The Commodore and the CTA

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Current page

180

Air-Commodore Rodwell Banks was a considerable figure in engine development history. From 1927-31, working first for Anglo-American Oil, then the Ethyl Gasoline Corporation, he became the fuel consultant who played a crucial role in brewing the fuels which helped the Supermarine S6 and S6B seaplanes win the Schneider Trophy in perpetuity. He had much to do with introducing tetraethyl lead to petrol for its remarkable anti-knock effect and advised Fiat on boosting its ‘tandem-12’ 24-cylinder AS6 aero engine – which at 52 litres was some 15.4 larger than the Supermarines’ Rolls-Royce ‘R’-Type V12 – to reach 2850 horsepower. The Fiat engine then blasted the Macchi-Castoldi 72 seaplane to a new world record speed of 440.709mph in 1934.

Post-war, Rod Banks of Associated Ethyl resumed consultancy work with car and aero engine manufacturers worldwide. He spent a lot of time with the re-emergent French industry and around 1947 visited the Arsenal at Chatillon where a Government-backed engineering group was trying to develop new designs. He found them struggling with a large, vertical H-type design for a 24-cylinder liquid-cooled engine with twin crankshafts, geared together. It sounds like a huge H16 BRM predecessor, stood on its side. The Arsenal team told Banks the crankshafts kept breaking, but they couldn’t understand why. Examining the broken bits, he found conclusive evidence of torsional failure, due to the shafts writhing around. The French engineers then astonished him by saying they suspected the crankcase might be too rigid, so they were designing one which would be more flexible “to accommodate the crankshafts”. The Commodore had a reputation for straight talking, and he declared that a crankcase deliberately designed to give even less support would probably see the crankshafts break more quickly, if the crankcase didn’t beat them to it… Which it subsequently did.

What’s this got to do with motor sport? Well, the Arsenal was involved with CTA – the Centre d’Etudes Techniques de l’Automobile – which was attempting to produce a French national Grand Prix car to recapture the lapsed racing prestige of Bugatti and Delage. Albert Lory – whose 1926-27 straight-8 Delage had been such a masterpiece – designed a supercharged 1482cc four-cam V8 claimed to produce 266bhp at 7500rpm. It was mounted in a somewhat eccentric chassis, and the first of two cars built emerged for the 1947 Grand Prix de l’ACF at Lyons-Parilly. Raymond Sommer drove, but the car snapped a half-shaft at the start – just as the prototype V16 BRM would at Silverstone in 1950, again with Sommer operating the clutch. But the V16 had a future, the CTA-Arsenal had none, and to date has never raced again. Indeed, just this May it failed to make the grid once more, at the Monaco Historique.

Among its peculiarities was a back-to-front gearchange gate, and while as delivered to Lyons the gearlever was about 7-8 inches long – which means already too long, with a sturdy knob on top – I think Sommer must have found his left fist hitting the dash panel in the forward plane. For the race the original lever with its knob removed was then sleeved by about 18 inches of thicker tube, cranked outboard to clear the cockpit cowl. This seems to me symptomatic of a curious way to go racing, and few were surprised when this French Government project promptly evaporated. Twenty years later – with tacit Government approval – Matra Sports would do it so much more effectively…

You may also like

Related products