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Desert ghosts

Sir,

You enquire in your July issue what became of the “Allenby” Silver Ghost which featured in the film “Lawrence of Arabia. In the immediate post-war years there was a splendid character called Wade Palmer, an ex-pilot, who lived in the New Forest, he specialised in Silver Ghosts. He erected this car, with a mock-up body, specially for the film and got it back when filming was finished. I tried to buy it from him, but we could not agree on a price for the mock-up body. So we bought the chassis which was an extremely good one and put on another open four-seater. The result was an extremely handsome car which we sold to a farmer at Great Cornard in Essex. I believe he still owns it.

I am hoping that some reader of Motor Sport may help me with a problem. It looks very much as if the revived Peking-Paris race may become a reality. I am entering a 1924 Silver Ghost. There could be no more suitable car for this, nor can I think of a better way of spending my 75th birthday. For this course, an air cleaner is eminently desirable. But one look at a Silver Ghost carburetter shows the apparent impossibility of fitting an air filter. Can someone conversant with the Rolls Silver Ghost armoured cars, used so much in desert warfare, relate how this problem was overcome?

David Scott-Moncrieff, Leek

The biggest one-make gathering?

Sir,

While not wishing to detract from your comprehensive editorial this month (July 1980),  I would question whether your statement that the Rolls Royce Battle of Britain Commemoration Day was the “greatest assembly of one-make products ever held by a single Motor Club” is a little too dogmatic. The last two Morris Owners Club rallies before the war were held at Donington Park, and the 1939 event was reported as “undoubtedly the largest gathering of one-make cars — over 2000 were counted — and counting passengers, there must have been fully 6000 people present”. A similar number were reported at the 1938 rally. Previously the rallies were held at Lilleshall Hall near Newport, Salop. Although these events were factory sponsored, they must rank as club events by virtue of the enthusiasm they engendered.

Although the Morris Owner magazine continued through the war years, no more events were held. I am fortunate to own a Series II 104 which was placed second in its class in 1938 and 1939, and the then owner, Mr HC Beasley, still has the trophy. Another class winner in 1938 and 1939, Mr B Randle, is still the proud holder ot his trophy. We would be interested to learn the fate of any more of these trophies, or the cars that won them. The Jensen bodied Morris 8 now owned by our club Historian, Harry Edwards, won the balloon bursting competition at one of the Lilleshall rallies!

Tom Bourne, Public Relations Officer, Morris Register

(I quoted from an official RREC source. — Ed)

Jean Bugatti’s Shelsley Prang

Sir,

I trust I am not writing too often to you, but would say you are covering territory which I like to think is my subject.

On page 1010, July issue, you question “what collected the 4.9 four-wheel-drive Bugatti which Jean Bugatti crashed”. Well I was there with my T37A Bugatti and No 0 VPK camera. both ot which my Dad gave me.

Enclosed are the pictures, from which you can see LEP Transport took the 4.9 away and the Ford crane was suspending the damaged front end, during loading.

Jean crashed into the iron fence on the left, soon after the start. So I recovered the painted aluminium which was impacted at the time of the crash. These bits are in my album still and must give the answer to “what is Bugatti blue”?

J Lemon Burton, London. NW

(If unable to find the answer. ask Motor Sport’s readers! — Ed.)

FTD at Shelsley Walsh

Sir,

I feel impelled to write once again atter reading your wonderful article on Shelsley Walsh which brought back to me so vividly those great days of old and the many famous names that went with them. I remember so well my first visit there in the early 20’s when Segrave won from Glen Kidston in his Bugatti; ftd, in spite of a very severe thunderstorm midway though the afternoon. Kidston made a tremendous effort and we all waited with baited breath for his arrival (I was in the stand just below the bend). We heard him rev up and leave the line but on that slight bend soon after the start he overdid it and clouted the bank and we could see great sods of turf flying in all directions. I shall always believe that this cost him the day. Archie Frazer Nash was also there and Paul in a Beardmore, whose beautiful gear changing I remember even now. I think I have the programme somewhere still. I went there some years ago, after the war, but somehow it did not seem so good and it was an awful fag walking up the hill!

Your article on the VW works at Milton Keynes interested me very much. I am still a great Beetle enthusiast and have had a 1966 1300 for the last two years. I sold the good old ’58 in a weak moment one day and they neglected the poor old girl and rumour has it she has now been broken up! .

Harold KG Garland, Charlton Kings

Shelsley — Further Memories

Sir.

I read with deepest pleasure your memories of Shelsley Walsh. where I spent many happy hours as a push-starter. “6/- a gallon fuel” carrier and general hanger-on to the Scuderia Bolster.

On page 1010 you pose the question how was Stuck’s Auto Union brought from Austria. Well, Sir. I can answer that one. as I watched it being driven both off and on to a normal height covered lorry. I’m afraid I didn’t note the make, but I recollect it as about the size of a Bedford 3-tonner. I well remember my astonishment at the flexibility of the 12-cylinder engine, which made a noise reminiscent of someone tearing-up rotten seating.

Stuck, whose correct name by the way was Hans Stuck von Villiez, used his Horch a good deal. I saw him several times in Davos, together with Rudolph Caracciola and Louis Chiron, all doughty skiers.

Gerald Ruston, Malta

The Guy North Special

Sir,

Some 30 to 40 years ago we corresponded on the subject of the 30/98 and 3-litre Vauxhalls. Your archives are very complete, so could you fill in some details regarding the Guy North Special, basically a 30/98. A reference was made to a North Special in Veteran and Vintage magazine of July 1978.

The Guy North Special was well known to me, being owned by a co-apprentice at Austin Motor Company, by name Mr D Campbell, We were both transferred from Longbridge to Holland Park in 1933, and travelled down in this car. During the journey oil pressure was low resulting in a very slow journey to a mews garage in London. The engine was stripped by Campbell and myself — so, I suppose we learned something of the “F” type.

What became of this car? I don’t know, apart from the fact that I believe the rolling chassis (horrible term) went to Quartermaine. As for the power unit — only Mr Campbell could say to where it was disposed. Any history concerning the Guy North Special and its engine would be most interesting.

Good luck to your monthly paper.

George Sanders, Brighton

[If any readers have information, we will forward letters — Ed]

An Aston Martin Special

Sir,

I was most interested in the description of the 1931 Aston Martin team cars in your May issue and the letter from Mr Rivers Fletcher in the issue for July as in 1938 I began building a “special” which incorporated a very similar long-tailed body.

The project began with the purchase for £5, frorn a colleague at Bristol Aero Engines where we both worked, of a variety of AM bits and pieces including what purported to be a much bent TT chassis, a long chassis, two gearboxes and rear axles, brake assemblies, etc. He had got as far as fitting an Armstrong (Gordon Marshall?) trailing fink independent suspension unit, ex-Singer 11, to the long chassis, when he moved from the district — hence the sale. He had been informed that the body was an ex-TT one and that only four were made. This is obviously incorrect as the TT bodies had no doors and two petrol fillers so I presume my body was one of the replicas, but did they have doors? I should be glad to have confirmation of what type of body this was. The enclosed photographs show (1) the body in its original state just placed on the chassis and (2) how it looked on completion.

Perhaps a few words on the car will be of interest as “specials” nowadays seem few and far between. I cut down the long chassis to give a wheelbase of 8′ 6″ and widened the front track by 4″ by welding plates to the Singer king-pin bosses to give a track of 4′ 4″. A 2-litre AC engine was obtained from the late Dick Caesar, of “Frykaiserwagen” fame for £1.50 and installed in the frame, initially with three SC carburetters but these were subsequently replaced by a No. 9 Cozen blower giving 8 psi. boost at 4,000 rpm. The engine was completly overhauled and new pistons fitted giving a cr of 6:1 in place of the original ones giving 4.9:1, ports and valves enlarged, head polished etc. The close ratio box and high ratio axle were used and the body repaired by fitting sheet metal panels over the door apertures and a new bonnet constructed. Cutting and forming the louvres in this was a major operation for the tyro tin-basher!

Acceleration was very good and one could leave satisfying black marks on the getaway but maximum speed was restricted due to the axle ratio being too low (4.75:1). AC’s told me that 4,000 rpm should not be materially exceeded but I occasionally went to 5,000 rpm, which gave a road speed of 92 mph and nothing flew outl

The car was run at the very first speed event after the war (in August 19451 think) held on one of the perimeter tracks of Filton aerodrome and subsequently at the first hill-climb at Naish in 1946. If I remember rightly I was about four seconds slower than Bob Gerard in his ERA as I had to run in the racing class by virtue of the blower. Most of the hill was grassy, so wheelspin was a problem, and I used second gear all the way as the straights were so short it was not feasible to change up.

The car was then used on the road for about 4,000 miles with practically no trouble but eventually I disposed of it when my elder daughter became too large to sit on her mother’s lap in the rather restricted cockpit.

The new owner was John Moffat of Yeovil, son of Ben Moffat whose brother Percy was a works trials rider for Douglas motorcycles before the first war. They will be remembered by older readers for their kind provision of early morning coffee for London-Exeter competitors between the wars. The car eventually went, I believe, to Lancashire and a few years ago John told me he had seen an account of it in a contemporary magazine and that the AC engine had been removed and an AM one substituted.

The car in its original form was described in Autocar’s “Talking of Sports Cars” dated 28-5-43 and its final form in TOSC dated 6-2-48. If anyone knows of its present whereabouts, if still existing, I should be glad to have details.

ES Taylor, Lyme Regis, Dorset

Cotton Car

Sir,

I was intrigued by John R Bateman’s letter under the heading “An Australian Small Car” (page 1182). Back in 1975 I wrote an article for The Scots Magazine entitled “Sidelights on Scottish Motor History” and I recorded therein the Cotton car built by Rennie & Prosser Ltd. of 93-95 Mitchell Street, Glasgow from 1911 until circa 1915. Powered by a 24 hp White & Co four cylinder overhead valve engine, these cars were specially designed for the Austrahan outback, had a 15″ ground clearance and were fitted with a winch for pulling the car out of soft sand or mud. Apparently some 12 or 15 cars were built and exported.

The name Cotton and the connection with Australia coupled with the date would appear to tie in with the vehicles designed by Sidney Cotton. But, surely, if the car was built in Glasgow and powered by an English engine it was hardly the first Australian light car. And a 24 hp engine is hardly “light” either. I would have thought that the twin cylinder 1026 hp Roo built in its entirety in Sydney in 1917-1919 had a better claim as the first all-Australian light car. Final belt drive would hardly seem to he a suitable transmission for the rigorous country to be found in Australia in 1914 (and in some places, still) and it would appear that the Rennie & Prosser car was a far more substantial production than the Queensland-built version, It would be interesting, however if a connection could be proved.

Michael Worthington-Williams, Capel Ifan

Shaft or Chain Drive?

Sir,

With regard to the chain drive on the 1908 GP Panhard-Levassor. I quite agree that the ability to change the gear ratio by merely fitting different sprockets must have been a great advantage. The question is why did P-L, having previously enjoyed it, deny themselves this advantage in the years 1904-1907 when they used shaft drive? Until 1906, when the weight limit ended, they were trying in this period to accommodate larger and larger engines within the 1,000 kg limit and I suspect that they found that shaft drive, as generally used on light cars, was lighter than side chains. But as I don’t know whether this is so (and cannot see any obvious reason why it should be) I was hoping that someone else would say so.

Kent Karslake, S. Molton

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