73 CARS I HAVE OWNED
VERY early in life I developed an interest in motoring and well rtiitnJ)(-I first experiments in this direction. In 1919, or maybe it was 1920, my father decided to enter the field of private owners. He purchased, at an exorbitant figure, an ex-W.D.
Douglas Combination, upon which, at the tender age of eleven, I was wont to ride illegally whenever opportunity offered. Recollections of this ehaiii-eti n belt horror centre mainly around broken Bowden cables, flywheels that periodically dropped off and, worst of all, my decision to start up the engine with the oil pump filler cap removed. On this model, the oil sump was situated below the crankcase. The engine started and oil gushed up from down under, the result being one ruined best bib and tucker. It cannot be doubted that at the age of eleven I was provided with good cause for remembering this incident.
The next family purchase was a brand new atrocity in khaki and stripes produced in Detroit by Harley Davidson. This machine was lit led with an enormous sidecar, replete wit hood and windsereen, and was tilos calculated to influence favourably my mother’s somewhat anti-motoring tendei ‘cies. This machine really had unlimited power and, believe it or not, it once pulled a 20-seater charabanc (also made in Detroit) for some eight miles along a quite undulating road to the nearest garage at a steady 30 m.p.h. in top gear.
In spite of youthful hopes that my next occasional mount would be in a light shade of apple green (apple green was then used by Harley Davidson to distinguish H.C. ” Super Speed” models from hacking versions), my mother won, and a four-wheeled vehicle was chosen in the form of the then newly-introduced Standard 11.4-h.p. tourer, or was it 11.9-11.1). ? This car proved to be a tractuhle little thing, although it must have been an early and more or less experimental model, for on being tested at the Standard works some months after purchase, several alterations were made, inclialiw2, part removal of the cylinder head. ’10 my then lay mind this appeared to make no appreciable difference although, in deference to the Standard Motor Company. it must be remarked that all the avowed necessary alterations were carried out in a very short space of time, the car being driven home again the same day. Another curious reflection on earlier technical kiaiwledge occurs to me in connection vit Ii this car, and would seen’ wort h recounting,. A decided heaviness quickly becana• apparent in the steering, so heavy, indeed, as to tire the driver over long distances. The agent from whom the car was originally bought advised resetting the front springs. This was I14)ne and bad the effect of lifting the bows of the car until a head-on view offered the suggestion of a long-legged snider about to take off. After this bit of servicing the car became most unstable, and was quickly sold in favour of a 12-h.p. Riley ” Chatsworth ” saloon, which produced many m.p.g. but few m.p.h. A 10-11.p. Rover was added to the stable in 1931, and later the Riley ” Chatsworth ” was replaced by a Rover “Pilot,” to which my father has continued to give his allegiance.
The series continues, this contribution being by an anonymous R.A.F. officer, with particular reference to an ex-T.T. ” Hyper” Lea-Francis.—Ed.
About this time I decided to experience the pleasures of personal ownership, and was soon the victim of a ” large-h.p.” salesman and a small li.p. car, to wit, a 1924 Morris-Cowley 2-seater drophead coupe. In spite of this car earning for me tile nickname of “Doctor,” the thing ratt led horribly after ,The fashion of the time and, as mentioned, horses were exceeding few. This vehicle was exchanged at the local breaker’s for what was known as a “
Colonial” Morris-Oxford saloon of some 16 11.p. The breaker assured me I had the better of the bargain, an assurance that seemed to lose value as odd bits began to drop off and get mislaid en route. The final indignity was endured whilst rattling majestically up the main thoroughfare of a busy midland town. The radiator was doing its customary boiling act, when suddenly the top hose became a safety valve and dense clouds of steam belched from the bonnet under pressure. A mild observation from the policeman on point duty that it must be on fire drove me to seek sanctuary and a last resting place for the ” Colonial ” in a quiet side street. • Although never again trusted by Me, the ” Colonial ” was put (lied up and traded out for a MorrisOxford tourer of early vintage, complete with half-axles of silver steel, I was told. This transaction recurs to me as the only occasion upon which the better of the bargain was really had by me. A considerable mileage was put up in the old lady until she finally gave up the ghost when turning to the right out of Gt. Portland Street into Oxford Street. She died half-way across at Midday, and under the cynical gaze of other waiting motorists she was pushed single-handed to the kerb, where a ‘bus conductor kindly offered a box of matches from his platform with which, I can only imagine, he int ended I should, there and then, make a job of it ! It was then decided that more dependable motoring should be the order of the day, and a very ” clean ” (I have always liked the word) 16-h.p. Austin fabric saloon was secured at a moderate figure. Everything about this car was exceptionally smooth, including the tyres, this last factor giving rise to some truly miraculous performances on wet roads after applying the cotton-wool brakes. However, the Austin was a good car and most considerate of its owner’s pocket with1 regard to oil and repairs. The 1:11 4114:11111 the electrical circuit eventually decided to strike, however, and, funds being low, it was necessary to return to the original and equally famous marque in the guise of a Cowley saloon at knockout
price ; and, indeed, it was a knockout ! However, it succeeded in transporting self and newly-acquired wife to a new place of business 150 miles away, where it was unknown and thus more easily disposed of.
The following spring thoughts turned to matters sporting, and the long-awaited first sporting investment was a diminutive M.G. Midget coupe (Model M). Much was expected, but a memory of the scriptures was invoked, but little was obtained. The exhaust note was good, but as jet-propulsion had not then been heard of, that did not help, and although many mysterious things were done to the Midget, it was found that, if anything, even fewer revs. were then there for the asking ; 55 m.p.h. on the ” clock ” being in the nature of a maximum.
Whilst on a visit to a nearby town, my wife was impressed by a cream-andpowder-blue vision and, as will be readily appreciated, those early days of married life are ofttimes fraught with danger. The cream-and-powder-blue vision eventually found its way into our stable, and many happy hours were spent there admiring the 8-in, dials and the wife’s ability to make a car look really worth the money. The Wolseley Daytona ‘Cornet, for such it was, was quite pleasing to handle, and according to one of the 8-in, dials, would travel at some 60 and 85 m.p.h. in third and top gear, respectively, whilst the hand of the other 8-in. dial hovered over a red area. This car seemed to be able to climb any trials hill at which it was put, but it was subsequently discovered that climbing such hills in the leisurely manner of a minor motor trials official was vastly different from actually climbing in “trials proper.” Unfortunately, whilst motoring up to a Brooklands meeting one Saturday afternoon, it became quite imperative to ascend the grass bank and drive along it for some little while before returning again to the road. As the needles on the 8-in, dials were undoubtedly well past noon, the grass verge did not do the Hornet a power of good. The car never really recovered from the shock and developed a decided tendency to try to lick its wounds, often giving the impression that the nose-end wanted badly to get around to the rear whilst still being intent on going forward. Such behaviour convinced my wife and I that the time had come to seek other suitable means of transport, and whilst on a visit to interview a Riley Nine, Mk. IV, a very dusty-looking machine was espied in a far corner of the emporium. The proprietor was eventually prevailed upon to have it wheeled out, my wife proceeding to turn 4) her nose, an impression which was firmly retained until a trial run convinced her of her folly. This car had originally been bought and raced in the 1928-29 T.T.s by Gordon Hendy, and was a blown T.T. LeaFrancis with o.h.v. roller-bearing Meadows engine and everything that should go with it. In consideration of fuel consumption the No. 9 Cozette supercharger was removed before collection, but the result was so disappointing that a rebore was decided upon and promptly carried out. After careful and extensive runningin, the foot was fully depressed and, literally, nothing of importance happened. Bearing in mind the performance put up during the initial trial run, it was decided to re-fit the compressor and hope for better things. The result was, indeed, worth while, although petrol consumption increased from 23 m.p.g. to 13 m.p.g. ; indeed, it was realised that whilst everyone was obliged to respect “ii,” the car had absolutely no respect for anyone or their pockets. It was understood that the speedometer was reasonably accurate, and the following figures, obtained on the road with full equipment but windscreen removed, speak worlds for this make of car : 1st .30, 2nd 43, 3rd 78, 4th 93 m.p.h. (Higher readings were subsequently obtained on the Track.) The rev.-eounter was, unfortunately, never repairable, although I seem to remember the works records telling me that 5,200 r.p.m. represented the absolute maximum, and that 3,000 r.p.m. represented 60 m.p.h. in top gear. The steerirg and roadholding were extremely good at all speeds, and the car would throttle down to walking pace in top gear, getting awa:;r again smoothly and rapidly in the same gear, whilst with the aid of the lower gears, the acceleration was truly breathtaking. Other than for reboring, I do not recall spending a penny-piece on repairs, although rear tyres lasted less than 4,000 miles, due, of course, to use of the phenomenal acceleration. I take no credit for the performance but, whilst this car belonged to me, nothing ever passed it—and customers were quite frequent ! It is to be hoped that anyone reading this narrative will pardon undue prolongation of the Lea-Francis tale in deference to a now extinct model that would give all an enthusiast could ever require. This car once pulled a caravan over WO miles of the most hilly country in England without a murmur of complaint other than a seized clutch thrust race, which necessitated clutchless gear changing after take-off. In spite of the caravan, the ” Leaf ” insisted on passing vehicles that were in its way up hills and, shameful to relate, many on the level. Without caravan, of course, it once did 126 miles nonstop over poor roads in 2 hrs. 32 mins., during which run it was impossible to exceed 70 m.p.h., and that only for very short periods. The inevitable happened to a somewhat negligent owner, and whilst busily dusting down a customer with 3rd gear engaged (showing-off) a decided shortage of oil became suddenly apparent in the form of expensive noises. Although a partial
seizure was the reward, more should have happened with only On. of oil to be read on the stick. The cream was off the milk, as it were, and the ” Leaf ” eventually gave place to a lorry-like contraption with no brakes, called a Humber. This vehicle also finished up by grazing along the grass verge, a choice between the grass and the rear of a stationary ‘bus really leaving no option.
Next in line came another MorrisCowley, about which the less said the better. This was quickly followed in turn by Buick, Essex “Super Six,” 21-h.p. Vauxhall, Austin Ten, Standard Nine, about all of which much could be told.
The next car of note was an S.S.I., to be remembered by its ability to consume copious quantities of oil and its lack of ability to answer the helm.
Next came a Ford Ten that .always seemed to like company, preferably in front and connected by a rope, although it did not altogether object to being pushed so long as it did not have to work alone for long periods at a stretch.
After this came a very majestic old Sunbeam saloon that readily assumed the nickname of “Taxi.” After a con.-rod had had the better of an argument with No. 4 cylinder, it was decided that we should return to something more compatible with our youth, if not our growing family. M.G.s followed in rapid succession, four in all, starting with a J1 and ending with a P.A. The quest for urge was not rewarded, however, the best of this batch providing only 68 m.p.h., from the JI. A crimson M.G. ” Magna ” was also among this series, in consequence of which it is felt that one’s full duty would not be done by the discerning reader were a word of warning not added on the subject of buying cars in the dark. Bought unseen, on the recommendation of one who once thought fit to call himself a friend, this horrid vehicle was also collected on a dark and stormy night. On taking over, I was told that the battery was O.K. “Just needs charging, old boy !” Before an opportunity arose of pressing the button another kind friend hastened to oblige with the handle. Truly I had fallen among thieves. The 45 miles-run home was embarked upon with headlights which really were obliging ; they automatically dimmed on removing the foot from the throttle. After some cautious miles had been traversed, the rains came down and a prayer of thanksgiving was Offered up for the hood. The prayer quickly turned to something else When, on erection, it was found the hood was but a frame. Some more deserving person than I must have required large quantities of canvas for sonic dark purpose at an earlier date. However, I comforted my self with the consoling thought that men as good as I had used this motor car to, or for, some purpose. Nay, better men than
I, for rumour had it that the son of a famous eastern potentate had once owned it. Later my confidence seemed misplaced when no trace of the august name could be discovered among the many previous owners listed in the registration book. I hesitate to speak more of this matter, concerning which we still feel strongly, but it can be added that in addition to a 1..S. battery there were few teeth remaining on the starter ring, and the front brakes were applied on full lock.
It was now at tong last decided to give away no more Saturday pennies in quest of a semi(‘ ” Leaf,” but instead to invest our small savings in a sound proposition which, with luck and care, might be expected to carry us towards middle life. A new Morris Eight Was purchased, but after knocking off some 33,000 miles in 14 months, it was decided that this machine could not possibly make the grade and it was replaced by a new 10-h.p. of the same breed. This car promised to compare more nearly with our now settled habits, and might even, in time, have completely reformed its owner, had it not been for the, second world upheaval interrupting the experiment, and flannel bags having to give place to something more ” uniform.” Perhaps we all look forward to again equipping and acquitting ourselves right well when the job is done, but until it is, may we hope that nothing will be allowed to interfere with a favourite pastime., reading MOTOR SPORT, Should any reader be sufficiently interested in technical data on the above ears, the writer would be happy to correspond through MOTOR SPORT by courtesy of the Editor, hut in view of such shameless disclosures as are made above I must claim privilege to sign in self-styled title only -” A Past Answer to Certain Motor ra Prayers.” Or do you mean grace, sir, the one commencing : ” For those vhorn we are about to deceive may the Lord make us truly thankful ” ?— En.f