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VSCC Prescott Hill Climb 2019 – Part One: The Racers

On Saturday and Sunday 3rd and 4th August the SAHB took a stand for the second year – once again thanks to the kindness of Ian Ferguson and his colleagues who run the VSCC Library tent and generously allow us to share with them the same prime spot between the restaurant and the racing paddock.

Our thanks go to all those enthusiasts who visited us to share their enthusiasm, to chat about all sorts of cars and bikes, and in many cases to buy some of our publications.

Prescott is the VSCC’s flagship event of the year – almost certainly because it packs all the customary racing and spectators’ cars into an intimate venue of outstanding beauty, where you can be at the other end of the whole thing in five minutes and pick up an ice-cream and an early copy of Motor Sport on the way.

The parking for ordinary people like us at VSCC Prescott is also excellent: very close to the trade stands so we can nab bargains just as the traders open up (if we arrive early enough) and manned by very friendly people who send you to the right place.  Just don’t turn up in a beautiful Big Healey – the field will rip your exhaust off.  Normal cars are fine.

There is so much to see and talk about that we’re going to split our report into several news items that we’ll post over the next few weeks.  We’re going to start with the racers. In all these posts we’ll give you a mix of pictures of the cars, stuff we know about them and stories we heard on the day.  We hope you enjoy Part One: The Racers…


Mrs Sue Livesey in her 1921 GN Vitesse

This picture sums up all that’s great about VSCC Prescott.  Getting ready to race, with a car that can be fiendishly difficult to get into gear.  A few seconds later, the car was smoothly proceeding to the start point under perfect control.


Richard Gatley’s 1935 Frazer Nash BMW 319 Type 45 Saloon

This lovely saloon was racing in the Modified Class – but it looked pretty standard to us.  It’s always a pleasure to see saloons being thrust up the hill; they bring a touch of old-school refinement to the proceedings.  Motor Sport tested one of the Type 45 saloons in 1937 and said: “this marque combines so many good qualities in one vehicle as to offer a solution to all those persons who have occasion to travel far and fast and wish to do so with comfort, refinement, and security.”  Exactly.


Geoffrey Delaney’s 1930 Lea-Francis Hyper

As always at Prescott there were several Hypers here this year.  Superb cars with great racing pedigree.

The engine of the Hyper: Meadows 4ED, 1496cc Supercharged


David Marsh’s 1919 Vauxhall E-Type 30-98

This is a very early production car: a 1919 side-valve version of one of the finest sporting cars of the vintage period.  Note the lack of front brakes: clearly made for going rather than stopping – which seems to be the right idea.


Graham Figg’s 1906-1913 OTAV Cyclecar Special

This year was a first outing at Prescott for this little machine.  It has a small twin-cylinder engine of only 964cc.  OTAV is an acronym for Officine Turckheimer per Automobili e Velocipedi, an Italian car manufacturer in Milan between 1905 and 1908.  Max Turckheimer was a Milanese industrialist, already known and respected for his Turckheimer bicycles and motorcycles.  In 1906 an OTAV won its category in the “Coppa Milano-Sanremo” race – so the marque has racing pedigree.


Andy Storer’s 1938 Lightweight Special

This unique racing car was the fruit of several years of work by the father of the Mini, Alec Issigonis, and his friend George Dowson. Its build started in 1933 in a shed, using only hand tools.  It has a stressed aluminium monocoque and a plywood chassis. The fully independent suspension was made from large rubber bands and the wheels are Elektron magnesium alloy castings. The Lightweight Special has been run at Prescott and Shelsley Walsh since its completion in 1938 – and in 1947 was fitted with its current powerplant: an experimental 748cc Wolseley 4-cylinder overhead camshaft supercharged unit that puts out around 100 bhp.

The rear suspension and Elektron wheel


Hicky Hickling’s 1911 Pope-Toledo Hall-Scott Special

Hicky Hickling (a notable speaker some years ago at an SAHB seminar, telling us about how he was building this special) was here and ready to go – almost.  This is a 1911 Pope-Toledo with a 10-litre Hall-Scott engine made by Nordyke Marmon.  He kindly tried to start it for us but found something was seriously wrong.  He thanked us later for saving his bacon: the battery had slipped forward into the flywheel and destroyed itself.  If he hadn’t tried to start it for us he would have had no time to fix it before his run.  All was sorted in time, with just a strip of battery acid left on the grass.  Oops.

The Hall-Scott engine.  Almost certainly built in period for use in a motor vehicle, because it lacked the propeller drive of the aero engines.

The control systems of the car.  Hicky made most of these controls himself from old photographs of the racers, but they have a lovely patina.

A similar Pope-Toledo in period, with its original engine.


The ERAs: AJM1, R4D and R12C

We cannot post a report of VSCC Prescott without showing the ERAs.  AJM1, the red car, was built up in the 1980s by Anthony J. Merrick after the owner of R1A, the car Merrick raced, sold the car.  It is said to be 80% original B-Type ERA with a 1.5-litre engine.  R4D (black) is “The Daddy”: Raymond Mays’s development car and holder of FTD last year.  R12C (blue) has a complex history: it was rebuilt after a crash and is closely related to the original Prince Bira Hanuman R12B.


1936 Maserati 6CM Chassis No. 1532

At quiet periods we took a walk around the venue to see what else was about – and came across this car, raced in period by Count Trossi.  It was recently sold by dealers Tom Hardman Limited; the new owner kindly lent it back for the two days and it graced the Tom Hardman stand.


Bugatti 2.3-litre 8-cylinder roller-bearing crankshaft

We were privileged to be able to visit the Bugatti Trust during the weekend; it’s open to everyone during these two days.  Among many delights, including the 1939 Bugatti Type 59/50B racing car that we have at the moment in our Sliders at the top of this website, we were captivated by this crankshaft.  This is the revolutionary design developed by Bugatti and used in the Type 35 and Type 51 Grand Prix racing cars and in the Type 43 and Type 55 sports cars.  There were only 400 engines built with this type of crankshaft between 1924 and 1935.  It has 5 main ball and roller bearings and 8 connecting-rod roller bearings and was at the very heart of the success story of Bugatti racing in this period.  It does not need to be oil-pressure fed; lubrication is by an oil spray system, centrifugally fed to the big-end rollers.


Ian Baxter’s 1937 Alta 611.S

We didn’t ignore the racing going on.  Here is a fine Alta racing car with a 1960cc supercharged engine of Alta’s own manufacture.  This was a well-known make in Formulas 1 and 2 after World War II, but here is a car from the pre-war days.


David Knight’s 1928 Frazer Nash Super Sports

There is no VSCC Prescott without the Chain Gang cars.  And here is such a machine, in full flow up the first part of the track, watched (most of the time) by typically relaxed spectators.


A pair of Amilcars – 1928 CGSS left and 1929 CGSS right

Amilcar racers are always good-looking, but these two especially took our fancy.  The CGSS was a lowered version of the CGS – the second S standing for surbaissé (lowered).  The dancer Isadora Duncan died in a CGSS when her silk scarf became entangled around the open-spoked wheels.

Keep an eye out on this website for Part Two: The Pre-War Cars – fine machines we found in the car parks.  Part Three will be the Post-War Cars – more fine machines that prove that the manufacture of great cars didn’t stop before the war.

See you soon!

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