On a wet Saturday in July the Bentley Drivers' Club held its Silverstone Meeting and, although now rather ancient history, it is interesting to reflect on the results, for not only is this club the biggest one-make vintage-minded organisation, but it generously opened its programme to certain vintage cars other than Bentleys.
In the kilometre s.s. sprints Lycett's famous 8-litre Bentley showed them all the meaning of acceleration, recording 29.8 sec. and 30.2 sec. for the two runs. Forrest sportingly said this was only a demonstration, so A. C. Pitts' blower "4-1/2" Bentley won, with times of 31.8 and 33.2 sec., respectively. The best Mercédès-Benz was Powell's "38/250" (35.6 and 38.8 sec.), the best "30/98" Vauxhall Alan May's (34.8 and 35.6 sec.), and as Crozier's 8-litre had done 31.0 and 33.4 sec., and Hogg's 10 ft. 10 in.-wheelbase 4-1/2-litre 34.0 and 36.8 sec., Bentleys had the laugh here. May's "30/98" got, its own back in the races, making the best average speed, 65.58 m.p.h.., in beating Hogg's Bentley to the chequered flag by 11.6 sec. in the "30/98'' v. 4-1/2-litre scratch race. Crozier's 8-litre Bentley was 0.31 m.p.h.. slower in winning the Bentley v. Mercédès scratch race.
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A hanger-abouter asked the owner of one of the more staid vintage cars the time-worn question: "What'll she do, mister?" The reply: "Sir, there are so many qualities about a motor car of infinitely greater importance than speed that. I did not purchase this vehicle with object of going fast." That is a sent intent which, if not acceptable generally to Motor Sport readers, is certainly one which can be appreciated by vintage-car enthusiasts.
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It seems opportune to enlarge on the vexed matter of old-car insurance. Some time ago we observed that no one, providing his driving record isn't irrevocably besmirched, need shun ownership of a vintage car because of the difficulty of obtaining cover. There are still firms who do not take too bad a view of the older vehicles. There is, however, a general and growing tendency to turn away business on this score. Nor do we refer solely to vintage cars; any car built before 1935 seems to be a "bad risk" in the eyes of many companies. Judging by the condition of a few rusty saloons of the 1931-35 period seen on the road this may he justifiable, but surely each case should be judged solely on its individual merits? For example, the Editor recently sought extension of an existing policy to cover a very well-preserved 1926 car, but the usual barriers were immediately raised - engineer's report required, first £10 of any claim to be borne by proposer, one driver only, and, finally, minimum third party cover offered for an excessively expensive premium. This (touching that wooden steering-wheel rim!) in spite of an 18-years' claim-free driving record almost solely in aged or fast cars. Argument was met with the statement that " We don't like old cars and really don't want your business."
It isn't that old-car users cannot get on the road. But they are being refused comprehensive cover and charged excessive premiums for a safeguard they are (rightly) compelled by law to adopt, besides having the grossly unfair 25s. per h.p. "road fund" tax to face. It occurs to us that, with the present shortage of new cars, more than half the motoring population must be suffering thus, quite a high proportion of insurance business, surely? It is time those companies who treat old-car users (and particularly the skilled drivers of properly restored vintage, Edwardian and veteran cars) sensibly, should receive favourable publicity and that all those motorists who encounter difficulties elsewhere should speedily transfer not only their motor insurance business but all their other private and business insurance and that of those relatives and friends whom they can persuade to do so, to these "sensible" firms. We believe that in this way greater equity will be achieved and the day postponed, we hope, for ever, when only the very rich will be able to insure vintage vehicles.
Reverting to our own case, we took our problem to Muir Beddalll & Co., Ltd., 37, Gracechurch Street, E.C.3, who are the official insurance brokers to the R.A.C. in respect of club competitions, etc. Although they were dubious about issuing comprehensive cover (cost of spares) and charged a fairly high third-party premium, they issued a cover note immediately on condition an engineer's report followed and did not require any part of a claim to be borne by the proposer. We want to hear from you of other instances of "sensible" treatment of old-car coverage and will endeavour to publicise them, so that others in increasing numbers may take all their insurance business to such firms. Sufficient details should be submitted for us to check the bona fides of such information. Incidentally, before leaving this subject for this month, there is another form of policy which, for a sum in the region of £15 per annum, depending on the proposer's driving record, gives third-party cover while driving any vehicle, irrespective of age or h.p. This may seem the best solution to many of you, but at present we have no details as to which firms provide it.
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"White Elephants." - Last month in these columns we quoted the friendly remark of an onlooker who, seeing a rather mixed collection of cars in the race for Vintage and Historic Racing Cars at the V.S.C.C. Silverstone Meeting, said perhaps the club sought to encourage racing of "white elephants." This has got us into trouble! Indeed, Mr. A. L. Pitts rang the Editor on his home number and succeeded in getting Mrs. Boddy out of bed after midnight (the Editor being out, fortunately, on a "lawful occasion"!) to ask what we meant by calling his 4-1/2-litre blower Bentley a "white elephant" - which we didn't! The matter obviously needs clearing up. The term "white elephant" was unfortunate. Our dictionary gives its meaning as: "a gift which gives the recipient more bother than it is worth." We didn't use it in that sense, however. The V.S.C.C. rightly seeks to encourage the active use of pre-1935, or "historic," racing cars. The purists might imagine these to constitute such cars as virtually unmodified B-type E.R.A.s, "K3" M.G. Magnettes, and those older road-racing cars in original trim, like the 1908 G.P. Itala, 1914 T.T. Humber and Sunbeam, Heal's 1922 and 1924 Sunbeams, etc., and feel that, if sports cars are included, they should be those which actually have been driven in sports-car races. In fact, on June 24th, a modified E.R.A., the ex-Parnell M.G. with Lancia i.f.s., and some sports cars which were not seen in contemporary sports-car races, at all events in their present form, were accepted as "historic racing cars." We consider the V.S.C.C. entirely justified in thus providing an exercise for cars which are rapid and interesting but not quite suitable for present-day racing and sports car events - historic-types which can surely be affectionately called, from this viewpoint, "white elephants." In view of the space devoted in past issues of Motor Sport to the old-school Bentleys, surely Mr. Pitts must know that the Editor is the last person to scorn a "blower 4-1/2." We hope this pours sufficient oil on these turbulent waters.
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Over the August holiday, we called on Mr. John Oldham. After brief "demonstrations" in two of his Austin Twenties, one a 1928 "Ranelagh" limousine which has won two prizes in Concours d'Elegance and the other one of the rare 1927 "Mayfair'' saloons, a car Mr. Oldham intends to recondition for personal use, and inspection of his 1926 six-ton Leyland farm lorry, we rode in his 1911 25/30-h.p. Renault limousine. This delightful cas has a Hooper body like that which graces S. E. Sears' beautiful 1912 "40/50" Rolls-Royce.
The Renault is original, and beautifully appointed - we liked particularly its "Period" brass-bound driving-mirror, its speedometer with maximum-indicated needle, and the dial-type odometer which ticks off the miles so very visibly as they glide by. The four-cylinder emgine is particularly refined and propels the car briskly in spite of high-gearing. In the interior of the car, which is upholstered in Bedford cord, not a sound intrudes and only the slight "working" of the body and a subdued Edwardian rumble beneath the floor indicates travel by motor carriage and not first-class on the railway.
The Renault owner did his servants proud, for the front seats are most comfortable. They provide an unrestricted view of the vast front mudguards and dignified, brass-bound bonnet. The 3/4-elliptic rear springing safeguards the occupants of the interior from shock, yet during our short perambulation the Renault left many modern cars behind, round bends as well as along the straight. The up-hill performance, in contrast, was sedate. The quadrant gear-change isn't easy and refuses to be hurried, but the only mild fault we could find with the Renault is that the rear seat is set too low, a shortcoming also evident in the aforementioned Austin Twenties.
We returned to our thirty-three years' younger Austin Seven very appreciative of the "25/30 " Renault of 1911 and fully conscious of how the dignity of both motoring and living have deteriorated since Edwardian times. [N.B. - Mr. Oldham would like to find a 1922-24 "Ranelagh" coupe or later "Open Road" Austin Twenty.]
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K. C. Radburn's ex-works "San Sebastian" Salmson, temporarily with "push-pull" push-rod engine, Simmons' "push-pull," dynamotor-equipped Salmson coupé and Friston's Amilcar-bodied "G.P. Special" Salmson had their long-awaited get-together at the V.S.C.C. Silverstone meeting - a happy vintage trio.
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Barry Eaglesfield is recovering from his illness, but has had to sell his Type 37 Bugatti on doctor's orders, so has sensibly bought a 1929 "9/28" Humber coach-built saloon which, in spite of its vast size, corners at a steady 40 In:ph., and gives a genuine 38 m.p.g.
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There seems to be plenty of interest in vintage cars in Belgium, too! Our Continental correspondent remarks on a renovated back-brake-only "7/12" Peugeot saloon, used by two Englishmen, a Type 40 Bugatti with the rear seats decked over, in regular business use, a very old F.N. cabriolet seen at Spa, a Chenard-Walcker having a new body put on it, and a s.v. Amilcar in mint condition. He also remarks that the hero in the film "The Glass Mountain" drives a beautiful, square 5th Series Lancia Lambda saloon and that France abounds in early Amilcars saloons, including the Straight-Eight.
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Vintage misfortune: The following appeared in the Sunday Express of July 31st: "A 1925 Ford, driven by H. McLaulin, 81, collided with a 1923 Ford driven by H. Bush, 83, in Florida."
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By way of explanation: As Motor Sport gains many new readers each month it may be desirable to explain again that a vintage car is considered to be one built prior to 1931. A veteran car is one built before 1905, and 1914 is usually set as the limit to "Edwardianism," although some organisers extend this to as late as the end of 1917. The Vintage Sports Car Club (Sec.: T. W. Carson, "Mellaha," Pack Lane, Kenipshott, near Basingstoke, Hampshire) caters for vintage and Edwardian cars, the Veteran Car Club (Sec.: Miss Ruxton, Oxford Street, W.1) for veteran and Edwardian cars, and similar bodies exist in America, Australia, and other countries.
On August 15th we journeyed to Dorridge for a pre-view of the Marauder, which is not a bomber aircraft, but a new fast tourer built round Rover "75" components by Wilks, Mackie & Co., Ltd.
The appearance of this aerodynamic three-abreast-seater is pleasing, and the finish notably good. The chassis is shorter than the standard Rover and the engine has a 7.6 to 1 compression-ratio, stronger valve spring action and a Servais silencer; 80 b.h.p. is claimed at 4,200 r.p.m. and the prototype weighs about 23 cwt. - this is not intended to be a competition car as such, and the price is the reasonable one of £950.
A short run showed up excellent roadholding and cornering qualities, the suspension having been somewhat stiffened. A remote-control gear lever is retained, but this is biased towards the driver and thus hardly interferes with entry and exit, an excellent idea, and a nice reply to the growing use of a steering-column appendage. The customer can have overdrive or free-wheel to choice and we know what our choice would be. The overdrive operates in any gear, giving eight forward speeds; 80 m.p.h. at 3,100 r.p.m. is claimed in overdrive top. Normal top is 4.3 to 1, and the other ratios 5.82, 8.24 and 14.5 to 1. The Dunlops are 600-15.
There is good luggage space behind the seat, but access to this is via the cockpit, entailing possible alteration of the seat adjustment and chaffing of the hood. It would seent better to have retained the lift-up lid of the Rover boot, especially as this same boot, sans lid, is employed. They see no reason at Dorridge for fitting a rev.-counter; there are arguments for and against, of worse. The sidescreens are very well designed, offering coupé comfort when erect.
The Company aims to build ten Marauders by the end of this year and to offer early delivery.
20-Year-old car beats Jaguar XK 120's fastest-ever sports-car record
A remarkable performance was put up by Forrest Lycett's 1930 8-litre Bentley at the Jabbeke-Deltre motor road on July 24th. Timed by the Royal Belgian A.C., the Bentley covered the s.s. kilometre at 82 m.p.h., the s.s. mile at 93 m.p.h. and the flying kilometre and mile at 134 m.p.h. The s.s. speeds constitute Belgian national records and beat those attained by a fully-equipped sports car running on pump fuel, established at the same venue in May last year by a "works" XK120 Jaguar. The Bentley's s.s. kilometre and mile figures beat the Jaguar's by nearly 8 m.p.h., and, although under geared, the car's f.s. speed was 9 m.p.h. faster.