THE LIVERPOOL MOTOR CLUB
Founded in 1902 as successor to
The Liverpool Self-Propelled Traffic Association of 1896
POSSIBLY BRITAIN’S OLDEST ACTIVE MOTOR CLUB
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In 1895, the quaintly titled Self-Propelled Traffic Association was formed in London with the aim of helping to further the development of self powered road vehicles, otherwise known as horseless carriages. It was one of the first motoring organisations in Britain, possibly the world.
An offshoot, the Liverpool Self-Propelled Traffic Association, was formed in 1896 as a local organisation to run a Trial of Motor Vehicles for Heavy Traffic on Liverpool’s Everton Brow, to see if any vehicle could actually get to the top unaided. This must have been one of the first ‘motorsport’ events in the world, and certainly appears to have been the worlds first commercial vehicle trial. We cannot be sure of the result of the 1896 event, but we know that a larger follow-up event in 1898 has been called ‘the world’s first real assembly of commercial vehicles’. That event was was won by a Wagon built by the Lancashire Steam Motor Company of Leyland, the forerunner of the once mighty Leyland Motors. The prize? A very generous One Hundred Pounds, the equivalent of around £7,000 today! Interestingly, the Secretary of the SPTA at the time was Edward Shrapnell-Smith, first Editor of Commercial Motor magazine & still being published today.
As vehicles improved, the Association’s Heavy Motor Trials also developed and became timed circular tours along local roads, some covering quite a considerable distance, taking in the delights of Ormskirk, St Helens and Warrington.
There seems to have been some dissent amongst members (a recurring theme in the early years, as you will see later) as the Association wasn’t willing to admit motorcycles to their trials and as a result a breakaway group formed The Liverpool Motor Cycle Club in 1902 to provide events for motorcycle owners. Their first event was held on the 4th July 1903 in the form of a Speed Trial and Sprint on Southport Promenade. There were so many entries that the event lasted throughout the day and well into the evening.
By 1902 the Liverpool Self-propelled Traffic Association had been dissolved, leaving its four wheeled vehicle owning members without any events to take part in. The Liverpool Motor Cycle Club’s name was formally changed in 1904 to The Liverpool Motor Club, in order to accommodate the interests of the owners of cars as well as bikes.
By 1908 there were signs that interest in the club was declining and the organisation started to break up, however, an enthusiastic rider by the name of Frank Rees persuaded his friend and Liverpool motorcycle dealer Victor Horsman to help him contact all the members and invited them to a meeting which resulted in the Club being re-formed as the Mersey Motor Club. This latter organisation prospered and their more popular events included the Pen-y-Ball Hill Climb and Colwyn Bay Speed Trials. Again troubles hit the organisation in the form of a difference of opinion with the committee, which led to break away clubs being formed, namely The Liverpool Auto-Cycle Club and the Liverpool Amateur Motor Cycle Club. The three organisations continued separate existences until just after the start of the First World War, when in 1915 Victor Horsman called a joint meeting of the three clubs and it was agreed that they should all merge once again under the old title of Liverpool Motor Club.
Understandably, the Club’s activities were to become very limited due to the 1914-18 War and soon after the merger it was agreed that the records and assets should be made over to the three trustees, one of whom included Victor Horsman. In 1919, the Club was revived and the following ten years were to see considerable growth in its activities. The Colwyn Bay Speed Trials, initially organised by Mersey Motor Club and later in the name of LMC, were first held on the 12th July 1913 over a half mile course on the promenade with crowds estimated between 12 to 15,000 spectators. Such was the popularity of the first event that the motorcyclists had to run in pairs, posing a few problems when it came to working out the results! Despite a stiff breeze the winning motorcycle, a Matchless, managed over 75 miles per hour. Cars were also allowed to compete with a one seater Vauxhall from Liverpool being the winning car.
By 1928 the speeds had increased to such an extent that it was felt that the resultant braking distances might lead to a risk of riders crashing into a Pierrot Show held on the promenade, whereupon the event was abandoned.
In the winter months, another form of motorsport entered the world of Liverpool Motor Club, when Ice Races were held on the frozen surface of Raby Mere, near Bebington. The races were held for solo motorcycles, not cars, and must have been quite a spectacle at the time. Those were the days when Britain had really hard winters of course!
Quite a few of the Trials started from Birkenhead and it was fitting that one of the more popular ones was the Storeton Speed Trials held some five miles away and run over a kilometre long course run on a private road, catering for both motor cycles and cars. Other Trials of the period included the Percy Butler and the Blake trials which were all well supported. The other club class event was the Open Reliance Trial and this event went on to play a very important role in later years.
In 1923, Sir Alexander Jeans of the The Liverpool Daily Post & Echo Newspaper presented an extremely handsome solid Gold Cup to the Club for a Reliability Trial which was run alongside the Open Reliance Trial up to the 1950’s. This particular Award is still in existence and in later years has been the principal award for the Jeans Gold Cup Car Rally, which has been run in both road and special stage formats over the years. Apart from Reliability Trials, the first two Sand Races were held on Wallasey Beach in 1923 before a crowd of some 6,000 spectators. Later, races were also held on Formby and Southport Beaches. Road Races, Reliability Trials and Social Events helped contribute to the Club’s growth and by 1926 the membership level had reached 350, all for a subscription of 10 shillings. The pioneering spirit of the early days had left the Club with a firm and established leadership which was to stand it in good stead during the depression years. The membership also gradually changed from mainly motorcycle owners to car owners following the introduction of realistically priced sporting cars of various types during the thirties. There’s some interesting research here about the International Six Day Trials that LMC was involved with pre-war, and the route of the Reliance Trials of the same period.
The Second World War brought a halt to activities and sadly most of the Club’s valuable records were lost in the bombing raids on Liverpool City Centre in May 1941. This did not deter the remaining members and they had the membership back up to 170 by early in 1947. A Standard Car Trial was introduced for those members wanting a semi-sporting event. Motorcyclists were still catered for and under the guidance of John Wade the motorcycle side of the club prospered with events like the Open Reliance Trial, which attracted increasing interest from the Manufacturers’ Teams in the following years, and Sand Racing on Wallasey Beach in conjunction with Wirral 100 MC.
Petrol rationing in the late 1940’s curtailed motorsport events for a time but did not prevent members from continuing to meet, and activities including visits to pantomimes and power stations kept everyone together until normal activities could be resumed.
The early 1950’s saw a period of change for the club and whilst motorcycle interests prospered for the first few years, the emphasis was changing in favour of motor car owners and the Jeans Trial was changed to allow both cars and motorcyclists to compete.
Grass Track Racing (later known as Autocross) was being pioneered and becoming increasingly popular with the first Autocross event in the North of England being held at Helsby, near Frodsham.
A change of leadership in the mid-fifties accounted for a new enthusiasm amongst the members and this led to a notable increase amongst the members which had risen to over 600 by the early 60’s. Club Secretary Peter Ledger-Lomas played a pivotal role during this period and he later went on to become Club President until the early 1980’s. Rallying at this time played an important role with many members competing in both Club Events (i.e. Guys & Dolls Rally for mixed crews, Jeans Gold Cup Rally, Capstan Trophy Rally, etc.) & International Events including the Tulip, Alpine, Monte Carlo and RAC Rallies. Petrol rationing again didn’t deter the members’ enthusiasm during the Suez crisis and events included the usual round of Film Shows and Hot Pots.
A unique part in the history of the Club occurred in January 1959 when the late Geoff Hunt who worked for Cunard, moved to New York and quickly established the New York Branch of the Liverpool Motor Club, which continues in existence today as part of the Eastern Motoring Racing Association. This branch of the club grew rapidly and as well as running its own events, helped to promote in September 1960 the first of a series of International Competitions held annually. They comprised a pre-arranged course, Driving Tests, Trial or Sprint, laid out on each side of the Atlantic and wherever possible both events were held on the same day when the times were recorded and phoned across the Atlantic. Whichever side that recorded the best times, kept the Special Trophy for the year, shipped across the Atlantic on a Cunard vessel. The British branch won the event the first year and although it has travelled across the Atlantic on a number of occasions, the award is now back home in the UK.
As the result of a meeting at the British Grand Prix at Aintree at the end of the 1950’s the club was honoured with the election of a new Honorary Vice-President, none other than the legendary Juan Manuel-Fangio (five times World Motor Racing Champion) a position that he held until his death in July 1995.
In the 60’s and 70’s the club policy was to promote a wide variety of events and these included Rallies, Driving Tests, Go-Karting, Sprints, the return of Sand Racing, and Autocross.
The latter was always a popular event in the Club calendar especially when the club organised rounds of the popular Players No.6 Autocross Championship between 1967 and 1970. Autocross was also held at Thurstaston in the Wirral during the mid-sixties. Sand Racing and Sandocross (for cars this time) re-started again in 1964, when Southport Corporation was persuaded to allow this to be held on Ainsdale Beach. The events attracted sponsorship from Senior Service, Benson & Hedges, Guards Cigarettes and the Daily Mirror and they proved to be very popular with both competitors and the large crowds of spectators. Despite up to twelve cars on the grid, the Club managed to maintain a virtually accident free record during the nine years it was promoted.
Rapidly escalating costs and the loss of sponsorship forced the club to reluctantly abandon events in 1973 as yet another fuel crisis affected us. Competitor’s vehicles varied from Autocross specials, standard road cars, a 1300cc mid-engined Fiat 850, minis, Ford Capri’s and Porsche 911’s. It was always entertaining and close fought racing.
Other events in the Club Calendar included Sprints and they were first run by the club on the 10th October 1959 at Oulton Park. During the five years they graduated from closed to restricted status and were held twice a year using the one and a half mile club circuit. Sprints were also held on private land at Borras Hall, near Wrexham, whilst another regular venue was the U.S. Air Force Base at Burtonwood, Warrington. These events were held for a number of years at this venue until the construction of the M62 Motorway along one of the main runways which was part of the course.
For a few years from 1974 our Summer Sprint was held in the unique setting of a quarry at the Longridge Motor Racing Circuit, near Preston, and was always an oversubscribed event. Being a quarry it provided the spectators with an unrivalled view of the competitors at work. As a contrast to our general motoring activities we proved that we could achieve other things when with the help of a knowledgeable group of members we won the National Castrol/Guards Motor Club Quizzes in both 1970 and 1971, gaining a fully equipped caravan and a considerable amount of club equipment in the process. Over the years the Club organised many successful Dinner Dances (and more recently Re-union Dinners) many of which were held at the Blundellsands Hotel in North Liverpool.
Early in 1976, a number of leading officials and committee members handed over the reins to a new group of young and enthusiastic members. One of their first tasks was to prepare for the Club’s 75th Anniversary and apart from a successful Dinner, the club secured a prominent space on the ground floor of Lewis’s Department store in Liverpool City Centre where they displayed an Opel Conrero GT Sports car and an AJS Motor Bike. The display attracted much attention. The Merseyside Autotest Championship run in conjunction with the Ford (Halewood) Motor Club was established in 1975 and this went on to be a very successful Four Event Championship with events on Everton Hill, Widnes and Grassendale on the River Mersey Promenade. The latter was the most memorable event being held on a hot sunny day on a cinder surface with the resultant dust clouds soon turning the event into what looked like a Miners Gala. It was a hugely successful and fun event. Club Membership increased during this period, Autocross Events were held most years in the late 1970’s at Hooton in the Wirral, Hale Village and Lunt, near Crosby, some of which were run in conjunction with Round Table organisations in aid of Charity.
Production Car Trials were also held twice a year on a small mountain top at Afonwen & Bodfari, near Denbigh in North Wales which were one of the few events that one could turn up and compete with little or no preparation of the cars. Held over roughish and at times steep terrain they were fully supported and were a most enjoyable day out, made even more enjoyable with a combined lunch time visit to a local hostelry. PCT’s were also held at Broxton in the heart of the Cheshire Countryside.
Rallying played a significant part in the history of the Club, especially with the Jeans Gold Cup Rally which was originally a Road Rally and in later years graduated into a Special Stage Rally. After an absence from the calendar for some years it was resurrected as a Road Rally in 1971 and 1979, with various events during the 1980’s right up to 2001. The Guys & Dolls Rally was also run in Lancashire and the Lake District and again resurrected in the 1970’s It was in 1980 when a new exciting event came on the scene, The Mayfield Rally, later to be known as the Mayfield Safari Rally which was held for some consecutive seven years. The Safari part of the name came about as a result of using the Knowsley Safari Park as a base for the event, complete with animals spectating. Fortunately no one managed to hit the lion’s den enclosure, but the event certainly kept them focussed on the activities of the day. Being sponsored by Mayfield Garage Saab Dealers the legendary Eric Carlson Works Driver even acted as Course Car. When asked about the snow on the ground that morning Eric said ‘it wasn’t like the powdery snow he preferred at home in Sweden’! From a minor involvement manning a North Wales Passage Control on the Lombard International Rally of Great Britain in 1971, led to the Club becoming involved until the mid 1990’s running successful Special Stages in the Clocaenog Forestry complex near Ruthin, before graduating to other stages such as Coed-y-Brenin, and Penmachno in North Wales. Our stages were often award winners and we were also involved with the running of the event at Knowsley Safari Park and a passage control visit to the Albert Dock in Liverpool, until the event and base moved to South Wales in the mid 1990’s.
Rallying still continues to be popular and whilst several members compete in this branch of the sport, most of our activities away from away from our Aintree events centres around helping other local clubs’ events by providing marshals for Classic rallies such as Le Jog, Rally of the Tests, Tour of Cheshire, Lombard Revival Rally, Tour Britannia and more modern events like the North West Stages Rally.
After the successes of the 1980’s an unaccounted downturn in membership took place in the 1990’s to the point where the Club had only a handful of members left, led by Jim Bebby, Treasurer of the Club for many years. It was at this time an enthusiastic group of local people who had been members of another local motor club joined the Club presenting an opportunity to run events at the former Aintree Motor Racing Circuit. A carefully structured development plan was put together to run the Aintree events, initially with the assistance of Wallasey Motor Club then, in 1999, the Club began running the three Aintree Sprints and three Trackdays in its own right. Following observation of the first of the 1999 Sprints, the MSA gave the Club permission to run subsequent Sprints at National ‘A’ status and so successful were they that various awards were soon forthcoming. The Team, capably led by Chairman John Harden is still in place over fourteen years later running the highly successful events that continue to attract many regular competitors from all around the country
In 2000 the Club ran its first rally for many years when it organised the Jeans Gold Cup rally once again, this time as a single venue event on the Aintree Motor Racing Circuit. Though successful, it was to be a one-off event, and although it became the last rally to be run at the venue, the Club continued to specialise in its Speed events (Sprints) at Aintree. With the Merseyside area being fairly flat, the opportunities for Hillclimbs were non-existent until an opportunity presented itself in 2004 to jointly promote a Hillclimb event at Loton Park, near Shrewsbury, eventually expanding it into a hillclimb weekend. This partnership continued for 5 years until 2008 when Hagley & District MC decided to change their plans for the venue’s use and took the event back in house.
2005 saw the Club join forces with Chester Motor Club to promote a highly successful Speed Championship venture which developed into the most successful Championship of its kind in the North, taking in up to 20 events at all the major sprint & hillclimb venues in the North, Midlands & North Wales.
The Club today. Promotion of any Motor Club is a vital part of a club’s activities, so the Club has developed a comprehensive up to date website with helpful information about competitive motorsport and track days, the facility to download event regulations and view event results, and links to other useful motorsport sites and our own on-line Forum. The Club has also developed a Road Show to take to various events and shows in the surrounding areas in the summer months. This started from a low key representation at the Southport Classic Car Rally in 2003 (which later became the North West Motor Show) where for five years we displayed an interesting selection of cars including a competition Ferrari 250 GTO replica, Classic Cars, Single Seaters, and even a Mini Moke.
The Road Show includes our own sign written marquee, and display stands illustrating our current and past event activities together with historical memorabilia.
For several years we put on a display of members cars as part of our Road Show at Oulton Park’s August Bank Holiday Gold Cup Event and have also displayed at the Cholmondeley Pageant of Power, the Aintree Motor Show, the Jaguar/Land Rover Plant at Halewood as well as the North West Motor Show in Southport.
In 2012 & 2013 we took our display to the superb Manchester Indoor Classic & Performance Car Show where we won a joint “Best in Show” award for the display.
In 2013, Liverpool Motor Club joined forces with Kirkby Lonsdale Motor Club to run the spectacular Hillclimbs at Barbon Manor in Cumbria. LMC members and officials had been helping with the events at Barbon for several years anyway, so we were pleased to be asked to take on a more formal role to help secure the events and the venue for the future. Competitors love this challenging venue and by continuous improvement we hope to attract even more competitors in the future.
We are a still thriving motor club of well over 200 members with a fantastic value low-cost Membership fee that allows members to spectate free at our five Aintree events each year and offers discounts on entry fees to our events at Aintree and Barbon.
With our professional and up to date approach to Motor Sport, together with a fascinating history, we are pleased to claim:-
‘‘Over 110 Years of Motorsport Excellence”