Test Of A Buckler Special

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Ford Ten-engined “specials” based on the multi-tubular frame, special suspension and other parts of which Bucklers, of Reading, make a speciality, are becoming increasingly popular. In order to discover what are their attractions, we spent a day recently with C. D. F. Buckler’s own car. It proved an excellent tonic, for very respectable average speeds can be attained without effort, and bends, secondary roads, and traffic congestion, add to, rather than diminish, the enjoyment of the driver.

Perhaps the car’s outstanding characteristics are its excellent roadholding and cornering abilities. The suspension, by transverse leaf springs with divided-axle i.f.s. permits considerable movement of the road wheels but is adequately damped, so that the ride is on the hard side, and roll-free. In conjunction with this suspension is steering which it very light for its high gearing (17/8 ths turns, lock to lock), sensitive, with adequate but not vicious castor-action, and transmitting return-motion only over very rough surfaces. The result is a car which can be whipped with ease and without any vices round corners up to the limit of its speed. Normally there is neither over- nor under-steer, although the emphasis is on the latter. Certainly even experienced drivers find themselves cutting out unnecessarily early for corners on first acquaintance with the Buckler, and subsequently surprising themselves as to how far they can “move-back” their cut-off points. The beauty of this road-clinging is that it is, for all practical purposes, unaffected by bad road surfaces, no mean achievement in a car which weighs only 10¾ cwt. in running trim, with tools and several gallons of fuel.

The very light weight, which might impair roadholding but most assuredly does not, ensures surprisingly good acceleration from a s.v. Ford Ten engine, which is a convenient, durable and economical power unit to use—although French and Italian small-car enthusiasts may well wonder why we trouble with it! There is also sufficient speed to enable the merits of the chassis to be enjoyed. We would place the genuine maximum at 75 m.p.h., using aero-screens, and, once attained, this speed can he held, as they say, indefinitely, water temperature steady at 90 deg. C. (the radiator lives behind the engine, incidentally), oil pressure likewise at 30 lb./sq.in. In second gear it is possible to reach 60 m.p.h., but more lenient to change-up at 55. As 40 m.p.h. can be reached in bottom gear there need be no loss of sleep over absence of a four-speed box. This with an experimental 4.7 to 1 back axle and 4.50-17 tyres.

A 70-75 m.p.h. maximum is nothing to shout about in 1952, even from a 1,172-c.c. car, but the Buckler seems to go faster than its speedometer, an impression no doubt enhanced by air streaming past an aero-screen and a racing exhaust note which rises to a scream, suggesting that Mr. Buckler has found with the Ford Ten, as we did years ago with the Austin Seven, that power is wooed by giving the burnt gases their absolute freedom!

Speed apart, the acceleration is extremely usable, and would be better still with the more customary 5.5 to 1 axle-ratio. A standing ¼-mile, two up, occupied 21.6 sec., and from a standstill a genuine 50 m.p.h. was reached in 12.6 sec., 60 m.p.h. in 21.0 sec. The mean figures for two-way runs were: 22.0, 13.1 and 21.8 sec., respectively; 30 to 50 m.p.h. in top gear took 10.1 sec. This acceleration makes light of congested traffic conditions and, allied to the aforesaid “on-rails” cornering, enables the Buckler to run rings round larger and more pretentious vehicles.

There is yet another performance factor of this utility sports car which is outstanding–the economical fuel consumption. We tried it with a Ford carburetter and on an 8 to 1 compression ratio, with which it was entirely “pink”-free on 80-octane fuel and did not “run-on” when switched off. Driving hard, a consumption of better than 35 m.p.g. was achieved, and Buckler then fitted a quart test tank and demonstrated that, with care, a consumption of over 49 m.p.g. was obtainable, averaging about 40 m.p.h. over secondary roads one-up, 50-55 m.p.h. being held whenever possible. This excellent result astonished us, but again and again the test tank was filled, the average of three runs coming out at better than 47 m.p.g. Such economy is another offshoot of light weight, and for the same reason the standard Girling brakes are entirely adequate to the performance.

All controls are light to operate and the remote-control gearchange quick in use but with the irritating shortcoming that, in a hurry, first gear cannot always be located correctly. There is no point in discussing the controls in detail, because each enthusiast will plan their location and action to his or her own satisfaction. The same applies to bodywork—actually Buckler favours a spartan two-seater with spare wheel and 6½-gallon fuel tank in the tail, and high doors which, excellent for keeping out rain and dirt, do rather enhance the impression of sitting in an animated bath. The Buckler frame is available in both two and three-seater form.

Altogether we were most favourably impressed and at a later date look forward to trying the car in supercharged guise..—W. B.