PREPARATIONS FOR THE
M NTE IC LO RALLY
THE conditions under which the Monte Carlo Rally is run are those of a hang distance reliability trial held under very severe weather conditions. Loug, fast runs over rough and treacherous roads make fairly heavy demands on the car and its personnel, but by taking certain precautions, many of the difficulties which would otherwise crop up can be dealt with before they arise.
Whatever type of car may be selected for the journey, it is essential that weight should be kept down as much as possible. A good many English cars already carry bodies too heavy for the chassis, and the further addition of weight, and consequent strengthening of springs and chassis is the Wrong way to go about the game. Comfort can be contended by simple methods, with a consequent improvement in the final placings based on the acceleration figures. Those who want to deck their cars like Christmas trees should concentrate on the concours de comfort and start from London.
Sports cars are obviously most likely to be successful in the acceleration and braking tests on which the final places are decided, but they may have disadvantages in the way of small ground-clearance and cramped passenger-accommodation. Larger wheels or tyres will improve the first, but tyres of large section may have a had effect on the steering, and also come into contact with the mudguards unless theft are raised.
For snow-covered roads, some extra adhesion is obviously necessary, but quite a number of people one Meets in northern countries do not believe in chains. The new Dunlop competition tyres, which have a tread-pattern made up of blocks of rubber extending right across, with plenty of space between them, should be good for anything except soft melting snow, when chains would probably be essential. Incidently, spare wheel brackets may need strengthening if heavy wheels and tyres are carried.
Ice-chains, which have sharpened steel plates to cut through the icy surface, are Particularly useful on the frozen roads of Scandinavia, but they do not appear to be made in England. Another useful accessory is the unditehing gear, either Iii the form of a super-winding tackle, or a winch-like attachment which fixes on to one of the back wheels. The engine should of course be decarbonised and have its valves ground in, sump drained and refilled, and the atten
tien usual before a reliability trial. A spare gasket, valves springs and push rods are worth taking, but the modern car should come through the event without any loss of tune. Though the temperature over Europe during January is low, long spells of gear-work soon thin the oil, and a reliable brand such as Esso should be chosen.
In the remoter parts of Europe motor spirit is often of low quality, and it might be worth putting a compression plate on a car fitted with a high compression engine and starting from Bucharest. In France on the other hand neat benzol can be bought, usually from the local gas-works, in most big towns, which is a consideration for the John o’ Groats competitor. If the car is not fitted with shutters, a radiator muff is almost essential. Either glycerine or alcohol should be mixed with the cooling water to prevent damage from frost. If alcohol is used, make sure that the radiator cap is a good
.fit and the vent-pipe well out in the open, Otherwise the fumes may prove objectionable if the engine is running at a high temperature.
Electric equipment has a hard time during the Rally, and the starter, dynamo and battery should all be checked over. It may be worth while raising the position of the battery if this component is exposed, and a second small unit in parallel will ensure starting even if a plate should fail in the service battery.
The consumption with all lamps lit should be about 2 amps less than the charge, for the loss of light which may be brought about by bulbs of not too high wattage will be counterbalanced by the fact that they are receiving their full 12 volts. There are now a variety of fog lamps. such as the Lucas, which throw a fan shaped beam of light just in front of the car, and .which make it possible to proceed in almost any weather, while many of the Continental drivers favoured a peculiar pattern with a long hood which is claimed to have the same effect. Spare bulbs should be carried in one of the special metal cases sold for the purpose.
Lamps may be mounted over the engine in Oise of trouble at night, and an inspection lamp, especially the variety with an electro-magnet in the base, should be carried. None Of these are much use if one of the leads comes off the battery, and a pair of electric torches should form part of the equipment.
A well-made windscreen-wiper with new blades should have little difficulty in keeping the outside of the windscreen free from snow, but it does not prevent the driver’s breath from freezing on the interior. A small windscreen, electrically heated, can be supplied for this purpose. Alternately air heated by the exhaust manifold can be fed by a pipe to the back of the windscreen, and this method seems to work equally well.
Permanent jacks, if securely fitted, are a great convenience and should be part of the equipment of every Rally car. The latest pattern fold up compactly, and can be fitted alongside the axles where the ground clearance is small. They are useful on soft ground, as the wheels can be raised and sacking or brushwood put underneath. Shovel and tow-rope are part of the traditional outfit, but the Schneeschofel, which is simply a large piece of plywood nailed on to a wooden handle, is probably more use in the snow. They are difficult
to stow, but can sometimes be carried between the scuttle and the front mudguard. The well-being of the crew is just as important as that of the car, and the great essential is that it should keep warm. Radiators heated from the engine cooling water have been tried but unless carefully installed, are liable to leakage. The exhaust-heated variety give no trouble if the joints are properly made. The hot gases pass through a box carried beneath the floor-boards, and a plate on the top of the box is let into the floor. Hot-water bottles are almost useless, as they are converted in fairly quick succession into first cold water bottles and then ice bags,
Keeping out Draughts.
On a closed car one is generally faced with the alternative of an unpleasant ” fug ” if everything is kept closed or an unwelcome amount of cold if a window is slightly opened. A roof ventilator on the market claims to keep the car aired without drafts, and if it really does this, would be a good investment. Incidentlybefore setting out for the far North on a
saloon, or even an open car with a wellmade hood, it is wise to renew the exhaust pipe gaskets, and to take a hundred mile run with everything shut to see whether fumes from the engine tend to reach the driving compartment.
Drafts become unbearable on an all night run, and sheets of rubber with slits to take the pedals often greatly improve matters. Sleeves round the brake and gear levers are fitted on many cars,, and a good supply of soft felt should be stuffed into the cracks of the floor boards with a well-fitting sheet of rubber or carpet to complete the job. The hood may have a valance inside, and the side curtains can be fastened to this with push-buttons, but some ingenuity is necessary fn order to make it possible to secure them after the passengers are inside.
Suitable Clothes. with
Even with these precautions it is not too easy to keep warm, and heavy clothing is needed to supplement them. The Sidcot suit is always a great stand-by, but it needs to be big enough to go over one’s jacket, jumper and other woollen garments without pulling on the shoulders, a fault which becomes very tiring on a long run. Another difficulty is that one cannot comfortably walk about civilised
towns in a Sidcot. The leather coat is the usual alternative, for there is not room in many of the smaller light cars for two people clad in tweed or camel-hair overcoats. A fur collar should be fitted to a leather coat, as the hide feels unpleasant in cold weather. Working downwards, trousers present no difficulty with Sidcoat suits, but other
wise plus-fours are almost essential to keep draughts from chilling the legs. Ski trousers, which fasten round the ankles might be better still, as they do not restrict the circulation. Two thin pairs of socks are better than one thick pair, and if the wearer is likely to be called upon to drive, short sheepskin flying boots with zipp fasteners are excellent. Otherwise any sort of loose-fitting boot or overshoe will do. The inhabitants of Northern countries wrap their stockinged feet with newspapers and then wear high felt boots, but it is almost impossible to get these in 1-,:ngland.
There only now remain the extremities. A fur-lined flying helmet is probably the best form of head-gear, for it keeps out the draughts when driving, and what is equally important, when trying to sleep in the back seat. Two pairs of gloves are better than one. Fingerless gauntlets are best on top, and under them silk or thin chamois ones, so that one has some protection even when the outer ones have been taken off to work on the car. With a fast car and a clear road, it is often possible to arrive at a Control sufficiently early to get one or two meals
and even three hours in bed. Between these stops there are spells of twelve to fifteen hours driving, during which some food is needed. The constant motion of the car over rough roads is apt to produce indigestion, and if the food can be confined to highly concentrated articles such as chocolate and Oxo biscuits, so much the better. Hot drinks are welcome, and thermos flasks can withstand hard usage, but large quantities of liquid are also liable to give
that sinking feeling. Barley sugar is excellent for preventing indigestion.
The routine of driving will depend on thee crew and. whether the owner or leader of the expedition has more experience of winter driving than the remainder of the party. Three or four hour spells suit most people.
Three passengers is the best number, so that one has one following the route, one driving, and one resting in the back of the car. The R.A.C. and the A.A. both issue route books for the various Rally routes, so that finding the way is not very difficult. In the under 1,500 class, however, the Regulations only call for two passengers, and a third may be difficult to accommodate and also detracts from the car’s performance in the Acceleration Test which settles the final order, so that one usually has to be content with two.
Odds and Ends.
It is not too easy to make a comfortable place to lie down in the back of a sports car, but a great deal can be done with a plentiful supply of cushions, with a small suitcase underneath to make a pillow at
one end. A large fleecy rug will keep out most of the cold, especially if a car-warmer has been fitted, and a sleeping bag is a good idea if there is room. The back of the car should be kept clear of chains. tools and other items likely to be wanted on the journey, as a home is sure to be wanted for odd shoes, coats and the like, for which no space has been provided. Chains and spares not likely to be wanted in a hurry can be stowed in lockers under the floorboards or under the back seat on either side of the differential casing.
This year the consignment of luggage to Monte Carlo has been further simplified, and little more than a change of linen need be carried on the car. A good many cars are now fitted with luggage lockers or grids large enough to carry three small suitcases, otherwise a special trunk can be strapped on the running boards if these are strong enough.
A final suggestion is that all the money required on the journey should be changed in England before leaving. Traveller’s cheques are useful on a leisurely trip in the summer months, but it is not always convenient to be in a big town when money is required and the car is hurrying to its starting place, and even more difficult on the return journey south. With a supply of money and attention to stamping the previous Triptique and Road Book, frontiers and controls can be passed with the minimum of trouble and delay.