Memories

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Sir,

I have just re-read my March 1978 issue of MOTOR SPORT and as always, particularly for a displaced Englishman living here in northern California, it is a great source of interest and pleasure.

How shocking to read the report of the man who attacked the wife of a MOTOR SPORT advertiser. I thought only such shenanigans took place on this side of the pond, witness the poor owner of a 1932 Pierce Roadster who on taking a prospective purchaser out on a test drive, ended up being handcuffed and gagged at gun point, the theft, incidentally, taking plate on April Fool’s Day and the car being uninsured.

On a lighter note, I was most interested to read the publishes’ letter from Kevin M. Desmond referring to Mr. A. V. (“Ebby”), Ebblewhite, and the biography that he hopes to prepare, of the great man.

In the late ’50s I was in the music business in London and happened to call on a music shop owned by a Mr. A. L. Ebblewhite in the city. I remember this shop as being somewhat oldfashioned and certainly containing none of the then popular valve amplifiers, fuzz boxes and the like, made popular by the Beatles. Instead, the shop seemed to specialize in bagpipes, chanters, reeds, classical sheet music and the like. Anyway, in the course of my conversation with the proprietor, I indicated a growing interest in motor sport and the fact that I had purchased a Riley Brooklands 9. Upon hearing this and that my home, in fact, was in Hove, Sussex, Mr. Ebblewhite suggested that I might like to get a feeling for motor racing and what went on by enlisting as a timekeeper’s assistant at Goodwood, where I would doubtless then rub shoulders with sonic established racing drivers.

Was this gentleman perhaps Mr. A. V. Ebblewhite’s son?

Either way, I certainly owe quite a debt to Mr. Ebblewhite in as much as from 1959 to 1962 I frequently worked as a timekeeper’s assistant, which activity included the 1960 and 1961 Tourist Trophy races and how well I remember Moss’s Rob Walker car, finished in its dark polychromatic blue with white accents. There and then I determined that one day I, too, would own and race a short wheel base Berlinetta which dream was finally achieved but four short years ago with chassis number 1811GT; an incredible car.

I am now, incidentally, looking for an Aston Martin DB4 GT as, of course, it was this model that gave Stirling such a good run for his money, Roy Salvadori and Innes Ireland finishing second and third in the same race.

As I recollect, Mr. Ebblewhite did not, in fact, drive himself. Thus he was usually brought to the circuit by Peter Browning (of later BMC Competition Department fame) or Michael Aslin. I certainly remember him as being a tall, spare, balding, friendly man, peering at his beautiful watches over his half frame glasses. Other assistants, incidentally included E. L. P. Ebblewhite, the late Roland King-Farlow and J. Ebblewhite, so clearly timekeeping was, and perhaps still is, a family occupation?

It was long before I forsook my welcome free BARC box lunch and friends in the timekeeper’s booth for the track myself, running a 1926 Frazer Nash against sundry TVRs, Austin Healers. ACs and the like, having I remember been rejected by kindly Mr. F. C. Mathews, the chief scrutineer, the first time through because of not having a reverse gear. This was quickly rectified with a short piece of chain which stayed on for long enough to Meet the qualifications!

One of the many characters that I met through those happy Goodwood days was James Boothby who kindly instructed me on the correct line to take around the course and how to take Madgwick Corner from the start. I remember doing this very successfully, getting ahead of both James and his race partner, Mary Wheeler in a TVR, with the rest of the field strung out behind us. It was not long, of course, before practically everyone had passed me but by that time, the die was cast and motor racing, however humble, was in my blood.

Subsequent to my first race, I was taken in hand by Basil Bowman and Ron Smith, motor dealers and amateur racers from Hove, who were quite aghast at my lack of knowledge, to the extent that I was trying to race on soft plugs and so on. Basil owned the ex Fitzwilliam/Cuff Miller Talbot Lago and Ron the famous ex Guy Gale four litre Lago Darracq. It was a great thrill for me to drive these cars occasionally and witness them playing bears with the ERAs, Maseratis, Bentleys, and Bugattis; and how well those beautiful little twin-cam six-cylinder Amilcars went, owned by Tozer and Harding.

Again another love affair was begun for Talbot Lagos, to such an extent that I now own and race the ex Chiron 1948 French Grand Prix winning GP car which again is everything I knew it would be a big, hairy vintage car, still on friction shock absorbers and quarter eliptics at the back with, of course, nothing as sophisticated as a XE differential!

Other cars in my collection now include an Alfa Romeo Monza; an Alfa Romeo 33/2 Daytona coupe; a Ferrari Tour de France; the ex-Colin Davis Formula Junior OSCA; an OSCA 750 c.c. sports racing car and so on, the love for which I owe to an Ebblewhite!

Finally, I have read with interest Denis Jenkinson’s article on Tripoli and specifically the reference to Scuderia Ferrari’s Bimotore Alfa Romeo.