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VSCC Prescott Hill Climb 2022 – Part One: The Racers

On Saturday and Sunday 6th and 7th August the SAHB was back at Prescott. Together with our good friends the VSCC Library we were sent uphill alongside the Vauxhall 30-98 parking area at the top of the paddock; we hope you found us eventually.

Thank you to all the enthusiasts, members of the SAHB or non-members, who came to chat about cars and bikes, old and new(er).

Prescott is rightly called the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of the VSCC diary, and not only was there much to see in the racing paddock or on the track, but there was also a fine collection of cars of all ages in the car park (this time mixed between old and modern – which gave a nicely eclectic collection).

After cancellation for 2020 and hesitant return for 2021, the stands were back in force, where photos and automobilia of all kinds could be bought alongside ice creams, drinks and even full meals!

As usual, there was so much to see that we’re going to split our report into several news items that we’ll post over the next few weeks. We’ll start with the racers: pictures, stuff we know about them, and stories we heard about them during the weekend.

So here we go with Part One: The Racers…

1918 Piccard-Pictet Sturtevant aero-engined special

At least four other Edwardian cars at Prescott were powered by American V8 aero engines – but those were Curtiss powerplants. This Piccard-Pictet, a distinguished Swiss marque, is fitted with a Sturtevant V8 of 9062cc capacity. These engines can be distinguished from the Curtis by the exhausts on each side: one at the front, one at the back, and two in the centre between the cylinder blocks.

 

1918 Le Zèbre Curtiss aero-engined special

And here is evidence of the key difference between Curtiss and Sturtevant engines. The 8.2-litre Curtiss OX-5 V8 has equally spaced exhausts. This Le Zèbre special was assembled over 20 years ago by Robin Baker as a two thirds-scale replica of the 1904 Panhard-Levassor World land Speed Record/GP car and used for hillclimbing. Its engine is mounted in a pre-WWI Amilcar chassis, serving as a subframe that is in turn mounted in a Peugeot frame. The axles are from a 1918 Le Zèbre cyclecar, as is the symbol on the radiator.

 

1915 De Dion-Bouton Curtiss special

Yet another Curtiss-engined machine, in a De Dion chassis. If we were so inclined, we might perpetrate a dreadful pun by saying that it had a Boot On – but we would never have such poor taste…

A boot acting as a chock on the front wheel.

 

1912/1915 Luxior Curtiss special

The Luxior was a conventional 4-cylinder car built at Vincennes near Paris from 1912 to 1914 only, distinguished by its vee radiator. the owner added more information on the many Curtiss engines in the Edwardians at Prescott: these 8.2-litre engines were used in Curtiss JN-4 trainer biplane, logically nicknamed the “Jenny”. The JN-4 was possibly the most famous American World War I aircraft, with an estimated 95% of all trainees having flown a JN-4. The 90 hp Curtis OX-5 gave the machines a top speed of 75 mph and a ceiling of 6,500 ft.

This car has a maker’s plate from the original “Jenny” aircraft attached to its dashboard.

the donor aircraft’s maker’s plate

 

1913 Chalmers Model 17

This is an unusual hill climb car. The 5000cc Chalmers Model 17 was ostensibly a tourer, but with a stripped-down body and a strong 4-cylinder engine it clearly makes an excellent Prescott car.

The radiator badge, confirming that the Chalmers was built in Detroit.

 

1928 BNC

These small cars were powered by Chapuis-Dornier, SCAP and Ruby engines. This one is stated to be of 1465cc capacity, but we are not sure of the make of engine.

 

1922 Sunbeam ‘Strasbourg’ Grand Prix racing two-seater

This was not going up the hill, but was in the Bonhams field. It is the ex-Sir Henry Segrave Chassis No. 1 Grand Prix de l’ACF car and will be auctioned at the Goodwood Revival on 17 September. The engine is a highly advanced twin-cam 4-cylinder unit of 2 litres capacity, designed by Ernest Henry.

 

1929 Austin Seven Ulster

In this centenary year of the launch of the Austin Seven it is good to see these cars still competing. This is a 748cc Sports Ulster from Germany.  The model was officially the EA, and gained its Ulster name from a strong performance in the 1929 RAC TT held at the Ards circuit in County Down, where Archie Frazer-Nash finished third and S. V. Holbrook finished fourth. This example has the signature Ulster body with no doors.

 

A pair of ERAs

On the left is AJM1, a 1936 1483cc car built from many genuine parts. On the right is the Raymond Mays R4D. It gained all the most important development upgrades in period and remains today one of the greatest ERAs.

 

1925 Bugatti Type 35B

The Type 35B is arguably the most famous of all the racing Bugattis. Its 2300cc supercharged single overhead cam straight-eight and beautifully crafted chassis made it one of the most successful racing cars of the Twenties.

 

1932/37 Hillegass Special sprint car

This sprint car is typical of the racers that competed on US oval dirt tracks in the 1930s. The engine is Model B Ford 4-cylinder flathead of 3285cc, with the C head and a 6-1 compression ratio.

This Hillegass is one of 41 sprint models produced by Hiram Hillegass of Allentown, Pennsylvania. It has an early aerodynamic design with a slight layback on the grille. It has a hand-formed all-aluminium body. It is set up for dirt tracks: the front axle is mounted well forward to provide a better bite into the dirt.

Talking of bite, the owner explained that the drivers of the time were tough – with anti-clockwise racing, so vicious was the stress on the right front wheel that the front axle would often break. The wheel would disappear and the axle would dig into the dirt, often causing the car to roll, with disastrous results for the driver. To reduce the chance of this, the cars had a skid built into the bottom of the right-hand end of the front axle, to allow the car to skid along the track and not dig in.

The skid on the right-hand end of the front axle

 

1935 MG NA

This supercharged 1491cc MG NA is clearly built for hillclimbing, with its purposeful twin rear wheels that were often used to maximise traction before World War II before wide tyres were available.

These rear tyres mean business. The marshal is there because the MG had a ‘failure to proceed’ (we hope temporary) and was checking that all was OK. We also though we should remember the superb work done by the unpaid but highly skilled and dedicated marshals.

 

1931 Frazer Nash Ulster

All Nashes look purposeful, but this one looks especially ready to race. It is powered, not by the normal Meadows 4-cylinder engine but by a rare twin-cam Anzani (as used in the Squire [we got this wrong at first and said that it was a Meadows; see the comment below.]

Look 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.

See you soon!


One response to “VSCC Prescott Hill Climb 2022 – Part One: The Racers”

  1. Simon Coates says:

    Oh Dear! This red Nash Ulster has a rare twin cam Anzani engine, otherwise used in the Squire. Note four exhausts; a Meadows engine would normally have three.

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