A Vanished Special

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In the period of motoring development which we now refer to as the vintage years special-building was more common than it is now, both for competition work and for road usage. One rather intriguing car of this kind was built in Nottingham by a person called R. G. Braid, although I have heard that this may have been a mis-quote for Baird. Anyway, the gentleman, who was a general rather than an automobile engineer, built his car because, he said, there was so much poor stuff about in 1923, when he laid down the design. This may seem odd when he could have gone out and bought a 40/50 hp Rolls-Royce, a 3-litre Bentley or 30/98 Vauxhall, which would probably have been to his taste. However, perhaps it was the challenge which appealed to him, and if he had his own engineering works that must have made even more sense, and it is just possible he at one time foresaw going into production with this car of his own idealistic conception.

The concept occupied the engineer for five years, so that it wasn’t until 1928 that it was registered for road use. It seems that it was still being driven in 1933, and I thought I ought to try to tell you more. Alas, the owner has so far proved to be untraceable, although the local newspapers have helped, saying the family was well-known at one time in the area, possibly as lace manufacturers for which Nottingham was famous, and although I came across a past 30/98 Vauxhall owner who had possibly the right name while scanning the latest register of these cars, and the present owner kindly investigated, the news is that there is no connection.

So I can only fill in a few details of this interesting Special, hoping that they may trigger off a memory somewhere. Mr Braid, if that was his correct name, did not mince matters when building his car. He used an overhead-camshaft six-cylinder engine of 56 X 112 mm, the camshaft being driven by bevels and vertical shaft and the valves being vertical in the head, four per cylinder. The crankshaft ran in seven bearings and there was fully-forced lubrication. Two updraught carburetters on the off-side fed via very long, rather small-bore risers attached with circular flanges to two separate external inlet-manifolds each with six outlets, one per inlet valve. Petrol feed was by Autovac, and ignition by magneto, possibly a pair, transversely mounted at the front of the engine.

The builder claimed that nothing was bought ready manufactured, that within reason one supposes, in spite of the specification embracing large-diameter four-wheel brakes, flat half-elliptic road springs damped with shock-absorbers, a fully-floating back axle, and wire wheels with centre-lock hubs. In fact, Mr B said he made the entire car without help, using castings and forgings made to his drawings. Indeed, it apparently took several weeks to make the front axle, milling the H-section centre, the spring-pads and steering heads, from a rough forged bar. The back axle was made in much the same way, with the tubes bored out of solid billets and taper turned, while the parts of the worm-and-nut steering gear were likewise made by this Mr B, along with the hall-bearing universal joints for the prop-shaft and the inch-diameter shackle pins for the road springs.

The gearbox had four forward speeds with a top ratio of 4.0 to 1 and a bottom gear of 13.5 to 1, and it was said that 55 mph in third and 68 mph in top was possible without the long-stroke engine going above 3,000 rpm. When completed the chassis was given a shapely two-seater body with cycle-type mudguards and side-mounted spare wheel. The headlamps with exposed wiring looked to date from the 1923 period. as did the divided windscreen to which a snug hood could be attached. What, then, became of this interesting Special? Its massive vee-radiator looks reminiscent of a Martini or a Nazzaro and I wondered whether, in spite of the reported claims to overall manufacture by Mr B, he had used such an engine. However, assuming he would have laid this down in 1922/23, neither make’s specification fits, nor do the cylinder dimensions of any car then on the Home Market. So Mr B should perhaps be credited with his engine. In fact. I think the engine dimensions may have been wrongly quoted at the time, for the car. from a photograph, looks far more like,a 4½-litre or 5-litre, than a light-car, which if a six of 56 mm bore would have been rated as 11.7 RAC hp . . . It would be nice, however, to know more, and what became of it. Any clues? — W.B.