The first of ten episodes of ‘Secrets of the Transport Museum‘ was shown on the ‘Yesterday TV Channel’ on Tuesday 30th March 8.00pm. I watched the programme and here is a summary of what was covered –
In pole position was Julian Grimwade with his 1934, chain driven, Frazer Nash, 3.4 Litre Alvis engined TT Replica. In this case, the word replica may project the wrong impression: Between 1932 an 1939 Frazer Nash, then owned by the Aldington brothers, produced 85 cars referred to as TT Replicas. Therefore they were factory built cars that had ‘Replica’ as part of their model name. They were based on the cars that contested the 1931 and 1932 Tourist Trophy Races. In 1936 Julian’s car was converted to a “monoposto” configuration, by the then owner, Philip Fontana Jucker and raced in the ‘Voiturette’ class.
Julian, a very engaging personality who I hope we see more of as the series progresses, told the interviewer about the aforementioned Mr. Jucker. He came across as a “Mad Max” type of character, living life, literally, by the seat of his pants. Here is a snippet from the obituary published in the 4th June 1937 edition of the ‘Autocar’ magazine, it tells of how a car racing accident had removed “…a great enthusiast from our midst, for Jucker was second to none in his keenness for motor racing… His style was vivid, for he believed thoroughly in enterprise and dash, without which, of course, no man can be a really fast driver”. He died, at the age of 31, when he lost control of his Alta as he was taking a sharp corner at the end of Marine Drive, Douglas, Isle of Man, causing it to slam into an “electric railway standard” cutting the car in half. He had been practicing for that year’s Isle of Man RAC International race. The remains of the Alta were purchased by George Abecassis and the car was rebuilt at Roger Taylor’s Alta works in Surbiton Surrey. Abecassis campaigned the car with much success in the 1938 and 1939 seasons, see the photo of the car below.
Back to Julian’s car – after Philip Jucker’s ownership it went through a number of hands until, in 1946, it was purchased by the Norris brothers, Frank and Jack. It was they who replaced the original Gough 1.5 Litre single overhead camshaft four cylinder engine with its current 3571cc Alvis straight-six from that company’s Speed 25 model. From then on it and another Frazer Nash TT Replica that they bought, have been referred to as Norris Specials.
Julian introduced us to Ian, a fellow Historic Race Car enthusiast who, by coincidence, currently campaigns the ex Jucker, ex Abecassis Alta. We were treated to a few minutes of the two dicing at Mallory Park, great fun!
We were then introduced to Tamalie Newbery, the Brooklands current Director and CEO. Tamalie gave an overview of the current activities and ambitions of the Brooklands Museum which led to her telling us about a personal ambition regarding one of the Museum’s oldest exhibits. She was referring to the 1904 Siddeley (‘Daisy’ as it is affectionately known) which was the first car to drive on the newly constructed racing ‘Oval’ in 1907. Daisy was first owned by Ethel Locke King, co-founder of the Brooklands Motor Course with her husband Hugh Locke King. It was Ethel’s drive around the circuit, or at least the section that still remains, that Tamalie told us that she wanted to emulate. But first, the car had to be restored to a functioning condition – enter from stage right, Roger Horsfield, leader of a team of volunteer engineers. The ‘Yesterday’ TV crew followed Roger and his team as they went through all the proceedures necessary for ‘Daisy’ to be able to travel under its (or ‘her’ if you will) own power. What a complex process it turned out to be, no mere “turn the ignition key to fire the engine, engage gear and press the accelerator pedal” as we do today.
By sheer perseverance and not a little skill, the old lady was coaxed into action. The next step was to teach Tamalie how to drive it, I think that most of us would struggle to master the complex controls. So much different to the Nissan Leaf, with automatic transmission, that is her “daily driver”. Tamalie expressed severe reservations about her ability to master Daisy’s controls. However, with a trial run in Alan Winn’s exquisite 1934 Railton Terraplane, she was at least able to experience both the thrill and the dangers of driving on the less than pristine ‘Oval’. Alan was Tamalie’s predecessor at Brookland and held the job for fifteen years. Many of the immense improvements and innovations seen at Brooklands in recent years, took place under his guidance, supported by dedicated trustees and volunteers. So, towards the end of the programme, we see Tamalie, decked in a suitable period costume, achieve her ambition of following in her hero’s wheel tracks. I expect that many viewers, like myself, shared in her delight.
Although Brooklands may be best known for all the many exploits achieved by motor cars and their drivers before 1940, it also holds an equally meritorious place in Britain’s aeronautical history. Most notably that it was the site of England’s first dedicated airfield. A number of famous aeroplane companies were based there during the early years of the fledgeling industry. It is fitting then that the Brooklands Museum should have a significant area, both outside and undercover, dedicated to aeroplanes. If I tell you that the “pride of place” of the collection is held by a BAC/Sud Aviation Concorde (G-BBDG or ‘Delta Golf’ was the first Concorde to carry 100 passengers at Mach 2) then you will get some idea of just how important is that element of the Brooklands Museum.
During the programme, we were shown volunteers working on Concorde, more will be shown in subsequent programmes. The greatest amount of time spent, in the Aircraft section, was with a prototype Hawker Siddeley Harrier Jump Jet. It is stored in a hanger and during one of the routine checks it had been noticed that one of the rear undercarriage tyres was showing signs of deflation. We were shown volunteers carefully jacking up that assembly and eventually deciding to replace the tyre’s pressure valve. The enthusiasm and dedication to the task was palable.
The pre 1940 Brooklands race circuit was not only famous for the exploits of motor cars and their drivers; motorcycle riders also used the track to good effect. A fact that the TV programme producers were anxious to draw to our attention. They did so by using a JAP engined Cotton special, built by ex Brooklands Racer Doug Earle, in the 1990s, to demonstrate the efforts the early racers and organisers took to placate Brooklands wealthy neighbours. Earle’s special is a recreation of a 1930s Outer Circuit racer so the noise generated and the ‘Can’ silencer (muffler for our North American readers) that it is equipped with, is a true representation of the period. Noise was an inevitable problem, on race and practice days, to those living near the circuit. The high revving motorcycle engines presented a particular problem. To mitigate this the Brooklands ‘Can’ silencer was created. Gareth, a volunteer at the Museum, was enlisted to undertake a test of the Cotton’s silencer to see how effective it was. He was using equipment that would not have been available in the 1930s. He certainly warmed to his task and looked the part sitting astride this fearsome bolide. Everyone concerned, including many viewers I would think, were most amused when the tests proved that this elaborately constructed silencer produced a 0.4 decibel reduction in the noise produced. Still, it was an imaginative way to introduce the viewer to the Museum’s motorcycle collection.
Well, in my opinion, the series got of to a very good start and I would think that it left viewers looking forward to the next nine episodes. These will be shown at the same time, 8.00pm every Tuesday and repeated at 9.00pm on Fridays.
Middlechild Productions with executive producers David Sumnall, Andrew Eastel and Philip McCreery and the series producer Andrew Walmsley together with the staff and volunteers of the Brooklands Museum, can be justifiable proud of this new vernture.
The purpose of this webpage is to provide information on a TV Show featuring Classic Cars and refers to material that is in the Public Domain. Carsceneinternational.com has no commercial relationship with any of the organisations referred to.