A Section Devoted to Old Car Matters
THE V.S.C.C. BEAULIEU RALLY (Sept. 21st)
The V.S.C.C. rally to Palace House, Beaulieu, provided an opportunity to examine some 46 vintage and Edwardian cars assembled in this pleasant setting for a Concours d’Elegance, many of them afterwards taking part in a simple driving-skill shuffle, and, in the case of the writer, of experiencing the charm of the vintage 9/20 Humber.
The journey to Beaulieu and back was accomplished as passenger to Tim Nicholson in a 1927 four-door saloon version of one of these high-quality and entirely delectable vintage small cars. That this is a light car in the vintage tradition was evident from the upright lines of this compact closed carriage, with its three doors (the driver doing without), sliding windows, “button” Bedford-cord upholstery denoting the de luxe model, and “railway carriage” door handles. The Humber, which has some 44,000 miles behind it, progressed towards Beaulieu at a steady 40 m.p.h. and 36 m.p.g. of the least costly petrol, riding well in spite of the absence of front shock absorbers, and proving to be adequately braked, the r.h. handbrake acting on the back wheels being employed normally, the foot-brake, which is coupled to front wheels and transmission, being held in reserve for more urgent retardation. The steering is high-geared but light, the r.h. gear-lever controls a box on which rapid double-declutch downward changes are possible, with a maximum in middle gear of 22 m.p.h. But perhaps the outstanding feature of this delectable light car is its flexibility and low-speed pulling in top gear. No wonder these 9/20s are the most popular cars amongst members of the Humber Register.
Arrived at Beaulieu, following a preview of the fine new museum buildings which are to be opened formally next March, it was possible to examine the splendid assembly the V.S.C.C. had brought together.
There were many beautiful Rolls-Royce cars, Phillips 1926 40/50 with yellow two-seater drophead coupe body, American-style headlamps and huge searchlight, being outstanding, but Moorey’s 1929 Phantom I Thrupp and Maberley landaulette, one of the last of the PIs, more dignified. Hellongs brought a nice barrel-sided 1927 Twenty tourer, Keller a closed 1929 Twenty. Bendall graced proceedings with his immaculate 1910 touring Silver Ghost, the Edwardians being completed by Hampton’s Bugatti “Black Bess,” Hutton-Stott’s 1913 Lanchester, Mrs. Jeddere-Fisher’s well-known Lancia Theta coupe and a bright yellow 10-h.p. 1915 de Dion Bouton tourer, once owned by John Howell and of the type over which Edgar N. Duffield, the motoring journalist, once enthused, telling his readers in his inimitable prose that no car ever served man more staunchly.
Reverting to vintage entries, Mrs. Harwich had a well-kept 20/60 General Motors Vauxhall, one of the first, and although this is usually conceded to be a dull car, its interesting front-brake gear. 14/40-like radiator and American-style central gear-lever, very swept-back, but working in a visible gate, were points of unexpected interest. Of several early Austin Seven tourers, House’s 1924 model had the original pattern hood and, like Harry Clarke’s, the authentic open hubs.
Standeven’s Lea-Francis tourer seemed long enough to house a twin-cam six-cylinder engine but was, in fact, propelled by the trusty Meadows 4ED, Huxham’s Morris-Cowley bull-nose was a shapely fixed-head coupe, and Green brought a rare boat-decked 1925 O.M. ” Superba.” Two outstandingly-smart sports cars were Millar’s 1927 twin-cam 3-litre Sunbeam and Barker’s rare and scintillating 1930 18/100 Mk. III M.G. ” Tiger ” complete with external exhaust-system culminating in a vast plated fish-tail, outside hand-brake, and ” stop ” triangle above a rear wing. Parks’ 1927 Singer Junior saloon displayed a domestic picture-gallery inside its windscreen—not, we hope while he drives it—and Berrisford’s beetle-back Super Sports 12/50 Alvis glinted in the sunshine, while Tom Rolt cast a knowledgeable eye over it for non-original aspects.
Amongst interesting non-competing cars were a 1929 18-h.p. Star saloon and a 1931 14.9-h.p. Star Comet saloon with exceedingly tidy o.h.v. engine, grouped under-bonnet grease nipples, and an exceptionally tall gear-lever. There was also a ghastly Bentley Special and a fine 8-litre Bentley saloon.
After watching a quite abortive attempt to start Lord Montagu’s 350-h.p. V12 Sunbeam single-seater by high-speed lappery behind a Land Rover, we watched some seemingly shockingly destructive driving tests, which took place up a drive which might have been the setting for a vintage speed trial. After a Le Mans start, to make the public laugh, competitors had to stop, reverse, and rush forward again, which is quite the worst manoeuvre possible for vintage motor cars when done hurriedly to beat the stop-watch. In fact, it destroyed the back-axle splines of Goodwin’s 3-litre Bentley and caused the axles of the 1910 Rolls-Royce and Sanders’ blown 1.5-litre Alfa-Romeo to tramp alarmingly.—W. B.
HISTORIC COMMERCIAL VEHICLES AT SOUTHALL
On September 28th the Historic Commercial Vehicle Club held its second rally, this time at the A.E.C. factory, where London’s ‘buses are made, at Southall. Last year a rally at Beaulieu led to the formation of the H.C.V.C., and earlier this year the Club’s opening rally was held at Leyland in Lanceshire.
A really splendid entry of some fifty old commercial and Public Services vehicles assembled on September 28th to delight the many Londoners who, free of charge, were admitted to view the proceedings. At lunch Lord Brabazon of Tara. Chairman of A.C.V. Ltd., spoke of the pleasure it gave him to see these early vehicles gathered together. He recalled the one-time rivalry between steam, electricity and the internal-combustion engine in the commercial vehicle field and the tremendous excitement amidst which petrol ‘buses were introduced to London’s travelling public. ” One day.” concluded Lord Brabazon, ” some of you may see atomic-powered ‘buses on London’s streets. Meanwhile, we build very good ‘buses of the current type.” Lord Brabazon also said what a pity it was that the H.C.V.C. had not been formed sooner, when more old commercial vehicles would have been saved.
Lord Montagu of Beaulieu’ welcomed the drivers and their guests and paid tribute to the commercial vehicle journalists, ” without whom this Club would have got nowhere.” He went on to say how pleased he was that the Editor of MOTOR SPORT was present because, although this raper had no direct connection with commercial-type vehicles, ” none has done more to foster interest in old vehicles,” and Lord Montagu was delighted that Mr. Boddy now possessed his own vintage commercial vehicle. (Lord Montagu was referring to my 1924 Reo speed Wagon 14-seater coach, which has many endearing technical features, including a fine 4-litre engine ‘with cylinders in two pairs end o.h, inlet valves actuated by hefty exposed pushrods and rockers, akin to an Edwardian racing car engine (the design apparently dates from 1910). But as this vehicle disgraced me with magneto failure and couldn’t be present, no more need be said about ft.—ED.
Inevitably many of the vehicles present had been seen at previous H.C.V.C. rallies, although they would be new to the London public. However, there was the Secretary’s nicely rebuilt 1910 W. & G. taxi, with Panhard-Levassor engine, while Harrods put in a 1919 K-type one-ton Walker battery-electric truck. Very pleasing was J. R. Woodhouse’s 1925 model-T Ford with Stanley fire-fighting equipment. The Walls ice-cream rnodel-T Ford one-ton van was present and a 1928 67-b.h.p. Dennis fire-engine also, the latter destined for the Montagu Motor Museum. J. W. Sutton brought a similar 1929 Dennis in chassis form, as it is in process of restoration. The work is being beautifully carried out and it was interesting to examine the complex brake compensating gear and to note the clean design of the engine. The fine workmanship of the vintage vehicles, particularly as seen on this Dennis chassis, contrasted with ths untidy welded joints and “pressed tin” of the modern commercial chassis seen standing about the A.E C. works.
A Wedgewood’s 1925 10-ton Foden steamer bore a notice saying that old or new, all roads lead to Sandbach (where Fodens are made), and W. D. J. Sparrow’s very fine 1916 5-ton Foden steam wagon arrived on a Foden transporter from Streetly steaming gently, the fire having been lit at High Wycombe while it was still on its transporter. H. G. Franklin’s 1930 A.E.C. Mercury carried a Broome & Wade compressor and was somewhat bogus, now having a Gardner 4LW diesel engine. Three 1931 Gilfords, two coaches and a van, added a nice one-make touch, but there seemed less point in the presence of two 1935 Austin Twelve taxi-cabs and a 1933 Vauxhall bearing a 10-seater bus body.
Amongst the older vehicles, Lord Montagu’s 1913 A/16 25-h.p. Albion chassis took the eye and Leyland had sent their 1908 ” X “type Leyland 3-tonner, entered by the Club’s President, Sir Henry Spurrier.
This time ‘buses and coaches were well represented. The oldest was the 1909 yellow Commer four-seater, once the property of Lord Lonsdale and now tender to a 1902 Benz. It has final drive by enclosed chains, bearing the words “The Commer Car—Works, Luton ” on the big chain-cases, its way lit by Brown Bros. Challenge lamps. The gears are changed by a big quandrant lever on a vertical shaft by the steering wheel and this Commer is on solid tyres. D.J Cowing drove a 1937 A.E.C. Regent 56-seater double-decker ‘bus, a 1939 Leyland TS 8 was rigged up as a living-van, and the Vintage Passenger Vehicle Society brought a very tall 1939 A.E.C. Renown six-wheeler double-decker ‘bus, ex-Leicester Corporation. More compact was a 1929 A4 Long-type 20-seater Thornycroft coach, now used as a school ‘bus. There was also a 1934 LTSA Leyland 32-seater ‘bus still bearing the ” People’s League for Freedom” notices it wore while serving during the London ‘bus strike. A 1927 Leyland Lion type PLSC 35-seater had as its destination the “Devil’s Hole,” memory of its Jersey service ?
London Transport Executive weighed in with a parade of six ‘buses, from the splendid 1910 L.G.O.C. “Ole Bill,” to the latest 1958 A.E.C. 64-seater. Included was a 1920 K-type, on which we noticed centre-point steering by steeply-inclined steering pivots, with almost vertical solid-tyred wheels, and two whittle-belt-driven dynamos, and a 1927 covered-top NS-type. These perfectly appropriate historic ‘buses were driven by old-time L.G.O.C. employees and were deservedly popular with the spectators.
Amongst lighter vehicles, Trojan, Morris Commercial. Guy and Vulcan were represented and there were no fewer than five model-T Fords. Of these, although it won a prize, R. B Stay’s 1923 van, purchased three years ago for £2, still had a square brass radiator. which is incorrect for a model-T of this vintage, That it has twice won H.C.V.C. prizes suggests that the Club prefers a well-turned-out vehicle to historic accuracy in restoration. The 1928 one-tanner Morris-Commercial was listed as having, in its time, carried anything from debutantes to rubbish. At Southall it appeared to be carrying the rubbish, in the form of a non-original ornate dashboard and other ornaments.
Of the steamers, and oldest vehicle present, Tasker’s 1903 Little Giant tractor, ” The Horse’s Friend,” received a big ovation. Bought by two ladies who wanted help for horses in difficulty on Crystal Palace Hill, this miniature 4-n.h.p. tractor still carries its R.S.P.C.A. label and the money-box in which grateful horsemen were supposed to insert 2d. in return for uphill assistance. It was ably driven by 75-year-old Herbert Smallbones, who helped to build it and who addressed it as you would a horse.
After a parade round the A.E.C. factory grounds, each vehicle Indulged in a timed lap, which was one of the most dangerous speed events we have ever seen, the crowds continually wandering across the roads and standing in lethal places round blind corners. This contest happily concluded without accident but seemed rather pointless and produced a number of ties. It took so long that what should have been a far more interesting exercise up and down the old 1-in-7 trolley-‘bus test hill, was abandoned. But the Royal College of Science M.C. 1916 Dennis 45-h.p. fire-engine managed several goes at the hill and generally swept about ringing its bell. Noticeably quiet were the 1929 Dennis fire-engine chassis and V. E. Brewster’s nice 1923 model-T Ford plain van.
Just before 5 p.m., with Lord Brabazon still an interested spectator. a final parade took place, led by the London Transport Executive ‘buses, headed by “Ole Bill” proudly displaying its 1914/18 war destination boards, and followed by the prize-winners, of which those in the Concours d’Elegance are listed below. There must be something about driving a road-sweeper that is very jolly, because D. A. Thomas, ensconced in the cab of the 1920 Dorman-engined L-type Lacre road-sweeper, always has a most infectious smile, which he passed on to the spectators by lowering the brush for a moment as he drove up to receive his prize. At the same place, C. H. Peacock demonstrated the foolproof epicyclic transmission of his 1926 Trojan Travellers’ Brougham by going a few feet in reverse.
Altogether this was an excellent rally, admirably supported alike by entrants and spectators. Next year we look forward to an H.C.V.C. country gathering, perhaps with more conventional driving tests and an age/distance handicap rally.
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