Vintage Aircraft and Cars at Finmere
ONCE again, thanks to David Harper’s excellent organisation, the 1982 version of this enjoyable annual occasion when enthusiasts for old cars and old aircraft assemble together took place at Finmere aerodrome, near Buckingham.
The cars ranged from the ultra-sporting (Barbet’s racing Riley and Easdale’s blown 1750 Alfa) to the ultra-touring (G. Toms’ 1925 Fiat 505B tourer, with a 4 cylinder engine of about 2¼-litres and front wheel brakes — the “B” part — which won the “earliest arrival” prize). Brian and Ann Cole came from Coventry in their smart and rare 1933 Riley 9 Ascot, collecting two punctures on the way and the “longest distance” award once at Finmere, and G. Brightman was “oldest driver” with his 1931 Avon Special coupe. Awards for turnout and general attractiveness in the prewar category went to Wally Warrington’s 1925 Alvin TE 12/50 tourer and John Dyson’s 1935 Railton saloon, and in the postwar section to M. Sargent’s 1954 ex-Jack Sears Jaguar XK120 coupe and M. R. Baronet’s 1959 MG ZB Varitone Magnetic saloon.
The “oldest pilot” was Bill Knapton with his PA18 90 h.p. Piper Cub, G-APZK, to whom the Vintage Aircraft Club owes much for their being able to use the aerodrome at Finmere, and the “rarest machine” was a 1949 Cessna 195, G-BBYE, with a 350 h.p. Jacobs 755s turbo radial engine.
The sound of what was apparently a motor cycle in the sky heralded the arrival of Cliff Humphrey and his passenger Peter Duncan, who won the “longest distance” award for corning from Yeovilton in their cabin 1936 Aeronca C3 monoplane, G-AEFT, which has a JAP flat twin engine. Fortunately they did not have to fly over much water as G-AEFT has already once ditched in the Channel in 1939, and water always had a strong attraction for Aeroncas as two are known to have come down in the Irish Sea, one before and one after the war, and another in Strangford Lough, Co Down, in 1946; sadly in all these cases with tragic consequences to the pilots.
An American design, the first Aeronca appeared in 1928, but the C3 dates from 1935 when it cost £395 in this country, examples being erected at Hanworth from where one was actually delivered by air out to Johannesburg, which is even further than Yeovilton! The C3 is reminiscent of a Bleriot monoplane, in that it has what in the early days was called a “mast” erected above the centre of the wing with what were described as “guy lines” coming from it to help support the wing when the aircraft is on the ground, which doubtless today we would call landing wires. The Aeronca’s flying wires are distributed in a somewhat haphazard manner from the wing to various points at the base of the fuselage, rather as if a spider had just commenced spinning its web there. Neither the Aeronca C3 or the later 100 (the 100 was built under licence at Peterborough) sold at all well in this country before the war, particularly the latter, but her ability to give cheap flying is much appreciated IV owners of the very few surviving today, of which-I believe G-AEFT is the only C3.
The “best vintage” aeroplane was the DH60G Gipsy Moth G-ABEV of Ron Souch of Southampton, and the “oldest aeroplane” the 1929 DH60M (“Metal Moth”) G-AAMY belonging to Cliff Lovell of Overton, Hants. This latter machine is of great interest as apparently was built in the USA and in view of the fact that its exhaust is on the opposite side to that on G-ABEV, and the propeller rotates the opposite way, one assumes its British Gipsy 1 engine one installed in it the wrong way round from the British point of view. American light aircraft engines always seemed to rotate the opposite way to British ones, the latter following the precedent of motor car engines by turning clockwise viewed from the front (if we except the case of the front-wheel-drive Alvin, which also had its engine installed the wrong may round, although at least its designer ensured the starting handle operated in a clockwise direction).
The propeller on G-AAMY is also unusual in that it has curved blades, another link with the Bleriot monoplane.
For the accurate statements about the aeroplanes above I am indebted to A. J. Jackson’s marvellous book “British Civil Aircraft” (Putnam), for the innacurate ones I am myself to blame. – P.M.A.H.