VINTAGE POSTBAG, April 1960
The letter from Mr. C. J. Tucker on the subject of the o.h.v. Dorman engine was of great interest to me, as I am afraid that I am the guilty party who started the rumour of a Dorman-Riley connection.
It arose as a result of a letter I wrote to the now defunct Vintage and Thoroughbred magazine. At the time I owned a 1925 side-valve Riley and a Dorman o.h.v.-engined Hampton. I went to order a cylinder-head gasket for the Riley and was amazed to find that in the Payen catalogue it was listed as ” Riley 11.9 h.p. s.v. (Dorman engine).” I had already observed that the o.h.v. Dorman engine had features in common with the later Riley o.h.v. engines, in that both had twin camshafts in the base chamber operating inclined o.h.v. and also both had bush-type rear main bearings.
I therefore wrote a letter inquiring whether anyone could shed any light on this minor historical mystery. No-one offered any information. A year or two later, at a Coventry Rally of the Riley Register, I inquired further from several ex-employees of the Riley works who were on the staff at the material time. All denied any knowledge of Dormans whatsoever. They were quite definite that the side-valve Riley engine was wholly designed and manufactured by Rileys and did not think the o.h.v. Dorman inspired the Riley Nine engine. So there we are ! I still own the Hampton with Dorman engine, which is dated 1919 or 1920. The information I have gathered, thanks to the kindness of the Dorman people, does not agree with that of Mr. Tucker. I have a photostat copy of a leaflet Dormans issued giving the power output of the 69 mm. 4KNO engine as 25 b.h.p. at 2,000 r.p.m. With castiron pistons and small inlet passages I cannot imagine this engine doing 4,000 r.p.m. or producing 47 b.h.p., as quoted by Mr. Tucker. Other points on which my information differs from his are :
(1) The stroke is 120 mm., not 100 mm.
(2) The camshafts are not high up, as in a Riley engine, but placed in the normal position in the base chamber—but duplicated, of course. (3) The engine was made with alloy block and wet liners only. No
option of a cast-iron block, but there was a range of cast-iron side-valve engines offered. These side-valve engines were quite widely used in the early ‘twenties, much more than the o.h.v.which must have been quite an expensive power unit. It is surprising that Dormans went to all the trouble and expense of the o.h.v. unit and obtained only the same power as the sidevalve alternative.
One other point on which I must correct Mr. Tucker. The Hampton did not carry the word ” Special ” with its name. It was quite wellknown in the ‘twenties, being advertised regularly in the motoring Press, and some thousands were manufactured up to 1932, mostly with Meadows engines. The last model offered was a straight-eight of 21-litres with four-wheel independent suspension. The engine was manufactured by a German firm, Rohr, and I believe the suspension units were also produced by them. Rohr were offering a car on the German market with this feature and the same engine.
The only Hampton that bore the title ” Special,” as far as I know, was the straight-eight assembled in a non-independently-sprung chassis by Mr. Milward, the General Manager, after the works had closed down. I located this car some five years ago and hoped to buy it when it became cheap enough for my pocket, but I have lost track of it. Any information as to its present whereabouts would be welcome.
News of any other Hamptons not listed in the V.S.C.C. membership would also be appreciated. I am, Yours, etc.,
itroud. MAX WILLIAMSON. Sir,
One of the members of the Wanganui Vintage C.C. has just shown me a copy of MOTOR SPORT featuring the history of the Armstrong Siddeley motor cars.
I enclose a photograph of my 1926 18-h.p. Armstrong Siddeley taken only last month. My family and I have had a lot of pleasure from it and I have also taken my friends out deer stalking; a gentleman’s son from Huddersfield was surprised at the performance of the old car when travelling over clay roads and through hilly country. The car has been on the road every year and is still going well. I am, Yours, etc., Wanganui, N.Z. H. R. HOUNSILL. [This is interesting, as proof that a ” two-block ” Armstrong Siddeley still exists.—ED .1
I read with great interest the article by Mr. S. A. Gibbons on the Iris car in your February issue.
The first really old car I ever saw was the 1912 15-h.p. Iris tourer now owned by Mr. J. E. Crossman, the Secretary of the NorthWestern Section of the V.C.C. The interest in old cars initiated by this car has developed steadily since.
For this reason I have always had a ” soft spot ” for the car, and any reference to the make which I have come across I have noted with interest. During the course of my investigations I was fo tunate enough to receive an all-too-brief letter from Mr. G. J. F. Knowles, written a few months prior to his death.
To quote part of his letter : ” . . . I am the Knowles of Legros & Knowles, who designed and built the old bus—I had just come down from Cambridge, and am now (December 1958) 80 years old, or very close. I still drive—can no longer get an Iris, so put up with a Bentley.
” I remember getting two seconds ‘ in a very early Brooklands meeting (beaten by S. F. Edge, who was feeding oxygen to his carburetter intake).”
Mr. Knowles had an interesting anecdote concerning the name : the morning after his achievements at Brooklands mentioned previously, he received a postcard from a friend, which said : ” IRIS = It Runs In Silence, or, It Romps In Second.”
He also mentioned that his first experience of motoring was on a Mors dogcart in 1898—he said that this car had ” a V-four-cylinder engine with a dynamo which charged two sets of batteries.” He remembered the days when there was only one garage in London, and mentioned that the younger J. R. Scott was his study-mate at Rugby.
May I thank Mr. Gibbons for an entertaining and informative article, and yourself for an excellent magazine. I am, Yours, etc.,
Bolton. JOHN W AR BU RTON. Sir,
Criticisms are made of the group of 1,100-c.c. vintage French sports cars such as the Amilcar, B.N.C., Derby, Salmson, Senechal, etc., without trying to fit them in their correct position in the Motor Industry of the day. In their class the qualities expected of a successful car were contradictory.
The car had to be cheap, it had to be fast, it had to have a successful racing history and show it in the specification. Above all, it had to be simple, so that the inexperienced owner of the ‘twenties cou.d maintain it himself. Finally, the potential volume of sales was so small that it was difficult to employ mass-production methods of manufacture.
One of the most successful of this class of car was the Salmson, and it is a measure of its success that it managed to combine most of these ambivalent qualities. It had the necessary competition successes—Salmson gained class wins in virtually every important Continental event in the early and mid-‘twenties—and it was cheap065 for the standard model G.P. For the remaining items of our specification, an examination of my own car, a 1928 G.P., may be of interest.
The i•ar, with its original narrow, fabric, long-tailed body, set off by the yowled radiator and tiny vee-screen, the whole supported on spidery centre lock wheels with narrow section tyres, must be one of the prettiest small cars of the vintage era. ‘The lusty long stroke four cylinder 2 o.h.e. engine of 1,087.22-c.c. must have been one of the first ” two camshaft” units in quantity production, and one of the simplest to maintain. Even today. after 32 years, it is a notably quiet example of the type. The four-speed gearbox is first class, although second gear is a little low. Flexibility, aided by the heavy flywheel, is excellent, and the car can be trickled at walking speed in top gear and pulls away without snatching. It is in the remainder of the chassis and running gear that the efforts made to cut costs can be seen. The rear axle, hung on cllipties, lacks a differential and has only the bare minimum of bearings and oil seals. In fact, the near-side bearing seems to rely OR a certain amount of intentional oil leakage. One brake cable on the off side serves for the footbrake, and one on the near side for the racing handbrake. a useful economy. The chassit-. frame is long, has three cross-members, and is flexible beyond belief. The front axle is most impressive; it is much wider than the rear and equipped with large Perrot-type brakes, working in alloy drumt with shrunk-in and riveted steel liners which are still firm after three decades. But even in this economy is observed, in the lack of bushes for the i-elliptic spring eyes. At low speeds the steering is a little heavy. but once on the main road it becomes light and positive.
Progress on the road is accompanied by a whining and clamour from the transmission, which rises to a scream and makes 55 m.p.h. most exciting. On dry roads road-holding and braking are really good, but in the wet, handicapped by the slender tyres, great care must be observed if the dreaded sideslip is not to be provoked, especially now that so many modern ears can stop fairly quickly in the rain. The overall gear ratio is 4.5 to 1 and it is nice to know that the engine speed at 55 m.p.h. is only 3,000 r.p.m. Petrol consumption is about 35-30 m.p.g. and oil consumption negligible. Starting has always been easy, even on the coldest of mornings once the 30 mm. Solex has been primed from the gravity-feed fuel tank.
The car has been used for a couple of V.S.C.C. events, and has shown that with a slightly better steering lock and a more capable driver it would be a formidable competitor in driving-test events. During the past year it has proved to be a willin little car; not such a terrible machine as some people have labelled it, but certainly not in the saute class as the 30/08 Vauxhall or. perhaps, the Brescia 11 ugat ti. I am. Yours, (qr., London, S.W.I6. tows Mc1.1.:1,t, • Sir,
The article on the AN. Monocar revived pleasant memories of this delightfully simple but effective lit Ile machine for its day. I had two Of them, one in England and then one in India, for they had a fascination for me. perhaps because they were reminiscent of the exeiting titiy.s of the early aeroplanes I had flown, with their wire-andbobbin control, narrow streamlined plywood ” fuselage,” and aircraft-type cockpit behind a genuine .aero-screen. It would even be fun to have one today if it could be found !
Although a poor photograph by modern standards, the accompanying picture shows the salient features of the machine rather well, and was taken immediately after I had set up the fastest time of the day for the flying mile for four-wheelers, during a winter speed event On the Plains of India around 1020-21. Steering this narrow cigar with flimsy tyres was reasonably simple at normal road speeds, but at full throttle was quite exciting. I recall that girl friends were perched half OR a small space immediately behind the driver and half on the near-side rear mudguard, with a cushion between girl and the machine’s irregularities, and with the feet resting in comparative cleanliness On the running-board. One must remember that those were the days when “walking out ” was usually carried out on the spartan carrier of a rigid-framed big-twin Zenith Gradua, and the luxury of an A.V. Monocar was something of an allurement.
One night, as a young subaltern, I was dining with my Colonel at Rawalpindi, and I secured the task of taking his charming daughter to the Club dance on the aforementioned seat of my glamorous Monocar. Half way there, the journey was brought to an abrupt end when the semi-exposed chain from the rear-mounted air-eooled big vee-twin J.A.P. engine somehow collected my delightful passenger’s billowy and flimsy dance frock between sprocket and chain. In a trice the dress was wound off the Colonel’s daughter, and I had the difficult task of returning her to her amazed parent unclad. Fortunately those were the days when the Army was just getting down to serious mechanisation, and its potentialities were being received with more understanding. I am, Yours, etc.,
Bournetnouth. C. E. BowDEN (Lt.-Colonel. Rid.). Sir,
I have followed the correspondence on the G.W.K. car with great interest.
For, by a remarkable coincidence, it follows upon my first making a direct acquaintance with the marque. You may be interested to know that a two-seater open G.W.K. lives in the Richmond area. I have seen it frequently in Richmond Park, and spoken at length to the owner. Apparently it is the car shown in a book of Lord Montague’s. And is in a remarkable state of preservation.
A detail not mentioned by any of your correspondents is the extra pedal for applying additional pressure to the friction drive when climbing steep hills.
I am told that the present transmission has run without replacement for over 20,000 miles. And still shows no sign of needing repairs. The engine, a 10-h.p. Coventry Victor ti.V., Also has been in service without repair since the car was built.
I was unable to discover the name of the fortunate owner of this rare little car, but I am sure that if any of your readers* should meet and talk to him they will find hint as courteous and informative as I did.
The odd thing was that he did not seem to think there was anything out of the way in musing or owning the car; he is obviously an informed and capable enthusiast.
Hoping these notes may be of interest to your readers. am, Yours, etc.,
Chessington. .1. T. WINTERBOTTOM.