Club News, November 1940



The commencement of large scale air raids on London on September 7th put paid to a number of club meetings. The 750 Club and the E.R.A. Club have cancelled their meetings in town, and a proposed future gathering of the M.G. Car Club has had to be abandoned. The 750 Club has been particularly hard hit, for a bomb unluckily fired the offices of P. H. Hunter, the secretary, and although very fortunately he was out at the time, all the club records and some recent correspondence were lost. This is especially hard lines on a very go-ahead organization and members and prospective members will greatly assist by sending their addresses, and re-writing any unanswered letters they may have sent, to Mr. Hunter, at 39, Warland Road, Plumstead, S.E.18. The copy for the October “Bulletin” was entirely destroyed, but it was hoped to replace it fairly soon, though so far our issue has not come to hand. We hope that some more meetings of members will shortly be possible, for this ambitious club held the only war-time car gatherings before the start of the real blitzkrieg—and such meetings should still be possible in daylight on Sundays. Certain other club news is to hand, in spite of that dirty old man . . . .


A.G.M.s are the order of the day, and are scheduled for the following dates :— Birmingham : November 16th; Manchester: November 12th; South Wales : November 4th; Bristol : November 7th; Newcastle : November 5th; London : some time in December.


Current subscriptions will still be thankfully received.


Former organizers of the Saltburn sand races and the Scott Trophy Trial, this club recently put in some more yeoman work and raised £5,250 for the local “Spitfire” fund.


The Irish Motor Racing Club’s speed hill-climb at Ballinascorney Gap, Co. Dublin, saw J. A. Thompson put up fastest time of the day with his T.R.S. He clocked 50.44 secs., 1.5 secs. slower than the record set up by a blown M.G. Magnette in 1939. His speed works out at 53.53 m.p.h. S. B. Martin’s 2-litre G.P. Bugatti was second at 52.25 m ph. P. D. Gill’s 847 c.c. M.G. was runner-up to Thompson in the under-1,100 c.c. handicap class, and D. O’B. Gill’s 847 c.c. M.G. was third. A lady won the over-1,100 c.c. handicap with a Morgan 4/4, Kerwood’s Morgan being second, Besson’s Morgan 4/4 and the Bugatti third (a tie), and Besson took the unlimited handicap class from the lady Morgan exponent and Hill’s “90” Talbot. The institution of handicaps in this class of event is of considerable interest. This club and the Dublin University Club plan a winter trials’ programme.


This terrible interpretation of the sport has got to Dublin, although perhaps we should be glad of any activity these days. The cars used are mostly cut-about Austin Sevens, raced on a course at Clondalkin.

WE HEAR . . .

We hear that Forrest Lycett has been exercising his famous 8-litre Bentley recently, preparatory to giving it a long rest, we hope, and Mr. Lycett believes, safe from Jerry’s presents. R. G. V. Venables, who takes a great interest in motor-cycle events and runs an immaculate long-chassis 1½-litre Aston-Martin, has gone to live at Capel-y-Ffin. He reports that an old Eric-Campbell two-seater lurks nearby; also says that taking a mountain pony flat out up Cusop is bettered only by the descent!

Arthur Baron is in the Army somewhere Warminster way, enjoying it, and motoring about in a Singer. Congratulations to D. Hampshire on the arrival of a son and heir. Gordon Brettell is training with a fighter squadron, somewhere in Cheshire, and has reached the Miles “Master” stage. Joan Richmond is hard at work in a London canteen and she still runs her Eighth series Lancia “Lambda.” Sam Clutton will probably tax his “3.3” Bugatti quite soon; it had a narrow air raid escape last month. Miss Shilling, who used to ride very rapid motor-cycles at B.M.C.R.C. meetings, is now engaged in engine research at the R.A.E. and motors in a very smart Morgan 4/4. Interesting cars seen near this establishment include an old Salmson; a Big Six Bentley coupe; a 3-litre 100 m.p.h. chassis 3-litre Bentley with a McKenzie drop-head body, that had seen service in Africa and still kept quite cool; a very Continental, sleeve-valve Voisin coupé de ville, and a vintage Lea-Francis. John Cooper had several ‘phone calls after the publication of his recent article, and is as keen as ever, although his transport facilities seem to fluctuate between bicycles and a borrowed S.S.


This war is becoming just a trifle wearing to those of us who gain relaxation almost entirely through the medium of sporting motoring. We must not grumble, it is true, but we are entitled to reasonable relaxation. So would it not be a sound scheme to try to form local “Scuderias” in various parts of the country, to operate in the same spirit as the “Scuderia Impecuniosa” which John Cooper described for us in the September issue? In peace-time, such organizations were, understandably, purely private link-ups, but in time of war the idea could well be extended. People are scattered far from their friends and sports-car owners, impecunious and otherwise, are in many cases hard-pressed for the loan of tools, a helpful tow, garage space in little-bombed areas, etc. Moreover, it is a crime to motor a fast car with empty seats or unappreciative passengers these rationed days, and a mutual exchange of transport greatly extends the motoring available. So, without forming a club or organizing too seriously, could not those who still enthuse over and run real motor-cars attempt to get together occasionally, within the limitations of petrol rationing, now that club life is virtually dead? Apart from assisting one another in the running of their cars, it might be possible to recapture something of the spirit of peace-time runs, when sportsmen and sportsgirls motored for the sake of motoring, afterwards meeting in pleasant surroundings to talk of cars, cars, cars— incidentally, where are all those picturesque sportsgirls? The A.T.S. and W.A.A.F. should be full of them, but are they? MOTOR SPORT suggested such gatherings when the war started and we are still willing to do everything possible to link up enthusiasts.


The car has proved a boon since the real air raids on London began, not only from the point of view of convenient business travel, but for getting away from the war for a brief respite during the daylight hours of Sunday, when some worthwhile trips into the country have been possible, every inch of space in the Austin occupied, for these have been happy occasions for meeting and spending a little time with valued friends. On one such occasion the little orange T.T. Austin was visited in its place of wartime retirement, and that alone vividly recalled far happier days. Then, the writer being exiled on “work of national importance” to a country town, he craved some means of escape to London when leave permitted, in spite of its barrage and its bombs. This was taken as a fitting opportunity for putting certain vintage theories to the test, and, accordingly, one Sunday afternoon amidst sundry air raid alarms, a 1924 four-seater Gwynne Eight was put once again into roadworthy condition. The Gwynne Eight will be recalled as a rather snappy small car made by the pump manufacturers who were also responsible for the Albert, and who apparently had a very decided love of the long-stroke engine, for the R.A.C. rating is 7.5 h.p., and the capacity over 1-litre. It was, in its day, about the first small car to exceed 60 m.p.h., and it used to appear in trials, while Eaton ran a Gwynne-engined G.N. at Brooklands, where Peacock’s well-streamlined car of this marque was burned out in the 1928 “200.” We found our example in quite good order, once the various water-pipes had been brazed and the lighting wires sorted out—the ignition leads come away with the very easily detachable radiator, and everything is most accessible. We had always imagined the design to be quite ordinary, so it was exciting to find a very vintage engine beneath the bonnet, rather reminiscent of “12/50” Alvis practice. It has a three-bearing crankshaft and push-rod o.h. valves, the pushrods concealed behind a plate on the near side of the block and the rocker-gear hidden beneath a square valve cover held by two studs, from which the oil regulator alone protrudes.

A Solex carburetter on the off side feeds via an external two-branch manifold, which has a diminutive water jacket, supplied by a pipe from the header tank and an off-take pipe going to the rear of the jacket. Fuel feed is by gravity from a cylindrical scuttle tank. Cooling is by thermo-syphon action and the radiator, which has a plated shell, possesses a very imposing header tank and a very convenient drain tap, while the hoses are very big indeed. The cylinder head is detachable and the vertical valves live in a pent-roof head with ports on opposite sides, the three-branch exhaust manifold living on the near side. The cylinder block is separate from the alloy crankcase, which is very deep to allow for the big crankshaft throws and which has divers copper oil pipes draped along it from the external oil pump at the front of the engine. There is a substantial dip-stick on the off side to the rear of the oil-filler, the cap of which demands a spanner for its removal. The plugs are inclined at 45° on the inlet side of the head, the h.t. leads passing round the front of the block through a guide tube attached to the water intake pipe. The magneto is driven by a vernier coupling on the near side and the dynamo is mounted on an adjustable housing in front of it and driven by a whittle belt. The drive passes via a leather cone-clutch with exposed withdrawal mechanism, to a separate three-speed and reverse gearbox having a top-gear ratio of 4.7 to 1. The driving position is extremely imposing, and makes the bonnet look quite long, the forwardly-inclined mascot seemingly far away and on a lower plane. The short central gear-lever works in a ball gate with external guides, and has a trigger-catch for reverse, bottom being on the inside of the gate. The cone clutch is excitingly fierce, and the throttle pedal is central. The long central hand brake is virtually a parking brake, but the foot pedal has quite good arresting properties, by cable actuation to tiny drums on the rear wheels. The metal-faced wooden facia carries a speedometer, an old-style clock, a Miller ammeter and lighting panel, a screw choke control, sundry switches, and a very clear oil gauge right before the driver. Long levers on the steering column control ignition and throttle settings, through nicely planned linkages, and the horn push in the wheel centre operates a real Bosch horn. The wheels are stud-attached wire carrying quite good Pirelli 4.50″ x 19″ covers on the rear and 4.40″ X 19″ Dunlops on the front. The comic body is very high, with rear seat well over the axle, the front seats folding right up to give access; the whole very narrow and intimate, and possessed of a fine two-pane safety glass screen, a hood, a tonneau cover and very wide, substantial running boards, the battery living on the near side one. Long half-elliptic springs with nicely accessible greasers look after suspension. Thus the Gwynne, as we bought it for £5, that sunny, war-time Sunday. In the few miles through London we had ample opportunity to get used to the leather cone clutch and steering which asked half a turn or thereabouts lock to lock, and that without any castor action whatsoever. We discovered, too, that the gear-change went through very nicely, given lots of revving up from top to second and a long pause going from second to top. Acceleration seemed to leave most moderns nicely behind, perhaps because we were trying and they were not, and the gear whine on second quite drowned the crisp exhaust note. The suspension was hard over bad going, though rather soft for fast cornering, but the car rode in quite the vintage manner and felt solid and alive at one and the same time. By the time dusk had fallen, and the unmasked headlamp had been lit momentarily in finding the side-lamps location on a stiff switch, we had gained ample confidence in the old car, and were cruising inspiringly at 45 m.p.h. and getting 35-40 in second, careful to remember the limitations of two-wheel braking. Steering was a matter of wrist work, with some kick-back, and was quite an art at times, though the fact that on this initial run a 4.50″ x19″ tyre was on one front wheel, matched by a 4.40″ X19″ at the other, was probably largely responsible! The journey of over thirty miles was accomplished quite rapidly without stopping the engine, and with no incident’s save for slight overheating at a shut level-crossing.

The next Sunday, just as we were putting her away in a rather famous garage with aeronautical associations, a great enthusiast was met, whose 1922 aluminium-bodied “12/40” Alvis and 1924 3-litre cut-about Bentley are both in storage, and that resulted in a great run to a neighbouring town, for tea in a shop overlooking the steep high street, and a return run to a cinema in a military town, when she cruised inspiringly at a good 50 while two Canadian soldiers in the back had their first view of the Hog’s Back. One of the films was all about road accidents, which cheered us immensely, and when we came out the Gwynne started quite readily, but was so cold that she misfired all the way back, in spite of having distributed most of her cooling water about the urban car park. In her new home she is regarded, by everyone, garages included, as a rather stupid hack, but the writer thinks better of her, even if there is no real performance. Left in the aforementioned garage that night, someone had the impudence to park a much more modern Austin Seven bearing a Vintage S.C.C. badge right alongside, and, what is more, choose a patch over which roofing still existed, whereas we carelessly parked under a bomb-hole through which the moon showed clearly—it simply pelted with rain later that night . . .

There have also been some meetings, when exiled in another strange town, with a great enthusiast who part-owns a 1924 (basically) trials Austin Seven and a modern Vincent-H.R.D. motor-cycle, and whose father is a well-known A.C. exponent—such keenness does this family exude for motoring that an E.N.V. gearbox from Straight’s Maserati lives proudly in their dining-room, awaiting installation in the A.C. when hostilities cease. That visit led to the discovery of a Brescia Bugatti chassis which had been given to a local Frazer-Nash enthusiast and which may well be rebuilt some day, while, on a return visit, per the H. R. D., local breakers’ yards revealed a huge pre-the-last-war Renault Iandaulette, a 14 h.p. Metallurgique and a 10 h.p. De Dion Bouton of like vintage, keeping company with a cut-about “Ulster” Austin Seven, amongst other things. The next week-end four of us escaped to London in the Gwynne and, following a fast run to Guildford to attend a motor-cycle scramble, in a friend’s Riley Nine, the writer’s personal papers were loaded, many issues of MOTOR SPORT amongst them, and this precious load conveyed to what is regarded as a place of comparative safety in the aforesaid sixteen-year-old small car.

*   *   *   *   *  


The war does not seem to be damping the enthusiasm of vintagents or builders of specials, so some of the cars seen for sale recently may be of more than passing interest. They include a sports Senechal for about £8, and a very clean, short-chassis, straight-eight Isotta-Fraschini coupe, in South London scrap yards. At the latter yard is also a crashed open Isotta, the remains of a 3-litre Bentley engine, an early O.E. “30/98” Vauxhall, and a complete o.h.c. V-twin G.N. racing engine with twin Solex carburetters, twin magnetos and chain-drive camshafts. We believe the rest of this G.N. is available in pieces, and the engine was priced at £5/10/-. An unblown 16 h.p., four-cylinder Mercédès two-seater, circa 1923 and in apparent good order, is reported in a breaker’s yard by Bignall’s Corner on A6, while from a reader comes news of an immaculate Hispano-Suiza limousine with five new Michelins.