Vintage Postbag, November 1978

Chitty III


Mention of Count Zborowski in your September issue reminds me of probably the most desirable car I ever owned and undoubtedly the best of the Chitty Bang Bangs – Chitty III, my acquisition of which was very similar to that recounted by John Pole in his “Cars I Have Owned” article in your December, 1960 issue. He and his friend John Noel saw this magnificent machine in the Mercedes works in Grosvenor Road, fell, and raced the car in the 1929 BRDC 500-Mile Race at Brooklands, averaging about 100 m.p.h.

I was visiting Thompson & Taylor’s at Brooklands in the early 1930s and saw Chitty III in their garages, gawped, and bought.

The 17.8-litre Maybach Zeppelin engine was a six-cylinder o.h.c. one, with a compression ratio of about 6 to 1; b.h.p. unknown but must have been between 250 and 300; economy was remarkable, averaging about 7 m.p.g. The magneto ignition was boosted with h.t. from a Ford coil, and the engine started from cold by self-starter, and when hot would fire by switching on and moving the advance and retard, as with R-R. Reverse gear was about 4 to 1, and I won a bet by exceeding 40 m.p.g. in reverse on the Hog’s Back, frightening, but achieved probably by a combination of the car’s overall length of 19′ plus a youthful insouciance.

Some of the figures quoted by Pole in his article are incorrect; he mentions an axle ratio of 1.7 to 1 with a top speed of 147 m.p.h. at 1,800 “allowing for wheelspin” (sic); in fact the top ratio was 1.24 to 1 and with 5.25 x 21 tyres of about 31″ in diameter the speed at 1,000 was 74.5 and at maximum revs of 1,850 just on 138 m.p.h. I did not get much over 120, owing to consistent misfiring, but this eye-catching lovely monster was a delight to drive with smooth effortless and quiet speed from her 17.8-litres, with good handling; of all the cars I was mad enough to sell – no, give away all those years ago this was the one I would most have liked to have kept in spite of all the 30/98s of which I had no less than 17 over the years.

Clive Windsor-Richards


(The interesting thing to me is that when Count Zborowski drove the car it was declared to have a six-cylinder engine of 140 x 180 mm. (14,778 c.c.) but by the time Pole had acquired it, the size had increased to 148 x 170 mm. (17,850 c.c.). Ed.)

Ballot at Brooklands


The article “A 1920 3-litre Indianapolis Ballot” in your June issue interested me greatly. It recalled a wonderful personal experience in 1924 when, thanks to an impromptu introduction by a mutual friend, I accompanied Dick Howey in his Straight Eight Indianapolis Ballot in a Long Handicap race at Brooklands. I think it was the August meeting of 1924. (More likely 1925 Ed.). I had just returned to England from 2 1/2 years in Peking teaching the Chinese to fly. (They had not progressed beyond bicycling and flying kites.) Incidentally, I had bought my first motor car there – an Essex. On my return to this country I had acquired a Type 40 Bugatti – the best that I could afford.

So it was that I inevitably found myself at Brooklands having been an ardent follower of motor racing since schooldays though, due to circumstances, never able actually to participate.

I had spotted Dick’s beautiful car in the Paddock and jumped at the opportunity – could hardly await the starting time of the event. I was wearing ordinary clothes, no overalls or helmet. Dick lent me a pair of goggles.

We were the back-marker in the race. After the initial rush of acceleration I was to experience for the first time that appalling bump on the track on entering the Railway Straight – repeated again on subsequent circuits. I thought I was going to be catapulted out of the car each time but somehow or other managed to remain on board.

I cannot understand how Wagner’s riding mechanic survived at Le Mans in 1921 – there was absolutely nothing to hold on to in the passenger’s seat and although asked to maintain air pressure in the petrol tank I don’t think I was able to do much about that.

We overtook seveal competitors but were unable to do better than, I think it was, second place.

Dick, if I remember correctly, said the car was a 4 1/2-litre Straight-Eight Ballot which had been raced at Indianapolis, and was capable of lapping at 120 m.p.h.

Poor Dick was killed in this car shortly afterwards in a hill-climb at Boulogne and the remains of the car were dumped in the Channel to avoid French import duties.

Thank you for reminding me so vividly of a wonderful experience, and also for the great pleasure which Motor Sport has given me over many years.

Alan C. Campbell-Orde


(Was the occasion the Lightning Long Handicap at the 1925 Summer Meeting, in which Howey’s white 4.8-litre Ballot lapped at 113.71 m.p.h. and finished second to Parry Thomas’ Leyland­-Thomas? The following year it lapped at 121.18 m.p.h. – Ed.)

Brooklands-Model Riley 9s

In the July issue Mr. Peter Parks of the Riley Register asks what happened to the Brooklands-­model Riley 9 formerly belonging to Mr. Edgar Kehoe, Chassis No. 8076, Reg. No. GK 4407.

The car is well and alive – it’s owned by my daughter Annika – and we keep it in the condition as used by Mr. Kehoe. It gives us plenty of pleasure, being fast and reliable. Two weeks ago we had the good luck of winning outright the “Viking Rally”, one of the better­-known rallies for the older motors here. A fine vintage weekend with over 200 miles in the Riley, the home journey in somewhat unusual style with the prize, the Viking Horn, large size, carried in the cockpit.

As can be seen from the enclosed photo, the car is sometimes used in conditions for which it was hardly intended. When lakes and rivers here freeze, it gives us plenty of opportunity to find out the finer points of handling qualities, without risking the car (low G-forces, no trees or ditches on the lakes). This leads me on to the letter of Mr. S. Wright Sellars earlier in the July Postbag, indicating the belief of some people that beginnings of a slide should be difficult to detect in the “Brooklands”. My own experience however is that the car is beautifully balanced, and I find no difficulty in sliding it continuously round a corner, or driving it “straight”, or midway in between. This in pleasant contrast to most vintage tourers, which seem to want to fall over, if approaching the limit of adhesion. Surely the low build of the “Brooklands” helps its manners. More probably the unusually high cornering speeds gave rise to the idea of sudden breakaways. Put in modern perspective, is this not like putting an experienced and quick saloon car driver in the seat of a go-cart – won’t he soon remark of sudden breakaways?

Back to GK 4407: In an old letter from Mr. Kehoe to a later owner, Mr. Daniel of Harpenden, a letter which Annika got with the car, Mr. Kehoe says: “The Riley was first licensed by the works as their demonstrator, and a garage at Leatherhead entered it for a few races at Brooklands. I first saw it during the war in Baker Street, as I was passing in a Renault 8, and after a talk with the owner, who was in the theatre chorus, I drove the Riley to my then home in Kingston. During the 17 years I had the car I rarely licensed it, as I only drove places either to compete or act as an official. The car ran at Goodwood and Silverstone, Prescott etc., collecting various awards, and it was invited over to Le Mans for the Club’s 50th Anniversary Run”. This text is then followed by a lot of mechanical details, but no more history. The log book was re-issued in 1957.

Motor Sport readers often produce invaluable historical information – has anyone memories or information on the pre-war history of GK 4407?

Kent S. Olsson

Svenljunga, Sweden

30/98 Vauxhall Wensums, etc.

As the whole of Motor Sport is, and has always been, compulsive reading for the enthusiast, it is inevitable that older readers keep finding items to which they can provide additions. Anthony Black’s letter about the 30/98 Vauxhall Wensum is most interesting. Major C.G. Coe was a great friend of Malcolm Campbell, I knew him and his family many years ago when he was racing Vauxhalls. I recall him with at least three 30/98 Vauxhalls, and I think he also drove cars owned by the works. The only photograph I have of him in a Wensum was taken in the Paddock at Brooklands, the car was in stripped form and of course it had a bonnet strap. I remember that car being white, but I also remember Major Coe with a white Wensum in full touring trim at Brooklands. Surely the very high speeds attributed to Major Coe in a Vauxhall were achieved in his Jarvis-bodied two­-seater and not in a Wensum, so I guess that Reg Parker’s Wensum which used to be white well may be one of the Coe cars.

It is interesting that it may have been one owned by Betty Carstairs whom I also knew quite well, but not until 1931, by which time she owned a Bentley and various other cars but no Vauxhall. Funnily enough I sometimes think of Major Coe nowadays in another context – when I was a prep. schoolboy I rather idolised Major Coe and tried to copy his hair style, which was a very new fashion at that time, the hair smarmed straight back from the forehead without a parting. My parents were horrified and regarded the style as “way-out”, though in just a few years it was universally accepted just as the rather longer male hair styles are accepted today.

The stories of the Cavendish Hotel, and its clientele of stage stars and motor racing, is further enhanced by the Hon. David Tennant, the owner of a Leyland Eight, because he was at that time married to Hermione Baddeley. I can certainly believe that Sir Nigel Gresley was inspired in his locomotive business by Ettore Bugatti, because I remember him showing me beautiful pictures of Bugattis framed on the walls of his home.

Your obituary of Lord Essendon was very interesting indeed, and well deserved, as surely he was the top British road racing driver of his day. The details of his Flying business were all new to me but there is a small mistake in the account of his success in the “500’s” – he was unplaced in 1934, but in 1935 he was third partnering Earl Howe in the latter’s Type 59 Bugatti; on the eve of the race the car arrived back from Molsheim where it had been converted to unblown form, and the Hon. Brian Lewis drove in the race without any practice. He and Earl Howe put up a magnificent performance, which in my opinion constituted one of the “old man’s” best performances.

A.F. Rivers Fletcher

Kineton A



Although I have been a reader of Motor Sport since 1936, I think that this is only the second time that I have written to you, but I ‘would like to add to Mr. Kilby’s letter. The most frustrating exercise today is looking through the “Cars for Sale” section, as I can well remember how cars changed hands in the mid-thirties and later. I still have two receipts for Bentleys, £10 and £12. One dated 9/8/39 for FR 6367 and the other dated 8/6/43 for EK 7849. My own 3-litre YT 8830 was sold in 1944 for £100, because of possible destruction by flying bombs, having survived the 1940 blitz.

In the early thirties, my employer used to visit Steele Griffiths, I think it was; they had an underground storage depot at Camberwell Green or thereabouts, were unsaleable cars were sold off at scrap prices. If only I had £1 for every bullnose and flat-rad. Morris, all types of Austin and Ford, Arrol-Johnston, Star etc. that we bought for thirty shillings to two pounds, I wouldn’t be doing too badly. Those were the days. of half-shafts for Cowleys and Oxfords at 2/6 (13 pence) each (and with the cork clutch and solid­-drive propshaft, you needed a spare), crown­-wheels and pinions at two pounds, and who cared whether they were matched or not.

Our greatest mistake was in selling our breakdown vehicle for five pounds. It was a Peugeot 32-h.p. converted private car, with an engine using a type of cuff valve, as we termed it.

Those were really the days and I am extremely thankful that I was able to enjoy so much what is now vintage motoring without having to worry about whether some slight mishap was going to knock £10,000 off the value of the car. Thank you for still retaining a section related to the real motor cars.

C. Alexander




I am writing in response to the letter from Mr. May in your March 1978 issue regarding MG K3004. It might interest Mr. May and also D.S.J. to know that I bought the car in question from Mr. J. Gullan in 1961. It was fitted at the time with an Ausca fibreglass body very reminiscent in appearance of a DB3 Aston Martin. Mr. Gullan had raced the car very successfully as a sports model and had replaced the ex-Smith two-seater body by the fibreglass body in search of lightness.

After buying the car, I drove it as everyday transport for two years, then stored it for four years while I was in the United States. On return I set about rebuilding the car to original specifications and was greatly helped by a set of factory drawings of the body, in the provision of which Wilson McComb was instrumental.

The car is now essentially back to what it was in 1933, except that it has a Rootes supercharger and hydraulic brakes. It goes quite well and I enclose a picture taken at the recent 50th Anniversary Australian Grand Prix Meeting at Phillip Island, where the car was being driven by Otto Stone, Australia’s legendary K3 exponent. According to Otto the car was doing about 100 m.p.h. when the picture was taken. To the best of my knowledge, the ex-Smith body now graces a Sunbeam-Talbot special in Melbourne, while the Ausca body clothes an Austin-Healey special in Adelaide.

F. Bett

Burwood, NSW

That 1924 Motorcycle


I have been most interested to read in this month’s Motor Sport, your comments upon the journey taken in 1924 by Lt. Cmdr. A. Sheridan and his sister Clare.

The machine in question was a big twin AJS combination, the engine, I believe was of 800 c.c. capacity, having the popular AJS twin of that period. The story of their journeyings was published under the heading of “The Cruise of the Satanella”, in the Motor Cycle some time during 1924 or 1925.

As at this time, 1922 onwards, I was a motor engineers’ apprentice and like most boys in similar circumstances was motorcycle mad. I was riding a 1921 ABC at that time and wish I had it now!

Another item of interest in the same copy of Motor Sport is your reference to the four-cylinder Vauxhall motorcycle. This I also remember as being of particular interest as it was such a breakthrough from the more orthodox motorcycles of the period, like the ABC, in its conception and far ahead of its time.

While living in Sidmouth in 1949, I wrote to the Editor of the Motor Cycle enquiring about the fate of the prototype Vauxhall. The Technical Information Editor replied to the effect that it and the spares had been bought by Mr. B.E. Belfield (one-time Editor) who had written under the pseudonym of “Ogmeus”. The Tl Editor advised me to write to “Ogmeus” and that my letter would be forwarded. However as no reply was forthcoming, I gave up the quest and this month’s reference of yours is very welcome news to me.

E.J. Marshall


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I purchased a book from Charles Mortimer entitled “Across Europe with Satanella” by Clare Sheridan, so I can answer your question in the September Motor Sport.

I quote from the above: “We started somewhat heavy laden, but ‘Satanella’ was a seven horse­power AJS and the sidecar (christened by its makers ‘Plus One!’ which always gave me the feeling of being de trop!) was especially built for lightness and recommended to us on account of the adaptability of the seat, which could (when there was no luggage on the back) be adjusted to a horizontal position suitable for a stretcher. Such were our requirements according to general expectations!”

The book was published in 1925 and the registration number of the motorcycle was XL 999.

David Escott-New


PS. Don’t do anything silly, W.B. like retire.

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I read with interest the extract from the book describing the Sheridans’ journey into Russia in 1924 in a motorcycle and sidecar; the combination was a 5/6-h.p. twin AJS.

I have been a regular reader of Motor Sport (apart from the war years) since the first copy came out in 1924. The vintage section interests me most as I remember so many of the cars described being quite an active member of the old VCC. Good luck for the future.

Graham J. Axtell


(Once again it’s a case of readers to the rescue – and we are receiving so much “Vintage Postbag” that I crave a separate Vintage Motor Sport to contain it! – Ed.)

The 1935 and 1936 German Grands Prix


I was very interested to read your article “Recalling the 1935 German GP”. I was present at this race and watched it at a point between the Kesselchen and Karussel curve; in other words at the 13th kilometre mark as far as I can remember, anyway at the point where the left rear tyre (nearest to me) on Von Brauchitsch’s Mercedes, burst. I wrote an account of this race for Lloyds Bank staff magazine (The Dark Horse) entitled “The Grosser Preis von Deutchland – or the triumph of a dark horse.” This was the most dramatic race I have ever seen over nearly 70 years. I was taken to see the latest racing cars of the day roaring down Saltburn sands when I was very young before the first World War! I think this race in 1935 displayed the most brilliant exhibition of Grand Prix driving I have seen. It was of course very bad luck on Brauchitsch who was said to be in tears at the end as he finished on the bare rim! I think Nuvolari would have won in any case as he was overhauling the German fast, but it would have been “a very close run thing”. I think Von Brauchitsch’s style of somewhat desperate driving gave his tyres less chance than Nuvolari did his. Raymond Mays said to me it was a disappointing race as far as he and his ERA team were concerned, but it was a wonderful race to watch. A motor racing enthusiast friend of mine (and owner of a Brooklands Riley) who should have been with me had to cry off at the last minute, so I was over in Germany on my own.

The day after the Grand Prix I explored part of the Nurburgring on foot. I came to the Grandstand restaurant where Neubauer and some of the Mercedes team were apparently having afternoon tea and taking part in an after-­race post-mortem(?) on the disastrous result. I also ordered tea from the frock-coated waiter. When he got up to leave, I noticed Caracciola had a limp which perhaps affected his driving during the race – he had led the race for 10 laps until passed by Nuvolari. This was at the Karussel in sight of where I stood; the huge crowd gasped with surprise, and then many sportingly applauded.

After tea I wandered back across the inside of the circuit towards Adenau, and imagine my surprise when I suddenly heard a loudspeaker broadcasting in English, and even more surprised when I realised that a report of the England v Australia Test Match was being given out. Needless to say no one appeared to be taking notice of it! As I turned the corner I realised I had stumbled upon the Mercedes Benz hideout, as several blue Daimler-Benz lorries were in evidence. Nearby an impromptu football game seemed to be in progress between Mercedes mechanics. One of the players, a good looking lad, came towards me to speak to the “Englander” and ask him to join in, which I did! He spoke quite good English; his name was Fritz Werlin and I discovered later his father was a director of Daimler-Benz. Werlin later sent me a photograph of his father showing one of the Grand Prix Mercedes to Hitler, who I believe was touring the works – or it may possibly have been at the Motor Show. Fritz also sent me some Daimler-Benz photographs of Mercedes cars and drivers. I have often wondered whether Fritz survived the War. The following year I motored to the Nurburgring in my brother’s Lea-Francis and we stayed at the Eiflerhof, sleeping in an annex, but having meals in the same dining room as the Mercedes team and Chula and Bira’s team. The noteworthy thing about that year’s (1936) Eiflerennen was that the mist clouds rolled up the valleys so thick, that those of us in the Grandstand, at times could not see the Pits opposite or even the cars racing by! Even Nuvolari, in his Ferrari-entered Alfa Romeo, was forced to reduce speed, but not so Rosemeyer, who won in the Auto Union. This earned him the title of “Nebel Meister” (Master of Fog).

I am glad Motor Sport has remained faithful to the British Racing Green on their cover. When shall we again see a British car wear the national colour in Formula One Grand Prix? Ferrari and Alfa Romeo are proud to wear the Italian red, while Ligier-Matra wear the blue of France. There was a time when Sunbeam, Bentley, MG and Aston Martin were proud to wear British Racing Green.

G.F. Pease


A 1918 Humber


I feel I must put pen to paper, after recently reading again the article by Mr. H.W. Butcher of Hereford in the December 1977 Motor Sport.

With reference to the MG Magnette saloon, I remember this car well. It was used by the late Sam Hooper of Hardwick Street, Buxton, for delivering fish with a two-wheel trailer; the business closed down some years ago.

I also bought a 1928 14/40 Humber from W. Butcher & Son of Ross-on-Wye in 1949. I think it had been used as the garage towing car (Reg. No. TX 4702). Apparently this was the second old car to come to Buxton, Derbyshire, from the Butcher family of Ross and Hereford.

T.B. Ash


(Does the Humber Register know of this car? – Ed.)