As if to forecast the autumn, the VSCC held another Driving Test meeting at Madresfield Court near Malvern on the first Sunday in September, by permission of the Trustees of the Estate, which is as they say, steeped in history. Motoring history, too, because at one time the RAC actually permitted speed trials along the seemingly endless straight drive. For many years the present arrangement has been in the able hands of Mrs Adams of the VSCC Midland Section but she is now relinquishing this task and someone else will need to carry on in 1997, maybe on the lines of the first of this Club’s events there 50 years ago, when John Rowley was one of the organisers and among the award winners was the 1908 GP Itala. In those days Lady Beauchamp was one of the Judges.
Certainly this is a popular occasion, with the picnic-like atmosphere you also find at Prescott, and this time a very large number of spectators turned up. The only criticism might be that competitors’ numbers were rather indistinct, so that those buying programmes were not always able to identify the cars. They had five circus-tests to tackle, a forwards/ backwards thing, the popular slow/fast test, a “pit-stop” during which the luckless drivers had to leap out of their vehicles to check the pressure in the o/s front tyre, then the equally popular Slalom or wiggle through a line of pylons as fast as possible, and finally an acceleration test, faintly redolent of the speed-trial days, for the faster cars like Baker’s 10-litre Hall-Scott-engined Schneider (but did it stop in time? — the RAC insists on this) and Julian Ghosh’s 30-98 Vauxhall. While the tests were going on Hamish Moffatt circled overhead in his vintage Gipsy Moth and a modern aeroplane landed in an adjacent field.
Some cars seemed affronted by being put through such frolics and tried to disrupt proceedings by refusing to re-start at the end of a test. Thus a two-strike Trojan Utility ignored its driver’s hard grind with its cockpit starting lever, forcing him to wind it up from the side like a Frazer Nash (I think I have seen this recourse used once before but was it a standard Trojan feature?). Keith Hill’s 1930 Type 49 Bugatti tourer seemed intent on running down its battery after completing one test, his daughter. driving the Crouch Helix, had reverse jam in but was able to continue, one girl in a Chummy A7 was pushed off onto the grass, to return later, and a 30-98 Vauxhall resolutely refused to engage a gear for a while, emitting loud grating sounds, and there were the even more unfortunate non-starters, like my daughter’s magneto-ignition A7 Chummy that stopped at Ledbury when coming from Wales and refused to re-commence for no more drastic reason, it seemed, than choked carburettor jets, which equally stubborn, refused to be blown through, although we had the essential Zenith jet-key.
One 12/50 Alvis two-seater was steaming a little, Mark Garfitt’s Type 319/55 Frazer Nash-BMW seemed just a mite too eager in the first section of the Slow/Fast test, as if anxious to get to “The Verzons”. Muschamp’s 1939 FN-BMW leapt away, into one manoeuvre, and in that slow job Lees’ 1927 Morris Cowley two-seater obeyed well its master’s demands for a crawl. Impressive as well as quick was the 1937 Talbot-Darracq conducted by R M Heelis. Frazer Nashes and A7s were well represented, the latter in Ulster, Chummy, Nippy 65, Burghley and Special versions, Mark Walker was in the unbelievable Bramble, and about the smartest car present must surely have been D K Boyd’s 1939 Light Fifteen FWD Citroen roadster. Amongst the Bentleys was I J Douglas’s equally smart boat-tail 1922/26 3-litre with unpainted bonnet. Mrs Shapland drove her 10/23 Talbot, the Morris-JAP was handled by Miss Peacop and brake smoke showed that the 1920 Calthorpe was being restrained on its rear-wheel brakes, and smoke of a different kind that a Trojan was approaching. Ward’s Wolseley Hornet Special, Kenyon-Smith’s big 1920 Sunbeam tourer, the Bullett’s two GNs, one with i o e engine, the other with the o h-valve conversion, a 12/50 Alvis saloon, Dunn’s 1923 Austin 12/4 tourer of rather sporting appearance, the Deemster and Mrs Parkin’s Swallow-cowled A7 added the spice of variety, and the Collings were using that excellent fast touring car, the 1912 Brixia-Zust. W B