MOTORING WITH FORREST LYCETT
MOTORING WITH FORREST LYCETT
SOME IMPRESSIONS OF HIS 8-L1TRE BENTLEY. PERFORMANCE FIGURES AT BROOKLANDS ONE of the most imposing normallyequipped cars of the present era is Mr. Forrest Lycett's well known 8-litre Bentley, which has been an outstanding performer in the unlimited sports class at Sh.elsley Walsh, Brighton and other sprint venues during the past few years, and which, on May 27th, 1937, took the International and British Class B standing kilometre record at Brooklands, as a note on its long bonnet
proudly testifies.* The car embodies several special features emanating from L. C. McKenzie's long experience of the 8-litre, but, essentially, it is a 1931 11 ft. wheelbase model, with a two-seater body devised by Lycett and constructed for him by Corsica's. The engine has a compression ratio of over 7 to 1, the triple S.U. carburetters have McKenzie's special slides to obviate binding under suction, and ignition is by twin Bosch G.F. GA magnetos. The radiator and scuttle have been lowered, the chassis shortened, until it is virtually that of the old 4-litre Bentley, and weight saved wherever possible. in particular, the bonnet is exceptionally light, the wings are abbreviated, and the headlamps are small Lucas long-range type. Several refinements have been added, notably one-shot chassis lubrication, operated by a plunger pump on the floorboards by the passenger, and the unbound springs are damped by both Hartford frictional and Luvax hydraulic shock-absorbers. Further to save weight the vacuum brake operation has been discarded, and the dynamo is now mounted on the chassis and driven from the carder) shaft, the aperture where it once protruded beneath the radiator being neatly blanked off with a polished plate,
The result has been to create a car which is in every sense of the word a sports-car, yet which is endowed with performance that makes it, I think it can safely be said without fear of contradiction, the most potent car in sports-car racing or on the road at the present time. A car of this kind stands out alone, and it was with considerable excitement that I accepted an invitation to ride with Lycett. Arriving at his house in Kensington I found the Bentley outside, black paint, work immaculate, the long bonnet with its two straps and low filler-cap suggestive of dignified yet stirring perform ance. From the passenger's seat this impression remains, the body being quite narrow, the near-side front wheel and brake drum visible beneath the narrow wing, and the neat instrument-board with its clearly spaced dials immensely satisfying. The main screen folds fiat, and the small aero-screens give extremely good protection. The shapely right-hand Bentley gear-lever, inside the body, nestles against the driver's right leg. Below it is the reserve petrol tap (six gallons are trapped as reserve) and a tiny lever to effect the change over from pump to automatic feed. The handbrake is
*Subsequently a racing Auto-Union recaptured the International figure. DATA Mr. Lycett's 8-litre Bentley Gear Ratios : 1st 7.614 to 1 2nd 6,376 to 1 3rd 4.035 to 1 Top 3.0 to 1 Tyres : Front : 6.00" x 21" Rear 7.00" x21" Maxima : 1st 61 m.p.h. 2nd 72 m.p.h. 3rd 96 m.p.h. (4,000 r.p.m.) Acceleration :
0-60 m.p.h. 5.2 secs.
0-70 m.p.h. 10.0 sees.
0-90 m.p.h. 16.0 secs.
0-100 m.p.h. 23.0 secs. 10-30 m.p.h. in 1st 1.8 secs. 40-70 m.p.h. in top 9,0 secs. 30-80 m.p.h. on gears in 10.4 secs. Standing Start -mile: 16.4 sees. Standing Start half-mile : 26.2 sees. Weight, as tested : 4,725 lb. Equipment : Lamps, wings, acro-screens Flying half-mile: 111-112 m.p.h.
external, and the uncorded four-spoke steering-wheel carries neat levers controlling ignition, mixture and throttle, and a horn button in the centre. An interesting feature is the additional accelerator to the left of the clutch pedal, which controls a small throttle opening and is used for driving in town, Just above it is a foot-operated horn button. The instrument board carries, from left to right, a tube-type fuel gauge, airpressure gauge, clock, ammeter, radiator thermometer, switch-box, 120 m.p.h. speedometer, oil-gauge, rev.-counter and various dash-lamps and individual switches. The pressure-gauges an Smith's, the big speedometer and revcounter very effective black-dialled A.T. instruments, and the ammeter a Weston. There are useful pockets in the doors and scuttle, the tail carries luggage in plenty under the tonneau cover, and on the extreme left of the instrument board is a plate inscribed : "Still the World's Finest Sporting Car "—a sentiment with which we now concur wholeheartedly. So it will be appreciated that this 8-litre is a truly imposing car even when it is stationary. Moving away, one is at once impressed by its unexpected
handiness in narrow, congested. streets. It corners very easily and does not trespass onto the wrong side of the road in so doing, as many big motors have to do. In built-up areas you realise the magic of a really big engine pulling high ratios, for Lycett keeps strictly to 30 m.p.h. ; and that is a mere 900 r.p.m. At this speed the Bentley runs with no sound save the hum of the rear axle, the suspension pleasantly stiff as befits a thoroughbred sports-car. Even when brief derestricted bits allow quite a burst of speed, the revs. do not mount beyond 2,000 r.p.m., and only slight engine noise mingles with the howl of the wind. The first hour's running was over narrow, twisting by-roads, which prevented real speed, if one excepts instant acceleration up to 75 m.p.h. on every brief straight. Here I was surprised how very well this big car handled. It could be put right down into the gutter for passing, and acute bends could be and were taken really quickly, the tail then sliding round so that the rear covers set up a loud scrubbing, but withOut a trace of roll, the Bentley straightening up beautifully under vigorous castor action. At speed the suspension smoothes out, and, if the dash and steering column exhibit a certain amount of movement, this is attributable to the suppleness of the long frame, and very definitely the individual components in front of one display that " piece " rigidity inherent in the real motor-car. Moreover, as Mr. Lycett observed, a few modern cars with very • rigid frames may ride absolutely stiffly, but they can spring awkward surprises, whereas the Bentley is essentially safe if sanely handled—it never plays tricks.. That is not to suggest that no skill is required to drive it. Joining the main " A30 " at last, by Hartley Row, the cruising speed rose to 80 m.p.h. (a mere 2,400 r.p.m.) and I observed that Lycett did a great deal of work, both along the straights, and in taking open bends at high speeds, sometimes fast enough for the tail to slide. But always the car was under complete control, and the brakes were definitely thoroughly in keeping with the performance, causing the tyres to protest as they brought the speed down to a strict 30 m.p.h. in builtup areas, after we had devoured the open, road at upwards of 90 m.p.h. The handlever is used to steady the car, working on the rear wheels. This " life " in the car's manner of handling is most inspiring, and along the twisty going aforementioned the running was gloriously fierce and exhilarating, reminding one of the great racing days of the marque in no uncertain manner. But more surprises were awaiting me as " A:30 " opened out before us. Lycett continued to make full use of the gearbox. The lower ratios go in extremely rapidly and with no more indication that a change has been effected than is provided by the burst of exhaust in revving up and the click of the lever going home—either it is a fallacy that the old Bentley box is slow and tricky, or it is true that Lycett is more than usually master of his car. The acceleration) on
the lower ratios is—juet terrific. Literally, you scarcely have time to turn your head to note the make of car being passed ,ere you are hundreds of yards up the road. It is, moreover, clean, purposeful aceleration, very definitely of the " hit-in-theback " variety. And it continues to 95 -m.p.h.—at that speed you can still feel the urge of the big engine, the noise of which never becomes very great, though increasing with the throttle opening. You may well murmur : "What a car ! " I confess I did, as we topped a long rise at exactly 100 m.p.h. (2,900 r.p.m.) after starting at around 30 m.p.h. in top gear . . . Cruising speed is anything the road permits, and so steadily does the -car ride and such is the security engendered by a long bonnet and solid construction, that anything below 95 m.p.h. was soon accepted as quite ordinary 'unexciting going. It is interesting that a special technique is required in driving a car of this ability, Lycett needing to scan the road very far ahead, braking much earlier for obstruction than the passenger mentally anticipated. And in -overtaking it was often necessary to brake hard and go past the first obstruction at 80 m.p.h., so as to be able to get the pace down sufficiently to tuck in behind the next car. Then, a gap appearing far down the line, second would snick in, that shattering acceleration would come into play, and we would be out and away before the others had found their directionindicator switches. Some idea of the going can be had from the journey time. Leaving Kensington at 10.45 a..nL we were at Salisbury by about 12.30 a.m., although the first hour's running was through London streets and over slow :going. And no one could wish for a safer, -more considerate or more courteous driver than Mr. Lycett.
Before lunch I was able to examine the engine, which is beautifully polished and possesses some very fine detail work, notably McKenzie's throttle controls. A magnificent example of the" old school " at its best. After lunch, anxious to get to Brooklands, Lycett settled down to what he would term fast, but not hurried, driving. Frequently we reached and held 100 m.p.h., sometimes uphill ; once we comfortably exceeded 110. Seldom were we below 80 m.p.h., and then there always followed vivid acceleration back to the Bentley's idea of a sensible cruising speed. Yet, as I have said, the passenger felt absolutely secure, and the sense of immense speed was negligible below 95 m.p.h. Always, the car rolled silently through built-up areas at 30, maintained thereat by bursts of throttle applied with
the left hand accelerator. Then, the indirects would snick in as the derestrictiou sign appeared, and motoring would be resumed . . .
The needles were steady on the dials, rev.-counter invariably below the " 2,000 " mark, oil-gauge off the dial at speed (the readings ended at 60 lb.) or at 40 lb. or 50 lb. at lower revs., the thermometer usually at 80°C., reaching 90°C. momentarily after extra fast going. The engine was prone to pink, running on Disco', but a small mixture of straight Benzol, put in at " The Phcenix," where we stopped to enthuse with the vintagents over an early 200 Mile Race Horstmann,
largely eliminated this tendency. The slow-running needed attention, so that some popping back occurred through the Burgess silencer, which probably accentuated the temperature. Once the radiator filer-cap flung back a little water. The first half-hour accounted for thirty miles, in spite of road repairs impeding our majestic progress, and in the first hour, deducting the stop at "The Phri nix," we covered 53 miles, many of them at the legal limit ascribed for built-up al eai. The run of sixty-seven miles from Salisbury to Brooklands took about 1 hour 18 min., running time. At Brook lands—still the only place where performance figures can be logged in comfort—we went straight out onto the Track without attention to plugs, shock-absorbers, water or oil levels. The figures speak for themselves. No attempt was made to improve on first readings, and they were taken two up, the car—weighed on the Paddock weighbridge—turning the scales at 4,725 lb., of which the fuel probably accounted for about 112 lb. Without driver and passenger the Bentley weighed 4,415 lb. to 50 m.p.h. took 5.2 secs., to 70 10 secs., to 90 16 secs. and to 100 m.p.h. 23 secs. The standing start quarter-mile was covered in 16.4 secs., the standing start half-mile in 26.2 secs., against the wind. These are truly astounding figures, and I doubt if they could be bettered by any other road-equipped motor— ancient or modern. They are all the more astonishing when it is remembered that the Bentley had its high road ratios of 3.0: 4.085; 5.376 and 7.614 to 1 respectively, and 7" x 21" Dunlop Fort " 90 " rear covers. The front covers are Dunlop Port "90" of 0" x21". Mr. Lycett considers that on sprint ratios he could knock about 2 secs. off the time of 10 secs. from to 70 m.p.h. I Other figures were :-10 to 30 m.p.h. in bottom, 1.8 sees,; in second, 3.0 sees.; in third, 4.8 secs. 40 to 70 m.p.h. in top in 9.0 secs. 30 to 80 m.p.h. through the gears in 10.4 secs. The clutch took up the drive very firmly and protested very little, and no doubt split seconds could have been knocked off these times had we practised. On top gear the Bentley runs down to 15 m.p.h. comfortably, equal to about 450 r.p.m. On first gear the maximum speed is 51 m.p.h., on second, 72 m.p.h. and on third, 96 m.p.h., going to the limit of 4,000 r.p.m. in each instance. So far as maximum speed is concerned, we did not try, and for a very good reason. Last year, on the Autobahnen in Germany, the 8-litre was timed for a kilometre at 122 m.p.h. and was still accelerating. After the finish the near-side rear cover flung its tread without warning, with very unpleasant results. Lycett feels that at 110 m.p.h. or over he cannot rely on the road tyres and Brooklands is no place at which to fling treads at that pace from a 2 ton motor-car. Consequently, we only tried one moderate flying half-mile, which came out at about 112 m.p.h. against a stiff breeze. Even at this speed the speedometer was almost dead accurate. Last year I timed the car at about 116 m.p.h. over the Brook
lands half-mile. This time the engine had run only 500 miles since reassembly. So concluded a most interesting, not to say inspiring, day's motoring. The 8-litre showed no signs of tiring and rolled home at its customary 900 r.p.m., using its immense acceleration to cope with the straggly traffic. All I can say, very profoundly, is "What a motor-car I" Literally Mr. Lycett's Bentley, in spite of its reliability and effortless manner of going, is Master of the Road. I can think of no other sports-car that would be a match for it, in spite of its seven summers. It so completely justifies those who enthuse over old-school designs, in performance alone, quite apart from any consideration of durability. On the latter count, the maximum cylinder wear, I am told, was "three thou." after 49,000
miles . . . The fuel consumption, by the way, is not so horrific—almost the same as that of Lycett's well known 44litre Bentley, about 13 m.p.g. Look at it how you will, I think you will agree that this is, as that small, tucked-away plaque on the 8-litre's instrument board unblushingly proclaims," Still the World's Finest Sporting Car."