CARS I HAVE OWNED
AF. days before war broke out, I sent in lay papers to join the Fleet Air Aria, as I had already had a pilot’s licence, although it had been taken away by this time for low flying, and since I was very keen on the Navy I felt I would be best suited for this Service. I was given an interview two weeks later, and told that if I was willing to join as a rating they woukl consider Inc. I was the last person to be examined that d ty, and afterwards I asked the examiner if I could give hint a lift home. On the way he told me that I had been a border-line ease, but had just scraped in. I think the ride in the Delahaye did the trick !
On December itth, 1939, I was ordered to report to H.M.S. S. Vincent, Gosport, for duty as a Naval Rating. I decided to lay the racing Delahaye up for the moment, and it was left in the capable hands of Percy Maelure in Coventry ; meanwhile as long as petrol lasted I ti ought I would keep the drojthead Delalutytt al* me. On leaving home. I told my !niggler to write to me as A.B. 1.`.-‘illker, as I fondly imagined that an Aide Seanum was the lowest form of Naval life, but I was soon to find that an A.B. was a very exalted perom, compared to myself as an Ordinary Seaman, and when my letters arrived addressed A.1-1. I think they all thought I had been shooting a line to may girl friend about may rank. On arriving at 8/. Vincent, a shore station, I left the Delahaye outside and reported to a Chief Petty Officer. After the usual formalities I asked hint what I should do with my car. Of course I walked into that one, and he told inc in no small way. I was somewhat Stirprised, especially i’s his suggestion was wholly impractleable, and I was about to tell him that I was not used to be spoken to in that way lw Petty 011icers or anyone else, but I decided, fortunately just in time, to keep quiet.
A garage was found for the Delahaye and there she remained whilst her master got up at 6 a.m., scrubbed the floor. cleaned the lavatories and did the washing up, all for 10s. a week, which was always spent on buying one champagne eoektail at the Queens at. Souths-ea. After two months at SI. Vincent, an exam was passed, I became a Leading Seaman, put my hook up, and off in the Delithaye to Elnalon near Birmingliant which was an aerodrome for Preliminary Flying Training. At this time I Was more than grateful that I WaS a member Of the A.A. bemuse after all the people I had to salute, they were the ones who saluted use ! Now Elindon is not far from Coventry and thoughts began to flow as to how the racing Delahaye was getting on. and perhaps she would like an airing, especially as petrol was not unplerttifith and also my Naval C.O. was quite partial to borrowing the drophead for it quick journey to London, thus improving my chtuwes of leave. I thought if I had them both there, he could borrow the drophead to go to London and I could use the racing one for going on leave, so she was duly unearthed and found IP be in sjdendid form, causing quite an excitement around Birmingham. The type of petrol available anti the fact, that she was left. Out in the snow all night, never seemed to trouble her at all. At the end of March we all moved on to by ectUt
Last month Rob Walker told of the cars he owned before joining-up in 1939. Here he concludes this very entertaining account.—Ed. .6911111!11118L114?11/11q1111111filt011111111113111111110:Iiin11,111111114111161111M10
Netheravon, which is No. 1 Flying Training School, and I ins been since the 1914 war. I think quite an excitement was caused when the new batch of Leading Seamen arrived, one with two Delahayes. the drophead being driven by a friend, aswe were allowed to keep thent actually on the station, which was a great, relielt. Netheravon has a very steep hill leading up to the aerodrome from the village and it. was quite a common sight to see Leading Seaman Walker getting in some hill-elinabing practice up the ascent. whilst Corporal Freddie Mills was jogging up on his feet getting into training for his next. fight.
In May 1940, I was given two days’ leave front flying to get married, and although my wife had often watched me race at Brooklands, and on our one-day honeymoon I had persuaded her to drive herself at 120 m.p.h. across the Downs, which she did very well, I knew she never really liked racing in any form. So at her request it was mutually agreed that I should never race again, except straight speed trials, and up to this day I have stuck to this agreement, although there have. been one or two warming up or practice laps on the Detage At SilVerstone or Goodwood. The marriage and the fact that petrol was getting far more scarce obviously
called for a rearrangement of ears, so the racing Ifelaltaye was sent to may home, painted battleship grey, and laid up in the squash min for the daration. Then a 1937 Fiat 500 was bought, and when this wits roma’ to be fairly satisfactory, the dot/Mead Delahaye was sent off to be repainted. We had a short air gunnery course in Wales, and my wife and I went off there in the Fiat, but towards tlw end of the journey there were ominous smmds front the back axle, anti on arrival it was stripped and found partly cracked. The garage offered to weld it, which .t hey did successfully, but 1. never felt happy about it and decided to sell it at. the first opportunity. This Caine when I was finally commissioned and sent to the U.N. college at Greenwich for a short course. Duriag this I hue a visit was paid to Great Portland Street or thereabouts, and a swan WaS uitaile, With a small financial adjustment, in a /938 Fiat 500. The Fiat served us well for await six numths. first, at Eastleigh. then at Yelverion, where it was joined by the droplund Delaltaye after it hail had its repaint. NVe had a Mess there with fairly mixed interests ; there ‘,vas Johnnie ( owl Kay) Wakefield with their Rolls-Bentley Whiell usually travelled long distances by rail to save petrol. Will myself with motor racing as our interest, then for the other form of racing there was Bob Everett and Furlong, both of whom had ridden a winner in the Grand National and the former had won the Irish Grand National as well. I nfortimatelv. all three of thorn were later killed while serving. Bob Everett. receiving I he D.S.O. for shooting down the first, Donner flying-boat a week before he Was About Christmas 1940. the Fiat suffered a sad mishap, by somehow splitting its gearbox in half ; as spares were not available the garage attempted to weld it, and were suecessful, except that when it Was completed it was found impossible to select reverse, which, on the whole was
considerable disadvantage, so it. looked As if an opportunity Of unloading it would have to he found. Inthe meantime, when on heave in London we had the gear lever break off at the base and the car had to be left behind for a week while we hired one. As my sister-in-law was visiting us from London the following week we gave her the garage ticket and asked her to bring the Fiat down. When she arrived we thought our car had changed a bit and found they had given her the wrong car, but we did very well over the petrol exchange as the garage had to make up for their mistake: I had decided a Vauxhall Ten would be most suitable for my next car, as the petrol consumption was very good, ‘combined with a reasonable performance and plenty of room. We eventually found one, when stationed at Lee-onSolent, at a sort of car breakers, where the cars were left out all the time in the surrounding woods. It was in poor condition and the, engine was definitely -ropey, with clouds of smoke pouring out when it was started. A. most exorbitant price was asked, and it was obvious that I was considered as the ideal ‘sucker. This all suited my purpose perfectly because two could play at that game and I had to unload the Fiat without it being found to have no reverse gear. A good price was fixed on the Fiat, subject to trial, and I was to bring it along the next day and collect the Vauxhall ; when I arrived I found the only way to get the Fiat out of the place was by reversing and this would give the show away on the trial run, SO I told them that unfortunately there was not enough petrol in it to go for a run but I would start the engine from which they could tell it was in perfect condition. This satisfied them and I set:offbot foot in the Vauxhall, never to return. The following week the Vauxhall, well covered by insurance, was stolen. I thought this was too good to be true. It Was, as it was found again the next day, only a mile away
We were then posted to Speke aerOdrome and I drove up in the Delahaye, and my wife followed later with the Vauxhall, which was suffering from a blocked petrol pipe. It had a rubber filler cap, and a garage man said he would blow the pipes clear with high pressure air from the carburetter end. After a minute of nothing happening, suddenly there was a terrific explosion and an old woman, about 100 yards down the road, was nearly brained by the filler cap.
On arriving in Liverpool we found the Vauxhall agents could tit us a reconditioned engine and repair the wings for £27, which we immediately had done. It bad one snag,, the repair works were ‘down in the docks and as the Germans were raiding the docks heavily seven nights a week, it looked as if the Vauxhall’s chances were not all that good. Every few days we woold look to see if the building were still there, and when we went to collect the car after two weeks, the repair shop was the only idace standing within a r inrre of al us it too car, Is. a ml of course had not a single window intact. With the reconditioned engine the Vauxhallwent perfectly throughout its career, but I myself had little chance of Wing it as I was abroad from 1941 to the end of the Gentian war, either in the Middle East or Far East, except for a few brief months when my ship was torpedoed ;
but my wife used it as much as petrol rationing allowed.
On my return, the German war being over, things looked Much brighter, and thoughts began to turn towards real motoring. but owing to the petrol situation this had to he done stage by stage. Firstly we unearthed the drophead Delahaye„ and, except for one or two mice in the upholstery, once the battery was charged she was in good form, and I took her off to Eastleigh, where I was stationed, leaving my wife to follow later in the Vauxhall. Having resurrected one Delahaye successfully,. I decided to try my luck with the other one, which was a somewhat larger job, as it had been stored away covered in grease and totally painted in the aforesaid undercoat of battleship grey. The only thing to do was to tow it, straight to the paint shop, have it stripped, and then repainted as best they could. The colour chosen was green. After this an attempt was made to restart her, and when the petrol pipes, pump and carburetters had been cleaned, a certain amount of success was achieved which we cOnsidered good enough until a proper overhaul could be made, but the brakes Were certainly very dicey, grabbing in all directions, as only improperly adjusted Bendix can.
I was fortunate enough at this time to have a posting to the Ministry of Aircraft Production,. and as the Japanese war ended a Month after I got there I Was in an ideal situation to complete my Service life and await demobilisation whilst the motoring situation was sorted out. I found in a neiidtbouring, office orrthe same floor an old Fleet Air Arm acquaintance. of Middle East days called Rollie Wallington and he was just getting himself a kit) with Robert Arbuthnot who had Guilio Ramponi working for him, so we were all cronies together, or something beginning with CRO anyway.
I will never forget the first trip up to London in the open Delahaye from Wiltshire, having at length saved the petrol. American ears, never favourites of mine, had been in the ascendancy during the war years and their drivers were seldom challenged. I had one in front of me, who was passing everything on the mad and obviously thought he was very fast. I suppose it was very childish of me, and taking a very unfair advantage, but I took great delight in ‘going past him at about WO ntp.h., and then changing into top, although I must say I looked bit foolish as I could never leave him far out of sight owing to my poor brakes. used the Delahaye every Morning to go to the office, but after a while decided it was not the best of plans, as it made such a noise that eve ryo ie knew when I had arrived, and as I was always late, this was the last thini I wanted. Nly wife was not very keen on he dmphead Delahaye and as third :old top in the Cote, gearbox had ceased to function we decided to sell it ; and her choice for the replacement was a drophead Rolls. I decided that this was An excellent idea too, as I could pussy-foot to the office without anyone knowing when I arrived. T discussed the matter with Wallington over the usual cups of tea (actually I don’t drink tea. so I was very out of place in a Ministry). Anyway, Rollie
said that he knew of just the car for me, that was in the Olympia garage and had belonged to an Army officer who had been killed. My wife and I went along to have a• look at it, and decided it would suit us very well, but it was not until we had concluded the deal through Robert Arbuthnot and part-exchanged the Delahaye that we saw the Rolls clear . of all dust sheets and polished up : then we realised that it exceeded all expectations.
• took it to the office the first morning, but the pussy-foot effect did not work at all as it broke down at the front door, with a petrel stoppage, and RampOni had to be sent for, and by the time all was explained everybody knew just how late. I was, and it was just about time to set out for lunch.
To explain the Rolls, which I still have to this day, it is a 25-h.p. H.R. Owen drophcad coupe by Gurney Nutting, and I believe is oftenknown as a Continental tourer, as it has a very large, slightly square boot on the back, with the spare wheel behind it. Personally I find it a most attractive body and one that does not date. I have done 50,000 miles on the car, and it has never let me down, although I have almost made A hole through the floor boards trying to get a little more out of it. It has been tutted as much as possible and will go off the dock (80m.p.h.) without great difficulty. For nine months it ran Supercharged with an Arnott blower, and this increased the acceleration enormously. I am ashamed to say it knocked 12 sec. off the 0-60 time 3o. you can imagine how Shaw it was before, but the top speed remained unaltered. When the blower was eventually removed, not because the car Minded it but because the blower had a bearing going, the Rolls -seemed much looser and faster, and I think after 75,000 miles the blower had helped to run the car in. During the time that there was complete petrol rationing and one Could only travel on business, I hired the car to the films and they paid me twelve guineas a day for three months while it sat on the stage, and eventually it appeared for about two minutes in” Woman Hater.” The most outstanding. characteristic of the car is its stability on snow and ice. We have had two amazing journeys in her, both times without using chains ; we took her down to the South of France in the snows of 1947, and the road from Lyons to Orange had been totally blocked. We were one of the first cars to get through and hundreds of ears were stranded all around us, but somehow the old thing ploughed on. Last year we took her up to Davos just after the :avalanches had occurred and they said that it was the heaviest snow for 30 years ; again we just made it, but with more difficulty this time as the road was single line, and -once, tiler stopping to let someone :through ei inning down, we just cold(‘ not get sufficient grip to start up again, and had to go backwards for about a quarter Of a mile before we could grip. Another time We slid towards the edge, knocking the wall of snow at the side over the
precipice. Luckily we just did net follow. The only things to which I can attribute these snow-holding properties are the great weight, a complete lack of power and fairly smooth transmission.
The next thing on the agenda was to replace the Vauxhall, as, although it was game to the last., it had really had its time. We wanted something that did not conu.ne Much petrol, and would be a useful car for my wife to handle, but not too sluggish. Eventually we were persuaded that an 1,100-e.e. Fiat was just the thing and Robert Arbuthnot produced One that had only done I 3,000 miles, and which Ramponi was in the act of stripping and tuning. When he had finislied it, it really was a goer. The acceleration was very adequate, it. had a top speed of nearly tiO m.p.h., a wonderful turning lock which was ideal for parking, especially for a female, and it did 41 in.p g., no what more could one want ? VVe kept it for live years, and after that it. began to get rather rattly and the engine was not quite so reliable so it had to go, but it was a bitter blow to my wife. avid at one time I even offered her a new Bristol, but she sant tliat she would really: prefer to keep her Fiat.
As racing was now verboten I decided to completely do up the Delahaye and equip it for road use, so it was sent. to the Morley Brothers in Lancaster Mews, and they made a very good job of it. Meanwhile I was without a fast motor, and I spotted one that I had always admired and longed to Own. This was one of the Type 37A Grand Prix Bugatti,; and it was in spotless condition, and also had the Bugatti wheels width I adore. After a sleepless night. as to whether it was wise, I decided to buy it.. In the end it turned out that it was not wise, and (I am ashamed to say in front of Bugatti enthusiasts) I prefer the solid reliability of the lorry-engined Delahaye to the more delicate and temperamental perfection of the Bitgatti. I think I pushed that. car further than I drove it, and the engine turned over more times with the handle than by its own motive power. I admitted defeat after a short. time, and on driving it up to London, its final effort was to throw both headlamps at my head. I think the car was sold to the late Sir Malcolm Campbell’s son Donald, W110, being younger, probably had more pushingpower than I !
Since petrol rationing was becoming stricter the further we were away from the finish of the war, we now came down into a very snsall class, seldom seen. It was a 250-e.e. Ryteeraft made before the war by the motor boat people. It had a motor-cycle engine, air-cooled, tiny wheels, direct steering, and seated two comfortably, but that was about. all it did do comfortably. After bringing it to London, and the Daily Graphic ioninting some photos of it going on to a thot or launch on the Thames. I decided to get rid of it at the highest possible speed. which I did, and as at that time it was inspossibk, not to make a profit on any car. I did that too. The 11elahaye had now returned complete with windscreen, hood and It grid, and our first. outing was down to Brighton to compete in the speed trials. My wife had on a new skirt., and I was anxious to demonstrate the all-weather equipment.; 1 had plenty of opportunity as we had a clot al-burst. on the way down. and as all the airscoops face forward and the mudguards are fairly small, the water just poured in from the wheels and
within ten minutes we were soaked right through anti my wife had to take off her
skirt and wrap herself in a ru The speed trial was not a success as the car hadn’t its usual uir,e and appeared retarded, finishing nowhere ; later it was found the valve timing was not quite correct. The following year I met Guy JasonHenry, who lived in a mews jttst around the corner from my flat. He undertook to tune the I klithaye up a bit, in exchange for whieh I offered hin a drive at the first. meeting at Gransden. The Delahaye soon seemed to get back some of its prewar punch, and easily won its race :A Granstien, although it was afterwards disqualified for mime technical detail in the entry. It, was next taken to the speed trials at Brighton, which is one of the few runs that I get in the year, as my wife, under slight protest, allows me events in a straight line. The car showed a great improvement on the year before, and I won the class and created a new class record. It was soon apparent to Me that there was no better person in the country to maintain the Delahaye than .Jason-Henry and as I seldom had the eletnee to drive it., it became rather a liability, and I decided to offer Guy a half-share in the car, saying that he could always keep it ist his plaee and use it as long as he maintained it ; if I wanted to use it, I would borrow it from hint. We agreed upon a suns that he should pay me for the half-share, and the arrangement worked very well until it came to an unfortunate conclusion. We next entered the car for the Britislt Empire Trophy in the Isle of Man, with Guy driving it. This was a Formula I race for raring ears only, and so the car was somewhat outclassed, but with its usual reliability it finished seventh. I finished the season with toy usual run at Brighton, where I won the class, heating my previous year’s record. The year 1949 was a busier year and we started with Guy driving in the I.( ).M British Empire Trophy. agiui n outclassed in Formula I, Ind game to the (‘no I. finishing, twelfilt and not. There followed the first. Le Mans since the war, and as I haul driven t he I Mali:lye in the last one before the war it was natural that WI’ should want to enter. I was fortunate enough to get Tony Bolt to (0-thrive wit Ii Guy. The old car seemed pleased to he haek I here, and we even had the same plombeta and tit it’as in 1939, who were delighted to see us back
again. The car went wonderfully, but the. heat was terrific, and at the first pit stop we found nearly all the water had boiled away. After 12 hours we were lying fifth and looked like going up, then at dawn tragedy struck and she came in with the bearings gone, the first race I cant ever remember ill which she failed to finish, and even after we had stopped, it took Ow next car three-quarters of a hour to eatch up our position. After renewing the bearings Guy and I decided to enter for the French Grand Prix at Comminges, and as by now we were getting short of foreign currency we decided to do the whole trip on our starting money, a hundred thousand francs. This prohit ti tAking nweehanies, lorries or spares, and we had to drive the racing car MO miles to the race with two up and all our luggage. When we arrived at the serntisteering witlt our suitcases on the back, the Frenchmen asked us where our lorry. was, and on explaining that we had come from London Its we were, they joist would not believe us, but roared with laughter. The heat was terrific. being on the Spanish border, and we suffered badly after about 10 laps I had to drag Quy out of the car altnost unconscious, but revived him with buckets of water;. after that; I threw a complete bucket all over hilts every five laps, and another over the gearbox. But at the same tune others were suffering more (Chiron did not recover from his burns from the gearbox for six months) and consequently we sneaked up into fifth place in the unlimited class, and won a further ten thousand francs, which allowed its to. do the whole trip at a profit with much enjoyment.
As soon as the car returned it. ran its. first race at Goodwood, which, it. won. Then 011 to Brighton, where we got hold of the wrong fuel, and had we done a good time we wmild have beets tlisqltalified, but, anyway the car went very badly and Guy Gale in his Lago-Talbot took the• record from me–and a 1110St. Stilt able person to do it, since these two ears had been rivals for the past 12 years or so. The next year it new body was fitted, and it ran two races, the first a scratch race at. Goodwood, in whicls it was troubled with boiling (owing to the radiator being too low with the new laxly) but finished third to Sidney Allard [Correct spelling: Sydney Allard] and Guy Gale. In its last race before being sent to gaol as a wicked smuggler, it started from scratch in the front row, with Gale’sLago-Talbot behind, and the Delahaye held the starting position advantageto the end, winning the race and vindicating its ltrighton defeat. I think only one other car before or since Itas ever beaten Gale’s Talbot off the ktrat cli line. I was rung up one morning in my office, and a voice said that Guy dason-Ifenry had just been apprehended at Newhaven for smuggling watches. I roared with laughter and said ” Poor old Guy.” Then the voice said the watches were in the Delahaye, whereupon I sled out ofthe chair and nearly hit illy head on the ceiling. I think the voice then said, ” that will make you laughs the other side of your face.” I had no idea the DelahayeWati even out of the country. It is the,
law that any vehicle that is carrying: smuggled articles is impounded by MM… Customs whether the owner is concerned or not, and although Jason-Henry was acquitted of being concerned in the matter, and I obviously had no knowledge of it at all, the car became forfeit. I was informed that my only way to get, it. back was to buy it 1»tek and when I inquired of Customs how much the Cunard White Star line pay to buy I ail: the Queen Mary aml Quee,i Elbeih cads time smuggled nylons are found on board, they declined to answer ION” question. Eventually a sum was agreed, and I collected a lot of very corroded scrap metal whicls we rebuilt into the Delallaye, but it has not yet quite got over its ill treatment. Its first race afterwards was in the Empire Trophy in the 1.0.M. and in the very first lap it was rammed in the tail and crashed, and many excited spectators rushed around hoping there were still some watches left to fall out, but no luck, and eventually it continued and finished third in the class,
In 1940 my wife and I took the Rolls. on a trip to Venice and on the way we stopped for a couple of days at laigi,tito, where we met Mr. and NIrs. Robin Byrn; in a bar. We began talking, alld as far as I wits eoncerued naturally the Subject turned to cars, and they told us that they had a mod. unusual. Lago-Talbot,-with Figoni and Falaselti body. in Nice. Apparently Mrs. Ilyng had bought. this car at the Paris Motor Show 1937-38, and it had never been to England, but the ‘Germans got, hold of it during the war and took the tyres and tore all the leather out, but 110W they intended to import. the wreckage into England and completely renovate the car. About six months later I ran into Robin Byng in the ” Steering Wheel,” and he told me that they had brought the Lago Special back and it had been completely overhauled, and that I htiversil y Motors were trying to sell it for them, and he wondered if I would be interested, Well, I had a look at it and went for a 11111, MO I must say I thought it was the most beautiful car I had ever seen and it
certainly went, but it had one small snag at the time; the price asked was, I believe,. 4:5,000, and although prices were. at their highest maximum at this time I reit it was too much to pay for any car. But I thought about the car a great deal, and it was obviously the thing for me, and from time to time I would meet Robin Byng and haggle about the price ; eventually he rang me up one afternoon and said thathe would like to see me. Ire arrived in the car, said they had had an offer for it, very noieli lower thin the original price asked, and if they did not have a better one by that evening, they would let it go. I raised it. 5:100 and the car was mine. I never regretted it. This Law) Special has a two-seater closed coupe body, by Figoni, with an ingenious disappearing sliding roof, all the woodwork is rosewood, and the windows are curved and bevelled. ‘rlte engine is the itorrtud pre-war 4-litre Tatoot. wi th single eamslialt and push rods. Ualike the similar ears with this body waielt were raced at Le Itlans in 1939, it Ita.s only two carburetters whereas they had three ; according to the factory this rediteed max-41111111 from about 130 m.p.h. to 112 m.p.h. I found the car had Several faults and I slowly sid’t abOttt fairing them. Firstly, the brakes were Bendix, and most unpredictable, sometimes grabbing, sometimes fading, and in heavy rain almost non-existent ; this was cured by getting the Lockheed conversion from France. and after that the brakes were magnificent. The gearbox was it Wilson and unreliable, also it made the eluteh terribly !Leavy and almost IMpOSSible for a Woman to drive. 1mm this respect my wife had an amusing incident at he Mans. She was leaving the. car park at about midniold. with TontBolt’s. wire Lois. and owing to the strength of the clutch her foot slipped off the pedal and the car shot biwkwards, nearly running over a Frenchman who wits relieving himself at the hack. NVithout completing the job on hand rushed forward to apoktzise to Maclaine for so ineonvenierwing lwr.— tonfours Ia politesse. The gearbox trouble was cured by fitting a Cotal, which works very sweetly and of course needs no use
of the dutch except for the initial starting off. The steering was also very heavy, and this was largely cured by cutting down the front tyres from 6.00 by 17 to 5.25 by 17. I have also done this on the Rolls, tont it is atnaAng how tnueli it improves the steering. I was somewhat troubled by boiling in large cities, especially Paris, so I went to the factory to find out what the trouble was. When I told them, they looked at me in amazement., and said of eourse it boiled if I drove it at. less than 70 kilmnetres I ler hour, so I retired squashed. Actually I drove the car for over a year with pure ethylene glyeol which raised the 1.0iling point to about 160 degrees. The engine did not. object at alt, until one day even like that it boiled, although it took over an hour to do it, and as a result I was nearly gassed from thick white fumes.
As far as performance is concerned, it did the standing kilometre in 34 seconds ; and although I drive very slowly through towns, I did average 7l) mum. till, for otw hour in Franee. This neeessitated ernising consistently at over 100 m.p.h., and I found that once that speed had been attained it could be held easily, with the throttle eased well back. It was used in 1949 as the practice car for Ilse Delahaye at he Mans-, and at night. it put in some very reasonable times, and I think I am correct in saying that its time was faster than the practice time of any British car then present.
For business. in 1948 I found it useful to have a new Bristol 400, and I ran this car for about nine months. It was useful when the Lag,o was having modifications .carried out, but I must say I never really gat attaehed to the car. It handled well and was light and easy to drive, but the brakes scented inadequate for the speed of the car, and the speed of the car was inadequate for me ; the gear ratios seemed to be all wrong, and all the revs, gained in second were lost changing into third ; but I am afraid the main trouble as far as I was concerned was that it, was pathetically slow compared with the Talbot. It may be said of the next car that it is not a car at all, which is partially true, but I mention it as it is of interest and anyway it is powerful enough to propel Tony Rolt and myself around. It is one of those electric, miniature Ilugattis—I almost wrote toys—but really they are not toys at all, and were produced by the Patron himself. The Bugatti iS a perfect replica about. 4 ft. long, with an electric motor acting on the rear axle, working from a 12. v. battery under the bonnet.. The speed is controlled by an accelerator working on the rheostat principle, and gives you roughly two speeds forward and two in reverse, selection or a forward or reverse being done by a switch on the dash. It has an outside brake lever working proper internal expanding brakes. eable operated. All exterior metal parts such as springs and front axle I have had satin chromed, to give the effect of polished steel. The ton sneed is II m.p.h. Air 20 miles. and it will take a fully grown man up hill if he sits on the tail with his feet inside. I never quite understood the origin of these
little ears ; one story is that one was given away with each Bugatti Royal sold, and another story is that one was given to the son of every reigning monarch. All I know for certain is that the King of the Belgians has one and one of Ettore Bugatti’s sons had one, so also do the Bugatti O.C. I think. In the spring of 1951 my wife’s 1,100r c.c. Fiat became very tired and rather unreliable, and I had to search for something else ; double purchase tax had just. been dropped, and I knew that. George Abecassis had just bought. the last four 2-litre drophead Aston-Martins to be made. I rang him up and I was very lucky in securing one with three weeks’ delivery which I presented to my Wife on Our 10th wedding anniversary ; it was waiting Outside the front door, and when I showed it to her it was a complete surprise. It is a very pretty little car, handles perfectly with the 1)132 chassis, and the engine is very reliable. It is not a fast car, especially low down, but it is entirely effortless to drive and works up to about 102 m.p.h. on the “
which I should say is about a genuine 95 m.p.h. When I started this article some montlis ago, I wrote that it depended on how long I took whether I had had 34 or 35 cars. Well, it is the latter, because on June 1st. I had delivered to me what I now consider the most marvellous car of its type. in the world, and to Inc it is the perfect dream car with which to finish this rambling rigmarole of mine. The car is, of course, a D112. actually VMP rL which George Abee.aSsis drove in flu. I 95o T.T. ; later it was converted to normal and became the
Works denumst rat or. rme.t hen they converted the engine back to the ” Vantage ” for racing and sold ii to tune.
had only driven it once, and was thrilled with it, when it went off for the British Empire Trophy in the I.O.M. for George Abecassis to drive. Unfortunately, during its conversion back to racing, no air scoops had been cut in the body for the brakes. This resulted in the front brakes grabbing on a corner, and the car crashing into a bank, buckling the front, badly, and breaking the front engine. bearers ; the car continued at unabated speed, but at the finish (it was llth) it was found that the engine was half out of the chassis ; the Delahaye had been rammed and had crashed on the first lap, so I had a good day ! I think the thing that delights rue most about the 1)112 is the way that you can amble conmfortably throng’) traffic at 20 m.p.h. in top ge:ir and t hen accelerate away, but if you get a short open stretch
all you need do is go down into second and she will climb straight up to 70 m.p.h., and from there in third she will go up to about 90 or 100 m.p.h.. Another amazement is that you never hear the engine at all; it is completely smooth and the only thing that can be heard is a somewhat noisy exhaust. When I bought the Aston-Martin I was quite prepared to scoff at it, having had excellent and very fast French cars, but as can he seen I have changed any tune, and have no hesitation in saying that it is the finest car to drive that I have ever owned ; and this is. I feel, a happy note on which to end.
And if MoTOrt Svon’r ask you to write an article on cars you have owned. unless you have only owned one, my advice is, don’t do it, because I feel just about worn out . .
Out of the Past, April 1984
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