RUMBLINGS, December 1930
RUM II LINGS
The M.C.C. Sporting Trial.
THIS event, including as it did some of the best sporting hills in. the Peak district, provided a nasty shock for some of the people who were inclined to think that the development of the sports car has gone as far as is required. Time was when sporting trials were frequent, and cars were beginning to be able to cope with rough going, and no longer sank peacefully and finally into every patch of mud they encountered. Then, however, we got a trade ban on trials, and lately sports cars have been developing along rather different lines. Racing has given a certain amount of extra speed and better road holding, but it has also
, encouraged makers to go in for ” pretty ” instead of practical models. The hills in the M.C.C. show were no worse than any driver might wish to be able to tackle in exploring the countryside, but it is very evident that most people would come to grief if they tried anything of this sort at present. Litton Slack, in pre-War days, caused many motorcyclists to measure their length on the slippery surface, but this state of affairs should not still apply to modern cars or drivers, many of whom have still a lot to learn on the subject of avoiding wheel spin. Having decided that the ability to climb such hills is desirable, we ask why it is that 66 out of 72 cars failed on Litton Slack on this occasion, and what is required to avoid such a miserable exhibition another time ? Roughly speaking the main requirements are “grip, and guts.” Those cars which by various means avoided wheelspin, whether by more subtle driving or the use of Mr. Dunlop’s competition treads, came to rest with tired engines which had not survived the somewhat hectic driving which is necessary to keep one’s place over a sporting course. Those engines which had not so suffered merely applied their energy to digging holes in the landscape. The most outstanding exception to the
general debacle, was Aldington in his Frazer Nash. His engine was anything but tired, and treated the 1 in 31 gradient with contempt, while the fact that, although not using anything special in the way of gripping devices, he had no trouble from wheel spin, brings us back to the old question—does a medium weight car need a differential ?
Are Differentials Necessary ?
As most people are aware the Frazer-Nash has a solid axle, and there is no doubt that on rough and slippery going this is a tremendous advantage, and in ordinary road
work no one would notice any difference from the more normal arrangement. Personally, on a car of this size, or under, I would much rather not have a differential, as they are really only necessary on large cars. A few Continental makers of light sports cars have solid axles, but practically no British vehicles ; presumably because of a public prejudice in favour of anything that is in a majority. However, in the case of the Frazer-Nash, whether it was due to a solid axle, or a high powerweight ratio, or Aldington’s driving, or (more likely) all three, the fact remains that out of 72 cars that started, only he got away with a first class award, so good luck to him ! Some people are rather in favour of allowing chains again in trials, on the grounds that the time taken in fitting them is its own penalty. I don’t agree. This only encourages some rather violent work on the part of the faster cars, and discourages skilful driving on the hills themselves. A decent tyre tread is of course, essential, but actual competition treads are not vitally necessary. I was observing recently on a hill in a moderately sporting, but not difficult, trial. The hill was not steep and had only slight bends, but was rather slippery. Result—three quarters of the entry had to be pushed up, after coming to rest with wheelspin. At least half the failures were due to bad driving, as one
driver after another kept his foot firmly on the gas after wheelspin started, till the front wheels ceased to revolve.
The chief requirements on a hill of this sort are a fairly high bottom gear, and the power to pull it, combined with the ability to ease off the throttle at the right moment. These points were sadly deficient on this particular occasion, while another thing which would have saved the majority would have been a solid rear axle. One side of the track was much worse than the other, but of course the comparatively firm side was no use, as this entry all had differentials. The season of slippery trials is once more with us, and the enthusiasm for them is growing. Unfortunately many of the prospective entrants are new to this type of driving, whereas a few years ago trials drivers had mostly learnt their job on motorcycles, and there is not much that the modern motorcycle, in the right hands, cannot tackle. However, there is plenty of sport in learning, and clubs will be glad to keep their expenses, in the way of awards, down as low as possible.
A Wonderful Achievement.
At present any mention of motorcycling brings to mind the fact that this country once again holds the world’s record for motorcycle speed, as a result of J. S. Wright’s effort of averaging 150 m.p.h. over the kilometre on the fine stretch of road near Cork. After various setbacks and difficulties in the way of obtaining timekeepers, etc., the runs were made and this country has now added another record to the list. J. S. Wright and his colleagues who have worked so hard in connection with this record deserve special congratulations. They have had a great deal of trouble one way and another, not with the 0.E.C., which has functioned marvellously, but with the conditions under which the record has been attempted. Even Arpajon, which is usually considered a good venue for this sort of thing, did not
bring them immediate success, and another attempt had to be made a few days later. Even then the course was obscured in places by mist, and the rider had the distinctly unpleasant experience of plunging into temporary obscurity at a higher speed than anyone has previously reached on two wheels. The record then gained did not, however, escape the attention of our German rivals with their wonderful 750 c.c. B.M.W. and once again Wright had to set about another attempt. However, this time he managed to bump the speed up to an extent which ought to keep people quiet for a time at least, and it is certainly pleasing that the record was actually made in the British Isles for a change, even though not in England.
Perhaps when the Wash speedway project gets under way, we shan’t have all this bother hunting round for straight roads in all parts of the earth, and then record-breaking will become a cheaper business for everybody concerned. There has been a lot of snags in the “Wash business,” as there always are in anything really ambitious, but a lot of them have been overcome, and it really seems likely that at least a modified edition of the scheme ought to be under way before very long.
The Point of View.
I happened recently to look up an old friend in the repair business, whom I had not lately seen, but whose comments on motoring matters are always interesting, though expressed in somewhat unparliamentary language. Conversation turned to the subject of 1931 vehicles and with his usual quickness at finding something wrong he asked me why it was that a certain British sports car costing well over £1,000 had about 45 greasing points on the chassis, most of which could only be reached by grovelling on the floor, while a mass-production saloon costing roughly one sixth of the price had centralised chassis lubrication very neatly carried out. He was quite right. There are still some sports cars on which accessibility of little things have not had the thought spent on them that they should. It is true that the average owner of a sports machine is usually more ready to get in a mess for the
sake of his chassis, than the purely utility motorist, but that is a poor reason why he should be made to do so.
The One Man Band.
Some of his other views on the trade in general made me wonder whether conditions were altering so as to exclude the small garage business, in favour of the large service station, with its mass of imposing equipment. On the whole I don’t think so. There are still a large number of really first class garages of the one-man type, whose proprietor has trials and racing experience, and who can do more to a car in an hour than many ordinary mechanics in a day. They may not have much bulky and expensive equipment, but they have the small tools that really matter, and what is far more important a knowledge of cars and the requirements of the hard driver.
Many owners will have their own pet garage whose guiding spirit, cheerful if somewhat profane, inspires confidence and does first class work at a reasonable price, and they would not change to an imposing, impersonal, service station for any money.
The large show is having an increasing place in things, but the small man, provided he knows his job will always flourish, and the sports car owner will be one of his best customers.
Sport and Sport.
The other day, when indulging in a little relaxation in the local cinema —that is if listening to the “potted chatter” of our transcontinental friends can be called relaxation—I was provided with an unintentional, but no less potent comment, on the relative ” sport ” of the old and the new. Hunting being a topic of the moment, the news item showed some scenes at a meet. After a large pack of hounds, plus anything up to a couple of hundred followers of the chase, had been paraded for our inspection and admiration (?) my companion remarked “All that to get one fox ! “, and I daresay many others must have thought the same. However, unconscious comment was provided by the following item, some ” shots” of the Indianapolis 500 miles race
No one is likely to deny that riding a horse well requires skill, but I fail to see anything particularly ” sporting ” in that particular method of exercising that skill. There is certainly no comparison between it and a sport such as motor racing, where skill, nerve, and physical fitness are required to the nth degree, and where the risk is confined to the participants, instead of to a wretched animal. The whole question of hunting is too old and well worn to bother with any further, but it does annoy me when its upholders attempt to make out that it is something very necessary and uplifting. If they must go out and kill something, why can’t they admit they do so because they like it, instead of talking a lot of nonsense about it being necessary to keep down vermin ? If they really wanted to get rid of foxes, it could be done perfectly efficiently in a year or so, and much less crudely.
Three-Wheelers and Simplicity.
On each occasion when I make my annual pilgrimage to the Motor Cycle Show, I am always impressed with the Morgan exhibits. Not because they incorporate novel, fresh and revolutionary features, but because they display a pioneer designer’s rigid adherence to his original policy. Annual changes of design have long been a fetish of the motor trade, but Mr. Morgan, alone amongst his more fickle brethren, continues with a general layout which he first evolved in 1911. Of course one finds improvements from time to time ; brakes, steering, clutch, transmission and so forth, have undergone modifications, but the basic characteristic of this famous three-wheeler — simplicity — remains. And therein lies the secret of the Morgan’s success and unchanging popularity as a real sports machine. In the post-War ” boom ” period, numerous new makes of three-wheelers appeared on the market. Some of them were wonderfully elaborate in engine, transmission and chassis details, and their equipment was (for those days) lavish and comprehensive. The years have shown with what success they met—and proved the soundness of Mr. Morgan’s way of doing things.