Rumblings, August 1943


We have known for some time that enthusiasm for the Frazer-Nash is rife in the town of Bristol, from whence emanate other fast things, but not until last month were we able to go down and see for ourselves. The visit proved well worthwhile. In one lock up garage we were shown R. Bickerton’s short-chassis  “Six” and Gordon Jones’s Gough-engined Replica. The 6-cylinder car has the Blackburn engine in the 8ft 6in wheelbase chassis, and was built originally for the late A. F. P. Fane. Three S.U. carburetters are used in this engine – as on Pierecy’s Blackburn Six which lives at Langley, where Gordon Woods’s similar car keeps it company albeit with two carburetters on a rather different head. Incidentally, Pierecy’s car may soon come on the market, as a desire to own an open Alvis “Firefly” has assailed him. To revert to the short-chassis car at Bristol, the urge is, as would be expected, quite something, the 3.8-to-1 top speed giving an easy 70 m.p.h. at 3,300 r.p.m., very nice with 1,496 c.c. The maximum speed is in the region of 87-88 m.p.h. and 0 to 50 m.p.h. can be attained in about 10 seconds. This car, like the 4-cylinder job that lives with it, has the late-type chassis and an extra large rear fuel tank. The Gough-engined car is a 1935 model and has the type of engine which was used, in supercharged form, for the “Shelsley” cars, consisting of a 1 1/2-litre, single o.h. camshaft 4-cylinder unit, with twin S.U. carburetters. The wheelbase is 9ft and the weight about 17 1/4 cwt., and the maximum speed is around 85 m.p.h., the engine reaching its maximum effort at about 4,200 r.p.m. The brake drums are heavily ribbed. Top speed, in this case, is 4.1 to 1. At another garage we were able to view MacCormack’s car, which is more in the nature of a special. The older chassis is used, and the engine is the familiar two-port 1 1/2-litre Meadows, to which is being added a Type 260 AH Centric compressor, very neatly mounted on the front of the crankcase and supported from the cylinder block. This supercharger weighs 20 lb., and delivers 1,300 c.c. of mixture per revolution, being capable or a safe 5,500 r.p.m. It will be driven by belt from the extreme nose of the crankshaft and it draws from a 1 1/8” S.U. carburetter.

The polishable parts of the engine have been carefully attended to and the whole car is beautifully constructed. The lubrication system will incorporate a filter mounted at 45o at the base of the supercharger mounting, a Tecalemit oil-cooler before the front cross-member and a special box-like breather. One of the most interesting features is the conversion of the brakes to Lockheed hydraulic, the layout being extremely neatly done. The front brake back-plates came from a Triumph, adapted to the Frazer-Nash axle, and at the rear cable operation is retained for emergency operation. The wheels take 4.50″ x 19″ tyres and the transmission is, of course, 4-speed, the largest sprocket being drilled. The battery is carried beneath the passenger’s seat. Originally this car was a “Nurburg” model, with blown engine, so the present modifications are essentially practical, and, when complete, a very rapid and controllable car should result.

Why go fast?

Opinions have recently been aired in the weekly motoring Press as to just why lots of men, and some women, wish to rush about the roads at high velocities in sports motor-cars. The desire to impress the companion on one’s left, and the psychological aspect of over-coming repressions by showing-off and even taking risks, have both been put forward as very probable reasons. The joy of fast travel on the ground, because it is not possible to analyse, is put down as something only sought by persons unable to appreciate more sane sensations, and who thus endow speed with mystical associations, instead of something arising from light pressure on the accelerator pedal. We agree with the first two charges – amongst a certain proportion of rather stupid young men and women. We will not attempt to enlarge on the fascination of speed as such, any more than we would attempt to analyse or, unable to analyse, to deprecate other simple yet extremely enjoyable sensations – diving into sunlit water in the early morning, gazing at moonlight filtering through a Copse of close-set trees, listening to good music.

Over and above all that, lots of us drive fast in a good car because, in a thinly-disguised 100 per cent. mechanical age, we have acquired the art of deriving pleasure from the skilful control of good machinery. We find that a sound car responds very agreeably to our control, but that the skill needed has not to rise above the mediocre until travel along the straights and around open bends is reasonably rapid, implying a cruising speed in the region of 70 m.p.h. Incidentally, fast driving, undertaken thus, is seldom dangerous.

For infant prodigies

At a house-party where young folk gather, the suggestion of tennis or swimming finds everyone quite agreeable, which gives rise to the thought that to offer anyone your G.P. Bugatti for a dice, remarking that you could provide a pair of goggles and a pair of suitably-narrow shoes, would have very different results. Doubtless this is due to lack of training in early life. To ride well, you have your own pony almost before you have mastered the art of walking, and tennis, net-ball, hockey, swimming and other conventional sports are part of every school’s regular curriculum. So why not a like training for a mechanised future, for a generation which can be said to owe their freedom to the result of the Battle of Britain? When Percy Maclure’s young son opened the course at a Riley M.C. speed trial with a tiny, petrol-driven model Riley we saw the germ of an idea. When boy-scouts brought pedal-actuated soapboxes to the Crystal Palace circuit, many of us deplored the “circus” aspect of the thing. Perhaps we were wrong. Such humble beginnings are certain to instill into the rising generation a love of the game we ourselves support. And this is no bad thing, either, from the viewpoint of the non-motoring minded masses. Whenever we pass through Windsor these days we are conscious, not so much that the Battle of Waterloo was won on Eton’s playing fields, as that the Battle of Britain was won, if not on Brooklands, then almost certainly at Calshot….

Middle East

From an outpost of Empire in the Middle East comes a news-letter from Capt. J. S. Moon, prominent member of the 750 Club in peace time. It is accompanied by an interesting article outlining the type of 1 1/2-litre car Moon hopes to see produced in the coming brave new world, which we will publish next month. Interesting cars which Moon has found amongst the heat and the flies include an “Ulster” Austin Seven and a Bugatti, the latter thought to be a Type 35 or 39. It is road-equipped, finished Bugatti-blue, and has alloy wheels. There is also a blown 1 3/4-litre Alfa-Romeo, being worked on by numbers of filthy Arab boys. Moon also reports seeing some 1,100-c.c. Skoda, with 4-cylinder engines, a backbone frame with gearbox at its rear end, twin transverse front springs and rear suspension by means of a single spring beneath the swing axles. Four-door saloons and neat 2-seater versions abound, the latter with nicely swept tails, and it seems these cars may have been dumped in the country in order to obtain Egyptian currency, after the Germans took over the Skoda works, as all models appear to be of about the same age. Most popular car of all out East is the Fiat, including 500s and 1 1/2-litres, the 1,100 c.c., however, predominating. What appears to be the 1940 version has a very handsome V-fronted radiator grill replacing the steeply-sloping front as we know it. The Lancia is conspicuous by its rarity, but a few “Lambdas” and “Aprilias” have been seen, and also a car which was either a very late “Aprilia” or a new “Ardea.” Motor-cycles are nearly all British, back through many vintage models to beltdriven devices, interspersed with B.M.W., D.K.W., Guzzi, Gilera and Benelli, etc.