Out of the past, October 1983

Back in 1978, at my suggestion, Roger Collings took me on his well-known 1903 Sixty Mercedes for a long run, to personally commemorate the 75th anniversary of Jenatzy having won the Gordon Bennett race in Ireland on a similar motor-car. A short time ago one of our readers, Mr Peter Kelly of Mill Hill, London, sent my account of this memorable day’s motoring, on a quite remarkable veteran, to a family friend, a Mrs Mary Pockock, knowing that she had been associated with interesting cars most of her life. He has kindly shown her reply to us and it transpires that this lady has owned some interesting cars.

The first was a circa 1902 18/28 hp Mercedes, owned by William Birtwhistle, a wealthy cotton merchant who lived at Billinge Scar, near Blackburn, in Lancashire. He had lent this car to her parents in 1906, with his chauffeur, as a sort of present on the attainment of their Silver Wedding anniversary, so that they could undertake a tour of Scotland. The car had been registered B9. It is similar to the car run in VCC events after WW2 by Mr Abbott and now owned by Jack Sears it may even be the identical car. The front springs were unusual in being three-quarter elliptics, and there was little in the way of bodywork, which was a rear-entrance tonneau, as the photograph shows. When Mr Birtwhistle, whose son Arthur was racing cars at this time, discovered that Mary Pockock could drive this Mercedes at the age of 15 he gave it to her, but as Arthur wished to keep the number, it was re-registered M-1755. Incidentally, the photograph shows Mary at this age, standing up in the back, with her mother and a 19-year-old brother in front. It is interesting that Collings’ Mercedes was also owned at one time by a member of the Birtwhistle family.

No doubt the young girl had much fun with this car, in spite of her age (presumably she had no driving licence), the overall 20 mph speed-limit, and the fact that this chain-drive Mercedes was devoid of lamps and weather protection — if it rained they opened a golf umbrella. . . She remembers that the whine of the driving chains along the quiet country lanes could be heard as they turned a corner, by those at their house, which was exactly a mile away( After this Mary’s father gave her a Model-T Ford (N-5887), thought to have been the first one to be assembled in this country, at Trafford Park Manchester, after arriving as a box of parts from the USA. It cost £150 and the young lady drove it very successfully all over England and Wales, after her father had had an English body in pale grey put on it, as he did not care for the all-black American original. There was still a great deal of brass to polish regularly, such as the gas and oil lamps and the rods supporting the windscreen. Around 1908-09 the Ford toured Devonshire but when war broke out and petrol was difficult to obtain, it was sold for £80. Mary’s mother then bought her an Overland, which had electric lighting and a self-starter. The Mercedes is thought to possibly have gone to Francis & Co, of Deangate, Manchester, in part exchange for the Ford.

In the photograph of the Ford the ivy on the walls of the house behind it is interesting. The house belonged to Mary Pockock’s grandmother and the ivy was grown from a root brought back by an uncle, Major Nicholson, who at the Battle of Waterloo ignored the order to retreat, saying he and his men would hold the line at the famous chateau, from which he had removed the ivy-root. This ivy has been grown since on every home Mrs Pockock has lived in and on others besides. . . .

When she married her husband (who was in Calcutta in charge of Northern Assurance for the whole of India, Burma and Ceylon at the age of 22 — he was driving a Peugeot when war broke out in 1914) he gave her a little Calthorpe coupe as a wedding present. They took this out to India in 1921, when the old Overland was sold. The Calthorpe was an expensive little car, in this Spring of 1920. It had cord upholstery, amber fittings, and pull-up windows, and was sold in India in 1922. Mary’s brother Albert had caught the motor-bug, presumably from his rides on the Mercedes, and in May, 1920 he bought a Standard two-seater. This was delivered to him from London to the family house at Plumley in Cheshire by Norma Pockock, which is how his sister met her husband!

The Calthorpe was replaced by a large Buick and they also had a 1923 Heeley. Mrs Pockock remembers that the person who tried to sell them this black Heeley was an Englishman who was a close friend of her late husband, and the showrooms were in Camac Street, Calcutta. The car resembled in shape and performance a 1923 Rolls-Royce; they drove it for a month but did not buy it, because they already had the Buick and Calthorpe. It was possibly a “one off”.

After that Mr and Mrs Pockock owned most makes, having a car each, with others owned by their son. Wolselys, Austins, Morris, MG, Standard, Hllman Hudson, Jaguar and Vauxhall are remembered, and in 1981 their son bought his first Rolls-Royce, with his wife driving an Audi. Certainly a motoring family, with Mary Pockock owning 72 driving licences. At their presant house they have six drivers with six cars, all of different makes, including a Range Rover to tow a caravan when the Rolls-Royce is not in use.  WB

A7 Chatter 

Not the characteristic noise made by an Austin 7’s starting handle but some random observations about one of the most popular cars in the pre-war motoring firmament; in the vintage world there is sometimes a feeling that these little cars are now almost too prolific and that at least in VSCC Light Car events more variety would be welcome. Be that as it may, no-one who has motored seriously in one of Sir Herbert’s Sevens seldom gets over a craving for one and an  interesting aspect of the Seven game is the number of competition replicas we have seen in recent years. Whatever one’s opinion of replicas of original cars, when only the bodywork is involved there is little to complain about, more particularly when a great many original complete examples survive anyway, as is certainly the case with the A7.

Apart from replica Ulster Austins (of which several decently original examples survive, and about which CS Gould has written a £6 book on how to build them) there are the amusing attempts to build replicas of one-off original A7s. One can think of an imitation of the “works” side-valve single-seaters, as well as that replica Kay Petre sv single-seater constructed by the late Peter Moores, using a fairly genuine blown engine, I believe. Then I seem to recall seeing what was intended to represent the defunct “Dutch-Clog” racing A7 and certainly we have in VSCC environs a copy of the car used for long-distance record-breaking by Parker and his co-drivers back in 1928. Then there is that excellent reproduction of an original 1923 racing Austin seven made by Tony Hutchings. Barry Clarke has produced a replica of a certain kind of sports A7, and there is a Cambridge single-seater to be seen in action, although I think that one may be pretty genuine. No doubt I have forgotten some specific imitations and no doubt the owners of these A7s will remind me of them. I have an idea that one Chummy is intended to be based on “The Earthquake”, the competition version of tourer A7 owned by FS and JD Barnes and then by Charles Metchim, who had the idea of trying to make it the first 750 cc car to finish at Le Mans, failing only after it had broken its steering drag-link in the 1933 race, and that after 16 hours. The whole story of this A7, which started life as the Barnes brothers’ red single-seater, before they ran it, rebodied, in a Double-12 race, was told very entertainingly by Metchim in Motor Sport in November and December 1956 including how it fared, in Ulster guise, at Le Mans in 1934.

This would be quite a car to “replicate”. It would mean hacking about a Chummy body (but an already tatty one would be no great loss) for the scuttle was opened out to take a nine gallon petrol tank, with its filler protruding through the scuttle, and the doors cut away, the standard petrol tank and battery being placed behind the seats. The thought of having a fuel range of some 500 miles is rather nice . . . Only the bottom pane of the windscreen was used, arranged to fold flat, and the body was painted bright yellow. There had to be a hood for Le Mans; it lay on the tank when down and was secured by straps by the screen when erect. Nothing very difficult there, and Chummy bodies seem fairly available today although, curiously, in 1938, when I wanted one, they had all but disappeared from the breakers’ yards. The snag for anyone seeing “The Earthquake” as an amusing and inexpensive special is that an Ulster engine was used, but not the Ulster front axle. But I think it would be permissible to use a normal tuned engine, in a replica. There were, earlier, the fast Chummies, “Mr and Mrs Flea”, raced by George Chaplin (Motor Sport, June 1946), but some of the Chummies one sees in VSCC events can be said more or less to emulate these.

Having been trying to resuscitate a tired A7, I have had some odd experiences with the specialist vendors of A7 bits and bobs. One, in the Midlands, was asked for an exhaust manifold. “Must know the exact year and model”, I was told. “1931, short wheelbase, box-saloon”, I replied. “Excellent”, said the vendor, going to a bin and producing a manifold, labelled £4, which I paid willingly. Only when fitting it did we realise-the flanges were for a pipe at right angles to the cylinder block, useless for a saloon, although, it occurs to me, just the, job for anyone embarking on a replica of “The Earthquake” aforesaid, as this had an outside pipe (Ulster manifold, in fact). As the manifold I had been sold shows no sign of a weld I can only think it came from either an A7 marine engine or a Reliant three-wheeler . . . Next encounter was in the West Country, where, the boss being away, the lads had little idea of where iridividual spares were kept, in spite of us quoting part numbers from their catalogue, and when-we asked for a petrol pipe it was another customer who showed them how to braze on the ferrules for the nipples! And an exhaust pipe, supplied for a saloon, ends before the driver’s door, “boy-racer” fashion, instead of behind the back axle. Just some of the pitfalls of rebuilding the ubiquitous Seven. -WB

V-E-V Miscellany:

Reverting to the origins of the Torin Maserati which was the subject of discussion in these columns recently, T ASO Mathieson tells us that he has heard from the old Belgian racing driver Georges Bouriana, now 81, who says this Maserati was brought into Belgium by Felice Bonetto and that it was imported into the UK before the war by the brother-in-law of John Mills, a Pole who owned a dining club in Hamilton Place. It now seems well-established that parts of this car were used for rebuilding Maserati No 3001 after the crash which killed Borzacchini at Monza in 1933, this Maserati being then driven by Siena of the Scuderia Siena Como in the 1934 Monaco GP, according to TASO. Incidentally, Bouriano was a driver of no mean ability, described by Louis Chiron, who was not one to dish out praise, as very fast and sure. Perhaps Chiron was recalling how Bouriano had given him quite a run for his money at San Sebastian in 1928 and again in 1929, both driving Bugattis in the sports-car races, these being thinly-disguised Grand Prix cars. Bouriano was second in the 1929 Monaco GP in a Bugatti, ahead of Caracciola’s big Mercedes-Benz, beaten only by “Williams” in another Bugatti.

We hear that a Wolseley Ten with replica 200 Mile Race two-seater body is nearly completed; when this early 1920s racing car appears at VSCC events it will form a companion to John End’s well-known 1921 Wolseley Moth single-seater, which has the special engine and back-axle from one of the late Sir Alastair Miller’s Moths, and a very convincing replica body. A British-owned Paris-Vienna type Renault is being restored in France, the interesting point being that it has a Rothschild et Fils body with the original aluminium space-frame structure, which appears to have been a feature of work by this famous coachbuilding house. The July issue of the VMCC Journal contained a most interesting account of how a fine trophy, in the form of a huge shield depicting flat-tank motorcycles, last competed for in 1930 and 1931, was, by some involved detective work on the part of a member, returned to the Club it belongs to; namely the Scunthorpe MCC, and how it will in future be competed for in a series of events between the Scunthorpe MCC and the East Riding, Wakefield and West Riding and Mid-Lancs Sections of the Vintage MCC. Incidentally, the Trophy was originally given to the winner of a one-day 90-mile cross-country contest and to make it legal again the Club secretary was traced, through the book of minutes signed by him, 52 years after they were written (the Secretary having moved from Lincolnshire to London!). In the same Journal another member has contributed excellent workshop advice, under the name “Radco” as his first mount was of that make, which reminds us that the Morgan 3-Wheeler Club’s Journal now contains similar articles, with particular reference to side-valve engines.

Among the many Rolls-Royce-orientated celebrations held so far this year, such as recognition of the Golden Jubilee of the 31/2-litre Bentley last June, there was one that should not be overlooked. This was the unveiling of a plaque at the original R-R workshop in Derby by Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the official opening of the Derby factory by his father on July 9th 1908. The plaque is in the No 1 shop in Nightingale Road, now known as Product Centre 01, where Henry Royce had his office before ill-health caused him to live on the south coast. Lord Montagu arrived in the original Silver Ghost (AX 201), which figured prominently in the 1908 ceremony and now claims a mileage of 550,000. It was a private occasion, witnessed by, among others, Tommy Broome, now in his 90s, who transferred from Manchester to Derby in 1907, rising to a senior position, and Harry Cumley, who served his time working on the 40/50 hp cars, and on the RB211 at the time of his retirement. He only left R-R for a short time in all those years, and then to become a member of the R100 airship, looking after its R-R Condor engines. To mark the occasion Frank Shaw of the Sir Henry Royce Memorial Foundation presented Lord Montagu with a Royal Crown Derby cup, following his Lordship’s lecture on “The Early Days of Rolls-Royce and the Montagu Family” which he had read to the R-R Heritage Trust.

We hear that the Vintage Sports Car Club intends to hold a race for ERAs only at its July 1984 Silverstone Meeting and expects to get a field of about 16 cars. Perhaps it is time to remember that this Club’s next-year’s Golden Jubilee Rally will take place from July 3rd to 8th, based on Malvern in Worcestershire, that it will enbrace concours d’elegance, driving-tests, a vintage light-car rally, driving-tests at Silverstone, a navigation run, “auto frivolities at Oulton Park, regularity ascents of Shelsley Walsh hill, for which speed-licences are not required, socials and a Golden Jubilee Ball at Malvern’s Winter Gardens. Everyone who is anyone in the vintage motoring world to the tune of 800, is likely to be present, accompanied by a great many pre-1940 cars.

The Bean CC’s Harvest Tour is due on October 2nd. The VSCC of Australia flourishes, in spite of Bob Chamberlain having removed his mighty “Samson” to England. For instance, cars at a recent meeting included a 1923 20/70 Crossley, a Tipo 20 Diatto, and a couple of Ansaldos, one with a close-ratio, the other with a wide-ratio, gearbox. The Austin Ten DC’s magazine for last August contained two useful diagrams for those rewiring 1934 Austin 10/4s. The Vintage Motor Cycle Club, which can claim more than 5,000 members, announces a long list of prize winners in its annual Banbury Run, from which we note that the Feridax Trophy was won by C French’s 1920 Harley Davidson, J Browne’s 1921 Matchless sidecar outfit winning the opposite class, and that the respective winners of Classes A, B, and C were Jenner’s 1912 Triumph, Lancaster’s 1923 PV, and Mutton’s 1926 Royal Enfield.

We hear that there will be many historic cars at the Motorfair at Earls Court, from October 20th-30th, including all the NMM LSR cars from the 1920 V12 Sunbeam to Donald Campbell’s 1961 “Blue Bird”, many sports-racing cars, a 1938 Auto-Union, and a 1906 Fiat which, says the Opus handout, took part in the first GP of 1906; so which car is this? A James Young Rolls-Royce and a Mulliner Bentley will be among the coachbuilding-heritage exhibits and four decades of classic cars will be shown.