VSCC Welsh Rally (Sept. 30th/Oct. 1st)
Traditionally, some of the more active members of the Vintage SCC went over the Welsh border for the Presteigne Rally, this year to the extent of 28 entries for the Saturday Concours d’Elegance and Driving Tests, the latter held in the spacious car park of F. W. McConnel Ltd. in Knighton, and 65 for the more strenuous two-day road section-cum-trial. Likeable cars in the beauty part of the proceedings, in which the Judge’s looked for careful maintenance, originality and good general condition, were Mrs. Drake’s very sporting Amilcar, Coates’ magneto-ignition Austin Chummy, original and smart in-spite of blemishes where a pedestrian had fallen over it the day before, Mrs. Cherrett’s Zagato Alfa Romeo and Berry’s Rolls-Royce, while Sawers’ Alfa Romeo continues to show improvement over the years. Against this, some cars were distinctly non-d’elegance but sometimes desirable for all that, for instance D. Collins’ blown Alfa Romeo and Calvert’s big sleeve-valve Minerva. The driving frolics round the marker posts gave Mann (22/90 Alfa Romeo) a chance to destroy as many as possible while on its way to probable fastest-time-of-the-day. Mrs. Cherrett, having given up smoking, was nonchalant about spewing out petrol from her Alfa Romeo, Tomlin got the front-end of his Rolls-Royce rolling at angles which would have ensured instant dismissal for a chauffeur, Mrs. Southall was performing in her “new” Humber saloon with discs on its wheels, which looked later than 1930, and an older 9/20 Humber had to have its rear-end rebuilt before taking part.
Dry but misty weather prevailed for the Sunday trial, where an excellent new section called “You’ll Be Lucky” had to be tackled by the short-wheelbase cars. Here Arnold-Forster’s Frazer Nash was lucky or, more correctly, very skilfully handled all the way to the top, but his wife’s GN failed at the gate. Hare’s Frazer Nash, emitting Brooklands’ smells, didn’t get much higher, but Costigan in the snug of his Austin 7 coupé, aided by Fuller’s earth in the clutch, made a slow, easy ascent. Although Harris turned on lots of power, his Nash stopped just beyond the gate. Then Halkyard’s little 1925 DFP failed even to get away, to alarming sounds from an-apparently metal-to-metal clutch. Foy’s Austin Chummy, with bonnet strap, didn’t even try to start up the gradient, and after it got away very slowly four occupants proved too much for Hill’s Alvis Silver Eagle, which stopped after the left turn through a farm gate. Buttle’s 1929 Jowett with reconstructed part-fabric occasional-four body got a bit higher, then Box’s sports-replica Jowett made a steady sure job of it, the Jowett contingent delighted that they had fielded four of these flat-twins; they had hoped there would have been one more, or as many Jowetts as Austin Sevens! Anyway, they certainly vindicated the ancient slogan “The Little Engine with the Big Pull”.
Bill May crunched some rocks in his Frazer Nash and failed early, but Spence in his special Lea-Francis made a quick start, blipped his throttle after clearing the gate, and as the pukka rally-boys say, “cleaned it”. Phillips’ slab-tank 1929 Alvis looked as if it had been built for a pre-war trial but lots of revs didn’t enable it to get further than the gate. Stoyel had lost his first-speed sprocket the day before and now deranged the second-speed one, on his Frazer Nash, Moffatt in his 16-valve Bugatti with the golden mudguards, which now has two SEV magnetos protruding into the cockpit, stopped at the gate which was astonishing for one who normally stops at nothing, and Tarring’s Frazer Nash was no better, after a fast take-off. Chris Winder in a nicely original 1925 Frazer Nash pulled away-after getting through the gate after a dubious start, only to stop higher up, but his father in the Humber Chummy, engine boiling and clutch smelling, got right into the 20-section, almost to the top. Both the Gwynne and the Morris Sports came to rest near the gate, Hewson’s M-type MG with altered tail got a bit higher. Parkin’s 1928 fabric Austin 7 saloon had a fearful time, smoke from the clutch pouring from the windows, but it got away, while the Amilcar-Riley wouldn’t even look at the hill, and I tried not to look at an Austin 7 Special which had a squashed Swallow radiator cowl and looked as if it should have stayed in Presteigne selling ice-cream . . . LiIley’s Jowett two-seater got almost to the summit, upholding the previous remarks about the Bradford make.
Next we looked at a stop-and-restart test on one of the Llangoch hills. There was a delay while the marshals tried unsuccessfully to make Joseland’s AJS go, then Hamilton-Gould’s 1925 fabric-bodied Austin 7 two-seater was there and gone, just like that. Hirst’s Alvis had several tries, to the dislike of its clutch, Costigan made it look easy, as usual, so did Tony Jones in the 30/98, and amid much wheelspin Marsh’s 1922 Morris had absolutely no difficulty. Townsend’s Gwynne, using a combination of wire and artillery wheels, picked up its revs just in time, Hancock’s OM was held momentarily on its outside hand-brake on an impeccable run, and Parker’s Austin 7 saloon again made such an agonising but successful performance that it won well-deserved applause—the clutch was smoking less now, so presumably there was not much lining left to scorch. The sports Jowett might have been on the level, so easily did it get away, the Winder Humber made it in a series of painful leaps, but Foy’s Austin 7 Chummy failed.
An 18/80 MG elected not to pause at the very clear STOP notice, Knight’s OM made it, in spite of a burnt-out valve, Thomas’ 11/22 Wolseley, screen open and sans hood, only just contrived to re-start, an Alvis lost its prop-shaft at the foot of the hill, Kain’s Type 44 Bugatti was aided by intelligent bouncing, the DFP clutch again decided against even leaving the start. Spencer’s white Alvis beetle-back with a passenger stuffed in the tail had no trouble, but Warburton’s very nice 12/50 Alvis stopped its engine and then stopped altogether just after re-starting. The Ice-Cream Special failed and we left just as the Australian Latreille arrived, driving Jeddere-Fisher’s 30/98 Vauxhall, and Rowley was seen with his Wensum 30/98 full of passengers; there were six 30/98s entered. against two Bentleys. The hills were so dry as to be very easy but the results (below) tell the story.
“The Welsh” is very popular with the natives; there must have been some 200 spectating cars in the Llangoch valley, including a very Edwardian Hillman small car, the Varley Woods tourer, and a mysterious pick-up truck with fabric top and GB plate which was perhaps a 14/40 MG, while a local barmaid was so enthused as to remark that she had a 1934 Rover which in four years’ time will be a vintage car. I hope not . . . — W. B.