Vintage Postbag

Not a Marendaz Shortcoming


I have been asked to write to you in reply to the two letters in your April and June issues which you have captioned "A Marendaz Shortcoming" - that I am assured is not a term used by Dr. Brown Kelly, the author of the letter you published in April. Firstly I am, as others have described so in books and articles, "Of the Heroic Age", as Rolls, Austin, Morris, Lionel Martin and others, but unlike them still alive as you well know; it therefore seems I should point out that before publishing such letters the courtesy of your asking for my comments thereon would be not only natural justice, but the normal act of an ethical business house not wishing to damage the reputation of the distinguished cars bearing my name and my professional ability or reputation. (Time, alas, prevents such courtesies, in the publishing business -Ed.)

Every six-cylinder Marendaz Special, although only about 15% of the cost, shared with Rolls-Royce in the days referred to, the unique position of having a full-floating rear axle very much more expensive than other designs but ensuring that the breakage of an axle shaft, which never occurred on Marendaz Special Cars did not permit the wheels to fly off the car and further a bent shaft could never occur in normal running to cause the wheel and brake gear to run out of truth and eventually and inevitably to break off. It has been indelibly and for all time recorded that Marendaz Special Cars ran upwards of 100,000 miles without a rebore at a period when other makes required such at 20,000 miles. Similarly, the only rear axle replacement needed in Marendaz Specials, and that after great mileages, would be a crown wheel and pinion which spare parts cost the owner £6 the pair, less to the trade their discount; this hardly merits the appellation or title of "Unpleasant and expensive things happened to the back axle." The material used in the crown wheels and pinions was the best that money could buy in those days and fitted as standard in all cars contributing to the formidable lists of Marendaz Special Records and Successes - some still unbeaten to this day, nearly a half century on. No Marendaz Special back axle, gearbox, engine or any other failure ever took place preventing the securing of what had been set out to achieve with one exception, as I will relate.

It was a fact of life in those far off days that universal joints, first fabric and then steel, caused many breakdowns and my transmission design eliminated one of the two or four of the then current design layouts; this was achieved by a large hollow spherical ball some 8 in. in diameter which being placed integral with the gearbox and in front nestled in a ball housing cross member so that the only universal in the drive was located inside the hollow ball and of course was concentric with it and thus eliminated any wear, through operating on conflicting radii, unlike the Armstrong Siddeley's which copied their design that eliminated the loss of power - at least 50% of a two universal joint design and varying velocities occasioned by universal joints, thereby increasing performance and the cars' life and reliability - one of the all time objects of Marendaz designs in every field for more than half a century. At about this era one of the Vauxhall designers was Laurence Pomeroy (the father), and it so happened that the Aluminium Corporation of America were concerned with the little use being made of this relatively new material in the Automotive Industry. They inveigled Pomeroy with his flair for self advertising to come to the United States and by putting up £100,000 with no strings attached - a million pounds in current money - for him to find ways to rectify that situation. One of the results of this was that when Pomeroy came back to England as Managing Director of Daimler, he saw to it that their first new design of a commercial vehicle - which vehicles have even more arduous loading than motor cars - had such things as aluminium cross members and aluminium front spring shackles! Needless to say they soon disappeared as did the aluminium axle cases fitted to prototype Daimler Straight Eight Cars. The misleading information on the material also caused the rear end of a few Marendaz Special gearboxes having an aluminium end casting to accommodate the torque tube.

Every owner purchasing a new Marendaz Special was very soon acquainted of the necessity to have this casting changed, free of charge, with one of a different material with which ever since they have travelled millions of miles in all continents of the World including the rigours of the Brooklands track at high speeds to the first single car crossing of Africa from Lagos to Eritria - without a single failure having taken place or a single replacement spare part supplied for its gearbox mounting and no "Marendaz Shortcomings."

Neither of your correspondents were ever owners of new Marendaz Specials and never corresponded with myself or the factory regarding any such troubles: car manufacturers and designers cannot prevent such vandalism taking place to their designs by amateurs any more than I can do any other than say that in all the public trials and record breaking runs from 1,000 Mile RAC Rallies to 24 hour records and Brooklands Races over many years did anyone ever see a Marendaz Special suffer with front axle "shimmy." Again I must point out Erskine never made an engine and there are in existence in at least one reputable engineering technical journal a series of illustrations showing the actual operations of the component parts of Marendaz Special Engines being machined in their Maidenhead Works; indeed as designers and manufacturers Marendaz made more of their car and engine than the large makers of today's cars, including pistons, brakes, transmissions, back axles and bodies, and also led other designers in certain important innovations, including those of Rolls-Royce cars. The only occasion I can recall any Marendaz Special trouble was in the 1925 or possibly 1926, Grand Prix of Dieppe when the Marendaz Special loaned to Captain George Eyston for that event and which after sharing a night's shelter with an Aston Martin in a Boulogne Garage lost its power after 3 laps: on dismantling it was found to have had more than 3 lb. of emery put in the sump: the Aston Martin had a nail put through its magneto armature. Entente Cordiale and a price to be paid for being likely winners - but not requiring any modification or indicating a "Marendaz Shortcoming."

It is a fact that the General Motors Chief Engineer wrote, in congratulating me on one of my long distance records, asking how I did it and saying they were having trouble keeping connecting rods in the engine of their Buicks for more than an hour at 60 m.p.h. Such was the reputation, design and reliability of Marendaz Special Cars in England and overseas. It must be appreciated that the more expensive Armstrong Siddeley version of the gearbox mounted on the torque tube was copied outright from the Marendaz Design that is from my design as used in the Marseel and successful Marseal cars which were much cheaper than Marendaz Specials selling complete with spare wheel at £175. The Marseel, Marseal and Armstrong Siddeley all had their ball-pivots on the side of the gearbox causing a small amount of conflict between the clutch shaft and road movement which the more costly Marendaz Special design - from £375 - entirely eliminated, achieving engineering perfection without compromise. The large area of the Marendaz Special centrally placed ball and housing ensured low loading, freedom from undue stress and wear - less than designs incorporating torque tubes anchored behind gearboxes, whilst the absurd fiction you printed "inertia/cum torque tube springing" is such that it can only be described as being in the same class as that music hall motoring comedian's mathematical jokes on the motor car. I refer, of course, to Harry Tate.

To return to reality: you will be most interested to learn that Ferodo has recently confirmed to me that the Marendaz Special braking figure of 30 miles per hour to standstill in 24 ft. has not yet, after 43 years, been beaten and of course the gearboxes, torque tubes and transmission ball-housings have withstood the reactions of such formidable brakes throughout the years, with no troubles, no replacements, no modifications.

I trust you will publish this letter under the caption "Not a Marendaz Shortcoming."

Captain D. M. K. Marendaz,

Asterby, M.I.PROD.E., M.S.A.E.

I have read the correspondence in Vintage Postbag April and June issues regarding alterations made by owners to the torque tube transmission of their Marendaz Specials. The causes of the alterations were I suspect due to the sleeved housing behind the gearbox becoming slack and permitting the pinion to fall out of mesh with the crown wheel. Earlier cars had an aluminium casting behind the gearbox which was prone to cracking. This the Marendaz factory later changed for a cast steel rear casing, which gave the strength required for the location of the torque tube and provided the tightness of the sleeve clamping bolts are maintained no transmission trouble is envisaged. For instance I have covered many thousands of miles over the past seventeen years without difficulty in my 13/70 Marendaz Special.

A photograph is enclosed which shows the unusual transmission. The fully floating rear axle together with torque tube and gearbox is held by means of a very large spherical housing which forms the chassis cross member in front of the gearbox. Mr. Annett refers to his 13/70 as having an Erskine engine. May I again take this opportunity of advising you that the engines were-Continental and manufactured by them for Studebakers for the Erskine car. Marendaz used the same engine with Marendaz works modifications and later manufactured similar sidevalve engines themselves. Castings were by Birmids and these engines can be identified by their finned aluminium oil coolers.

The car owned by Mr. Annett, a 13/70, is not the same car as Dr. Brown Kelly's, who has a 15/90.

Leckhampton, John Shaw

Hon. Sec., Marendaz Special Car Register

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Le Zebre Data Wanted


I enclose photo of a very small 4 h.p. Le Zebre 2-seater tourer which I was fortunate enough to acquire recently. Unfortunately, I know absolutely nothing about this little veteran, not even its registration number or its year of manufacture (believed to be 1908). All the documentation belonging to this car is believed to have been destroyed in a hotel fire some years ago, and worst of all, the previous owner could provide me with no worthwhile information, because he used the car merely as a static exhibit for about 10 years and he made it clear to me that he had no interest in cars at all.

The only scrap of information which I was able to pick up indicated that the car was first registered in what is today Northern Ireland and that it was last sold at an auction in Portlaoise, Irish Republic. It is also clear that the car has been extensively restored and that it is complete except for the horn and three of the hub nuts, all of which were stolen by souvenir-hunters during the last ownership.

So, I am writing to Motor Sport, a journal that I have been reading for more years than I care to remember, in the hope that some of your readers may have some information about the car itself (engine no. 416) or about its French builders who had their offices in Paris and their worshops in Puteaux. I would be delighted to exchange correspondence with British, Irish, American and Continental readers who may own other models of this little known marque, because I have a great deal to learn before I dare even to put petrol in the polished brass tank! (Incidentally, French readers may write to me in their own language if they prefer.) I am most anxious to have the car officially dated before I have it re-registered; all letters, therefore, offering help and advice will be gratefully received and promptly acknowledged with my sincere thanks.

F. F. N. Corry,

48 Beech Park Drive, Foxrock, Co. Dublin, Eire.

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One of the joys of being a Motor Sport addict is reading of the experiences of other readers and contributors and of their vehicles, particularly the early model cars whose individuality lent a nostalgic mystique to days long past. My father used to tell me of Grandma's Adams (no gears to change - just pedals to push) and of his first car, a tiller-steered Oldsmobile. As a small child I remember first an open 2-seater Swift. In 1922 in Belfast an IRA bullet pierced its plate glass windscreen above my head. Next came a coachbuilt coupe Arrol-Johnston. My small hand once retrieved a spanner from the (to a child) enormous gearbox. I can still smell the thick amber gearoil which coated my arm and my insistence that all wheels be chocked fore and aft. Even then I knew what made the wheels go round. Followed a 1927 two-door Essex Six, a smooth easy going vehicle. Once touring in rural Ireland a friend of Dad's, Tom Casement, brother of de Mortuis nil nisi, etc. Sir Roger, found his head protruding thru' the canvas roof. An unseen hump-back bridge was the cause. Pulling himself back into the car and seemingly quite unperturbed by the incident, he struck his forehead with the palm of a hand (a characteristic gesture of a real "character") and remarked "Bloody marvellous view out there, Dick ..."

There followed Dad's first brand-new car, a Rover to Sportsman's Coupe, with Weymann fabric body, black top, ox-blood below. As I recall, a lovely little car, not much performance but typical Rover refinement. Then followed a series of Singers, from the first 4-speed Junior, thru' the Nines to the Twelve, several with free-wheel, one with Pedomatic starting which foxed many mechanics when the maladjustment of linkage opened the main throttle and frustrated the starter carb's rich mixture, so that cold starts became nigh impossible.

Heigh ho, I can see that I've become a real bore, so I'll desist and close by thanking you and everyone at Standard House for your steadfast upholding of journalistic standards and your unwavering support of all that matters for motorists, the Industry and the sport.

Auckland, N.Z. Dion Hayward.

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As It Was


Your June editorial concerning the Historic Vehicle Silver Jubilee Tribute included a photograph and description of Mr. Tom Lightfoot's 1930 Austin 7 special, GJ 8264. As this car, in its original form, was the first I ever owned, I was both interested and grieved by what I saw and read.

To explain my grief, I deduce that little of the original standard Ulster Austin remains in the present-day Special and, to judge from the description of your drive in the car to Ascot, I am forced to the conclusion that the original car would have provided superior sport, as well as looking better. I enclose a photograph, taken during my ownership, to support the latter claim with respect and apologies to the present owner. I bought the car second-hand from Rowland Smith's for, if my memory is correct, around £75, delivery to my home in the Midlands included, and used it during 1933/34 while I was an undergraduate at Cambridge, where I garaged it at West's together with a number of other cars owned by undergraduates, including Peter Whitehead (Alta) and Hugh Conway who was also then running an Ulster Austin. The car came into my possession unblown, though the engine was otherwise to the blown specification, and I therefore set about restoring it to its original state. In this I was fortunate in being able to acquire the correct type of Cozette supercharger from K. M. G. Anderson, who at that time was actively racing Austins. The only serious trouble I had with the car was a broken crankshaft, and I clearly remember regarding the professional repair bill about £12 — as almost the ultimate financial disaster. Those were the days!

Wombourne, J. H. Webb

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Thought you might be interested in a car I owned in the late '20s and early '30s, a Weymann sports coupe Type 40 Bugatti, 1927. Two-seater with a small folding seat in the rear, otherwise a big space for golf clubs, etc.

One incident with this car has stuck in my mind. While winding up the revs on the Bridgnorth-Enville road a front tyre burst but the steering was not affected. A car used every day in the West-Midlands, never sick or sorry.

Verwood, C. G. Knight

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Matters of History


Your May issue has just arrived here, and I see that interest in "The American Invasion" has reopened. In The Motor for 15th April, 1913, there is a letter from a Mr. S. F. Tyler, arising trom an article in the issue for 1st April, entitled "Fatty Degeneration of the H.P.", in which he says: "Reference is made to a booklet entitled 'The American Invasion', which was circulated amongst the trade during last Olympia Show". This fixes the year of the book's appearance as 1912.

Mr. Tyler goes on to claim "having some idea as to the identity of the author" and then says "that 'The American Invasion' was circulated amongst the trade only. It was intended, and by all fair-minded folk accepted, as a joke - a trade joke - by the trade and for the trade. The seeming anonymity of the author was part of the joke - bought by most of us".

There is no copy of The Motor for 1st April, 1913 out here that I know of. Perhaps someone more fortunately situated can tell us what "Fatty Degeneration of the H.P." was all about and whether it throws further light on the booklet.

Attacks on the cheap American car were more open than just a booklet confined to "the trade". In The Motor for 8th April, 1913, is a full page advertisement by The Austin Motor Co. Ltd. consisting of a long poem entitled "Ye Ballade of ye Bugmobile", reprinted from "The Austin Advocate", about "a gilded youth named Archibald, of ancient pedigree", who was foolish enough to buy a "Bugmobile, of small and smelly kind", made "by millions at Bugville, Ohio". On the first run in the new car, at Hampton Court a front wheel hit a small stone, precipitating a drastic accident in which a passenger named Gus "descended with the crankshaft in his Glutei Maximus". But Archibald survived and was driven back to London by a Good Samaritan in an Austin, thus becoming a convert to the wellmade British car. The poem contains many topical references, such as expeditions to the South Pole, appendicitis operations, Halley's Comet and "the aviator Conneau", and is amusingly illustrated by Ernest Noble with thumbnail sketches.

Changing the subject, may I take this opportunity of addressing a question to the Rolls-Royce experts? In The Autocar for 1st September, 1906, page 318, the following "Flash" appears:

"One of the eight-cylinder Rolls-Royce Iandaulets par excellence was delivered to its owner in Scotland, and the car was driven 600 miles over all sorts of roads without any trouble or breakdown whatever".

Was this Lord Northcliffe's car, said to be the only one of the model to be delivered which was despatched from the factory on 2nd April, 1906 ("A History of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars", by C. W. Morton), making the "Flash" five months old, or was it another car?

Magill, S. Australia, G. H. Brooks,

(The 1913 Austin advertisement is of interest, being fairly obviously an extension of "The American Invasion" book, which I see The Motor laughed off as a joke - an expensive joke for the perpetrator, who was presumably troubled about the attack on American and other imported cars. The date 1912 is interesting and suggests that some of the "copy" in the book was pretty topical. Amusing that the post-Armistice Austin 20 was based on American designs. As to the Rolls-Royce, a V8 "Legalirnit" supposedly, over to R.R. experts. - Ed.).

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Fast Brooklands' Cars


Oh dear, oh dear - Jove has nodded again. After saying that the Multi-Union was the second fastest car at Brooklands, your list on page 674 is still not accurate!

The fourth fastest car was Lord Howe's 3.3 Bugatti in which he did a lap of 138.34 in the first race of the Whitsun meeting of 1936. See Motor Sport for July 1936, page 345.

And I thought you were the ultimate authority on Brooklands!

Banwell, Tony Taylor

("Jove" is, in fact, moderately wide awake, but this correspondent has missed the point. Which is that to claim a lap-record, even a class lap-record, at Brooklands, cars had to be timed on a clear track, not during a race, not that this was deemed more difficult, on the contrary - but electrical timing was insisted upon for such records, rather than the stop-watch timing of cars in races. This is why I quoted the Multi-Union's speed of 141.45 m.p.h. and not the 142.30 m.p.h. lap with which this car was credited in its last race. Earl Howe's Bugatti was very fast, but its 138.34 m.p.h. lap was made during a race, which doesn't count for lap record purposes. And you are rather rude, by Jove, especially as Howe didn't run in the first race at that Whitsun Meeting of 1936. - Ed.)