Happy days at Brooklands


Though I have read your excellent magazine for many years, I cannot recall any mention ever being made of the special “Customers’ days” organised at Brooklands by Henlys Ltd. and possibly by other big London dealers such as Car Mart and Warwick Wright, in the mid twenties.

I recall such a day (by Henlys) very vividly because it was my first ever visit to Brooklands in the summer of 1926, when I was aged it. My father had just purchased from Henlys a new 12 h.p. Swift 2 seater with dickey, finished in the standard “battleship grey”. It was a last year’s model (1925) and accordingly bought at a very considerable reduction. As a result of this, Henlys had sent him two complimentary tickets to their “Brooklands day”.

At this time Henlys must have been distributors or main dealers for Alvis, since practically all the competitions were for 12/50 Alvis cars. I recall that our car was driven through the tunnel and parked close to the railings almost opposite the “Vickers sheds”. We were surrounded by a fascinating collection of spectators’ cars including 12/50 Alvis, Salmsons, Amilcars and Morgans as well as numerous less sporting makes. The races, which were for one or two laps, were all handicaps and nearly all for 12/50 Alvises, the handicapping presumably being based on the type of bodywork etc. The body styles varied from the beautiful polished aluminium of the “duck’s backs” with outside exhausts and “Magna” wire wheels, to the wide bodied tourers and saloons with “Sankey” type wheels. All of course, have the famous “horse mascot”. I remember asking my father what speed these cars were doing and he replied “about seventy” which was probably about right. (Years later, I owned for 8 years a beautiful Cross & Ellis beetleback 12/50, so I know something of these sterling cars.)

Maj. Harvey was present at this meeting with a racing Alvis, which I can only describe from memory. It had a pointed tail, fabric covered body and the whole car was notably lower and squatter than a standard 12/50. It competed in one race which it won easily from scratch and again in the hands of Maj. Harvey, gave a wonderful display of controlled skidding. Could it have been an FWD at this early date? (No, a 1924 200 mile race car Ed.) Also on the programme was a display of aerobatics by a biplane, possibly a Hawker. Finally came an “all corners” race in which I pleaded in vain for my father to enter his Swift. (This surprised me, because I knew he had, some years earlier, driven round the track in a GWK, but perhaps the Swift was not “run-in”). This race was won by a large Graham-Paige tourer, which, in spite of being American, was finished in British Racing Green and had a radiator rather like a Bentley. The classic “scrap” of this race was for last place between an 11.9 h.p. Bean tourer and an Austin 7 “Chummy”, both doing an estimated 45 m.p.h. Eventually the “Chummy” won this duel by about a length!

As this account is written entirely from memory I am open to correction on any point. I should be most interested to hear from any other reader who attended this or any other similar meeting.

Reigate J. M. HOWLETT

(These Henlys and Lagonda Ltd. days at the Track are referred to in my “History of Brooklands Motor Course” and I remember them clearly. In fact, I have a rather unhappy recollection of a Lagonda Day, because an acquaintance of my mother took a nephew to it, in his 2-litre, a high-chassis model I believe. This young man was bored almost to tears and showed no interest whatsoever. Hearing that I would have been thrilled to have been there, this gentleman said had he known he would have been delighted to have taken me. Ed.)