THE CHEAPEST CAR ON THE MARKET.
Amazing performance of the £99 Nomad.
By the Assistant Editor.
ISITORS to the car show at Olympia may have noticed an attractive little vehicle buzzing about
in Maclise Road, close to the railway station. Doubtless in the rush to get inside the great hall itself many forgot to thoroughly investigate this car, so that some notes on experiences with the Nomad, as it is called, should be of interest.
Perhaps the most arresting feature of the Nomad. is the price-09 9s. 9d., sounding, as it does, so much more interesting than a plain round D 00.
Now during the last year or two there have been many attempts on the part of small firms to produce cars at a price somewhere in the neighbourhood of 100. These have failed chiefly because the makers have started with the rather complicated conventional car design as a basis, and, by vigorous skimping and paring have endeavoured to reduce manufacturing costs to the very minimum.
This policy has usually resulted in the production of unreliable, uncomfortable and shoddy cars which have completely failed to find a market ; this fact, together with the impossibility of producing the conventional chassis at less than a certain definite cost, have spelt the doom of most cheap four-wheelers.
Messrs. Nomad Cars Ltd. therefore have very wisely decided on a departure from conventional practice, confining themselves to great simplicity of design, thus enabling themselves to turn out a really well equipped car, embodying all the features which ensure a good performance, reliability and utility.
To begin with, the car is extremely light, so that a small engine (350 c.c. Villiers 2-stroke) proves entirely adequate to propel it at a satisfactory speed. Again, the light weight allows the use of friction drive, so attractive in theory, but inclined to give trouble with a car of any weight ; a wide range of gears together with a reverse therefore ensures that the car is capable of” going anywhere” and” doing anything.” Finally, the equipment soars to the point of luxury by including an electric starter, hood and full dynamo lighting set complete with dashboard lamp ! In the interests of simplicity the makers of this amazing little car have taken several bold steps, which are bound to shock the conservative, but which are more than justified in practice. The two startiing
features of the design are the lack of any chassis frame and the complete absence of any form of spring suspension.
The first is explained by the great strength of the body, which is composed of a special material—steel armoured plywood with the edges protected by channel steel. To the body the plain front axle and the whole rear axle assembly complete with all the” machinery” are rigidly attached. The absence of springs is compensated for by the fitting of very large (27in. by 4iin.) balloon tyres, run at an extremely low pressure, and in practice the car is as comfortable as one could wish.
The controls are conventional, except that the last half of the clutch movement also operates the footbrake, while owing to the rearward position of the works an enormous amount of leg room and luggage space is available behind the dummy detachable radiator.
After a preliminary demonstration by one of the Nomad staff we took over our car from the Fulham works and set out towards Hertfordshire, to try our luck on the inter-Varsity reliability trial course. Having a good knowledge of the country, we had arranged to meet the route markers for this event at Berkhamsted, in order to pilot them round the rest of the course.
During this main road run we drove carefully, for the sake of a rather new engine ; however, a few short experiments with the foot hard down showed that there was no reason to doubt the makers’ claim of 40 m.p.h.
Arrived at Berkhamsted it became evident that the route markers had not yet arrived, so we set off to meet them. Two little known but steep hills in this neighbourhood caused a little trouble owing to the newness of the engine and our lack of familiarity with the Nomad. However, both were surmounted with ease at the second attempt, and it was quite obvious that the power of the engine was improving every minute. Eventually we met our friends, complete with a disreputable threewheeler of well known type and a popular 4-cylinder car. the whole cavalcade presenting a decidedly bizarre appearance, machines and passengers plastered with mud and blue dye. Some minutes were spent clearing the worst boulders off the famous Tunnel slide at Nettleden, then to everyone’s surprise the Nomad
purred up with the utmost ease, the lack of differential preventing any serious wheel spin. For the next fifteen miles of the course the Nomad astonished our companions by its liveliness and remarkable stability on corners ; the next hill on the course was Duncombe Farm, consisting of an extremely boggy farm track steepening gradually through a wood, round two sharp hairpins, finally emerging on a rough open common. The Nomad ploughed bravely through the bog, accelerated smartly up the steep portion, and was wrenched round the hairpins at a rousing speed and bumped across the waves of the common in a most refreshing manner. Shortly after this darkness descended over the landscape, but, thanks to the powerful electric lamps on the Nomad,
we were able to complete the route marking without much difficulty. The three-wheeler by this time was getting rather tired, it had boiled on Duncombe Hill and had wrecked its dynamo on some rough track during the day. However, the Nomad illumination was ample for a fast run home for the night. On the day of the trial several more ascents of Tunnel Slide were made with a 12-stone passenger, and the journey home from Dunstable (20 miles) was made in sheets of rain and inky darkness in just over 40 minutes. For the purposes of our trial the rain was quite welcome, as it proved that the hood, quickly erected and held by spring hooks, was more than capable of keeping out the most torrential downpour, while the dashboard lamp enabled a watchful eye to be kept on the sight-feed
lubrication and other instruments with which the dash is decorated.
The remainder of the trial consisted of pottering and frolicking round all sorts of roads, fast runs on main roads, burrowings through overgrown farm tracks, and sliding round greasy lanes.
The results of these experiences showed us that, when run in, the car was capable of a very good 45 m.p.h. on the level, and could climb any hill likely to be encountered on main and secondary roads, while very few of the more freakish gradients and surfaces are likely to cause any trouble, owing to the superior wheel grip obtained by the weight distribution, large tyres and lack of differential.
Cornering is easy and safe with the almost direct gearing, though little self-centreing action is provided. On very rough roads at slow speeds the Nomad feels rather like a car sprung for racing, but at higher speeds comfort is quite normal and the ‘absence of springs is absolutely forgotten.
The gears worked admirably, a particularly useful feature being that it is possible to use ratios between the four notches provided, thus enabling the engine to be run at its most efficient speed under all conditions.
In spite of the completely enclosed engine, no overheating was experienced, although the car was flogged unmercifully throughout our test ; the small fourbladed fan apparently worked with the utmost efficiency. A little trouble was experienced with an unsuitable sparking plug, but was easily cured. During the whole trial we failed to detect any rattle or squeak anywhere in the car, although some of the
“colonial sections” produced visible and violent distortion of the frame-work. This distortion causes no trouble as the body is rivetted throughout. The electrical apparatus, including the starter, never gave the slightest trouble, and, finally, the brakes proved the equal of any and the superior of most systems employing only the rear wheels ; deceleration was smooth, positive, extremely rapid, and it was almost impossible to skid the car by applying the brakes.
The only two suggestions or criticisms we can make are that the hand brake lever should be fitted so that the driver’s knuckles are not barked on the body when applying the brake, and that, if possible, a silent drive dynamotor and separate magneto be fitted instead of the motor and dynamo-coil units at present used for starting and ignition. This suggestion is made purely on the strength of the horrible noise of a Bendix drive, which is really rather an insignificant point.
In conclusion let us emphasise that the Nomad stood up to a far severer gruelling than it was ever intended for, thus proving that as a mechanical and commercial proposition it is throughly sound.
We have no hesitation therefore in recommending this little car to anyone of limited means as an example of thoroughly reliable, economical and comfortable motoring for two, while even the more blasé sportsman will find that for anything except sheer racing, the Nomad will prove remarkably efficient and decidedly exhilarating.