Vintage Postbag, August 1969

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Those Old Leyland Lorries

Sir,

In your account of the H.C.V.C. run to Brighton you commented on the sterling qualities of the World War 1 Leyland vehicles supplied to the R.A.E. You may not be aware that these vehicles were still in service up to the outbreak of World War 2, as indeed were the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost armoured cars originally taken to Mesopotamia by Lawrence. I have photographs of both taken in Iraq in 1938, but unfortunately cannot forward them for publication as they are in store with my effects in England. You stated that during your run the Leyland burbled along quite happily at 15/16 m.p.h. This, I imagine, was a self-imposed limitation due to solid tyres, rather than lack of speed capability. From my personal knowledge, the Leylands we had would cruise at 25 m.p.h. on three or four cylinders! Admittedly, they were on pneumatic tyres fore and aft.

The three-cylinder statement is not a joke. In pre-war days the R.A.F. in Iraq had a summer rest-camp at Ser Armadia in Khurdistan. We used to fly from Habbiniyah to Simmel—in Vickers Valencias—and complete the journey up to the foot of the gorge to Ser Armadia in Leylands. The climb up the gorge was by mule.

Returning to Simmel on one occasion, I was a passenger in a Leyland that ran a big-end on No. 3 cylinder. The driver was one of the old tradeskill of F.D.P. (Fitter Driver Petrol), an ex-apprentice who had learned his craft the hard way. The convoy halted to see what could be done about it. The driver did not hesitate to tell the O.C.-convoy that there was no need to get excited. He would fix it himself. All he wanted was a couple of buckets to drain the sump.

The convoy went on its way, and our driver, with assistance from some of the passengers, drained and dropped the sump, took off the big-end cap of No. 3, withdrew the rod and piston, put the sump back, and refilled it with the oil from the buckets. We then restarted, and at a steady 25 m.p.h. where conditions permitted, caught up the convoy just before they reached the aeroplane at Simmel. Subsequently, I learned that the Leyland did a couple of return journeys, still on three cylinders, during the time that the con-rod was flown back to Workshops at Habbaniyah, remetalled, and returned the following day. Truly, a splendid vehicle.

Belgium. “Decidene.”
(Name and address supplied.—Ed.)

* * *

London-Edinburgh Rolls-Royces

Sir,

Mr. R. B. Ford, in his erudite letter in the June issue, wonders whether my 1911 London-Edinburgh Silver Ghost Rolls-Royce is the 101 m.p.h. Brooklands car. That makes two of us: so do I.

I go no further than to say that I think it is. And this is why. I accept the fact that five underslung cars were made. Mine is certainly one of these for I have a copy of the Rolls-Royce patent papers and everything tallies. Mr. Ford suggests that my chassis might be 1817 E. This I do not accept for the works instruction for 1817 E, I am told, was “make as 1817”. As 1817 was a ¾-elliptic chassis, its twin cannot have had cantilever springs. One little n****r gone: my chassis must be one of four.

There is no doubt that the ugly coupé had well-finished, Y-shaped rear-spring hanger brackets. Mine has not. Another n****r gone: mine is one of three.

These rear spring hangers provide the evidence for final identification. Mr. Ford politely calls them “flat plate type”. A better description, I suggest, would be “rough old forgings”, which differ from car to car. The forgings are bolted to the frame and are counter-bored to provide a true face for the bolt heads to pull down on photographs of the Brooklands car show these counter-bores to have broken through at the edge. The same fault, on the same holes and to the same extent, is evident on my chassis. This seems fairly conclusive, although I am able only to compare the “on” side of the cars. I have photographs (from the records of the late Lord Hives) of the front, the back and “on” side of the Brooklands car. I have never found a picture of the “off” side. If anyone who reads this has one and would let me see it, I would be grateful indeed.

Mr. Ford says that my chassis had a 52-tooth crown-wheel, which should not be. I agree. Even more damning is the fact that it had a 15-tooth pinion, which gives a ratio of 3.47. Now if a Ghost on 895 x 135 tyres were to achieve 101 m.p.h. on a 3.47 axle the engine would be turning at some 3,200 r.p.m., which is manifestly impossible.

The highest ratio normally available for 1911 was 2.7, which would have entailed nearly 2,500 r.p.m. What is much more likely is that the Brooklands car had (as contemporary reports say) a special crown-wheel and pinion. This would have been about 2.3 : 1 on which the car could well have achieved its 101 m.p.h., one way, over a flying ¼ mile. This ratio would be far too high for normal use, so it is more than probable that a later type, lower ratio, crown-wheel and pinion should have been fitted when the car came into private ownership.

If all these things are to remain a mystery, I shall have to rest smugly content with the fact that I have the only genuine underslung London-Edinburgh Ghost in the World. But it would be interesting to establish beyond doubt which one.

The body which I am building is a copy of the narrow 4-seater made by Brown’s of Derby for chassis 1701, which is very similar to the Paris exhibition car illustrated in the June issue with its front wing valances removed. It is argued by some that on the Brooklands chassis I should build a replica of the Brooklands body. If the Editor can spare the space it, reproduce a picture, it will readily be seen what an impracticable road car it would be: how silly it would look with lamps, and that the fitting of any sort of wings would have turned it into a ghastly “boy racer”.

Contrast with the original London-Edinburgh Ghost, which is perhaps the most beautifully balanced open 4-seater car ever to be made, the reincarnation of which ought to be on the road again next year. Meanwhile, I would be delighted if Mr. Ford would come and argue and inspect all that has happened since he last saw the underslung Brooklands Rolls-Royce chassis.

Stretton. Kenneth Neve.

———

Sir,

I read Mr. R. B. Ford’s letter on the subject of the London-Edinburgh Rolls-Royce with much interest, and would like to comment on a few points. The original L.-to-E. car was, I believe, 1701E, not 1701. At any rate chassis numbered from 1701 up to 1994 were fitted with the underslung cantilever springs if they were L.-to-E. type (i.e., large carburetter, taper bonnet, etc.); L.-to-E. cars with numbers higher than 1994 had the cantilever springs mounted over the rear axle, as did all 40/50-h.p. cars from chassis 2100 onwards.

Of the underslung type, Mr. Ford writes “rumour says five” were made. I feel sure that there were more. In 1959 I produced an article on the subject for Early and Late (issue No. 11) and in the course of looking through volumes of the The Autocar 1911-12-13 for pictures of Rolls-Royce cars, found at least two more “unrecorded” underslung cars. One, a cabriolet, was supplied to Mr. Thomas E. Barton. Another, a rather ugly tourer, is shown driven by Mr. Cummings, with whom is Mr. Dario Resta. Some L.-to-E. chassis were certainly equipped with formal coachwork, not the light open tourers usually associated with the type.

Chiddingfold. R. O. Barnard.

* * *

The Oldest Serving Commercial?

Sir,

While in Paisley recently, I saw the vehicle in the enclosed photograph chugging along happily amid the hustle and bustle of modern-day traffic.

On the back of this First-World-War Model-T Ford pick-up was an assortment of furniture and odd rags. I eventually traced it to an auctioneer’s premises and, on speaking to the owner (also in the photo), learned that it is in everyday use and has been since he bought it—50 years ago. Could this be the oldest commercial vehicle still in everyday use?

Ayr. W. J. St. J. Bruen.

* * *

Lincoln V8s

Sir,

I was interested to read Mr. Westcott’s letter in Vintage Postbag regarding Lincoln V8s. From the photograph the car would appear to be a 1929 seven-passenger sedan model No. 168A or 158B, body by Lincoln. After 1928 the Lincoln Company did not publish the designers of Lincoln-built bodies. From 1923 Model 114, when Edsel Ford assumed command, until approximately 1930, some 68,000 Lincolns were manufactured. There are at least three vintage Lincolns still extant in the country, of which I have owned one.

They were superbly made and very reliable, although by British standards very heavy and undergeared, and the heat generated by that colossal V8 engine on a summer’s day has left an indelible memory in my mind, although I do remember once running out of petrol at the Trundle on Goodwood late one night in a Lincoln which coasted quite happily nearly all the way into Chichester—some four miles; this is a case where weight comes in handy.

Harrow. R. Gates.

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