Mr. Widdowson’s letter on Austin Seven Grasshoppers is gradually confusing the complete scene!
Because of the conflicting reports on the whereabouts of the 11 Grasshoppers, the 750 Motor Club’s Austin Seven Register instigated a search. The following are their findings:—
AOX 4 First registered April 4th, 1935. Still in existence in Hertfordshire, but fitted with 100E engine when last heard of. This conversion took place prior to June 6th, 1956.
AOV 343 Still registered with Staffordshire County Council.
BOA 57 First registered May 24th, 1935. Scrapped.
BOA 58 First registered May 24th, 1935. Scrapped.
BOA 59 First registered May 24th, 1935. Still registered in Bedfordshire, and from the pictures I have seen of the car is in perfect original condition, and in regular use BOA 61 First registered May 24th, 1935. Scrapped.
COA 118 Still registered. Owned by 750 Motor Club’s Chairman, Mike Eyre, and in the process of full restoration.
COA 119 First registered May 12th, 1936. Scrapped.
COA 120 First registered May 12th, 1936. Scrapped.
COA 21 Still registered with Belfast C.B.C. Last taxed January 1963 and nosy believed to be rotting in a side street somewhere near the docks. Fitted with ordinary Seven engine in September 1961 and bodywork believed to be “specialised.”
This accounts for 10 of the 11 cars. The odd one out is. AOX 3, which was exported on September 5th, 1938, but we cannot find out where the car went; if any reader can assist we would be glad to hear.
Beaulieu. M. E. Ware
Chairman, Austin Seven Register.
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In Bad Taste
May I express my utter disgust at the BBC-2 programme “Wheelbase,” broadcast on August 27th, covering the V.S.C.C: Prescott meeting.
As a competitor I cheerfully withstood the inconvenience of large B.B.C. vans in the paddock in the belief that a worthwhile programme would result. I was thus able to note that the cameras were in action on two days and that during this time a large number of interviews were carried out. It is appreciated that a vast amount or the material recorded had to be discarded when preparing the twenty-minute programme.
In view of this I feel it was the height of bad taste to include the nasty crash suffered by the driver of an E.R.A. As this car was, at the time, being driven up the hill for the specific benefit of the television unit one would think that we could have been spared this incident.
To follow this up with an interview with a well-known personality who was seriously injured in an E.R.A. some years ago did not go far to remove the bad taste, although I appreciate that this is probably coincidence.
What could have been an interesting programme was thus marred completely and one is left to assume that the producer was brought up on one of the publications of the gutter press, concerned with providing “sensational” news for the more sadistic members of the general public.
This was my first view of BBC-2 and to say that I am unimpressed would be a vast understatement.
St. Albans. M. D. Comber,
Lieutenant, Royal Navy.
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One for the “Old Car Club” !
You may be interested to hear that in February 1947 I purchased a one-owner 1936 Morris Eight saloon for £325! Apart from fitting a reconditioned engine, new front springs and indulging in a set of Regency seat covers in the early 1950s, the Morris has required the minimum of attention and servicing, and has proved the ultimate in reliability.
My records show the car had done 22,000-odd miles when I bought it and has now completed a further 100,000 miles in my hands. It has successfully passed all M.O.T. tests since they were inaugurated and still retains a meagre appetite for Castrol XL and Jet 4s, 1d.!
The performance is decidedly leisurely—but once reached it will maintain 45/50 m.p.h. all day. It is completely original and the two-tone black and green paintwork (with faded gold line) is just beginning to show its age!
I had intended to part exchange it against a new Mini Minor but relented at the last moment.
No Sir, I .shall probably keep BVB 512 until it qualifies as a true vintage car, or—like myself—just fades away.
Norfolk. “Old soldier.”
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Not very long ago, an English vintage enthusiast recommended Motor Sport to me because of the extremely informative and often humorous old-car advertisements in the Small Advertisement Section. Although the advertisements are really very tempting, especially to frustrated enthusiasts in this country who do not have a hope in Hell of importing a Bugatti, an Alfa Romeo, or anything else for that matter, I was delighted to discover that so much space has been devoted entirely to old cars. I feel that a magazine that does not give enough attention to old cars is not really a magazine for the enthusiast. Motor Sport is a very happy blend of both the old and the new. Keep up the good work!
Bombay, India. R. K. Khan.
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The G.P. Delage Cars
I was very interested in the comments of Alan Burnard and A. F. Rivers Fletcher about the 1½-litre G.P. Delage cars. There were certainly four G.P. cars made. The 1927 version was slightly different from the 1926 in that, in 1927, the exhaust pipe was changed to the left-hand side and only one supercharger was used. There seems to be a bit of a doubt as to who owned which directly after they were sold by the works. They were numbered 1, 2, 3, 4. In Norman Smith’s excellent book ” Case History,” he lists them, after leaving the works, as -1, Campbell; 2, Scott; 3, De Rovin; 4, Chiron; whereas Rivers Fletcher says : 1, Chiron/Senechal ; 2, Campbell; 3, Scott. I am not certain of this, but I think Rivers Fletcher is correct. Certainly Campbell bought two cars after Delage finished off the 1927 season by winning the British G.P. at Brooklands on October 1st, 1927. Their drivers then were Benoist, Bourlier and Diva, finishing 1, 2, 3, in that order, with Chiron fourth in a Bugatti. I remember this as I was driving in that particular race in a Thomas-Special.
When Campbell bought two cars from the Pelage Works I agreed to take one off him. I bought this late in 1928 before I went with him to South Africa for the winter of 1928/29, when he went for the Land Speed Record in his Blue Bird at Verneuk Pan. Brian Lewis (or Lord Essendon as he is now) would know quite a lot about this, too. We shared a cabin coming back from South Africa and talked quite a lot about the excellence of these ears and their potential. I don’t believe Campbell ever actually raced my car. Louis Chiron drove his car at Indianapolis in 1929 and finished seventh, and this, I am sure, was the same car that Robert Senechal drove in a number of Grands Prix for two or three years (but whether it was No. 1 or No. 4 I do not know). I imagine the car Briggs Cunningham has is the rather mysterious car owned by De Rovin and driven by him in the 1st Monaco G.P. in April 1929. No-one seems to know very much either about De Rovin or this car!
I had my car for four years and eventually sold it to J. C. Davis in 1932, just before the Empire Trophy Race. I had entered for this race, but had to withdraw as Capt. Davis had just completed the deal and had been keen on acquiring the car for some time.
It was a simply wonderful little car in every way, and E. C. Querico, who was my mechanic for years, loved it and thought, as I did, that it was perhaps the best racing car he had ever worked on. It certainly served me well, and I loved driving it more than any other racing car I ever raced. Over these years it won me the Gold Star, the Brooklands Gold Cup, and several other races at Brooklands, bringing me two firsts and a third in one’ meeting, Easter 1930; one being on the Outer Circuit, and the other, after a good scrap with Chris Staniland in a G.P. Bugatti, in the Mountain Racing Handicap. On the Outer Circuit, although winning, my fastest lap was only 117.19 m.p.h. tip to then neither Campbell nor I had lapped at over tip m.p.h. in a race. (Nor, for that matter, had any other 1½-litre Delage driver.) It again made fastest lap in the Mountain Racing Handicap at the Whitsun Meeting. Then in the Gold Star race on August Bank Holiday 1930, Campbell and I both had a real go. Our fastest laps being 121.47 and 122.37 m.p.h., respectively. Although I had won the race, a protest against me was put in— that I had crossed the Blue Safety Line at the Fork at the end of my first lap. There was a very good reason for this. Normally, if one pulled the car low and early off the Byfleet one could take any line well away from the Vickers’ Sheds and this Blue Line. But Tim Birkin Was just leaving the starting line in the Single-seater Blower Bentley, and I, rather naturally, gave him all the room I possibly could, and went past the Vickers’ Sheds almost within touching distance. When Tim heard of my disqualification he was furious and, agreeing with my action to the full, told the Stewards his opinion. This evidence and my explanation were accepted by the Stewards and I was given the race.
The car was also very pleasant to drive on the open road, and Rivers Fletcher’s remarks about passengering Malcolm Campbell remind me of this. I only drove it on the road when necessary. I remember driving it up for the Inter-Varsity Speed Trials of 1930. I took it from my shed at Brooklands (where it was normally kept) to a garage I had in Yeomans Row, near Harrods, for the night, and then drove it from there to the Speed Trials. This meant driving through Knightsbridge and up Park Lane as (being on track numbers) we could not go through Hyde Park. I think it was Max Aitken who came with me as passenger for the fun of the ride, and we broke the unofficial Varsity Record from Marble Arch to Cambridge. I won’t say the time as I doubt if anyone will believe it! In the Speed Trials it made fastest time of the day, just beating Brian Lewis in a G.P. Bugatti on its third run. The course was the gravel drive of a Country house, from a standing start. The finish was about 50 yards round a very fast blind bend fringed with laurel hushes. Only in the final run did I keep my foot down all the way, and our speed at the finish was estimated at 110 to 114 m.p.h. on 3rd gear. I1 know it scared me stiff!!
I also drove it with Querico as passenger from Brooklands to Lewes, where it made fastest time of the day in the hill-climb. It was also driven to Dover and then to Paris and Linas, Montlhéry, for the French Grand Prix. So it has been driven in London and Paris!
For the French G.P. in June 1931 I had entered both my A-litre Deluge and the 192.4 2-litre t2-cylinder G.P. Delage. We stayed at Linas, Montlhéry, for a fortnight and practised every day. S. A. Payn drove with me in the 1½-litre, and Tim Rose-Richards and Roger Williams the 2-litre. We didn’t expect to do well in the race as works teams of Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Bugatti were entered, but as it was a to-hour race that year, we hoped to finish. I had a bad moment at the start. I stalled my engine; a thing which several other Delage drivers also did, even Senechal in the 1930 French G.P. at Pau. The supercharger release valve used to pop as one let the clutch in. Anyway, I felt a clot; I was on the front row of the grid, and cars were tearing past me on either side. Alter that it went well for all my spell, but the transmission went alter Payn had been driving for an hour.
The little car also took a number of Class F records, both at Brooklands and Montlhéry. Brian Lewis helped me to get the 200-mile and 200-kilometre Class F records in 1929, and Maurice Haunter the 500-kilometre, 1,000-kiloinetre, 3-hour and 6-hour records in November 1930. All at Brooklands. Then in December 1930 we managed to get the 24-hour, 2,000-mile and 3,000-kilometre Class F records at Montlhéry, though not without a bit of bother. First the magneto mounting came adrift and we wasted a lot of time in the pits, spoiling our chances of getting some of the shorter-distance records we had hoped to get on the way to the 24-hours. Then, during the night with Payn driving, we heard the car’s engine cut completely. Normally, we could hear it all the way round. In the ensuing dead silence Armstrong Payn ran into the pits with the steering wheel in his hand. It had come off on the high banking in the dark when he was lapping at over 100 m.p.h. It can’t have been very pleasant, as he had only one spotlamp with an accumulator, and red (road-up) carriage lamps round the inside of the track, and the track was covered with ice, it being a very cold night in December. However, he raised his foot, had a few attempts to put the steering wheel back, and coming down to the bottom of the track as the car eased to around 70 m.p.h., he spun off on the soft earth on the inside of the track. He went back to the car and eventually wound it back onto the track on the starting handle, it being impossible to get it out by pushing. After that Querico refitted the steering wheel and we had no more trouble, the good little car doing the last three laps at around 130 m.p.h. to show it was no worse for the run. Tim Rose-Richards was the third driver in this record bid.
Although it did the 24-hour record, we had trouble with it in both the 1929 and 1930 B.R.D.C. 500-Mile Races. Brian Lewis shared the wheel with me in 1929, but we went out at 370 miles, when leading the 1½-litre class and doing quite well in the general category, with all our water boiled away out of the radiator. Then in 1930, John Cobb drove with me and we were doing even better, and had a very good chance of winning, when in the last 100 miles the bolts securing the three separate sections of the front axle sheared. I think both faults were caused by the incredible bumpiness of Brooklands for little light cars. John and I were all for putting in new bolts and continuing, but Charlie put on a wild Italian act, saying he would not put in ordinary bolts as they would only shear again and “he was not a murderer!” John, in his quiet way, said it was quite all right, and he and I repaired it with ordinary bolts, and each had a further drive; the Car was still running at the finish of the race, though we were only given 11th place.
Mr. Rivers Fletcher mentioned the gearbox in his article. I can say this about it, that there was an ordinary 4-speed box position for four of the gears, but there was a little catch at each opposite side of the gearbox, one for reverse and one for 5th gear. I still have a note of the maximum speeds in the gears. The rev.-counter at the top had a green arc, then a brown, and finally a red arc. I wonder if any present owners may still have an original rev.-counter. I only touched the edge of the brown in 3rd once (in the Varsity Speed Trials). Normally, of course, we kept it in the green segment. I could answer a number of further questions if anyone is interested. But Charlie Querico would know far more if he could be found. I would very much like to hear from him again as I always had the highest regard for him, and he was a grand person and a wonderful mechanic.
Dick Seaman used a gearbox from one of the 1925 2-litre G.P. Delages in his 1½-litre when Ramponi rebuilt and prepared his car for him for the 1936 racing season. I think this was from my 2-litre Delage. John Lloyd confirms that it was from a 2-litre in this country (I only know of one in this country) in his excellent article about the 2-litre and 1½-litre Delages in the Veteran and Vintage Magazine of May 1959.
I should very much like to meet Alan Burnard, Rivers Fletcher and Norman Smith, and talk about these cars with them.
Whatever the numbers are, and this seems the only point in question, I think we can take the picture at the beginning, directly after they left the Delage Works, as below. After that I am sure Alan Burnard has the details correct.
I’m sure the car Chiron took to Indianapolis in 1929 and finished seventh, was brought back to Europe and sold to Robert Senechal, who drove it in the 1930 French G.P. at Pan, and in the 1931 French G.P. at Montlhéry. I should think Briggs Cunningham has the mysterious De Rovin car, but I would like confirmation of this.
Great Wratting. W. B. Scott.