WB Rumblings, January 2005
As an example of hard work, in 1921 The Autocar investigated 119 current cars and…
DO YOU RECALL THEM? MEMORIES OF INTERESTING RACING-CARS WHICH HAVE COMPETED AT POST-WAR B.A.R.C. MEETINGS
[The Articles on ” Good old Days at Broohlands ” which we published last January and February, aroused such interest that we now publish some further notes on the subiect.—Edj.
AFRIEND, after looking through my scrap-book relating to Brookland’s racing-cars of the early post-war period, remarked, with some feeling : ‘ Why, there must have been at least one entry of every known make of car ! “
That, of course, is an exaggeration. The fact remains that the Bank Holiday Meetings held since the War by the Brooklands Automobile Racing Club have attracted a variety of unusual cars. At these short-handicap race meetings, at which racing was confined to the outercircuit until the ” Mountain ” races were introduced in 1930, pre-war racing-cars road-racing cars, modified sports-cars, ex-Land Speed Record cars and proper Track machines, have time and again lined-up side by side at the Vickers Sheds for dispatch by Mr. Ebblewhite.
Let us endeavour to recall some of the more unusual of these cars, which, even though you may have been a spectator at the Weybridge Track at that time, are probably almost forgotten. One of the most out of the ordinary of these cars was the late ” Tommy ” Hann ‘s Lanchester ” Hoieh-WayarehGointoo,” so called because it had totally enclosed bodywork of limited driver visibility. Originally a 1911 25 h.p. Lanchester landaulette owned by a member of Miss Fay Compton’s family, Hann turned the car into an enclosed, tandemseated job for the purpose of carryingout carburation experiments at the Track. A most unusual feature of the body was a Astreamlined tail” of coin
pressed air, which the designer claimed to be lighter than a structural fairing. After passing through the radiator, air entered a duct on each side of the seats and was expelled via an opening in the tail, being said to form a drag free area without recourse to the normal tail fairing. Driver and passenger entered through the hinged roof, access to the external gear-lever was by means of a sliding panel, and the pointed Triplex screen had a slot through which ventilation was maintained and which enabled the driver to see should Oil or water vapour mist the glass. As a safety measure there was a valve on the main petrol line, where by the supply could be cut off by the driver in the event of fire. ” Hoieh-Wayareh-Gointoo ” was entered for B.A.R.C. Meetings and succeeded in winning her third race. For the 1922 season she was rebuilt as an open single-seater, with a wedge-shape tail the panels of which converged upon a horizontal line in order to present the smallest possible side area. The enclosed body had disclosed certain disadvantages, due to use of an orthodox chassis, a part from almost deafening its occupants by reason of exhaust reverberations amplified through the open tail. In her Open form the Lanchester wag called ” SoftlyCatch-Monkey “—a Naval term meaning to proceed with caution—and she was painted in sixteen-inch vertical bands, alternately of orange and black, to render her easy to pick out on the for side of the track. The Lanchester held the track extremely well, in spite of ‘a tendency to lift the near side front wheel, and she ran through the first season and part of the second, using touring Lodge plugs. She won two firsts, two seconds, and three thirds, winning the 1924 Gold Plate Race at over 78 m.p.h. Years later the
old car was burnt out, in connection with a motor-racing film.
This Lanchester must not be confused with the Lanchester ” Forty” usually known as the ” Battleship” on account of its long angular lines and grey-finish, with which the late Lionel Rapson conducted long-distance tyre experiments in 1924 and which the late Parry Thomas later made to lap at nearly 110 m.p.h.
Tommy Haim also ran ” Handy Andy,” one of the noisiest Brooklands’ cars ever, which had an exhaust system rising higher than the driver’s head, necessary on account of the horizontal valve arrangement of the 5-litre 1911 Grand Prix Delage engine.
In those days Kensington-Moir, later to become on the the “Bentley-boys,” was busy developing the Straker-SquireSix at his uncle’s works, and this car, painted in zig-zag black and white stripes, finally lapped at 104.9 m.p.h. Another fast car developed from a standard chassis was Felix Scriven’s famous Austin Twenty ” Sargeant Murphy,” which could lap at 94.99 m.p.h. It won the first race for which it was entered in 1921 and passed into a
breaker’s hands in 1929. When the Austin was pensioned off, Scriven raced ” Mother Goose,” a special car with Ruben’ Owen frame and a 1,847 c.c. Sage engine, so called on account of its being Cl stuffed with Sage.” At times it ran as” No No Nanette.” with a ThomasSpecial engine installed, and in this form it won a 1920 90 m.p.h. Short Handicap at just over 90 m.p.h., by a big margin. Soon afterwards it was burnt-out on the Great North Road but was rebuilt and sold to S. Kirton, who disposed of it to the well known builder of specials, Mr. Guy North. of Bristol.
Hybrid cars have naturally found their way to B rook! ands • Crickm ay ‘s R . L. B possessed a 1A-litre Aston-Martin engine in a modified Bogatti frame and came home a mile ahead of the field in the 1929 Easter 75 m.p.h. Short Handicap.
H. N. Thornson’s H.N.T. appeared during 1927. and used a 1,373 c.e. Sage engine and various Bugatti bits. It managed two third places.
One of the last cars to be built by a big manufacturer specially for Brooklands work was probably the 15.9 h.p. Rover raced by the Rover designer, E. Poppe, in 1926 and 1927. It had a a lightened edition of the standard chassis and a well-streamlined body with square lines. After gaining a number cf places it was dismantled. Some years earlier, cars entered by manufacturers for the B.A.R.C. meetings were more common, which is hardly surprising when you reflect that the only big race in those times was the Junior Car Club’s 200 Mile Race ; and that was
confined to 1/-litre cars. The Straker Squire has been mentioned. In the same catagory was the narrow, single-seater Calthorpe built in 1922 as a special job throughout and said. to have cost the Calthorpe Co. over /2,000. Entered by a director, Mr. Hillhouse, it was driven by A. Whale and won its very first race at 88.66 m.p.h., getting up to 97 m.p.h. along the Railway Straight. Later, Whale acquired the car and entered it regularly until 1927, when a broken conrod wrecked the engine. The old 1.261 c.c. unit was replaced by a 11-litre twoport Meadows, the artillery wheels gave place to wire, and the Calthorpe was re-streamlined and re-painted. In practice it lapped at 103 m.p.h., but at the opening meeting of the 1927 season did no better than 94 m.p.h. Every possible cure
was tried, without avail. Eventually the trouble was traced to a soft cam. The engine was never replaced in the car, but for years the chassis stood in a loft over Whale’s showrooms at Camden Town.
The WolseleyCompany built a team of cars for the 200 Mile Race about the time of the Calthorpe, these cars, known as Wolseley “Moths,” having circularsection bodies and 1,261 c.c. engines. As late as 1930 Capt. A. G. Miller won the Founder’s Gold Cup Race with one of these cars and it was subsequently taxed for road use. The late J. G. Parry Thomas—greatest exponent of the Brooklands outer-circuitwas with the Leyland Company when he first raced the unstreamlined and almost untuned Leyland Eight, although he afterwards left them to live at Brooklands for the purpose of developing the Leyland-Thomas cars, which proved unbeatable in their day. One of them held the lap record at 129.36 m.p.h. Incidentally, apart from these cars and the later, straight-eight, ” flat-iron ” ThomasSpecials, Thomas built the four-cylinder Thomas-Special, the Marlborough-Thomas and was responsible for the first racing Riley Nine, from which the production “
Brooklands” Riley Nine was developed. The last-named car won its first race, a short handicap, very easily at 91 m.p.h., handled by Reid Railton.
In 1921 Clement was driving a 3-litre Bentley at Brooklands for ” W.0.” some time before a team of the ” fiat-radiator ” 3-litre cars ran in a classic race. For the main part, however, Lindsay Lloyd, at that time Clerk of the Course, looked to wealthy private owners for entries. T. B. Andre ‘s 11-litre side-valve Marlborough-Anzani, ” Submarine ” and Capt. Douglas’s single-sleeve valve, Bertilli, ” Larubia 1 ” were amongst the big assortment of queer racing cars looked after by Hann Partners, Ltd., at their big premises over on the Aerodrome. Capt.. D. B. K. Shipwright, who returned to Brooklands for a while four years ago, ran a 30 h.p. Armstrong-Siddeley. A. D. Sanderson drove a ” Silver Ghost ” Rolls-Royce, Percy Kidner a Vauxhall, Capt. Birkin a D.F.P. W. D. Hawkes a Horstman, Malcolm Campbell -a Talbot, Eldridge his IsottaFraschini. More serious was the rivalry between Lionel Martin (Aston-Martin), Capt. ” Archie ” Nash (G.N.), G. Bedford (Hillman), B. S. Marshall (Hampton) and Major Oates (Lagonda), who were associated with the makes they raced. The G.N. was the famous ” Kim I,” which had an air-cooled 90° V-twin, bronze-head engine that had been designed for the 1914 Cyclecar Grand Prix. The frame was very flimsy, with 650-x 60 tyres and a bottom gear ratio as high as 7 to 1, but ” Kim ” could knock up over 90 m.p.h. On his second appearance at Brooklands, in a duel with Bedford’s Hillman, he skidded backwards into the fence bordering the Railway Straight and was wrecked. The engine was later installed in ” Kim II ” but after one successful appearance Capt. Nash decided that the wheelbase was too short for Brooklands and reserved this particular G.N. for hill climbs. Raymond Mays also raced a Hillman at this period, and it was developed into
something quite non-standard. Oates’s Lagonda was also a special car, which was either broken up or dismantled after its racing career, but the Hampton was mainly standard and when it left Brooklands it passed into private service at Newport. The late Sir Henry Segrave was in these far-off times serving his racing apprenticeship with the 1914 41-litre Opel now preserved by Ma vrogorclato. Capt. L. G. Hornsted, already an old hand, entered Benz and Dodge cars, Capt. ” Bebe ” Barnato a Dorsey-Calthorpe, H. W. Cook a G.P. Vauxhall and Miss Addis-Price a Douglas cyclecar. This was the era of aero,engined monsters. Count Louis Zborowski used to drive ” Chitty-Bang-Bang I” the 28litre Maybach zeppelin motor of which
was started with a crow-bar. This exciting car lapped at nearly 1131 m.p.h. and crashed sensationally in 1922. It was-broken up a few years ago, when John Morris wanted another gearbox for this 1914 Benz. ” Chitty II,” with a 191-litre Maybach-Benz motor, ran only once at Weybridge, and then toured the Sahara, and it has been driven about the roads of this country by various adventurous folk until -very recently. Zborowski’s next monster was the chain-driven Higham-Special, with 27-litre twelvecylinder Liberty aero motor and Benz gearbox. Hugh McConnell should have seen the 190g :Mercedes stub-axles I The engine overheated and the frame whipped, but Zborowski got it round at over 116 m.p.h. After Zborowski’s fatal accident Parry Thomas acquired the Higham and rebuilt it. After lapping Brooklands at nearly 126 m.p.h. and being placed several times” Babs “—as the car was now called—set up Class A shortdistance records at Brooklands, and broke the World’s Land Speed record at 169 m.p.h. and, later, at 171 m.p.h., at
Pendine. It was in making a further attempt that Thomas met his sad end and, as most of von will recall, ” Babs ” was buried beneath a sand-dune on the beach.
The V12 Sunbeam with which the late K. L. Guinness was awarded a special cup after the 1921 Autumn Meeting, for covering a timed half-mile at 135 m.p.h., used to lap at around 122 m.p.h. and in 1920 nearly killed Harry Hawker, when it burst a tyre and crashed right through the retaining fence. Afterwards it became Malcolm. Campbell’s ” Bluebird” and several times smashed the absolute car speed record, ultimately at speeds higher than 150 m.p.h. About a year ago Billy Cotton bought it for a joke.
The Wolseley ” Viper “had a Wolseleybuilt war-time V8 Hispano-Suiza aero motor of 111-litres in a shaft-driven Napier frame and could lap at 112.68 m.p.h., while the stark Isotta-Maybach, driven by Gedge and k Champion, consisted of Eldridge’s Isotta-Fraschini chassis, lengthened, and fitted with a 20-litre Maybach aero motor. It won the Founder’s Gold Cup Race in 1924 at 1924 at 1041 m.p.h., but was not very reliable. Ernest Eldridge had that immense Fiat, comprising the Fiat which John Duff raced in 1920, until it blew its rear cylinders clean through its bonnet, with the chassis lengthened and modified and given a 211-litre, six-cylinder Fiat aviation motor. In this form it lapped at 123.4 m.p.h., but was safer as a Land Speed Record car. This Fiat, the 15-litre, LorraineDietrich which MalcOlin Campbell, Ellison and Hawkes used to drive, and the 10-litre Fiat of Warde’s, which was Cobb’s first racing car, are, to-day, owned by members of the Vintage S.C.C. The Lorraine still holds a few British Records, An amusing instance of a maker insisting that his products identity must remain a secret with the Brooklands crowds happened in 1930, when, for this reason, Capt. A. G. Miller called his old 40!50 h.p. Napier an ” Auto-SpeedSpecial” It only made this one appearance and then went to Ireland. Capt. Miller might be called the Brooklands specialist, par excellence. He drove Wolseley, Wolseley-Viper, Sunbeam, Buick, Voisin, Bianchi, Delage, Nazzaro, Donnett, Zedel, 1914 Benz, Lombard and Alvis cars. The Voisin was a sleevevalve four-cylinder job which Miller brought to Brooklands in 1927, only to send it back to France in disgrace because it so seldom fired regularly. The Bianchi gained two victories at club meetings in 1924, at around 87 m.p.h. and then returned to Italy, making one reappearance at Brookkinds, in other hands, as late as 1930. The Delage was the imposing
6-litre car which visited these shores in 1928 and proved capable of a lap speed of nearly 124 m.p.h. It went over to Ireland in 1931 and was, I believe, burned out in the Phcenix Park Race five years ago. Its sister car was the 5-litre Delage II, which “J. Taylor” raced, and with it lapped at 121.47 m.p.h.
Capt. Miller’s Buick was by no means the old American car to appear at the Track. Zborowski brought over the 2-litre, straight-eight Miller, which possessed eight carburetters, in 1923 but it never ran properly and only did about 102 m.p.h. Zborowski ran it in the 1924 French Grand. Prix, with S. C. H. Davis as passenger, and then it went to Australia, where it is still raced. Malcolm Campbell gained two successes with a Jarvis,
bodied Chrysler, and in 1925 A. E. Moss won a short handicap with a Prouty Ford Speed Sport, the car being on fire as it crossed the line. I have endeavoured to deal with the more interesting Brooklands cars, and, were the space available, I could describe many more. I recall with a tinge of sadness such old-timers as J. W. Brook’s H.E. which, with a standard body and engine installed, left the concrete for ordinary service, Rampon’s big MartinArab and his Berliet-Mercedes ” Whistling Rufus,” so-called on account of the noise the air-stream made flowing round the radiator, Ashby’s ‘103 m.p.h.. side-valve Riley, Gillow’s sister car, which lost a wheel at speed, Benson’s S. & C. cyclecar, rudely dubbed ” Spit and Catchit ” by rival competitors, the big white Ballot and Murices smaller car of the
same” marque,” the two A.ustro-Daimlers, one of which once dead-heated with an Alvis, Halford’s Halford-Special, and the assorted Sunbeam, Bentley and Vauxhall track cars.
How many people, as they watch E.R.A., Alta, Riley and Austin fighting it out round the Campbell road-circuit, can cast their minds back to Brooklands when it knew only the Outer-circuit, and when the cars described above, amongst many others, raced in 75, 90, 100 m.p.h. and -” Lightning ” short handicaps. often at speeds any family saloons would scorn to-day ?
They may not have been ” good old days” for everyone, but the early nineteen twenties were an interesting period in Brooklands long history—in respect both of machines and of men.
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