Detroit Magic

Detroit Magic

H. L. Biggs describes a run in K. N. Hutchison's Light Trials Allard-Special

F the many basic Ford V8 sports cars which were built in this country up to the outbreak of war, undoubtedly the best known, and by far the most. successful, was the Allard: Originally intended as a trials car pure and simile, the Allard had developed into a spori s car Of unequalled performance in speed events and hill-climbs.

The particular Allard to found the marque's reputation as a sprint car was FGP750, the light trials job owned and driven by Sydney Allard himself. This car was built towards the end of 1938, together with a duplicate for K. N. Hutchison, a fellow " Tailwagger," and made its first appearance in the NorthWest London—Gloucester trial, driven by the late Martin Soames. How well I remember that night, the colourful scene at the Anchor Hotel at Shepperton, lit with fairy lights and surrounded with the cream of trials entries. I can hardly do better than quote verbatim from my own diary : " Allard's new light Allard, driven by Soames. A beautiful job, very narrow, about two 'hips width' (actually it is 2' 10" across the body), latex seats, enormous rear Ayres (7.50" x16"), scuttle cowl and aero screen, much wider open grille for increased cooling, plywood flooring, small Haired front wings with tubular stays, car unpainted." That brief description will give an impression of the car as it appeared in its maiden trial, and it is a matter of history that it, and Guy Warburton's CLK5 (the original Allard), were the only two out of the •

huge entry to get through clean.

To enlarge on this brief description of its technical details, the wheelbase was 8' 4" and the rear track 4' 2, with a front track of 4' 8#. In trials trim, using the standard 4.11-to-1 axle ratio, with no passenger and the screen down, it covered the standing quarter-mile at the Track in 17.5 secs., and the half-mile in 28.9 sees.

Its successes in trials are too well known to enumerate, but it is of interest that, out of 12 trials in which FGP750 started in 1038/9 season, it secured seven consecutive premiers, two cups, One firstclass award, one second, and ten team awards. In one trial only it secured no award, and even then it made the secondbest performance. During early 1939 much experimental work was done on carbuirat ion, and sweeping exhaust manifolds were fitted, and in June the whole car was rebuilt. The block was bored out to 80 mm., giving a capacity of 4.8 litres, the same as thy well-known Ford " Mercury " unit., the crank was modified to the 91A type which carries the fan (this enabled tlw whole radiator to be lowered and I he new and pleasing vre-fntated grille used), the generator, no?s. tut 5-11.p. type, nestled in a cut-away in the header tank, and a special induction manifold, bearing two doable-choke Stromberg carburetters, was

fitted. The fuel feed was boosted by the addition of an Autopulse, run in conjunction with the standard Ford mechanical pump to cope with the demands of four chokes ; in ;Addition, the Ily wheel was lightened by some 13 lb., and the ports ground out dead smooth. Using a 3.56to-1 axle ratio, with 6.50" tyres, a 7.2-to-1 compression ratio, and earrying a 13-stone passenger, the stand i ttg ([(tt rter was improved to 16.8 sees., and the half to 27.2 sees. The best speed, at this time, was about 98 m.p.h.

In August, 1938, the compression was raised to 8 to 1, using new heads with 14 mm. plugs, and, On the standard gear ratio of 4.11 to 1 with 7.00" tyres and a 17-stone passenger, the standing start figures were again improved to 16.2 secs. for the quarter and 27 sees, for the halfmile.

About this time tlw franw was boxed and undershielded, and the total unladen weight stood at 161 cwt. the addition of lead ballast to proportion the weight distribution, which varied with the course used, altered this weight. by some 2 cwt.

At this juncture a list of the awards gained in hill-climbs may prove of interest. The year is 1939 ; in May, at Prescott, it was the fastest 1111tilipCreharged car, and made fastest sports-car time, and the fifth best time of the day. In July. at Wetherhy, it. was first in elass four, a new class record and new splurts-car record ; at 13ackwell. iii July, it made fastest time for sports and racing cars : again, at Prescott., it took the sports-car record. At Lewes, in August, it was third in the unlimited elms, and at the Vintage S.C.C. meeting at Prescott.. fastest in the racing class and second fastest in tlw all-comers elass. Truly imposing !

I lire aro some ultimate in.celeration figures which make one 2.asp, especially when a passenger : to 60 ill eight sees., to 83 in 16.4 sees., and to 96 in 27 secs. The ullimate maximum speeds 011 the 3..-.641-1 ratio were : !lying lap at 100 and the standing lap at 90. The flying half-mile at 103 is pretty astonishing for it completely equipped car in trials trim.

Shortly after the outbreak of war this l'ar was sold to Clarkson. Sports Car Chili, and Ilulehison sold his more or less similar job to C. Ian Craig, well known to liugatti folk. During 101.2

Hutellison purchased FGP750 front C la rk son and proceeded to beautify it. The car had always appeared naked and unashamed in its bare aluminium panelling. This was sprayed a particularly pleasing opalescent blue, by Abbots, of Farnham, and the ereiine ancillaries were chromiumplated, giving the Ford unit, always so compact, it most workmanlike appearance. At this stage it came up to the works for att en thin by the trimmers and electricians. Owing to the width of the body it was impossible to fit 'two bucket seats, and a single bench-type seat was built up, covered with a matching blue hide ; the back squab was slightly raised in the centre. to prevent the driver sliding sideways on fast corners, and the edges of the cut-away sides. were covered with rubber tubing and finished with the same blue hide. Blue floor mats finished the ensemble, and the car looked quite " conCOUTS.'' Individual switches were fitted for all elect rit,a t'quipment, and it was at about this t inie that I felt the urge to experience, first, hand, some of the " Detroit Magic " in this car. Hutchison was, therefore, approached. and it was suggested that I meet him with the finished article at Surbiton and drive down to Farnham. It was one of the coldest days of the year when I arrived at. the works (complete with as many clothes uts I could conveniently wear, including the famous cap, now some 2(1 years old), and settled myself in the Allard with the aid of a cushion as the seat is non-adjustable, and these " Tailwaggers ;ire a lengthy crowd. Thanks to the Autopulse, Scintilla magneto and pump carburetters, the car started up straight away and, after a few minutes warming up, was on its way. Coming straight off my Fiat 500 it was astonishing how quickly I accustomed myself to an entirely different type of car. The terrific acceleration is of paramount vallie under trallic conditions and, at the same time, 25 to 30 unites an hour can la. maintained %vith no inconvenient solllititi from the engine. The brakes. whilst. being immensely powerful, are of the mechanical. cable-operated h,:ittern and require considerable physical effort, in

addition to which one's toe is apt to foul the steering column when braking hard. This is of miner importance, as the ratingtype outside hand-brake can be used additionally to effect a rapid pull up. Having attained the Kingston By-Pass, the right foot was depressed a little ; the result was astonishing, 80 m.p.h. appearing like magic and the finger-light, highgeared Mattes steering enabled one to put the car just where one wanted, and hold it there. All too soon the "Ace of Spades" was reached, and the roundabout taken in one's stride, aided by the Allard remote-control gear lever, and the car once more idled along at 30 to Surhiton station. Whilst waiting for Hutchison I had to answer questions from the most unlikely persons, who turned out to be B.M.W. and Lagonda " Rapier " owners, who were most intrigued with the appearance of the Allard, which none of them recognised. Upon the arrival, somewhat late, of Hutchison, it was decided that he should drive the car, and a return was made to the By-Pass, where once more Allard urge was brought into play. A halt was made in Esher, at Hugh Hunter's, as " Hutch "wished to show him the car. Unfortunately, we were told that he was in Wcybridge Hospital for an appendix removal ; can this be to improve the power/weight ratiO Once more on our way, "Hutch," becoming accustomed to the car after a long period of 50 m.p.h. travel in his gasproducer V8, proceeded to give the motor the gun, and 80 appeared commonplace. After the silent speed one is disturbed by the terrific reports on the .overrun, due to the fact that no tail pipes are fitted. On more than one occasion 90 was held, very often on long bends with one front wheel in the gutter, giving the characteristic " flickering " of the Ballamy front suspeitsimi. As FG P750 now has

the 4.1-to-1 axle, that would be about the maximum permissible. This speed is not so impressive and not so important on English roads as the manner of its attaining it. Over roads with a light covering of snow we streaked across the Hog's Back to the astonished gaze of the military, and were soon in 'Farnham, where we stopped at Hawthorn's Tourist Trophy Garage to give the proprietor a short run in the car. Meanwhile, I was pleased to see some three or four Fiat 500s in the workshop and to hear that Hawthorn has a great respect for these amazing little cars. brief glance round his showrooms

revealed a very fine "2.3" Miglia Alfa-Romeo, lately the property of Biissell Roberts, the M.G. and Hudson d river ; Dobbs's second string 2-litre Riley ?vith six Amals, Lucas vertical magneto, and many electron parts (an ideal purchase this for the beginner), and a somewhat shabby-looking o.h.e. Norton, which Hawthorn told me was a Gold Star winner, and was ex-Ron Harris and Francis Beart, thus commanding respect. Hutchison, having made arrangements for the collection of a Railton " Cobham" saloon that he had just purchased, we continued to his fascinating home at Frensham Vale. There I was introduced to Mrs. Hutchison, whose delightful and spontaneous articles in MOroa SPORT we have all read with such pleasure ; many photographs were taken of the car, a few feet of cinematograph film exposed, and the car put away in its garage alongside a colossal Buick, circa 1940, about two ears long and tilted up internally with every conceivable luxury, though an under-bonnet view displayed a radiator filler cap which would have disgraced the cheapest British piekle bottle. Incidentally this car, weighing a few tons it would seem, achieves an effortless 90

Back at the house I was delighted to be introduced to Hutchison's Siamese cats, and more than a little intrigued to hear that one bore the name, registered at the Siamese Cat Club, of Mr. George Biggs. He seemed strangely indifferent to the admiration of his human namesake ! it was extremely interesting to talk ears, and to see I lutehison's collection of awards and his coloured portraits of some of' his ears, the blue fabric Anzani-engined and the red Meadows roller-bearinged FrazerNashes, which I knew so well, the white Bainshaw-built Ford Special. and the green Jensen, and to look through his colleetion of books containing cuttings and l'ress photographs of St 'messes, After lunch, more talking of -11 t Sj ort, when I obtained confirmat ion that Warburton did build a light Itailton from a saloon and used it in trials, that the chassis dimensions of Symmons L.M.B. Vs were taken front the white Ford Special, and that Hutchison intended obtaining Crozier's double Marshall-blown Ford V8 unit. However, all good things come to an end, and I was very kindly taken down to Farnham station in Hutchison's compshod 8-h.p. Ford saloon, to begin a seem

y interminable journey back to town. I shall never become reconciled to railways for these mid-distance journeys, but it gave toe time to ponder on matters motoring. What other car would you find, with such 0. performance, that you could get serviced in any town in the world where there was a Ford agent ?

Thank you, Mr. Hutchison, thank you, Mr. Allard, thank you, Henry Ford !

11 have allowed Harold Biggs to call this article " Detroit Magic. " butt I hope it will not incur heated discussion as to which is more mystio, tile magic brewed at Molsheiin or that gotten from l/etrOit.