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OT the first Briton to win the Monte Carlo Rally

The Hon. Victor Austin Bruce
The Hon. Victor Austin Bruce

The Hon. Victor Austin Bruce, the 3rd son of Baron Aberdare, was educated at Twyford School and at Wye Agricultural College in Kent. He fought in the First World War and gained the rank of Second Lieutenant in the service of the Royal Marines.  

He left the Marines in 1919 and found himself in the midst of the increasingly popular and expanding field of motoring and offered his services to the AC Company at Thames Ditton, who had built the better class of small cars since before the Great War. The factory being close to Brooklands Track, Victor presented himself there as soon as it reopened, in 1920. Before that he had won a gold medal driving a 10hp AC in the 1920 MCC Land’s End Trial — an achievement he repeated in the JCC’s London-Manchester Trial, which necessitated making a nonstop climb of the 1-in-8 Mam Tor Hill. 

In 1926, Victor became the first Briton to win the Monte Carlo Rally driving an A.C., with W J Brunell as passenger and navigator. He opted to start from John O’ Groats and actually had a job reaching the north of Scotland, never mind battling back through the snow in his AC tourer to begin his 1,529-mile journey south to the Cote d’Azur. 

Victor’s greatest achievement was taking part in the 1926 Monte Carlo Rally. This great winter adventure, perhaps the most prestigious event until the Alpine Trials were established, had commenced in 1911 but the war having called a halt, it was not resumed until 1924. British drivers took little notice until, that is, Victor Bruce started from Glasgow in an AC 2-litre six-cylinder Tourer with a large white flag flying from its radiator cap inscribed with ‘GB’ in large letters. He was placed 12th out of 32 and won the Mont des Mules hill-climb. For the 1926 event, he persuaded the Scottish Club to use John o’Groats as a starting point, which necessitated taking the Club Secretary up there, and back to Glasgow in another AC Tourer. But history was made, Bruce being the first British outright winner, although it was a close-run thing! The ACs crown-wheel started to break-up and had to be replaced with a Citroen spare by French mechanics overnight before the final test. Bruce also again won the hill-climb. 

Just after the race, Victor married Mildred Mary Petre, a noted motorist and pioneering aviator. The following year she won the Monte Carlo Coupe des Dames driving another of Edge's ACs. She then made an 8000 mile circuit of the Mediterranean, finishing off with a thousand-mile run at the Montlhery track near Paris. Later that year, Victor and Mildred Bruce drove an AC farther north than any car had ever gone before, some 230 miles north of the Arctic Circle in Finland.  

In 1929 they took a 7hp Jowett saloon, and towing behind it a 100gallon fuel bowser, covered a non-stop 72-hour, 2722 mile run at 38.54mph, and then drive back to Bradford, to be received by the Mayor. 

In 1941 the couple divorced, and Victor Bruce married Margaret Beechey. After WW2, Bruce had formed Silent Travel Ltd. in Woking, to promote electrically driven cars, using an Opel for experiments. It ran in silence, with a 40-mile range at 30mph. When a purchaser was warned of its short range, he said “Don’t worry, I only want it to get to my local pub and back…” 

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