VSCC Prescott

(August 8th)

Weather conditions were perfect for fast times, at the annual VSCC Prescott speed-hill climb this year, the course dry, the temperature mild, with only a slight breeze. We have become accustomed to Alan Cottam making f.t.d. in the Connaught but this time he excelled himself, setting a new VSCC record for the short course of 42.67 sec. It was a day when times tended to improve on the drivers’ second runs and Cottam conformed, taking 0.20 sec. off his first ascent. On both runs he got away with a skilled display of controlled wheelspin. Simon Phillips, who was second in the Historic Racing Car Class, used much more wheelspin when taking off in his Cooper-Bristol and clocked a best of 44.25 sec., being 0.03 sec. slower on his second ascent. The evergreen 3-litre Rover did an excellent 45.75 sec., Lockhart seeming to lose time at the start by hanging on the bottom-gear band for a fraction.

Guy Smith had the big racing car class tied up, in his Alvis-powered Frazer Nash (45.51 sec.), and Preston’s Type 35B Bugatti took the vintage Section (46.36 sec.). Doc Taylor in the ever-popular Caesar Special was third overall, in 49.87 sec. Bill Morris, resting the controversial “Romulus”, drove the ERA “Hanuman” to a win in the 11-litre racing-car class. Perhaps he was a thought lucky, inasmuch as on his first appearance he stalled and ran back from the starting-line and this wasn’t counted as a non-start, as it might have been had the old starting-pad instead of the new VSCC timer that is actuated when the rear of the car ceases to lean on it, been in use. However, the ERA was so much faster than the opposition that no-one could complain, Bill’s first ascent occupying 44.76 sec., his second 44.99 sec. The Appleton Special was second, with a noisy first run in 47.14 sec., but it died away soon after starting its second run. Absom’s Lagonda Rapier netted third place (48.66 sec.), after stopping on its first _appearance and best vintage-time was by Malyan’s Meadow-GN (51.54 sec.).

Among the small racers Gray had the Hardy Special going really well, enabling him to dominate both class and vintage sections with a class-record climb in 45.54 sec. The best anyone else could do against that was 48.74 sec., by Peter Morgan in his wellknown Lagonda Rapier, aided these days by a single Marshall blower. Gibbs was third (50.13 sec.) in the Becke, improving by over 4 1/2 sec. on his second run, whereas the Wasp, driven by Elsom, had the sulks and made but one very slow ascent.

Turning to the sports cars, the Austins of Eyre and Clarke battled it out in the up-to 1,100-c.c. class, the former doing 52.76 to Barry’s 53.29 sec. Stevenson’s raucous Meadows Frazer Nash won the 11-litre class (50.01 sec.) from Gunn’s blown 847-c.c. MC (51.21 sec.), and G. A. Jones’ Swallow-tailed Riley Special with pre-selector gearbox (51.64 sec.). Frazer Nash honour was upheld in the vintage department, Joseland doing 51.77 sec. and MacPherson 53.29 sec. The 1 1/2-3-litre sports-car class Was a walk-over for C. Jones’ Riley Special. with Big-Four engine, the only car here to better 50 sec. (49,3 sec.), second being Selwyn-Smith’s irrepressible blown Light-15 Citroen (51.94 sec.), followed by Pack’s Riley Special which made a very good start, the Big-Four power unit in a Nine chassis with fabric body paying off (53.65 sec.). The vintage sub-division was a Lancia needle-match, between Vcssey, whose 6th-Series Lambda with 8th-Series engine in a short-chassis two-seater clocked 54.00 sec. after a rest of 20 years; and Threlfall, who sat in his wickerwork scat of command and let his prototype Astura V8 take him to the top in 55.34 sec. Third vintage, but much slower, was Phillips’ shortened 12/50 Alvis with Silver Eagle power, that jumped eagerly off, to clock 60.47 sec., just 0.01 sec. better than on its first attempt.

Nothing could hold Harvey Hine in his 3/4 1/2 Bentley among the big sports cars, so he cleaned it for vintage and non-vintage alike, in 49.20 sec., whereas Mann’s quick Monza Alfa Romeo took 50.06 sec., Spollon’s triple-SU 4.3 Alvis was 3rd (50.20 sec.) and vintage second place went to Horton’s Type 43 Bugatti (52.39 sec.), followed by Ghosli’s 30/98 (52.62 sec.).

Five Edwardians made Prescott what it used to be, the 1918 ex-Brooklands Straker Squire winning on handicap from Collings’ strikingly hairy, stripped 1903 Mercedes 60. But Clutton beat them all in pace, the 1908 GP Itala, doing 55.10 sec. on its 40th year at this venue-compare with other times, by far younger cars; its all a matter of litres and courage?

Others were less fortunate. Goddard had second-gear refuse to stay in, on his Type 51 Bugatti, Dick Smith broke the transmission of his blown Frazer Nash, Moffatt nonstarted with ring trouble (in the ERA), and the Vauxhall-Villiers took to the undergrowth in practice hut managed two ascents on the day (52.02 sec.), quicker by 4.15 sec. than, for instance, the 4CM Maserati. – W.B.

Twin Rear Wheels

Last month’s photograph of a big Delaunay-Belleville landaulette with twin rear tyres has brought a letter from John Oldham of Jersey, who is a staunch Motor Sport correspondent when anything of interest to him comes up. The use of twin rear tyres on heavy private cars, as distinct from racing cars (where they were first employed by Parry Thomas on his record-breaking Leyland Eight and were seen at Prescott last month on the Skinner Triangle Special) was not unknown in the days before tyres were as dependable as they eventually became, but their use was uncommon. Mr. Oldham remarks, however, that his great-uncle F. Treherne-Thomas had them on all his Rolls-Royce 40/50 limousines, from 1908 until his death in 1932 at his villa at Beaulieu in the South of France. The arguments in favour were better emergency braking, stability if a tyre should burst, and better traction on the muddy hills then encountered. But Oldham remembers how ugly he thought the 1922 Rolls-Royce Barker limousine in which his uncle arrived in Brighton one summer day in 1924 to take tea with his grandmother, after his mother had pointed out its twin rear tyres, the back Wheels covered with flat discs, in contrast to the convex front discs.

Mr. Oldham also recalls -a big Wolseley limousine used for private-hire work which he used to see in 1926 when as a boy he was staying in Hove, close to where his father garaged their Armstrong Siddeley Fourteen Mendip two-seater, this Wolseley also having twin rear tyres. Another car so fitted, that he recalls, was a Rolls-Royce Phantom II landaulette in the ownership of a very fat lady who used to arrive in it at Smith’s Riding School in Little Cadogan Place, off Pont Street, at a time, in 1930, when Oldham and his mother used to ride horses and went there in their 1927 straight-eight, Series-E Hupmobile with Victor Broome coachwork. Their chauffeur, Charlie Dredge; used to tell the boys that the weight of the lady made twin back tyres essential on her R-R, and naturally they believed him!

Apart from the R-R armoured cars, which had duplicated back tyres, Tommy Sopwith, the aeroplane manufacturer, used them on a stylish Silver Ghost close-coupled saloon he ran in the early 1920s.-W.B.