Throwback Thursday: 1955 Roy Fedden Trial

1955 Fedden Trial Cover

On this day in 1955, we held the Roy Fedden Trial, which included the infamous Crooked Mustard section, now a feature on the Cotswold Clouds.  Here’s how it was reported in the December issue of Driving Mirror, including the question of fiddle brakes, which were a new feature…

A Heavily Muffled Report!

(on The Roy Fedden Trophy Trial—Saturday, Nov. 19th)

So simple! “If you are circulating on Saturday I wonder if you could manage to jot down some of your impressions for Driving Mirror?”—thus ran Morgan Marshall’s bland request during pre-Fedden correspondence. A skilful engineer, he has a shrewd idea of a donkey’s straw-carrying capacity—and with never a carrot in sight!

My purely mental jottings will be insufficient for the keen student of trials performance, to whom I commend the detailed results list. Up to 10 points could be lost on each hill and the merits or demerits of individual performances are readily recognizable. The effect which a second essay of Nettleton had on the final result is indeed remarkable. The layout of the hill was revised before the second attempt: a tribute both to its designer and to the new, long suffering attitude of the “Last of the Trials Drivers.”

Personal memory of the “Fedden” takes me back no further than 1948. Entries in that year, and for a few subsequent years, were considerable by present standards (in 1949: 72). From simple beginnings Trials Specials were developed which almost entirely ousted more standard vehicles from the trials scene. Near normal machinery was entered only by those diehards who were prepared at that time, to wait for the turn of the tide. Rivalry in both construction and competition became intense. I forget quite when the R.A.C. Trials Championship and the British Trials Drivers’ Association Star Competition came into being but these contributed in no small measure to the hothouse atmosphere. The more specialised the vehicles, the more abnormal the trials courses, in attempts to defeat the various engineering horrors conceived. Often enough the punishment fitted the climb, mentally, physically and mechanically. With the advent of the 1953 Formula—devised by the B.T. D.A. in conjunction with the R.A.C.—sense came back into the business but only to the extent that present day Trials Specials are neat, functional and controlled in design though yet remaining highly specialised weapons suitable only for trials warfare. (Observe the number of Cannons in the entry list!).

No excuses are offered for the foregoing semi-historical paragraph for it is against such a background that I give my impressions of the 1955 “Fedden.” A somewhat reluctant Club steward, by nature peaceably inclined, the last thing I wished to be involved in was the possible jumble of protest, counter-protest and over-enthusiasm which seemed to me to have coloured a little too highly the trials picture of at least some of the years since 1949. Furthermore, as one of the—perpetrators is, perhaps. the correct word—of the “Farcical Fedden” of 1951. I felt that a benevolent interest in the weird doings of trials drivers was all that could be expected of me. So ignored was my reluctance, however, that I found myself, before the trial, committeed to accompanying my fellow steward, Ken Burgess of “mighty white Allard” fame, in his pre-1953 Formula Jowett Special—early vertical style with body by hipbath—on an inspection of this year’s course. (A decent veil is drawn over the facts which relate to the non-completion ol’ our mission!).

As a qualifying event for the B.T.D.A. Star’ competition the ‘Fedden’ ranks as one of Britain’s classic trials. The entry was representative of the current trials circus and although not all the practising acrobats were present, one was first struck by the neatness of the various turnouts’ it was debatable whether the average racing car received more attention than had obviously been paid to the design, construction and appearance of the majority of the cars (no longer need we call them vehicles’!). A Concours d Elegance would not have been out of place as a Special Test and would have presented a tricky problem to any judging body. A far cry, this, from the days when it was necessary to penalise outstandingly scruffy trailswagon. Taking both competing cars and any towing/transporting vehicles jnto account the premier award would probably have gone to Rex Chappell for his duet in maroon cellulose (Jaguar XK140 fixed-head coupe towing his Cannotton and neither car shaming the other).

Competitors left the Compass Inn at Tormarton from four bells in the forenoon onwards (a distinctly nautical flavour about this part of the Cotswolds!), kept the good ship Cross Hands to starboard and set course for the traditional trials grounds in the Dursley area. The famous but tamed, ‘Breakheart’ (which some call ‘Crooked Mustard’) concluded the tour of the five hills in this the first ‘loop’ in the figure-of-eight course. After returning to the Compass Inn for a time-check and lunch break the second loop took in a Special Test, and by courtesy of the owner, Mrs. K. R. Maurice ,the usual run of hills on the Castle Combe estate. Up to the time of arrival at the last and decisive hill-Nettleton-three competitors, Lawson, Chandler and Newman had clean records, and four others, Chappell, Pettit, Bodenham and Deeley had lost only one mark each: a fair picture of the effect which unseasonable dry conditions had on a well-planned and normally difficult course. “One of the easiest “Fedden” Trials for many years”—to quote from a Press report.

Provisional results were available for 5 p.m.—a creditable effort on the part of the organisers—giving the Fedden Trophy to Michael Lawson for the second year in succession. He was the well-deserved winner of an excellent event which was notable for a new, and altogether pleasant, sporting atmosphere in trials which should bode well for the future. There would appear to be a tendency, fostered in the present Formula, for trials cars to be nearer normal than hitherto. This is not to suggest that the average sports car can live with them in terms of wheel grip, etc., but it may be that over a dual course ( ‘Specials” to the left; ‘Normals’ to the right, sort of thing) there could be a renewed interest in sporting trials. The trials tide might, in fact, have turned at last.


NO Less than 6 ‘Cannon’ cars competed—the latest, No. XIV, being entered by the designer and builder of the breed, Michael Cannon.

Chappell’s oddly named ‘Cannotton’ is, presumably, a ‘Cannon’ crossed with a ‘Cotton’. Used for blasting?

Ford ‘Ten’ engines powered all but one of the cars.

Michael Cannon’s car, the victim of mechanical derangement on Nettleton (first edition) disappeared from the field aboard a Volkswagen truck. Gun Carriage?

Controversial thought? Two of the competing cars were so equipped that braking action could be applied to cither rear wheel at will. Slip Ltd.?. Boffins ideas on the subject welcomed.


1955 Fedden Trial Cover

1955 Fedden Trial 1

1955 Fedden Trial 2

1955 Fedden Trial Results

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