"Lost causes at Beaulieu"



(September 20th)

After writing one of the most fascinating detailed motoring histories ever published, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu inaugurated the first Lost Causes Rally at Beaulieu some ten years ago. It catered for the cars referred to in his “Lost Causes of Motoring” book, with classes called after the chapter titles, which gave rise to such mysterious (to the uninitiated) categories as “Jam Factory” cars, the “Three-As of Scotland”, etc., apart from one-make and regional classes. The idea was to attract cars of all kinds which had gone out of production, so this was not strictly a vintage/veteran rally.

After a time the Lost Causes Rally became a bi-annual Beaulieu fixture, with an additional one for Continental lost causes to coincide with another recent book by Lord Montagu. This year the original British lost causes idea was repeated on September 20th, very efficiently organised by the Jowett Car Club, headed by its Secretary, Jim Watkinson, and enjoying the hot benefits of this Indian Summer Sunday. In the unexpected absence of Lord Montagu it was opened by an impromptu address by the Editor of Motor Sport, after which the industrious judges got to work, with the ultimate results published hereafter.

Although entries for the 18 classes were not prolific and they were reduced by a high percentage of non-arrivals, the cars that assembled represented a most interesting cross-section of defunct but not forgotten makes and types. In a perambulation round the rally field we noticed that the 3As of Scotland had attracted but one car, Russett’s 1916 Arrol-Johnson tourer, a car without a single instrument on its wooden dashboard. Mr. Russett’s other entry, a Chater-Lea light car, also lacked instruments, but as it had arrived on a lorry maybe it didn’t require any. Three Allards, a P1, a K2 and a K3, ranging from 1951 to 1954, made a sharp contrast to Lord Montagu’s 1907 Sixty Napier, the only Acton car present.

Then there were three Crossleys, sharing their own class—Capt. Weld’s 1930 sports 2-litre, which we had passed the previous day as it was on its way to the rally across the downs between Swindon and Marlborough, envying the owner his drive in perfect autumn weather in this immaculate open car, a 1925 18/50 tourer and a Ten saloon. Dennis produced his very presentable 1-1/2-litre HRG which is used for trials work. Riley and Alvis were there as very recent “lost causes”, the former including several of those three-abreast-seater 2-1/2-litre Roadsters, while the Alvis contingent included Ricketts’ immaculate open 1932 Silver Eagle and smart examples of TA21 Tickford and TC21 closed cars (we paused to talk of the possible difficulty of replacing shell-bearings for the six-cylinder models against re-metalling the white-metal bearings of the four-cylinder TA14s). Another recent “lost cause”, the Singer, was well represented, by such diverse models as Rowe’s 1930 o.h.c. Junior tourer, Davies’ nicely preserved 1932 Kaye Don Special Nine saloon with the waterfall motif on its radiator grille, and Wray’s 1935 six-cylinder Le Mans Special Speed Model, one of four built originally and possibly raced in the 1934 TT.

The type of cars this particular rally attracts was emphasised by the presence of a Standard Vanguard Six and a Standard Sportsman (we recall road-testing one) among the Eights, Tens, Flying 9s, l0s and 14s. The Wolverhampton Makes class was confined to an AJS saloon from Bradford and Collin’s two-seater 11.9 Star. True “lost causes” were a 98 c.c. Rytecraft Scootacar, a 1919 coal-scuttle-bonneted Phoenix and a 1911 single-cylinder Swift, the last named requiring the help of a trailer to get it to Beaulieu. The Birmingham Makes class was not very well supported, but had the advantage of a very interesting extra entry, in the form of a 1924 Model E14 sleeve-valve BSA saloon, which was in unpainted aluminium, its slatted rear petrol tank and a Daimler plaque on its water pump displaying its Daimler origins. It had come from Fareham, out of retirement for the first time since 1932 and was something of an unknown quantity. We have met various pre-war BSAs in recent times but none as complete and rare as this one. It was backed up by two BSA three-wheelers, one a twin-cylinder with a nicely original body having two tiny seats one each side of the single back wheel, and Bowler’s four-cylinder TW10 model with the later Scout engine, which is used in trials. The Invicta/Railton class produced but one of each make but made up for this because both were excellent examples. The Invicta was a low-chassis 4-1/2-litre Lancefield coupé in nice order. The Railton was a 1936 Fairmile II drophead which had run 9,000 miles when its present owner bought it a year later. It has now done 429,000 miles but looked almost new, with permissible aluminium paint on its engine, the under-bonnet wiper motor, and the dummy overhead valve cover used for the side-valve 4.2-litre straight-eight engine of this model. On the way home we espied another Railton which may have intended to be present but appeared to have broken down.

Naturally, the Jowett class was extremely well supported, with masses of Javelins and no fewer than a dozen Jupiters, of which one had a special Richard Mead body, and some were the later SC version, with luggage boot. All could give British Leyland a lesson in easy hood erection, which could profitably be passed on to the Stag design team! The older Jowetts were also well represented, with a splendid 1929 Long 7/17 saloon from Kendal, with r.h. gear-lever and imitation hood-sticks, and C. Jowett’s 1913 tiller-steered two-seater. There were even three Bradfords, to remind us that the Jowett flat-twin engine was used up to 1952. And where else could a Car Club Secretary arrive in an appropriate car with a fine scale model of it exhibited on its roof, as the JCC Secretary did with Javelin and replica?

Some of the “lost causes” had come long distances to attend, as the age/distance prizes listed in the results show. So we felt no compunction about driving 185 miles home in a modern Alfa Romeo. On the early stages of this run we encountered vintage motorcycles on their way to the Montagu Motor Museum, which gave rise to the thought that the road from Lyndhurst across the plain to Beaulieu must these days be the equivalent of the road over Weybridge Heath to Brooklands Track, in respect of the odd, weird and wonderful cars which pass along it. One such was a Castle Three three-wheeler, going splendidly, although on arrival it demonstrated almost simultaneously that it does have a reverse gear but does not have a functioning self-starter . . .—W. B.