LEADING MOTOR C LUBS.
No. 1. The Cambridge University Motor-Cycle Club.
[Under this heading a series of illustrated articles will be published from history and interesting items connected with motor and motor-cycle clubs to encouraging local interest in the clubs concerned and in the sport time to time, dealing with the early throughout the country, with a view of motoring generally.]
THE C.U.M.C.C., as such, is a post-war club, but it will be well within the scope of this article to deal with the two earlier clubs, formed at Cambridge before the war, and to which the present body really owes its parentage.
The first of these earlier clubs was founded in 1902, largely by the efforts of H. H. Gregory of St. John’s College (now chief technical expert of the R.A.C.). The first President of the club, known as the Cambridge University Automobile Club, was Professor Inglis, and premises with garage accommodation were secured in Jesus Lane on a site now occupied by Messrs. Marshall’s motor showrooms. As might be expected, at such an early date in the annals of motoring, the membership was very small, owing to the rarity, high cost, and generally unreliable nature of the motors of the day, but among the club ” stud ” were a motor-cycle built for himself by the secretary, W. Gregory, a locomobile steamer belonging to H. M. Budgett, a Lucas valveless, belonging to the brother of its designer and a large M.M.C. This small but select band used to foregather regularly with great enthusiasm every Sunday morning, and it was a point of honour that something should be dismantled, whether it needed it or not, though naturally, honour seldom required any stretching in those days !
It is interesting to note that one of the most prominent members of this club was H. R. Ricardo, of Trinity, now one of our most brilliant and prolific designers, who at that time owned a steam car and a 10 h.p. motor-cycle. The C.U.A.C. lasted for over ten years, but as is so often the way, enthusiasm waned and the garage had to be given up, besides which few men could afford
cars and very few motor-cycles existed. However, during the period of its existence many interesting events took place, such as hill climbs in the Luton district and speed trials. One of the latter events was held on the St. Alban’s grass track and was won by Bowen, now Wing-Commander of the C.U. Air Squadron, who just beat J. T. C. Moore-Brabazon (the present Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport).
It appears that the only pre-war Inter-Varsity contest was a car race held at Brooldands and won by H. W. Cook of Oxford on a Vauxhall, a marque on which he has since made quite a name for himself.
The Second Club.
On the demise of this club, a new body was formed in 1913, chiefly for motor-cyclists ; no official garage existed, but the club had headquarters in Thompson’s Lane. This second club promoted several reliability trials and in 1914 arranged a most successful InterVarsity Brooklands meeting when races for cars and motor-cycles were held. Past members of the club were allowed to enter and most of the car races were won by Lionel Martin, at that time driving a Singer.
Soon after this meeting, war broke out and most of the club members enlisted temporarily as dispatch riders, returning later for their commissions. On the resumption of more or less normal University life after the ‘ Great Unpleasantness,” the present club was formed by a group of keen ex-service men, among whom G. A. Jenkin of Trinity was a leading light. Jenkin was the first secretary and it is largely due to his efforts that the Inter-Varsity Hill climb has become a recognised annual fixture. The electrical timing gear at present used by the club was made at this time by A. S. Brereton, son of Lieut.-Col. Brereton
of the A.C.U. The first President of the post-war club was the Dean of Clare, now a Colonial Bishop in Australia. During the first few years of its existence the club suffered several defeats at the hands of Oxford, the most prominent thorn in its flesh being I. P. Riddoch of 4. the O.U.M.C., whose ” 90-bore ” Zenith usually swept the board at the annual hill climb. These climbs were usually held at Aston-Clinton or Kop Hills and we have vivid recollections of S. J. Bassett ascending the latter hill at an amazing speed on an (apparently)
ordinary 2/h.p. Douglas and winning the 350 c.c. class for Cambridge. Bassett’s tuning ability has been even better shown since then as he has attained nearly 90 m.p.h. on a 3 h.p. A.B.C., and is now a prominent performer on racing Austin 7’s. On one occasion an Inter-Varsity flat speed trial was held, when Cambridge lured Oxford to the wilds of Harling Common near Thetford, in the hope that their rivals would be unable to repeat their performance so far from home. In spite of good work by J. G. Good
enough and 0. G. Smart on Nortons, Oxford again won, largely due to the efforts of Riddoch and Harwood on Zenith’s and P. G. Kennedy on his Norton. It was not until 1923 that the Cambridge Club turned the tables and started the series of annual wins that have lasted till the present date. It will not be underrating many fine riders if we say that these victories were almost entirely due to the late J. T. A. Temple of Pembroke. Starting with a side-valve Norton, ” Flop ” as he was affectionately called, showed that he possessed tuning and riding ability far and away above the ordinary, not only in Inter-Varsity events but against well-known trade riders with far greater resources behind them. His Norton was eventually rebuilt with an o.h.v. engine in which form it continued to hold its own with more modem machines in open competition. Altogether Temple made fastest time in three consecutive Inter-Varsity hill climbs besides numerous
successes in ordinary Varsity, Public Schools and Essex Club events.
A rider of such ability was naturally greatly fancied for a win in the Amateur T.T., but as is well known Temple met his death in most tragic manner while practising for this event last year.
The performances of Temple, however, must not be allowed to completely overshadow other members who also did their share of quick travelling, perhaps the most prominent being H. S. Eaton (G.N.), B. E. Lewis (Frazer Nash) and R. T. T. Spencer (A. J.S.), while during the last year or two, several new stars in R. R.
Jackson and C. A. S. Prowse (Morgans), E. C. Femihough (New Imperial), S. Wilkinson (Cotton) and R. C. Symondson (Brough Superior) have all shown remarkable skill in high speed work.
The present year has been notable chiefly for an influx of fast Scotts into the club, owned by A. Pershouse, M. Mavrogordato and R. P. H. Stables among others, all of which seem to be unduly fast and all of which have met with deserved success in various parts of the country. During the last few years no very great enthusiasm has been displayed for reliability trials, members seem afraid to get their machines dirty, however, the really zealous riders have enjoyed some good mud ” plugging ” now and again, sometimes on their own, sometimes in competition with other clubs. Among the most successful trials riders three or four have since become quite well-known in open competition, particularly F. J. R. ” Bonzo Heath (Henderson), the Wills and the Belfields and E. W. T. Howard who ride various types of machine, with a distinct preference for the American species. At the present moment some very enthusiastic people are at the head of affairs, G. F. Simond (trials secretary), has an inexhaustible supply of energy for promoting this that and the other, while C. A. C. Birkin, the hon. sec., is an all round rider and driver of considerable ability as he has shown on numerous occasions.
It will be seen therefore that the C.TJ.M.C.C., past and present, has always been a “breeding ground” for many of the best known and most enthusiastic figures in the world of Motoring Sport and bids fair to continue the supply so long as it exists. In conclusion we feel sure that all members will join in paying tribute to the popular President, F. J. Dykes, Esq., whose tact and steady guidance has so often helped inexperienced and sometimes over-exuberant committees out of those little difficulties into which they so often plunge themselves.