Vintage postbag, August 1961

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92

Daimlers, etc.

Sir,

Many thanks for another interesting issue, and especially for the Daimler articles.

You may not remember that the 3-speed 16/55 cars were fitted with Morris-Oxford gearboxes, complete with MOWOG cast on the outside. In spite of having about the most gutless engine ever made harnessed to a fairly solid car, the instruction book said:

“Starting on the level. Engage top gear and glide silently away.”

Thanks to a cork-and-oil clutch, you could, too.

I knew two brothers who had these cars, both second- or third-hand, in the Good Old Days. One was the usual high saloon with vee-screen, but the other was a rather neat drophead coupé which had been converted to right-hand change (still 3-speed box). This car had the peculiarity that it used hardly any oil, well, say 800 m.p.g. Also, it was quite fast, and would certainly cruise at 50 m.p.h., which Was Quite a Thing.

One day the owner came to me with a rather sad expression and asked would I have a look at it. He started the engine and from the tail-pipe came a most enormous cloud of smoke. After a few moments the engine began to miss, and actual engine oil began to run out of the pipe onto the road, quite clean oil, too.

Apparently someone had asked when he last had the engine decoked, and as this had, of course, never been done, he was told that this was definitely necessary. Once the junk rings had been disturbed, they were never any good, and should have been renewed, but his local garage did not know this. The sump held about 1-1/2 gallons, and would now empty itself in 30 miles. As the car was only worth about £25 anyway, I found him a Twenty Sunbeam, and the Daimler went to the breakers.

I had a 20/70 for a short time, but it was very slow. The-4-speed central change was the “wrong” way round, like a Bugatti, top being right and forward. It was succeeded by a 3-litre Sunbeam, which, in spite of the woeful tales sometimes told about them, was absolutely reliable and very fast. I also had a 24-h.p. Minerva which was in some ways nicer than the Daimlers, but it had poor brakes and about 40 m.p.h. was enough on a level road.

It would be interesting to hear from Voisin or Peugeot owners of those days, particularly to have some quotations from the Voisin instruction book, which had been translated into English by someone with a real poetic fancy!

To change the subject to the Fiat “Mephistopheles.” You say that this had steel water-jackets welded on; I think they are copper, and were said to have been made by coating the steel cylinder thickly with wax and then copper-plating the whole lot. This car is surprisingly tractable, and is quite happy on the road, where I drove it some time (i.e., 30 years) ago, although it had never been licensed, insured, or fitted with reverse gear. Eldridge had a Brooklands silencer on it, but as usual this made it even noisier. The brakes were not all that bad, but, then, my car at the time was an E-type 30/98 …

I am, Yours, etc.,

Bury. – W. G. S. WIKE.

[The present owner’s hand-out quotes steel water-jackets. – Ed.]

* * * * *

Non-Mini Minor

Sir,

Now that controversies over the Mini-Minor are raging fiercely in your columns, perhaps owners would be interested to see what advances have been made in “the last word in small car motoring” over the past 30 years. I own the “Mini’s” grandfather, a 1930 Morris Minor saloon (sliding windows, starter on the floor) with the original o.h.c. engine replaced by a 1931 s.v. model. This car gets undergraduate-cum-landrover treatment, needs faithful but inexpensive maintenance (34 grease nipples) and is remarkably reliable, our most dicey moment being landed on top of a roundabout with a broken track rod.

Engine: Upright and honest. Plenty of noise with about 850 c.c. I suppose giving 45 m.p.h. (cruising), 50-60 (flogging it) and 35 m.p.g. Oil about 650 miles to the pint.

Gearbox: No trouble about beating the synchromesh because there isn’t any.

Controls: Splendid. Lots of dials, gauges and switches and none of those b . . . . little lights. The accelerator is “in the middle” making it dead easy to toe and heel. (Why this layout was never continued I can’t think.)

Suspension: Good for the liver.

Cornering: Pretty good considering. One tends to slide rather than roll.

Leaks: None – even though you can see the road through the slots for the pedals. (Did somebody mention cracked underseal?)

Heater: The finest available – a 1 inch hole drilled on a level with the fan through the dividing panel between engine and cockpit.

It is sad to realise that pride has departed from B.M.C. to such an extent that the gentleman in the publicity department at Cowley, didn’t even know “that there had been a Minor before the 1947 model!”

I am, Yours, etc.,

Oxford. – John I. Smith.

* * * * *

 

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