RUMBLINGS, April 1939
WHEN we were very young we often used to occupy ourselves by planning either the ideal
car, or the ideal stable of a given number of existing makes. Either way, a final decision was very seldom reached, and as such considerations, pondered over by a group of enthusiasts, always meant late hours and a heavy consumption of that commodity referred to by even quite unromantic souls as “midnight oil,” we decided to cure ourselves of this habit. However, just lately quite a few well-known motoring writers have pondered in print on their ideals, and there is really a lot of fun to be had by so doing, and, which is perhaps more to the point, by seriously contemplating a car embodying all one’s fads and fancies one learns to appreciate existing cars which approach, in the more important aspects, this mythical ideal.
For ourselves, too big an engine seems an extravagence, delightful as it is to drive behind. Really great urge from a properly constructed small power-unit of sound design has much to commend it. So let’s fix the thing at 2-litres. That should give at least 25 m.p.g. everywhere, if we do carburation and attendant matters as Lancia and H.R.G. do, for example—for they get over 30 m.p.g. from 14-litre motors. Unquestionably inclined valves in a polished hemispherical head are a good thing—look at racing design. But excessive revving is not wanted for everyday motoring, so push-rod operation a la Riley and Autovia is indicated, or else a single o.h. camshaft. We would like to crib the push-rod system used on the 328 B.M.W. The crankshaft must be stiff and really well balanced, and as our engine will be a four-cylinder —simplicity and a sense of pulling power are craved— it will run in five plain bearings. One big downdraught carburetter on a decent manifold will suffice and the throttle rods must have joints and pivots to delight an engineer’s heart. As to the rest of the underbonnet machinery, coil ignition has let us down ere now and a Lucas vertical magneto seems nicer. Pump cooling would be used and the head would have the modern idea of water flow in the vicinity of the exhaust valves. The block would be light alloy with dry inserted liners, and the head would be alloy likewise, with 12 mm. plugs and inset valve seats. The
sump would merely be a shallow base chamber below the alloy combined crankcase and block. Oil would be carried in a tank out in the air-stream as on the Aston-Martin dry sump system, because light alloy construction heats up the lubricant considerably and modern bodywork restricts the effectiveness of a heavily ribbed sump. Given decent pump layout and sound connections this system never gives any trouble and filling and topping up are extremely easy. You have to wait some time while warming up, but most enthusiasts do. This engine we should mount quite reasonably rigidly in a conventional sort of chassis of moderate dimensions. The side members would be boxed-in
for rigidity and braced by tubular cross members set where our slide rule expert tells us to put them. Only one gearbox would appeal and that is a four speed non-synchro box with a stiff central lever. As we are so faddy nowadays about noise we suppose third might be constant mesh, to allow conversation to proceed while dealing with the sort of traffic which flows out of London. The action of the change would be like that of the Lancia Aprilia, with a shorter,but equally stiff, lever. It would possess a really positive catch for a reverse stop. The handbrake would be a toss up between the M.G. type and that used on the 12/70 Alvis. Transmission would be by open-shaft to a hypoid bevel rear-axle. As to suspension, Bentley and Bugatti have rather convinced us that a normal half-elliptic layout can be made to do everything required for motoring in this country, and without the sponginess sometimes associated with independent front springing. Such a system would need the Bentley —Rolls-Royce type of over-ride damping control, because ordinary telecontrols take some time to twirl to the degree of adjustment required. The beauty of the arrangement used on the 44-litre Bentley is the manner in which you can stiffen everything up by merely flicking a lever, so that, for example, a hump-back bridge can be smoothed out and the suspension instantly re-set for a comfortable ride over the cobble-stone, restricted street immediately ahead. It would be most interesting to see how the system would function on a small, light car. If it were unsatisfactory, full independent suspension would be accepted without hesitation. Details would worry us
‘.a lot, and bodywork even more so. A drop-head *coupe giving generous visibility when open, yet pro., . . ‘vuimg a sense of being more than_rnerely a hood over one when erect, is craved. If -such a body required tq lute a -few minutes to convert Inreshould not mind ;very terribly, because you get fair warning of approach ing storms as a rule, and in open form with the glass side windows up protection would be quite reasonable in showers. It is absolutely no use asking how thick the front screen pillars would be and how one could *fold the screen flat. Even an ideal is largely a compromise, and you have something preferable to a
;saloon when Continental, Welsh or Scottish scenery ‘-calls for full visibility, or when an English summer ‘makes any kind of roof above one’s head unbearable. And so many keen motorists find a saloon not too bad, much as they may desire an open body at times. The front seats would be of heavy bucket-type, so arranged that they could be brought together to form a bench seat with accommodation for three persons if desired. The rear seat would be narrower, but with well padded side squabs and deep foot-wells, so ‘that itwo persons could occupy it without being thrown about when the rear tyres squealed. The rear luggage compartment would be easy to reach from. inside the car, by folding forward the rear seat squabs, which would be in two sections, bucket fashion, and ts rear panel would lower downwards. As our car is small, two doors would suffice and if the back seat passengers could not see out of the side of the hood when it was erect—well, they would not want to come with us so often . . . ! The facia would contain two deep cubby-holes, rubber-lined, with easily openable lids and on the driver’s side of the scuttle would be a flat, deep locker to hold maps, which could be withdrawn almost as easily as from a door-pocket. The instruments would be grouped on a central wood facia and have normal dials. Small speedometer and revcounter, clock, ammeter, oil-gauge, radiator thermometer and oil thermometer would suffice and all would be illuminated by an anti-dazzle remote lighting. The wheel centre would contain horn button, ignition control and indicator levers. Hand throttle, lamp switches, choke and the rest would be old-school style and set along the base of the facia. Two Lucas P100 headlamps and a decent spot-light would suffice, with a fog-lamp mounting for use in winter months. The lamp dipper and spot-light switch would be a combined affair, also on the wheel centre. Fancy lighting does not intrigue, but there might well be under-bonnet and luggage-locker lamps, of unbreakable type, with their switches inbuilt, and two interior lamps, a bright one shining rearwards and a subdued one placed centrally. All tools would live beneath the bonnet, which would have old-fashioned clips. The battery would live beside the tools, in a case having small grips to enable it to be quickly lifted out and about. The rear’ blind would have positive driver-control and twin electric wipers would be fitted. One-shot lubrication, in-built, under-frame jacking, a spare fuel tap, and radio, would figure in the specification. The interior would be plainly finished on open car lines and have leather upholstery. We should expect 85 m.p.h., 70 m.p.h. cruising and a 45 m.p.h. average most eyerywhere. The resultant car would have something of old school charm, yet be modern as to design and performance. It would not be expensive to maintain, yet it would be fast enough for any normal
journey. Such things as easy brake adjustment,. easy 4heans of checking and draining the oil tank,. gearbox and rear axle, separate lamp fuses, etc., wouldconcern us more than wondering whether the engine would like to be blown—but not to pieces-.-or whether an over-drive top could be worked in. As to gear-ratios, it would be given as high a top gear as it could pull.
Charming ladies and fast motor-cars–you may reverse the adjecfives if you will—are not altogether disassociated. The former, as much as the latter, are very definitely part of every big sporting motoring fixttin, and sometimes will even condescend to do a real cob of work, in the pits and elsewhere, and travel home in an open car after the meeting, instead of being merely decorative. Seriously, one could name quite a lot of ladies who regularly help drivers during classic races. ,Now the Paris-St. Raphael Rally provides further proof of feminine keenness, with emphasis on. driving ability. Nor were the British girls so far away from the plums.
Miss Betty Haig was third in Class A with her blown. M.G., which Bellevue prepared, 56 points behind Mme. Simon (Hotchkiss), the outright winner. Mrs.. Hague’s Riley was fourth, and Miss Riddell’s FrazerNash-B.M.W. sixth. In Class B Miss Patten’s Peugeot was fourth and Miss Meyrat’s Standard Eight was seventh. Mrs. Hague won her class and Miss Patten_ and Miss Meyrat both gained Grand Prix awards.
The Type 57S Bugatti has been replaced by the blown 57C, on which a new ” Stelvio ” four-seater drop-head cabriolet body is available, at £1,060. It has faired wheels and a flowing tail. The Type 57 model is continued.
The Cork Race, due on April 22nd, has been abandoned.
Philip Mayne is now Racing Manager to E.R.A._ The new cars have independent suspension and entirely new frames. They are due to appear at Brooklands on May 6th.
R. Parnell is building a very specialised 11-litre car for 1940—one person, at least, cheerfully looks ahead. He may dispose of the B.H.W.
The Bentley Drivers’ Club held a luncheon run to name on March 26th. Chris Staniland’s Multi-Union will be watched
expectantly this season. A V12 Lagonda saloon recently averaged 95.26 m.p.h. for two hours on a_ German autobahn and did 97 miles in the hour.