About the only undertaking now able to keep the enthusiast’s soul afire is a series of visits to inspect famous cars in enforced retirement. And perhaps the most satisfying of all such visits was one we paid recently to Anthony S. Heal at his home at Denham. Heal’s collection of early ex-racing cars is well known and, indeed, most of these cars have been written up fairly recently, both in Motor Sport and in our contemporary The Motor. Nevertheless, it is well worth while to see all his cars under one roof and to pick out forgotten or previously undiscovered details in the course of a leisurely inspection – incidentally, to describe this as a “studio” of cars is reasonably apt, for the big garage which houses them was, in fact, once an artist’s studio, as the presence of a fireplace and leaded windows overlooking a once busy main thoroughfare testify. So intriguing is the sight that meets the eye when the doors of this garage are thrown open that, for a while, one wanders from one car to another, admiring greatly but taking in very little. Afterwards more detailed worship is the order. In a corner stands the 1914 T.T. Sunbeam, believed to be the car which Dario Resta drove in this classic race. It appears just now as a chassis, the ugly sports 2-seater body having been removed that something better suited to the car shall replace it. One is struck by the sturdy appearance of this 28-year-old Tourist Trophy car, standing on 820 x 120 mm. Dunlops. The rear axle has an offset final drive casing, Hooke’s joints are evident in the steering layout and the clutch is freed by two square-section springs. Beside the Sunbeam is the 1921 3-litre Ballot, possibly remembered by our younger readers as being driven in Brooklands Outer Circuit races by Miss Joan Richmond, until the scrutineers said “No!” It is the car which Ralph de Palma drove in the 1921 French Grand Prix; with another example Goux won the Italian G.P. of that year at 90 m.p.h. This Ballot did much Brooklands racing in Jack Dunfee’s hands subsequently, lapping at 113 m.p.h. The engine bears a plate inscribed: “Moteurs Ballot. Type 3/8 L.C. No. 1006,” and the modern type filler caps and water excluders on all the brakes testify to the car’s long-drawn-out racing career. Ignition is by twin Marelli magnetos actuated from the camshafts and both inlet manifolds are completely lagged with asbestos cord. Torque rods steady the front axle under braking action. Hooke’s joints again figure in the steering plot and the instrument board layout is very simple. A spring steering wheel is fitted.
Quite a contrast is afforded by the 1908 T.T. Hutton chassis standing alongside, a car already used to storage through the duration of a war and now largely the property of Marcus Chambers. Here again, standing facing the car, unusual steering connections catch the eye, their elbows encased in leather gaiters. Strengthening plates can be seen in the chassis side members just above the dumb-irons and there are hydraulic shock-absorbers. The magneto is chain driven and advance and retard is achieved by an exposed cable guided over a pulley. The radiator suggests Napier and the big cylinders are truly impressive. Just now the Hutton presents itself as a chassis, with a single seat and, incidentally, two gear levers, but inconspicuous headlamp brackets remind one of its active moments. It, too, has 880 x 120 mm. tyres and is very certainly a motor-car of which an efficient modern service station might well say that “there is a great deal about this motoring….”
A very proud place in this collection is occupied by the 1910 Fiat, not so much on account of the prestige it achieved in racing in its hey-day as for the remarkable drives Heal has had on it of recent times. And no less on account of its magnificent condition. “Fire-engine” finish is an expression we do not particularly like, but it does convey the impressive and pristine appearance of this 10-litre, chaindriven motor-car. The huge T-shaped induction pipe of highly polished copper is a work of art of which Wallis and Phillips, Ltd., Expert Automobile Coppersmiths, must have been justifiably proud. To-day it is not damaged or tarnished in the slightest. One gazes in awe at the seat of government and ponders on the courage and ability displayed by the present owner in ascending Shelsley Walsh in 47.96 secs. – doing so one notices a rev.-counter reaching to 2,000 r.p.m., an ordinary lighting bell-switch for the ignition, an oil gauge going up to 25 lb./sq. in., an air pressure gauge reading to 5 lb./sq. in. and a Vintage S.C.C. plaque with St. Christopher medallion, testifying to a good day out at Lewes. Then there is Anthony’s 5-litre Ballot, built in 101 days for road racing of the immediate post-last-war era and brought to Brooklands by Humphrey Cook, later going to Southport – a sister car to Zborowski’s famous White Ballot in which R.B. Howey was killed at Boulogne. It has been so thoroughly reconditioned that it still achieves over 100 m.p.h. on the road, and Heal was so pleased with it that he gave a twenty-first birthday party to it in 1910 at the “Ely” on the Hartford Bridge Flats. The blue finish shows the big car off beautifully and the traditional bulb horn is within easy reach of the driver.
Latest addition to the collection is one of the 1921 3-litre straight-eight G.P. Sunbeam cars, which was actually licensed for road use up to not long before the war. This is a truly inspiring car, with its long bonnet, apologetic wings and sombre finish. There is a bolster tank behind the seats and the body sides actually extend rearwards to accommodate it. Cockpit brake adjustment is fitted, comprising ratchet mechanism operated by two levers on the floor by the mechanic, and an unexpected feature is two sight feed lubricators on the facia, with a tiny dribble tray beneath them. The silencer is a cylindrical tube attached to the exhaust piping by heavy bolts, and electric sidelamps on the scuttle testify to the car’s touring career. It seems as if the long eight-cylinder engine may have been sensitive to lubrication, for the oil gauge bears the legend: “Minimum pressure on full load-35 lb.,” and the 0-35 lb./sq. in. area is carefully shaded in. The air pressure gauge is finely graduated from 1 to 10 lb./sq. in., the rev.-counter reads to 6,000 r.p.m. and on a separate panel are an ammeter and voltmeter and Sunbeam and Lucas switches. Incidentally, the oil gauge is the biggest of all the instruments. Two racing covers still back the big rear tank.
The most potent car in the stable is a 1924 supercharged 2-litre G.P. Sunbeam of the type developed from the unblown version with which Segrave won the 1923 French Grand Prix at Lyons at 75.3 m.p.h. Somehow one is more apt to associate these cars with Kaye Don, Jack Dunfee and E.L. Bouts at Brooklands, where they achieved around 130 m.p.h. Interesting points are the strange, somewhat Alfa-like gear gate with a reverse stop; the two magnetos projecting into the cockpit, with an advance and retard lever beside them in a protruding quadrant, and a fuel pressure pump situated where the passenger could operate it and well braced to the side of the body. The facia carries a rev.-counter reading to 6,000 r.p.m., a fuel gauge to 180 grammes, a gauge indicating 0, 0.5, 1.0 and 1.5 grammes of Huile, a supercharger gauge to 6 lb./sq. in. and a curious Fournier thermometer to 115°, with major markings at 50°, 80°, 100° and 115°. The huge strapped-down fuel tank forms the end of the tail and the top panel hinges on a skewer pin to give access; the aero screen before the driver comes from an Avro. The rear brakes have an external spring and an adjuster just ahead of it.
These cars deserve much more attention, but we hope to deal with those not yet so written-up in the “Veteran Types” series at some future date. Undoubtedly, Heal intends to use them for serious competition work after the war, when many more modern cars may expect a shock in sprint events. When we visited the collection his well-known 1924 “30/98” Vauxhall tourer – capable of 100 m.p.h.was absent, having suffered damage in an air raid. A week later it filled the only remaining space in the studio, fully restored; getting vintage racing cars to meetings is a difficult task and here, no doubt, this Vauxhall will again play its part when the day dawns. Outside the garage stood a 3-litre twin o.h.c. Sunbeam saloon, and this Heal, as a Sunbeam exponent, intends to turn into a fast touring car, with lowered radiator and bonnet line, to supplement the 1921 G.P. Sunbeam, which will also be used on the road. Meanwhile, he has a B.M.W. motor-cycle and his wife has laid up her Austin Seven. This necessarily brief account cannot be closed without reference to Heal’s motoring library, which, besides a comprehensive set of bound volumes of The Autocar, includes all the motoring classics, some fine pictures, and albums which embrace in an incredible variety of photographs not only every motoring exploit of Heal and his friends and much Brooklands history of the early nineteen-twenties, but the origin and history of each of the racing cars he now preserves so carefully. In one of these albums is a trade-plate “ticket” declaring the car as a 1910 Fiat, the purpose of the journey as “getting (and got) married” and the passenger as “one wife.” Few will disagree that to attend one’s wedding in an Edwardian racing car is to display a devotion to motoring such as only the true enthusiast can appreciate.
He's designed some of the greatest and most successful Formula One cars of the last two decades, but Mr Barnard admires the simplicity and potential of Chapman's late -sixties Indy…
Sir Some time ago in April 1972 you were kind enough to publish my enthusiastic ravings bout the Austin Maxi. May I now rave on a bit more? At that…
Peter Ustinov Writer and actor Peter Ustinov, who died at the age of 82, was a motoring and motor racing enthusiast. He was best known within the sport for his…