Story Sunday: 1949 Veteran Car Rally

1949 Veteran Car Trial

I heard you liked throwbacks, so I put a throwback in your throwback!  Yes, on this day in 1949, we ran the Bristol Veteran Car Rally for cars that, 71 years ago, were considered old.  Here’s what Leonard Taylor wrote about it in 1949…

Over The Hills and Far Away

(But Struth What Hills!)

The Bristol Veteran Car Rally and Reliability Trial

Since this was the first West Country event I had attended I was naturally anxious to see how it compared in all its details with the arrangements of similar events in other parts of England. Usually the Veteran Car Club is blessed with marvellous weather for their meetings, and I felt sorry that this one should be different.

As any entrant will tell you, a Veteran Car Trial is a real trial in every sense of the word, the agony usually commencing many days before the public begins to show interest. In my own case, although my “Stanley” Steamer seemed to be perfect, it developed water pump trouble the day before the great event. Obviously this could not possibly occur AFTERWARDS!!

Having received my route card by registered post (a splendid idea I thought) I carefully worked out all my checking times to the exact second and on the Friday evening everything seemed to be ready for the ordeal to follow. My friend John Granger was coming from Nottingham in his “Stanley” Steamer and I was looking forward to a most enjoyable week-end.

What a pleasure it was on arrival at the Rally point at Messrs. Welch’s Garage, to be met by a smiling Mrs. Hammond who presented me with a welcome and a programme, free of charge. Mrs. Hammond also presented me with something not quite so pleasant—namely a new route card containing corrected mileages which meant that I had to work out all my times again. Over lunch I grappled with this problem, but whether or not it was due to the excitement, I do not know, but try as I might I just could not work out those times. John Cordon, however, who was passenger on the other “Stanley,” came to my rescue and eventually Peter Scott, my navigator, was provided with the necessary figures.

Zero hour came, together with the rain, and the Garage began to empty itself of its contents at half-minute intervals. Eventually came 2.50 and 30 seconds which was our “moment” and off we went. What a crowd! These Bristolians are surely enthusiasts to brave such shocking weather. All along the route was a cheering throng and despite my passenger’s protests, I am convinced that the car was the chief centre of interest.

At Paradise we received a very special welcome—from John Granger,our only Steam challenger. Apparently one of his new (?) tyres had decided that despite the rain it was still too hot, and promptly proceeded to fling its rubber waistcoat all over the road, arriving at this compulsory stop in its underwear. John knew that reposing in the back of our Stanley was a nice new 810 x 90 cover, which he promptly swiped and in ten minutes, was ready to go. If anyone wants a similar cover sans rubber, there is one lying at Paradise eminently suitable for retreading.

Burrington Coombe was a severe test even for a “Stanley” Steamer, and it was a question of all hands to the pumps. Such was my navigator’s effort that at the top of this hill, to quote the poem about a black-smith, “The muscles of his brawny arms stood out like sparrow’s ankles.” The boiler was nearly empty and I was longing for a nice long down-hill run where I should use little steam and give the pumps a chance to fill the boiler.

The weather was fair now and our trip over the Mendips was most enjoyable. Here and there we overtook other competitors and again we were passed by those making up time lost on other parts of the route. Spectators here were few and far between, but back on the Wells Road we again found ourselves amongst interested groups. Hursley Hill was an easy climb and at the Red Lion incline further on the crowds were tremendous, surging right across the road and making driving most difficult. However, in the face of such a throng we felt compelled to show the “Stanley’s” hill climbing powers and so we “gave her the lot.” How she sailed upwards, passing modern petrol cars, grinding their way up in second, to the consternation of their drivers, was told in many of the newspapers, and out of the corner of my eye I could see Peter beaming at this unexpected “showing off.”

And so back to Redcliffe Street and to my surprise, crowds of spectators. On most events of this sort, crowds are there to see the start, but few sufficiently interested to wait the return of the victims. People clapped as the various cars came into view, surely another pleasant gesture and one which I have not before experienced.

An hour spent in exchanging experiences and filling up with water, brought us to the time for our departure to the Grand Hotel, there to eat, drink and be merry after a good day’s sport. How pleasant are these evenings around the table where wise cracking and the usual leg pulling are indulged in to everybody’s delight.

And fancy hearing the results on the day of the trial! Usually, and quite reasonably, one has to wait several days before various Club officials can get together and compute the various competitors’ scores. But in Bristol things are different apparently. With lightning speed the scores were worked out so that before bedtime we were all informed of our fate.

Did I enjoy the day? Most certainly. And I shall look back on it as the equal of any and better than many similar events I have had the good fortune to attend. I hope this may be an annual, but perhaps not too hardy.


1949 Veteran Car Trial

1949 Veteran Car Trial Results