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Austin Seven, help needed


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#1 Leif Snellman

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Posted 12 September 2002 - 19:16

I'm forwarding the following letter I have received:

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I am trying to research the history of a 1931 Austin Seven Ulster, and
have the enclosed photo of the car racing at Brooklands in either 1931 or
1932. The driver might have been a man called G H Goodson, and it appears
to be a handicap race (as there are riding mechanics, and the Sevens are
ahead of the Riley and a Talbot).

From your records, can you shed any light on this?
Many thanks for your help with this,

Regards,

Fred Jenns
http://www.classic-sportscar.co.uk

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#2 Criceto

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Posted 12 September 2002 - 21:39

Tricky one. It's not a major event, so it took a little detective work. I think I've narrowed it down to two events at Brooklands, but neither is a perfect fit.

My first thought was the 1931 July Junior Car Club meeting. The race numbers match the programme. Goodson ran number 6, and everything else seems to tie in. Except that the day was overcast, not sopping wet as the photo clearly shows. Indeed, the latest edition of Bill Boddy's illustrious tome shows a Seven at that event, kicking up dust on the infield circuit. (pge 265).

The other thing that rules against the 1931 meeting is that there's no Talbot listed as an entrant. It did cross my mind that we were looking at a 15hp Aston Martin in the background, but blowing up the photo rules that out, I think.

So I looked at other events, and there are two others that have an Austin 7 running numbers 6 and 8, and a Riley at 33.

We can rule out the March 12 1932 JCC Rally, because this took the form of a series of driving tests, and I believe there was no actual track racing.

Which leaves the JCC Members Day, April 23 1932. And it simply poured down all morning, including the first 45 minutes of the opening High Speed Reliability Trial, in which all of our pictured cars were entered. The Autocar for April 29 1932 has a two-page report, and some illustrations in it are quite remarkable, including a Brooklands Riley 9 fording a sizeable river in front of the Vickers Shed.

While there are no pictures of "our" cars in the article (maybe The Motor for that week could help - someone call Beaulieu?), there is a picture of an Austin 7 carrying number 4, and it is a similar number board mounted over the near-side headlamp. Most of the competing cars are carrying passengers, which ties in too.

But we've got a problem. And it concerns the driver. Because the driver of Austin number 4 is listed as GH Goodson in both Autocar and the programme. Number 6 was M Gorringe, and 8 was driven by Charles Metchim. The 33 Riley, incidentally, was Teddy Rayson. Anyone got a magnifying glass to verify that one?

If we could confirm who it is at the wheel of that Austin, we might be able to verify whether that's the meeting I think it is. Who was M Gorringe, and does anyone know what he looked like?

#3 Barry Lake

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Posted 13 September 2002 - 03:56

Criceto

I was just reading this thread and thinking how fortunate we on TNF are to have access to a Brooklands "scholar" like yourself, when it occurred to me that you might not have seen the Brooklands question I posted elsewhere, so am elbowing my way in here to ask it again.

You might just come across it while checking the Austin 7 mystery.

In late 1935 a group of English midget car drivers raced in Australia. One of them, Ralph Secretan, was claimed to have had considerable racing experience at Brooklands.

Speedway programmes were/are notorious for "stretching the truth" but I would like to know if there is any truth in this claim.

If you come across Secretan's name in relation to Brooklands (or anything else, for that matter) could you let me know, please?

And sorry, Leif, for butting in on your thread. I will keep an eye out for any info on Austin 7s of the era.

#4 David McKinney

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Posted 13 September 2002 - 05:25

Originally posted by Criceto
We can rule out the March 12 1932 JCC Rally, because this took the form of a series of driving tests, and I believe there was no actual track racing.

My first thought was that the picture is not of a proper race - surely passengers weren't usual even in 1932? I wondered about a club driving test, or one of those relay races which did have rather different rules. But a rally does seem to fit too

#5 Ray Bell

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Posted 13 September 2002 - 05:48

Originally posted by Criceto
...Who was M Gorringe, and does anyone know what he looked like?


I don't know if this outside chance might be of help, Tim...

During the Longford era in Tasmania there was a bridge across the circuit called the Gorringe bridge... I think I have that right.

Donald Gorringe is the name associated with that, so we have a Tasmanian named Gorringe with motor sporting connections... could his father or brother have taken in an event at Brooklands while on a visit?

Or could the Gorringe family have settled in Tasmania some time between 1932 and 1955?

Like I said, an outside chance...

#6 Criceto

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Posted 13 September 2002 - 07:26

That's an interesting angle, Ray. There's only one Gorringe in the Brooklands record, as far as I can ascertain, and he only competed in the early 1932 season. It would be interesting to see if there's anything on the Tasmanian connection. And if we're not careful, I'm going to get curious about who Donald was to make them name a bridge after him.

David, unless I'm badly misinformed, the JCC Rallies were driving tests, and not car-to-car competition. For this reason, they are consistently under-reported by the contemporary press as being a bit parochial. Bill Boddy consistently dismissed them in his books as "Clubman fun and games" or "JCC wiggle-woggles" when he mentions them as footnotes to his core study on the BARC. Certainly the 1935 and 1937 programmes, which I consulted tonight to verify this, talk about tests of; 1. Easy Starting, 2. Braking, 3. Straightline Speed, 4. Parking, 5. The "Monte Carlo" pylon navigation, 6. Stop and Restart, and 7. Test Hill Climb.

Which is why I decided it was a fair assumption to rule it out.

Finally, Barry, we have helped each other this morning! R.E.P. Secretan competed, as far as I can ascertain, just the once, but did compete. (It feels so good to be able to actually affirm one of these!) He contested a Bugatti (type unlisted in the programme) on March 28 1932 in the Easter Norfolk Lightning Mountain Handicap. He wasn't placed.

It's my life goal to get these minor placings sorted out - not easy when Autocar, Motor and Motor Sport rarely reported more than the top three.

There's another Secretan in the Brooklands record, though. Dr W. Bernard Secretan drove a 15.6hp Brooks & Woolan car during the 1911 season. Any relation to your man, do you suppose?

#7 Criceto

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Posted 13 September 2002 - 07:28

Sorry - Barry - didn't make it clear how you helped me. I've been trying to get as many given first names as possible for Brooklands clubmen, and I only had Secretan's initials. That's another one for my collection.

Thank you.

#8 Ray Bell

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Posted 13 September 2002 - 07:50

Tim, Don Gorringe actually raced, I am sure of it. And I suspect the memory banks are trying to force the word 'Skoda' out in connection with him.

He was a successful businessman in some way too, hence the bridge carried signage for his business. That's why it was called the Gorringe Bridge.

Of course, someone with reference will probably prove me wrong, most likely Bernd...

#9 Brian Lear

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Posted 13 September 2002 - 14:12

Originally posted by Ray Bell
Tim, Don Gorringe actually raced, I am sure of it. And I suspect the memory banks are trying to force the word 'Skoda' out in connection with him.

He was a successful businessman in some way too, hence the bridge carried signage for his business. That's why it was called the Gorringe Bridge.

Of course, someone with reference will probably prove me wrong, most likely Bernd...


The Tasmanian Don Gorringe owned Gorringe Motors in Hobart, and was a competitor and
generous benefactor to the Longford circuit.
Cars he raced include the Wylie Javelin, the MM Holden, a VW, a Porsche 1500 and a Studebaker
Lark

Brian Lear
Australia

#10 ry6

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Posted 13 September 2002 - 17:13

I don’t know if this is any help but –

Extract from Classic Car Africa, July 1998

From the story “Herbert Austin’s Man in Africa”

“Although he never raced at Brooklands, Ron drove a considerable distance on that famous track. An apprentice friend, a German named Secretan, inherited some money when he turned 21 and bought one of Sir Malcolm Campbell’s Bugattis, which Thomson and Taylor overhauled for him.

They decided to do the running-in at Brooklands and Ron remembers his driving sessions as a very bumpy and bone shaking ride. He thinks it might have been smoother if they had been able to exceed the 60 mph limit on the running-in.”

Footnote :

(Ron Deveraux started as an apprentice at the Austin factory in 1928. In the 1930’s he came to South Africa to represent the factory. Sadly, Ron died last year.)

#11 Ray Bell

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Posted 13 September 2002 - 17:31

Originally posted by Brian Lear
The Tasmanian Don Gorringe owned Gorringe Motors in Hobart, and was a competitor and
generous benefactor to the Longford circuit.
Cars he raced include the Wylie Javelin, the MM Holden, a VW, a Porsche 1500 and a Studebaker
Lark


Motley collection... imagine a Lark around Baskerville!

And now I see there is a phone number in the book... why don't I ring and ask...

Thanks Brian.

#12 Leif Snellman

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Posted 13 September 2002 - 18:54

Forwarding:

The plot thickens!!

I have asked VSCC, Beaulieu Library, and the Brooklands Society for
their views, as well as Chris Gould. I am also checking out the original
registration records for 1931 which MAY throw up the first owner, and
possibly entrant/driver/sponsor.

As I get hard evidence, I will pass it on to you guys, but I must say
that this is turning out to be a fascinating exercise in detective work.

Many thanks for your help..... I will keep in touch

Kind regards,

Fred

#13 Criceto

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Posted 13 September 2002 - 20:12

You're not going to believe this, folks, but I've found it!

I don't have a scanner to show you the evidence, but if anyone's got Motor Sport magazine for October 1984, look at page 1230.

It's an article on Mr CH Metchim, and his Austin 7 "Earthquake", but that's beside the point. The photo used as the frontispiece of the article shows Mr Metchim leaving the startline of the 1932 JCC High Speed Trial. His car is number 8 - that is - the second car in Leif's photo. And in the background, there is our man Gorringe, in his Austin 7, number 6 on the board over the light, passenger hunkered down behind the scuttle. It's the same car for sure, at the same event.

Now, anyone got the magazine and a scanner, so we can prove it for Mr Jenns?

#14 Vitesse2

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Posted 13 September 2002 - 21:21

I've taken the liberty of blowing it up a bit :)

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#15 Barry Lake

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Posted 14 September 2002 - 02:18

Thanks Tim and Rob for information on Secretan. That little piece from Classic Car Africa is very informative, with information probably not available elsewhere. I now know more of the true story about Secretan than I did before.

If Secretan inherited money at 21 and was racing the Bugatti in March 1932, it is likely that he turned 21 during 1931. That would make him 25 years old when he visited Australia, which is probably about right.

This "mass production" thread has worked well, solved two puzzles in one! Thanks Leif, for letting me in on your turf. :up:

#16 Barry Lake

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Posted 17 September 2002 - 12:01

While I am on a good thing here, I think I will stick to it...

Another question relevant to Austin Sevens and perhaps also to Brooklands:

Does anyone have information on Albert Ludgate? I believe he was an engineer with Austin in the Austin Seven days and later designed the Lea-Francis high-cam (twin-cam, in-block) engine.

As with Secretan, anything is welcome, no matter how small, on Ludgate and also on the Lea-Francis engine.

#17 Leif Snellman

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Posted 17 September 2002 - 12:53

Good job Criceto and Richard! :clap: :up: :up: :up: