Jim Brymer and his Riley Gamecock remembered

The 1932 Riley Gamecock XJ 2576, owned by the late Jim Brymer, the motoring photographer, is being restored. I am glad of this, because I did so many runs with him in it before the war. It came about after I had driven an HRG in the 1937 Lewes speed-trials. Brymer called to offer pictures, under the impression that I was an HRG owner. From then on I went with him on long and short journeys, to trials and race meetings, in his battered but serviceable Riley, me to report for Motor Sport, he to take his Leicas on what I suspect was as much a paying hobby as an essential profession.

Sometimes we did long night runs, with Jim in an open-neck shirt while I was cold wearing leather coat, scarf and helmet. For the Riley was very draughty, even after I had stuffed newspapers in the cracks in its floor. But it seldom gave trouble. He serviced the car himself and I recall only two failures, once when he decoked the Riley and asked me to fill its radiator. Alas, I let the water-can slip and flooded the Gamecock’s magneto… Jim was puzzled that the normally responsive engine refused to start!

Brymer took his work seriously, seldom missing an event, but preferred the smaller meets. For example, on the day when that Delage ran into the spectators at Brooklands Jim had gone to Lewes. We met for a late tea, me to tell of the sad accident, he that Baron had broken the course-record in his Type-59 3.3 GP Bugatti.

Jim was a modest chap. It was only when I was glancing through old motor papers I discovered he had competed in MCC trials, in a Riley of course. A casual check shows that he won gold medals in the 1928 and 1930 Land’s End trials.

As our friendship grew, Jim would often join me on my road-tests. Before Prescott opened in 1938 we went down to the new venue in a Fiat Balilla, and had so many attempts we left marks on the new surface! At the opening meeting, there were timed runs up the course which included prominent members in fast cars, amongst whom, in an Aprilia, I made a good time, as, knowing about the long intimidating final bend, I had not lifted off. (Later, when The Motor published a list of times, I ‘came clean’ and explained…)

It is said that like attracts like, and Jim had an openair friend who owned a Riley tourer, possibly a Lynx. He was a senior BBC engineer and, hurrying to supervise a Royal broadcast, was stopped by a policeman. “And where do you think you are going?” “To Buckingham Palace”. A reply which, although true, did not fixsome time appease the young constable…

With war Brymer joined Dowty’s in Cheltenham and got married, and I was posted by the Air Ministry to Farnborough, and we lost touch. But after all those miles in the Gamecock to motoring events, you see why I am glad it is to take the road again.