Veteran Edwardian Vintage
A SECTION DEVOTED TO OLD-CAR MATTERS
A Shelsley Walsh Memory
WHEN I was writing earlier this year about the 75th Anniversary of the opening of the Shelsley Walsh speed hill-climb I recalled one of the more exciting occasions at the famous Worcestershire venue, when in 1936 the reigning Hill-Climb Champion, Hans von Stuck, brought a shortchassis, twin-rear-wheeled Auto Union all the way from Germany to have a crack at the record for this British hill-climb, then standing to the credit of the resolute Raymond Mays and his 2-litre ERA, at 39.6 sec. This was a particularly exciting occasion for the huge crowd of Spectators, because the legendary rear-engined, supercharged, V16 Auto Unions had not previously been seen in this country. It was not until the following year that the popular Berndt Rosemeyer won the Donington Grand Prix in one of these cars, known officially, I believe, as the Type 22 Horeb. In the course of my Shelsley discourse I wondered whether anyone knew how the Auto Union was conveyed all the way from the German factory to Worcestershire. Auto Union is in the news at present, what with the splendid restoration of one of the pre-war cars, as described last month in these pages by D.S. J., and the initiative displayed by VW-Audi (UK) Ltd. in planning to display the car at the Birmingham Motor Show. So I am glad tube able to publish on this page a photograph of the actual
van used to transport Stuck’s Auto-Union to Shelsley before the war. It and the accompanying pictures were sent to us by a reader, Mr. Paul Bird. They show the Auto. Union can in the Paddock, a mechanic steering the car as it is rolled down the unloading ramps, Stuck on one of his meteoric ascents, and returning down the hill with his wife on the car’s side. I think this picture may have been taken in practice, as the car is not numbered as it was for the officially timed cons. It will be remembered that rain made it impossible for Stuck to make full use of the power (some 350 b.h.p.) of the German car, his best time being 45.2 sec., which Mays bettered in a 11/2-fitre ERA, with a climb in 41.6 sec. Incidentally, Mays’ 2-litre ERA had trouble in practice and did not run, contrary to the information in the table at the end of Harold Hastings’ excellent little book “Seventy Years of Shelsley Walsh”. Mays made his run in the I.o.M road-racing ERA before the
rain made things next to impossible for Stuck and although it more or less ceased before the second runs, the road was still wet and times were slower, the AU doing 48.8 sec. Stuck went 2.4 sec. faster on his record run in the 3-litre Austro-Daimler in 1930, incidentally, than on his first run in 1936, but it was rumoured that in practice he had done a 40 sec. run. But the great thing was that an English crowd had seen the Auto Union in action and, of course, had had a look at the Porsche trailing-arm, torsion-bar i.f.s, that they would see again on the Volkswagen after the war. How bad the conditions were at Shelsley that June can be seen in our readers’ photograph, at least one umbrella up, among the awed crowd. Our correspondent does not remember the make of the van. It is obviously left-hand-drive and although. of Bedford-like appearance, it was possibly a Wanderer. When I wrote my book about pre-war racing at Donington (Grenville, 1973 — still available I think) I described the dramatic arrival on these shores of the Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union GP teams in 1937 and I have checked to see whether I gave the make of vans bringing
the AUs heroes that occasion. Although I went into intimate detail about the whole train of events, that piece of information is missing. Incidentally, re-reading my accounts of those memorable 1937 and 1938 Donington Grands Prix, lure that Rolls-Royce-engined RAF fighters “dive-bombed” the pits, which had its dramatic side, could one then have foreseen the outcome of the Battle-of-Britain? It is obvious what an impression the might of Germany indulging in motor-racing made on at least one young observer! It was what Hitler intended, of course, and others were similarly influenced, including even the Empire-orientated Charles Grey of The Aeroplane who, having been invited to German gliding rallies and given the full VIP treatment, became quite pro-Nazi in his writings. German motoring activities were impressive and efficient then; which makes it all the more sad that we had to cancel an intended Mercedes-Benz colour-feature in this issue because two days before we were due to drive the road-test car we were informed that it had been damaged in an accident. — W.B.