A Series of Interviews with Personalities famous in the Realms of Motoring Sport No. 8 — Marcus Chambers
Marcus Chambers is known to all members of the “fraternity” as a successful tuner and driver of the old-type Bentleys. Now, however, his interest has also turned to the more modern type of sports car with independent suspension and aerodynamic bodywork. He had considerable influence in the designing of the new H.R.G. which has recently made its debut.
All readers will be familiar with the excellent show put up by Peter Clark and Chambers in the Grand Prix d’Endurance, driving a 1 1/2-litre H.R.G.
In the matter of tuning, Chambers is a man of infinite patience. All modifications that he makes he records. Now, with many records and reference books to aid him, he is able to save much time and labour in his efforts to increase the power of an engine.
When asked if he thought that a basically standard Austin Seven still has possibilities in sprint and trials events, he answered emphatically “yes.” In post-war events Mallock has already demonstrated how an unsupercharged 750 Austin (with 1 5/16 crank and a single carburetter on a special manifold) can successfully rival a 30-h.p. Allard. A potent sprint machine can cheaply be made from an “Ulster,” “Nippy,” or “Speedy” basis; such a vehicle, with possibly 22 b.h.p. and weighing only 7 1/2 cwt., call give sufficient performance and afford a beginner a lot of experience. The old magneto-type engine (prior to 1928) with an “Ulster” or similar crank is the easiest unit to supercharge, as a drive can easily be taken from the front of the crankshaft. With the standard number of holding-down studs it is not safe to go above a 12-lb. boost, as anything over this pressure causes the cylinder block to lift. In this fashion a power/weight ratio in the order of a 100 b.h.p. per ton can be achieved. Those who run Austin Sevens have the choice of three different types of gearbox and five different back-axle ratios — these, coupled with different tyre sizes, will give a vast range of ratios.
Although only in his mid-thirties, his career has been a long one. He started on motor-cycles and belonged to the London Motor Club. He recalls how they met each week and staged many trials and rallies.
Continental touring is a great interest of his, and he has made two notable trips. One was in a 4 1/2-litre Bentley in the company of Anthony Heal, in which they traversed the Pyrenees. On the other occasion he went to Italy in his Fiat “500,” crossing the Col d’Iseran (9,950 ft.), which is the highest road in Europe, and arrived, without trouble, in Turin. Presenting himself at the Fiat showrooms, he said with some pride, “Look at us, we have come all the way from England in one of your cars.” To which they replied, “So what! a gentleman arrived the other week in a ‘Topolino’ all the way from India.”
As for achievements, Chambers has a list which is too long to mention. They include first-class awards in various trials driving a 2-litre Alfa-Romeo, also many trophies whilst driving the many 4 1/2-litre Bentleys which passed through his hands.
Early in the year Chambers was demobilised from the R.N.V.R., in which he was an engineer-lieutenant. He was connected with torpedo and motor gunboats of the Coastal Force (it was when in command of one of these small ships that he scored one “U”-boat probably destroyed). Undoubtedly the engineering training that he received in the R.N. will be valuable to him in his present capacity as manager at L. M. Ballamy, Ltd. During the early part of the war he ran his “500,” but eventually became exasperated by its consistent unreliability. It was a 1937 model. When he switched to a 1937 Austin Seven saloon he decided that the sterling reliability of that model far outweighed the suspensional advantages of the Fiat. When he was driving the Fiat, he said, he imagined himself to be in a little sailing dinghy, angling with the forces, all the while endeavouring to gain the best advantage so as to keep him going at a reasonable gait.
At the present time he owns a 1903 18-h.p. Mercédès-Benz (which he is rebuilding), a 1908 Hutton 5,810-c.c. T.T. car, a 1928 Austin 747-c.c. s.c. single-seater, and a 1937 Austin Seven saloon.
Chambers was hard put to it to think of his most frightening experience, as he claims that he never had time to be frightened on the occasion. However, he says, he should have been frightened when the following incident occurred: —
It was at Donington In 1936, he had entered for his first race in a Windrum and Garston Special (4 1/2-litre Bentley with 9-ft. wheelbase). The car had just been rebuilt and he had spent much time endeavouring to run it in before the event. It had suffered from over-heating in practice, but with additional running it was hoped that the trouble would not reoccur. Chambers started from scratch and worked his way to second place out of the ten starters. He was driving with great energy, and keeping his thoughts only on the big chance which seemed almost within his grasp. As he passed the pits he thought he heard an “expensive” noise, but seeing the leader ahead he decided to finish the lap. Suddenly a sheet of flame shot out extending five feet each side of the car. Instantly he groped for the ignition switches to stop an engine which had ceased to exist. On coming to rest, inspection revealed that the bottom half of the engine was completely blasted away. The crankshaft was there, but bent. There were no connecting-rods nor was there a sump. Some time later a small boy picked up part of a connecting-rod about 200 yards from where the “blow up” occurred.