The popular VSCC Welsh Weekend, dating back to 1939, took place this year on October 8/9, with a 200-mile run on the Saturday and the trial itself on the Sunday, augmented by a road rally for the less stouthearted. As usual, headquarters were at the Radnorshire Arms (1616), Presteigne.
Here were enacted familiar scenes — a man (no names, no pack drill) peering into the bowels and underneath a well-travelled Frazer Nash, a well-known spectating two-litre Ballot so excited at seeing others of its kind that it had shed a rear mudguard, a magnificent 30/98 in its customary place outside the hotel (where that evening Sotheby’s would host an alcoholic ‘Jolly Hour’) and much more for onlookers to regard, from Hickling’s big yellow Dodge to a neat Ceirano tourer. Winston Teague arrived in a GN with two spare wheels on its left flank, not at first recognised as the yellow paint worn when Mrs Gray drove it has now gone, though its lusty ioe engine remains. John Blake arrived trouble-free in his ohc GN, which thinks nothing of tackling tough things like the recent Amilcar/ Salmson Continental Raid without missing a beat – and with only two cylinders, that’s a definite advantage.
The trial brought 90 entries, and spare a thought for the marshals. More than 75 of them faced an early, misty start to man the 11 sections. Reporting fully on all those hills individually would require a posse of journalists and cameramen. Being alone in my old (but, dare I say it, dependable) Ford Sierra, I decided to head for Pilleth, where the final struggle would take place. The competitors having tested their prowess and that of their cars at old favourites Lloyds. Cwmheyope and Railway, dropping from a remote upland to Forest Wood, or moving over to Worsell Wood and Lower Hanter in their own choice of order, and going on to the Radnor Forest to tackle The Riggles and Fron Wen, it was possible to open the three Pilleth hills at noon, two hours earlier than usual.
It is interesting that in an all pre-1931 entry the most popular cars were A7s (27), followed by 30/98s (14) and Frazer Nashes (12): there were eight pre-1920 cars, from Mercedes-Maybach, Dodge, Overland, Renault, Studebaker, Nordenfeld, Crossley and Clement. Alas, on Lower Hanter Hague’s 1906 Clement lost a chain, ran backwards up a bank, overturned and caught fire, hospitalising driver and navigator.
The hills were mainly dry, so, aided by the new rule which prevents rear tyres from being deflated below 15 psi to enhance grip, they were mainly easy.
The long grass climb up Pilleth I stopped more cars than expected, however, but the older cars went well, notably David Roscoe’s 1913 5.2-litre Overland. The latter’s undamped suspension provided self-bouncing, while its lateral moving accelerator prevented the driver’s foot from slipping off the gas. Ben Collings was driving Mrs Daniels’ 30/98, with the assurance of two handbrakes to lure him into a sense of false security for the descents.
It is notable that Edwardians now take part in trials, but Roger Firth’s 1906 5.5-litre Nordenfeld was unlucky, cracking its rear axle casing. Despite a misfire and a trail of oil smoke, President Clarke did well in his 1929 A7 saloon, and Geraint Owen s Morris-JAP sounded healthy, its driver hoping to add trials honours to its success in other events, an ambition well achieved, as he won the event outright. Teague wound the 1922 GN up from the front, I noticed, and Odell coped well with a fierce clutch on his 1923 Riley, which is, quite literally, a Redwing. Hirst’s Alvis sported four external exhaust pipes and a ‘bouncer’ in the tailgunner’s seat, and Hickling’s Dodge had recovered from a broken exhaust on the way down.
Of all the 30/98s, Arthur Jeddere-Fisher’s 1921 E-type, with ship’s ventilators on its scuttle, was the oldest, and Hamish Monro’s early OE-type won the Presteigne Trophy (Class 2). Malamentanios brought a rare 1918 Crossley with bolster tank and external exhaust system. The Bentley of Amanda Reynolds (of the enthusiastic Collings family), a 1927 4½-litre with a deceptively long bonnet, took her to a Third-Class award, watched, if not exactly applauded, by her five-month old baby.
In Simon Price’s 1930 Ulster A7, father navigated son. A large teddy bear occupied the stern-sheets of Harper’s 30/98, but appeared reluctant to bounce, Freddie Giles had his Frazer Nash’s screen open as if expecting flung mud, Keith Hill had got over a spate of transmission troubles on the one-off Crouch-Helix and Meeks’ Austin 20 Special performed well. Full results below. W B