1929 Lands End Trial

Light Car Successes in the London-Lands End. Thousands of Spectators view the MCC’s Classic Trial in Perfect Weather. – The Test Hills Take Their Toll.

Fainting women, motorcycles charging the crowd, cars running backwards and threatened with destruction until pulled up by a band of swarthy and muscular fishermen armed with ropes and the chocks – these were the stories which an innocent and sensation loving section of the public were served out with by some of the evening papers on Saturday, and, as usual they were pretty wide of the mark. Actually, the run was very much like other London – Lands End events, the weather being ideal throughout, but the dust nuisance in the West Country really bad. Naturally, of there were one or two minor mishaps, but, after all the Land’s End is a test, not a joy ride!

The start, which took place from the Slough Trading Estate, was comparatively uneventful. A fine night, warm for the time of the year, promised competitors good weather for the initial portion of the run, although a few clouds suggested the possibility of rain. This, however, did not materialise during the trial. The number of hatless and coatless competitors testified to the popularity of the small saloons, of which there was a very large number. The first part of the journey was practically with out incident, stops being made at Marlborough and Sheppton Mallett for coffee. The more lengthy hold at Taunton for breakfast was very welcome, especially as three of the observed hills, to wit Porlock, Lynmouth and Beggars Roost had to be climbed before lunch.

Porlock was a rather more difficult proposition of this year, mainly because the restarting test was held a on a more severe a gradient, so giving their competitors no time to get up of any appreciable speed before of reaching the steepest portion on the first bend. The restarting test was carried out in the usual way, that is to say, drivers were halted at the first of two lines running across the road, 10 yds apart, and were required to restart unaided, cross the second line within 8 seconds and then make a non stop climb of the rest of the hill. In spite of the restart being held at a steeper spot, and the fact that the road surface was rather troublesome owing to a layer of dust and small stones, the small cars did quite well on the whole. The following figures at show how the various classes performed, but it should be noted that the question of covering the timed 10 yds in 8 seconds has not been taken into consideration. Of the three-wheelers 9 or made clean climbs and two failed, whilst the figures for the cars are: – 850cc class: clean climbs, 34; failures,8. 1,100cc class: clean climbs, 35; failures 4. 1,500cc class: clean climbs, 55; failures 5.

As usually the case with the Land’s End the hill was thronged with spectators when the first cycle car, a Morgan, in the hands of H E K Sawtell, arrived on the scene; it may be a very good getaway but failed later. Ten other Morgan drivers followed and, with one exception, all did well, the man who deserved to the greatest praise being A C Maskell, who are actually conquered the hill in an old family model with four aboard. Then came a surprise for the spectators in the shape of D M Healey, who made his Triumph go up Porlock as probably no other car of this size has ever gone up before; but his performance is accounted for largely by the fact that the car was supercharged. Another outstanding feature of this class was the wonderfully consistent climbs made by the four MG Midgets; all showed extremely good acceleration with an entire absence of fuss. The Singer Junior Sports models were well above the average, five models making exceedingly good climbs, although one, in the hands of G H R Chaplin, failed. R G Percival (Morris Minor) and H Clegg (Austin 7) showed off their respective cars to very good advantage. In the 1,100 cc class there were no fewer of than 27 Riley 9’s, and they registered 26 very fine climbs and one failure – very good going! of the rest we specially noted E P Huxham (Salmson) and W H Julian (Standard Nine), both of whom took the hill just as it should be taken.

Superchargers were once again to the fore in the 11/5 litre class, in which there were four Hyper-Sports Lea-Francis models. Very fine acceleration characterised their climbs, the two-seater driven by L Maxwell being practically the only car to gain sufficient speed on the first bend to cause a skid. Other cars which showed abundant power included a trio of Frazer-Nashes in the hands of D Duncan Smith, H J Aldington and D A Aldington. An amusing interlude was provided by H B Poulton, whose Fiat was labelled “Flying Squad”; in company with his passengers he had donned a policeman’s helmet and a minute show battle with functions wasn’t waged in the car during the ascent; in the course of it one of them so far forgot the MCC rules has to take up a position which could no way be characterised as normally seated. The crowd was very interested when the two front wheel drive Alvises appeared on the scene; they seemed rather out of their element, and experienced wheelspin.

Lymouth Hill, loose surfaced and with its long 1 in 5 gradient, is not regarded nowadays as being any thing of a terror; nevertheless, it took its toll of unfortunates. The acute left-hand bend on a gradually stiff filling gradient was the course of their downfall; but there was worse to come for looming ahead was the dreaded Beggars Roost. As one approached this hill it presented a rather peculiar site, the being covered with thousands of spectators who swarmed over the banks and perched themselves crow like in the trees to get the best possible views. This year it did in truth justify the description of terrifying for out of 201 cars no fewer down as 78 failed to make clean ascents. Of the light cars, of which there were 133, 48 failed to make clean ascents. The most alarming incident of the day was when B Roberts (Th. Schneider) came to a standstill on the lower slopes, ran back, hit the bank and turned completely over, that coupe body collapsing under the weight of the chassis. It is a marvel that no one was injured seriously, not even the occupants of the car, especially when one thinks of the large numbers of spectators lining the banks of the hill. The Morgans performed much better this year than one might have anticipated in view of the extremely loose nature of the surface; in fact, it was worse than at any other time since the war. G H Marshall, with a family model, was the only failure in this class, practically all the others of making exceptionally neat and fast ascents, A C Maskell, and his entire “family” being exceptionally good, whilst L H Creed was so fast that his vehicle jumped into the air when it struck the hump of the hill, sending clouds of dust and stones flying.

The class for cars not exceeding 850cc capacity was distinctly surprising and disappointing owing to the large number that failed. Much of this, however, must be attributed too bad driving, many drivers not realising the importance of keeping up the revs. The first car was D M Healey’s supercharged Triumph Seven, which literally streaked up. H Wells and E Williams, with the same type of car, also made good climbs, but two others failed. The four MG Midgets, driven by C Dobson, G Higginbottom, A Watson-Bourne and D Buckingham were very good and received last the applause, as did also the 5 Sports Singer Juniors, which make clean ascents; one car of this type, driven by G H R Chaplin had failed. The Austin cars were not so good as in previous years, A P McGowran, H Widengren and W Milton being the only 3 out of 24 cars of this make to record clean ascents.

The Rileys in the 1100 cc class were well up to scratch. Only to about 26 failed, R Franey suffering badly from wheelspin, and C King-Smith being the other failure. The two rally cars, driven by J A Driskell Ann L Cutbill literally romped up a, the former making his usual spectacular climb. The Standard, driven by W Julian was good. The Roost seemed almost to flatten out in front of the Frazer-Nashes driven by D Duncan-Smith, H Aldington and S Cundey, all of whom pleased the spectators enormously by soaring up at great speed. Five other cars of the same make were practically as good. Of 10 Alvises eight made quite brilliant climbs. As a team the Lea-Francis cars were also very good, fast climbs being recorded by W C Gardiner, C W Durward, S C Stanley and G Gamble. The four Trojans, with one exception, made their usual slow but absolutely sure ascents, receiving hearty cheers from the enthusiastic spectators. Through Simonsbath, where there was a secret check, South Moulton, Torrington and Holsworthy the route was difficult indeed, but of the type which fills every true sportsman’s heart with joy. “Lunch at Launceston” was the slogan of the day.

A certain amount of main road running enabled competitors to digest their lunches in comfort, and the quaint old towns of Camelford and Wadebridge were passed through without incident. So was St Mawgan, but beyond followed much weird going through gates and over tracks with appalling surfaces. At one point there seemed to be an undue affluence of spectators, and the reason was soon discovered. At the bottom of a hill, arched over by trees, was a wide, deep and rocky bottomed water splash which should the wary, spurning to play to the gallery, took very cautiously indeed. Differences in opinion regarding the proper way to pronounce Cornish place names made Trevemper Bridge difficult to locate, so it is to be feared though not a few were caught in the secret check that lay so cunningly concealed just beyond the quaint curving concrete viaduct. Then came Perranporth, the gateway, as it were, to Bluehills Mine, the last observed hill which the weary competitors had to climb. There was a short hold in the village to enable drivers and passengers to have a cup of tea at D M Healey’s garage, and after miles of particularly dusty roads, it was very welcome.

Of all points through which the trial passes Bluehills Mine is probably the most remote and desolate. So great is the enthusiasm of those who follow the fortunes of the competitors, however, that 2 or 3,000 spectators gathered together in the valley and on the hillsides. The weather was brilliant and everybody was in holiday mood, all set to enjoy themselves; of in this they were assisted by several ice cream barrows and a motor fried fish shop! Due to the continuous fine weather the surface of the hill was bone dry and somewhat loose, large stones being strewn in the fairway. The solo motorcycles and the side car combinations having passed, there came next the three-wheelers, 10 of them, all Morgans and every driver an old hand at trials work. Each man was stopped and restarted at the bridge in the valley, and was of course, required to climb the hill non-stop. Those who expected to see hectic driving and spectacular performances were disappointed, as more decorous behaviour has never been witnessed. Each Morgan driver toured up to the hairpin, rounded it easily and carried on in a sure but unhurried manner. True G E Swift slipped his clutch a little and G Goodall did a rapid little sprint beyond the corner. A C Maskell, his “family” still looking as comfortable and as unconcerned as ever, found time to eat and apple on the way up. Probably the neatest climbs were made by G C Harris and H S Vidler. The approach of D N Healey (Triumph), leading the cars in class 4, was heralded by the whine of the supercharger. He came up the hill very fast and was quite untroubled by the hairpin. It soon became obvious that every make of car in a class was easily capable of climbing the hill and that all had sufficient lock to negotiate the hairpin without the least risk of bumping the bank. Not every driver knew the hill, however, and those who rushed the lower slope found themselves in trouble on the hairpin. A R Percival (Morris Minor) made a very good climb, so did most of the MG Midget drivers, but D C Buckingham, in a car of this make, went to wide on the hairpin and came near to turning over. With a large Easter egg dangling from his windscreen B C G Gray (Singer Junior) treated the hill and the hairpin with absolute contempt, an example which was followed by the other singer drivers and also by the Austin contingent.

The honour of the 1,100 cc class was worthily upheld by the leading driver, H E Symonds, (Riley), who rounded the hairpin with consummate ease and, about 50 yds beyond, changed up into second. Many other Riley drivers adopted similar tactics with almost equal success, but there were those who rushed the lower slope at a speed which brought their offside front wheels into more or less violent contact with the bank, G J Redgrove being one who bumped it with sufficient force to bend his mudguard. Very good performances were made by N G Stokes (Fiat) and C Anthony (Salmson), whilst the two sports model Rallys made most impressive climbs, their acceleration after the hairpin been loudly applauded by the crowd. Repeated bumpings had loosened part of the bank on the hairpin and when C L Clayton (Alfa Romeo) came up in the 1,500 cc class he was able, in spite of having gone wide, to force his car over the boulders. It was a determined effort and both front wheels left the ground, but he won through. D A Aldington (Frazer-Nash) also tried conclusions with the boulders, but stopped his engine and ran back. The crowd evidently was not used to a detachable starting handles, because when Aldington produced his and handed it to a marshal there was a roar of mirth, soon drowned, however, by the roar of exhaust, as with foot hard down, Aldington made up for lost time. J Templeman (Standard) and S C H Davis (Aston Martin) made neat and fast climbs, but the two fwd Alvises there were handicapped on the hairpin by their long wheelbase. R S L Latham-Booth made a good climb, however, but A G Gripper’s model suffered rather from wheelspin. S C Stanley (Hyper Lea-Francis) was very good, and H E Eastwood (Swift), although he caught his bumper on the cliff side, went up in fine style. Admittedly rather slow but apparently irresistible, the team of four Trojans disregarded both hill and hairpin. Hitherto, beyond occasional bumpings, there had been no exciting incident, but there was one with a vengeance when J Torreme (Standard Saloon) hit the bank at such an angle that the car toppled right over onto it side. No time was lost in lifting it up and rushing to the assistance of the occupants, but by some marvellous chance they were quite uninjured and, what is more, there was not so much as a single pane of glass cracked in the body. Within 3 minutes Torreme had restarted his engine and was on his way up as the hill, neither he nor his woman passenger having got out of the car. None of the light cars failed to climb the hill, but, of course, those drivers who stopped on the hairpin lost marks even though they made a clean restart.

Even the climbing of Bluehills Mine does not mean that the run is over, for there is much hard going for the next 14 miles, including the crossing of a sort of miniature Sahara near Gwithian, before the main road A30 is read joined near Hayle. After that it is child’s play to Penzance, when difficulties crop up again with the ascent of Paul Hill out of Newlyn. And, at long last, came “the end” and the feeling of exultation and relief when the final checking sheet was signed. Friends Taylor and Corin officiated and had a hearty handshake for hosts of folk whom they have welcomed in previous years, whilst a distinctive note was struck by the presence of the Mayor of Penzance.

(Reproduced from The Light Car)

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