WHKRI-4, ARE THE VETERANS?
By E. K H. KARSLAKE.
ISUPPOSE that there are some people who think themselves motor sporting enthusiasts, and whose ideal car is something with a close coupled 4-seater coupe body, a high advertised speed and batteries of electric windscreen wipers. But on the other hand there are some of us to whom all this just represents a ghastly caricature of a car. We wonder sometimes if the days are gone when there were real automobiles, and only comfort ourselves with the thought of the 38/250! Even this monster of to-day has not got chain drive, and we think wistfully sometimes of the real giants of yore, those great veterans of a sterner age, with enormous bonnets concealing four massive cylinders, a huge outside exhaust pipe, and behind, an exiguous body with a begoggled and fur-coated ” chauffeur ” clutching the wheel, listening to the beat of the motor and the howl of the chains.
Where are these veterans now ? Where in the first place are the racing cars which, excluded by the inexorable march of progress (sic) from the scenes of their former great battles, should now be rejoicing the heart of some enthusiast. Of course many of them have had long and glorious careers at Brooklands, but now I see that some vandal is declaring that pre-war cars should all be banned from racing there in future. However, there are not many left.
I wonder if there is a single Gordon Bennett racer still on the road to-day. I wonder what has become of the 60 h.p. Mercedes which the great Camille Jenatzy of undying memory drove that day in Ireland when he fought his long battle with Rene de Knyff. . HA many even of the early Grand Prix racers are still going ? There was of course the venerable Lorraine-de Dietrich “Vieux Charles III.” at Brooklands, but he too seems to have disappeared of late. Of the more recent cars there are several which are still going or have been until quite a short time ago. There was one of the Peugeots which fought that epic battle with the Fiats at Dieppe in the 1912 Grand Prix, which was brought to Brooklands by Jules Goux before the war, and which was still running there, if I remember rightly, until a few years ago. There are several Sunbeams, too, and I think that one of those which ran in the 1913 race at Amiens is still going ; while, passing on to later days, I seem to think that until half a dozen years ago Malcolm Campbell was running one of the 3-litre straight-eights built for the 1921 race at Le Mans. I am told incidentally that one of the 3-litre straight-eight Fiats which was built for the same race and which did not start, but won the Italian Grand Prix that year, is about somewhere near London, while someone says that one of the 2-litre 4cylinder Sunbeams which were 15uilt for the 1922 race is going well in Scotland. One of the 1913 Grand Prix Excelsiors is still going over here and caused a mild sensation just the other day by not being allowed to run at the track. This is the
one which was driven at Amiens by Hornsted ; the other one which was driven in the Grand Prix by Christiaens and afterwards went to Indianapolis, was for sale a short time ago in Brussels—I tried to buy it as a matter of fact but did not succeed, so I hope I was not overbid by a car-breaker.
Of the team of Mercedes which scored that overwhelming win in the Grand Prix at Lyon on the very eve of the war, there are or were two in this country. One of them which was driven in the race by Lautenschlager, and which won, was afterwards the property of the late Count Zborowski, and when I last saw it was running as a touring car with a 4-seater body. I saw the other, which I believe was the spare car, at Lyon a few months ago and I believe it is still running finely with a 2-seater body equipped for touring use.
There are probably a number of other really famous veteran racing cars which are still running, but which I do not call to mind at the moment. But what of the old sports cars ? Someone has informed me that he took the trouble recently to count the number of 90 h.p. Mercedes which are still registered and that it amounted to more than ten, but less than twenty. I do not know quite how he managed to make this calculation, but the answer is depressingly small. I can quite believe it however, for how seldom one sees a 90 Mere. nowadays. I wonder, though, whether there are really quite a number of these and similar cars of the grand old days skulking ignored and neglected in the cobweb-bedecked back portions of country garages.
That happy institution, the London-Brighton veterans’ run has proved that there are quite a good number of really old cars still going. But I am fairly sure that there are many more hidden away in obscure parts of the country, some of them no doubt still capable of motion though used at present as hen-houses. At any rate this question of veteran cars is one which is likely to be of considerable interest to many readers of MOTOR SPORT. By veterans I mean cars which can fairly be placed in any of the three following categories :—
1. Racing cars more than, say, five years old.
2. Sports cars more than fifteen years old—i.e., prewar.
3. Other cars more than twenty-five years old.
I know of several cars which fall into one or other of these categories, and which are still going, and these cars I propose to describe for the benefit of those readers of MOTOR SPORT who share my taste for the old and the mighty. But I should be very grateful if readers who own cars of any one of the three classes mentioned would like to let me see them and have a run on them, so that I could describe my experiences afterwards ; soon I hope we will get to know the whereabouts of all the really good veterans, and perhaps even be able to save them from an ignominious end.