Mr. Anthony Bird’s letter replying to the Editorial review of his book “The Rolls-Royce Motor Car” is—to me at least— of interest, since it is the first occasion on which I have seen an author reply to a review. There are many reviews which call in a loud voice for a reply, but it has to be remembered that when a publisher submits a work for review, criticism is invited, and from the reviewers’ opinions, be they the result of ignorance, spite, differing viewpoint or any other factor, in these circumstances there is no redress, either to the author—by implied consent—or the publisher. Most critics are well aware of this.
May I be permitted a comment in the dispute? Rolls-Royce for 50 years have never hesitated to fit to their cars components other people have earlier discovered. Cases to mind are (a) the centre-lock hubs earlier used by Hispano-Suiza, (b) motor-servo brakes under licence from Louis Renault’s patents, and (c) the contemporary automatic gearbox made under licence of patents held by the General Motors Corporation. They have however always insisted that such items are made to their own standards or made them themselves.
In the case of the gearbox there is an amusing—and true—story. R.-R. felt that the limits to which the “brain” of this box (the internal selecting mechanism) was made were a little rough so it was machined in Crewe to R.-R. limits—and didn’t work! To discover why was another matter, but in production a reversion to original tolerances cured the trouble. It seems one can be too good.
Royce obviously looked hard at Hispano’s excellent brakes in the early 1920s, liked the idea but not the application (for reasons which I know but which are not relevant here) so he produced his motor-servo using Renault’s ” disc” or “clutch” drive servo in preference to Hispano’s drum. I did not think there was ever any deep secret about this. The patents concerned were Renault’s, registered in England.
Once, R.-R. made virtually everything themselves, presumably because no-one else made anything good enough. Today that gap has closed and the company “buy-in” many components made by other people under their own patents, but they still insist upon them all being made to the only standard they know, the highest, and test some of all batches virtually to destruction.
So who made what, when and where, isn’t really any longer relevant—is it? Except to record history!
Bonchurch, I.o.W. – J. R. Buckley. (Lieutenant-Colonel, Ret’d.)
Following your review in Motor Sport of “The Rolls-Royce Motor Car,” I laboriously saved up the required number of shillings and provided myself with a copy of the book. It has provided immensely interesting reading, while the photographs are really first class. I am relying on a memory which, on account of age, cannot be so good as in the past, but I believe that it was late in 1921 that a series of letters began in The Autocar and lasted for many weeks, the subject matter being “The World’s Best Car.” The claims of Rolls-Royce, Lanchester, Napier, Hispano-Suiza and other makes were strenuously upheld by their respective proponents, but what I recall as being especially interesting to me the time was S. F. Edge’s contribution. His strident and untiring support of Napier virtues is well known to an older generation of motorists and this might reasonably have been expected to show itself in the Autocar letters. Not so, however. S. F. Edge came out strongly on behalf of R.-R., dismissing all other makes as being unworthy of serious consideration.
There are several references to S. F. Edge in “The Rolls-Royce Motor Car” and I looked for some comment on his rather unexpected but nonetheless unreserved acceptance of the Rolls-Royce as the premier car.
It is noteworthy that in these letters, which must have run into some dozens, J. G. Parry Thomas, designer of the Leyland Eight, remarked that he looked upon only one make as a dangerous adversary to his brain child and that was the Rolls-Royce. I suppose it is true to say that in those far-off days the Silver Ghost was technically inferior to the Leyland Eight, but it had an excellence of construction and materials and a smoothness and silence of running which never has been and never will be surpassed so long as petrol engines are made. By far the greater proportion of my motoring days are over and although I can never aspire to ownership of a Rolls-Royce, I must confess that nothing delights me more than an engine which is operating with the absolute minimum of obtrusiveness.
Neath. – N. Paddison.
The only thing that surprises me about the news item concerning the relative silence of running of a Ford Galaxie and a Rolls-Royce, is that anyone should be surprised that a cheap American car is actually quieter than the “legendary” silence of the Crewe concoction.
Since the most expensive American cars have been quieter than any of the contemporary R.-R.s for the last 30-odd years, it was inevitable that this should happen.
I refer to such cars as the Cadillac V16, introduced in 1930, and the 12-cylinder Packards, Pierce Arrows and Lincolns which came out in 1932. For anyone who is a fervent believer in the supremacy of Rolls-Royce smoothness and silence, I recommend a ride in any of these cars, and a ride in a R.-R. immediately, afterwards! That is, a contemporary R.-R., of course.
These cars were built up to the beginning of World War II, and the only R.-R. that might possibly have equalled them was the PIII, which did not go into production until 1936 (May). And the PIII achieved a lot of its silence through using a hydraulic valve silencer directly copied from that used in the Cadillac V16.
In “The Cars in My Life ” W. O. Bentley writes of the Silver Ghost: “it might even sound rather noisy beside a cheap modern American V8 car” and says of the Cadillac V16 used for experimental purposes by R.-R. and which he drove: “astonishing refinement with perhaps the most completely successful elimination of evidence that explosions were occurring under the bonnet ever obtained in a motor car.”
The loudest noise on say, a Cadillac V 16 or Pierce Arrow 12 at idle is the clicking of the breaker points. And the engine noise at 60 m.p.h. is definitely lower than a 6-cylinder Phantom—there is no need for decibel meters to tell that!
The position since World War II seems to have been that American cars have got even quieter, while the R.-R. has got noisier. Even Laurence Pomeroy has been forced to admit the superior silence of the U.S. cars a few years ago. Cadillac have never used an alloy block because iron is quieter, among other things, and it is interesting to see that Mercedes came to the same conclusion. After plenty of experience with alloy engines they used cast iron for silence in the Grand Mercedes. It is also known that R.-R. wanted to do the same for the same reason but had to make their V8 of alloy because foundry technique in England was not up to the job of producing a light enough cast iron engine. “Car Life” quotes the weight of the 380 cu. in. R.-R. V8 as about 100 lb. heavier than the 389 cu. in.cast iron Pontiac V8! Both Motor and Autocar have commented on the noise aspect of the R.-R. V8. The Motor had serious misgivings about the R.-R. claim to be quietest, while the Autocar road test just came straight out and said “There are American cast iron engines that are even quieter than the present R.-R. power unit.”
What is most amusing is that Ford who are cashing in on the publicity of this test, have for years been building a quieter car than a Rolls-Royce anyway—the Lincoln Continental. But of course they could hardly make use of their own product in a publicity comparison! [But Ford sponsored this not entirely convincing test and subsequent publicity material.—Ed.]
Auckland, New Zealand. – M. D. Hendry.