V to C: Journey in an A7 Ulster

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The piece about Ulster A7s in the August Motor Sport  was quite well received and this has caused me to remember a rather ambitious journey made in one of these cheeky little sports cars, back in 1931. It came about after H.S. Linfield, then The Autocar’s  road-test writer, took the sports-racing Talbot 90 PL 3 through that year’s MCC London-Edinburgh Trial, accompanied by two colleagues, Haywood and Scutts, after the Talbot had been rebuilt following its accident in the previous year’s JCC “Double-Twelve” race at Brooklands, which sadly resulted in fatalities.

The Talbot behaved impeccably throughout the trial but when returning South a dog jumping a wall on a lonely road soon after he had left Broughton, about 20 miles from Edinburgh, caused Linfield to slam on the brakes at some 70 mph and the car jumped a low stone wall, and overturned in the o/s ditch. He was only slightly hurt, Haywood not at all, but Donald Scutts suffered a fractured thigh. The inevitable policeman arrived on a bicycle, but although the Talbot was conspicuous with large racing roundels on its sides, no action was taken.

The next week-end Linfield set out to visit his injured colleague. For the long haul he borrowed Austin’s demonstration unblown Ulster A7, Reg. No GO 6302, which by then had done about 3,000 miles. He set off alone on the Friday evening, work at the office having presumably precluded an earlier start.  The night was fine and soon respect for the little car grew, although a rev-limit of 3,500 was observed, in view of the many miles ahead, representing 32 mph in 2nd gear and 50 mph cruising in top, which may be some consolation to those of you, like me, who feel that their Ulster Replicas are not as quick as they had hoped.

Even this pace was good enough to dispose of most of the traffic by the time Baldock and Biggleswade were reached, up the then-narrow A1, Linfield driving with the windscreen folded flat, enjoying “a most satisfactory hard crackle from the external exhaust-pipe and fishtail”. He drove non-stop for 94 miles and the evening light had not quite faded. At Newark he paused to refuel with Ethyl petrol and just after 11 pm, lights on, he was at Bawtry, where he stayed at the Crown Hotel.

He started at 8.15 the next morning, driving the Ulster carefully for the first ten miles, until the racing oil had warmed up to a pressure of 30 to 40 lb sq in — which will cause envy among those of us used to seeing the oil-gauge needle showing but a few lb. pressure at speed, sinking to the stop at tick-over!  The engine was kept to 1,500 rpm below its maximum rev-limit (which would have been 5,000 rpm) and the Austin ran on and on, getting to Carlisle, in hot sunshine, soon after mid-day. Scotland was entered via Moffat and the Devil’s Beef Tub and Linfield was with his friend in the hospital by 4.30 on the Saturday afternoon. He had stopped only three times, by the way, to refill the 5-3/4-gallon tank.

He stayed with Scutts for a couple of hours, then he was off on his return run, getting to Moffat by 11 pm, the moorland roads so light that the lamps were not needed until half-an-hour before Linfield put up at the Star Hotel. On the Sunday he set off in rain, but this soon ceased and he enjoyed the run out of Penrith, over a wonderful road with 35 sharp turns, to the summit of Hartside Fell and on to Alston, said to be the highest market town in England, the Ulster A7 climbing gamely in 2nd gear into mist that made it seem like a November day. By about 1 pm. he was back on the London road and towards Boroughbridge. Linfield managed to resist the temptation to let the revs rise, as there was still a long way to go, and at Grantham he stopped — to oil the clutch thrust-race.

But on the Great North Road, 100 miles from home, he threw caution to the winds and went up to 50 mph in 2nd gear, the exhaust note as crisp as ever. From Moffat he covered the 385 miles in 13 hours, including a slow diversion, to the Barnet By-Pass, and there were the refuelling stops. The Ulster had performed splendidly.

One wonders whether any A7 Ulster owner would find it amusing to re-enact this 800-mile journey 55 years later? It is a bit late for this year, but it is nice to think of a cavalcade of Ulsters and Ulster Replicas making it, perhaps handing in a collection at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary at the turn-round!  Anyone interested? — W.B.