Vintage Veerings

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The Brighton Speed Trials were enlivened by the presence of two most interesting old cars appearing for the first time in the hands of those who have faithfully restored them. P. J. Harris-Mayes drove Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang in the over 2,501-c.c. sports-car class. This car is Chitty II, which languished at a farm near Dover before its present owner acquired it. He is to be congratulated on his work of restoration. The vast car, with its aero-engine and chaindrive Mercedes chassis, carries a four-seater body, as it did in the days of its creator, the late Count Louis Zborowski. It is complete with lamps and commenced with surprising ease on a self-starter. When idling the engine was remarkably quiet, yet you could smell burning rubber from the beaded-edge tyres on the get-away !

Harris-Mayes arrived late, explained that the car was far from ready and was using “Pool” petrol, so he only intended to make one demonstration run. This was accomplished in 38.43 sec., which betters the times of 18 other competitors, all save two outside the vintage racing-car class! Considering that this was the first appearance of Chitty since the 1930s, when Scott-Moncrieff ran her in a speed trial or two, this is a fine achievement. We hope sincerely to see Chitty in future V.S.C.C. events and certainly the car seems to be in excellent fettle, for after his run at Brighton Harris-Mayes left for a road-tour to Amersham. There seems to be some confusion as to what engine is in this Chitty. In the programme it was down as a 20,145-c.c. Maybach, but we think Harris-Mayes will discover it to be a 19.320-c.c. Benz.

The other interesting car at Brighton was F. M. Wilcock’s Lambert-Talbot. This is a replica of the famous Talbot in which the late Percy Lambert achieved a speed of over 100 m.p.h. for the first time, at Brooklands in 1913. The original car was destroyed in an accident and its engine subsequently “blew-up” in another car. But Talbot-fancier Wilcock, having unearthed, almost literally, a racing Talbot chassis of the same sort, decided to build onto it a replica of the body used on the Lambert car, obtaining data from photographs lent by Rootes and information laid by an old Rootes employee who worked on Lambert’s car.

The result is a long, rakish racing car with cowled radiator, long cone tail and big wheels, which breathes the very atmosphere of pre-World War I Brooklands. Wilcock freely admits to making the body of two-seater instead of single-seater width, to provide more room in the car; a pity in some respects, although the Talbot is still immensely satisfying to gaze upon. The racing chassis, which may be that raced after 1918 by Vandervell, has a very high axle ratio and although the 4½-litre four-cylinder side-valve engine was used for racing, it is not nearly as highly-developed as was the Lambert engine. Moreover, the car was being given coats of Robbialac in the Paddock at Brighton and so, like Chitty, can be considered as only just ready. Consequently, its best run of 43.39 sec, can be considered creditable, especially as the driver was nearly thrown from his seat by the undamped springs (at Brooklands Lambert had the luxury of shock-absorbers !) This time, although slowest in the vintage racing class, was 4.91 sec. faster than that of D. R. Grossmark driving Wilcock’s 1912 2½-litre Talbot two-seater and sufficed to beat a Cooper 500, a Ford Ten Special and a sports Austin Seven.

The vintage-car movement received an important boost on August 15th last, when John Moore devoted his entire “Country Column’ in the Birmingham Mail to criticism of the jacking system of his modern car and praise for a fondly-remembered 1924 Morris-Cowley. Indeed, his article was headed “Rime of an Ancient Motor-Car” and ended with just such a rhyme, in which, however, poetic licence now admitted a Morris-Cowley of 1933. But clearly John Moore is very much on our side !

The Sunbeam M.C.C. opened its”Pioneer” Run of September 7th. which started and finished at Newlands Corner, Surrey, and involved covering a 15-mile circuit in one hour, to veteran cars. Best car performance was made by C. F. South’s 1912 12/16 Sunbeam. The Twichen Trophy for best motor-cycle performance was won by V. F. Smith’s 1904 Quadrant. Bert Coffin started from Yeovil in his model-T Ford. ran a big-end near Guildford, but had it remetalled and was home again by midnight !

The following was expressed by “Westcountryman” recently, in writing, in the Western Morning News, of visitors to the West Country:-

“Finally among the mechanically-propelled vehicles there are the ancient motor-cycles, venerable cars, and home-renovated pieces of vintage transport. You meet these pensioners and their owners at all times of the day and night either being pushed or wound frantically by red-faced drivers. Usually, after examination of their works and a prod or two from a screwdriver by long-suffering owners, they cough once or twice and stagger away in a noisy retreat.”