I shall always think that one of the finest achievements by an Austin 7 in the vintage years was the victory by an outwardly standard but no doubt carefully assembled s/c Ulster in the 1930 BRDC 500-Mile Race at Brooklands, when, driven by the Earl of March and S C H “Sammy” Davis, the little car averaged 83.42mph including pit-stops. And it then repeated the performance in the records-field soon afterwards, to prove this fast endurance run was no fluke.
However, there was another very good showing by another Austin 7 which has perhaps been overlooked, forgotten, or was never known about, which runs the Ulster’s “500” performance close. l am thinking of the 24-hour record set up by Capt C K Chase, H B Parker and D Bland at Montlhery track, near Paris, in 1928. In those days, as now, the A7 was used by a large number of drivers for competition work of all kinds (even on a “Wall-of-Death” show, I hasten to forget. . .) Among those who were at Brooklands with their Sevens was Capt Chase. He was associated with Boyd Carpenter who ran an Austin 7 tuning business, sold Boyd Carpenter A7s and was associated with a matching pair of very impressively streamlined and low cars of this make, named “Mr and Mrs Jo Jo” rather as George Chaplin had named his pair of very quick A7 Chummies “Mr and Mrs Flea”. Something to do with one car having vibration periods, I am told; but, of course, I did not understand that! Chase had used a racing A7 with GE Cup-model-like tail and a Boyd Carpenter-tuned engine with twin Solex carburettors at Brooklands.
With this Austin he had taken part in the 1927 JCC 200-Mile Race, winning the 750cc class at 58.14mph over the JCC’s ingenious “artificial road” circuit. H C Spero bought “Mrs Jo Jo” and had many successes with it. Chase had broken class records at the Track, driving W B Scott’s straight-eight Thomas Special, and he and Boyd Carpenter had also taken long duration 750cc class records at the Track with an A7 weighing only 7cwt 48lb. They secured the 3hr to 12hr. 500km to 1000km, and 500-mile records, at speeds of up to 63 1/2mph. In fact, on that August day onslaught, the Austin was running for nearly 9 1/2 hours, to get the last record at 62.97mph. The previous figures had been the provenance of Peugeot.
Capt Chase obviously preferred long distance drives and he used Boyd Carpenter’s red A7, which eventually lapped at 83mph in its owner’s hands, in the Sporting Life 50-mile Handicap race at Brooklands in 1927 and George Duller drove Chase’s car in a short handicap. But as if he was saying “You have seen nothing yet!” he planned another ambitious onslaught on long distance records with an Austin 7. As night running was not permitted at Brooklands he booked MontIhery, and the services of Parker and Bland as his back-up drivers. The car was prepared by Thomson & Taylor at Brooklands, and had a neat pointed-tail two-seater racing body made by Hoyle’s in Weybridge. The carefully rebuilt engine had a Solex carburettor, a special Laystall crankshaft, and was run on Shell petrol and oil. The bonnet was one of the longest I have seen for an Austin 7, merging with a slightly upswept scuttle, and as no silencers were needed at the French track the exhaust pipe terminated mid-way along the n/s of the car. Two straps secured the bonnet, there was an external handbrake lever, and a “steam-pipe” on the radiator filler-cap.
The record bid was quite professional, Mr Parkes of Dunlop’s being there the whole time to keep an eye on the tyres, while Mr Callingham of Shell took on a full spell of signalling duties in the pits.
To spare the car, it was taken on a lorry to Montlhery, shipped from Folkestone, but the haul from Boulogne to the track took a tedious 15 1/2 hours. A test run showed that all was well, and at 4pm on June 7, 1928, the bid for a new Class H 24-hour record began.
Bad weather, including a severe hail-storm, seriously curtailed Chases’s view ahead. Yet after three hours the best average speed of the entire run was achieved, at 67 1/4mph. After that Parker took over for a two-hour spell, followed by Bland for a three-hour stint.
Night had now arrived and Chase found the heavy rain accentuated the glare from the red oil-lanterns placed round the track to guide him, as the Austin had no lamps of its own. After he had almost hit the lanterns and nearly run off the track, he came in and had to lie down, Bland taking the car on to complete the first 12 hours at record speed. In those eerie early hours Parker relieved Bland, the rain showers continuing. By 7am, with the dawn, Chase had recovered and resumed, to such effect that after the car had been circulating for 15 1/2 hours it had bettered the speed of the former 24hr class record held by Carnixet’s Peugeot, and the A7 had a remarkable 8 1/2 hours in hand! It had averaged 65.62mph for the equivalent two rounds of the clock, and had been at its depot for only 35min 40sec. Incidentally, the respective engine sizes of the two cars were: Peugeot: 51 x 90mm (748cc), Austin: 55.9 x 76.06mm (746.67cc).
The Austin’s engine had run without faltering, and the KLG plugs did not require changing. The final laps were done at over 80mph.
All that remained was the long journey back to England. The lorry ran out of petrol outside Boulogne and the tank of the racing car had to be drained to get it to the boat. At Folkestone the happy crew was met by Capt Scholefield, Vickers’ test-pilot, and his wife, and they towed the victorious Austin the rest of the way, using as a tow-bar a spare A7 front axle; which is a reflection on how thoroughly Chase had prepared for the record bid. He had, of course, also relieved Peugeot of the 12hr class record, which had fallen at 64.4mph
. Alas, luck has a habit of running out, in minor or more serious ways. Chase entered the 24-hour record car for the 1928 JCC 200-Mile Race. He was in second place in the new 850cc class behind Spero, when passing the aeroplane sheds the oil-filler cap came adrift and the cockpit was sprayed with hot oil, burning Chase’s left arm, so that later on he had to be taken to Weybridge Cottage Hospital. Yet he pushed the car to the pits, a new cap was fitted, and he continued. Then the car stopped half-way along the Railway straight, so the luckless driver pushed the car again, some two miles in blazing heat, to the pits once more, only to find that the oil-pump spindle had sheared and the engine had seized; a faulty oil-gauge had masked the lack of oil pressure from the driver. By this time Capt Chase had been flagged off, and was sent to receive medical attention. . . The 850cc part of this classic race was won by H C Spero (who may be better remembered as owning a 250F Maserati in later years) in “Mr Jo Jo” at 59.95mph, a drive occupying fractionally more than 3hr 20min. W B