THE OLD IMERS’ RACE AT BROOKLANDS
THE enthusiasm for real veteran cars in this country is obviously growing, and it was a singularly happy idea to organise a race for them at Brooklands during the August Bank Holiday Meeting, and the ” Daily Sketch” and ” Sunday Graphic ” are certainly to be congratulated on bringing the idea to fruition. The 39 entries which were received were gratifying proof of the success of the affair and surprised the organisers sufficiently to make them change their original plans and run the race in two heats. What was even more pleasing was the fact that most of the entrants did not treat their machines as ridiculous jokes, but had got them as far as possible into their original condition, and were obviously as proud of them as were their original owners when they first took delivery of them from the works.
As soon as I got to Brooklands on Monday I went off to the special paddock which had been set apart for the veterans to see the machines which were going to provide what, to me, was by far the most interesting part of the day’s entertainment. The first car there which arrested my attention was what appeared to be nothing else than a Panhard racing car of the Paris-Berlin or Paris-Vienna days of 1901 or 1902, but which was in fact It. 0. Shuttleworth’s De Dietrich, which was to start from scratch in Group I. Actually this was never a racing car, although it was of the same type as that on which Charles Jarrott finished third in the Paris-Madrid race of 1903. It was bought I believe at the show of 1903, and its present owner has fitted it with a body of exactly the type used by Rene de Knyff and the Farman brothers as they roared down the long white roads of France in the great races of the young years of the century. If however, the De Dietrich was not really a racing car (until 1930) one of its owner’s entries certainly was. This was the 1897 Panhard-et-Leva.ssor which was chiefly noticeable for its wonderful coupe
de vine body of stupendous height, in which H. M. Rang Edward ventured to journey to Ascot. Before the car was fitted with this body and thus acquired this distinction, it was already famous as the car which Rene de Knyff drove in the Paris-Bordeaux and Paris-Amsterdam races of 1898. This car is of the famous 8 h.p. type with 4 cylinders of 8Q, x 120 mm. bore and stroke, while at this time two, instead of four, cylinders of the same size were used for the firm’s touring cars, an example of the type being G. W. Gibben’s ” Papillon bleu,” which was also present.
Not content with these two exciting cars R. 0. Shuttleworth had also entered a single-cylinder 1900 Peugeot, which he purchased recently I understand, for 50s. This car was of the early type with a Daimler type engine which was used before the firm had started to design their own flat twin.
Perhaps the most spick and span machine present, however, was S. C. H. Davis’ 1897 Leon Bollee tricycle, which in its brilliant coat of ” Bugatti blue ‘s paint might have been the latest production of some rather cranky cyclecar designer. “
Sammy” Davis having arrived in the paddock proceeded to tour round and round to warm the Boll& up, what time he carried on a conversation with a friend who stood in the centre of the circle he was describing and who seemed to monopolise his attention so that it seemed that a collision between the Bollee and the various other veterans who were ” turfturfing ” a))out was ultimately inevitable, but was in fact skilfully avoided each time by the driver of the motor tricycle. If the Boll& looked smart, however, Mr. I. Polledri’s Mercedes of 1904 looked quite out of place to have a notice on it saying that it was competing in the “Old Crock’s Race.” Incidentally, I think this title for the event was rather unfortunate as many of the cars were by no means “old crocks” and I think that “oldtimers ” or ” veterans” would have been a
Some Notes and Comments.
[An interesting article appears elsewhere in this issue, on the subject of famous racing cars now in retirement].
better description of these machines which were proving their stoutness of construction by performing after, in many cases, an existence lasting a third of a century. At any rate the Mercedes is sufficiently modern looking not to be particularly noticeable (except by the connoisseur) on the road to-day. It represented a wonderful advance on even the youngest of its rivals, and even more strikingly on the delightful old Benzes— the joint ancestors of its modern descendants—of which there were some half dozen entered. These machines are particularly interesting as representing the stage when the German engine designers had not yet collaborated with the French inventor of the gear-box, and their cars therefore, were still fitted with a wonderful system of movable belts and pulleys, strongly reminiscent of a lathe.
Naturally also there was a good sprinkling of De Dions, whose 6 h.p. engines must be I imagine, one of the most successful types of “singles” ever produced —the number still in daily use in boats and for stationary work is really surprising. There was also present one example of that other French paragon of longevity —the Renault, belonging to Mr. G. Willesby, with its curiously modern looking body.
Apart from the continental cars, the home industry was well represented. Pride of place among the English cars must go I think to Lord Ridley’s Lanchester, which gives one the impression of being in as good condition as it was in the beginning of the century when it first saw the light. This car represents distinctly the .English tendency of the time to strike out on lines of its own, in contrast with H. C. Butterfield’s Daimler of about the same date, which is distinctly reminiscent of a contemporary Pauhard. Thinking of famous English ” marques of course brings one to the Rolls-Royce entered by Mr. K. Kirton, and one is reminded that this firm once made small cars ; but one’s deeply ingrained notions are not shaken by the car when the little motor is started, for one notices at once its silence, at least in comparison with its contemporaries if not with its descendants. W. H. Cocks’ delightful old Sunbeam stood waiting with its hood up in case a shower might fall, and had succeeded in preserving a most impressive air of every
day use, while its rather continental appearance contrasted Strongly with the definitely English look of the little Wolseleys and Dame Ethel Locke King’s Siddeley.
The oldest English cars of all, among which were E. Davenport’s Progress Voiturette, the ultimate winner, T. M. Freeman’s M.M.C., F. Harvey’s Vipen and the veteran Stephens were definitely of the type which were hardly to be recognized as motor cars, but which, especially the first named, showed themselves capable of going most encouragingly. But perhaps the vehicle which looked least like an automobile was the Oldsmobile, which was, I think, the marque which retained tiller steering almost later than any other, and the example at Brooklands had for all the world the air of an American buggy.
There are, I am afraid, One Or two Cars which I have not mentioned among the veterans which were present. This is not because they were less interesting than the rest, but simply because I missed their interesting points and have now forgotten them, due to the fact that I did tind some of the races for mere modern cars rather distracting at times, to say nothing of the fact that my companion insisted on my risking my neck in a flying machine during part of the afternoon. The veteran’s race itself was of course rather more amusing than exciting. The older cars obviously found the hill at the end Of the finishing straight a pretty tough proposition, although the Progress Voiturette although of Nineteenth Century vintage went up most impressively. The star turn of course from the spectacular point of view was R.. 0. Shuttleworth’s 11 e Dietrich which thundered by in true townto-town race style, though this owner’s Panhard and Peugeot were turned back at the start for being without silencers and had to run in the second group after these accessories had been hastily fitted. Of course the handicapping was all over the place and the faster cars had no chance against the five minute start of the real oldstimers, especially as the Progress Voiturette proceeded to average over 25 m.p.h. At any rate it was an event equally enjoyable for all the other competitors as well as for the winners, who were as follows :—
1. E. Davenport (Progress Voiturette 1899), 25.48 m.p.h.
2. P. Harvey (Vipen 1899).
3. S. C. H.Davis (Leon Bollee 1897E). K.