The Welsh Rally is one of the V.S.C.C..’s best fixtures, even if the adventure factor may not be quite so apparent as it was way back in 1939, when to travel from Far Places to Presteigne, even if this fine old Welsh town is only about a couple of miles over the border from England, was a considerable accomplishment, especially in a newly-discovered Edwardian car, as Peter Hull’s new book about the Vintage Sports Car Club vividly recalls. Somehow, the old cars seem more thoroughly resuscitated, these days…
Nevertheless, this Welsh Rally is the greatest possible fun, quite apart from the social aspect at the Radnorshire Arms. This time it wasn’t a pilgrimage to wild, wet Welsh Wales at all; the October sun shone from a cloudless sky. But it is nice to hind a town where parking presents no real problem in spite of narrow streets, and where the Constabulary take a real interest in old cars, in the friendly sense of that term.
And one in which the Concours d’Elegance is allowed to take place on the Saturday afternoon in the Station Approach road, although this time, admittedly, no driving tests could be held in the Station yard itself for fear of damaging the surface; which seems strange, because the railway here has already been extinguished by the Beeching axe.
This did not stop 83 competitors entering for the Concours and/or the sterner trial on the Sunday, so that when the Jensen C-V8 I was driving woffled into Presteigne Tony Bird was already sorting-out piles of telegrams telling the organisers where and how the rally boils were progressing.
Meanwhile, the more presentable cars assembled for the beauty show, judged by Cecil Glutton, who had driven down in his Jaguar XK15e, Peter John Stanford and Ben Walker. As we walked to the venue we encountered a stately Sunbeam Twenty saloon in charge of a caravan it had been towing, which just shows how useful vintage cats can be. Then there was Riddle driving the Dudley johns’ G.N., an exceedingly smart turn-out with the fiat-fronted “radiator” and i.o.e. engine, to see how it compared with his own rev-radiator model. A pity the film had jammed in the Editorial Rolleiflex, or I could have taken a line period picture of both these spidery cyclecars reversing across Presteigne’s main street!
In the “beauty-park” Condon’s 1923 A.C. Anzani 2-seater had obviously come straight out of the Thames Ditton showroom, while Baxter’s Alvin of the same vintage attracted much attention, being an unusual 2-door saloon on 760 x 90 b.c. tyres with glass rain-vents above its windows, which I had thought to be an innovation of the nineteen-thirties. It made fine vintage-gear growls as it came up to take its place. The Bendall 1912 Sunbeam driven by Gurney was boiling as it arrived, but discreetly from its radiator overflow, and it sounded to have metal-to-metal brakes. Bendall’s own 1911 Rolls-Royce had foresaken its stripes for basketwork—would that Kipling were alive to tell us how!
Col. Gresham’s sporting open 1912 Silver Ghost Rolls-Royce, converted to London-Edinburgh specification in, 1915 after serving as a Stall Car during the First World War, had simply enourmous C. A. Vandervell electric headlamps.
One of the least obtrusive but most pleasant cars present was Waring’s 1924 30/98 Vauxhall Velox on its 820 x 120 tyres, whereas Milner had 7.00 x 21 Dunlop 90 Forts on the back wheels of his 30/98, which would no doubt be useful on the morrow…
Macmillan was cleaning his 1928 Twenty Rolls for the first time in four years (if we overheard correctly). It has the shuttered radiator, a lazy-tongs sunshine roof and a plate on the engine saying DO NOT ADJUST TAPPETS until you are certain there is clearance on the valves. Lakin-Smith’s 1927 2-litre Lagonda, a fine fabric tourer with the long Bentley-like mudguards, was slightly spoilt by a copper exhaust pipe and filler but is nevertheless a very creditable re-build, the fascinating engine of Charity’s 1923 Fiat 501 was topped by that row of compression taps which puzzle motorists of 1964, Green’s red 1925 O.M. proclaimed on its radiator that it was Superba, Meyers had a neat 1929 fabric Riley Nine Monaco saloon, and Woodhouse a very smart 1923 9.8-h45. Lea-Francis a-seater, a quite delightful early small car, with wooden grip to its starting handle and a Pyretic under the bonnet.
Comber’s blown 1500 Alfa Romeo was in trouble with a broken battery bridge piece. Turner’s 1930 Lancia Lambda saloon was quite immaculate and uses its lengthy chassis to accommodate two delightful occasional seats (but shouldn’t its Dome of St. Paul’s be painted?). A non-competing 9/20 Humber swept in among the beauty contestants with a vintage Citroen back axle tied to its luggage grid, and when we went back into the town it was full of Bentleys, 30/98s and Frazer Nashes, while one of the original Triumph Super Seven tourers was apparently leaving in haste. A Sporting Lea-Francis had its valve cover off, work being in progress, down a side street. Another Welsh Rally was in progress…
Sunday was also fine, after a wet mist had cleared, and after a false map reference had sent us, in company with a fine 3-litre Bentley, to a hot-bed of North Country hikers instead of to our marshalling duties and, the error retrieved, the V.S.C.C. discovered belatedly that the farmer at Lower Hall Farm doesn’t like their trials, causing this section to be cut out, we reverted rather late from marshals to reporters and followed a VW to a piece of Welsh commonland up which various vintage cars were -scrabbling. Watching a stop-and-restart on a dry but steep track, we observed extremely neat ascents by Wickham’s Alvis, Bowyer’s Lancia Lambda, Kirkby’s big Humber, May’s Frazer Nash, Arnold-Forster’s Anzani Frazer Nash which thought it was doing a speed hill-climb, and Jones’ 30/98 Vauxhall. Millar’s Lea-Francis was untroubled, Mrs. Ure’s Lancia Lambda fast, and both Bowler’s 41-litre Bentley and Spence’s Lea-Francis very fast. Mills’ Trojan treated the test with disdain, as did Conway’s .very nice Brescia Bugatti on b.c. “boots.” Miler’s 30/98 proved very hasty, likewise Southall’s 30/98, carrying the V.S.C.C. President in the tonneau.
Grainger proved that a .coupe bull-nose Morris can do this kind of climb, Moore’s shortened Lancia Lambda was o.k., Cartwright’s metal-bodied Riley Nine 2-seater performed well.
The Whitehouse Ballot was a bit steamed-up, Winder’s Chummy Austin sported a J.C.C. badge and small rear wheels, Footit’s 1930 Jowett went up with two bouncing girls in the dickey, which Bromley-Johnson’s very superior car of this make (it has wire wheels) countered by having a small dog holding onto the side before take-off. Winder in the tourer Humber used hits of revs., which are such useful things on dry gradients, Samson’s 1919 E-type 30/98 had a very attenuated exhaust system, Kain’s Type 40 Bugatti a home-made body in natural wood. I le went up on the clutch in a series of re-starts, which the axle didn’t approve of. Jones’ 12/25 Humber refused to leave the line, dire Maladies developing in its cone clutch, Bowman’s Frazer Nash got off at nearly zero revs., and Weeks’ 1927 Austin Seven coachbuilt saloon, slightly spoilt by brass lamps and an FA exhaust, also refused to go, from lack of power. In contrast, lowered tyre pressures and furious bouncing, to which Austin Seven ¼-elliptic back springs are particularly amenable, got Lock’s very neat 1927 saloon to the top.
Hill’s Bugatti, on seven cylinders (well, how many. has your car got?) and binding brakes, decided not to try, Burnell’s Alvis went up steadily, Bell’s 10/23 Talbot jibbed (no real power), Stretton’s Frazer Nash made it look easy, and Lilly just made it by a great effort of bouncing and urging, in his 1927 Jowett 7)17. Then Riddle’s G.N., using its o.h.v. heads, actually accelerated…. Whereas Burn’s Hillman 14, anonymous without radiator badge, only just got away. Griffin’s 1930 sun-roof o.h.c. Morris Minor saloon was successful, Davie’s 8/18 Talbot didn’t try (clutch), and Wood’s 1928 Triumph Super Seven (its registration letters, VV, should appeal to Lord Montagu, Editor!), wouldn’t look at it and then fell over coming down, when its n/s stub-axle broke off like barley sugar. Stevens’ Austin Seven got all hot and bothered and stalled, but as any number of re-starts were permissible if the driver didn’t lose height (i.e,, go backwards), all was well.
After that there were still several “sections,” including “The Smatcher,” but spare you those. And if this report seems rather long, don’t forget that a complete book has been written about the V.S.C.C.—and this Welsh Rally is one of its best fixtures!—W. B.