Readers with reliable memories may recall that in March 1974 MOTOR SPORT was able, through a correspondent in Johannesburg, to fill-in for Lord Donegall some details of a giant car he owned while he was an Undergraduate at Oxford during the first half of the 1920s. This car had a Hall-Scott aero-engine and some further facts about it are to hand. Leo Villa, the Campbells’ famous mechanic, has told of a car he worked on at Guilio Foresti’s depot off the Edgware Road in 1917. It had a Hall-Scott 250 h.p. engine in an Itala chassis, says Villa, in his book “The Record Breakers”. The work was being done for Count Zborowski and Villa thinks the car was intended to be more powerful than “Chitty-Bang-Bang”, which he describes as having a 200 h.p. Maybach engine in a Mercedes lorry chassis. This presupposes that “Chitty” was built during the war, whereas it is generally thought to have been constructed in 1920/21. However, this could have been an earlier Zborowski car. So far as the Hall-Scott Special is concerned, it is said that Zborowski took it, unfinished, down to his place, Higham, in Kent. This would explain why Lord Donegan thought of it as a Zborowski car, even a “Chitty”, and why it may have been described to him as the most powerful car extant, if it were believed to be more powerful than Chitty (usually quoted as developing 300 h.p )
He bought it in London and here another piece of data fits. Through the Bean CC magazine my attention has been directed to a half-page advertisement that was published in The Autocar July 31st, 1920. It is headed “Brooklands Redivivus!” and was inserted by the British Mercedes Motor Co., Ltd., still operating from Long Acre, whose Managing Director was Walter Dewis. Five “specially fast” cars were advertised, all “specially tuned up for speed work”. They comprised a 1908 GP Mercedes, a 30/98 Vauxhall called “Blue Streak”, a 1914 six-cylinder 100 h.p. Mercedes and a four-cylinder 90 h.p. Mercedes of the same age, a “150 h.p. Hall-Scott Engine Racer”. The power has decreased from Villa’s telling and “engine” is obviously a misprint for “engined”. But this must surely he the exciting motor car that Lord Donegan drove down from London to his rooms in Oxford. Does anyone have a photograph of it? And, in passing, what has become of Lord Donegan’s Baker Street Journal? – W.B.