V-E-V Odds & Ends., October 1982

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V-E-V Odds & Ends. — The Leicester Mercury carried an interesting story last August about an ambitious race track that was intended to be built in the 1930s at Gopsall Estate, near Twycross, the ancestral-home of Earl Howe’s family. The plans covered not only an eight-mile circuit with a one-and-a-half mile long straight but an aerodrome, and many sporting facilities, while Gopsall Hall, which was demolished in 1952, was to have been turned into a residential Club. The patrons included Earl Howe himself, the Countess of Harrington, Lady Iris Cappell, and W. Lindsay Everard, while Sir Malcolm Campbell was on the advisory committee. Membership fees were to bc the same as those for joining the Brooklands Automobile Racing Club, with the two ladies’ badges, and it seems that the man behind the still-born project was William Haines Hutchinson, who had constructed the railways connecting the coalfields of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. This story appeared some time before the story broke of Tom Wheatcroft having bought Mallory Park circuit, although it was said that no more motor-racing will happen there. A 1927 Huniber 14/40 saloon that has not been on the road since about 1962 is being resurrected by a member of the Hurnber Register. We had hoped to refer in more detail to the Diamond Jubilee Rally at Longbridge, Birmingham, that commemorated 60 years of the Austin 7, but our representative was late in arriving for the August Bank Holiday Monday’s activities because his 1938 Ruby blew a head stud out of its block, which resulted in a blown head-gasket on Clee Hill, en route from Wales. However, it seems that 850 to 900 Sevens of every conceivable type attended, the programme of the event, which was supported by the Trustee

Savings Bank, listing 650 of them in order of chassis numbering, from Atkinson’s 1923 Chummy, No. 71 to Pearce’s 1939 Big Seven, with the latest Seven being Thompson’s 1938 Ruby, No. 290,385. This must have involved someone in a great deal of painstaking toil, and Reg. numbers were also quoted, while the programme also reproduced old Al advertisements, etc. and had an illustrations theme of ladies in such publicity material, from Lord Austin’s daughters with one of the first Chummies, to a lady with her 1937 two-seater Seven. Continuing the Seven theme, the cover of the September issue of the Vintage Austin Register’s magazine showed two Austin 7 vans (Reg. Nos. ACD 123 and ADC 124) photographed when new with Morris Comn.ercial vans, all used by Johnson Bros., furniture dealers, of Brighton. Returning to the time up Shelsley Walsh by GPIO, the Midland Motor Museum’s ex-Malcolm Campbell 38 / 250 h.p. MercedesBenz, Michael Barker did his 1980 climb in 47.2 seconds and exactly equalled this at this year’s VSCC / MAC Meeting. This compares with 46.4 sec. clocked by by Ruth Caracciola in 1930, when he set a new sports-car record, with Alfred Neubauer as his passenger, with a “works” 38/250. The Bean CC has its annual Harvest Tour, starting from Castle Street, Farnham, at 10.30 a.m. on October 3rd.

The Summer number of BMW Driver contained a sad little article by a girl whose German boy-friend of before the war was Carl von Drachensberg, who arrived in 1939 at her house driving a “beautiful left-hand-drive BMW”. Shortly afterwards he was recalled to his regiment in Hamburg. War had overtaken them, and the girl’s father, a Colonel in the Black Watch and a member of the House of Lords, did not approve of hcr having this German officer for a boy-friend, whom she had met when at her finishing school for young ladies in Geneva, and who had afterwards corresponded with her. If the story is to be believed and is not a fictions one, the young man was driven to Edinburgh by the girl to whom he had just proposed, took a light aeroplane to Croydon, where he flew to Germany by Lufthansa to take part in the invasion of Poland—he had apparently already been injured flying a Messerschmitt in the Spanish Civil War. The BMW was put in the coach-house alongside the family Daimler, the mother’s AC and the £100 V-model Ford used for shopping in war-time. The girl’s father escaped from Dunkirk and was posted to North Africa, and three German prisoners-of-war were allocated to the family farm, from which all the male farm workers had been called-up. One, have you guessed?, was Carl. The story goes that he asked after his car, was allowed to start it up once or twice, then one night Carl and the car vanished. The girl was questioned for hours at a time by men from MIS and charged with not having itrunobilised the BMW, which was compulsory in those days. What has this got to do with MOTOR SPORT? Simply that the lady is curious to know what became of the young German pilot who had been shot down in 1940, because neither he nor the BMW has been heard of since. So if anyone remembers an old pre-war BMW. . . But its escaping driver would have had difficulty driving very far in war-time Britain on German number-plates, the car had petrol for only about 100 miles, and it would surely have been difficult to sell it to obtain money. No doubt von Drachensberg intended to get back into the German Air Force. But did he? Or is the story just a big, if rather touching, leg-pull? — W.B.

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