Matters of moment, October 1978

The rape of Brooklands

That line of historic sheds on the west side of Brooklands, from the Parry Thomas “Hermitage” to the premises occupied right up to the war by racing driver W. B. Scott, have been bull-dozed out of existence to provide a Distribution Centre for Bass-Charrington, the brewers.

These old sheds were but a small part of our National Heritage represented by the defunct Brooklands Track and Aerodrome. Nevertheless, they were an important part of it, for therein were designed and built several great LSR cars and Parry Thomas’ highly-successful racing cars, and these sheds were occupied by a unique band of people. Their loss can be compared to Stonehenge with some of its stones removed, St. Paul’s with its dome taken down as conflicting with London’s sky-line, or even, remembering how fanatical some of us are about Brooklands, the Tower of London without the Crown Jewels… To say the least, the destruction of these old sheds is very sad; apparently no Preservation Order had been made to protect them, as had been done for the World’s First Flight Booking Office on the same site, which should now perhaps be removed to a safe place. Motor Sport aired some grievances about the Brooklands Society earlier this year, on behalf of Mr. R. 0. Wilson-Kitchen, and it has no desire to go any further. The Society has since been quoted as trying to achieve the unachievable, has been taken to task by a contemporary for proposing a new entrance-road through what is left of the Members’ Banking, and Oyster Lane Properties Ltd., who are building on the hallowed land on the west side of Brooklands, say it was informed of their intentions, leading to the rape of those historic sheds, two years ago, but failed to put up any viable alternative scheme. The Society’s Chairman, Roy Nockolds, informed us that a meeting was to be called in London, to meet the top-Directors of Bass-Charrington, and the Editor was invited to attend (he suggested that perhaps the Curator of the Bass Brewery Museum, which is housed in historic buildings in Burton-on-Trent, might be persuaded to lend a sympathetic car) but a few days before this the sheds had been destroyed, so the meeting was abandoned.

Now that the preservation of the whole of Brooklands appears impossible, the Brooklands Society, whose stated aims include establishing a National Transport Museum at Brooklands, must take urgent steps to secure for its use the “Forty Acres” it covets on the Weybridge side of the estate, and which includes such desirable amenities as the Club House from which racing was controlled from 1907 onwards and in which Barnes Wallis designed the Vickers Wellington bomber and invented the “Dam-Buster” bomb, the 69-year-old Test Hill, part of the Members’ Banking, the Campbell circuit pits, etc. After the rape of those Byfieet sheds all we can do now is to beseech you to take Courage (or any other brew that does not remind you of them) while hoping for a happier outcome to the rest of the Society’s laudable intentions…

“Concours d’Elegance” changes

The Concours d’Elegance, which some people now find it sufficient to call a “Concours” or, worse, a “Concourse”, originated as a way in which the motor-minded wealthy could pass a few happy hours on the sun-drenched Riviera, showing off their beautiful cars and elegantly-attired lady friends (well, a wife is a friend, isn’t she?) with Cannes, Nice or Menton, etc. as a backdrop.

Those who won prizes in these motor-car Beauty Contests of the 1920s may have done their coachbuilders some good but it was just simple fun, and the cars taking part were in regular use, some no doubt having brought their proud owners on the long, dusty holiday journey from London and further afield. Very different from today’s contest, to which the competing vehicles do not have to be driven… This Concours d’Elegance type of motoring event, which some Clubs have disguised as a Concours d’Etat, which only the really well-educated can understand, is a good way in which one-make and other specialised Clubs can get their members to assemble, especially since the RAC, in its infinite wisdom, has forbidden even simple timed competitions on public roads. Very little else is open to the smaller Clubs, although it is notable that some Stationary Engine Clubs show their restored machinery without allowing them to be judged, thinking that prizes invoke disharmony and bickering. The fact is that since Old Cars have joined Very Old Cars (i.e., those made prior to 1931, at which the Continued overleaf VSCC originally drew its date-line), the Elegance Contest has expanded fast. In doing so, in this age of grab-grab and financial speculation, when anything from a Victorian safety-pin to a kiddy’s pedal-car is foisted on us as a Collectors’ Item and therefore an Accumulating Asset (strange terms!), big money-prizes are foreseen for those who enter vehicles for future Concours D’Elegance. Indeed, this has happened already, with £23,000 at stake at the “Town & Country Motoring Festival” at Kenilworth last August, held with SMM & T support and for a first-prize of no less than £2,500. While some people at Kenilworth were hoping their prized possession would win the top Beauty Accolade others, it seems, were hoping to make big money by selling similar cars at an auction-sale! Apparently 116,000 people went to look, of which Big Business will no doubt take note. This is likely to be the start of heavy sponsorship of such contests, and Old Motor has uttered a warning that this might make small events difficult to organise, could result in over-restored vehicles to catch the eye of lay-judges, and, to avoid acrimony, will call for almost-impossibly-accurate judging – it even suggests that, spurred on by enormous money-prizes, “feelings could run as high as at a football match when the referee … has had to be protected from both players and crowd for his own safety” – which makes Michael Bowler a brave man to have led his Panel of Judges at Kenilworth. We think these are important points to be borne in mind. Big money-prizes for motor Beauty Shows will, however, no doubt benefit the Trailer Industry…

Six hour relay race

Three teams of Porsches and three teams of Aston Martins head the entry of 24 teams for the Donington Park Six Hour Relay Race on Saturday, October 7th.

Organised by the 750 Motor Club, the 28th “Six Hours” has attracted entries from the major one make clubs, including the Aston Martin Owners’ Club, the Porsche Club of Great Britain, the Alfa Romeo Owners’ Club, the MG Car Club and the Morgan Sports Car Club. World Hot Rod Champion Barry Lee and Rallycross Champion Rod Chapman will drive for the Teac team, Ian Bracey will run his Le Mans lbec-Hesketh for the BMRMC team, Gerry Marshall and Nick Faure will head the team of six Porsche 924S and Tony Lanfranchi has entered a BMW 3.0Si. The race starts at 12 noon.

On the streets

Birmingham may have failed to secure a Grand Prix circuit in its middle, but October 8th should see the next best thing when 120 full-blooded racing cars will complete 10 laps of the once proposed circuit in the “On the Streets” spectacular, a prelude to the International Motor Show. Le Mans cars like D-types, Blower Bentleys, Porsches, and Matras will be mixed with GP Bugattis, P3 Ferraris, Moss in a 250F, Salvadori in a DB3S, possibly Fangio in Mercedes, Formula 3 cars, a Porsche presentation of long-tailed 917s, 911 Turbos, 906, 910 and 908 and 935s and a representative selection of current British racing and rally cars. Interspersed with the ten-lap demonstration will be solo runs by most of the British based Formula One contenders.