Tag Archives: Babs

Straight, No Chaser

My local track is Brooklands, racing there was suspended at the outbreak of the War in September 1939 and never resumed. In recent years there have been considerable efforts to restore Brooklands to some of its former glory. Our Special Correspondent was on hand to witness the re-opening of the Finishing Straight last month. Naturally he found some of the Rare and Interesting to keep us entertained and informed……………

A superb example of a French Bédélia cyclecar which dates from 1910. The owner had just brought it over from France and it is a Type BD2 with a 990 c.c. V-2 Train air cooled motor. The driver sits at the back with the passenger in tandem in the front. One of these cars won the Cyclecar Grand Prix at Amiens in 1913.

The outstanding sports car of the late Thirties – the BMW 328. This is a Frazer Nash–marketed version and is the ex-Hugh Hunter car, albeit re-sprayed German white instead of the grey it was pre-war. It has a rich competition history including coming 4th in the Brooklands 3-Hour production Car Race on the Campbell Circuit in 1938.

Enjoy the view through the windscreen over the long bonnet with the recessed headlights; these cars from Eisenach dominated the international 2-litre class in their time.

This is the pre-war 2-litre Aston Martin that was raced in the 1948 Spa 24 Hour race by Jack Fairman and Richard Stallebrass. Fairman came in to hand over to his co-driver during the very wet early Saturday evening of the race and the inexperienced Stallebrass lost control on his out lap on the long sweeping bend to Malmédy somersaulting off into a field and sustaining fatal injuries.

This is a Frazer Nash-BMW 319 saloon.

It had a 6-cylinder engine, an ordinary pushrod version not the special head used for the 328.

It is always pleasing to see Babs back where she was born.

We do not often see a 4-seater tourer version of the Alvis front-wheel drive cars, and rarely with the hood up! This is a 1929 long chassis car with bodywork by Carbodies and was raced at Brooklands by Edward Farley.

Geoffrey Taylor made a series of advanced sports and racing Altas with advanced suspension and 4-cylinder twin-cam engines he made himself. This single-seater is the one raced by George Abecassis to good effect.

A 1914 Chater Lea. It used a Singer engine tuned by Lionel Martin who had great success with Singers before launching Aston Martin.

This beautiful Austin Seven Ulster ran in the 1931 Double Twelve race at Brooklands, driven by Phillip Marriage and HJ Searle.

This was the race where the Austin Sevens were finally outpaced by the new Montlhéry C-type M.G. Midgets and this little Austin finished 24th and last.

Here we see Lord March with Alan Winn, the Director of the Brooklands Museum, behind giving his address at the opening ceremony.

For the first time since 1940, we see the Finishing Straight.

Where motoring began – a lovely little Léon Bollée Voiturette made in Le Mans.

David Blumlein, July 2017

The First Step – Brooklands New Year 2014

The Special Correspondent wasted no time in getting his motoring year off to a flying start. While off key choruses of “Auld Lang Syne” were still ringing in the air he was up and out to Brooklands, which resembled a Naval Dockyard rather than the birthplace of British Motorsport. A little rain was not going to deter him or those like him, the British Bulldog Spirit is still much in evidence.
Brooklands on New Year’s Day is always a most welcome start to the season for car-starved enthusiasts and has become so popular that it invariably attracts a fine and wide variety of machines – it is well worth a visit. It nearly didn’t happen this year as the River Wey burst its banks for the sixth time since Brooklands was built in 1907 and, were it not for the dedicated team of volunteers supporting the museum staff working over the Christmas period protecting the exhibits and buildings, the event would have had to be cancelled. The sincere thanks of all of us car lovers go out to them. Yet, despite the wild, wet day, they were rewarded with a surprisingly good turn-out. Here are a few of the sights:
2014 Brooklands New Years Day
To start with, a brace of immaculate, green 3-litre Bentleys, lined up appropriately in front of the Clubhouse, an area which was under flood water a short while before.
Bentleys started winning at Brooklands in May 1921 when Frank Clement drove EXP2 to victory and went on until the chapter was closed by Bob Gregory’s Speed Six saloon winning a heat on 8th July 1939.
2014 Brooklands New Years Day
Just restored, this lovely 1934 Triumph Gloria Monte Carlo dates from the Donald Healey era. It is powered by a 4-cylinder Coventry-Climax inlet over exhaust engine. The pre-1940 Triumph Club is ensuring the survival of more and more examples of this interesting make.
2014 Brooklands New Years Day
This six-light Riley Kestrel is one of the prettiest models to come from the Coventry factory. The engine is based on Percy Riley’s magnificent Nine of 1926 and, although updated by Hugh Rose in the Thirties, it has the high-mounted twin camshafts with short rockers, valves set at 90˚, giving a hemispherical combustion chamber.
Like Triumph, Riley made far too many different models which contributed to its downfall in 1938 – it was rescued by Lord Nuffield.
2014 Brooklands New Years Day
This is an Alvis Silver Eagle, a model introduced in 1929 with a small 6-cylinder engine and a variety of body styles. It is rather nostalgic to see it on Brooklands soil because Alvis entered a team of three open-bodied Silver Eagles with 2-litre engines for the 1930 Brooklands Double Twelve race. One car retired within the first hour with big end failure but the other two placed 13th and 15th at the finish.
2014 Brooklands New Years Day
Charles Follett was a motor-trader with showrooms in London’s west end and he helped Alvis financially. This attractive model, introduced in 1931, was to have been called the Silver Dart but Follett convinced the Alvis chairman T.G.John that it would sell better as the Speed Twenty. The engine was based on that of the Silver Eagle but boasted triple S.U. carburettors and 2.5-litres. In 1933 the Speed Twenty was updated in two significant ways: it was given an all-synchromesh gearbox, the first British car to do so, and independent front suspension by transverse leaf spring. This particular car was made in 1935 and is the SC model with a 2.76-litre engine.
2014 Brooklands New Years Day
Visitors to Brooklands seeking shelter from the persistent heavy rain would have noticed a special sign indicating that “Babs” was in the Campbell sheds. What a lovely surprise to see this historic machine back on home ground where the engineer genius Parry Thomas created it out of Count Zborowski’s Higham Special! After the Count’s death in a Mercedes in the 1924 Italian Grand Prix at Monza, Thomas saw the car as the basis for a world land speed record contender and bought it. It came with a huge Liberty V-12 aero-engine and a Benz four-speed gearbox in a specially made Rubery Owen chassis but Thomas modified the car extensively, giving it components from the Leyland Eight he had designed, such as the sloping radiator which enabled him to give the car a lower cowled nose. Calling it “Babs”, he went to the Pendine Sands in South Wales and in April 1926 he set a new land speed record of 171 m.p.h. Coming back to Brooklands for the Whitsun meeting, the car ran in three races, Thomas letting John Cobb drive it in two.
Thomas returned to Pendine in March 1927 to beat Campbell’s new record of 174 m.p.h. set in “Bluebird” in February but Thomas crashed fatally and the wrecked car was forthwith buried in the sand in Thomas’s memory. Then forty-two years later the remains were dug up by Owen Wyn Owen, a lecturer at Bangor University, and he restored the car to its original condition which we see today. It usually lives in the Museum of Speed at Pendine but it is enjoying a very welcome return home here at Brooklands!
2014 Brooklands New Years Day
Still viewing in the Campbell sheds, I found that the so-called Vauxhall T.T. had been moved to a more accessible position in the museum – hence this consideration. It was designed as a Grand Prix car for the 3-litre formula of 1921 but was not ready in time and was thus ineligible for the new 2-litre formula that began in 1922 despite the change in engine capacity being advertised well in advance! So three cars were entered for the revived Tourist Trophy race run on the Isle of Man in 1922 but only one survived to finish 3rd. Henceforth the cars ran privately in the following years, scoring a number of wins here at Brooklands.
2014 Brooklands New Years Day
The unusual layout of the instrument panel of the Vauxhall.
2014 Brooklands New Years Day
A slightly late tribute to the Morris centenary – the Morris Six, Series MS, first introduced in 1948 as a Morris version of the Wolseley 6/80 with overhead camshaft six-cylinder engine. Like all the new post-war Issigonis inspired Nuffield models, it had torsion bar independent front suspension. Only some 12,000 were made; six-cylinder Morrises were never hugely popular although this model did far better than William Morris’s very first six-cylinder, the F-type, which was a disaster!
2014 Brooklands New Years Day
The River Wey, alongside the Paddock/Club House area, in threatening mood!

David Blumlein, January 2014

Prowling The Paddock

Last week I caught up with our Special Correspondent in Belgium and he gave me the good news that he had finished his reflections on this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed. So for the enlightenment of us all here is his copy and images.

2013 Festival of Speed

A visit to the Cathedral Paddock at half past seven on the Friday morning is always well rewarded. Here we have the surviving 1939 V-12 Le Mans Lagonda, the work of W.O. Bentley and his team.
The two cars entered came 3rd and 4th, following obediently the speeds set by the master – he wanted to ensure reliability and to go all out for a win in 1940; but that of course never came. The two cars had their final outing in the very last Brooklands meeting in August 1939 before the war clouds moved in. A win in a handicap race for this car crowned their short career before a V-1 hit the garage where they were stored, doing considerable damage. This car represents the works car which took third place at Le Mans in the hands of Arthur Dobson and Charles Brackenbury.
Beware! – some replicas have been made but this is the only genuine survivor!

2013 Festival of Speed

Anyone still somnolent at that time of the morning soon had their condition violently shaken by the shattering bombardment of noise from 12 short-stub flame-spitting exhausts of the 26.9-litre V-12 Liberty engine of Babs being warmed up – wonderful! Babs of course is the real restored car which that engineering genius Parry Thomas had developed from the Higham Special which he had obtained from the estate of Count Zborowski who had been killed at Monza in a works Mercédès in 1924. Thomas worked on the car for a year or so, re-naming it Babs, and in 1926 he set new World Land Speed records in April of 169 and 171 m.p.h. on the Pendine Sands in South Wales.
2013 Festival of Speed
The car underwent further modifications prior to Thomas returning to Pendine in April 1927 to try to beat Campbell’s record of 174 m.p.h. set in February in Bluebird. Alas, he crashed fatally and the damaged car was buried forthwith in the sand. It was that enthusiast Owen Wyn Owen who obtained permission to dig up the remains and to restore the car to its original final state as we see here.
Speculation has for a long time suggested that the driving chain came off to cause the head injuries from which Thomas died but this is now discounted – the covers were intact – and it is thought that he lost his life when the car turned over on top of him.
2013 Festival of Speed
More record breaking – the Peugeot 208 T16 with which Sebastien Loeb lowered the record at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb by 90 seconds! This one–off machine puts out 875 b.h.p. via the four wheels and set a time of 8 mins 13.878 seconds on the 12.42 mile drive up through the 156 corners of this incredible venue in Colorado.
2013 Festival of Speed
It is not often that the sole Cunningham C-6R escapes from its captivity at the magnificent Collier Collection in Florida. This attractive car, however, ranks as a failure. It is the last of the line of cars which Briggs Cunningham built to conquer Le Mans, a goal he never achieved to his great disappointment. It appeared for the 1955 season and differed from its V-8 predecessors in having an Offenhauser 4-cylinder engine more usually associated with Indianapolis than sports car racing. This unit was mounted inclined at 12˚ to the left and was de-stroked to 2942 c.c. The car first raced unpainted at the Sebring 12 Hours but had to retire when the flywheel exploded. By Le Mans it had acquired a fin and traditional American colours of white with a blue stripe. But the engine was not suited to the fuel supplied and its drivers Briggs Cunningham and Sherwood Johnston had to retire. The car raced again a few months later at Elkhart Lane where the Offenhauser failed once more. As Cunningham was by this time becoming involved with racing Jaguars, the C-6R finished its career with a Jaguar engine.
2013 Festival of Speed
This is Jaguar C-Type chassis 005 and it has a special place in history. In 1952 Stirling Moss drove it to victory in the Reims Sports Car Race, thus making it the first car to win an international sports car race using disc brakes. Sitting at the wheel here is Norman Dewis who was Jaguar’s long-serving test and development driver. In fact, so precious was he to Jaguar that Sir William Lyons forbade him to race. In 1955, however, the boss relented twice: in that year’s Le Mans, Dewis shared the third long-nosed works D-type with Don Beauman who eventually put the car irretrievably into the sand when lying fourth. Then in the Goodwood 9-hour race Dewis drove Jack Broadhead’s D-type with Bob Berry into a respectable fifth place.
2013 Festival of Speed
Over from the Daytona Speedway Museum was the final version of Sir Malcolm Campbell’s Land Speed Record car Bluebird. After a break in 1934 from record-breaking which gave Reid Railton time to come up with this all-enveloping body, Bluebird returned to Daytona in March 1935 when this 5-ton machine, complete with twin rear wheels and air-brakes and powered by a 36.5-litre supercharged Rolls-Royce R engine, took the record at 276 m.p.h. However, Daytona Beach was becoming increasingly unsuitable for these higher speeds and Campbell opted to try the salt flats at Bonneville in Utah – by September he had become the first man to drive a car at over 300 m.p.h., 301.129 m.p.h. in fact. Campbell had achieved what he wanted and retired from the arena.
2013 Festival of Speed
One of Bluebird’s air-brakes.

2013 Festival of Speed
Tucked away from the general crowds on the southern fringes of Goodwood were two Rolls-Royces, unlabelled and without any apparent supervision. One was the 1913 Silver Ghost Alpine Eagle which James Radley used in support of the three works cars which brought success to the Derby marque in the Austrian Alpine Trial that year. Rolls-Royce had entered the cars to redeem their reputation after Mr Radley had driven his private Silver Ghost in the 1912 event and had failed to climb the Katschberg Pass because its 3-speed gearbox lacked a sufficiently low ratio. Needless to say, the 1913 cars had 4-speed boxes and other modifications:
2013 Festival of Speed
To recall their ultimate success, Rolls-Royce introduced the special edition “Alpine Trial Centenary Collection” version of the current Ghost model painted a pale blue and here can be seen the two cars from the rear.

David Blumlein, August 2013