was delighted to take them, but suggested that far better than him buying them, he could make a level swap with one of the Parry TItomas-engined specials that he had, and this surely would take the record for the drive. When I arrived 14-une after a 200.-tnile journey, with the Parry Thomas hooked on behind, my mother did not seem very pleased, for some unknown reason:
About this time the ” Ulster ” LeaFrancis was not going very well, and although I suggested to my mother that Arthur Baron was willing to swap it for a burnt-out ” 30/98 ” Vauxhall he was rebuilding, she did not seem to fancy the idea ; in fact, she went so far as to say that I could have any other car except a sports car, so after no great deliberation I decided a Rolls-Royce would be the most suitable in the circumstances. Phil Paddon found us a very pretty 20-11.1). WI It a 1934 two-seater coupe body by Mayfair. It really was a very nice little car for those who want that sort of thing, bat despite all the tuning we knew, and fitting a cut-out, 67 m.p.h. was about its maximum. I took it to Paris for three months, during which time I visited as many motor races as possible, including Reims. Peronne and the Bol d’Or. I also spotted a ” 40’50 ” Rolls with a new oncn two-seater body with fold-flat windsiren. This, 1 thonght-, was just what I wanted. On returning to England t he slowness Of t/ie Rolls Twenty Iregaii to harass rne, ami this was accentuat ccl hy a certain amount of competition that I was meeting with whilst up at Cambridge. Also I kept thinking of the ” 40:50 ” in Paris. which I thought would be quite fast, although it would still comply with my mother’s
wish. Eventually I gave way to temptation, sold the ” Twenty,” and sent a message to a friend Of mine to buy the “40/50,” which, incidentally, was a ” Silver Ghost ” chassis with front wheel brakes. It was Shipped over to Folkestone, where the Customs were fairly lenient as they only had to charge on the body anyway, and then I drove it straight back to Cambridge. On the way it broke an oil pipe, the only mishap it ever had, but. it seemed to go perfectly well without any oil, and would always keep up a speed of 81 m.p.h. endlessly. But I very soon found the snag in the car, and one I never overcame, which forced me to sell it in six months’ time ; it cost £49 to tax on the road, and only did 4 m.p.g., which was altogether too linteh for an impecunious undergraduate, despite the enjoyment of always haying an admiring crowd around it when parked. Before I sold it, I thought I would find out some of its past history from Rolls-Royce, and I was somewhat surprised to hear front them that they had shipped it to France in August, 1914, and it had never returned until I brought it back.
After selling the Rolls a bad period set in. and, owing to shortage of money (no more was forthcoming from my mother at present), the standard of ears was on the descent again, but not quite back to the 2s. 6d. level. The -first of these was a very faithful 3-litre 1929 Lagonda with two,Tour-seater Weymann closed body, found on a sera)) heap and pitreltased for £111. On strif ping 2s. was found in the gearbox, so purchase price was rd teed to £9 18s. It went very well, taking Inc to Paris and back where I first met my wife-to-be, who was most impressed with it. A speed of 78
m.p.h. on third gear, and just over 80 on top were reeorded, and after some excellent service it was sold for £18 to an undergraduate and was last heard of winning a fiver in a backwards race up a hill at midnight.
Then followed unlucky13, which was a 1932 Talbot fixed-head coupe. It got rue to Donington on Coronation Day ; I preferred this to a scat that was offered me in I he 111)&11 to wilt eft the Procession. But, unfortunately, it only just got ow back as a friend with me tat me a packet or cigarette. she would not (I() 70, and just as the speedometer touched that speed, three big-ends ran. We managed to crawl back to Cambridge.
After the big-end episode a change seemed advisable, so a 1928 12-h.p. ‘Frieda open two-seater was boughtfor £16. These were front-wheel-drive French cars that used to rim at Le Mans in the middle ‘twenties, and by the condition of mine it had taken part in every Le Mans ever run. Actually, it went quite well until the front axle began to disintegrate, so it was sold for a slight loss before total collapse.
A pathetic letter home produced £35, and a 1929 simereharged front-wheel-drive Alvis was found, which Was a car of remarkably modern design, and a delight to drive, although they were, I believe, known as the Suicide Club. It had an unfortunate habit of getting valve bounce, and as the clearance was adjusted by means of putting in shims, these used to fall out when the valves bounced, and then you were in a poor way, which could only be remedied by removing the camshaft and replacing the shims. 11.1y mother thought it was too much when I turned up at Ascot with it, in my top hat, and with my trousers covered in oil from a slight leak, so she decided to invest some more money in a better car for my twentieth birthday. I chose a 1935 ” 16/80″ Lagonda with a beautiful Vanden Plas open fourseater body, and as it came from Jack Bartlett it was in immaculate condition. lt went perfectly and I was very satisfied until one day in France I had great difficulty in overtaking a Citroen and certainly could not shake it off. I realised I hen that perhaps the “16/80 ” was not as fast as it looked, and on returning to Cambridge it developed a habit of selecting its own gears without warning, which Was somewhat disconcerting. Fortunately. it did not include reverse in its repertoire. One day I was driving up to London from Cambridge with a friend who WIAS reading the Autwar and studying the ? Illvertisements. Suddenly he read out one that claimed to be the cheapest 1934 Lagonda ever to be sold, so we decided to have a look at it straight tiway. It was in a somewhat doubtfullooking spot off the Huston Road, but on running it around the liktek it went very well except for some noisy gears, and it
could be had for a level swap tic ccci tic. was very doubtful about the whole bnsiness but was persuaded by the man, who said (lint if it did not do all he said it would. I could have my money back. The surprising thing is that it (lid do all he said and ITIOPP. It was one of the best ears I ever owned :1,114i fiV(‘T nine months’ really hard driving it never let trte down,
and I recorded speeds up to 98 M.p.h. on the clock. We had an amusing incident coming back to Cambridge late one night. My passenger was somewhat inebriated, and when suddenly my side of the bonnet blew up at 90 m.p.h., leaving me with no vision at all, all he said was, ” Drive on, drive on, I can see perfectly well.”
I had the Lagonda over in Paris for about a month, and during this time I was most impressed by 1)elahayes, and even. Wally had a demonstration from one of the works drivers. I must say he did not hang about.. We very soon touched 100 m.p.h. in the streets of Paris, which was good enough for me. I felt that the Lagonda could not stand up to what I was giving it much longer (actually I was very wrong, as I saw it, AXL 617, by Barnes Bridge only a month ago). I suggested that my mother should give me a Delahaye for my twenty-first birthday. She thought this a very poor idea as I never kept a car for more than a few months, but she was wrong this time because I kept it for seven years. We found a secondhand ” Coupe des Allies ” with rather a nice English drophead body and a Cotal box. The Lagonda was swapped with an allowance of £40 more than I paid for it. I had my first Delahaye and have had one ever since. The car was quite fast. I drove from Monte Carlo to Paris (700 miles) in a day in it, and the engine never gave one moment’s trouble in the seven years I had it. I had a slight mishap when experimenting with the gearbox in reverse. On a Cotal gearbox all four forward gears work in reverse, and I was demonstrating this to a friend who was sitting in the back. We had just reached about 60 111.1).11. in reverse-top-gear when his head got in the way of my vision. The next thing I saw was a cyclist, and in the subsequent avoiding action we ended upside down in a ditch. My friend was thrown out over a hedge, and landed in a field by a notice which read ” No plots for sale.” We turned the car the right way up and retired fairly hastily, although all the engine oil had drained out. On returning the following day to recover a camera and one or two things we met a garage man, who told us that he could have sworn the car was going backwards at. the time of the accident. I had for a long time been watching the activities of the racing I klahaye, especially when Bira drove it in the 500-Mile Race at Brooklands, averaging 114 m.p.h. and lapping at la7 m.p.h.—-also his easy win in the Twelve I lours Race at Do/lima-on ; and then suddenly my chance Caine. I saw it_ in a window in Park Lane, for sale, and it had been put there by Count Ifeyden, of Delahaye’s, whom I knew well. The story he told Trle was that I could buy the car cheaply because he had been guarantor of t he hire purchase agreement of the previous owner, and as the previous owner had been smuggling arms to Spain and was now spending some time at. his Majesty’s pleasure, Count Heyden had to pay nil the residue of t he hire purchase motley, and he took the car, which did not stand hint ill at a great deal. ilia her this story was true or not I never knew, but the rate wine bottles and Spaniards kept going in and out of the office I would not have been surprised if Doric ITeyden was not doing the smuggling himself, and indeed, although a very likeable and Popular character, I
am afraid he came to a sticky end when he was that for some misdeed in Paris in 1944.
Anyway, for a very moderate sum I bought the car, again on the hire purchase agreement, and I decided it would be an ideal car to learn to motor race on, whielt was may main ambition -; also it. NVou141 come in useful for making some quick dashes from London to Cionlwidge.
My first day’s racing at Brooklands was not very successful, alt hough it should have been. I could not do better than an outer eireuit lap at Ill m.p.h. in the wet, and on the Malaita’ a Circuit I was lying second with over a lap to go and only one ” Braoklands ” Riley to pass about 50 yards ahead, when I got so excited that I span round on the Vickers corner and finished my chances. The Riley won.
About this time the ” Fastest roadracing car ” controversy was raging, and I was invited to enter the Delahaye. I wanted to give the car the best chance possible, and I knew with my inexperience it would not have that, so I asked Arthur Dobson to drive. Of course, Arthur won, and I readily admit that it was his driving that did it, but I think Ian Council’s ‘sago Talbot is only fractionally faster than the Delahaye, and both he and Guy Gale, the present owner, admit the Delahaye is far easier and lighter on corners. As far as Hugh Hunter’s ” 2.-9 ” Alfa Was concerned, it was obviously a lot faster than either car, but it did not stay tire coarse Si) cannot really be considered. To prove it was not a fluke, I then myself won the First Whitsun Mountain Ifandirsisi with the Delahaye by 0.4 of in second from Peter Aitken’s 2-litre E.R.A. The car was then lent to Birks who easily won the sports-car race at Crystal Palace with it, anal after that Ian Connell and I drove it at Le Mans anal finished eighth. After that I drove it in the August Meeting at Brooklands, and then entered it for La Baule, but unfortunately this Was scratched as war broke out that day, although I waited over in France hopefully until the final cancellation was made two days before the race was to be run. In those days it seems fairly good starting money was offered, but if you failed to appear then you had to forfeit as much
hey were going to pay you. This was tIt,case at ha Battle and I was not going to lose that amount of Tr-Loney, war or no war. When I first, had the two Oclahayes it was necessary for me to have a third car, as this WaS ill 1038 and I was still in reiy last year at Cambridge. The ridingthere was that all cars had to be in their garage I y 8 p.m and the garages used to cheek them in at. night. This of course prevented you going up to _London and cooling ban-lint midnight in your car registered with I lie I nivcrsit y. The only way around I his wins to keel/ a Very IIIC011Spieltolls car, not registered with the University, at an unofficial garage, and preferably nra in one’s own name. This I did, and derided to have a very cheap car for the job. The first one was a 3-litre Iagonda ilroplread -coupe bought for £30, but it was not the greatest success. as all the big-ends ran on its first run up to Cam
bridge, and after that it never went well, and so had to be disposed of rather quickly.
The replacement was noteworthy for two things. Firstly it Was my twenty-first car, and as I was then that age I had at last taught up. Since then I have just kept the ears ahead ! Secondly, it was the only American car I have ever owned. I think it was a wise choice for the job on hand and it. fulfilled it well. It. was a 1935 Ford V8 30-11.p. drophead coupe, and it went quite Trickly, reaching a maximum of 85 m.p.h. It only lard one vice, which I think was not an unusual one for American engines of that age. It used a complete sumpful of oil on every journey ‘from Cambridge to London and vice versa. I cannot for the tiro of me remember if I sold the Ford or to whom or for what ; perhaps it is still mine and at Cambridge, hut if so I had better keep quiet about it., as the garage bill will be far more than the car is worth.
Anyway I. never saw the faithful Ford again after leaving Cambridge, possibly because I left in a hurry, not enforced as yoit may think, but to drive at Le Mans. So when war broke out I was left with just_ the two Dehthaves (numbers 18 and 19 in the scrapbook), but I think their war-time activities must be continued at is later date. (End of Part l)
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