Busy at Bagshot
Calling in at Cowell, Whittet & Co.’s premises the other day, we found much to intrigue the enthusiast. As is now well known, the workshop at was built, most effectively, by amateur effort and, since then, one labourer, aided when necessary by the works staff, has added a sizable machine-shop, in which a new lathe, horizontal milling machine and other modern machine tools are being installed.
Of the cars in the workshop, our attention was attracted first by Cowell’s 2-litre Alta, undergoing one of its routine examinations. This car has, of course, the immediately pre-war chassis with full independent suspension by torsion bars, and the clever double reduction gearbox before the rear axle, which lowers the transmission line and also enables the final-drive ratio to be changed from 3.8 to 1 to 4.2 to 1 with a minimum of effort. The universal joints of the reardrive shafts are even larger than those on Beadle’s Alta and the gearbox is a Type 110 E.N.V. Cowell has had a number of mods. carried out on the car, amongst which may be mentioned lowering the radiator cowl 6 in., with new bonnet to suit, and extending the steering column. The carburetter is now a 2 1/4-in. S.U. with twin float-chambers.
The next car to be examined was the ex-Tongue, ex-Peter Aitken E.R.A., which may have found a new owner by the time these words appear. It is one of the earliest cars, but with many of the later modifications, including de Ramm shock-absorbers, and the special feed pipe direct from the water-pump to No. 5 cylinder, to obviate the hot-spot which used to develop at this point on these engines. The Wheels are rather unique, having light-alloy rims. At the time of our visit a new clutch and racing Riley “crash-type” gearbox were being installed. Many drivers seem to prefer the non-pre-selective box, in which connection Gerard comes to mind.
A hive of activity in one corner turned out to be the famous four-wheel-drive “Fuzzi,” purchased by Lance Macklin, son of the Director of Railton’s and being rebuilt and serviced for him by Cowell, Whittet & Co. The steel-tube chassis has been lengthened 22 in. to enable a V8 Mercury engine to be installed, and this will drive, via a Ford V8 “22” gearbox, by chain to a shaft running along the near side of the chassis, which will, in turn, pick up with the front and rear axles. Whittet, who is distinctly a welding wizard, is in his element on this job and is pre-fabricating the engine mountings and such-like from welded-up steel sheeting. Suspension is on the Porsche torsion-bar system at the front and by transverse leaf spring at the rear, and an entirely new, very Mercédès-like body will be made up for the lengthened chassis.
Another car giving vast scope to Whittet’s welding prowess is his own road “special,” which he is building purely as a hobby at the moment, although replicas may possibly follow. The chassis is an entirely ingenious affair of light steel tubes based on an aeroplane fuselage. Suspension is by long coil springs all round, these springs being set vertically. Terry’s did a fine job in quickly supplying what was wanted to Whittet’s specification. At the front a cut-about Riley axle is used in two halves, to give swinging-half axle i.f.s., and at the rear a normal Riley axle will be used, but with springs mounted high up on an “A”-frame in order to set the roll-centre as high as possible, and with a Panhard rod to look after lateral movement. Into this stiff, very light frame will go a Riley “Sprite” engine and E.N.V. gearbox, together with an auxiliary gearbox. The body will be a fully-streamlined 2-seater of lightalloy panels on a tubular steel framework.
Next, we came upon “Moses,” the very professional-looking 1 1/2-litre racing single-seater built for his own amusement by Rodney Stafford before the war. The engine is one of the “works” blown T.T. roller-bearing Meadows, which Stafford took delivery of all crated-up, and in very good condition. It apparently has a very special crankshaft. Drive is through a normal Moss 4-speed-and-reverse gearbox and the chassis is made from divers different components and has normal suspension. The car weighs 11 1/4 cwt. “wet” and is known to be capable of upwards of 110 m.p.h. Virtually a brand-new vehicle, it is for sale, and Cowell and Whittet hope it may be purchased by a client for whom they can service it, because they have taken quite a fancy to it. They rather have a flair for servicing cars they sell, as witness the 3 1/2-litre “Competition” Delahaye, bought by Avery, which they will prepare for dicing at Prescott and elsewhere. They have also recently sold the ex-Waddy Delahaye and the astonishilig ex-Richards Rover Ten Special.
Cowell kept his hand in road-driving both this car and the “Competition” Delahaye; the former is now being fitted with all-weather equipment for the new owner. Cowell’s now famous Jeep, taxed as a private car, is used as the concern’s tow-car, and is equipped with such things as vice and portable welding plant to facilitate “repairs in the field.” Another interesting car we noticed was a “Montlhèry” M.G. Midget with Powerplus supercharger, new manifolding and a J4 cylinder head. This had been built up literally from a heap of bits and was for sale to a good home. There was also a very spick and glittering V8 Autovia engine, the one exhibited at the 1938 Show, which would be sold as it stands or built into a “special” if the client so desired. In, short, there is lots going on down at Lightwater. Whittet emphasised that the workers there are not really mechanics toiling for their bread (which isn’t sufficient incentive to toil, these days), but enthusiasts who like working on good and exciting motor-cars. We can expect even more interesting happenings down at Lightwater next year — even the production of a new 1 1/22-litre G.P. engine of their own conception.
Lones and Strang have set the 500-c.c. ball in no mean manner at Prescott and at Shelsley Walsh, using J.A.P. and H.R.D. one-lunger engines, respectively. Next season, or even at the tail-end of this, we can expect more cars to compete in this class. Bearing out Whittet’s remarks about his staff, reported above, one member of the firm, Hugh Sewell, had all the parts for his proposed 500-c.c. “special” gathered about him and assembly should, by now, have begun. He intends to use a chassis built-up, as one would expect at Cowell and Whittet’s, of 3-in. dia. steel tubing, braced by three 3-in. cross tubes, and with the remaining necessities fabricated from mild steel plate. The front end will be Fiat “500” and the rear will consist of the front end of a f.w.d. D.K.W., thus providing independent suspension front and back. The engine will be a Triumph Twin, probably a “Tiger 100,” set behind the driver, a la Strang, and driving via the appropriate Triumph gearbox. Fiat wheels will probably be used in front and D.K.W. wheels at the back, at all events to start with, and the top gear ratio will be a matter for experimentation.
Another person who is about to put together a similar car is none other than genial Tim Carson, V.S.C.C. secretary. Tim’s idea is to use an Austin Seven chassis (a la Lones) but with the front axle and 1/4-elliptic springs from his old s.v. Amilcar. His engine, set in the conventional position before the driver, will be Norton — an E.S.2 for sprint work and a Model 18 for longer duration dicing. Tim proposes to take both engines to meetings, so that if one gives up the ghost he can use the other — literally a case “dropping in a new engine, old boy.” From the engine sprocket a chain will convey the drive to an off-set Norton gearbox and another chain will bring the drive back to the Austin Seven prop. shaft. For a start, the wheels will probably be ordinary Austin Seven, with 3.50 x 19-in. tyres. This car is unlikely to be ready before the 1947 season. Another 500-c.c. exponent is F/Lt. Palmer, who will use a 500-c.c. flat-twin Douglas dirt-track engine, while Crowley-Milling hopes to produce a car with Triumph Twin engine.
Writing of the half-litres, reminds us that when we called on Hanks recently, at his orderly garage and machine-shop at Theale, we discovered that he had sold his Type 40 Bugatti and nearly all his Bugatti spares; although he can still find a few of those 8 and 10-mm. nuts which elude the keenest Bugatti enthusiasts at times. Hanks has in hand a most interesting outboard motor boat engine unit, and it is of only 200 c.c. A four-stroke s.v. flat-twin, it is both neat and compact and should be a serious rival to more cumbersome units and to temperamental two-strokes. The opposed cylinders are cooled by water drawn up the propeller-drive column by the action of the propeller itself, and the exhaust gases pass out under water, via a passage in this column, warming the incoming cooling water as they go. The valves are inclined, giving the modern, efficient combustion chamber, and the crankshaft, running in plain bearings, has a central disc web and separate crank-pins for each big-end. A diminutive oil pump draws oil from the oil tank and the propeller drive gears resemble a tiny rear-axle crownwheel and pinion. The little Amac carburetter feeds via neat external inlet piping. Ignition is by flywhedl magneto. The whole unit will be sold at about £60.