The annual driving tests of the VSCC took place at Madresfield Court in September, by permission of the Estate Trustees. What a peaceful place this is for an event of this kind: the long grass-verged drive with the historic house as a backdrop; no charge for spectating; 68 entries in four classes; and six tests to watch. Even dogs are admitted, if they are on leads, and there were cycle races and interesting cars in the car park, where it is possible to line the ropes and spectate in comfort. It was run efficiently, I may say, by the Midlands Section of the VSCC.
First there was a test involving two forwards and reverses against the stopwatch a bit hard on back axles and transmissions, but no one broke anything. As usual, Croome’s 1904 Wolseley, a veteran cast among the Edwardians, did it very well, and Lupton’s lofty 1912 12/15 hp Mors did not disgrace itself. But very fast was Baxter’s 1928 Frazer Nash.
So to the “as slow as possible, then go” thing, without use of the clutch. R Threlfall’s nice 1930 Aston Martin International did it first. Tarring’s Frazer Nash was even more pedestrian, but Crabtree’s MG Magna was a true crawler, K Price was driving a nice three-litre Bentley with unpainted bonnet and yellow touring body, Horton’s A7 Nippy was suitably pedestrian and Piper’s 1934 Aston Martin International was not hurried, despite its bonnet strap’s implication that it might think only of speed.
Applebee had a very smart 14/28 hp MG Super Sports two-seater but it stopped when it should have been accelerating, and Lee called for instructions before launching his Salmson, which has a high-tailed fabric body. To cause confusion, another Salmson, not listed, then performed and an alloy-wheeled T35B Bugatti went splendidly but wasn’t allowed to score because it was sans mudguards — not that the onlookers minded, especially as it went much faster in the final test…
A very interesting runner was Longmoor’s 1924 707 cc New Carden cyclecar, which went very well and quietly throughout, even if the Trojans, also two-strokers, looked down on it with disdain. The engine was started easily from a lever by the driver; which Trojans also use, of course.
Ronald Barker, in his enormous 7.3-litre VI 6 Cadillac coupe, proved that the best American car of the period (1939) could outclass a Royce for silent running, but his wheel-twirling in the Salome test was exhausting to watch, on a careful run through the marker-cones in this enormous car. In the slow/fast it went off after a slight hesitation while awaiting its master’s command again, not just quietly but in entire silence. The little Deemster of J Brewster was also quiet and sprightly. Had we been back in 1923, its showing could well have secured customers for its makers. Hooke had a difficult act to follow, when his 1926 Model-T Ford tourer appeared after the Cadillac. A Riley Lynx was excellent at cone-dodging in the Salome, but Barker must be judged master of the cones, size considered. Ben Collings in the Brixia Zust and father Roger in the Chitty-like Mercedes-Maybach were star quality; Walker’s 1913 40/50 hp Rolls-Royce oozed dignity; and Hancock had a sporting 1924 5.7-litre open Daimler.
Naturally, Muschamp’s 1939 FN-BMW 328 showed how the best just pre-war sports car coped with such frolics. In the acceleration test we had a taste of what the old Madresfield speed trials must have been like, although I doubt if many drivers now get out of second gear on the restricted course. There was even a pit stop, wherein competitors had to pretend to check the pressure in a tyre… Don’t miss it next year!
First-class awards: D Lee (Salmson), J Stammers (Riley), M Parkin (A7), F Ashley (MG), I Baxter (Frazer Nash), B Collings (Brixia-Zust). Second-class awards: T Tarring (Frazer Nash), T Jones (A7), K Stimson (Riley), G Cormack (Riley), J Ghosh (30/98), R Collings (Mercedes-Maybach). Third-class awards: J Crabtree (MG), T Dixon (Alvis), J Brewster (Deemster), M Cartwright (Riley), P Bullett (A7), J Muschamp (BMW), M Croome (1904 Wolseley). Ladies: Elizabeth Fynn (A7). Concours d’Elegance: 1. M Marshall (Bugatti); 2 J Muschamp (FN-BMW); 3 M Croome (Wolseley).