Bill Boddy

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Nazzaro’s road car

Cars named after racing drivers are not exactly rare. But rare is a car made by a truly top driver, in the midst of his career. Such a car was the Nazarro. Felice Nazzaro, whose dark good looks infatuated the ladies when he came to Brooklands in 1908 and won the Fiat/Napier Match Race, had achieved fame by the time he decided to make cars of his own, in 1911. Apprenticed to Fiat, Felice first raced in 1900 and by 1905 was, with Vincenzo Lancia, one of Fiat’s top drivers, being second in the 1905 Gordon Bennett and 1906 French GP, and in 1907 winning the Targa Florio, French GP and Kaiserpreis. In 1908 he won the Coppa Florio and was third in the USA GP, a broken chain stopping him in that race in 1910. So why give up, in 1916?

It may have been that racing was not sufficiently lucrative then, or was it the French boycott of the GP in 1909 that made Nazzaro think the future of racing insecure? Whatever, he built his cars in Turin from 1911. He did a bit of racing with them, winning the 1913 Targa Florio and 1914 Coppa Florio, and in 1920 Meregalli won the Targa Florio outright in a Nazzaro (at 31.7mph, such was the tough nature of this race), beating Enzo Ferrari’s Alfa Romeo.

The main production Nazzaro was the four-cylinder 20/30, which may have owed something to a similar Fiat. Newton & Bennett, the Ceirano agents, handled the Nazarro here in 1913, pricing a chassis at £495 (against £515 for the Fiat). Felice had not given up driving other cars, such as a rotary valve Itala in the 1913 GP, and he built a team of 4 1/2-litre single ohc 16-valve four-cylinder cars for the 1914 French GP, trusting Porporato and de Koraes with two of them, but all retired. One surfaced at Brooklands in 1923, and a sports Nazzaro ran at the Lewes speed trials in 1931.

It was presumably the war which stopped Nazaro making cars after 1916, and from 1922 he again signed up with Fiat, winning the 1922 French GP with the wonderful Fiat 804. By 1925 he was head of their competition department.

The camshaft driveshaft drove the water pump and magneto and, at its base. the oil pump that gave fully forced lubrication. It also drove an air pump for the fuel feed. Care was taken to give good water circulation and there was a large pump gland. A Zenith carburettor fed through a water-heated induction system and an imposing vee-fronted radiator set off the 102.6in-wheelbase chassis with its unit four-speed gearbox and long half-elliptic springs, and there was an aluminium dash.

Steel artillery wheels took 820 x120 tyres, and to give access to the back axle with its easily withdrawn bevel-drive and differential, the petrol tank was slung from the off-side of the chassis. Final drive was by torque tube. Compensated rear brakes and sturdy stampings for the stub axles and steering arms were notable.

The post-war concessionaires were the Hampstead Engineering Co in William Street, Hampstead, but by the summer of 1922 they had not fixed a price. I suspect not many cars were sold. Thus the Nazzaro, a car that reminds one of a great racing driver.

Bugatti’s baby

There have been several childrens’ cars but the miniature type 52 GP Bugatti of the 1920s beat them all. Only the artistically minded Ettore could have created such a desirable object. Originally built for Roland Bugatti, you could soon buy one from Brixton as well as Molsheim. Intended for drivers up to eight years old, it was 6ft long, weighed 150lbs, and was driven by 12volt motor on the back axle, one wheel being free to give a differential action.

Brave drivers could reach 10 or 12mph; a rheostat varied the speed, with a change-over switch for reverse. It was a fine likeness to a full-size GP Bugatti, detachable eight-spoke wheels characterising those of the real racers. A spare was strapped to the side, there were four-wheel brakes, and an external brake lever. This delectable object was shown at Olympia in 1927, price 160. After WW2 my youngest daughter was able to have a go in the grounds of Major Lambton’s house in the one he owned. Rare in England, the T52s were very popular at Deauville and other fashionable places, where children indulged in races with them.

Traction tales

I see that in February’s Classic &Sports Car Simon Taylor enthuses over the Citroen Big Six of the 1950s and remembers Maigret and his Traction Avant— which shows that I look at other motor magazines. When the six-cylinder Citroen came up for test in 1952 I was impressed that this spacious saloon would do 84mph, but it would have been even better with a four-speed ‘box. I got the critical Cecil Clutton to round off my report with his opinion of the Big Six. He was equally complimentary, concluding “…it will go down in history as one of the truly great cars.”

I cannot remember whether it was the Citroen PRO or the film company making the Maigret pictures who arranged for my wife and I to meet Rupert Davies, the actor playing the great detective (but overshadowed by Sherlock Holmes!). Poor man, I talked to him only about cars. I cannot now remember whether or not he came in a Traction. It is probably buried deeply in a back number of Motor Sport. Does the keen Citroen CC know if the test car (OBH 649) has survived?

Forgotten Czech sportscars

As far as I am removed from anything it is from a knowledge of the motor vehicles of the Czech Republic. So when studying the researches of Adolf Kuba I was in for some surprises — for instance, the number of decidedly attractive sportscars available there in the Edwardian and vintage period. For example, the 1924 Walter with sohc engine and outside exhaust, Rudge wheels and Perrot-system 4WBs, and a very rakish Tatra Targa Florio model, with the expected coal-scuttle bonnet, both able to rev to 5000rpm. Praga made the 824cc Piccolo Sport, Zatimco the full-blooded Z6V racer with supercharged 1086cc engine,capable in Nürburgring form of over 90mph. Wikov had their 7/28 1 1/2-litre pointed-tail sports two-seater.

The 1923 Isis had a 770cc engine or an ohv Chapuis Dornier engine of 1093cc. We think of Tatras as air-cooled cars, the larger ones rear-engined, but they also made some very impressive big cars with frontal radiators, like the 1921 5.3litre vee-fronted Model 10, while another fine looking car was the 1927 Praga Grands, its eight-cylinder engine apparently having Mercedes and Ricardo connotations. Laurin & Klement’s 14/50 had Knight sleeve-valves, and in 1923 they were campaigning a team of four Type 445 competition tourers. Skoda was making Hispano-Suizas under licence, with the flying stork mascot, and at the opposite extreme cyclecars included the two-cylinder Panek Koprivinicka and the single front-wheeled Trimobil which outdid the Phanmobile with a remarkable four-door saloon-bodied version. Skoda was also making Sentinel steam waggons in 1923. The Czech motor industry seems to have been in good array in those vintage years.

The first blown Seven

The surfeit of Austin 7 history having been well received, I thought it worth recalling the first use of a supercharger for the baby racing car, as some Sevenists use blowers today. Original Cozette ones must be scarce, so replicas of these, or of Roots superchargers, are the norm.

With the little cars from Longbridge doing so well in racing after only two seasons, Lord Austin’s son-in-law Captain Arthur Waite MC, needed to get his to go faster. The ploy was to boost its engine, which he did in 1925. An Austin-built Roots supercharger was mounted ahead of the engine in a cradle cast as part of the timing-gear cover. It ran at below engine speed, feeding at 5lbs/sq in, drawing mixture from a 35mm Cox-Atmos carburettor at 60cu in per minute at 5000rpm, 36bhp then being recorded. A useful improvement on the original A7’s 10 1/2hp and the non-s/c racing engine’s 29bhp. The car weighed 7 1/2cwt, part of the ash-framed body being fabric-covered. Waite sat very low in it, his right elbow seemingly almost touching the offside back wheel, elaborate “swellings” encasing the cockpit, the front axle andrear springs.

Over 90mph was obtained, proved when George Duller won a 50-mile Brooklands race at almost 89.9mph. An easy-flow exhaust manifold also helped. The blower had ball-bearings, lubricated from oil in the fuel. Waite took 750cc class records at up to 86mph, then had the engine enlarged to 776cc, then in 1926 to 831cc, putting it in the 1100cc class for the JCC ‘200’ etc, but the transmission twice objected. However, two thirds and a win in a minor race were obtained.

With Austin concentrating on sportscar racing, the special Waite A7 was sold to J Pares. Unfortunately he was badly injured when an A7 in which he was riding overturned in the 1925 ‘200’, and G Cauldicott, whom I interviewed for Motor Sport some years ago, had to drive it. The wheelbase was increased to 6ft 7in and a twin Zenith carburettor non s/c engine installed. Named ‘Slippery Ann’, it continued to go well, particularly at Shelsley Walsh, winning the 750cc racing car class in 1927 and 1928. The Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin was watching from the members’ enclosure on the second occasion.

Chitty-Chitty clanger

It was an error waiting to happen. In announcing that Piers Picton has had a liquid-gas conversion carried out, Autocar had a picture of his car titled Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, “originally raced in the 20s powered by a six-cylinder Maybach engine, but rebuilt for the children’s film in 1968 when the engine was swapped for a Ford V6”.

Complete nonsense! The original Chitty was broken up around 1934.I was offered its 23-litre ‘Zeppelin’ engine but had nowhere to keep it, although I do have one of its huge final-drive sprockets. Mr Picton’s car is one of the film-set fakes, which looks nothing like Chitty-Bang-Bang I as raced by the legendary Count Louis Zborowsld in 1921/22.

Obituary

Gerry H F Dunham

We are very sorry to have to report the death, at the age of 79, of Gerry HF Dunham, whose father had been part of Dunham & Haines, the well-known Luton motor company which had been one of the first Alvis agents, associated with the make from 1921. Mr GGH Dunham Sr had been the epitome of the typical Brooklands exponent, having raced at the Surrey circuit with two Alvis cars of the outer circuit kind, a Speed Twenty and a 12/70, both with the expected streamlined bodies. He gained innumerable successes from 1932.

His son continued to race the 12/70 Alvis II after the Second World War. It was a very special car, having, like the Speed Twenty in its later appearances, a single-seater body, and in 1949 it was endowed with the special engine from the Speed Twenty. It was again successful with ‘Lofty’ England in Belgium, and Gerry Dunham won at Goodwood with it and also took victory in the 1951 10M Manx Cup race, at 66.I6mph.

It was an impressive achievement against more modern HWM and Turner cars, even though, as Ken Day in his Alvis history reminds us, it had a 20 year-old engine in a 13 year-old chassis but was still capable of a timed 111 mph in 1954. It was also an impressive performer in VSCC races,driven by Gerry’s son, making him the third generation of the family to enjoy the car.