CHOOSING A SPORTS CAR A SURVEY OF MODERN CARS AND CAPABILITIES

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Looking through the lists of sports ears published in MOTOR SPORT at the end of last year, the reader finds that there are at least sixty different models available on the British market. With such a number to choose from, how shall he set about selecting the new model?

The principal deciding factors are obviously, whether a large car or a small one is needed, is it to carry saloon, fourseater or two-seater coachwork, will it be used solely as a rapid means of transport or also be required for trials or competitions, and finally, and not least important to most of us, how much money the purchaser can afford. Consider first of all the fast touring field. Three years ago there was hardly an English car in the de-luxe big-car market, the limit of which may conveniently be considered as comprising cars with a capacity of over three litres. Now we have at the popular 3i-litre mark three such models, the Bentley, the Alvis and the Talbot, all capable of about 90 m.p.h. Each of these cars has its special points, the Bentley being particularly noticeable for high performance carried out in almost complete silence, the Alvis for its independent suspension and ingenious all-synchro-mesh gear-box, while the Talbot, which has a slightly shorter chassis, differs from the other

two in having a self-changing gear-box with a centrifugal traffic clutch.

Although the ” big ” c.ar of six litres or more seems to have disappeared for ever, there is much to be said for a good reserve of power, and it is notable that all three makers mentioned put stringent restrictions on their coachbuilders to prevent the weight, inevitable with deluxe coachwork, from detracting from the performance. One wonders whether the introduction of a 41-litre Bentley, recently announced, does not point a return to larger capacities, while already firmly stabilised in this field and thoroughly modernised as regards springing and silence is the latest 44-litre Lagonda. 100 m.p.h.’ unblown still has a real attraction even in these days of heavy traffic and Belisha restriction, and these two latter cars should be able to reach it with open coachwork.

Supercharging to Order

The 5-litre Mercedes-Benz deserves a paragraph on its own, as the makers have found an individual solution to the problem of fast travel. Instead of -keeping the weight low by means of a light chassis and body, the ” Mere.” has a heavy frame and engine with a particularly sturdy gear-box and transmission, insulated from road-shocks by

an efficient system of independent suspension, and powered by a slow-revving 8-cylinder engine which gives 100 h.p. A supercharger, engaged by means of a clutch when the throttle pedal is fully depressed, gives the necessary ” kick ” when a sporting performance is required, and brings the speed to over the century mark.

Diametrically opposed in principle are the Hudson and Railton cars. Here an efficient side-valve engine is built into a chassis in which unnecessary weight has been skilfully eliminated, giving a performance which three or four years ago was the perquisite of only the most highly tuned (and roughest) semi-racing cars. No survey of the larger sports cars would be complete without mentioning those two outstanding French makes, the 3.3-litre Bugatti and the 31-litre Ilotchkiss. These, however, conform more to the English school of thought, with highly-tuned though tractable engines in chassis of medium weight. For pleasant, fast touring the mediumweight car, with full four-seater coachwork and an engine of approximately 2t litres had much to recommend it, but it seems to have fallen a little out of favour, at least for the time, the Alvis Speed Twenty and Silver Eagle being almost the sole survivors. An important

and imposing-looking newcomer is the 2i-litre S.S. Jaguar, the first of the S.S. range to have overhead valves. The new 2k-litre M.G. also promises to fill a useful place in the realm of fast medium capacity touring cars.

There is a renewed interest in the 2-litre class, since an engine of this size can be relied upon to give 60 to 70 h.p. without constant tuning, and in a small four-seater or normal two-seater body should produce a definite 80 m.p.h. The A .C., the British Salmson and the Frazer-Nash-B.M.W. belong to this class, and have proved themselves particularly successful in trials owing to their good power-weight ratio and handiness. The 1,660 c.c. 6-cylinder Frazer-Nash also comes in this category. The” Voiturettes “

” 31 litres ” spells neatness, handiness and the highest development in the smaller sports cars to every enthusiast, and the 2-4-seater Aston-Martin provides road-racing stamina in dual-purpose form, while a long chassis full-four-seater is available for those owners who use their sports car exclusively for touring. Fr azer-N ash special ise in acceleration and power-weight ratio, with the snappy gear-change and other advantages inherent in all-chain drive, and though a 2-4-seater model is available, the 4cyl inder two-seater model remains the dominant type.

The Squire make is unique in that all models are supercharged, and 100 m.p.h. can be clocked on the two-seater, using standard fuel. A four-seater with a tenfoot wheelbase has now been added to the range, and widens the field for this interesting car. Altas, too, specialise in supercharged fours, 11-litre and 1,100 c.c. which have done well in racing events. The unblown ones should also be more widely known this season.

1A-1 itre and 1,100 c.c. are also the Riley figures, though, of course, ” nonsupercharged ” has always been the motto of the Coventry factory. The short Sprite models have a chassis similar to that of the T.T. winner, while the more sober four-seaters have the standard wheelbase of 9 ft. 1 in. Moving down slightly in cubic capacity we have the 6-cylinder M.G. Magnette. With light coachwork and an easyrunning chassis the Magnette has proved

itself as a fast, small touring car, and in two-seater form during the last year these cars have surpassed themselves in trials. Just clear of the 1,100 c.c. class is the Lancia Augusta, with the independent springing which has been for so long a distinguishing feature, and a reputation for stamina under all-out conditions which would not be amiss in a car of twice its capacity. Eleven c.c. below again is the new Talbot Ten. Differing from the larger models in having a side-valve engine and orthodox gear-box with synchro-mesh in open or closed form, it retains the attractive lines of the 105 and the 3:1-litre. Hearty Baby Cars Last, but not least, are those eternal protagonists, the Singer Nine, the M.G. Midget and the Austin Seven. All three have made sports-car motoring possible at a figure ridiculously small in comparison with that required a few years ago, all of them have taken successful part in competition at home and abroad

and have learnt lessons from it. The extra capacity of the Singer naturally gave it an advantage in trials, but the enlarged M.G. P. B. Should have a similar performance. All three makes provide examples of the skill of English designers in getting a quart out of almost literally a half-pint pot, and with their economy of running and surprisingly roomy bodies make it possible for a large body of enthusiasts to take an active part in the sport of motoring at the minimum of expense. For Sports and Racing

So far we have dealt with dual purpose cars equally suitable for everyday touring, with an occasion al venture into competition work. There remain those, the thoroughbreds of the road,, as one might call them, intended primarily for sports-car racing.

The 2.9-litre Alfa-Romeo heads the list. Fitted with a light two-seater body, it is capable of 115 m.p.h., and with independent springing front and rear should be capable of putting up the maximum safe average in England or abroad. Another intriguing foreign car is the Competition 3.3-litre Bugatti, which has a four-carburetter straight-eight engine in a chassis similar to that of the Grand Prix cars.

The .11-litre Bentley.

The super-sports Railton is the only large car built in England specifically for sports-car racing, and one looks fcrward to seeing these cars participating in this year’s events. Road testsshow a speed of well over 100 m.p.h. and, as the car weighs only 19 cwt., acceleration to match. The Hudson Century is another car of similar type which reached the hundred against the MOTOR SPORT stop-watch.

The T.T. Aston-Martin is an exact replica of the cars which secured the team prize at Le Mans and at Ulster last year, so little requires to be said about its stamina or speed which, incidentally, is guaranteed at 100 m.p.h. The new 2-litre car recently announced should improve this figure by close on 10 m.p.h. There are at least two supercharged sports cars capable of attaining the 100. m.p.h. mark, “these being the Shelsley Frazer-Nash, with two blowers, and the Squire, which can be obtained with a light stripped body suitable for racing. Now that the supercharged M . G. Magnette is no longer listed, the smaller classes are deprived of their only 100. m.p.h. car, but for sports-car racing there remains the interesting Singer Le Mans Replica, a 9 h.p. car which is

rated at 90 m. p. h. The Altas are, however, to be available in sports-car guise this year, and the 1,100 c.c. one will be a useful addition to the hot-stuff small cars. What to Buy

There are few more difficult tasks than advising anyone on the choice of a suitable car, for the conditions under which it will be used vary so much. All that one dares to do, therefore, is to give a few pointers and, to leave the would-be purchaser to apply them to his individual case. In the first place, if the car is required to carry four passengers, or two people and a quantity of luggage, and will generally be used for journeys of two or three hundred miles, the big-engined machine has it every time. If high averages are to be maintained, a 2-litre engine will be running at nearly twice the speed of the 4-litre, and the petrol and oil consumption will be the same, while the smaller unit will need more frequent overhauls and is gless restful to drive. Against that, of course, one is faced by higher tax, not so serious

(nowadays, heavier insurance premiums and more expensive tyre-bills.

The small car is naturally lighter and more responsive to the finer side of driving, but perhaps its most important appeal is in the direction of real economy, as is well shown in the accompanying table giving petrol costs over a yearly distance of 12,000 miles. For trials work, too, the small car is the most suitable, though the V8 Ford is a noticeable exception to the rule.

A word of warning about small cars. If you want them to give the snap necessary for trials, do not load them down with a four-seater body. It is amazing what the modern small engine will stand, but if you hang an extra two seats on a seven-horse chassis to take full advantage of its undoubted economy, you must not be surprised to be passed by fast if unstable Transatlantic motorcars which have a 28 h.p. engine in a 28-cwt. saloon body. Finally, if you run a big car is it economical to have a small one as well to use on short journeys ? It all depends. If you live on the fringe of London or any other large city, the light tender more than pays its way, by its handiness in slipping through traffic

and its small petrol consumption, functioning well under conditions where the big car is running on the pilot jets to the tune of 10 m.p.g. On the other hand, the city dweller will usually leave both his cars in the garage during the week, paying an additional £50 per year for the privilege of four square yards of floor space for his ” Baby,” so in this case the answer is, don’t buy a second car unless someone else in the family is going to keep it busy.

Never before have there been such a selection of British sports cars suitable for all tastes and pockets, and every factory reports splendid business. All that is required now is a cessation of the depressions from Iceland, allowing us to en joy a record season on the open road !

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