Rumblings , November 1942

Rather a mystery

In the September issue we published details of a Thomas Special now owned by Doaglas Kay and cared for by Sgt. Easterbrook-Smith, in New Zealand. Evidence pointed to this being Parry Thomas’s 1 1/2-litre single-seater car of the 1924-26 era. We have now received a letter, which appears in this issue, from Flying Officer M.R.J. Chetwynd-Stapylton about his Thomas Special. This car appears to be fundamentally the same as the one in New Zealand, except, perhaps, for certain chassis details. Yet it does not seem likely to have been one of the single-seater Track cars, for, from examination of photographs sent to us by the owner, it is very evident that the steering column is clearly well on the off side of the car, while the chassis is lower and wider than that of the racing 1 1/2-litre. Then front wheel brakes and wire wheels are found, and the body work is probably specially made up. We confess that the origin of this car baffles us, but it seem likely that it is one of the Spurrier-Railton cars, of which the Arab was a cheaper version. Or, of course, it might he a special-bodied Arab, which cars were in production for a time at Letchworth, designed by Parry Thomas and supervised by Reid Railton. The engine number suggests a 2-litre unit and the Arab was a 2-litre. We hope to throw some further light on the mystery by communicating with the firm whose name-plates appear on these engines, and, meanwhile, we must confess to a doubt as to whether the New Zealand car is not one of these cars rather than Thomas’s own little racing car. Chetwynd-Stapylton’s car has a four-branch outside exhaust system on the near side, a single carburetter on the off side, and it certainly has the unique Thomas leaf-valve springs. Poor Thomas’s handiwork seems sadly scattered these days. A friend of ours reports a Leyland Eight tourer dejected and forlorn, and less engine, in a Surrey breaker’s yard and likely soon to go for scrap. But Sir Lionel Philips’s Leyland 2-seater is safely stored and, we believe, could change hands for quite a modest sum of money.

A fast Rapier

Visiting Ian Metcalfe at his mushroom farm at Shepperton – he keeps fast cars there, not mushrooms, of course – we came upon the racing single-seater which the late Roy Eccles and his wife used to race. This is really one of the smartest little cars of its kind we have seen for many a day and should make a very pleasant mount for a trainee. The twin o.h.c. four-cylinder engine is endowed with urge by reason of a big Zoller compressor nestling beside the block on the off side and drawing from an Arnott updraught carburetter. Special attention has been paid to cooling the cylinder head and the water leaves via four outlets rising above each cylinder. The radiator and dumb-irons are cowled neatly by means of a one-piece cowl and the radiator filler cap is beneath the bonnet in the best modern tradition. The gearbox is of self-changing type, controlled by a tiny lever on the left of the seat, working in the gate as is usual practice on a Rapier. The driver sits very much on the off side of the car, there being no side panel to the cockpit on this side, while the body is completely faired in on the near side, terminating in a long tail, for which a faired headrest is available, although never used. Getting in is something of a tussle and getting out involves calm, methodical leg motion, but the cockpit is very comfortable and the forward view adequate for a Track car. The brake lever lies horizontally beside the off side side-member. The facia contains a big Smith’s rev.-counter reading to 8,000 r.p.m. and fuel blower and oil pressure gauges and oil and water thermometers, the needles of which are said all to move in the same plane, which has involved inverting the blower gauge dial. The fuel pressure pump protrudes neatly from the panel, which saves space. The four-branch exhaust system is external, the pipe following the contour of the near side of the body, the whole liberally picked out with aluminium paint. The short front half-elliptic springs have Hartfords ahead of the non-underslung axle and hydraulic dampers behind it, and the rear springs are well set; out from the chassis, bound, underslung and damped by four transverse Hartfords. The front wheels carry 4.75″ x 19″ Dunlops and the rear wheels 6.00″ x 16″ Dunlops, and Mr. Girling looks after the anchorage, aided by rather amateur cooling-scoops on the drums. Altogether this is a very pretty and clean little car and it should be of interest to someone, the price being around £300, with racing jacks and equipment and a number of spares. It will be recalled that Eccles had many successes with the car, including winning a short handicap and dead-heating for first place in a Mountain Handicap at the 1936 August B.A.R.C. Meeting. He lapped at 115.55 m.p.h. in the former and at 70.91 m.p.h. in the latter event. The previous year he won a short handicap, lapping at 110.19 m.p.h., and in 1937 netted a Mountain Handicap, in the course of which he lapped at 74.68 m.p.h., later winning a Campbell Circuit Handicap at a lap-speed of 68.47 m.p.h., which constituted a Class G (1,100-c.c.) lap record for the new course. Metcalfe, who is a purveyor of old school Bentleys, also has the ex-Rothschild 38/250-h.p. Mercédès-Benz which, with its imposing red 2-seater body, close-up wings and built-in number plate, looks even more massive than the usual run of blower Mercédès. Just at present it needs a gearbox car, but it does suggest very nice unrationed motoring.

An appreciation

We publish below an appreciation of the late Stanley Martin, the well-known Irish Bugatti exponent, written by his close friend, Noel Hillis, of Belfast:–

It is with deep sorrow that I pen the obituary of a great Irish enthusiast, the late Stanley B. Martin. I know that the sad news of his death at 22 years of age will come as a great shock to his numerous English friends, as it came as a veritable tragedy to every Irish enthusiast.

Stanley Martin sustained fatal injuries when his motor-cycle collided with an Army lorry near Castledawson, Co. Antrim, on Sunday, August 9th, last. 

He was a rabid Bugatti enthusiast, and the lure of Molsheim was with him when I first made his acquaintance at the tender age of 14 years. Though having competed regularly throughout the trials season of 1937, his first sprint event was Craigantlet Hill Climb, 1938, where he was the youngest competitor at only 18 years of age; in this event he drove a Brescia Bugatti. This was followed by an intense period of trials work on various vintage motors, and he was high up in the bidding for the Victor Ferguson Memorial Trophy. He then obtained the ex-C.G. Neill 2-litre G.P. Bugatti. This he competed at Donabate Speed Trials, Kilternan and Ballinascorney Hill Climbs, where he obtained second fastest time of the day in all three events and collected numerous class awards. He set a very high standard of driving and always brought his cars to the line in superlative order. His latest Bugatti was a single camshaft 2.3-litre G.P. engine, and again was always seen in typically scrupulous condition.

It was to him that Irish enthusiasts owe a debt of gratitude for the highly successful Crawfordsburn Rally, which was written up in these pages not so long ago. This was entirely his own idea and was typical of his enthusiasm, which could never go for long without a practical outlet. The whole show portrayed his great organising ability clearer than any words of mine.

He also managed to save the power unit of the practically immortal 2-litre blown G.P. Sunbeam, which was the property of the late Trevor McCalle. I think his one motoring worry was that he never got a chance to save the car as a whole.

Although a great Bugatti and vintage enthusiast, Stanley Martin had yet another great sport, to wit, motor-cycle competition work, and was a consistent exponent in trials and grass track events.

He was, since September, 1939, engaged in important war work in connection with the building business, and held a high post in the Belfast Rescue Service.

There is nobody in Irish motor sporting circles to-day who does not realise that the Sport over here has lost an enthusiast who cannot be measured by the number of events in which he achieved success, but rather as a young man with the organising ability and infectious enthusiasm which would have had us all motoring to stop-watches after the war with the minimum of delay.

Although young in years at the time of his death, he had managed to extract a very full life from the sport which was the predominant passion of his life, and it is perhaps tragically fitting that it was on an enthusiastic mission to pay rightful homage to a resurrected child of Molsheim that he met his sad fate.

I know that every Irish enthusiast will join me in extending our deepest sympathy to his bereaved parents and relations.