Letters, September 1992



An R-type MG


In your interview with Ian Connell you showed him alongside Briault’s R-type MG. This brought memories back to me. I bought this car from Briault via the Bellevue Garage, where the late George Boyle looked after it. It was extremely fast in a straight line, but very heavy on the steering and it rolled excessively, but was comfortable on the outer circuit at Brooklands, where I tried it out originally.

It had the twin-cam conversion, but I believe that if stopped in long-distance rates oil came up through the blower and onto the plugs. It clearly had development possibilities, but the war stopped it all. I used to pip the Appleton Special at the Lewes Speed Trials. I sold it after the war to Dennis Poore. Briault went farming in Australia after the war, I think. I suppose I could be the last surviving client of the Bellevue Garage — I still have a Bellevue garage pencil!

Sir Clive Edwards, Ramsey, loM.

Salt seller


Can I make a few comments on Battery Salts Bill Boddy’s experiences in adding tetrasodrum EDTA to his very old battery (MOTOR SPORT, July 1992, page 676)?

As he correctly surmises, there has to come a time when a battery is fit for little other than throwing away. Tetrasodium EDTA may well remove the lead sulphate from the plates of a tired battery, but it won’t work miracles like piecing back together plates which are shedding their active material. The independent tests run by Home Power in the USA make convincing reading. They report a substantial improvement in the performance of the great majority of lead-acid batteries treated, but this was with batteries which still performed their task, albeit shakily. They didn’t test tetrasodium EDTA with batteries which were just about beyond redemption, and chemists in the USA and Europe don’t claim any success in these cases. For a stamped addressed envelope, I would be very happy to let anyone interested have a copy of the Home Power report.

KL Martin, Shefford, Beds.

Missed opportunity


July’s article on the Tracta reminds me of a BOC hillclimb I attended in 1935 at Chalfont St Peter. I went with a friend whose neighbour had entered a Tracta. I shall always remember watching him make a most spirited start, and completely destroying the starter’s ‘hockey stick’ in the process!

I seem to remember that the starting procedure from then on had to be carried out by a series of flags. The driver was Mervyn White who, I believe, was killed at Brooklands just prior to the war in a T51 Bugatti (No! – WB). At a later date this car was for sale at Bill Black’s Sports Spares in Paddington in a disassembled state. I subsequently bought it and, when I came to rebuild it, found that some vital part of the front wheel drive was missing. A diligent search in about four garages in south London failed to find the missing part so I had to return it to Bill. This was a pity as it appeared to have great potential.

At the aforementioned hillclimb I took photos of a few of the most interesting cars, including The Terror, Peter Whitehead’s 1100 Alta, JC Davies’ 1.5-litre Delage, as well as Dennis and Kenneth Evans and their Q-type Midgets. but none, unfortunately, of the Tracta.

Bill Little, Cornwall.

Hudson snap


I enclose a photograph from our family album. It shows my father’s Hudson Terraplane, taken outside the Roman Museum in Caerleon, 1934. If any of your readers have any detailed knowledge of this car, I would be most interested to hear from them.

JF Barnes, Stockport, Cheshire.

Hatton crossed


Around 1955 when I was serving my time with Rootes in Coventry I met a chap with a strange but very nice looking car. To the best of my recollection it was a Weyman-style fixed head coupe in late ’20s brown on a low-slung chassis of about 9ft 6in to 10ft wheelbase. Its driver introduced himself as Mike Hatton and said that his father had had a hand in building the car which was described on the licence as a Hatton Special. He raised the bonnet, but unfortunately I cannot recall the engine, though it probably had six cylinders. What I do remember however was the steering layout, which had what looked like a small rear axle fastened to the bulkhead with a drop arm at either end and the steering wheel on the end of the pinion shaft. I presume it had two crown wheels, one either side of the pinion! I am sorry I cannot remember any more about the Hatton car, but I am sure someone else will.

RN Robinson, Kenilworth, Beds.

Ex-Tracta fan


I was interested to read your article on the Tracta in July’s MOTOR SPORT. Apparently neither Adler nor DKW ever paid royalties on the Gregoire patent. Citroen could not machine it properly and eventually went bankrupt trying to overcome the problems, prior to being taken over by Michelin.

I owned an Adler Trumph in the 1950s and remember taking the driveshafts out to repair the gearbox. The Tracta joints were in perfect working order after 20 years’ service.

John Whitworth, Lincoln.

Even more on Benoist


In reference to Jack Tatham’s letter in your August edition resistance, readers may be interested to discover that a great deal of effort is being expended to discover the true story of France’s first motor racing champion and his colleagues.

For the last three years I have been researching Benoist, ‘Williams’ and Jean-Pierre WrrniIle. The basis of the story was published in MRD Foot’s SOE in France (HMSO 1966) – not SOE in Europe as you mentioned – but that book does not tell the whole story. Nor, sadly, does any other. Documents relating to the activities of the SOE remain classified. In fact I understand that much of the documentation has already been destroyed.

My research, however, has been very revealing, and has taken me all over the world, meeting old contacts, friends and families of the three men. The results reveal a story which is much more remarkable than that in Mr Foot’s book. I have still to decide whether to write one book or three. Benoist deserves greater recognition, and Wimille — unquestionably the best driver in the immediate post-war period — has yet to have his story told. Grover-Williams has probably the most interesting story of the three, in addition to being the most successful British racing driver of his period and the winner of the first Monaco GP.

Do not worry, Mr Tatham, it may take some time, but the story of Benoist, Williams and Wimille will not be forgotten.

Joe Saward, Pardaillan, France.

A piece of history


Going through some back numbers of your excellent journal, I came across the article and subsequent correspondence on Motor Trading after the 1914-18 War, and I think I can add a little to this. In 1909, when I was born, my father had a cycle engineering business in Sydenham, producing lightweight racing cycles for competitors at the Herne Hill cycle track. A few years later, in 1913, he started a new business servicing motor vehicles of all types, being of the opinion that this would provide a better long-term future with greater potential.

He rented premises in north-west London and was well established by the time war broke out, and he continued trading until 1916 when he received his call-up papers and the business was closed for the duration.

He was posted to Boulogne with the Royal Army Service Corps and given the responsibility of maintaining the staff officers’ cars. He attained the rank of Staff-Sergeant and was mentioned in dispatches, the citation being signed by Winston Churchill, Secretary of State for War.

At the end of hostilities, the War Department decided to dispose of all these vehicles, but it was first necessary to gather them together as quite a number had been left throughout France and in the Low Countries. My father and his squad had to deal with this and they were not demobbed until the late spring of 1919. My father attended the first auction and purchased a number of cars, most of which were open tourers and, by the summer of 1919, had set up additional larger premises in order to restore these vehicles completely. This involved employing carpenters, panel beaters, upholsterers and coach painters as well as the gang of motor mechanics who were engaged in reconditioning the engines, gearboxes and back axles.

When restoration was completed, and the cars fittted with new tyres, hoods and often windscreens and exhausts, there was no difficulty in selling. In fact, the demand was such that my father attended the subsequent auctions and purchased more of these ex-army cars, with finance provided by the bank, and the work went on merrily until mid-1921 when Austin and Morris were in full swing.

Then the bubble burst, my father could not meet his commitments and the bank foreclosed.

Thomas George Chalk, Malvern, Worcs.

Slim to win


With reference to Peter Gaskell’s letter (April 1992), the Michael Halton (sic) mentioned is in fact MS Hatton, one of about a dozen or so regular competitors in speed hillclimbs in the late 50s/early 60s using Cooper V twins, the ‘right stuff’ at that time. From memory this group comprised Doug Haig, David Good, Dick James, Mac Dagham, Tommy Norton, ‘Taffy’ Cottrell, ‘Rivers’ Fletcher, Michael Christie, George Keylock, Tony Marsh, Dick Henderson, WDJ Roscoe and last, but certainly not least David Boshier-Jones, who made it all look very easy and was rarely beaten in a straight fight. His final record breaking run on the Prescott short course still remains a vivid memory after 30 years.

If memory can be relied on, he stopped the clock at 41s dead. Mike Hatton and most of the others were usually a second or two slower. Perhaps David’s slim build helped?

GC Little, Corwen, Clwyd.