Edwardian Class

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‘The great Edwardian, or pre-World War One, racing cars have a class to themselves at VSCC meetings, and they certainly have “class.” Their cultivation, long after the races for which most of them were built had been forgotten, arose largely from articles in MOTOR SPORT in the 1930s. Soon after the VSCC was founded in 1934 it was decided to run these giants from a past age again.

Just before another war broke out in 1939 they represented some of the most exciting and fascinating motor cars imaginable, for at that time few people had seen, or been in close proximity to, monsters with engines of twenty-and-more litres; the 8-litre Bentley was regarded then as the maximum literage! The old warriors had been banned as undesirable at Brooklands since 1930, so when they were awakened once more by the VSCC it was a treat indeed. . .

In those pre-war days Cecil Clutton introduced himself and the onlookers to the delights of the 12-litre 1908 GP Itala, and he was quickly joined by Dick Nash with the 1912 15-litre GP Lorraine-Dietrich (valued then at £5) and later Anthony Heal with the 1910 10-litre ohc Fiat. At Prescott in 1938 the ex-Brooklands Fiat, carrying a passenger, made best time in its class at 55.91 sec.

Wike was later to unleash the fantastic aero-engined 21-litre Fiat “Mephistopheles”, and Morris the 22-litre 200hp Benz; other Edwardians not much smaller also appeared. They were raced as well as sprinted, and thus the catagory for veterans of class was born.

Prescott hill has been one of the best stamping-grounds for such cars, and this year’s VSCC Meeting produced a splendid entry of 15. The “Vieux Charles III” Lorraine non-started, so Nash borrowed the 1913 25/35 Brixia-Zust from the Collings stable. Club President Roger Collings ran his universal 1903 Sixty Mercedes, which needs no introduction, Smith the venerable 70hp 1904 Gordon Bennett Star, Harrison the 35/45 71/2-litre Renault, tres Szisz, which Mills and Marcus Chambers ran there before the war.

Walker drove the magnificent 1908 GP Panhard-Levassor which gets away so rapidly from the start, and Clutton is still campaigning the mighty red 1908 GP ltala. Sam told me he thinks the old car is going as well as ever, and does not believe his driving skills have deteriorated, yet he cannot equal his pre-war times. Maybe the timing is now more exacting?

Tony Jones was on the long-bonneted ex-Barker Sixty Napier, an 11.6-litre Six from 1908, redolent of the early Brooklands days; Boyd drove a 1909 3.3-litre ohc Maudslay, Pipkin an interesting Calthorpe with three-quarter-elliptic back springs, racing body, and a 2867cc engine (which DSJ and I once made a pilgrimage to Newark to inspect), and J Harrison was in the Type-CR ex-Abbott 955cc single-cylinder De Dion Boston. Teeder was using his vee-twin 12/26 Riley, Grey his equally-familiar big Lancia Theta, Hickling the now-famous Dodge Four.

The class was completed by a very attractive 1912 three-speed Alfonso Hispano Suiza T15 driven by one of Walker’s sons — an immaculate car in stripped-chassis form (again so like the early Brooklands cars) acquired recently from the Waterman Collection in America. Valentine Lindsay was driving the 1914 GP Opel he raced at VSCC Silverstone. This is the ex-Corner car which Segrave once raced at Brooklands as a single-seater, and which was owned afterwards by A C Westwood and extensively rebuilt by Brian Morgan.

Prescott is so well-suited to these cars, or they to it, that it is of interest to compare all the 1987 times ( the better of two ascents, although Lindsay and Pipkin did only one each). The class record was set up seven years back by Arnold-Forster in his 5-litre ohc chain-drive Bugatti, at 52.04 sec. WB

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