A MODERNISED BAMFORD AND MARTIN ASTON
A RECONDITIONED FOURTEEN-YEAR-OLD SIDE-VALVE ASTON-MARTIN. SOME NOTES ON THE TYPE IN GENERAL IT is an outstanding feature of motoring enthusiasm in this country that certain marques attract particular people, so that you have little groups of enthusiasts who each take a particular delight in a given make and who study the technicalities of the breed in which they are interested very thoroughly, while often lifelong friendships spring up amongst individuals who belong, as it were, to the same group. This is true Of the Bamford and Martin Aston-Martin but the keenness which exists for this car is not generally appreciated, perhaps because Aston-Martin owners are retiring kind of folk, while the performance of the side-valve model hardly enables it to shine conspicuously in modern com
petitions. However, we have recently examined a beautifully reconditioned example of the type which has been rebuilt and re-bodied, and correspondence with its Owner has indicated that the original model of this famous British marque is by no means defunct. Consequently, in presenting a description of this particular car we make no excuse for prefacing the article with some observations about the side-valve Aston in general. The owner of the car hereafter described would be glad to hear of the whereabouts of any others of the type,—Ed. The side-valve Aston-Martin was put into production just after the War by Messrs. Bamford and Martin, Ltd., of London. It deserves a significant place in motoring history, as the first British sporting light-car. It was Lionel Martin’s child, and in MoTOR SPORT of March, 1925, he told in his own words how he came to evolve the marque, which derived its name from the famous Aston-Clinton speed hill-climb venue in Bucks, and its designer’s own surname. Just before the War Lionel Martin began tuning the Singer Ten for speed work, and succeeded in raising the maximum from 40 m.p.h. to abont 80 m.p.h. After the Armistice there was no really satisfactory British sports-car of moderate capacity that could compete with the L4-litre 16-valve Brescia Bugatti, and to meet this market Lionel Martin introduced the side-valve Aston-Martin, the experimental car having an Isotta chassis. It has a side-valve engine of 66.5 x107 mm. (1,487 c.c.) with fixed cylinder head, the valves being removed via large screw-in valve caps, peak ing at about 4,000 r.p.m. The fourspeed gearbox had a right-hand lever and the chassis was of conventional layout with half-elliptic suspension and a wheelbase of 8 ft. 9 in. A few shortchassis ears were also constructed. The early examples had quite high side members, but later cars had dropped frames, which, in conjunction with ribbed brake drums and the slim shapely radiator with its neat badge consisting of the letters A and M superimposed, makes the 1924-5 cars look quite modern, even to-day. There are, we believe, distinct traces of Bugatti practice about the chassis design, particularly of the gearbox, also a vestige of Singer. The brake system had a very excellent means of adjustment, and the liibrication system incorporated three filters and a very good means of pressure
regulation. Legend has it that no two engines had an identical valve timing. Very careful fitting was a feature of the Bamford and Martin production, three weeks being mentioned as the period allowed for front axle and steering assembly. The wheel needed about threequarters of a turn, lock to lock, but the turning circle was limited. Lionel Martin sought to combine Bugatti performance with ” :30/98 ” ruggedness and the quality and accuracy of assembly found in the “Silver Ghost” Rolls-Royce. In 1922 the price was (,850. The engines were very beautifully finished and had copper water pipes.
The Aston-Martin was intended as a fast touring rather than as a competition car, and Lionel Martin professed his belief in obtaining high average speeds by good road holding, rapid acceleration and efficient braking rather than by extreme maximum speed. The Aston-Martin consequently was capable of about 65 to 70 m.p.h., the later examples apparently being expected to lap Brooklands at around 70 m.p.h. Messrs. Bamford and Martin supplied in limited quantities to discriminating sportsmen, and we believe the average output from 1921-25 was in the neighbourhood of fifty cars. The s.v. was not the only model in production, as at Olympia in 1924 a 1?,-litre twin o.h.e. sixteen-valve job was exhibited, based on the design of the racing sixteenvalve cars which followed Ballot prac tice. However, we believe that few, if any, were sold, and most of the sixteenvalve Astons that have since seen road service have been ex-racing-cars. A notable example is the car which won the 1923 Strasbourg G.P. in Zborowski’s hands, and which was afterwards owned by Roy Fedden, Morris-Goodall, and Forster, and is now owned by Hitchens, who had the bad luck to break the final drive on Fingle Hill in the last 1-xeter
Trial. On the other hand, in MOTOR SPORT of August, 1925, appeared an illustrated description of a sixteen-valve car supplied to the order of a Swiss racingdriver, which was a replica of the 1922 Grand Prix car, with modernisatiOns. The 65 x 112 mm. engine developed 57 b.h.p. at 3,950 r.m.p., and in chassis form it was said to do 58 in second, 78 in third and 94 m.p.h. in top, and to accelerate from to 80 m.p.h. in 18 secs., stopping from 60 m.p.h. in 120 feet. Delivery was completed in seventeen weeks. To revert to the side-valve car, Lionel Martin believed in the value of racing and the marque was soon performing prominently. B. S. Marshall drove one of the Astons in the 1921 G.P. des Voitur ettes, finishing sixth. Four A.M.s ran in the 1921 200 Mile Race, but none .figured very prominently, Moir’s fuel tank puncturing when the rear axle hit it. However, in 1922 a modified s.v. car, ” Bunny,” was carefully prepared for reeord-work, and a very thorough pit
routine worked out. Driven by Clive Gallop, Moir and Davis it took a whole bunch Of records up to 1,200 miles and 18 hours, including the very first world’s record to be taken by a 1%-litre car–1,100 miles at 73.82 m.p.h. In the 1922 T.T. in the 1-.0.M. three cars were entered, two of which were the new twin oh.e.
jobs. Actually, only Moir with the s.v. ” Bunny ” started, and having a broken valve-spring from the commencement he was soon out. In the ” 200 “of that year G. C. Stead drove the famous ” Bunny ” and it ran wonderfully well, to finish second at 86.33 m.p.h., beaten only by one of the ” invincible” Talbot-Darracqs. This is an indication of what a tuned s.v. Aston can accomplish. The feat was repeated in the 1923 Boulogne G.P.„ when Capt. G. E. T. Eyston and R. C. Morgan came home in that order, behind a Darracq, driving standard s.v. engined cars. In
the ” 200″ “Bunny ” was handled by E. R. Hall, and Morgan drove his s.v. car, finishing sixth, with Hall ninth. At Boulogne in 1924 Morgan’s car retired with magneto maladies.. Before the 1924 200 Mile Race H. S. Eaton’s o.h.v. Aston was badly damaged just before the day, so he sportingly ran his stripped but standard 2-3-seater s.v. car, coming home in twelfth position. Nearly every weekend these cars were performing conspicuously in sprint events. In October, 1925, the production of the Aston-Martin ceased. It re-commenced, under entirely different control, in 1927, when the Felthatu works began to turn out the 13-litre single o.h.c.. fourcylinder cars designed by A. C. Bertelli,
which have frequently been described, illustrated and road-tested in this paper. The same company is to-day building the 2-litre Aston-Martin, based on Bertelli’s original design. As the Bamford and Martin cars have been off the market for thirteen years the question arises: How many are still in service ? The number cannot be great, but ” Bunny ” was known to be still in use up to six years agoand, besides the rebuilt car described hereafter, we have heard of several other s.v. cars in London within the last five years. Another of them, a two-seater, is still used regularly by R. Johnson-Ferguson, who comes all the way from Dumfriesshire to run it in J.C.C. and M.C.C. Meetings at the Track. This car (No. 1965) was built for a naval man and, first registered in October 1925, mist have been one of the last of the type built. After a while the original owner purchased an Alfa-Romeo and thereafter the Aston had seven owners before Ferguson purchased it for 175 in 1932. Six mouths later, coming down from Oxford, a womandriver skidded head on into the car on a straight road, and a total wreck resulted, Ferguson eventually buying the remains from the insurance company for
A new, undrilled frame was brought into service, and the car completely rebuilt at a cost of about L80, just two days before the conclusion of the long vac. Subsequently the engine was thoroughly overhauled by the works foreman of the old A.M. Co., the crankshaft being reground, and all bearings re-fitted. The block had been sleeved when the car was bought, and after the head had come off one of the pistons—the owner merely removed rod and offending piston by the roadside and completed his 250 mile journey—B.H.B. pistons were fitted. Later a spare engine was purchased from Victor Gillow (No. 1917), who had used it for dirt-track racing, and this block, rebored., is now used in conjunction with
Lay-stall-alloy pistons. On long runs this car is reported to cruise happily at 2,900 r.p.m. (approximately 61 m.p.h.) and Ferguson writes :— ” . . .
one night, when I was Ong from Scotland to London after a day’s shooting, I averaged 48 m.p.h., and then the magneto died on me and I had to get a tow to start and keep above 2,000 r.p.M. all through London at 3 a.m. . . ,! ” That average emphasises the road-ability of the s.v. Aston. Another example is a 1925 Clover Leaf three-seater (No. 1951) still used by F. E. Ellis of Heaton Chapel, of which he recently wrote to a fellow enthusiast :— ” ItS gear ratios are approximately 10, 7, 5, and 4 to 1, and the speeds before I took the engine down were approximately : first 30, second 45, third .60, top 68 to 70 m.p.h. My petrol works out at 25 in.p.g in town and 27 m.p.g. on a long run. One of its best runs was from Plymouth to Heaton Chapel (310 miles approximately) in 8 hours 40 minutes. Not too bad I OT a twelve-year-old.”‘
Yet another example of the capabilities of these cars is contained in a letter published very recently in one of the weekly motor papers, in which the writer claimed to have driven from Boulogne to Cannes, 700 miles, in 20 hours (38 m.p.h. average), in 1932, driving a 1924 car. The modernised car with which this article is primarily concerned is owned by an enthusiast who has owned two pre vious s.v. cars. A 1924 model, it was bought in August 1981 as a twenty-first birthday present by alady for her son. Early in 1934 this owner had a very bad smash, hitting an obelisk and seriously -damaging the car. The remains were acquired by William Lambert, of the Hampstead Cylinder Reboring Co., 343a, Finchley Road, NAVA an enthusiast for these cars, and from whom spares for them are still obtainable. A complete overhaul was effected, and the chassis made intact again. The exterior of the engine is still beautifully polished and the original S.U. carburetter retained, although a Bosch magneto from a ” 30/ 98 ” was fitted. With the narrow sports radiator the car ran hot in traffic, so a belt-driven fan was added. The original multi-plate Hele-Shaw clutch was replaced by an old Morris unit and the front crossmember strengthened, but otherwise the chassis remained Standard. The original Zephyr riveted-crown steel slipper pistons were retained, but they have been expanded in a lathe and re-lapped with metal polish, and scraper rings. fitted. The original block has not required reboring and its valve-seats are sound. The brake gear Was, modified, so that the pedal operated. on all wheels, and an Austin Sixteen track-rod was fitted. A client became interested, and consequently work was commenced on a sports body, entirely hand constructed in the best
cOachbuilding tradition. Eventually this gentleman found that he did not wish to take delivery of the car and in September, 1937, the present owner decided to acquire it. To his order the scuttle cowls and big speedometer and rev, counter were dispensed with., likewise the touring pattern wings. As it stands to-day this AstonMartin passes scrutiny beside any modern car. The Morris clutch was replaced by a Borg and Beck clutch in an attempt to obviate the crankshaft periods for Which the s.v. Aston. is notorious, an experiment which, however, has not been entirely satisfactory though the clutch functions admirably. The present owner took -delivery last January, of what is unquestionably a very unique and exceptional car. The short two-door 2-4-seater body has bucket front seats, which lift out very
easily. Beneath the seats are accommodated the battery and a tool box, in metal wells that are absolutely waterproof. The bonnet, which contains sonic 390 rivets, extends back to the screen, and on the engine-side of the facia are a long tool-box with sliding lid, electrical fuse-box and spare-bulb holder. spare wheel is carried on the balanced lid of a capacious rear locker, wherein is the 7 gallon fuel tank, spare oil supply and fire-extinquisher. At night this locker is illuminated, the lamp shining onto the fuel tank contents gauge. The screen folds fiat when required, and the glass side-panels can be instantly detached by withdrawal of their long retaining pins. These pins serve to secure the side curtains when these are used. To facilitate rapid warming up and correct running temperature the radiator is provided with an external roller-blind. The in-built stone guard carries the A.M. ” signature ” and A.A. badge. The large Lucas headlamps are very rigidly Continued on page 115