Veteran Edwardian Vintage, October 1982

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Veteran Edwardian Vintage

A SECTION DEVOTED TO OLD-CAR MATTERS

“The Long-Distance Lady” — We visit Mrs. Hindmarsh

EVEN before she married Johnny Hindmarsh, the well-known Tallest and Lagonda driver, whose achievements included winning Le Mans in 1935 for the latter company, Mrs. Hindmarsh knew a lot about motor-cars and motor-racing through her open competition accomplishments, notably with Invicta cars. It was in the course of testing an MG-Metro that I drove 390 miles one day recently to call on her.

As Miss Cordery, she was taught to drive during the latter half of the 1914/18 war, having, as she said, “always been mad about cars”. She learned on Rolls-Royce and Bianchi cars, at first just getting the feel of the steering from the passenger’s seat. Captain Macklin, her brother-in-law, was in the RHA at the outbreak of the war, but, after being badly wounded, was invalided out of the Army. He later joined the RN Observer Corps, serving in Barrage Balloons until the end of the war. It was in this capacity that he was allocated a driver who was able to continue Miss Cordery’s driving instruetion. She thinks it was probably in this car that she first drove herself to the wonderful Brooklands Track, but the first car she owned was a secondhand Swift Ten, with Sankey wheels.

The aforesaid brother-in-law being Capt. (later Sir) Noel Macklin, the young girl’s love of etethring was easily fostered. She drove many tmusual cars in those early years following the Amiistice. including Asters, Harms, and Macklin’s Stanley and Doble steam cars, She described Noel Macklin as a perfectionist, and legend has it that when the wife of one of his Partners, who had driven the Stanley, said she did her think she would over again be able to change gear on the “crash” gearboxes of the time, Macklin set about malting cars that would do almost all their running effortlessly in top gear, after his own experience of how easy it was to drive his steam cars. Thus the lnvictas were notable top-gear performers. Before this, Macklin had made the sporting Eric-Campbell light car in the garage at his house. ‘Gleogariff”, at Cobham, Surrey, and after this venture had been sold off to Vulcan’s, he concentrated on the even more sporting Silver Hawk, which was, says Mrs. Hindmarsh, “an tvlitrttrly better job”. When it was proposed to enter these cars for as and record-breaking arrrvtputshe asked if she could help. “Why not?”, replied Macklin. So one of her first appearances was at South Harting hill-climb. and she was also the first lady driver to take records when she

a at Bmoklands, when they ran for up to four hours in the Light-Car class. Violet Cord, was just 18 at the time! She had also won a ladies’ race at a JCC Brooklands Meeting, in an Eric-Campbell, by 15 yards from Mrs. Nash’s ON, but has no recollection of this early dairn to racing fame. That was in 1920, and another speed-guarantee relates to the performance of the Silver Hawk, which was warranted to do 70 m.p.h. on the track, and even as early as that there was a hint of the ideal of good top-gear performance, when a GP Silver Hawk was advertised as “capable of being driven from London to Edinburgh in that gear”, had anyone wanted to do this.

But it was the Invicta that carried on this theme to perfection, from 1924 onwards. Violet Cord, won a race with one of these cars, a 21/2-litre tourer, at Brooklands in 1925, from one of Noel Macklin’s partners, Oliver Lyle (of the sugar refining company), in a half-mile sprint, although we shall never know if Lyle just let her beat hint out of friendship; he was driving another 21/2-litre Invicta. Be that as it may, the 24-year-old girl went out again later in the afternoon and won the other half-mile sprint race, a Ladies’ event in which all started together, her Invicta beating Mrs. Duller’s Lancia Lambda and her sister Marese finishing third in the other Invicta. Having proved her abilities, Miss C..ordery commenced her famous series • of long-distance drives for Invicta the following year. In 1926 she formed one of a team of six drivers who broke the World’s 10,000-mile record with a Newris-bodied 3-litre Invicta, one of the early Meadows-powered cars with a fabric tourer body. Monza track was used for this attempt, perhaps because, like the Austin Motor Company with its first racing Sevens in 1923, it was advisable to try the car out on this ambitious run away from home, but more likely because the Invicta Company had business to conduct in Italy. They were, at the time, experimenting with the FAST overhead-camshaft engine, but this was later abandoned as it lacked the low-speed torque that was all-important to Sir

Noel Macklin.

The expedition proved successful, the record being taken at 56.47 m.p.h. and the car going on to capture the 15,000-mile record at 55.76 m.p.h., in spite of a five-day delay while repairs were effected at the helpful Isotta-Fraschini factory after a young driver had gone to sleep and crashed the car. Miss Corderv captained the team, which was composed of Cushman, Mills. Garland, Mop and Brown, and although the frame of the Invicta, which had only two aeroscreens as protection from the elements, had been damaged in the accident and gave subsequent trouble, the car continued to run a total of 25,000 km, taking Class-D records on the way.

That long haul would have been enough to last a long time for most people but Miss Cordery earned her right to be called “the long-distance lady” when she took the same 3-litre Invicta on an RAC-observed me at Montlhery that summer, covering over 5.000 miles at 70.7 m.p.h., including the three hours spent in depot-stops. Although these cars normally used quite low axle-ratios, for the observed run a 3.6 to I ratio was employed, and the Invicta weighed 221/2 cwt. in battle trim. For these meritorious performances the RAC awarded Miss Cord, and Invicta’s their coveted Dewar Trophy, for the highest motoring achievement of the year, the first time since its inception in 1906 that this had been won by a lady driver. In 1927 the indefatigable girl adopted another ploy for publicising the Invicta. It took the form of an RAC-observed World tour of 10,200 miles, through Europe, Africa, India, Australia, America and Canada, which took five months, the car being a Cadogan-bodied 3-liter tourer, with the lowest of the available back-axle ratios (4.5 to 1, and overloaded beyond the guarantee-exclusion weight limit by 7 cwt. This remarkable tour was accomplished at an overall average speed of 24.6 m.p.h. and it consumed six sets of tyres and tubes. The crew who accompanied Miss Cordery were a mechanic, a trained nurse, and R. W. Sprague, the senior RAC official observer. Apart

from a broken half-shaft, the run was more or less trouble-free and the Invicta arrived in New York on schedule. All that Mrs. Hindmarsh says of this marvellous tour is that a runaway tram in Algiers hit the car, writing-off most of the camping equipment carried on the running-board.

There was a lull in 1928 but Miss Cord, was at it again in 1929. It now seemed prudent to publicise the Invicta nearer its place of construction than Monza or Montlhery, so a 4,-litre tourer with 2.9 to 1 back-axle ratio was taken to Brooldands, where it covered 30,000 miles in 30,000 minutes, under RAC observation. The actual average speed was 61.57 m.p.h. overall. As co-driver, Violet took her youngest sister Evelyn, “who was very happy to help out, being a very good driver”. Incidentally, at a time when high gearing is being advocated as a means of obtaining improved fuel consumption, it is amusing to note that the Rover 3500 with manual five-speed gearbox does about 2,140 r.p.m. at 60 m.p.h., while this 4,-litre Invicta was geared to do about 1,800 r.p.m. Fuel consumption averaged 18.47 m.p.g., oil consumption (of Castro!) 894 m.p.g., with in addition two sump changes, and routine servicing occupying a total of five hours. Again, the RAC awarded their Dewar Trophy to the Invicta Company. . . . J. G. Parry-Thomas was acting as engineering consultant to Invicta’s and Mrs Hindmarsh knew him well— “such a kind man”. He used to give an annual children’s party at The Hermitage at Brooklands, to which Captain Macklin’s children used to go. When her Sealyham dog, Twopence went missing, Thomas gave her an Alsatian puppy, which she named Monza.

In 1930 Miss (‘,ordery rounded-out her devoted, skilled performances for Invicta’s with a further series of spectacular runs. She drove a 4,-litre from London to Monte Carlo and back in third gear 125.6 m.p.h. / 10.95 mpg), from London to John O’Groats and return, locked in second gear (19.8 m.p.h. / 9.57 m.p.g.), from London to Edinburgh and back using only bottom gear (!) (12.5 m.p.h. (6.12 m.p.g.) and then drove 50 times round the RAC’s London Traffic Route without changing out of top gear (11.9 m.p.h. / 8.65 m.p.g.). She was dissuaded from completing the repertoire by covering 25 miles round Brooklands in reverse gear as being too hard on the car, apart from which it would probably have overheated, nor, one supposes, would the BARC authorities have been very tolerant! The Invicta, which was the car used for the 30,000-mile Run, stood up well to these tests, eventually going on to win the Monte Carlo rally, being driven by Donald Healey on that occasion. Again, BP fuel, Castrol oil, and India tyres, were used.

After marrying John Hindmarsh, who was seconded from the Tank Regiment to the RAF (he was killed near Brooklands, flying the prototype Hawker Hurricane, in 19371, the former Miss Cordery went to most of the races he drove in, particularly those in which he drove Talbots for Arthur Fox, as recounted in Anthony Blight’s famous book, and those in which he drove for Lagonda, winning at Le Mans in 1935, partnered by Lou Pontes. (Two big Gordon Crosby paintings hang in her younger daughter’s cottage to commemorate this.) Although John Hindmarsh naturally did much road motoring in borrowed Talbots and Lagondas before the war, the family remained faithful to Invictas.

Mrs. Hindmarsh attends Brooklands Society Re-Unions and Dinners and still drives her G-registered Morris Minor 1000, after a full life associated with the faster motor cars. — W.B.

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