Open-Car Man

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Ralph Venables, the well-known motorcycle writer (and appreciator of jazz music) must set something of a record as the owner of nothing but open sports-cars for the past 65 years. After an accident while riding in a motorcycle trial had resulted in serious injury in 1931 his mother said she would buy him a car of his choice if he would agree to give up motorcycling. He decided to have an MG Magna, liking its six-cylinder overhead-camshaft engine. Venables kept the MG for three or four years before changing it for a long-wheelbase Le Mans Aston Martin, new (for £495) from the Feltham factory.

The Aston Martin was used until after the war ended, during which time Ralph helped me to fill the pages of MOTOR SPORT with articles about open-air motoring and the countryside, in cars such as a Riley Redwing, Morris Cowley and FWD BSA. Refusing to accept motoring in “fug-boxes” he went on driving the Aston Martin until 1950, when it was replaced, at a loss of only £100, by the J-type Allard two-seater which had been specially built for Ted Frost, the 13th of its type from a run intended to stop after 12 had been built. Venables’ Allard became a well-known car at the motorcycle trials he was reporting but by about the year 1961 Ralph could not resist the temptation to have a Daimler Dart or SP250 with that splendid V8 engine designed by motorcycle engineer Edward Turner. Delighted with this fast sportscar, driven like the others most of the time with hood furled, and having covered 100,000 trouble free miles in it, Ralph Venables then succumbed to the Jensen-Healey, costing less than £2,000 new.

In 1988 he was able to dispose of the JensenHealey for a profit of over £1000, its successor a Scimitar SS1 Ti, which he regards as the best of the five characterful open cars he has owned in a driving-span of 65 years. The Scimitar is now due to be pensioned off and this fresh-air enthusiast is trying to decide what to replace it with. Incidentally, Ralph’s wife runs another car with character, but with a “top”, in the form of a Peugeot 205. He has kept in contact with some of his cars; the Aston, for instance, is in fine condition, owned by a member of the Aston-Martin Register. The Allard, another of his favourites, was found years later in a sorry state in a chicken-run. Can you match this ownership of nothing but open cars over the same span of years? And what would you replace a Scimitar with, for a journalist who is still reporting motorcycle trials? It must, of course, be interesting, and openable, preferably with an electrically-operated hood. W B

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