Letters from readers, April 1941

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Sir,

I felt that I just had to send my humble thanks for keeping at least the thoughts of “the Sport” going in such a wonderful manner.

MOTOR SPORT to me, and I am sure to every other enthusiast in the Forces, is a real tonic, and a reminder of the future for which we are all striving.

My 1½-litre Le Mans Singer had a narrow escape a few weeks back. I put the car in a friend’s public garage to ensure the attentions necessary for hibernation, but Jerry blew the place to smithereens. The Singer had a small piece of shell-splinter through the petrol-tank. Six other cars were, more or less, completely destroyed. I mean to put a few shells through Jerry petrol-tanks to settle this score.

May I suggest that a few more photographs of famous sports and racing motors would be greatly appreciated. I realise, of course, the shortage of paper and space, but we enthusiasts must have a few pictures for the billet walls. Our present art gallery consists of a few of my motors and dozens of nudes and “ladies out of uniform.” I am not saying the latter are not pretty good streamlining, but a few more “hot stuff” motors and I shall be happy.

All praise to your good-natured criticism of Mr. Douglas Tubbs’s article blowing the Yankee’s bugle. I certainly will be in the market for a British 100 m.p.h. motor and my choice will be an Alta. Has anyone got one ready to sell?

I am, Yours etc.,

H. F. HART.

18. Woodmere Court,

Shirley, Surrey.

*   *   *   *   *

Sir,

I was most interested in the editorial in your January issue. I, too, think that some car clubs might get started again. If the latter is impossible, I suggest that a club called, perhaps, the “Duration Motor Club,” might be got under way. The subscription might be 5s. payable every six months and for members in the Forces 2s. 6d. every six months. Meetings would be held on the first Sunday in every month, when there would be runs to interesting places, speed-judging contests, coachwork competitions, etc. I myself would get the club going in my locality if others would do the same in theirs. Indecently the money from the subscriptions would handed over (after expenses had been paid) to the Red Cross or some other such fund. If anyone else is interested in this suggestion will they please get in touch with me? Hoping the club will soon be formed.

I am, Yours etc.,

DAVID L. GHANDHI.

134 Heaton Moor Road,

Heaton Moor,

Stockport.

[Please write direct.—Ed.]

*   *   *   *   *

Sir,

I would like to give you a breath of fresh air, and so write my more or less annual letter.

Since I last wrote, our “Scuderia” which, as you may remember, comprised a Frazer-Nash-A.C., my ”20-70” Crossley, a Frontenac Ford and the Alvis-Madsinman Midget. has been enlarged by the adoption of a “30/98” Vauxhall, a S.V. Aston-Martin, a 1912 “Prince Henry” Vauxhall (late Boyd Edkin’s) and a Brescia Bugatti,

The Crossley is undergoing another rejuvenation—this time I am modifying the chassis to take a 1924 Mercedes engine and gearbox, 4-litre with compressor, a truly fascinating job. The combination should prove highly potent unless something makes expensive noises.

The lily of the Alvis Midget has been gilded by the acquisition of that bronze cylinder-head about which I was so disappointed before, also the loan of an enormous Solex with a truly Mercedes-like box of jets, choke-tubes, etc. For some time after the fitting of this, our speech when tuning consisted solely of choke-tube dimensions and jet-sizes, interspersed with muffled and overt profanity. However, she carried off the principal race three weeks ago, and has won the season’s point-score for the second time running, so all is nearly well.

The Vauxhalls (a) and (b) are both in fine fettle.

(a) the “30/98” was acquired, after some searching, from a backyard in an outer suburb of Sydney. We knew where it was eighteen months ago, then it vanished for quite a long time until recently, when we heard of it being for sale through our network of spies, so mounted the Nash and post-hasted to its den, whence it was towed back to headquarters and put into running order again. What a car!

(b) the 1912, was seen for some time as an aluminium beetle-tail poking out of a garage not far away. Finally, we saw it in motion one night, and had much argument about its identity until its owner was met and found to be an old-school-tie wearer.

Since then she has been co-opted, painted in regulation colours (royal blue and silver) and seen much of. A very likeable vehicle, still able to put one over most moderns.

Next the Aston-Martin. This is probably a 1924 model, having a boat-shaped clover-leaf fabric touring body, sweptback front wings, f.w.b., and two spare wheels on a kind of stalk behind.

It has not a great deal of performance, but will do about 3,500 r.p.m. in top, and has about the best road manners of any car I have met, being better-cornering even than the Frazer-Nash or my Crossley, which is to say it is pretty good. The gearbox is, after the first-second change, an enthusiast’s dream.

The Brescia is very much a small-boy racing-car. Lots of exhaust bark, squealing of’ tyres, high-pitched whine of straight-cut bevel gears, rattle of overhead gear, etc. Also embarrassingly erratic progress when hasty deceleration is required. She is stated to have attained 6,000 r.p.m in second gear, although I think you might need an umbrella at that rate of engine-whirling.

This car also has an interesting gearbox. Since most of the time the clutch is more or less an optimistic inclusion in the design, clutchless changes are de rigueur, and if they are not quite so, nasty noises happen.

However, once the knack is mastered, much can be done between gears 2,3 and 4.

There is another Bugatti in our district, one of the old four-cylinder eight-valve tourers, with an engine that is a polished aluminium box and a central gear-change.

I think this is Type 40.

We had for a short time a six-cylinder twin o.h.c. “Leaf,” but could not afford to keep it, unfortunately.

Also, another new comer to the stable is another midget; this one has a frame that is Morris Minor in front, complete with f.w.b., and Frazer-Nash behind, the axle being shortened, and two speeds retained.

The engine is a S.V. Anzani with a homemade lead-bronze cylinder-head.

Bill Balgarnie made this head, also a big Roots-type blower which was fitted to this engine when it was all Frazer-Nash, in which trim it is stated to have exceeded the century. The rest of the Frazer-Nash bits, i.e., front end of frame, etc. were until a year or so ago still going, the rest being Frontenac Ford. Horrible sacrilege, like the V-8 engines in Tim Joshua’s racing Monoposto Frazer-Nash and the ex-Colin Sinclair Alta.

Well, there is much more I could write, but time is unfortunately scarce, so good hunting, and a quick ending to unpleasant interruptions, etc.

I am, Yours etc.,

R. BEAL PRITCHETT.

Sydney, N.S.W.

[Enthusiasm is truly world-wide. Incidentally, Type 40 Bugatti has three valves per cylinder.—Ed.]

*   *   *   *   *

Sir,

Those who have read “Scuderia Impecuniosa” may be interested to hear more of Peter Templeman’s “12/60 ” Alvis.

After perusing John Cooper’s article, I passed round to see him, utilising sundry public service electric vehicles.

During a most interesting evening I discovered that “OJ 154” was for sale and decided that my Singer Le Mans (JV 3362) would soon he sold. It was a disgusting pram anyway with a slow box and blown mains. My host motored me home at what is his normal rate of progression. Most edifying.

I met Templeman the following day and he was so sure of his car that he loaned it to me for a month by way of a “trial run.”

I arrived in Coventry on November 14th after an extremely amusing piece of motoring and stayed there for the following month.

During this time the car covered, in aid of the city police, a little over 2,000 miles. Over the period she was not touched (not even oil) and, although progressing quite rapidly over bricks and broken glass, didn’t even have a puncture. I wonder how many other hotted motors could do the same.

The motor has a heavy four-seater open body with the usual twin carb. “12/60” engine and string drive to the rev. counter. Two gaskets are fitted, since the compression was raised to the maximum for Discol and pool makes funny noises with one. I learned this after fitting three, including a Klinger, having utilised every word of a doubtful nature I can think of as they blew one after another.

When the first one did its stuff I motored for about 70 miles on three pots (needs must, etc.) raising 62 m.p.h. on the level with clouds of water spraying out of fourth and a noise like ten motor-bikes and a tank. She would always start with one pull on the handle and at the present moment pressure of the foot on the aforesaid handle is quite sufficient. A new battery is to be added to remove even this labour.

I can get a clock reading of 83, which Cooper tells me is 75-76, but I really haven’t tried since decoking.

My father is also a very keen Alvis owner, having run one continuously since about ’22. The light of his life is a 1930 17-h.p. “Silver Eagle” saloon which can still clock its 75, although producing smoke like a destroyer after a sub. The box needs clever handling, but makes one feel very happy.

His second string is a 1939 20-h.p. “Silver Crest” saloon. This is very nice for getting places quite rapidly and proves that Alvis still produce excellent motors. The box is too perfect for fun, and about the only real criticisms are E.L.P. tyres and a weary number of turns from lock to lock. When at the service depot I saw the new model. It would have been a very pleasant shock for many people.

By the way, should anyone wish to sell a couple of aero-screens I wish they would drop me a line. I would always be glad to see any enthusiast.

May I, in conclusion, thank you for your very fine war effort and Peter Templeman for a very fine motor.

I am, Yours etc.,

P. R. BALES.

55, Hillsborough Road,

Blaby, Leicester.

[Please correspond direct. —Ed.]

*   *   *   *   *

Sir,

I have just received the current issue of MOTOR SPORT and as usual thoughts went back to the good old days of trials and races. I have only owned two cars, an “Ulster” Austin Seven and a J2 M.G. Midget. In the M.G. I did a little rapid motoring from Plymouth to Southampton, averaging about 53 m.p.h.; however, this was too much for the car and the crankshaft parted on the following day.

I have been trying to find either an M.G. K3 Magnette or an M.G. J3 Midget, so far without success.

Wishing you and your very excellent paper all the best and with thanks for carrying on I am, Yours etc,

PETER STANTON.

Loch Lomond Hotel.

*   *   *   *   *

Sir,

As I served my time with Trojan Ltd., it was with very great interest I read A. F. Scroggs’s account of “Trials with a Trojan” in the February issue, and I think a few additional notes may be of interest to my fellow-readers.

Firstly, I would like to make one correction to Mr. Scroggs’s article. He states that his engine, “while essentially standard, was peculiar in having a detachable head,” which might lead those unacquainted with the Trojan to think that the standard engine had a fixed head. This was not so. A large plug screwed in the top of each cylinder performed the function of a head. These plugs were fitted with studs, which in turn held down the water-jacket cover over the end of the cylinder block.

It was a simple matter to increase the compression ratio by merely screwing deeper plugs into the top of the cylinders. I believe, however, that Mr. Scroggs’s special engine had a conventional type of detachable head with the sparking-plugs in the head, but my memory may be playing me false. In the standard engine the sparking-plugs were screwed into the side of the cylinder block.

Early Trojans up to 1927 were built under licence by Leyland Motors Ltd. The first engines of the Type PB developed about 10 b.h.p., had plain big end bearings and the two-throw crankshaft ran in three plain bearings. This was succeeded by the XL engine with modified ports and roller-bearing big ends, which produced about 12 b.h.p. Cars fitted with this had a maximum speed of about 38 m.p.h. on a 4:1 top gear.

The next two types of engine were very similar, the BH being a horizontal engine while the BV was vertical. This latter was used in the rear-engined Trojan which appeared at the 1929 Motor Show, and which had a maximum speed on a 3.5 to 1 top gear of about 45 m.p.h. These two engines had larger ports and the crankshaft was carried on two ball-bearings and one plain bearing in the centre. Since the crankcase was used for compressing the mixture, as is usual in two-stroke engines, glands were fitted outside the ball-bearings to preserve compression. These engines developed about 15 b.h.p at about 2,200 r.p.m.

These horse-power figures may seem very low, but the chief feature of the Trojan was its immense pulling-power at low speeds. The torque developed was high, the graph of r.p.m. and torque being very flat, resulting in good slow hill-climbing and very respectable acceleration from standstill.

The chassis was in effect a large sheet-metal box, known officially as the” punt.” It really only served as a support for the body, since the chief weight-carrying members were two torque tubes across the punt. The engine was slung between these tubes, which also carried the gearbox and the shackles for the cantilever springs for both front and rear axles. The total length of these springs was greater than the wheelbase of the car, hence the comfortable riding over rough surfaces even on solid tyres.

That Trojans were capable of going anywhere was shown by some outstanding journeys accomplished on them. One chummy model was driven from London to India away back about 1925 or 1926. Another epic journey was made by four young men in a car and a van, both purchased secondhand—the latter having been used on a dairy round. They travelled from London to Marseilles, thence across to North Africa by boat, right across the Sahara Desert to Belgian Congo, and finally finished their trip at Nairobi in Kenya Colony. On this trip one of the vehicles broke its front axle against a boulder somewhere in the Congo. The advantage of tubular construction was shown by a new axle being made from a length of boiler-tube in the Government railway workshops.

There was also at one time a Trojan six-wheeler, possessing two gearboxes (giving, I believe, six speeds forward) and having a rear bogie with two driving axles. This vehicle was designed for cross-country work, and trials, therefore, would have been easy meat to it, in fact rather like taking a tank through the “Land’s End.”

In its time the Trojan was a truly remarkable design, and it is unfortunate that due mainly to lack of capital the company were unable to develop the design sufficiently to keep abreast of contemporary advancement. Although it is several years since I left Trojan Ltd. I still retain great admiration for their peculiar qualities and share with Mr. Scroggs the hope that after the present spot of bother is over we may see a modernised version of this old example of Mr. Everyman’s car.

It may be of interest to readers to know that G. H. Robins (the “R” in H.R.G.) was at one time in charge of the experimental department at Trojans. His transport, however, was first a Morgan and later one of the early M.G. Magnas, which endured much tuning and modification and finally clocked 93 m.p.h. in stripped form at Brooklands just previous to one of the L.C.C. Relay races, in which its team finished third.

In conclusion, since, to use an official term, I have been “dispersed,” I have been unable to refer to my collection of notes and data, I have had to rely on memory, but I think the above details are correct.

There is a lot more which could be written about this very clever design, but I fear I have taken up a lot of space already. Should anyone, however, like further information I will be pleased to oblige them.

I am, Yours etc.,

WILLIAM CLOSE.

Kidderminster.