Vintage Postbag, August 1964

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VINTAGE POSTBAG

Brush or Spray?

Sir,

So the Editor wondered whether the Banfield Chevrolet at the H.C.V.C. Brighton run was brush or spray painted. I wish to assure him that it was coachpainted – spraying was virtually unknown 35 years ago and therefore when restoring the LQ we naturally hand-finished it and this was carried but by a person who has had many years’ experience of first-class brush painting.

You may be interested to know that the Chevrolet has a 14-seat canvas-topped Bush & Twiddy body and was discovered in a derelict state in Norfolk three years ago. In the meanwhile, searches were made for authentic replacements for the many missing parts which were not obtainable and finally, last year, restoration was commenced in our own workshops – complete from the chassis to the bodywork. The Chevrolet is now finished in the livery of Charles W. Banfield Ltd. and is a replica of the second coach my father commenced his coach business with. The first vehicle was a Garford “chara-banc” and we have now acquired a similar chassis of this make and type to enable us to recreate the historic first vehicle of the new Banfield fleet when research and time will permit.

MICHAEL. J. BANFIELD, Deputy Chairman, H.C.V.C.

London, S.E.5.

(My apologies for not finding Mr. Banfield and checking with him on the day – which he can blame on the excellence of the National Benzole hospitality! – ED.)

 

Memories of the Xtracar

Sir,

I read with great interest a recent letter concerning the Extracar. This is the first time that I have seen this make of vehicle mentioned in print since I owned one as my very first car in or about 1922, as a very young motorist of 17. I would not swear to this, but I think that the name was in fact spelt Xtracar, and the manufacturers were the Xtracar Company Ltd., of Chertsey, Surrey. I have very clear, but not entirely favourable, memories of this rather unique vehicle, which was fairly typical of the 3-wheel cyelecars of that era that preceded that much more successful Morgan. It was a long, narrow, single-seater affair, in my case with a bright, yellow torpedo-shaped body of flimsy construction in wood and aluminium having two wheels at the front with direct steering, but unlike the Morgan, a Villiers 3 3/4-h.p. rating two-stroke engine and transmission unit integral with the single rear wheel. This lived underneath a hinged flap with rubber covering on which one could pile suitcases and other “cargo” secured by straps, and exposed to the full fury of the elements. There was a small windscreen, an elementary hood which was difficult to get up when carrying luggage, and, I think, a vestigial seat-space in tandem behind the driver the dimensions of which I find it hard to remember.

Youthful passengers could, and frequently did, sit astride the rubber-covered flap; but there was just one thing the makers seemed to have overlooked, which was that when this was closed, the air-cooled engine had almost no ventilation except from below. This was a distinct disadvantage, and after at most ten miles, driving at the maximum cruising speed of about 35 m.p.h. the power unit would quietly subside, and was found to be red-hot right up to the terminal of the K.L.G. plug! After a suitable respite at the side of the road, One could if lucky restart the motor by pulling upwards a kind of lavatory chain which was located on the floor by the driver’s feet. In general, a close relation of the present-day raptor lawn-mower; but rather less reliable! However, the car made a splendid noise when it did start, and I well remember the interested audience from Directors downwards that use to turn out to watch, applaud and frequently push when I set out on my return home from work.

In other respects, the car had a pedal brake (on the rear wheel only) and was driven by the usual hand-throttle and ignition-advance levers on the steering wheel, as was current motorcycle practice in those days. There was no clutch, but a rather ingenious form of 2-speed transmission employing friction drums and final drive to the rear wheel by belt. At the driver’s right hand was a lever located by a ratchet-release system, which when in the middle position disengaged pressure from the friction drums, giving neutral. I do not remember the exact mechanical layout, but on pushing the lever forward one engaged low gear, the forward pressure determining the amount of slip, and hence giving a clutch effect. In wet weather, or with grease, On the friction drums, this involved no mean effort; and the procedure when there was insufficient drive was to dress the drums with road-dust, or like material! They had special coverings, which could (fortunately) be quickly and cheaply renewed, as the whole drum assembly lifted out without difficulty.

Having achieved motion, the lever was then pulled backwards to engage the cruising gear; and the car ran very nicely until such time as engine temperature caught up with it. I fitted air-scoops through the sides of the engine compartment, but this made very little difference,.as the design had no provision for a really adequate through draught, and there was of course no fan. However, the large two-stroke and very light body gave it an excellent power-to-weight ratio, and with its rather low gearing the car would climb almost anything. There was of course no reverse gear; one merely pushed it, or picked it up and turned it round! The car was in fact so light that a favourite student’s exercise when I was at college was to perch it on top of the gate pillars; then I had to organise a squad to lift it down again before commencing the starting-home ceremony.

To round off the picture, the car originally had no electrical system; there was an imposing bulb-horn reminiscent of a prewar French taxi, and acetylene lighting. Later I installed a simple form of electrical lighting from dry batteries for the rear and wing lights. There was also no spare wheel – a rear-wheel puncture was a major calamity (as with some modern motorcycles and scooters – we seem to learn very slowly!), although, to be fair, punctures were quite rare. This was no sporting vehicle, and with about half the car as unsprung weight on the rear wheel, provided splendid training in skid control. In the wet one could not take a roundabout at much above 15 without doing it sideways. It was also too long in relation to the front wheelbase, and quite easily turned over; fortunately the speeds were not such as to make this quite the dangerous experience that it may sound, and in those days we dressed for the part. heater? It needed a refrigerator!

My main recollections are of having a lot of fun with the car, if more nearly in the motorcycle than the G.T. category! The engine and the transmission really gave very little trouble, and the petrol consumption was somewhere round 100 to the gallon. However, the unprotected belt final drive was as usual the Achilles heel, and my clearest memory is doing something about this, nearly always at dead of night, in evening dress (I played in a dance band in those days) and in pouring rain. The change in about 1925 to a beautiful little Gordon-England Austin Seven was made without regret, although even this was largely held together with tin-tacks; and after less than two years the body disintegrated, leaving a virtually perfect chassis as a basis for an early English “special.”

E. L. GARDINER.

Wolverhampton.

 

Is it a “Grasshopper” ?

Sir,

Having recently acquired the remains of what appears to be one of the Austin “Grasshoppers,” and so far having been unsuccessful in my search for information concerning the early life of the car, I would appreciate it if any reader or previous owner could help me.

The Irish registration number Ul 3345 is obviously not the original one. The bodywork is all aluminium including the bonnet which boasts the usual “Grasshopper” leather straps, and two air-scoops. The car is fitted with L.M.B. independent front suspension, and unfortunately the standard engine and gearbox.

Any information that anyone can give will be most kindly received.

PETER C. HORNBY

Yorkshire.

(The original Austin Grasshoppers had rigid front axles. – ED.)

 

Small Engines, Low Gears

Sir,

I was most surprised to see certain comments by one W. B. in an article entitled “What is a Vintage Car ?” in the June issue of MOTOR SPORT. Can W. B. possibly stand for Boddy the Editor’? If so my surprise is even greater.

I always thought Editors should be fair and impartial, not prejudiced, but Boddy has proved over the years to be greatly prejudiced against M.G.s and in particular those produced pre-war. In this article he refers to Singers, Riley, Alvis and J4 M.G.s as “things” and disparagingly calls them “low geared monstrosities.” I do not know a great deal about some of the cars mentioned, but the Le Mans Singer car was most popular and was used by a number of well-known pre-war drivers.

In particular, however, I would refer to the J4 type M.G. Midget, a blown handbuilt car with a very considerable performance. Surely such very well known pre-war drivers as Hugh Hamilton, Luis Fortes, D. K. Mansell, Tommy Simister, and the great Bobby Kohlrausch could not all be wrong, otherwise they would not have raced the J4 Midget, or been so very successful.

I feel that it must be conceded by the most grudging that in the early and middle 1930s M.G. created tremendous prestige not only at home but where it was most necessary, abroad, by their many racing successes, especially at a time when there was no other marque taking the place of Bentleys. Amongst the M.G. models that assisted in gaining their prestige was the J4 To discredit it by disparaging remarks is a great injustice to a car which well warrants the term “post vintage thoroughbred.”

G. V. COLES.

Tunbridge Wells.

(I have many times praised the splendid racing and record-breaking performances of M.G. cars and included the account of the fine showing of the M.G. Magnette team in a pre-war Mille Miglia, in a series of articles called “Great British Achievements” that we ran in MOTOR SPORT many years ago. It is only in the context of original ideals of the V.S.C.C., formed to cater for and foster hairy-engined, high-geared cars, that I question the inclusion in their membership of cars diametrically opposed to these ideals, such as the J4 M.G. If p.v.t. had never been invented, such confusion couldn’t arise! – ED)

 

Wanted – Sports Austin Sevens

Sir,

Has anyone any knowledge of the early sports/racing Austin Sevens? Either the works racers or the Brooklands model.

I am very anxious to acquire information about these cars and if possible find one of them for restoration. No clue is too small to follow up! If you or anyone else knows where one of these tiny cars may be concealing themselves I would very much like to know!

B. M. CLARKE.

Woodgreen.

 

 

The Rolls-Royce/Bentley Pageant

Sir,

I was surprised to learn, on reading your report on the Rolls-Royce and Bentley Pageant at Goodwood, that I was controlling the affair. I am sorry if I gave this impression to you or anyone else. I certainly did all I could to make it run smoothly, but I would be the last person to wish to detract from others who did far more than I to make the occasion a success. Full credit for the conception and execution of the Pageant must go to John Dymock-Maunsell, Chairman of the “20 Ghost Club,” and the lion’s share of the work as far as the Bentley Drivers’ Club is concerned was done by Johnny Green.

Incidentally, I feel that your reference to a “crunchy changeup” on Bill Cook’s Phantom III was uncalled for. It was surely a small price to pay for the enthusiasm and enterprise of his wife, who drove this large vehicle all day despite the disadvantage of her small stature, which made full depression of the clutch a demanding task to say the least! Her efforts contributed to Bill Cook being adjudged the winner of the General Accident, Fire & Life Assurance Trophy for the best composite Rolls-Royce and Bentley Stable (One Owner) – an achievement unfortunately omitted from your table of results.

STANLEY SEDGWICK.

Cobham.

(Point noted! Confusion arose because we rather think it was only due to Mr. Sedgwick’s kind intervention on our behalf that we received a Press pass for this splendid and memorable event. I have already apologised on the telephone to Mr. Cook for the shocking piece or reporting which Mr. Sedgwick censures in the second part of his letter, so isn’t he rather labouring the point ? A reporter should report what he sees (or hears!) without fear or favour, of course, and when I jotted down this rather idle note (the incentive to report being not quite stilled by the very excellent champagne lunch I had just enjoyed!) I had no idea whose car I was commenting on, or who was in control of it. We were not the only journal to omit the award so justifiably made to the courageous little lady, so perhaps the results sheets, which to my knowledge never arrived in this office, were a trifle vague? However, good show Dymock-Maunsell and Green; and sorry, sorry, sorry. . – ED)

 

Trojan O.C.

The Trojan O.C. is still active and held its Exmoor Meeting at the end of last month, with hill-storming on the moor under the guidance of Trojan-exponent Gp. Capt. Scroggs. The next fixture is a run in the Petersfield area on Sept. 20th. The Club’s notepaper depicts a Lyons’ Tea Trojan van (surely it should be a Brooke Bond’s van ?) and the members seem more addicted to vans, including post-war diesel Trojans, than cars, these days. The Secretary is D. Graham, 10, St. John’s, Red Hill, Surrey.

 

 

BATH CONCOURS D’ELEGANCE (July 11th)

All over the country during the summer months, owners of veteran, Edwardian, vintage p.v.t. and sometimes modern vehicles, not forgetting vintage commercials, supports fates, fairs, carnivals and charity functions by taking part in Concours d’Elegance, or, more strictly, contests of originality, presentability and pride of ownership. These innocent assemblies provide interest and enjoyment for the public, but may be in danger of drastic curtailment under the new Motor Rallies Advisory Committee, a point clubs and organisers should watch dilligently.

One of the biggest of these Concours d’Elegance is that held in the big recreation ground at Bath in aid of the Bath Round Table Fund for the Cheshire Home in Somerset which, in 1960, raised some £400 for this very deserving charity.

Last month nearly 100 cars from verteran to p.v.t.s were entered. Some of the small vintage cars, such as K.J. Ball’s 1919 Horstmann with cockpit kick-starter, A.W. Harris’ 1920 A.V. Monocar with J.A.P. engine exposed on the tail and cable-and-bobbin steering, which its owner drives to rallies not more than 50 miles distant, J.V. Burchell’s 1922 Calthorpe-like Hands, and the Autocrat coupé, were as presentable as the larger cars. Sports small cars were represented by M.A Cox’s 1925 Senechal and Rippon’s Amilcar, J.G. Ireland brought an air-cooled flat twin A.B.C. 2-seater, and Mrs Cardy’s 1923 12/40 Alvis tourer was impeccably turned out. Splendid examples of Morris Cowley and Austin Seven Chummy vied with many Rolls-Royces in holding the attention of the onlookers, who had the benefit of Rippon’s intelligent commentary.

The Hon. C. Buckmaster presented a rare 1923 Hotchkiss, Tennant his little Ariel Four, Whitehouse a Ballot, while one of the nicest, most original and rarest cars present was D. Bee’s 1924 11.9-h.p. Galloway saloon. Kain showed his twin-carburetter G.P. Bugatti with correct “wire-lacing,” Hardy a 20/60 Vauxhall saloon, while American cars were there in the form of a sturdy 1926 23-h.p. Buick with drum-shape headlamps and a 1929 24-h.p. Roosevelt. Elegance at opposite extremes was personified by A. Lomas’ very smart 1935 Riley Imp and W.A.L. Cook’s extremely hansome 1936 Phantom III Rolls-Royce. Indeed this gathering had the merit of comprehensivenes, with such cars as a D6/70 electric-gearbox Delage, Star, Invicta, A.C. Acedes, and two 500K Mercedes-Benz on the field, although one of the last named was diesel propelled.

The judges, who forewent a visit to the European G.P to be present were W. Boddy, Editor of MOTOR SPORT, E. Dames-Longworth, N. Kennard and M. Sedgwick, Curator of the Montagu Motor Museum. The prizes were presented by the Hon. Mrs. Victor Bruce who arrived in her Phantom III Rolls-Royce, which she prefers to her Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn, and who, one is glad to learn, is writing a book about her motor-racing and flying activities.- W.B.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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