MIXING, as we do, with real enthusiasts, we hear lots of interesting side-lights on sports motoring. The other day several impecunious folk were discussing plans that might be undertaken for a small outlay with a view to producing a sound motorcar different from the majority. . When lack of big gold-bags prevails you might be excused for suggesting a vintage motor. Actually, vintage cars can give very fine service and be a source of intense pride and joy to their owners, but, as the owner of an old-school Bentley emphasised to us recently, and as any good vintagent will tell you, it is a mistake to cut costs too fine if you wish to motor successfully in a veteran. In the first place, insurance companies, spare-part dealers and old-tyre vendors invariably associate a vintage car with a hidden source of unlimited wealth. It becomes necessary to pay about double the normal third-party premium and desirable to fit new wheels to carry modern-sized boots. It is true that lots of MOTOR SPORT readers tell us of good service obtained from really old cars. The solution seems to be that either they run the car for a holiday-period only, and are extra lucky, or else that they expect nothing very sensational in the way of performance. But experience suggests to us that one should be prepared to spend at least as much as the purchase price on overhauling a sports-type vintage motor, if satisfactory
service is craved. There is nothing so fascinating as putting into good order and regularly running a really unique marque or model, but to do so successfully we would suggest meeting the original designer, acquiring all the available blueprints and spares, and rebuilding every component in proper engineering style. Which costs a pile of gold. Cars like Forrest Lycett’s 8-litre Bentley and the Lambert. Aston-Martin and Sir, Lionel Phillips’s Leyland Eight are not motors for poor men . . . Otherwise, it is saner by far to buy a proven type, such as a 12/.50 Alvis, a 3-litre Bentley, a 12/40 Lea-Francis, or such like, and to spend a reasonable amount on restoring It to order. With very few exceptions Edwardian machinery should be avoided, as it is only suited to sporting purposes. If your idea is to buy something; quite unheard of for a few shillings, to retain the larger chunks of gold for overhauling it, we can only observe that all the breakers whom we have approached have regarded L5 as the lowest, acceptable price for any car, no matter what its state of decay. After which, the foregoing deterrents still apply. A further factor against the vintage job is that lots of relatively unwealthy enthusiasts require something in the 8 h.p. taxation category, capable of at least 40 m.p.g.—no matter how convincingly statistics may show that the saving over a 9 or 10 h.p. car is negligible and that if you cannot find the difference you cannot rightly afford to be a car-owner, we believe that finding the additional ready cash each quarter, and at the petrol-station, makes the.eighthorse a most desirable possession in the eyes of lots of us. And, so far as
vintage cars are concerned, the only good examples in this class seem to be the 8/18 Talbot and the Gwynne Eight ; excellent little motors, but not too easy to find.
So, having explained our outlook, perhaps our inbuilt enthusiasm for vintage motor-cars has been sufficiently defended for us to advise those with only a small outlay at their disposal—say, a maximum of 00425–to steer clear—unless they are seeking a car for occasional playtime use only. Is there anything left, different from the depressing second-hand bargains which are now displayed in odd yards about as numerous around London as cheap barbers’ shops and impossible cafes. We do not profess to recommend the following schemes, or even to say whether they are mechanically possible, let alone sound, but they may suggest worthwhile lines of approach. In contemplating something non-vintage, small and cheap to build, the idea of achieving a good performance by high power-toweight-ratio appeals. The Austin Seven can be picked up in any breakers’ and is lightweight construction personified. Moreover, it is said that, properly assembled and lubricated, the back-axle will stand a lot of abuse and it is a fact that the transmission lines up very easily. It has been suggested that a Ford Eight or ‘Ford Ten engine could be installed, and it certainly looks so. One line of thonght suggests that it is not worth while gaining an increase of only 186 c.c. and that the ” Ten ” should be used. On the other hand, this would put the car in the 11-litre class in most competitive events. As the 1933 Ford Eight saloon was only .2 of a second slower on acceleration from 10-30 m.p.h. than the 1929 “M “-type M.G. Midget, however, even the ” Eight” might be quite ‘sensational. On the other hand, given Improved road-holding to suit, the speed capabilities of the ” Ten ” are attractive, for the 1935 saloon did almost 70 m.p.h. pulling a top-gear ratio of 5.5 to 1, whereas the light weight of the Austin
should enable the 4.9 to 1 ratio to be employed, giving some 75 m.p.h. or more. There are those who say the small space to spare in the Austin Seven enginedepartment would render it very difficult to install any other power-unit. Patience, they claim, might lead to a crashed late car. of this type being found, when the 3-bearing engine, which developed 17 b.h.p., against the 131 b.h.p. of the 1080type, unit and 10/ b.h.p. of the magneto ignition engine, could be installed. We have seen late-type engines picked-up in this way and .used to good effect,
because, apart from the power-increase, they are often smoother and in sound order generally.
The Austin Seven is really very wonderful and is certainly about the cheapest car which can be bought in going order and for which bits and bobs are easily got. But remember that that .8 ” Chummy ” will have seen hard service and is probably a pathetic performer and likely to shed all its sump oil rapidly even after a rebore—via its back-main. The little M-type M.G. Midget is an excellent little car with remarkably good lines for such a short ‘base and a decently weather-proof body. Examples are available for as little as £15 or less, but most of those under £25 need a lot of attention. It might be an idea to install a side-valve Morris Minor engine in such a chassis, to obviate troubles inseparable from a well-worn o.h.c. unit. There would then be a four-speed box if you play trials and we believe this unit tunes quite nicely. One enthusiast suggests that it might be fun to acquire an o.h.c. Morris Minor engine for about a fiver and tune it up to a pitch one would hardly care to risk for road use, dropping it in for competition work. Alternatively, one might put in the Morris unit as the everyday engine and tune the original
M.G. engine for competition work. It is, we believe, partial to normal hottingup and will give some 70-75 rn.p.h. if the ptbrts are enlarged, a larger carburetter fitted, and the “Double Twelve” camshaft fitted, while still remaining very dependable. On the other hand, we ,confess we have not, enquired. whether this camshaft is still obtainable from. the makers, nor do we know how such performance-increase adversely affects economy. Reverting to the matter of improving power/weight ratio, the Ford Ten engine in the ” Eight ” chassis seems attractive and we know installation is possible, while the 8 h.p. unit will bore out to just under 1,100 c.c. with beneficial results. At the other extreme, it might be possible to liner down an Austin Seven engine to command the £411010 tax, while still retaining more or less standard urge by careful hotting-up—the Fiat 500 is so far still outside our expenditure limit. Thus we visualise an Amilcar or a Salmsoti or a Senechal or a VernonDerby with a Ford Ten, or a Riley Nine or a 12/50 AlviS engine installed. Alas, here again experience suggests that the transmission will not easily line-up, that an entirely new rear-axle is necessary, that weight-distribution will probably come out all wrong, and that the cost will rival that of thoroughly overhauling a standard vintage motor of known qualities. The same probably applies to converting a Morgan tricar into a V-twin four
wheeler, or of putting a single-cylinder engine into a Morgan—incidentally, when we mentioned the Dirt Track J.A.P. last February as a possible unit we naturally meant in de-tuned form to use pump fuel. However, we may. conclude by saying that a reader once very satisfactorily put a .,10/23 Talbot engine into the 8/18 chassis. Motoring really cheaply does not embrace reliable vintage • sports models, not yet an ambitious” special.” The prices of second hand cars, which may seem high at first sight, ;are justified in many cases by the reasonable order of the car so priced, But, if you have to watch your wallet, remember that building up a special job for a given purpose, to a pre-arranged theory, is far preferable to spending -hard cash on making a mechanically standard motor-car match the white flying-lat. Are we all agreed ?