A Section Devoted to Old-Car Matters
VSCC Prescott hill-climb (August 9th)
The weather was hot and dry for the annual Vintage SCC speed hill-climb at the BOC venue near Cheltenham last month. This is, under these conditions, a most enjoyable event, with the added interest that cars which win VSCC races to no necessarily excel at scaling Prescott’s twisty course. This year fastest time was made by Alan Cottam in his 1953 –litre A-type Connaught, on a model run, his classic middle-of-the-road line through Orchard losing him no time at all. He cloaked 43.26 sec. on his second ascent, breaking his 1966 record by 0.3 sec. Incidentally, we did Cottam an injustice in last month’s VSCC Silverstone report –he took second place in the Hawthorn Trophy Race in this car. Not in his 1957 2½-litre B-type; it does not do to believe the programme!
At Prescott the class for sports cars up to 1,100 c.c. had a good entry. Barry Clarke’s Ulster Austin made best time, to take both vintage and post-1931 sections, on its first run 951.83 sec.), a spin at Orchard spoiling his second, although he slipped reverse in and was quickly back on course. Jack French made a welcome re-appearance with a 1926/30 Austin 7 special and took second place (52.33 sec.), and Shaw’s Fiat Balilla was third (52.88 sec.), leaving Eyre’s podgy-wheeled Ulster Austin third in the vintage category (56.15 sec.).
Knight’s Riley Special, rigged up as a stark road car, took the 1,500-c.c. sports-car class (50.05 sec.). Jones’ 1935 Riley Special with radius rods to its back axle made a very good start, taking third place (52.42 sec.), followed by smith’s highly-revved all-alloy Frazer Nash with full-length undershield. Of the sports cars up to 3-tlires Clifford had a well-severed win in his smart and fast Autovia V8-engined Riley Special (51.98 sec.), Upson’s AC-powered Frazer Nash being second (52.46 sec.) and Pilkington’s well-known 1750 Alfa Romeo first vintage and third in class (53.0 sec.). Hill’s open Alvis Silver Eagle took second vintage (56.02 sec.), Comber’s blown 1½-litre Alfa Romeo being third (57.43 sec.) the big-sports-car category saw the indomitable Symondson drive to Prescott as he has done since time immemorial in his magnificent Type 57S Bugatti, then up the hill in 48.63 sec., to win the class. This was too much for Black’s Monza Alfa Romeo, even though it now has its 4.2 axle in use (49.29 sec.). Collings’ 1928 4½-litre Bentley made third in class and first vintage (50.15 sec.), very comfortably outclassing Conway in his low-tailed Type 43 Bugatti (53.19 sec.). Tony Jones, having nonchalantly knocked out his pipe, took his 30/98 Vauxhall up in 58.16 sec. but was beaten by the 30/98s of Quartermaine (55.24 sec.) and Densham (54.33 sec.) the last being third in the vintage class. Rivers-Fletcher’s 1936 4½-litre Bentley Special was quick (51.33 sec.) and Page’s Speed 20 Alvis with 3½-litre Speed 25 engine did 55.13 sec.
Clutton had hoped to break the Fiat’s Edwardian record but although the Itala was in fine form, he failed, by 0.66., to crack the 1948 time. On handicap this class went to Sir Michael Nall in Dymond’s 1911 sporting single-cylinder De Dion Bouton (95.29 sec.), weight being reduced by the driver wearing shorts.
So to the racing cars. Unfortunately Merrick had broken the diff. of Murray’s ERA after making best practice time and the Caesar Special had a broken bevel-box. All the rest were present, the big V12 Delage being prepared for racing by having its plugs wire-brushed. IT was splendid to see Dowson win the 1,100-c.c. class in the Lightweight (50.86 sec.), from Wood in Batt’s blown Lagonda Rapier (51.22 sec.). Bruce-White’s HM Special was best vintage (52.6 sec.), the Chawner-GN making a fine getaway to gain second place (52.8 sec.), which the Centric-blown Hardy-Special, tail-sliding the corners less than when its creator drove it, couldn’t quite match (52.84 sec.). Gibson’s Shelsley Frazer Nash, using twin rear wheels, looked a handful at Orchard, but just beat Marsh’s ERA to a 1½-litre class win (47.49 against 47.57 sec.), Potter coping well with the oversteering ERA-Delage to get third place (47.99 sec.). There were but two vintage runners, Hartley’s desirable Vitesse-style Frazer Nash, hand-cranked on the line, with a hasty change-down at Orchard which seemed to make the blown engine knock, beating Conway Junr’s green Type 37A Bugatti, the Hon. Brian Lewis’ first racing car, by 2.2 sec. (52.97 sec.). The final class saw Cottam neatly make f.t.d., Martin Morris in ERA RIIB being 1.92 sec. slower in spite of a very good start and subsequent crossed-arms motoring. Lockhart’s determined Rover was third (45.65 sec.) and Smith set a new over-3,000-c.c. post-vintage record in his Alvis-engined Frazer Nash, beating his 1968 figure by 0.13 sec. (47.54 sec.). St. John’s Type 35B Bugatti took the vintage section on a neat ascent (47.79 sec.), winning the Hill-climb Championship Trophy, followed by Wall in the monoposto 35B, who put the power hard on out of Orchard, obviously enjoying his drive to the full (48.03 sec.).–W.B
P. J. Morgan’s Eccles Lagonda Rapier replica had discarded its former Shorrock blower for three Marshall superchargers, contrived so that two give the first-stage, the other the second-stage boost, at present to 12 lb. (although 24 lb. is visualised) with a 6½-to-I c.r. Yet Absom’s Rapier, with enlarged 1½-litre engine, was faster (48.15 sec.)
Jonty Williamson had the 10½-litre Delage’s tyres squealing (50.08 sec.) but Arnold-Forster stopped with fuel surge at Orchard on his second run in Delage II, after a 53.45-sec. first ascent. Moffatt had the o/s b.e. tyre almost on fire as he left the line, to clock 48.41 sec. in his very French Type 35 Bugatti.
The AFM broke a half-shaft. Bendall did his “Mr. Toad” act in the 1912 Austrian-Daimler (63.24 sec.), being faster than the 1913 Brixia Zust (69.6 sec.). Interesting cars were Riddle’s 1922 GN Vitesse (63.73 sec.), Gunn’s 1935 MG Q-type replica with blown PB engine (55.08 sec.), Offley’s 1925 Chapron-bodied DISS Delage (65 sec.), and Palmer’s much-revved, stripped 1924 Targa Florio Mercedes (52.97 sec.). Philip Mann was present, but his 1914 Mercedes wasn’t.
Of the girls, Charmain May’s Ulster Austin, equipped with original-size tyres but non-original mini-skirt, did 64.38 sec., Mrs. Cattermull’s Silver Eagle Alvis 60.26 sec. after the bottom water hose had been hastily replaced, Mrs. Pilkington’s Alfa Romeo 56.19 sec. STD was by Auty’s 1904 Humber (119.73 sec.), with Green’s 1903 Napoleon, its complex oiling instructions displayed on the dash, taking 102.11 sec.