Letters from Readers, April 1939





Sir, I enclose a copy of the outline of the new scheme which is designed to appeal to those who would like to assist in keeping E.R.A. cars in the field, but cannot afford 25/at one swoop,

That there is a rapidly awakening support for the Club, is proved that since the beginning of the year over seventy new members have joined, and I am sure In my own mind, that we could have got even more if it were not for a certain measure of restraint being used when we go after new members.

What I mean by this latter statement is that we have several schemes ready to be launched, but we feel that if the promised National scheme was launched and turned out to be a flop, the Club would probably get the back-wash if we had already done something off our own bat, although it would not be a national appeal. 1. For 25/you can become a Full Member of the E.R.A. Club. Subscrip

tion per annum, Entrance fee 5/or any greater amount that you can afford. Car badges cost 10/6. A Member’s coat badge is sent free.

The Club organises visits to the Works and to races, tea runs, an annual dinner, lectures by well known drivers, and produces “Hearsay,” a magazine published in alternate months, giving details of E.R.A. activity and news from the works.

2. For 5/(or any amount up to 251-) you can become an Associate Member. You will be entitled to—a coat badge— the option of attending the annual dinner, when the presentation to Mr. Cook will be made—if you join the Club as a Full Member later, we will waive the Entrance fee.

N.B.—Date and venue of the dinner will be notified to all Members.

3. For 1/6 you may obtain an E.R.A. Pin Badge.

4. Donations of any amount will be welcomed. I am, Yours etc.,


Thornton Heath.


While looking through MOTOR SPORT for January, on my return from the Cape, I noticed a paragraph referring to Gleisner and G6irard’s adventures, concluding with references to Browning and I having started off for the Cape in the

Wolseley. This ends : “They, too, reported a hectic journey across France on icy roads, and it is just these hectic dashes across France which are likely to bring the whole idea of the record into disrepute.”

Might I point out that we were taking no chances whatever and allowed ourselves thirty-six hours to get front Boulogne to Marseilles, about 650 miles, in view of the extremely bad weather conditions in France ? This works out at an average speed of 1711m.p.h. Surely this cannot be called hectic ? Even when weather conditions are perfect I never allow myself less than twenty 1.,-ur3 between leaving Boulogne after tun,and arriving at Marseilles two hours before the boat is due to leave. This is an average speed of 33 m.p.h., including one stop for dinner. Knowing the road as you do, I am sure you cannot call this :hectic:

Gleistier and Gerard allowed themselves very much less time to get from Calais to Marseilles. In fact, they would have had to have averaged 45 m.p.h., including all stops and almost entirely in the dark, so that I Was not altogether surprised to hear that they had crashed near Lyons.

I quite agree with you that hectic dashes across France would be likely to bring the whole idea of a record into disrepute, but nobody with any sense, having 10,000 miles to go, would dream of taking a chance and driving fast before they had even got to Africa. I am, Yours etc.,

H. E. SvmoNs. Leatherhead.


Sir, Knowing the well merited -attention paid to vintage motor cars through the

pages of your magazine, I thought that the following might prove of interest to your readers. Some time ago I came across a Diatto four-seater, date circa 1924, in excellent condition. Supposition was that it was one of the type that ran in the Targa Florio at that period. The engine was of 2-litres capacity, having a single over head camshaft, fuel being supplied to the four cylinders via a single large Zenith carburetter. There were four forward speeds, the huge central gear lever working in a visible gate. Road holding was excellent but I am unable to remember the exact type of suspension, but believe that there were massive semielliptics at the rear. The brakes were servo operated and immensely powerful. The hand brake worked on the transmission and was, on one occasion, left on for some distance resulting in a mild fire “below decks.” The car was tuned somewhat during my acquaintance with it, a metal to metal contact between head and block producing a really fierce compression ratio. Some 85 m.p.h. was claimed on top with 60 on third. I personally had a genuine 75 out of it with

four up, a very draughty excursion as the top right-hand section of the detachable V-screen was missing. Since the Diatto a Lorraine Dietrich, bereft of everything save bonnet, running boards and mudguards, has come to light. Hearsay has it that this is the actual car with which Bloch and Rossignol won at Le Mans in ’26. After the race, the story continues, it was broughtto England in chassis form, where it was. fitted with a saloon body. Eventually it came into my orbit in its present stark condition (the owner drove it some 20 miles to his home and said it was the coldest journey he had ever had, which was hardly surprising as it was November) after receiving a thorough engine overhaul and being rewired. I am unfortunately quite unable to verify the Le Mans part of its history. Probably some other reader will write to sey that Messieurs Bloch and Rossignol’s vehicle reposes in quite another part of the world ! The engine is a six-cylinder 3-litre, two plugs and four valves per cylinder, the latter being operated by means of pushrods of minute construction reminiscent of steel knitting

needles. There is a large auxiliary oil tank beneath the scuttle, oil radiators being set in each side of the massive, beautifully plated radiator. The original head lamps and stoneguards are still in place, also the starter, all being in working order. Mechanically-operated brakes, upswept chassis at rear, also transverse friction shock absorbers. No details of performance are available but the exhaust note is most inspiring and the clutch has to be treated with considerable respect otherwise vigorous wheel-spin results, even on dry concrete. Whilst on the subject of old cars I might mention an Austin Seven tourer of the 1926 era which I was fortunate to possess for a short time (the shortness of time • being the result of the usual dismal story of” lack of financial support “). Although quite standard and untuned the little car gave 45 m.p.h. on second gear with only moderate valve bounce and maintained over 50, three up, for quite long distances on several occasions. The figures are speedo readings, but I can vouch for the accuracy of this instrument as

the police informed the previous owner that it was certainly so and could they see his licence, please ? A suggestion I should like to put forward is this : we have a Road Racing Star, and now there is to be a Trials’ Drivers’ Star, so what about a Sprint Star ? I feel sure that it would add even greater interest to a branch of the sport which is having a very healthy revival, I worked out, for my own amuse ment, what would have been the position at the end of the 1937 seeson, awarding 10, 8 and 6 marks for first, second and third. F.T.D. respectively and 3, 2

and 1 marks for class wins and places. The first ten places by my reckoning (which is probably somewhat inaccurate) would have read as follows : 1. D. G. Evans and A. Baron … 56 3. J. Lemon Burton ••• 51 4. J. Bolster … ••• 46 5. G. Taylor … ••• 456 6. H. I,. Hadley ••• • • • 38 7. A. F. P. Pane 37 8. G. B. C. Sumner • • • 35 9. G. Hartwell 34

10. P. Lycett and R. J. W. Appleton … 29 Apart from any other considerations it would settle once and for all who was the most successful sprint driver of the year. The aforementioned idea would only apply to speed trials and hill-climbs held within the British Isles and doubtless a ” Sprint Drivers’ Club” with certain qualifications of entry (similar to the B.R.D.C.) would have to be formed to simplify matters. Would that I were in a position to “do something about it.” I am, Yours etc.,

J owl B ALLA RD .




Regarding recent letters about the Alvis, winner of the 1923 J.C.C. ” 200 ” the following information may be of interest, same being part of letter from a friend of mine in Melbourne. Talking, or rather writing, of old race cars, he says one of the most famous is the 12/50 Alvis, winner of the ’23 “200.” To use his words : “It has been entirely re-built ; the chassis, axles and wheels are Willys77 ‘ but the engine is the same save for a blower. The radiator is the original. The whole car is magnificently finished and is an engineering job throughout and only a close inspection would reveal the Yank components. Mr. Bullen recently drove the car over the flying mile at Canberra at 101 m.p.h.”

This should help to prove the car is (or is not) ” down under.”

I would be pleased if any reader can inform me as to the “present whereabouts” of the 1,000 h.p. “200 m.p.h. Sunbeam and the 12-cylinder 350 h.p. ‘Beam.” I am, Yours etc.,

“A READER.” E.18. Sir,

A friend and I have recently acquired a Salmson of unknown vintage and possibilities, and wonder whether you could identify it, or put us into touch with someone who could. As far as I can make out, it is a Gra,nd Sport twin overhead camshaft, but several enthusiasts consider it to be a San Sebastian imported into this country in the dim distant past by one Bob Clark who used it in sundry hill-climbs and track races. The animal possesses, apart from a rather fierce aspect, a twin o.h.c. engine, the number of which, situated just above the ” care of motor” plate, is 20894. The exhaust ports are separated while the inlets are branched internally. The valves appear to be inclined to each other at about 700, clearances being set by inserting shims between the cam-follower washer and the sliding piston. The inclined plugs appear to live in a very oily atmosphere and are fired by a Salmson magneto placed on the exhaust side of the engine at right angles to the crankshaft. The magneto bed has a counter-part, presumably for a dynamo on the inlet side. The crankshaft has -three bearings and is built up, as in the Appleton Riley, of two pieces bolted through the centre. We are told that the original rods were tubular, but the big ends used to run at the slightest provocation owing to con

rod deflection. The existing rods are dangerously filed I-sections. The crankcase shows mute evidence of an inquisitive con-rod, and has a deeply finned sump attached to it. The three-speed box, which rumour has it was originally a four-speed box, has

power transmitted via a single-plate

clutch. The chassis is suspended by semi-elliptics in front and quarters at the rear, while everything is stopped by four wheel brakes, of which the front ones are somewhat larger than those at the rear. The body expired long ago, and the radiator was replaced by a cut down Austin Seven radiator. If you could inform us as to its date of birth, habits and capabilities we would be extremely grateful, as information is difficult to obtain in this land of A handbook would be appreciated if someone could be persuaded to part with one, or alternative data such as, valve clearances, plugs, rev, limit, lubrication, strength of valve springs (the existing ones being very soft indeed), and where spares are obtainable. I am, Yours etc.,

J. WATSON. Johannesburg,

South Africa.



I am glad that your report on my 3-litre Bentley appears to have interested some of your readers. In particular, I am pleased.to see Mr. Russ-Turner’s letter, as I was ” waiting for it” from someone. Actually, at the time of the test, the the car was wearing 7.00×21 Fort Dunlops, the effective circumference of which is greater than that of the tyres

mentioned in the article. In view of this, I think that the alleged m.p.h. per r.p.m. will be found not far out. The rev: counter was tested dead accurate in December, and the car has been paced. at varying speeds by another car with a speedo. of. known accuracy. Nevertheless, I do sincerely regret that Brooklands was not available at the time of your run, in order that actual timed tests could have been made. I hope to. do this myself when opportunity offers.

Incidentally, I should apologise to your contributor for forgetting to tell him about the increase in tyre sizes since the car was described in the “Vintage Bulletin,” from which I gather he culled his information. I am, Yours etc., PETER C. T. CLARK


[And we apologiFe for not checking-up on the size.—Ed]. * * *



In recent issues of MOTOR SPORT I have noted various references to a converted Morgan three-wheeler. About eighteen months ago I started on the job. myself, using a 1933 super-sports Morgan and a rear axle obtained from an Amilcar Grand Sports. After five months work T had cut down the axle and had various welding and

general cutting-about operations carried out and the result was, I thought, a decent layout. However, such was the power of the engine, and thus the pull of the chain, that the rear axle showed a marked tendency to come smartly to the gearbox and sprocket, besides forming a lovely arch. After a few more layouts had been tried and without success, all owing to the terrific chain pull, a completely new axle casing was made for the job, with the existing Anailcar hubs and brake drums bolted. on. New radius rods were fitted and the entire job made more workmanlike. I then, for various domestic reasons, had to lay off for about six months. However, at about November 1988 I towed the car behind my 350 camshaft Velocette to my home town of Dewbury,

a matter of thirty-four miles. The journey was an epic and shows much for the bike. I lad a good try out on the road with the Morgan and it was pretty good, would spin its wheels on wet roads for thirty yards in bottom gear when accelerating and could lick the Velocette on maximum. Incidentally, the Morgan was not taxed, insured, nor even registered, had no mudguards, and had open exhausts. My brother bad neither licence nor insurance and be rode the Velos, the while I tried the car. I am now getting a decent garage of my own and will haw a good go at putting the finishing touches to the model ready for summer.

The body I built myself out of 1` three-ply and ash frame and really is a good looker. To lower the whole top line I even made o radiator and now it looks rather well. Owing ta the lightness of the new body the whole job weighs about 71 cwt., so it is sure of good P-to-W. ratio. I am, Yours etc.,


York. Sir, I have been very interested in Mr. A. J. P. Deacon’s comments on the 10.8 h.p. Wolseley tourer as four years ago I purchased a 1926 two-seater for

£311010. Some of Mr. Deacon’s notes on the mechanical features are not quite in order The clutch on my car wos a multiplate, running in oil, with a clutch stop. This clutch was one of the snags to the car as it used to refuse to free itself when cold if heavy oil was used, and make o horrible noise if light oil was used. Incidentally, there was no splined drive in the clutch, the whole ot the front half of the propeller shaft (a 11# diameter tube, not 1″. shaft) moved forward when the clutch was disengaged, a pot type universal joint allowing this motion. Mr. Deacon does not mention the worm and wheel steering which gives seveneighths of a turn from lock to lock with

a strong caster action. Incidentally, reversing at the speeds rendered possible on a 14-1 gear used to produce a series of terrific swerves, as the caster action was, of course, negative in reverse. I never used this car on the road, but ran it many miles over a farm for a year and then stripped it to pieces and rebuilt it with a frame the side-members of which came from a Ford ” T ” 1 ton truck, and the cross-members from the side-members of two Ford ” T ” light vans. The front springs and radius rods were used as before, the rear springs were semi-elliptics from the front of an Essex, with the frame passing below the axle. The wheelbase

was reduced to 8 feet. The engine I was afraid to tune in any way owing to the two bearing crankshaft, but in spite of this, the performance was quite good owing to light weight and cornering was excellent owing to low centre of gravity and wide rear spring base. This special I dismantled about six months ago as I now have no accommodation for it under cover.

Mr. Deacon may care to note the following particulars :—bore and stroke 2.6875″ x3.75, giving 1,270 c.c. (which is curiously enough very nearly the same as the Wolseley “Hornet “), compression ratio 4.75 to 1 ; 25.5 b.h.p. at 8,000 r.p.m. Inlet valve opens 9° after T.D.C. Exhaust closes 7° after T.D.C. Gear ratios 17.54, 8.8. 5.25 to 1.

I have now had, for a year, an Austin Seven Nippy 1935 model which has taken me 25 miles daily to work and back with only two lapses one a big end which had been badly re-metalled before I bought the car, and the other, a distributor cap which refused to work after I had decarbonized. The data relating to the Nippy and Speedy models in your article “Tuning the Austin Seven” is not quite in accordance with facts given in various Austin catalogues which I have. The ” 65 ” model was listed during 1934 at 048 with close-ratio gearbox and 5.6 axle ratio giving 23 b.h.p. at 4,800 r.p.m. and having the short tailed body. According to the ” Autocar ” description this car had jet crankshaft

lubrication. For 1985 this car was known as the Nippy but power output was given as 21 b.p.h. at 4,400 r.p.m. In addition the Speedy was listed with the pointed tailed body, pressure fed crankshaft and. 5.25 to 1 axle ratio, at £172, giving 75 m.p.h. from 23 b.h.p. at 4,800 r.p.m. These models were continued for 1936 and for 1937 the Speedy model was dropped and from December 1937, the Nippy had a three-bearing crankshaft and from August 1936 Girling brakes.

Another point is that the ribbed aluminium sump on my car takes only 3 quarts, not 1 gallon as stated in the ” Autocar ” description, the ” Castro'” lubrication chart and repeated in the MOTOR SPORT article.

A piece of information which readers may care to add to that contained in the article is that until the 1929 models, is all magneto ignition engines except the blown ones, crankshafts had 1 I” diameter big-ends, all other models having Itr” diameter ends, except the Nippy, Speedy and ” 65 ” models which are 11″ diameter. Another vehicle which I have owned, which may interest MOTOR SPORT readers, is a 1914 4+ h.p. B.S.A. motor-cycle which I bought in 1936 for 10/-, having had very little use. For its age it was a really remarkable design, having enclosed all chain drive with three-speed gearbox, clutch and. kickstarter. The kickstarter was rather peculiar as it worked on the final shaft of the gearbox so that to use

It the machine had to be put up on the stand and one of the gears engaged.. When the engine was started, the clutch was disengaged—it was operated by a rocking pedal and would stay in or out, and the machine put on the ground. In actual practice, the clutch never freed at all until it was thoroughly warmed,. May I end with a request. I have

been interested in Lea-Francis cars since owning my 12.40 but have never heard much about the 14 b..p. twin camshaft sixes built about 1928. Can any readers provide any details. I am, Yours etc.,





I have read with great interest your article—” The E.R.A. Outlook” in the February issue and congratulate you on giving a matter of great importance to motor-racing the publicity it deserves.

We, at the Alta works, knowing perhaps a little more than some the trials and tribulations attached to building racing-cars, not mentioning its expense, are full of praise for the whole E.R.A. equipe and without them, and Alta, English racing would be in a sorry state.

We should regret it very much indeed if E.R.A.s ceased to race. Competition is good both for the sport and the individual. The E.R.A. Club is a very good organisation too, and its committee are to be con

gratulated. Now, to return to your article—you mention that this club has noticed our efforts (probably due to our success over the E.R.A. at one or two important events) and that were our efforts to increase they might assist us with a donation.

While appreciating to the full that last paragraph, I am going to criticise it.

Frankly, I don’t like donations in a commercial concern that could lead to a lot of complications.

Secondly, I feel the B.R.A. club should be heart and soul for the E.R.A.

If there is a real appreciation of Alta’s effort, I feel an Alta Club should be formed or very much better still a club with a title such as British Racing Enthusiasts’ Club combining a mutual effort to all racing. There are many ways this Club could

help. I will suggest one—Purchase a car and nominate some first-class man to drive it.

Since 1931 the Alta concern has primarily built sports and racing cars—it has been done without any great capital or any outside assistance whatsoever, but has produced to sell as any other commercial concern and, incidentally, all income has been put into the business to make the Alta, both sports and racingcars, a real good job.

I feel it is deserving of help.

Do you agree ? I am, Yours etc.,

H. JOHN GRIFFITHS. Walton-on-Thames.