VETERAN EVENTS AND COMMENTS. SP KCIALISING IN 6 OLD MASTERS!’
/l? there are still any sceptics who refuse to recognize that the rebuilding, resurrecting and running of ancient cars has developed into a genuine and healthy branch of motoring sport in this country, their opinions must have been rudely shaken by recent events. Last winter directly after the London to Brighton Run there came into being the Veteran Car Club, which was formed to assist the owners of really old cars and to organise trials and competitions for them ; and now the business side of the matter has been attended to by the formation of a firm to deal exclusively with veteran cars. Visitors to Brooklands in recent weeks may have noticed in the neighbourhood of the Plying School a long garage from the doors of which projected the noses or tails of weird and wonderful machines ; or if the doors happened to be shut, they may have seen emblazoned on them the impressive title, “Veteran Cars Ltd.” The moving spirit in this new enterprise is Mr. C. S.
Burney, well-known to many participants in veteran car trials, who, in partnership with Mr. Hal Hill has decided that there is an opening for a firm specialising in supplying the wants of the devotees of this branch of motoring sport. For a long time MOTOR SPORT has recognized the growing interest taken
in veteran cars, and so we decided to ask Mr. Burney whether we could make a tour of inspection of his new works. Our request was granted, and so one raw September day we set off for Brooklands, not to see the world’s fastest cars, but to interview vehicles which give their drivers a real thrill at 20 m.p.h. Arrived at the premises of Veteran Cars Ltd. we found Mr. Burney and a mechanician busily engaged on the engine of a 1902 Peugeot, which is visible on the extreme right of the accompanying photograph of part of the firm’s stock-in-trade. This motor is of fairly conventional design with a vertical twin-cylinder T-headed engine in front, but the body is delightfully high and the broad tonneau is reached by the correct door at the back,
At the moment Mr. Burney was wrestling with the intricacies of a low-tension magneto ignition system, which has to be timed in several different places at once. However he was kind enough to leave even this enthralling problem and led us away to look at a ponderous vehicle, which is visible next to the Peugeot in the photograph and which is an 1899 2-cylinder Benz.
The general design of these cars is, perhaps, fairly familiar to most people, and comprises a horizontal engine with either one or two cylinders at the back, a surface carburettor and, from the earliest times, electric ignition. Transmission is usually by a series of belts on various sized pulleys, one of each is used for each gear, but sometimes a gearbox and only one belt is used. Either these cars must have been extraordinarily popular in their day or else their inherent longevity has caused a very large proportion to survive, for they are always very much in evidence at every veteran car meet.
In the shapE of such cars as these Benzes therefore, the prospective owner of a veteran car can find a machine which he can acquire from Veteran Cars Ltd. and drive straight away to the next London-Brighton Run without more ado than is entailed in mastering the method of controlling the machine. To some people, however, half the amusement of owning and running a veteran car consists in the mechanical work which is necessary to get the motor into running order, and for such too, Mr. Burney can cater. Pointing to a heap or what appeared to be old iron in one corner he informed us that the pile represented an 1898 Star Dogcart—in pieces.
Another decrepit looking vehicle nearby proved to be a 1903 singlecylinder Humberette, which however, Mr. Burney informed us was “all there.” Another similar machine, he candidly avowed was minus cylinder and piston—an admission of major defect in a car such as one seldom hears, considering that the proportion of the said parts missing was 100%. However, here is an opportunity for someone to scour round the scrap-heaps of the land and see if he can recognize a Humberette cylinder when he sees one beneath a mountain of junk.
The ubiquitous De Dion Boutons themselves were of course, represented. The older was a 1902 41 h.p. single-cylinder machine, which is seen fourth from the left in the photograph, and which boasts a large 3-seater body, an enormously high windscreen and a gearbox on the well-known De Dion principle of various pinions brought into play by a series of clutches. The second De Dion, which is to be seen one place away from it on the right is a comparatively modern machine, for it did not see the light of day until 1907; it has a 61 h.p. single-cylinder engine however of that design which proved so successful that it was but little changed from its five-year older prototype.
The De Dion, however, was not the youngest car in the garage for in the background there lurked a monster, which in. the year 1912 appeared to run in the Grand Prix, as the latest and fastest product of its manufacturer. For here, almost forgotten lies the old LorraineDietrich, “Vieux Charles III,” truly the last of the monsters, destined in the shape of the Lorraines and the Fiats to be condemned for ever on that fateful day at le Mans. And not far away is a representative of “Vieux Charles’ ” fellow sufferer, its several times great grandfather. For the Fiat which Mr. Burney has stowed away in a corner dates from 1898, and must be one of the very first of its line. The car is to be seen in the photograph second from the left of the line, and its appearance is strangely deceptive. The De Dion type bonnet which now graces it covers nothing more than the water
tank, and is almost certainly, as the real antiquarian would say, a later addition. The engine really is under the seat, and consists of a horizontal twin, with open crankcase, driving forward to a gearbox and thence back again by chains. This car will take a bit of renovating, but it is undoubtedly of exceptional interest.
An Electric Veteran.
Those who possess or have seen the volume of the Badminton Library entitled “Motors and Motor Driving” may remember that the frontispiece, at any rate of the earlier editions, consists of a reproduction of a photograph of Queen Alexandra in her electric car at Sandringham. This machine was built in about 1899 by the City and Suburban Company, and is now in the possession of Veteran Cars Ltd. It may be seen in the illustration of the fleet on the extreme left of the line ; while one does not know how much needs doing to restore its mechanism to working order, the carriage work undoubtedly still retains much of its pristine elegance. The same may be said of another of its present stable companions, an 8 h.p. single cylinder Darracq. This motor is comparatively speaking a juvenile, for it dates only from 1905, but it boasts a most luxurious 2-seater fixed-head coupe body, which looks exceptionally comfortable and ideally suitable for those who motor in top hats. It is high even for a veteran car, and by way of a contrast, beside it one may see one of the lowest of the “ancestors,” a 1901 Siddeley, of the type which was the first to lap Brooklands Track at its opening. By this time we have probably said enough to convince most people who are thinking of acquiring a veteran car, that at Brooklands Mr. Burney will be able to supply them with whatever type of vehicle their particular fancy favours. In addition they can fit it out with any of a marvellous selection of ancient lamps, or a long and curly bulb blown horn bearing the name of Robert Bosch. It is not many weeks now until the Brighton Run, so there is no time to be lost for those
who have yet to master the intricacies of control of variable valve lifts and fast and loose pulleys.