Getting the Royces right

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

It used to be common practice, and still is, for manufacturers to examine, test and even dissect the cars of competitors to discover what the opposition had to offer. In this respect Rolls-Royce Ltd was no exception. Thanks to the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts Club, which has again generously placed some more of their archive material at my disposal, we are able to divulge more on this fascinating topic. And if you think this applies only to non-sporting cars, remember that the 40/50 Ghosts did make occasional appearances in Brooklands’ races, speed hill-climbs and in long-distance and other trials. Also, that the R-R Twenty was developed into the 25/30, from which were evolved the 3½-litre and 4¼-litre Derby-Bentleys, with which E R Hall did so well in three TT races.

During the Great War, Henry Royce had been using a Calcott light car, and by 1918 he was convinced the Company should have a smaller car to supplement the splendid 40/50, to meet post-war economic changes. He began designing the dohc Goshawk engine in 1919, based on war-time aero-engine concepts, but only one was built. Subsequent development of the small Royce encompassed push-rod overhead valve-gear, unit engine and gearbox, and a three-speed central-change gearbox.

As early as January 1919 it was thought that a good continental car should be examined, and a 15.9 Delage was acquired albeit in such poor condition that even the delivery driver complained. It was overhauled before submission to Royce, and EW Hives decided in future that he’d like to see cars bought for experimental purposes first, as he found the Delage disappointing, “a proper bunch of trouble, a nasty heavy brute”.

Royce was furnished with a detailed description, and the engine was dynamometer-tested. Mr Royce caused more delay by asking that the Delage be fitted with alight body, not a heavy 4-seater, new tyres, and other small modifications. Hives had to tell Royce that a two-seater body with dickey was fitted but the weight with passengers would be 5cwt over his request, as the wheelbase was very long. The Delage would now do 45 mph, 55mph down a slight hill, but only 12 to 13mpg, which it was hoped aero-engine vacuum-control would improve. Conduit Street was now asking about using it for a staff car, perhaps because there was a shortage of available Royces at the end of the war. Hives (later Lord Hives) told them that Royce might keep the Delage for only a month as it wasn’t very suitable, but after a Buick had been investigated this might be available, or a Marmon, when received.

Meanwhile, after a crude wiring diagram of the Rushmore electrics had been drawn up, the Delage was driven down to West Wittering. An R-R carburettor from an old two-cylinder R-R had been tried but the original Claudel-Hobson was replaced, which gave 20mpg at 30mph. Hives thought that after the Delage they should get a Buick, as the French car was “not in the same street.”

By April 1919, Royce was driving the Delage. He remarked that small cylinders and high gearing militated against good fuel consumption. He compared the Delage with a 40/50 R-R, which gave a regular 16 to 18mpg on ordinary cross-country journeys, “if the temperature is sufficiently high and the roads hard”. For the TT races of 1905/6 Royce used high gears and compression ratios in a slow-speed engine, and driver control of mixture strength and water heat. (Rolls had won in 1906, Northey was second in 1905). Before the end of April 1919 Royce had finished with the little Delage, having concluded it had “a large, heavy, clumsy chassis” with a radiator too small for summer use and a low cylinder capacity per mile — an unusual measurement. He told Claude Johnson, the R-R Manager, he thought they should make £50 on the resale and that experience with the Delage made him confident that six cylinders were the way to go, but that the small Royce must be lighter and of at least 20 rated hp. He still blamed poor post-war petrol for bad mpg.

The next move was to borrow a four-wheel braked Type GS Delage with a six-cylinder 4524cc engine. Royce was sent a description, as before. He was told that the engine ‘over-oiled’ when running light, with bad smoking, and that the valve gear was very noisy, and that there was a very bad vibration period at 43mph in third gear. The top speed was 60mph, so the period could not be tried in top as the same revs meant 67mph. lithe throttle was opened quickly the engine stopped. Without a clutch-brake it was normal to crash the gears, but the clutch only grabbed lightly on take up. The top gear ratio was 3.75 to 1.

Royce was interested mainly in the brakes, with the 40/50 Rolls Royce in mind. Both cars weighed 36 cwt, the Delage on non-skid Michelin tyrcs, the Royce on Dunlop Magnums, at 601b per sq in. The Delage beat the Royce’s dry pull-up distances, taking 40 yards from 40mph. On front brakes alone the Delage needed 82 yards. Royce approved of the Delage’s braking, but suspected it would not stand up like a 40/50’s if used continuously, due to its unribbed drums. But he found even the countershaft brake good, as on locked wheels the car “skidded but did not jump”. Royce judged “the Delage steering very nice, but heavy on full lock, the chassis low so of rather nice appearance, but the brakes the outstanding feature”. They had chosen a Delage as more of these cars had 4WB than all the other so-equipped French cars put together.

Considered heavy for its power, the chassis with lamps and battery weighed 27cwt and gave 18mpg at 40mph. The Weymann vacuum-feed stalled the engine, so for bench tests pressure-feed was substituted. The car was obtained in 1920 and kept until January 1923, then sold.

A Committee of Hives and four other executives decided in October 1921 to look at Goshawk-size cars at Olympia and at Delage, Fiat and Dietrich in particular; Claude Johnson then had a run in a used Delage, as they and Mr Royce decided a new car would not provide the required data. They did try out softer springs on the Delage and did all manner of tests with weights on the steering wheels and drop-arms of both cars, and wobble trials, which not being an engineer, I fail to understand! The castor-angle was measured and the cooling system showed how much water it passed (five gal at 1250rpm took 5min 15sec). Performance up Ticknall Hill was also recorded.

In June 1922, Royce drove the Delage, finding it noisy. “The plugs fouled up, the starter would not turn the cold engine and the footbrake required a Samson to make a quick stop.” After nine miles the car broke down, Royce’s first such stop since 1906, as without coil ignition and with a dud starter he was helpless as the magneto had packed up. He left the car in a shed, and came home in a Ford. But remember his was a used car. As an electrical engineer I do not think he would have approved of a starter switch of two cheap carbon contacts, one on a spring blade. Royce summed-up “If this is a specimen of Delage effort to cut out R-R, it is not a bit like an R-R”…! Other experimental cars were ‘Stork’ and ‘Heron’ and a Hispano Suiza was used to prepare the Ghosts for 4WBs by 1924/5.

Those were just two cars used by R-R for valuation; there were many others, but that is another story…

You may also like

Related products