honours, with all their cars the same shade of blue, likewise the lone Frazer-Nash on the stand.

The Willys-Overlands were trying to look as unlike cars as possible and La Salle looked very upstage with a very narrow radiator grille indeed. The smart little Hotchkiss-Amilcar has a distinct crab-track, reverse way to normal, and the rear seat very close-set to the front seats. Citroen and Peugeot both had the new flatspoke wide-rim Michelin wheels, and the Delage exhibits all had artillery wheels.

Perhaps the most modernistic yet dignified treatment of bonnet, exhausts and side-panelling is that of the Type 540K Mercedes-Benz, in happy contrast to that of a French marque which had two external flexible exhausts of too plain appearance and set too far back.

The big Delahayes are large cars with radiators set well forward, and in the Type 320 Mercedes-Benz Pullman limousine the designers have achieved a roomy body by recourse to the older style of short bonnet, very effectively. On this car the big spotlight is carried centrally on a substantial tubular member. We could not quite see the need for a wire-mesh guard on the fuel tank of the sports Delahaye, and would like the British-Salmson Sixes’ permanent jacks higher up for trials work. Aston-Martin showed an unusual sports two-seater with cowled radiator, downswept front wing valances of square aspect, V screen, and an airship shape tail with twin fuel fillers protruding therefrom.

Jensen had thoughtfully provided twin aero-screens for the rear seat passengers in the striking open touring model, and the rivets in the upper face of the front wings of the open SS 100 were an effective detail. SS used close-mesh wire stoneguards over the headlamps and the new 100 m.p.h. SS 100 coupe is a very beautiful car, most imposing, yet in no way futuristic, and with conventional treatment of wings and lamps and a very well planned blending of the tail. The Alfa-Romeo exhibits were all truly great cars, with very neat small badges, and ” supercharge ” plates on bonnets and back-panels. The Type 29B blown eight-cylinder had a gear-lever cranked transversely across the driving compartment.

Bentley showed a beautifully finished 41-litre engine and gearbox unit and Lagonda a less brilliantly finished V12 engine unit bearing the simple label : “W. O. Bentley’s Masterpiece.” It was noticeable that the V12 saloon which has exceeded 100 miles in the hour round Brooklands is in no way specially streamlined, indeed, rather the reverse. Wing treatment plays a considerable part in the stately and refined outline of these modern Lagondas, and the long gear-levers are retained.

Lancia exhibited some dignified ” Asturas ” as well as the popular “Aprilia” and Col. Sorel was staging just two Bugattis, both sober closed models, which were continually surrounded by enthusiasts. We got the impression that a great proportion of the visitors were rather definitely “oop for t’ Show.” Certainly some truly humorous remarks were heard, including the “It’s a lovely little bus” in broad cockney from an overdressed female sighting the Morgan 4/4 coupe, “Look, it’s still going round, it will soon be giddy,” of the revolving Standard exhibit, ” I don’t see a lot in ‘era ” and ” We will take two of those” of the beautifully turned out but not immediately impressive Rolls-Royce cars, and a cockney criticism by a stout woman of the sports Delahaye colour-scheme. We were offered £10 part exchange for own own car on a new M.G. saloon by a stand attendant, which we countered by remarking that the car on show had no engine, anyway.

By far the biggest crowd surrounded Stand No. 107—that of the Metropolitan Police !

. . . And Donington

I am writing this in the Opel in which we left London at 6 a.m. to attend” the training” for another of the great Grand Prix Races at Donington, of which the late Crisis so nearly robbed us. It has been rumoured that, throughout the Crisis, three Auto-Unions remained in their railway vans at Harwich and never left this country. Certainly, the German Embassy made every endeavour to recall the cars on September 30th. Very definitely, this is real racing, inspiring to an undescribable degree and immensely good for the soul.

Though the Auto-Unions no longer flex and dither as they did last year, and though the German cars no longer leap from the rise after Melbourne Corner, where the bump has been eased off, nevertheless, in speed, sound and acceleration the 3-litre Formula cars make other racing look just stupid. As I write, some of the drivers play impromptu football, others clock-golf, on the sun-lit lawn outside Donington Hall, where, as last year, they have all lunched together — all, that is, save Seaman. Seaman appeared to arrive late and to exchange a few words with Neubauer.

Early this Thursday morning Uhlenhaut took out the Mercedes training car, labelled with a big “P” and committed much lappery. This car had an extra air-temperature thermometer clamped to the scuttle side. Uhlenhaut wears full kit and will apparently be the team’s spare driver. Soon the other drivers get down to it, including Nuvolari, who sets up the fastest lap. After lunch there is less activity, Seaman doing very little and Nuvolari nothing at all. But Lang does one immense lap. Hasse, in black overalls, is very cheery, but Kautz suffers from a cold.

To walk all round the circuit is a truly wonderful experience. Through the wood beyond Red Gate the cars sound terrific, and their speed down to the hairpin is prodigious, but perhaps the most spectacular point is from Maclean’s Corner, along the straight bit to Coppice Corner. Here one is able to appreciate very thoroughly the work done by the drivers, all of whom perspire freely after only a short spell in the ” seat of government” Hasse keeps his hands comparatively steady on the wheel on the straights and Seaman slides beautifully into Red Gate. Frequently the cars visit the grass verge at Melbourne and they come out of the woods like bombs, sliding sideways through the gate.

At the pits we see again the amazingly thorough organisation ; every lap timed, copious notes made of every piece of work undertaken, and cars continually given flag signals by their respective chiefs. At the depots one’s breath is again taken away by the astoundingly complete equipment. The tyre-store, in charge of Continentals’ imposing representative, is a wonderful sight, and Mercedes alone brought more than eleven hundred gallons of special fuel.

When the cars are warming up the fumes and noise overcome one surprisingly quickly, so much so that we were unable to stay long enough to complete a note to this effect in the Editorial notebook.

When off duty Seaman and Brauchitsch wore overcoats, Hasse his black overalls, Kautz a teddy-bear coat, and Nuvolari, who sat alone much of the time in a Studebaker saloon, a long overcoat and a big cap with an immense badge therein. Quite an excellent crowd of spectators assembled to see the practice.

The Mercs. were towed by Mercedes-Benz saloons, the Auto-Unions by open Horch tourers. Once again the keenness of every mechanic was evident, also the splendid relationship between engineers and mechanics, as when an Auto-Union man made the mistake of applying his electric starter to Kautz’s car while it was in gear—temporary annoyance was natural, but clearly the mechanic bore Feureissen and Eberhorst no grudge and they were conversing with him a moment later.

Towards the end of the afternoon Kautz brought in the Auto-Union training car, labelled with a big “T,” and Sebastian drove it off to the depot minus its lower gears, much laughter greeting him when he stalled the engine trying to start in top.

The Auto-Unions were cleaner than the Mercs., but the finish of both cars is highly commendable. Both use 7.00″ x 19″ Continental rear covers and Continental Balloons on the front, size mostly unmarked, but 5.50″ x 19″ on the Auto-Union training car. Mercs. were rumoured to be boosted very high but Auto-Unions to have had better performance since the Italian G.P.

Brauchitsch’s car showed flame from the exhausts on the overrun. Oil dropped from the Mere. rear axles onto the asbestos lagged under-body exhausts, so that the cars smoked in consequence when they came in. Lang’s Mercedes had a longer tail than the other cars and there appeared to be detail differences in the exhaust systems, small springs supporting the pipe at one point. The cowling of Brauchitsch’s car was red, Seaman’s green, Lang’s blue and Baumer’s white. The facias contained a central rev, counter reading to ” 90″ (9,000 r.p.m.), with water thermometer to the left and oil thermometer to the right, both these small dials reading 40°-120°. There are no blower pressure or oil gauges. An easily accessible transverse magneto switch is placed to the left of the facia, in varying positions to suit individual driver’s requirements. The gear-lever works in a gate on the right and there is a tiny handbrake on the left. As on the Auto-Unions the engines are normally electrically started and the steering wheels detach.

Auto-Union had some bother in engaging their starters. Mercedes-Benz warm up at a steady 2,200 r.p.m., blipping up to 4,000 r.p.m. A pair of long grips is used to remove inaccessible plug terminals, which are of pull-off pattern. At the end of the day Lang’s engine was considerably dismantled, and the camshaft driving gears were exposed. The intake manifolding is all metal, with neat clips and no hose connections.

The Auto-Unions have longer gear and brake levers, both on the off side, and the facia has a large white-dialled rev, counter to the left, reading to 8,000 r.p.m. (the full figure is used, which is unusual), and five small dials to the right. When an engine was started on the handle it was noticeable how soft is the rear suspension. The body sides curve inwards behind the nose cowling and are far more rigid than last year.

During the afternoon a deer again strayed onto the course, but this one escaped alive and Brauchitsch merely waved to it. The monoposto Delahaye had Dunlop tyres, front shock absorbers set high up inside the nose cowling and coupled to the axle by links, and a reverse catch for the gearbox set by the rear axle, outside the car.

As last year, few enthusiasts troubled to meet the drivers, most of whom arrived by air at Croydon, or to visit the imposing arrival of Mercedes-Benz lorries and cars at Dover, where the five-and-twenty mechanics dined and slept at the Lord Warden Hotel before continuing to Donington. Both the Auto-Union and Merc. lorries are magnificently appointed, have wonderful exhaust notes and are truly quick. The inscriptions on the sides thereof, duly translated, mean “Auto-Union Racing Service” and ” Mercedes-Benz Racing Troopers.” This time official welcome was better handled. There was the luncheon at the R.A.C. in honour of Seaman’s win in the German G.P., held before the race was postponed, at which Seaman made a very diplomatic speech and was awarded a Gold Star, and the B.R.D.C. threw a cocktail party for the drivers at the Rembrandt Hotel on the Monday following the race. Capt. Bemrose, President of the Derby & D. M.C., had the drivers to tea on the Thursday, after training finished.

Donington is a truly great spot at which to stage a great motor race. Wandering over the wide expanse of grass-grown paddock, studded with gnarled trees, the Hall forming an imposing background, it was difficult to believe that we had just seen Nuvolari screaming towards us at 160 m.p.h., tail sliding out so that the Auto-Union’s nose pointed directly at us, front wheels flapping wildly to retain control . . . Donington’s officials, too, are less officious than those of other, more bustling venues. If you missed the G.P. this time, on no account must you do so if we are so fortunate as to have another such race in 1939. No, sir !

Odd Spots

Mr. M. S. Soames, the trials and racing driver, has now joined Messrs. Adlards Motors Limited, at their newly opened works and showrooms at 51-57 Upper Richmond Road, East Putney, S.W.15, where he will assist with the sales and developments of the Allard Special.

The Duke of Kent and his party were driven to Donington in two V12 Lagonda saloons.

As last year, Mercedes-Benz gave away beautifully prepared Press folders before the race. All their Grosvenor Road engineering staff had the morning off and came to Donington by coach.

Rolls-Royce Ltd. made up parts for Auto-Union on the eve of the race. Much of the Multi-Union’s chassis was made by Rolls-Royce.

Amongst the arrivals by air for the race was a 504K Avro, complete with landing-carriage ski.

The H.R.G. will, in future, have the three-bearing 11-litre Singer engine in place of the former push-rod Meadows unit.

Rolls-Royce Ltd. have handed their section of Cricklewood over to Handley-Page Ltd., at Government request. Temporary premises at Hendon are now in operation, pending new repair works.

Brooklands closed for repairs on October 31st. Sections of the Track will, as usual, remain open throughout the winter.

 

Von Brauchitsch visited the showrooms of Messrs. Adlards Motors Ltd. during the Motor Show week, and had a run on the Allard Special. He was delighted with its performance during the short run around the district.