Not everyone shares our enthusiasm for digging out forgotten history concerning little-known cars. But most enthusiasts pride themselves on their knowledge of sports-cars, and, the “quiz” being a popular form of entertainment lately, we have decided it is time some facts about fast cars which may or may not be general knowledge, be set before you. Go back a mere twenty-one years or so. What do you know of the sports-cars of that time? For instance, a typical specification reads “For competition work a modified version of the 7-h.p. chassis is made. A 12-valve super-sports engine is fitted, with a Cozette supercharger. No differential is used, to obviate wheel-spin. In 2-seater form, without supercharger, the speed is 80 m.p.h. guaranteed, whilst with supercharger the car will do well over 100 m.p.h.” (we are quoting, not confirming!). Well, what was car that? Answer: the G.A.R.
In those happy days Count Lurani was content with a lap record in the Circuito d’Alessandria with a Derby-Special, and the 4-cylinder, air-cooled sports Carmier had been announced; it had a horizontally-opposed push-rod engine. The Held diesel engine of 1,400 c.c. was offered, suitable for installation in a small-car chassis. It was a vertical-twin 2-stroke with a fan sending gusts of air through an aluminium casing round the cylinders for cooling purposes, as in a modern Aspin.
Concentrating on more sporting things, you doubtless recall the D’Yrsan 3-wheeler, but did you know that a 4-wheeler was made? It was a Ruby-engined racing car, due to make its debut in the Florio Cup Race of 1927. Front suspension could be either independent or conventional on production versions. The French had a happy knack of producing sporting versions of any car, no matter how staid, but it comes as a bit of a shock to discover details of a twin-o.h.c. racing version of the tiny 7-h.p. Peugeot, and to find that an 11.4-h.p. Citroen sports model — very rakish in appearance — ran at Boulogne in 1926. Also at Boulogne, Eric Burt ran an Anzani-engined Burt-Special, a Frazer-Nash disguised by a cowled radiator did 100 m.p.h., and very jolly were the 750-c.c. tandem-seater Sima-Violets. There was even a sports version of the 9/15-h.p. Renault, for which 60 m.p.h. was claimed, and quite a conventional-looking sports Lafitte, which, however, had Lancia-type i.f.s. united by a beam axle, and retained the radial 3-cylinder engine which you tilted bodily to alter the ratio of the friction transmission.
Jowett had introduced a sports-model, delightfully spidery and fast-looking, and the “Super Sports” A.B.C. was in its hey-day. Performance figures for these flat-twin sports models are rather interesting. The A.B.C. did 0-50 in 19.6 sec., and 47 m.p.h. in its 6.5 to 1 third gear, while pulling from 10 to 50 on its 4.5 to 1 top ratio in 29 sec., and the Jowett, which had its engine set back 9 in., raised compression and stronger valve springs, did 0-40 in 15 sec. and 10-30 in top in 13 sec. Its weight just exceeded 8 cwt. The French Ratier was announced as a “promising 750-c.c. car” — its rear suspension was by very splayed, reversed 1/4-elliptic springs with a single leaf torque member above the main spring — and technically-exciting cars were the Holle and Saba, which drove and steered on all four wheels, with i.s. for each. There was also the 2-cylinder Constantinesco, controlled entirely by throttle and brakes, as a torque-converter was fitted between the cylinders. It can be safely admitted that in those times the straight-eight Delage, Talbot and Alvis racing cars were as eagerly awaited as today we await the E-type E.R.A., Raymond Mays and Cowell-Aspin G.P. cars. But let us hope no one follows the example of the Paris speed-cops, who, in 1926, announced that fines would be increased to help pay for their new fleet of “9/15” semi-sports Renaults!
A New Book
Delving into the above-mentioned history serves as a reminder of how easily one forgets motoring facts, and the thought arises that the motoring historian has comparatively few reference works at his disposal, compared, for instance, with railway and aviation enthusiasts. The number of books covering the history of obscure railway lines and companies is quite surprising, yet the great motor races go unchronicled. The excellent motor-racing books that do exist are, almost without exception, personal accounts by famous drivers and, as such, fall short as accurate records of classic contests. It is for this reason that we are introducing, through our publishers, the Grenville Publishing Co. Ltd., the first of a series of books on famous races — “The 200-Mile Race,” by W. Boddy, Editor of Motor Sport. As its title implies, this book describes the famous series of Junior Car Club 200-Mile Races, held from 1921 to 1928 and again from 1936 to 1938. We have chosen the “200” as the first of the series, because this race had the distinction of being the first important long-distance event to be held in England; it was originally confined to entries of up to 1 1/2 litres, but was later thrown open to unlimited-capacity cars, so that the entries are representative of the best racing cars of two decades. Moreover, the race, always a scratch contest, was run, first over the Brooklands’ outer-circuit, then over artificial “road” courses at Brooklands, and was later revived at Donington, the last event of all happening over the Campbell circuit, again at Brooklands. So there is plenty of variety about this race, and well-known personalities in British racing are met on every page. Boddy has included much technical information on the very varied entries’ and deals with exciting incidents of the pre-race periods, while purposely avoiding uninteresting lists of results; he has refused to dramatise his race descriptions, believing that plain statements will convey adequately to true enthusiasts the excitement and atmosphere of these pre-war events. The book is illustrated with a number of historic photographs, and the Foreword is by H. J. Morgan, the present secretary of the Junior Car Club. Only a limited edition will be published, and those wishing to secure a copy should place an order with their newsagent, at once, or apply direct to Motor Sport, 15/17, City Road, E.C.1. The price is 8s. 6d. and the publication date will be early in May.
We intend to follow up this book on the 200-Mile Race with uniform volumes on other great races, so offering readers a unique series of considerable interest and historical value.
As Lockheed’s rightly point out, higher speeds call for more powerful brakes, and their new two-leading shoe design which we inspected recently is of direct interest to those who motor faster than most. Nevertheless, some misconception seems to exist as to how these new brakes differ from the already highly-efficient earlier Lockheed two-leading shoe brakes. What it really amounts to is just this. Both shoes are now of “leading-shoe” type, whereas formerly one shoe “led” and the other “trailed.” The result is to double the total effective drag on the drum exerted by both shoes, whereas the older brake gave double the force applied to one shoe as drag on the drum, but only half the force applied from the trailing shoe. In addition, the new Lockheed brakes incorporate flat floating anchorages for each shoe, resulting in the shoes making perfect contact with the drum and minimising any self-locking or “grabbing” tendency, due to variation in the linings co-efficient of friction. By using these new brakes to retard the front wheels and the older type of brake at the back, greater braking effect can be automatically obtained on the front wheels, thus enabling the immense power of these new brakes to be utilised safely. Thus does the great Lockheed Corporation aid the road safety campaign which we all have at heart.
We are again passing through a period of enforced austerity. But the outlook for this year might be worse. Those of us who motored on less “basic” than we get now until pleasure motoring ceased altogether, during the war, can but feel that things will never again get as bad as that. The price of petrol seems stabilised, and unless the next Budget is a rude awakening, we can hope that taxation will at least be no heavier than it is now. So, although some of us may look for lower h.p. cars than we had expected to, or use large ones more sparingly, in the main motoring should get along quite nicely this summer, one hopes. While on this morbid subject of austerity, however, I am reminded that C. E. Allen, he who has so successfully launched the Vintage Motor Cycle Club, has many good words to say in favour of the Morgan 3-wheeler. Now, again keeping our fingers crossed, these exciting cyclecars cost only £5 a year, or 9s. 2d. a month, to tax, need one tyre less than a 4-wheeler, and give an extremely good fuel consumption. Way back in 1927, long before the advent of 3-speeds and low-chassis frames, poor old “Flem” Harris covered the Scottish Six-Days Trial for his paper in an “Aero” Morgan. He used a 1,096-c.c. water-cooled o.h.v. JA.P.-engined model with front brakes and electric starter, and went from London to Edinburgh in better time than he had ever made before. He then went about the Highlands, climbing Amulree and Kenmore on the 10 to 1 bottom speed, and finally, giving the Morgan no attention of any kind, returned from Edinburgh to London in 1 1/2 hours under the time taken for the run up. He discovered that he could do 30 in bottom and over 65 m.p.h. in top speed, and ascend Fish Hill, Broadway, without changing down; he averaged 53 m.p.g. of petrol, and 900 m.p.g. of lubricant, for 1,800 hard miles. No small sports car offers this performance coupled with such extraordinary economy — and the Morgan progressed quite a bit after 1927.
So hard-up types might well consider one of these cyclecars. Objections one hears raised are that they are unstable — usually from drivers who fling normal cars of lesser urge round corners in an endeavour to keep up a good average speed! — and that if you own one you fall between two camps, so that you can neither join a car-club, nor hob-nob with the motor-cycle boys. So far as the latter inhibition goes, I do not think any true enthusiast, whether two or four-wheeler-minded, looks down his nose at the Morgan. One final point in favour of the “Moggy” is that it can often share a small garage with another car where a four-wheeler will not fit in.
Ian Connell has purchased the ex-Sommer 16 valve 1 1/2-litre Maserati from Ricardo Motors and will run it this year, sharing the wheel jointly with Kenneth Evans.
W. E. Wilkinson has been tuning Billy Cotton’s E.R.A. for the Jersey race, and is to prepare Parnell’s 16-valve Maserati for this season’s events. He was responsible for Parnell’s E.R.A. which gained two victories in Sweden.
Rivers Fletcher has bought Donald Pitt’s M.G. and Pitt intends to race the ex-Lester M.G. “Midget.”
Salvadori is likely to race a well-known Alfa-Romeo.
Leslie Johnson is entering his Darracq for the Mille Miglia and Eason Gibson is going out with him.
Derrington is hoping to run some very special small Fiats in British events this year, and has been out to Italy to inspect them.
The Ulster A.C. has awarded £1,000 and trophies for the Ulster Trophy Race on August 9th. The race will be much as last year.
Shelsley Walsh April meeting is postponed.