Letters from readers, April 1952

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56

Morganatics

Sir,

During the past few months I have read in your correspondence columns two violent anti-Morgan tirades, both aptly headed “Oh dear,” and after Mr Marsh’ letter in your February issue, I feel I must dash into print on the subject.

Mr Marsh’s formidable array of troubles are really nothing like as serious as they seem, or at least, the causes of them aren’t, and I do not think he has enough evidence to call the Morgan a “pansied up cyclecar,” although he certainly had a chapter of bad luck with his car, and no one can blame him for his opinions. Moreover, the Morgan Company do not come out of it with a completely clean sheet, but they certainly are not the villains Mr Marsh makes them out to be.

It seems that his front shock-absorbers were taking a holiday. This curable defect would account not only for the hopping front end, the alarming cornering, and the lousy ride, but could also have had a lot to do with the broken rebound springs, the break in the scuttle, and the radiator slats coming adrift. He then complains about difficult starting. I sympathise with him here because I suffered from the same trouble before I delved into the Morgan instruction book, which costs no less than 5s, but is well worth having. Here I found that the choke is an in or out affair, that the accelerator pedal must not be touched when pulling the starter, and that warming up before driving off is definitely discouraged. If these rules are obeyed I know of no car that is easier to start or keep running when cold, and if Mr Marsh had been aware of them he would have had no trouble with the starting handle. Incidentally, I cannot see that the fact that the Morgan director could not understand this trouble implies that be was unwilling to do anything about it.

Mr Marsh complains about noise. Considering how near the occupants are to the “works,” and the number of louvres in the bonnet, I consider that actual mechanical noise is commendably small, although it must he admitted that there is a certain amount of Ford-like buzz. The next grumble is that bottom and reverse gears are noisy. Admittedly they are but I can think of very few cars on which they aren’t. The synchromesh is a bit vague, but straight-through downward changes can be made with nothing more than a grunt from the box, and in any case most sports car drivers prefer to double declutch.

He has every right to complain about the handbrake and clutch withdrawal mechanism. I have had two Morgan 4s. The first suffered from both faults, and my 1950 model has a very poor handbrake. I will not try to defend the noisy back axle and the leaking bulkhead, but presumably the car was still under guarantee after 3,000 miles.

I would like to make one final point. Several people have complained of the harshness of Morgan suspension. To these I would give this advice. Take a Morgan on a long fast run over indifferent surfaces, and then repeat the process in a car with a solid front axle and springs of comparable stiffness. You may be stiff for days after your second run, but you will feel none the worse for your trip in the Morgan. Here’s to that very fine little car.

I am, Yours, etc.,

W Storr, Shere.

Mercedes matters

 Sir,

In reply to the points raised by correspandents concerning my article on the 38/250 model. I first of all wish to thank them for their expressions of appreciation and secondly to comment upon the points raised.

Taking each in order, I have to thank Mr Coustol for explaining the slipping fan clutch. In view of the vast “inside” knowledge gained by Mr Coustol with Messrs Daimler-Benz AG when these cars were produced, I consider he has let me off very lightly and I should be delighted if he would communicate with me as I have many queries to which he doubtless has the answers.

Mr Corke’s suggestion for designing a diesel head for the existing engine is certainly a novel one. Not being an expert on such matters I am not qualified to raise serious discussion on this point. but I do express the opinion that the cost of such a project would be insurmountable unless backed by the resources of a research department. I do not think the blower could be adapted very easily to suit a diesel head.

Regarding Mr Monkhouse’s check up on the racing history of the 38/250, I am extremely indebted to him for pointing out the necessity corrections as I experienced much bewilderment in sifting a mass of erroneous and contradictory statements from numerous journalistic sources, during the years which have followed the close of the 38/250’s racing history. I myself threw doubt upon whether “Scrap Thistlethwayte’s 1929 Southport winning car was an S or an SS model.

I did not state that Carraciola competed in the Monaco GP till the year 1930, but my authority for claiming a third place for the 38/250 model is derived from the Motor dated July 20th 1944, article “In Their Day,” No 72. Regarding the 1930 Mille Miglia, I agree this should have read first in his class, sixth in general classification. Concerning my claim for the 1930 Avus Race, I plead a misapprehension inasmuch that on page 99 of “Continental. Sports Cars” reference is made to a win at Avus in the same paragraph which refers to the 1930 Le Mans and 1930 Irish GP.

In remarking upon the 1930 Irish TT, no claim was made for winning a place, but it was considered that highest average speed and fastest lap justified inclusion as a success. My authority for quoting Von Brauchitsch as winner of the 1931 Avus Race, with Caracciola third, is to be found on page 25 of “Full Throttle,” but this should read 1932. In 1932, at Avus, Von Brauchitsch’s record was, I regret the slip, for 200 kilometres and not miles. Likewise, mention of Caracciola winning the 1935 Mille Miglia was a mistaken assumption, as on checking the source of this information, the statement reads that he held the record in 1935, which is very different to what I read into it.

Regarding the hill-climb triumphs at Kesselberg, Klausen, Freiburg, Mont Ventoux and Semmering, I did not really omit mention of these, which were covered in my remarks on the SSK model and also by inclusion of first places in the Hill-climb Championships of 1930 and 1931.

Now for my good friend Doctor Taylor, whose cryptic reference to the caption to the photograph of the SSKL on page 74 of the article has caused one big headache in my efforts to unravel his meaning. The only implication I can read into his statement is that Bentleys beat Mercedes in the 1931 French Grand Prix. No claim was made that they won—ie, Mercedes—the results being : first, Chiron and Varzi in Bugatti ; second, Campari and Borzacchini in Alfa, and third, Biondetti and Parenti in Maserati. Birkin and Eyston, driving a Maserati, came in fourth. If Dr Taylor can quote the relative placing of Mercedes and Bentley to the advantage of the latter then it certainly happened on more than one occasion, and I stand corrected, but can we please have the relative placings so that the matter is beyond contention.

The shortened-chassis 30/220 which used to live near Weston-super-Mare is certainly a rare example ; the only other kurz 36/220 (not a factory conversion) known of used to be owned by Dennis Conan-Doyle and is probably the same car as that described by Dr Taylor. Its present whereabouts are unknown.

Regarding our run to Salisbury, I was quite unaware that the doctor had caught us up on entering the town, which all goes to prove that even a 3-litre Bentley was never very far behind !

I am, Yours, etc,

RH Johnson,  Limpley Stoke.

Sir,

In your February edition we read the very interesting article about the 38/250 Mercedes-Benz. It may interest the writer of the article to know that Rudi’s car did not have a lightened chassis ; he expressed doubt about this question. Too bad that Rudi never had a chance to meet with this victorious car again before it went to America. But it will be well taken care of in America because there are so many true enthusiasts over there.

I am Yours, etc.

Alice Caracciola, Lugano.

“Hot-Rods”

 Sir,

In your March issue Mr PF Payne makes a number of statements that do not correspond with the facts. I would not for one moment doubt his figures for “hot rods” (a revolting expression) as I have no official figures with which to duel them, but I think he should explain just what he means by a “Ford Roadster.” In a collection old road tests covering 25 years I can find no Ford engined cars capable of 0-60 mph in 10 seconds, though the Mercury-engined Allard took 9.5 sec, the same as the Railton tourer and the FN-BMW, while the Light Sports Railton needed only 9.2, all these figures being better than the Jaguar XK120 and 2.5-litre Ferrari. When Mr Payne talks about the “hampering traditions” it suggests that he is confusing the sports car with the competition car. The Mercedes, Bentley, Lagonda and Invicta have the faults(?) he enumerates except a low axle ratio, but I think he is going astray in mixing long strokes with low axle ratios. The Merc had a stroke of 150 mm and a top gear ratio of 2.70 to 1. In any case these cars—and many smaller ones-were meant to carry four people in tolerable comfort for many years, yet they were in their day unbeatable. Certainly no American car, with the exception of the Stutz (which was of similar type) [and Duesenherg Ed.!] could give them much opposition, and it is a matter of pride that these cars are still giving great pleasure to many genuine motorists. They were admittedly heavy (with the exception of the Invicta) but I do not find any mention of skinny tyres, but the early 41/2-litre Lagonda had 550 by 18s, later increased to 600, and the Mercedes had 700s, and I find it difficult to believe that we are all wrong in acclaiming these cars as first class on corners.

Perhaps the single-seater 61/2-litre Bentley which completed a 500-Mile race at a higher speed than any other “500” up to then would qualify as a “hot-rod.” I have no acceleration figures for this car but I believe it moved away quite quickly.

Passing to a later era than the Bentley days, the 2.3 Alfa-Romeo, 3,3 Bugatti, 4-litre Darracq, and 41/2-litre Delahaye are quite fast motors; in fact I think the Bugatti is still the fastest “stock” car. I do not recall any American car competing for this title since Moscovic’s Stutz failed against the Hispano over 20 years ago. Possibly these cars would be considered innocuous if 0-60 mph in 10 seconds is “very poor,” but I would suggest that for a car which is used daily as a normal conveyance there are other equally important figures as well as attributes, which cannot he expressed so easily. For example, the Type 540 Mercedes cabriolet weighing 51.75 cwt took (whisper it !) 16.4 sec to reach 60, but I do not wish for a more pleasant method of reaching Silverstone or collecting my copy of Motor Sport from the village. If the hot, hot rods can do 150-180 mph under unfavourafile conditions, no doubt we shall see a number of them in formula libre events, and I think exporters of English sports cars must consider themselves fortunate to sell their products in America. It does seem that, Mr Payne is at fault in comparing specially tuned cars, even though they may have standard engines as a basis with the genuine sporting car. I have no doubt that there are a number of specially-tuned cars with some ribbed aluminium about which can better 10 seconds to 60 mph

To digress, may I say how much I agree with Mr Cooper about the 16/45 Wolseley. My father had a saloon model, and we thought it an irreprochable car which never fussed and when it reached its maximum it just went no faster but gave no distressing signs. In 1935 it was sold as it used a pint of oil per 1,000 miles ; it fetched 50s!

I have a road test of a 1929 model and so far as I can see the only difference is the single-piece screen which replaced the split one.

I am, Yours, etc.

NJ White, Oxford.

Sir,

Reading Mr Payne’s suggestion that impecunious enthusiasts should content themselves with 110 mph, from the model-A Ford (in its side-valve form), I found myself wondering what California has that we haven’t . Syrup of figs, possibly ? Or is it some miracle fertiliser that raises so small a crop of horsepower on such stony ground ? And then my mind wandered back on the reciprocal bearing. as senile minds will–and finially put down at Estree Blanche, where our blunt-snouted beauties, the Bristol Fighters, were lined up on the tarmac and the gramophone was still playing “The Only Way” in tlh mess. There, on the right as you went in, was the bar we’d built for ourselves—semi-circular, mahogany top, brass foot-rail, and there behind it in white duck jacket, was our barman Kipling, pride of the squadron, shaking the drinks. There, too, with elbow and foot at action stations, was Mac, our hard-case Canuck, declaiming, as was his wont at moments opportune and otherwise, his signature tune and personal credo.

It went like this : “Father, what makes the grass so green around the cabin door ?”

“Bull—-, my son, bull—-!”.

I am, Yours, etc.

PB,  Taplow 

Allard’s data

Sir,

I much enjoyed your article on the “Evolution of the Allard”, but your order of production of their pre-war cars is quite wrong. [This data was supplied by the Allard Motor Co but due to wartime loss of records, etc, they necessarily could only roughly list their pre-war production cars.Ed] I have not looked up my records, and am, of course, open to correction, but I think the production line order was as follows:-

Car No 1, CLK 5. -Sydney Allard used this for the 1936-37 trials and it was then purchased by Guy Warburton, who ran it until the outbreak of the war. Ken Hutchison then competed (very successfully) in the first post-war trials season 1946 and in 1947 it was purchased by JP Hetherington, of Westmorland. Its subsequent history is somewhat obscure, but I believe that it has been re-registered and I think that DD Render was the last owner that I remember. This was the most successful Allard of all and took something like 200 awards during the years 1936-9.

Car No 2. -This was the first production Allard and was built for FD Gilson, of Wolverhampton, who used it in many pre-war and early post-war trials. It was built in July 1937, and a 2/4-seater with cycle-type wings.

Car No 3. -Similar to the above. It was used in a few 1937 trials by Sydney himself and then went to JF Guest, of Manchester, who competed with it until the coming of the war. In 1940 it was purchased by Ben Hawkins of Preston, and in 1948 he sold it to RM Bateman, of Yorkshire. Both the latter used it extensively in trials but I have not seen it for the last two years. Reg No ELL 300.

Car No 4. -This was the V12 Zephyr engined machine (Reg No ELX 50, I think) built for Ken Hutchinson and in 1946-7 used by Len Parker in its original form. Later he used a Mercury engine mounted at the rear.

Car No 5. AUX 59, -History as in your artlele.

Car No 6, EXP 469(?). –Two-seater with knock-on wire wheels. This was borrowed by Reggie Tongue to make best performance in the 1938 Inter-Varsity Trial. Used until 1940 by GL Hancock. This car was a refined version of the competition two-seater.

Car No 7, FGF 290, —Bought originally by Ken Mathison at the latter end of 1935 and designed to defeat the ban on “comps.” It used by Leonard Potter (I had an exeiting run with him in this car) with much  success in mud and speed trials during 1946-7, and was fitted with a Mercury engine. It was purchased and re-registered by VSA Biggs in 1948 and has since passed through several hands and now in Worthing. This was a long-tailed competition two-seater,

Car No 8, FGP 750.–Similar car to the above. Sydney’s competition car until September 1939. Very light and successful car both in trials and sprints, etc. Purchased by lady Mary Grosvenor in 1946 and subsequently sold to, and still retained by, HD Pritchard, of Anglesey. It now has a Mercury engine and a slab tank.

Car No 9. -V12 Zephyr-engined car with 2/3 seater body built for DG Silcock Reg No EXP 470. Road-tested by the Motor in August 1939. Purchased in 1946 by Ken McAlpine and used by him in trials until (I think) 1948. Leonard Potter then fitted a Mercury engine and competed with it in the 1950 Alpine Rally, when he had his colossal crash, the car being a complete “write off”. (A pity, as I was about to exchange my V12 Atalanta coupe for it) in post-war form it was converted to 12-Volt electrics and hydraulic! brakes.

Car No 10. FXP 470. -A very beautiful four-seater built for VSA Biggs, I have not any record of the car since 1946, when, I believe it was at Continental Cars Ltd,

Car No 11, LMG 192, -V12 Zephyr-engined. Notes as in your article.

I am, Yours. etc..

David L Gandhi. Stockport.

High Standard

Sir,

Regarding the “Baby Standard,” the Standard Eight was produced up to 1946, after which Standards started making Vanguards. It was to my mind the best “eight” on the market and the power output of its sv engine was phenomenal.

Mr Huckstepp’s letter about the Triumph Super Seven interested me, as I had one of these excellent cars in 1941. It was not as old as his, having the ribbon radiator shell mentioned in the editorial note. I bought (for £2 10s !) a smashed Triumph Nine with the Coventry Climax engine and installed this with its gearbox and rear axle in the “seven,” which made it quite a fast job. The conversion is fairly easy as the the chassis differed only in length, in addition to Lockheed brakes etc. These cars had a worm drive axle and quite a reputation for breaking half-shafts. They were, however, not alone in this latter respect.

I am. Yours, etc,

G Pennall, Sheffield.

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