Rumblings, August 1942


A friend of ours spent some time recently thinking up some motoring oddities, some of which are certainly pretty staggering. He recalled a recent model by a well-known manufacturer which had two carburetters, of which, however, one was horizontal while the other was a down-draught. Then there is the car with Rudge wheels, with 1.h. threads on one side and r.h. threads on the opposite side, not to mention a certain cyclecar with a single-cylinder engine driving one wheel only, so that sidecar cornering tactics would undoubtedly pay, acceleration being effective round left-handed curves and braking round right-handed ones. Then you have Daimler omnibuses with one block of two cylinders and another block boasting three cylinders, and, amongst racing machinery, there are those intriguing V-twin engines with different compression ratios on each of their cylinders, different plugs and, in one case, even cylinder heads of different materials. Our friend recalls a Morgan which was offered for sale as having one rebored cylinder and which would have the other done when the vendor had saved up enough cash! There was once a Shelsley car which had four-wheel drive but different final drive ratios at each end. Even Land Speed Record cars have had their eccentricities, from one of the fairly conventional “Blue Birds,” which had different strength springs on each side to counteract torque, not to mention a different stroke in each bank of cylinders, to John Cobb’s Railton, the chassis of which is quite unique in its utter lack of symmetry. It’s a strange world…


Writing of strange things brings to mind the original Trojan car, brain-child of Leslie H. Hounsfield. In its original form this car offered many novel, but practical, features. It had a really simple two-stroke engine beneath the floor, an epicycle, easy-change gearbox which enabled reverse gear to be employed as an emergency brake, chain drive to a solid rear axle, specially supple cantilever springs, a weatherproof finish, an enclosed rear lamp, and solid tyres. The last-named feature was, perhaps, the most sensational, and only a lack of stability (on tramlines especially!), and the predicament of losing a tyre from a fixed wheel, resulted in the substitution of normal pneumatic tyres on later models. The Trojan was, indeed, quite a sound utility car and remarkably successful for a comparatively modern vehicle incapable of appreciably exceeding 30 m.p.h. – which may or may not be the reason why the late Parry Thomas got the motoring Press to announce that he had no connection with its design, when Leyland Ltd. adopted it. We can hardly view Leslie Hounsfield’s latest endeavour with the same appreciation. He read a paper to the I.A.E. on July 21st, which purported to suggest a useful specification for a British “People’s Car,” but which we shall be very surprised if the majority of listeners did not condemn as so much stuff and nonsense. So intrigued is Mr. Hounsfield with “penny-in-the-slot” motoring, as it were, that he has evolved three types of “revenue-recorder” mechanical, electrical and hydraulic – by means of which everyone would know when the car’s owner owed taxation duties to the State and convenient policemen could leap out and collect the mileage fees. The “recorder” also obligingly indicates to them when to leap out and apprehend the driver for exceeding his particular speed limit. Really. Mr. Hounsfield, wouldn’t it be more simple if a Government inspector were supplied from the nearest police station to accompany the owner every time he ventured out?

Yet one more

It is “Spitfire,” by “E.J. Ellan,” published at 5/- John Murray, and it is as entertaining as its predecessors which we have reviewed in these columns. The author, an R.A.F. Squadron Leader, strikes one as being younger than the other pilots who have given us excellent accounts of what life in a fighter squadron is like. He does not have a “bale-out” story to tell us, and he goes straight into things, instead of gradually introducing us to war in the air and increasing excitements. He says very little of off-duty aspects of life in the Royal Air Force, so that he covers as much ground as the others in a mere 99 pages. This book must be added to one’s collection of such books, and it has the individual merit of containing accounts of the fighting over Dunkirk and of night fighter exploits; although it touches on bomber escort, this is, perhaps, done rather better in Donahue’s “Tally-Ho! Yankee in a Spitfire.” It is pleasing to discover, rather unexpectedly, that the author is married to a girl who drives a Lancia (presumably an “Aprilia”) and who has visited Germany to watch real motor racing. These all-so-excellent flying books are one of the lesser wonders of this war. They serve so well to emphasise the military value of “old-school-tic” training of our fighter pilots, whose staying power and keenness to engage the enemy is surely safeguarded by an ability to regard their rigorous pursuit as a grand “party.” We have enjoyed all these books. The bomber and Fleet Air Arm boys should be persuaded to give us some more.

Chris. Staniland

It is with profound regret that we have to record the death of Chris. Staniland, who was killed while test flying. Staniland was only 36 years of age when the accident happened. Fifteen years ago we wrote of him: “Most normal individuals have some hobby or other which occupies most of their spare time; some people are engaged by profession in occupations attended by a certain amount of risk. It will usually be found that the hobbies of the latter are comparatively mild and peaceful and, conversely, that those whose hobbies are exciting are engaged in one or other of the more humdrum occupations. Christopher Staniland, however, utterly refutes all these generalisations by engaging in three quite separate and distinct methods of excitement, of which one is, so to speak, his job.” It was at his job that he met his death, serving his country as nobly as any pilot on active service, for Staniland’s flying was largely responsible for the efficiency of the Fairey aircraft flown by our Fleet Air Arm. And up to the war Staniland was still driving racing cars very well indeed. Educated at Tonbridge, he joined the R.A.F. soon after leaving college in 1922. He was soon riding his first motorcycle, borrowed from his brother – one of the famous 1911 automatic-inlet-valve Douglases. The first machine of his own was a Rudge-Multi, and after that came another Rudge, a two-stroke Velocette, a single-geared s.v. Norton, two other Nortons, and his 588-c.c. o.h.v. Norton. Staniland’s first appearance at Brooklands was in 1923, when he rode the ex-Dennison Velocette, without success. On his 490-c.c. o.h.v. Norton he made f.t.d. at Abergele Hill Climb and then “bagged” his first Brooklands win. In those days that meant a journey from his R.A.F. station in Cheshire and back, but he rode at most B.M.C.R.C. meetings, nevertheless. Soon he was riding various Nortons for R. Morley Spring, these machines, tuned by George Pearce, becoming almost unbeatable in the 500-c.c. and 750-c.c. classes. In 1924, when he was only 18 years of age, remember, Staniland won no fewer than four races in one afternoon. He had Le Vack’s own 1,000-c.c. Brough-Superior for the 1925 200 Mile Race, but tyre and carburetter trouble, and unfamiliarity with the bicycle, held him back. However, in the 1925 200 Mile Sidecar Race he won the 600-c.c. class on his Norton at record speed. In that year he also won three consecutive private owners’ events and took numerous world’s records.

In 1926 he commenced to use a 2-litre, Straight Eight G.P. Bugatti as his road car and, tuned by the worthy Pearce, it began to perform well in B.A.R.C. races, winning the Bugatti Handicap at the Whitsun Meeting at 93.7 m.p.h. He also took two world’s records with this car, but these were retaken before the end of the season.

On two wheels Staniland won cups for the best aggregate performance in the 500-c.c. and 750-c.c. solo classes and established the fastest laps in these classes and the 600-c.c. sidecar class, at 99.01, 103.76 and 86.02 m.p.h., respectively. His 600-c.c. Norton was by now a good deal faster than several of the 750-c.c. V-twins. The next season Staniland, although now hampered by heavier Service commitments, gained the cup for the best aggregate performance in Class D and won the 350-c.c. 200 Mile Race at 83.42 m.p.h. In 1928 he won the 250-c.c. 200 Mile Race at 74.34 m.p.h. and took the Class A cup, while in car events his Bugatti won four outer circuit races, the last at 108.57 m.p.h., the speed increasing progressively throughout the season. The Bugatt also took a number of British and International class records at Brooklands at nearly 116 m.p.h.

Staniland won the 1929 Class A 200 Mile Race at 79.26 m.p.h. by one-fifth of a second and walked off with the Class B/S aggregate cup. In 1930 he again won the Class A Solo “200” at 78.02 m.p.h. and won two short handicap races with the Bugatti, in one of which he lapped at over 118 m.p.h. When Donington opened he was a frequent performer there with 1 1/2 and 2-litre Bugatti cars, and in 1931 he partnered the Earl of March in winning the J.C.C. “Double-Twelve” with an M.G. Midget at 65.62 m.p.h. for 1,574.9 miles. In 1932 he finished fifth in partnership with Sir Malcolm Campbell in the 500 Mile Race; they drove a Riley and averaged 97.14 m.p.h. Increasing calls on his time kept Staniland’s name out of the entry lists about this time, flying claiming all his attention, although we find him on the Brooklands Panel of Observers, with the rank of Flight-Lieut. Incidentally, he lapped Brooklands in a Bugatti at over 120 m.p.h. in 1928 and at over 130 m.p.h. in 1935. He drove an Alfa-Romeo with Austin Dobson in the 1937 “500,” finishing sixth at 119.2 m.p.h. However, Staniland really made his come-back in 1938 driving the Multi-Union, with which be won two outer circuit handicaps and also set the Class D lap record at 141.45 m.p.h. Although he was mainly an outer-circuit driver, Staniland had driven in the T.T., being fifth in 1931, retiring in 1932, and crashing in 1933, each time with a Riley, and he demonstrated his ability to handle a really fast car on a road course by winning the 1938 Phoenix Park Race at 97.45 m.p.h. with the Multi-Union, not by any means an easy car to handle. He also took spells at the wheel of Eyston’s Kestrel-engined car at Utah in 1935, when that car broke the World’s 24-Hour record at 140.19 m.p.h., while in 1928 he was a member, for a time, of the R.A.F. High Speed Flight. Invariably dressed in immaculate white overalls and helmet (and usually chewing gum), “C.S.C.” gave one the impression that he made speed his business and his pleasure and took it seriously. His years of racing gave him unmatched hands and judgment; it is terribly sad that he should die in a different sphere from that in which we all loved to see him perform.