A Johannesburg Stable

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By J. G. M. Hindle

Thr following notes and photographs are sent as likely to be of interest to Motor Sport readers, and to show that a few enthusiasts and cars of the right type still survive in this part of the world. The snaps were taken at a recent Christmas gathering at my place, eight miles out of Johannesburg, which is generally regarded as a gathering point for vintage-minded folk for miles around. Incidentally the “estate,” “usines,” “ateliers,” or what you will of the Hindle establishment is called “Shelsdon Brook,” which is a nice compound of Shelsley, Donington and Brooklands (alas, now memories of eleven years ago for me). It was thought. that the inclusion of other well-known venues in the name would result in too unwieldy a title! I have recently resumed “civvy” life again after 5 1/2 years in the South African Air Force, and this occasion marks the bringing to life again of cars which have been carefully stored (with most complete internal inhibiting) for six years.

I will now give a brief description of my own cars, i.e., a Type 51 Bugatti, a Type 37 Bugatti, an O.E. “30/98” Vauxhall, a J.2 M.G. amd a D.K.W.

Type 51 Bugatti.– Although this looks fairly complete in chassis form in the photograph, this is only the way in which it was stored as the crank and all engine internals are not inside yet. This car, made in 1931, was bought via Lemon Burton when I was on leave in 1938 and was still in bond in England when it was shipped out here. A complete 100 per cent. overhaul down to bare chassis sideframes was commenced in late 1938, and when hostilities suspended all work the chassis, axles, transmission, gearbox and most or the engine details had been dealt with. The replacements fitted included a new crown-wheel and pinion, third-speed gears, layshaft keys and cast iron clutch plates, the rest of the car being in very good condition. Incidentally, the block and crank were inspected prior to purchase. It now remains to fit a set of new valves and put the remaining pieces together, when a really 100 per cent. Bugatti should result, the whole outfit being now in “most immaculate” condition, as befits one of Ettore’s best models, and would do credit to a Bugatti Club’s best-kept car competition.

No major modifications are incorporated in this car, except a special inlet manifold (of M. Gaupillat’s design, I believe) and solid king pins, as it is considered that there is sufficient power in standard tune (5-mm. comp. plate and engine-speed blower) and it is not at present thought advisable to tempt the transmission with extra power. These ideas of course may be modified at some future date! Performance not yet fully known.

Type 37 Bugatti. – This is complete and serviceable. Although it. may surprise some people, I make the statement without a blush that this is one of the most reliable cars of any type which I have used in 25 years of motoring experience, having used it for touring, business, racing, etc„ without anything ever having gone not according to plan. The car was new in late 1927 and was bought from Papworth in 1931, the demonstration run for me being made by Charles Brackenbury across Wimbledon Common. As soon as it was bought I did a 100 per cent. overhaul (as is my standard practice when getting a fresh car, both to check on condition and to get to know intimately every detail of construction). Modifications now incorporated include: Drilled crank for full pressure lubrication, bevel-driven oil pump opposite to water pump, pistons of Martlett type (actually the ones Fielding used for Shelsley), giving 7 3/4 to 1 compression ratio with the 1/8in. plate in and 9 1/4 to 1 with it out; twin Solex carburetters, Scintilla Vertex magneto, and reducing valve with separate gauge for the camshaft oil supply.

During the many thousands of miles I have run this car I have done two complete overhauls including remetalling the rods and mains each time and six extra top overhauls. Piston and bore wear has been negligible (bores now 3 1/2 thou. max.). One pair of third-speed gears replaced. Nothing wears out on the back axle, transmission or brakes in normal use. Normal use means: a full warming up, no short runs, and cruising at not less than 70 m.p.h. when. on a clear road. Under these conditions the performance in full road trim (with 1/8-in. plate in) is a genuine 90 m.p.h. with a quickly attained 75. Consumption is 19 m.p.g. fuel and 1,600 m.p.g. oil. Oil pressure 90 lb./sq. in. at 60ºC., water being kept at 90°C. by suitably blanking the radiator. As the exhaust valves are the original hollow-stemmed ones these are being changed in the near future as it is thought that Providence has been. tempted to the limit!

O.E. “30/98” Vauxhall. — This is complete and serviceable and at the moment in daily use due to the M.G. and D.K.W. being both in pieces. It was previously the well-known Warburton trials car and was also bought when I was on leave in 1938. A detailed account of the rebuild was given by Molyneux in the Autocar of March 20th, 1942; see also the back page of Motor Sport for January, 1939. The car was new in 1924 but the engine (counterbalanced crank), gearbox, and back axle are the latest type, approximately late 1927. Modifications incorporated include: — Hepolite pistons, 7 1/4 to 1 compression, in cylinders bored out to 100 mm. (same size as 4 1/2-litre Bentley), Scintilla magneto, twin Zenith carburetters, interconnected front and rear brakes (transmission brake removed), stiffening rings on front brake drums (these are still the “kidney box” type but by suitable lever ratios they do work — Bentley and Delage axle exponents take note!), double torque arms, external exhaust, triple Hartfords plus Andre Telecontrols, double chassis member under radiator, all chassis rivets replaced by “Litensile” bolts, larger fuel tank, larger section tyres on rims to suit, twice as many bolts holding the pinion housing to the differential housing, all the flywheel machined off leaving only a disc the width of the starter ring teeth, external battery box to take two 13-plate Willards in series, battery master switch inside lock-up luggage space, cycle type mudguards, triple head lamps, external gear lever, twin spare wheels shod with “comps”. (ideal for cross-country work out here).

Performance in full touring trim is a very easy 90 m.p.h., a full 100 is believed quite possible (but real flat-out tests must await new tyres). Cruising at 70 m.p.h. (only 2,500 r.p.m.) gives 17 m.p.g. of fuel and 1,500 m.p.g. oil. Oil pressure 15 lb./sq. in. at 60°C. and water regulated to 85°C. Cruising at 70 m.p.h. is very smooth and effortless, one never dreams of doing less on a clear road.

J.2 M.G. — This is a 1934 model with “P” type wings and was bought out here in 1940. This car has been in use for a 50-mile week-end run home for the last three years. My usual 100 per cent. stripdown was not required in this case as I had just watched the engineer friend from whom I bought it do the job in approved thorough manner. Modifications incorporated include: — Heplex pistons, 8 1/2 to 1 compression ratio, Lucas Vertex magneto, twin S.U. fuel pumps, hardened cylinder liners, external exhaust, Ford Eight connecting rods (I don’t know if this is a usual modification in England, but they stand up far better than the M.G. rods), lubrication to the front end of the crank as well as the rear end, axle shafts shrunk into the hubs with reinforcing rings shrunk over (the shafts were machined down from Morris Twelve shafts), “Kralinator” bypass type oil cleaner. One point to make some M.G. owners envious is that never a drop of oil leaks from the camshaft drive, the top of the generator being always literally bone dry?

As regards the M.G. generally, I was disappointed in its general roadholding and steering considering the racing associations of the firm. The steering in particular is far too low-geared, and experiments in changing trail, camber, etc., make no improvement in directional stability; there is a feeling of bad oversteer, particularly in sharp turns. Of course my standard of handling being by Bugatti, is very high and critical, but even so the 22-year-old “30/98” still comes up to requirements. However, the car is very pleasant for business use, having the bottom end flexibility and smoothness for town use which the Bugattis have not (and which is not exactly a feature of the Vauxhall without its flywheel — but when it comes to acceleration — wow!). Performance under petrol rationing, driven at a steady 45 m.p.h., is 38 m.p.g. fuel and 1,200 m.p.g. oil. Oil pressure 70 lb./sq. in. at 70°C. and water at 95°C. (By some mystery the water keeps at this temperature without a thermostat or any variations in the radiator blanking — quite a useful feature — I don’t know why.) Non-rationed motoring, cruising at 60 m.p.h., gives 30 m.p.g. with the same settings and about 75 m.p.h. maximum.

General. — All the above cars have the following fittings: — Speedometer, tachometer, oil pressure gauge, oil temperature gauge, water temperature gauge, clock (I’ll allow anyone to say “pansy” if they want — although there is no ash tray the wind blows the ash away anyhow), ammeter (except the “51,” which has no electrics fitted), air pressure gauge (except the J.2), extra oil tank with hand pump feed to the sump, plus a Tapley meter and Telecontrol gauge on the “30/98” only, and a boost gauge on the Type 51 only.

D.K.W. — This is the only closed car I possess and is in the interests of my wife and also for business about town in had weather. (The process of putting on my patent-design, open-car coat takes quite a time and is hardly a practical proposition for short journeys.) This is a 1936 model cabriolet and is only a recent acquisition which is in process of having the aforementioned 100 per cent. check. However, it was bought on the strength of my experience with a previous 1935 model which I ran for 75,000 miles without any mechanical replacements whatsoever and only three decokes! In spite of John Bolster’s perverted ideas (strange ideas, because I am with him in his views on “specials” and “30/98s”), I consider these are absolutely the world’s best utility jobs, which are so popular here that people go to the trouble of having spares locally made in preference to swapping for the other makes of “sevens, eights and nines.” (The locally-made spares are not so hot though!) Performance cruising at 50 m.p.h., averaged over the whole 75,000 miles, was 42 m.p.g., which rose to a full 50 m.p.g. at 35 m.p.h., and the maximum bore wear at 75,000 miles was only 3 1/2 thou.! I think that a thou. per 20,000 miles in unlinered cylinders mostly at 3,500 r.p.m. is quite good going for any engine. The electrics are really well carried out in spite of the “Heath Robinson” references by our special-builder friend and a combination of petroil and roller bearings means no stickiness, the engine starts, idles or pulls instantly irrespective of whether the air temperature is 100°F. or freezing, and that, coupled with the dynamotor starter (no pinion to engage), makes the ideal business potter bus. Roadholding and steering almost satisfy the Bugatti standards, certainly far better than other popular small cars. The only point I can concede to Bolster is the brakes — a reline about every 10,000 miles, but it is easily done. Later models, however, are not so good as the 1935 model.

Proposed Modifications

Type 51. — None.
Type 37. — None.
“30/98” Vauxhall. — A Hele-Shaw streamline filter, ex Lancia “Lambda.” This in view of the fact that a “30/98” is filterless except for the gauze sump tray.
J.2 M.G. — A Laystall circular web fully counterbalanced crank, designed by myself and now on order (see sketch). This is because past experience has proved that the standard crank is unsatisfactory even for normal use. I have had two in already and luckily discovered the cracked crankpins during routine overhauls before any damage occurred!

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The following table summarises various features of the sporting types: —

The other cars in the vintage group photograph are Jeff Watson’s 4 1/2–litre Bentley (this is the chap who collects old-timers by the dozen, see Motor Sport of July 1943), Pierre Kelfken’s 4 1/2-litre Invicta (he also owns the ex-Earl Howe 3.3 Bugatti but it was not possible to get this along to the gathering), also a couple of “23/60” Vauxhalls. Other sporting cars which I personally know in this country include: Type 35C Bugatti, 3.8 Maserati Six, 2.9 Maserati Eight, Maserati Six (independent front, torsion bar), 1 1/2-litre E.R.A., 2.6 Monza Alfa, “R” type M.G., “C” type M.G., “328” B.M.W., 1 1/2-litre Riley Six (six Amals), 1 1/2-litre Alfa Six, 1 1/2-litre Frazer-Nash, and a selection of other Riley and Austin specials, etc.

In conclusion I should like to send greetings to any of the following who may chance to see this article. Some of them may or may not still be interested in sporting cars, and it must be upward of twelve years since I saw many of them: Lemon Burton, Eric Giles, Austin Molyneux and partner West, H. W. Papworth, Charles Brackenbery, H. C. Lones, H. Prestwich, Jim Fielding, Robert Arbuthnot, Rhodes, G. F. Mucklew, G. Lane Jones, Charlie Dodson, Guy Warburton, etc., including all those I used to meet at various events in England who may remember me but whose names escape me at the moment. Also if this should catch their eyes I should very much appreciate any Bugatti information from Whincop and C. L. Clarke, neither of whom I have ever met, but who both seem to have used Bugattis to quite good purpose without having any major snags.

A further note since writing the above: On recently trying out the Type 37 Bugatti on a day that must have been over 90°F., I was surprised to find that after only eight miles at 3,000 r.p.m. the oil was 80°C. and the water boiling merrily! And this is the car on which oil never exceeded 65°C. in England and the radiator was never less than half blanked off to keep the water up to 90°C. Seems as though I shall have to confine fast Bugatti-ing to the winter. June, July and August are the most pleasant months here anyhow for open car motoring. This is the dry season and to me pleasantly cool, although many South Africans would probably call it cold.

A further homely note concerns this first run of the Type 37 after seven years — one enthusiast who was standing by as the well-known “wum-wum-wum” of a 37 warming up at 1,500 r.p.m. broke on the air, twitched his nostrils and remarked, “It smells just the same as it used to do.” What memories that smell recalls!