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Vintage Racing Cars

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 17 Jul 2015 | comments*Discuss
Vintage Racing Cars

A need for speed has been an ingrained desire in man for centuries. Whether the mode of transport has been horse, ship, steam train or car, the need to travel quickly has always been a primary requirement. From their creation, cars have offered independence, and also offered the perfect way to satisfy an instinctive competitive spirit. This desire to race cars is very much in evidence today, and this was no exception in the days of the vintage car.

Vintage Racing Cars

Although the majority of vintage car models produced were either utility vehicles or tourers, there was always a market for cars that could be raced, fulfilling an inherent thirst for a bit of excitement, danger and thrill.

During the vintage era, there were many races in which any car with enough stamina that was capable of driving at speed could compete in. The legendary races at Le Mans, particularly during the heady days of the 1920s, were a perfect opportunity for many vintage car manufacturers to exhibit the sporting prowess of their latest sports cars. Other racing car events in Britain included the Brooklands 500 Miles Race (now replaced by the Goodwood Festival) and the Double 12-Hour Race.

To this day, there are still localised vintage car events such as hill climbs and touring events that still run. If, as a vintage car owner or enthusiast, you’re interested in such racing car events, why not become a member of the Vintage Sports Car Club (VSCC) to find out more information about events closer to home.

Vintage Racing Cars Across the World

In terms of racing cars, there were far too many produced in the USA, UK and Europe to list in one article. The turnout of new models and modifications was vast during the vintage era, with many manufacturers making speedster or racing versions of their cyclecars, and later voiturettes and tourers or family utility cars. The main difference was that racing cars in UK and Europe were either built for speed and stamina, whereas in the US, the racing car was not really in evidence, the closest counterpart being the speedster.

The French were particularly keen on their racing cars, which gained popularity throughout the 1920s and beyond. This is not surprising when you consider that vintage manufacturers such as Monsieur Violet had been producing cars like the Violet-Bogey cyclecar before the war. By 1921 the most popular voiturette in France was the Amilcar Type CC. Three similar vintage racing car models – the CC,CS and C4 - were produced in 1922, and one of these won the 1922 Bol D’Or race.

Voiturettes were also popular in Britain – the four cylinder water-cooled engines, four wheels, and 3-speed sliding pinion gearboxes proving irresistible to many. During this time vintage manufacturers Frazer-Nash were producing reasonably priced sports cars that were more than capable of racing their French counterparts, Amilcars and Salmsons.

However, despite sports specialists few and far between in Britain, a native manufacturer, Bentley, were also producing sports cars along with Lea-Francis, Riley and Alvis. These were somewhat more prestigious than the previous light, poorly finished but fast cyclecars coming out of France.

By 1921 vintage car legends Bentley had produced a reliable, high-speed car that had plenty of stamina. The single overhead camshaft, four cylinder with four valves per cylinder and aluminium pistons of their latest creation won a race at the 1921 BARC Whitsun meeting at Brooklands.

But by 1927, the Bentleys needed additional power, and so the 4 ½ litre, four cylinder 100 x 140mm engine was put to the test, and proved victorious at the 1928 Le Mans.

US Speedsters

In contrast, US vintage cars tended to veer away from racing cars as the British and Europeans knew them. Their take on the racing car was actually more of a romantic ideal – the cars were faster and some handled better than tourers, but for all intents and purposes they weren’t a racing car as such and were not intended for competitive racing.

That is not to suggest that Americans never raced; they did, but speedster cars were used for sporting events such as golf, and tended to be referred to as ‘the sport’ rather than ‘sports car’. To begin with, there were never any racing events held for sport cars in the US, so in essence the speedsters became the cars that were driven by gentlemen for thrills and a bit of excitement; a sort of second sporting car in addition to the family utility vehicle.

As a result, the priority when designing a speedster was to make it look as sporty and drive as fast as expected. It wasn’t necessarily for it to handle well, although in a few cars handling was improved when compared to the family car. Up until around 1925, these were usually a version of a touring automobile.

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any information to the above questions.
baza - 17-Jul-15 @ 6:43 PM
does anyone know or used to know a mr wilde.who built tubuler hill climb cars,as I have one I bought off him in 1981,but he kept the log book,it is a ford specialreg XOH.6.or does anyone have a log book similer numbers.thankyou.
baza - 17-Jul-15 @ 6:41 PM
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