Letter: "Baladeur" responds to W. Boddy

Author

Baladeur

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Sir

In his reply to my review of his book, “The Story of Brooklands”, Mr. Boddy raises an interesting point with regard to the dimensions of the engine of the 1913 Grand Prix Itala. He says “the Autocar . . . of May 24th, 1913, quotes the 1913 rotary-valve Grand Prix car as of 125 by 170 mm., 8,341. c.c., not 125 by 160 mm. suggested by ‘Baladeur ‘.”  The Motor of July 8th, 1913, also gives the stroke of this engine as 170 mm., and the statement is repeated in the issue of July 15th, 1913. Moreover, the Auto-Motor Journal  of July 19th, 1913, twice gives the dimensions of this engine as 125 by 170 mm. But,  the Autocar of July 12th, 1913, gives the dimensions as 125 by 160 mm., and, as if to show that this is no mere misprint, repeats this statement in its issue of July 19th, 1918, at the same time working out the capacity as 7,853 c.c.

In the face of this conflict of evidence,  I have (rightly or wrongly) decided in favour of the Autocar of July 12th and 19th, because it seems to me probable that in July that journal had cause to correct the information which it had given on May 24th, whereas the Motor and the Auto-Motor Journal were perhaps adhering to an uncorrected figure. This is admittedly only a surmise, but a surmise, as I shall hope to show in a moment, of a type in which the motoring historian is rather frequently forced to indulge.

According to the B.A.R.C. records, as quoted by Mr. Boddy, however, the dimensions of Robertson Shersby-Harvie’s Itala were 125 by 175 mm., and I do not find that a stroke as long as 175 mm. is anywhere claimed for the 1913 Grand Prix engine. In his book, however, Mr. Boddy describes Shersby-Harvie’s Itala as a 1912 Grand Prix car. I do not know his authority for this statement, and as I pointed out in my review, no Itala ran in the 1912 race.  Is it possible, however, that cars with engines of 125 by 175 mm. were prepared for it but not entered; that, faced with the fuel consumption limit in 1913, a modified version, with the stroke reduced to 170 mm., was brought. to Brooklands for tests in May; that by the time of the race in July the stroke had been further reduced to 160 mm; and that Shersby-Harvie’s car had one of the unmodified 1912 engines?

Mr. Boddy is kind enough to describe my criticism as “leniently-mild”;  if I may say so, a critic of motor racing history who was anything else would prove himself either an ignoramus or a fool. Let me prove this contention with just one example. Mr. Gerald Rose is, I think, by common consent the most accurate motoring historian who has yet made his appearance. But in the text of his “Record of Motor Racing” he gives the dimensions of the 1902 Paris-Vienna Renault engine as 100 by 120 mm.; and yet in his table of mechanical details at the end of the book he gives the dimensions of this same engine as 120 by 120 mm. Posterity, I take it, will never know which of these figures is correct; both cannot be right; that in the text appears the more probable; but the table, according to the author, “has been made up only from figures supplied by the makers themselves, in order to obtain the greatest possible accuracy.” Those of us. who come afterwards are forced to indulge in surmise.

I am, Yours, etc.

“Baladeur”