CONSTRUCTION of a hybrid is an enthralling
business. Usually, of course, the scheme is controlled by the components that become available and the money and time that can be expended, but even then the results can be very well worth while. Happy is he who can build the special job to a preconceived plan, either uniting specially favoured components or building to achieve a particular standard of performance. For example, the older sportscars had excellent frames, and lots of enthusiasts like thoroughbred manner of handling, so that there is a temptation to install therein a modern power unit as McKenzie has done for a client by combining 3i-litre and 3-litre Bentley, as we outlined last month. On the other hand, it may be that you do a lot of serious rapid motoring and must have good brakes and impeccable steering, but need, in addition, lots of horses of the hairy sort, to provide the desired performance or because you like an engine which will pull really high gear-ratios without protest. In this case a modern chassis, with hydraulic or Girling brakes, ” quick” steering, and remote-control gearchange, not to mention sensible sized tyres, would be an amusing proposition with an old-school engine dropped in. Two of us tried to visualise the other day just what an SS. ” 100″ with a 4i-litre or 64–litre Bentley, or a twin-cam 3-litre Sunbeam, engine would be like !
Actually, of course, such efforts are almost out of the question for most people, on account of the vast amount of experimentation necessary before gearratios could be correctly sorted out, not to mention the difficult questions of mating strange engines and transmissions and of deciding whether modern rear axles would stand up under vintage horse-power. Robert Peaty managed a pretty neat and remarkably inexpensive job of this kind, however, when be constructed his Hillman-Vauxhall, and one cannot help enthusing over the idea of big motors in light frames, such as a Ford V8 unit inserted into an M.G. Magnette. That there are quite a few fairly practical combinations possible is a pet theory of McKenzie’s. But it would be essential to know pretty thoroughly just what is what. By the way, on the subject of mating components from different marques, I came across yet another
possible” front-axle assembly which can be used to improve the braking of the :30/98 Vauxhall, at the Croydon Rally. A. May, when asked by the scrutineer whether the Vauxhall’s brakes were in order, replied : ” Yes, because they are not Vauxhall, they are Hispano.”
Those were the Days
I spent a very informative evening with Lionel Martin last month, looking through his scrap-books and talking motoring lore with him and Mrs. Lionel Martin, who is as keen on motoring matters as her famous husband. Their smoking-room not only contains a big case of prized trophies, including the Alpine Cup, but has an original frieze composed of badges of all the leading luropean motoring organisations. But even more impressive was the Monte Carlo Rally
badge, with its many “bars,” which Mrs. Martin took so casually from aNbox of oddments, containing amongst other things, some s.v. Aston-Martin radiator badges. The beautiful radiator of this car was designed by Mrs. Martin, who, to-day, enthuses over the Railton, while Lionel Martin had good words for his Type 328 Frazer-Nash-B.M.W. There is no need to tell you about Lionel Martin’s varied activities and his past associations with the more rapid sort of motoring. But did you know that he introduced the basque beret into this country ? You may or may not want to shoot
him for that. It has been suggested to him that the” quickness” of the gearbox of the s.v. A.M. resulted in the inventor of the Wilson pre-selector box getting really down to business, which may or may not be an exaggeration. Looking at those old pictures of a past age, of his Singer exploits before the War and with the Aston-Martin almost immediately afterwards, I could but reflect what immense fun it all was, with manufacturer competing against manufacturer at some speed meeting or other every week-end, usually driving himself if he hadn’t lent the firm’s fastest motor to a keen amateur. Nowadays, trials apart, only the H.R.G. directors and the Aldington brothers attempt the emulate the more enthusiastic firms of yore. And to-day there is a sad lack of initiative in building special racing-cars, always excepting the altogether praiseworthy participation of Victor Riley and Sir Herbert Austin (no, not as drivers !) and of Geoffrey Taylor. Sydney Allard will probably join the select band of smaller manufacturers who have gained much pleasure and done their productions a power of good by entering them regularly for speed events, for he contemplates a season of sprint meetings with the Allard-Special, in company with private owners of these cars, and may start off by attacking the Test Hill Record. Do these enthusiastic folk have to be classed as the last members of a one-time rather large and very care-free community?
Racing and Research
Racing men can be roughly divided into two classes, those who drive because they enjoy the handling of a racing-car and the atmosphere of racing in general, and those whose thoughts are more intimately associated with the technicalities of the game and, in particular, with the car they are driving. Probably it is safe to say that every driver experiences enjoyment on both counts, just as we enjoy both writing about fast motoring and taking a more concrete part, but nevertheless you cannot deny that drivers can be divided into two fairly distinct camps. On the one hand you have the man who has his tuning and preparation done by professional engineers, or, as the extreme instance, drivers who handle works cars and whose sole job is to drive. On the other hand you find keen amateurs who do all their own maintenance, assembly, and development work, and who regard a race as equally a means of trying out such work as it is a sporting contest. Parry Thomas was the extreme example in this category, being credited with saying that the race, as a race, did not interest him, and that beating Ebby was just a means of putting his theories to the supreme test. Valuable lessons are often learnt by such folk. I am not thinking of cars prepared by manufacturers, for then, no matter how much the excitement of the race may overshadow it, the fact remains that lessons should result from such preparation and be of benefit to the production models RatherI have in mind private owners who are intensely interested in the engineering aspect, but who apply any lessons they may learn to the further development of the car they are racing. Take the case of A. F.. Ashby. Because the Riley Co. could not build him a three-bearing engine he was obliged to experiment with very special crankshafts when developing his. racing Riley Nines. As a result he became convinced that certain mysterious big-end failures were not due,. as other authorities believed, to high rubbing speeds or high loadings, but were caused by connecting-rod flexion. As a result Ashby commenced a series of experiments that led to the designing and patenting of specially rigid rods, which patent is now the property of the Glacier Metal Co. and is of interest to designers of sports, if not of touring, power-units. As a result of oiling-up troubles with his Alfa-Romeo Ashby moved the plugs and the result was not only immunity from this bother, but a cure for previous head cracking and better exhaust-valve cooling. His new head will be used this season, not only on his own Alfa, as was first announced in this paper, but on at least one other car of the same make and type. Incidentally, Ashby hopes to have his car running at Cork or, failing that,. in the International Trophy Race on May 7th. He had prepared a new body, but has had to replace the original to comply with the re-introduced minimumwidth ruling. He has also been preparing Appleton’s Riley engine, modifying the valve gear. It is careful attention devoted to the Alfa-Romeo engine which has led Ashby to introduce an absurdly simple yet very tenable theory concerning cylinder wear which all the experts had overlooked. Yet one would have thought that every possible theory on this subject had been aired long ago. Ashby has given us permission to en large on these findings, all of which have a direct interest to designers of ordinary cars, and we shall
endeavour to do so when a lull in the competition programme provides more space to spare. They constitute yet further proof of the value of racing, which it is our duty to preach on all possible occasions.
Educating the Public
Another subject which deserves a leading article when we have the space is that of educating the British John Citizen to appreciate motor-racing and to attend races in his hundreds of thousands. The attainment of this ideal by no means implies a universal descent to dirt-track levels—on the Continent, in Germany particularly, we know that enthusiasm runs very high indeed and that the drivers are regarded as a certain section of the community over here regards film stars. Greater popularity would place racing in this country on a much firmer footing, because if hundreds of thousands of really keen and intelligent onlookers lined to rails at Donington and Brooklands, manufacturers would soon find themselves compelled to enter for races and compete seriously. Have you ever considered on what a frail basis our races survive ? Entrants are, almost without exception, private individuals who race for the love of the game. Kenneth Evans, Ian Connell, J. H. T. Smith, H. L. Brooke, A. F. Ashby, C. S. Staniland, R. L. Duller, E. K. Rayson, Jack Bartlett, the E.R.A. drivers and all the rest spend lots and lots of money on their hobby. Should a bad season, or lack of funds, or ill-health or advancing age descend on any one of them, what is there to justify their continuance in the game ? Some of these people may have tuning businesses which derive beneficial publicity from racing, but quite out of proportion to the very heavy cost of progressively developing a modern racing-car. Only a manufacturer, who needs such publicity so much more, and who is happy in the knowledge that money spent on racing developments is not devoted to furthering this publicity alone, but to beneficial advancement of his standard cars as well, can be expected to weather reliably the ups and downs of season after season of
racing. Bigger attendances would ensure bigger entries and better races. The solution, Government subsidy to foster patriotic pride in British racing-cars, seems as far away as ever. Meanwhile the society papers should show a little more inclination to recognise motor-racing and to advertise it amongst the classes which have the time and the money whereby they can effectively follow it.
Vintage sports-cars interest so many of us that there is interest attaching to a letter from Neville Fowler of Nottingham. Mr. Fowler has kept a very careful account of the old cars in and around Notting ham during the past year or so. He reports that he has seen the following :—two Ansaldos, a Diatto, 1926 O.M. two-seater, an H.E. three-seater, several Ballots, a Richardson cyclecar, a 1923 Scott Sociable three-wheeler, a 1921 G.N. V-twin Anzani two-seater, a Bleriot-Whippet cyclecar, about eight Gwynnes, two or three A.C. Sixes, two 22/90 Alfa-Romeos, two four-cylinder f.w.d. Alvises, an eight-cylinder F.W.D. ex-T.T. Alvis two-seater, a well kept 1925 s.v. AstonMartin two-seater, a 1926 drop head coupe 21-litre Invicta, and five or six Riley Redwing two and fourseaters. Local breakdown lorries include 20/70 s.v. sports Crossley, 40/50 Delage and Renault 45. Mr. Fowler’s own car is a 1932 24 h.p. four-cylinder Ford with aluminium head, vacuum servo brakes, and a four-speed gearbox. He contemplates a red-label Bentley this summer and has owned a 1921 E-type 30/98 Vauxhall which had 268,000 miles to its credit when he sold it. He is at present reconditioning a
1924 Brooklands Gwynne. This all bears out our contention that compulsory third-party insurance and fresh rules and regulations have not killed the vintage interest and that if all vintagents supported the Vintage S.C.C. it would become an even more influential body than it is at present.
Whitfield Semmence’s A.C. engined special should be a factor with which to reckon in this season’s sprint events. He has had it down at Brooklands for testing purposes and has achieved a maximum speed in excess of 100 m.p.h.
In brief, April 2014
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