Success in Winter Reliability Trial for Alisdaire Lockhart and Prince Henry Vauxhall Alisdaire Lockhart , VOC Member
The Great Winter Reliability Trial of the Kungliga Automobil Klubb - the Royal Automobile Club of Sweden - February 1912
On 23rd April 1910, the Vauxhall Motor Company announced that it would enter a team of three special 3 litre cars in the Prince Heinrich of Germany Trial to be run later that year. The event took place in June that year and while these cars did not win the Prince’s Trial, they accomplished themselves so well against other entrants with much larger engines, that they attracted widespread interest and the Company continued to develop these cars for their sporting and record-breaking endeavours.
On return to this country after the Trial, these cars were fitted with narrow single-seat racing bodies for the August meeting at Brooklands, to compete for the O’Gorman Trophy, finishing first and second, with Hancock winning with a fastest lap of 80.82 mph. After the race, two of the cars had their touring bodies re-fitted, while the third car remained in single-seater form and returned to Brooklands in the autumn, and on 26th October, Hancock established a new 21hp Class Record for the flying half mile at 100.08 mph. after many attempts.
Thus, the Prince Henry Vauxhall was born in 1910 to become widely acknowledged as the first British Sports Car and the first car in the world to exceed 100 mph for a 21hp car. Vauxhall then made two “new” Prince Henry cars and one of these had the 100 mph engine fitted into it for Percy Kidner to drive in the 1912 Swedish Winter Trial.
The Kungliga Automobil Klubb (hereafter KAK) organised their Great Winter Reliability Trial to take place in early February 1912 and attracted entries from Benz, Opel, Horch, Mathis, Minerva, Vivinus, Vauxhall, Humber, Ford, Panhard-Levassor and others.
Essentially, the Trial consisted of a 600 mile run around Lake Wettern, starting from Stockholm to Gottenburg on the north side of the lake through Nkoping, Hallsberg and Skara and back, on the south side of the lake via Boras, Jonkoping and Linkoping, finishing in Stockholm. Cars were set off in order as a reliability run, with a maximum speed of 30 kpm in daytime and 20 kpm at night, with a compulsory twelve hour stop at Gottenburg before cars started their return journey.
The event started on a Sunday morning at eight sharp - a Minerva the first away - in some minus 27 degrees Celsius with cars leaving at two minute intervals. Forty-one cars started the event , twenty-six in the class for the Winter Cup and fifteen in the class for the Gothenburg Cup.
The Vauxhall entry consisted of Percy Kidner, Managing Director of the Vauxhall Motor Company, driving the 20 hp Prince Henry and Hjalmar Kjellgren, the Company's agent in Sweden, in a standard 20 hp A Type: in the event, Kjellgren stuck to the rules and treated the event as a reliability test, incurring no penalty points, whereas Kidner went as fast as possible, on his 600 mile race through the Swedish countryside.
The Vauxhalls were fasted on the route out and thus left first - at around 5.00 pm on the Monday evening - for the drive through the night back to Stockholm.
It took the KAK sometime to work out the results, after the times for each car at each check point were calculated, and the awards were announced on the following Thursday by Count Clarence von Rosen, Chairman of the KAK, at a festive gathering with supper and dancing. According to the present Secretary of the KAK the winners were as follows:
The King's Prize - Nies Lundberg's Vivinus
The Winter Cup - John Neren's Opel
The Gothenburg Cup - GEE Karlsson in a NAG Darling
2nd place - Hjalmar Kjellgren's Vauxhall
11th place - Percy Kidner's Vauxhall
Kidner had lost many points for travelling too fast between check points, but overall, the Vauxhalls were deemed to be the fastest cars in the event and came home in glory, if not with any award!
In 2010, I finished my recreation of the 20hp Prince Henry Vauxhall that Kidner drove in this event, using all authentic 20hp Vauxhall mechanical components, but with a modern body.
I took the car to Sweden in May - not February! - 2012 to commemorate the centenary of the Great Winter Reliability Trial of 1912, starting on Sunday, 20th May at the Tjoloholm Rally, south of Gottenburg, and then on the following morning with the drive along the southern route of the original event, through Jonkoping and Linkoping arriving in Stockholm on Tuesday, 22nd May for a reception and photography session at the Headquarters of the KAK the following day, when the car was photographed with the original trophies for the event. Thereafter, the car was driven back to Gothenburg by the northern route for return to the UK the following Saturday.
At the Tjoloholm Rally, the car was shared between the KAK and Svenska Vauxhall Register stands, before departure for Stockholm.
On the commemorative run, I was accompanied by Kay Mordza, of the Svenska Vauxhall Register, who has been a great help with the arrangements in Sweden and Andrew Duerden of the Vauxhall Heritage Centre.
In total, 620 miles was covered in 22 hours driving time, spread over four days. With the open roads and low volume of traffic in Sweden, it was easy to cover 40 miles in an hour and the car cruised at 55 - 60 mph without any mechanical trouble and fuel consumption of around 30 miles per gallon.
During our stay in Sweden I met Magnus Westlund (and his beautiful 3 litre vintage Bentley) at the KAK reception in Stockholm and Owe Persson, with his lovely Lancia Aprilia, on the road back to Gothenburg - both members of the VSCC.
James Gunn prepared the car for the event and it ran without any problems throughout the week in Sweden. Without Kay's help, this event would not have been possible - thank you. I am very grateful to Andrew Duerden as co-driver and the members of the KAK, especially Olle Odsell and Niklas Nystrom, for their help in the organisation of the event.