Brooklands. An Aussie on The Banking

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Brooklands was the first stop on my ‘Bucket List’ trip earlier this year. Actually I had to Google what a Bucket List was – although I assumed that it was a list of things to do before you ‘kick the bucket’, I was still curious. Turns out the expression is linked to kicking the bucket that you stand on when you hang yourself. Seeing as that isn’t on my list of things to do, I’ll stick to my trip to Brooklands.

I had just got off the plane after a 14 hour flight from Singapore overnight, and by 9am I had driven the half hour to Weybridge, Surrey, crossing about fifty roundabouts on the way. Oddly, the museum is located next to the enormous Mercedes World dealership, which has a huge skidpan and a handling course on it. As I headed inside there were some hapless customers trying out their best Ken Block impressions with their new C Class coupes. Yawn…I moved on.
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The whole place has a ‘time has stopped’ feel to it, and is not at all over presented. The longer you spend here the more you realise how carefully the place has been preserved. Walking past the rudimentary pits, you read names like Seagrave, Railton, Capt George Eyston, Earl Howe, Malcolm Campbell, John Cobb, Woolf Barnato, Prince Bira, and so on. Quite the company to be keeping.
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Inside the various buildings, it is hard to absorb the full collection that is stored here. Eclectic is not the word. In one glass cabinet in one corner is a display of Innes Ireland paraphernalia, and just as venerated is the curcuits longest serving timekeeper. For hours I stared at programmes and intricately filled out time sheets, read race reports, and gazed at the trophies of the twenties. They were proper pieces of silverware, not some postmodern abstract shape glued to a plinth with the sponsors logo cynically printed on the base to “maximise exposure” as it is today.
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This is Yours Truly next to a life size Denis Jenkinson. Needs no introduction. If you think he does, well, he won the World Sidecar Champion as a passenger with Eric Oliver, rode with Sir Stirling Moss in the 1955 Mille Miglia, and was hands down the best motorsport writer ever, and a world class curmudgeon. Fearless? This little bloke who looks like something out of a movie about Middle Earth had more courage in his left pinkie than I had as a mad teenager. I was more than happy to be in his company. Even if it was a cardboard cut out. Oh, and that’s a Duesenberg crank he’s standing on.
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Never been so tempted to break in to a cabinet as I was that day….
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Not at all in keeping with the rest of the place, a McLaren simulator was set up, pre loaded with the original Brooklands track as it was run in the 20’s. A couple of brash Germans had set a 46 second time before this overweight Aussie slipped his shoes off and dropped in and beat that by 4 seconds. Take that Hans und Karl!
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The museum is littered with Specials – crazy concoctions that only those with loony tendencies would dare to put on the banking. This one, the ‘Nanette Special’ is typical. One Felix Scriven decided to commission this two seater from a Yorkeshireman, who put a 6 cylinder Sage engine in it. Hence the Mother Goose moniker – get it? Mother Goose…stuffed with Sage. Anyway, it went bang, so Mother Goose got a Hooker engine in it, and it was renamed the Nanette Special. I don’t think I want to try to understand that one…. Anyway, it won the 90mph long distance race, but had an unhelpful habit of spraying hot oil all over the driver and catching fire. Damned inconvenient. The last time it did this, only the front wheels and engine was serviceable. No worries, it was rebuilt and had a supercharger fitted to it. Nutcases, the lot of them. You have to admire these pioneering gentlemen racers. I can’t see a Rick Kelly doing this….
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I don’t know much about bikes, but I can sure appreciate this Brough Superior.
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This is the John Cobb, Napier Railton Special. This aero engined car broke 47 speed records at the Bonneville Salt Flats, at Montlhery, and at Brooklands. It is the car that Darth Vader would drive around the Death Star. It didn’t catch fire and try to kill anyone, but at 24 litres and 12 cylinders, and with rear brakes only, it doesn’t need to. It would scare you to death well before anything else. As it sat there, I asked for a sneaky sit inside the car. Denied. And looked scornfully upon. Almost asked to leave. Drooled on it instead.
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It’s not all cars and bikes here. Brooklands is also the home of some serious aviation history. The curators in this section of the museum are rather more nutty than the car boys. Probably frustrated that they can’t scramble before breakfast and have a crack at the Hun before a cup of cha and a soft boiled egg I suppose.
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This big green keg is one of the Barnes Wallis bouncing bombs that 617 Squadron used to turn the Ruhr Valley into a surf beach in 1943.
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This was always going to be as close as I would get to a flight on Concorde. Lot smaller than you might imagine, but the whole idea was not to make you hang around.
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Nowhere around here somewhere is the famous bump on the Banking where all of those famed shots are taken by brave souls with all four wheels in the air at 120mph. I couldn’t find it for the life of me.
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Just as I had finished the descent from the top of the surprisingly steep banking (you get a gentle warning about this beforehand from the polite little man who sells you the entry ticket), a cloth capped lady chunters past on the banking.
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This is what is left of the banking. Despite the sadness of this image, it is nonetheless understandable that in these modern safety obsessed risk managed times, we really couldn’t faithfully re create the Brooklands of old. You can’t have an aero engined fire breathing missile thundering through the banking, overtaking some petrified bloke in an E.R.A, where there are no fences at the top, no run off areas, and certainly no telemetry and pit radio to tell you that you are 2 psi down on your right front. Still, it would be quite tempting….
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So, if you go the land of Curry, Beefeaters, Cornish Pasties, and roundabouts, get yourself to Brooklands. Leave the gawkers behind at Buckinghuge Palace, and get some motorsport history into you.

And P.S – the curators are all mad historians of the place and are more than happy to regale you with all sorts of tales (in the Queen’s English of course)!

Christmas Greetings and Australia Day update

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Merry Christmas and a Happy New year from the Sprite Club of SA.
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Also a heads up on the epic day of the thong – Fay and Gary want to host the Australia Day BBQ and throng throwing comp. Starts at 11.00 am. Bring your own meat for BBQ drinks and chair and a salad or dessert to share. More updates to come in the new year!

Clubbie / Sprite Club’s Christmas coffee at Rezz – Sunday 14th December

Invitation is extended to members of ClubbiesSA and the Sprite Club to share a coffee and croissant at our usual 3rd Sunday gathering place, the Rezz Hotel (details below) from 9.30am.

I have arranged with our host Fred Hamood for a discounted price on a coffee (latte/cappuccino/flat white/expresso) and a croissant (ham & cheese or jam) all for $8.00 only. ClubbiesSA will underwrite a small amount for each person to help the price. If you want to have a full breakfast, rather than just coffee, this choice is up to you.

The trick is, if you want to get this price, you have to come and get a token off me and present it at the counter when you order. I will also give you a raffle ticket as at around 10.15am or thereabouts we are going to have draws of gifts donated by the Rezz – wine and Kris Kringle type fun gifts.

If you are a clubbie member, it will also be a chance to catch up with me about renewing membership.

Remember, December is a busy time and we have continuous clubbie options with a first Sunday at Blackwood next week, this second Sunday option and then a third Sunday back at the Rezz! When too many clubbies are never enough!

Look forward to seeing all you Clubbies and Sprites.

Sean Power

Mob: 0418 846 256
www.rezz.com.au

1275 Flywheels and backing plates

Hi to our South Aussie friends,

Is anyone in need of a lightweight aluminium flywheel to suit a 1275 engine? These will have a steel friction surface and a new ring gear.
A Qld company is willing to produce these so long as there are definite orders for at least 5 of them.
The cost will be $385 each if only 5 are ordered, but cheaper again if there is a larger initial production run.

The same company is also pricing the production of aluminium engine back plates for 1275 and late 1100 engines.
I’ll let you know the pricing for these in the next day or so.

Please let me know in the next week or so if there’s a need for these in SA.

Cheers from Alex Robertson
SCCQ president
Phone 0420 858 386

Sprite Club (member) wins 2014 Australian International Concours d’Elegance !

True Story.

Gerard Miller has taken out Australia’s most prestigious Concours event held in Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building this year. More importantly, Gerard is a long standing member of the Sprite Club of S.A, and is the proprietor of Marque Restorations in Kilkenny, S.A.

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This 1952 Aston Martin DB2 is currently owned by Dr Mal Hemmerling. Shortly after acquiring it in 2011, Mal dropped it off at Marque Restorations, where it spent a very long time in the care of Gerard and his workers as they tore it down and put it back together as probably the best DB2 in the world. LML /50/114 was sold new to Irish motor racing enthusiast, Geoff McRae, who after 102,000 miles and an engine rebuild, drove it around for another 16,500 miles before it got parked with cancer in its chassis and rear trailing arms, and with a bit of work commenced, it sat idle until it was sold on to Dr Hemmerling.

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This is how it looked when it was brought in. Looks OK from first glance, but as always, it’s the disassembly process that uncovers the full truth. Nothing is hidden, and it’s probably when for most of us, the despondency sets in. As the body was removed, it became clear the chassis and the aluminium body had been worked over, and not particularly well at that. This usually adds a lot of work to a lot of work, undoing the bad work and redoing it right.

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Details, details…too many to mention to do this restoration report any true justice.

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Matching up the fan blade paint colour with the original. Cadmium plating and gun blueing the original bolts to get that original factory look. The grille bars were stripped one by one, filed, and resoldered before chroming. Even the number plate is exceptionally restored. And then there are the things you will never see – a collapsible steering column, and chrome moly door intrusion bars.

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I was at the workshop one afternoon when the car was at this stage of the restoration. This is Gerard, making it all look a bit too easy.

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And this is Nicholas, a major contributor to the body work, among many others.

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More details. As the various bits made their way back to the DB2, the complete picture begin to take shape.

One of the pleasures of spending time with classic cars, especially at this level, is to soak up all of the little details that add up to an impressive sight. Even if the marque is not your ‘cup of tea’, you owe it to yourself to spend the time in trying to understand just how bloody hard it is to win something like this event. Concours judges pick on every little thing, in this case, points were deducted for plastic valve caps. Personally, I’m not sure that this is a Federal case, and I would be would be tempted to tell the judges where they could stick their authentic valve caps, but that’s exactly the point. The highest uncompromising standards are set and aspirations to meet them are fostered by the owners and restorers. True enough, this endeavour isn’t cheap. Actually, relatively speaking, this restoration was probably not as expensive as some I have read about. Maybe you get what you pay for. In this case, Mal paid to have the best in the country for the cost of a house where I live.

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Next time you go to a car show, don’t just wander past like I used to. Get a hold of the owner, (usually fretting nearby with a polishing rag and a hopeful look on their face) and ask lots of questions about the car. Especially if it’s not a Sprite.

So, well done to the cast and crew at Marque Restorations!

Restoration of the Year

1952 Aston Martin DB2, Marque Restorations – SA

Best in Show – 2014

1952 Aston Martin DB2, Mal Hemmerling – SA

December meeting – Inspections from 6pm

While you are all gnawing away at your BBQ meal and quaffing at the December meeting, please note that Gordon will be available to inspect your Sprite / Midget for historic rego from 6pm. Please remember to bring all that other paperwork (listed in previous post) and your jalopy / mint condition / rust bucket / barn find / original and join in for the meeting.

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I see no reason why this shouldn’t pass…

Because you all need reminding that Christmas is coming!

December’s club meeting begins at 6pm on Monday the 1st at Fullarton Park Centre with a BBQ. please bring a chair and something to drink. If you drink too much you will likely confuse the two, which could prove rather painful. Because you are all Sprite and Clubman drivers, you won’t be prone to these difficulties!

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See you there!

PS – Scroll down to the 14/11 post about renewing your historic rego eligibility at this meeting.

Christmas. Don’t miss out.

Apart from the previous post about the December 1st BBQ meeting at the Fullarton Park Centre, you are also invited to

A Xmas party at Paul Doube’s,

SATURDAY 6th December 6.30pm

where you will need to bring the following….

BYO meat,
chair
drink
salad or sweet to share and…
a Kris Kringle present to the value of $10.

Catering for Austin Healey Sprite and MG Midget Enthusiasts