Letters from Readers, April 1950
A Generous Offer
On behalf of the Officer Commanding, I am writing to offer the services of the Squadron to any club who may require Communications or Marshals for any event that they may be running in the Home Counties.
We are able to supply telephones, lines or radio links and operators covering an area up to four miles.
As a unit, we have many enthusiasts both on two and four wheels amongst the men and women who comprise the Squadron. Some of us have competition experience and know how difficult it is to establish efficient communications during a meeting; therefore, we feel that, whilst not only helping any club who would like to take advantage of our services, it is also giving members of the Squadron a more interesting and practical experience of “live” communications.
We have already been in touch with the R.A.C., suggesting that they may like to place this information before the secretaries of any motor or motor cycle club who, if interested, should contact the:—
11 A.A. (M) Signal Regt. T.A.
206, Brompton Road,
when he will be pleased to discuss any ideas that they may have with them.
I am, Yours, etc.
D. B. Callow.
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Monte Carlo Road
In his absorbing article on “The Monte Carlo Road,” “Baladeur” refers to the “puzzling” route taken by Jarrott and his successor after Melon. Perhaps I can throw a little light on this.
In the Automobile Handbook of the A.C.G.B.I. for 1905, the itinerary given from Paris to the south of France gives the road via Tonnerre, Dijon and Beaune, and there is a note at the heading of the route as follows:—
“This is the best winter route. During the spring and summer months it is not necessary to touch Dijon, as there is a good route from Sens to Chalon-sur-Saone, via Auxerre and Avallon, thus a corner can be cut off, but it is hilly between the latter town and Chalon, and there is a danger of snow during the winter.”
Perhaps it was a wintry April in 1906 and Jarrott was playing safe!
I am, Yours, etc.,
Cobham. Stanley Sedgwick.
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Your short article “In Miniature” prompts me to write to you about my collection of “Vintage” miniature cars which includes several of those mentioned by you.
At the time of its glory, this collection included a 1924 11.9-h.p. Citroën tourer, a 1920 11.9-h.p. (with ½ elliptics in front) and working headlights, a 1924 7.5-h.p. Citroën, a 1928 B.14 Citroën saloon with headlights, a driver’s door which opened, and front bucket seats with tilting back, a 1928 B.15 Pick-up, a 1929 six-cylinder Citroën chassis with electric-motor, forward and reverse gear controlled by the central gear-lever, and driving through the propeller shaft with rubber universals, and Marchal headlights, the Delage saloon with searchlight, and, of course, the P2 Alfa-Romeo. The Delage, by the way, is not exactly true to pattern; my brother had a Panhard and there was also it similar Voisin, all differing by the radiator and bonnet only, but the clockwork engine was in front, driving through a propeller shaft and a front-and-reverse bevel gear, controlled by an inside gear lever. The rear end featured working swing axles.
Made by the same makers as the Alfa, there was also a similar sized 1½-litre G. P. Deluge which had remote steering by a second steering wheel driving through a cable similar to it small speedometer drive.
I still have most of these cars; the Alfa-Romeo still in showroom condition and the 7.5-h.p. Citroën, which has a “very high mileage” to its credit, but has been repainted, occupy a place of honour in my study. The 1928 Citroën saloon has been completely reconditioned, even to the headlights, and is now regularly used by my elder daughter, as well as the Pick-up which is very useful because it will carry about six dolls. The Delage is used by my younger daughter, but is due for reconditioning soon.
After 3½ years of real pleasure with my 2 LTS Ballot, I have had to sell it in order to buy my father’s 1939 2½-litre Jaguar (he has bought a Mk. V) and my 65,000 miles plus 350 Triumph motor-cycle has been replaced by a 500 A.J.S. springer. The Ballot is in
I am, Yours, etc.,
Brussels. Paul Frere.
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Fuel for the “Hot-Rod” Controversy
My December issue of Motor Sport (which is, in my opinion, one of the world’s most interesting motor magazines) has just reached the up near the top of the world.
However, I think your article, “This Hot-Rod Business,” takes a rather patronising tone, and exhibits too little credulity and understanding. People who should know tell me that the speeds claimed are checked with electric timing devices, and so optimistic speedometers do not influence the figures.
In your last, sentence you note that “hot rods” “idle rough.” This is largely because of valve overlap and a lot of carburetters. The car is designed to go fast in high gear for a short distance—and that’s about all—and that is why those high speeds are possible. To compare a “hot rod” with a Super Sports Jaguar is about as fair as comparing a Humber Super Snipe with an o.h.v. Cadillac—you can spend almost as much on a “hot rod” as the cost of a Jaguar, and the rest of the inference is pretty obvious.
With all its faults and shortcomings, the “hot rod” has injected a little life into motor sport in the U.S.A., and on that, score alone deserves great credit. And if some of the pictures and descriptions of British trials specials can be believed, England seems to have her own breed of “hot rod.”
You mention in the article that the crankshaft can be stroked by “grinding or milling,” but unless there is a national difference in terminology, you surely intended “grinding or turning”?
Incidentally, I believe most of these 140 m.p.h. runs are made without generator, fan, flywheel and on highly doped fuels—imagine the speed of the Jaguar XK120 if you made all the modifications which would suit it solely to go fast in a level straight line, and then perhaps you won’t find “hot-rod” speeds so fantastic.
By the way, I have a “hot rod” of sorts which I drove up to Alaska through Canada towing a 24-foot house-trailer—but I wish I had a Jaguar!
Specification of my 1932 Ford “three-window” coupé:—
Engine.—Stock Mercury, 1947, with 0.050 in. off the heads and using Zephyr valve springs.
Gearbox.—Stock Lincoln Zephyr, 1939.
Rear axle.—Modified Ford, 1936, with 3.78-to-1 ratio.
Brakes.—Stock Ford, 1941, hydraulic.
Shock-absorbers.—Eight direct-acting “aeroplane type,” mounted in pairs.
I am, Yours, etc.,
David Leigh Cliff.
After reading your article on “Hot-Rods” in the December issue, it sounds as if you do not have all the facts as they exist here in Southern California, U.S.A., at present.
First, I should like to comment on your reference to “California Bill’s” book as being one book every “hot-rod” builder should read. This, it seems, is a trifle wrong, as far as we the actual members of the Southern California Timing Association are concerned. We have given Mr. Fisher the title of “Windy Jim.” He certainly is no expert on our type engines.
As for his reference to Barney Navorro’s 139-m.p.h. blown V8, it is not a 239 cu. in. V8, but a sleeved, under-stroked, 187 in. V8 engine, which rarely gets in the first three positions against these puny s.v. V8 Mercurys of 248 cu. in. capacity.
We have our classes based on the following scale:
Class A: 0-187 cu. in.
Class B: 187-250 cu. in.
Class C : 250-350 cu. in.
Class D: 350 cu. in. and over.
Body styles are roadsters and streamliners. Only American production engines can be used.
When you supercharge you merely move up one class on the scale. All double overhead-valve heads also move up one class on the scale.
All roadsters must have American production-built bodies. Most popular are 1925-1927 Model-T Ford bodies unaltered in height, width, or contour, so one must carry full frontal area in regard to body height and width.
A streamliner can be any type body you want to build. This is the class in which Xydias and Bachelor attained 193 m.p.h., one way, and 189 m.p.h. two-way average with a Class C Mercury engine, 290 cu. in. I can assure you their speed is as accurately timed as Cobb’s or Campbell’s runs, or anyone who has run here or abroad. We always get our times to the hundredth, or, if desired, we can get them in the thousandths just its easy, as our timer is equipped to do so.
I would like to give you our latest record for our Class C roadster, which averaged 152.02 m.p.h. two-way run. This car used a 1937 Ford running gear, wheel-tread and wheelbase, with a 1927 Ford roadster body with the engine in the rear. This same car attained 156 m.p.h. run one way. This should prove that even our roadsters with uncovered wheels and full-size bodies actually do better than 150 m.p.h.
In answer to your question regarding a Jaguar 120 Super Sports, let’s place it in our engine and body scale, with 220 cu. in., double over-head valves, and full wheel-covered body. This means that it must clock 130 m.p.h. to qualify for points from 1-10.
At our last lake meet our speeds were timed on a 1¼-mile loose surface, 3,000-ft. elevation course, and were as follows:
Xydias and Bachelor: 182 m.p.h. (Mercury).
Howard Johansen: 167 m.p.h. (Mercury engine).
Earl Evans: 163 m.p.h. (Mercury engine).
Consequently, the Jaguar, at 130 m.p.h., would not gain a trophy, which is all we ever win.
Furthermore, let us look at the approximate cost to attain these speeds. As a “hot-rod” engine builder I can quote you accurate information on this subject as I have built countless hundreds of such engines in my shop. For instance, if a customer brings me a bare 59A Mercury block, I will turn out a complete engine, 274 to 290 cu. in., for the small fee of $750.00. This engine will develop 200 h.p. on the 274 cu. in. set-up, or 215-plus h.p. on the 290 cu. in. set-up, when using methanol fuel. Adding this to a chassis, costing at the most $500.00 to $700.00, one finds for an investment of $1,400.00 he is assured of 150 m.p.h.
I know you will think I am bragging, but I assure you I am not alone in this field and our figures all add up very close when considering the fact that we test our units on five different dynamometers, all of reputable makes.
There is the argument that the Jaguar is built for the road. This we are well aware of, but I should like to give you our counterpart, the 1929 Ford roadster, minus fenders and equipped with a 258 cu. in Mercury engine, With a full transmission, clutch, radiator, and licensed for road use. This roadster holds our road car record of 138.42 m.p.h. two-way run, and 144 m.p.h. one-way run, weighing 2,300 lb., with fuel and water, and costing exactly $500.00 complete to build. With cars like this, why should we worry about cars like the Jaguar 120? We are interested in only one thing, and that is speed and performance with reasonable handling qualities.
In your article you made reference to a 1932 Ford coupé doing 120 m.p.h. I would like to give you our latest figures on a 1932 Ford coupé, absolutely standard body, chassis, etc., minus fenders, which attained a 134-m.p.h. one-way run and an average of 129 m.p.h. Yes, with a 290 cu. in. Mercury engine and a L-head, of course.
Another outstanding example is a 1930 Ford coupé, exactly as sold in showrooms, which attained 128 m.p.h. average with a 296 cu. in. engine.
I think the American “hot-rod” has done a marvellous job of reshaping a Mercury Ford power plant into a mighty fine package of horsepower at a reasonable price, so everyone with a few dollars can enjoy real speed with safety.
The “hot-rod” movement started in 1930 at 90 m.p.h., and in 19 years has jumped 100 m.p.h. Not bad for a group of youngsters trying to improve the sport of auto racing, and elevating it in the eyes of the public on a plane the average man understands—the advancement of American automotive production engines akin to the one he drives every day of the year.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Nelson S. Taylor.
[We cleared up some of these points in a further article published in the last issue.—Ed.]
The February issue of your very fine magazine just arrived, along with the many other European racing and motoring periodicals that I subscribe to. As it motor enthusiast of many years’ standing and an owner of one of your fine English cars, I welcome each issue and read, it from cover to cover. My only finding of a fault is in your cover, that is the same with each issue, which makes it difficult to readily find back issues. However, this is of a personal nature and may not be true with the balance of your readers. At any rate I do want to compliment you on a fine job done on behalf of the Sport throughout the world.
As a resident of California I was particularly interested in the recent article you did on “California Bill” and the “hot rod” situation. I was moved by your article and had intended writing you a reply as I felt you were hatching upon a subject without sufficient knowledge and using a publication to quote from that is obsolete and controversial.
However, since I have a feeling of trying to further international relations rather than strain them, I refrained front further comment in print on “Hot Rods.” When the February issue arrived and you had the letter from Mr. Akton Miller in print, I felt the cause had been vindicated. Having taken my “Hot Rod” some 700 miles to be timed by the Southern California Timing Association, I am familiar with Mr. Miller and his reputation. I am also familiar with Mr. Crocker, who builds this timing equipment, and his reputation. I know that he has improved on his accuracy since 1947, when I was timed, and I know at, that time it was within 1/1000th of a second.
Now to the punch line. After reading Akton Miller’s fine explanation of the timing you still make a disparaging remark at the foot as to the accuracy of the measuremnent of the course. Frankly this burns me up and shows narrow-mindedness somewhere in the structure of your organisation. Let’s get on the ball and give credit where credit is due. I would suggest that the next time a British enthusiast is in the vicinity that he attend an S.C.T.A. timing meeting and see it in the flesh, then perhaps when he returns to England you will believe him.
I am, Yours, etc.,
N. C. Milne.
[But why not let the A.A.A. sign the timekeeper’s sheets, just to satisfy everyone?—Ed.]
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In reply to J. F. Scott’s inquiry in your February issue, I can give some details of my Riley which may be of interest.
I have a 1933 9-h.p. Lynx, with twin exhaust cams and twin Zenith carburetters. Dixon-type h.c. pistons are fitted but for everyday use I have an extra 1/16-in. thick gasket round the head, making the c.r. about 6-to-1. A Vertex magneto supplies the sparks, otherwise the car is standard.
When I decided to try for improved m.p.g. I fitted leaner jets, increased the spark gap to 0.036 in., and increased tyre pressure to 34 lb./sq. in. with narrow diameter tyres (4.50-18). The engine was given a Redex overhaul of my own, inductions tapped and an old R.A.F. Mk. 13 altimeter converted and fitted as a “boost gauge.” This instrument is extremely sensitive to the slightest throttle changes and indicates very positively economical cruising revs.
With normal town and country driving the average increased to 37.8 m.p.g., taken over 10 gallons with two up, and still allowing 35-38 m.p.h. average.
At peak revs. I can still get a timed 29 m.p.h. in second and 52 m.p.h. in third, but the top-gear performance has suffered somewhat and 65 m.p.h. is now difficult to attain. Gear ratios (manual box) are 20.37, 13.13, 7.07 and 5.25-to-1. The manual timing is varied constantly, during running, which, makes It great difference. Lintox long-reach plugs are used.
I tried a spell of careful running to better 40 m.p.g., having a theory that carefully tuned twin carburetters can be as economical as one, but over 10 gallons I averaged only 37.6 m.p.g.—why, I know not.
With this aim, new (and badly needed) plugs will be fitted, the gap increased once more to 0.038 in. or 0.040 in. if the magneto will take it, and if I can better 40 m.p.g. it will be with much more lively performance than a single carburetter will give.
Overall weight is over 21 cwt. and the economical cruise mentioned is at about 11,000-14,000 ft. on the “altimeter” (I think this is about —12 lb./sq. in. manifold pressure but have been too lazy to re-calibrate the dial).
There is unfortunately no fitting for a rev.-counter but by my calculations these figures (over 50 m.p.h. in third) approach the 5,000 r.p.m. mark, oil pressure being 80 lb./sq. in. (hot), for which credit must go to a previous owner who overhauled the engine most efficiently.
As a matter of interest I was surprised to note that in this condition, climbing not too steep gradients at about 45 m.p.h. the engine runs cooler battling its head off in third, than in top, readings being about 98 deg. C. in top and 92-93 deg. C. in third.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Loch Lomond. Alex Richardson.
I have a 1933 Riley Nine Monaco saloon, weight without passengers, 22 cwt.; it has a “Special Series” engine and it appears to have two camshafts of the same type, presumably exhaust.
A year or so back I substituted for the Riley coil an Oil-Coil, but only recently paid attention to petrol consumption. Since this coil has been fitted I have adjusted the plug points to 4/100th gap (rather greater than the makers now advise), and found that I could screw up the adjusting nuts under the two S.U. carburetters as far as they would go. This adjustment., using “D/1” needles (as supplied with the car), gave me 42 m.p.g., with two people in the car; with four people the m.p.g. was about 36. The figures apply to long non-stop runs in flat and slightly undulating country, and the speed was about 30 m.p.h. With this very weak mixture the engine stopped at low engine speeds unless I pulled out the strangler, or jet-lowering device, and having become a little tired of this engine stalling, I have now inserted two “P.J.” needles, which give a richer mixture at small throttle openings. I cannot yet state what mileage they will give me. Compression ratio, according to the instruction book, is 6-to-1.
The secret of economical running is in my opinion the large plug gaps. I may say I have no interest in the Oil-Coil other than as a very satisfied user.
I am, Yours, etc.,
B. Wagenrieder. London, E.4.
The enclosed photograph [not reproduced—Ed.] of my 1931 Riley Nine saloon may be of interest. This car is very near vintage, being registered in January, 1931. Since I bought her new, this Riley has been in constant use, except when the Labour Government banned motoring. At 85,009 miles the engine was thoroughly overhauled, and the only replacements have been brake linings, brake cables, and one master-leaf of rear springs. I have been offered very high prices, but do not intend to part. The glass has to be renewed this year, but the fabric and cellulose are as good as new.
When one compares this type of car with the modern “tin bulldozers” one wonders where the motor car is going today. The original valves, guides and valve springs are still in use. She still does an honest 40 m.p.g. and is really silent, no rattles; the doors fit as well as when new. There is a lot to praise in a Weymann body.
In a car-park the Riley stands out amongst the tinware as an honest, good motor car.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Sheringham. Ralph Neville.
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Riley Saloons at Silverstone
I feel compelled to reply to Major E. O. Wanliss’ comparison between the Jowett and the 2½-litre Riley saloon in Motor Sport, March, 1950.
I have heard a rumour to the effect that in the Silverstone Production Car Race the Rileys were driven below their maximum, on instructions, in an attempt to secure the Team Prize. I realise that such a suggestion is very much open to doubt, and I see no advantage in the application of such a method. I am, personally, however, inclined to believe that something of this nature occurred, as I see no other explanation of the fact that during practice the Rileys were consistently lapping at speeds of 74 and 75 m.p.h., nearly 10 m.p.h. faster than in the race itself.
I can also speak from personal experience of both the Jowett Javelin and the 2½-litre Riley, although my experience of the latter has been confined to the original 90 b.h.p. model, as against the 100 b.h.p. now available, as run at Silverstone. In my opinion, there is absolutely no comparison on sheer performance, the Riley being within 5 m.p.h. as fast in third as the Javelin is in top; taking official acceleration figures, the former can attain about 73 m.p.h. from rest in the same time as the latter requires to reach 60 m.p.h. from rest. There is also a difference of 20 m.p.h. in the maximum speeds.
The cornering power of the Riley has to be experienced to be believed, whereas the Javelin, in my opinion, has a slight degree of roll, due to its softer-type springing.
I actually own neither of the types of car under discussion, although having had considerable experience of both, and I therefore have no axe to grind. I entirely agree that, taking the Silverstone Production Car race as a basis, the comparison made by Major Wanliss seems reasonable, but I am convinced that the actual difference in performance is much greater than this indicates, and tends to give readers a wrong impression of the performance of the Riley, which can, I believe, be overtaken by only one other production saloon being made in England in reasonable quantities, and only equalled by about four or five others.
I feel that Major Wanliss would be the first to agree with me, after personal experience of both types consecutively. In its own class the 1½-litre Jowett is undoubtedly the liveliest saloon I have driven.
In closing, I would like to say that I actually witnessed the Silverstone Production Car Race, and I saw no sign whatever of smoke coming from the bonnet of the Riley which retired; and I understand that the official version of the cause of the retirement was that the bolt threads sheared on one of the road wheels.
As to the stamina of these cars, I have in mind the 94 miles recently covered in one hour by a production saloon, with no apparent ill effects.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Birstall. C. R. Ward.
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An American Opinion on the New “TD” M.G. Midget
The introduction of the TD-model M.G. will, no doubt, be the cause of much comment. Permit me to be one of the first to air my views. I have not yet had the opportunity to drive the “TD,” but gave the car a fairly thorough examination.
The gleam that always cornea to thy eyes when I see a thoroughbred car did not appear when I viewed the TD-model M.G. No doubt certain aspects, such as steering and suspension, have been improved. However, I can’t help feeling that the new model is less of a sports car than the “TC” was. The spare wheel is held in place by means of a steel tubing structure that would do honour to a 2-ton truck. The steering wheel has lost its quality look. Gone are the excellent centre-lock wheels. The new bolt-on disc wheels give the car a mass-production look. The smaller diameter wheels adversely affect the proportions of the automobile. My first impression was that a very nice little sports car has ceased to exist.
The American enthusiast wants a car that both handles and looks like a sports car. The “TC” M.G. has proven that there is a definite market for such a car in this country. The “TD,” while it may have superior performance, has certainly lost its looks.
In order not to end this letter on a sour note, permit me to congratulate you on the excellence of your magazine.
I am., Yours, etc.,
Ernest A. Weil,
Motor Sports Club of America.
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I think you will be interested to hear that the Club des Sans Club, in association with the Automobile Club de L’Ouest, have organised a Rally Gastronomique 1950, to commence at Dijon on June 9th. The Rally is to be of a sporting-social nature, and prizes totalling one million francs will be offered to the winners of different competitions.
British competitors will motor from London to Dover and embark for Calais. From there the route runs to Dijon and via Vichy to Bordeaux. From here via Cognac to Le Mans, where the Rally participants will be given the opportunity of witnessing the famous 24-hour race.
At all official stops along the route, receptions, banquets and special festivities have been organised by the local committees of the Champagne, Cognac and Bordeaux provinces.
Entrance fee for the Rally is £10 per car and participants will receive the official rules and regulations, a full descriptive brochure of the tour, maps car plates and details of ferry arrangements, etc. Invitations to the receptions and banquets are also included in this fee.
Bookings can be accepted by any of the recognised Automobile Clubs or Travel Agencies. Alternatively through the Head Offices of Rally Gastronomique 1950 at 22, Great James Street, Holborn, W.C.1.
Press hand-outs will be made available at regular intervals, and in view of the attraction of the Rally to the large number of British motorists who will be travelling to the Continent this season, I do hope you will be able to find space to publicise these details.
I should, of course, be pleased to supply you with any further information you may require, at all times.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Rally Gastonomique 1950
Director U.K. Public Relations.