Blydenstein Vauxhall heads for Monte-Carlo

| 9 May 2016

Vauxhall organises an annual road trip as a prelude to the Geneva Motor Show, and this year it started in Monaco. On the run were a number of new models, plus two older cars from the Heritage Centre - a T-type 20/60 Coupe from 1930 and a 1964 FB Victor Estate.  The plan was for selected media folk to drive the cars over a selected route, the older cars offering something different and also a challenge!

In the autumn, Vauxhall’s Simon Hucknall asked if I would be prepared to send the VX4/90, too. Of course I agreed, but bearing in mind that this was a road trip and the car is a racer, certain works were required. A set of new Vredestein Classic Sport radial tyres were recommended in place of the Dunlop Racing ‘L’ section tyres, a passenger seatbelt and a few bits and pieces – that was it.  It already had a MoT. 

It was transported down to Monaco and spent a day or so around Casino Square, driving the Grand Prix circuit and into the hills in great weather for the pre-event photography. With its race exhaust, the car caused quite a stir among the Ferraris, Maseratis and Bentleys outside the casino.

I arrived on the Saturday afternoon, and on Sunday morning all the cars left from Casino Square for the first leg of the trip from Monaco to Entreveaux - about 85 km over twisting main roads. The car behaved well, even with its high degree of negative camber - bump steer virtually eliminated by the road tyres. As a passenger I can only describe the run to be very noisy, with the open exhaust exiting under the nearside door...

The next stage was further into the Alps, to Digne les Bains for lunch – another 90 km but this time over an Alpine pass with rain, sleet, snow, and ice. Thankfully, a good lunch beckoned or we might have turned back. The high altitude and some slow twists and turns through the villages were beginning to affect the smooth running of the car.

In the afternoon over the 105 km Col Bayard run, the car got worse and much of the time would run on only three cylinders, seemingly very rich and burning oil. Just before Grenoble, another 87km run, we therefore decided to retire the car before we did any damage.

As a result, the car didn’t run the next day into Geneva, but what a fantastic trip. It was a great opportunity for the car to revert to semi-rallying conditions (in period, it did 46 rallies after its racing days).

And the good news was that, on getting the car home, after a squirt or two of Redex it burst into life on four cylinders. There were no apparent problems, apart from some initial rich black smoke from the exhaust, which soon cleared.

The car’s next outing will be on the more familiar grounds of Brands Hatch and Donington Park, in the shape of two 45-minute races with Julius Thurgood’s HRDC Series.

C&SC and Vauxhall are supporting Paul as he campaigns his ex-Bill Blydenstein VX4/90 in historic racing through 2016