THE BRITISH SALMSON A DISTINCTIVE SMALL CAR BUILT TO AERO STANDARDS.
SPORTS car owners may be divided roughly into two groups, those who use their cars for competitions and are prepared to sacrifice a certain amount of comfort for extra performance, and those who want a fast and thoroughbred vehicle, interesting to drive and yet one which brings them over a two-hundred mile journey without undue fatigue. The British Salrnson has been evolved to meet the needs of the latter type of driver, and by reason of its nine-feet chassis and i+-litre engine provide good road-holding, a very useful maximum speed, coupled with economy of operation.
As befits a car manufactured by the famous firm of aircraft-engine constructors, quality and not low price has been the first consideration, and every part of the British Salmson is hand-made and fitted at the factory, and no effort has been spared to make it a luxury car on a small scale.
First impressions are usually lasting, and from the moment we took the wheel of the smart black and silver car at the British Salmson Works, we felt perfectly at home with it. The controls functioned pleasantly, the engine ran quietly, yet felt fully up to its work, and had a reserve of power low down, which made it possible to get away from other vehicles without undue use of the gear-lever. Brooklands was our first objective, and we found it possible to circle the track at full speed in perfect comfort without adjustment to tyre pressures or shockabsorber settings, while the car maintained the correct height on the banking almost without guidance. The maximum speed, timed Over a flying half-mile, was found to be exactly 75 m.p.h. A cold day, some rather heavy fuel, and the fact that two silencers were fitted instead’ of the usual one, all combined against reaching the maker’s declared maximum of 80 m.p.h., but as far as the latter point is concerned, the satisfaction of driving a quiet car outweighs, for most people, the extra two or three m.p.h. at the top end of the range. The fuel recommended, incidently, is two-thirds No. 1 petrol and one-third benzol, and the petrol consumption is about 28 m.p.g., but as the corn
pression ratio is only 6.2 to I better results might well have been obtained with some commercial high-octane fuel, such as Cleveland Discol.
A series of acceleration tests followed and served to emphasise the good qualities of the Salmson gear-box. The synchromesh mechanism fitted to third and top gears is one of the best we have tried, and the lever can be pushed from second to third, third to top or top to third without the slightest pause or jar, though a short wait is naturally kinder to the mechanism. Second and third gears are both quiet-running, and the change down into second is quite straightforward.
A remote-control gear-lever is used on the sports chassis, and top gear is “forward right.” No gate is fitted, and as the spring which keeps the selector striker out of reverse position is rather weak, the lever sometimes gets caught in the reverse slot and fails to select second. The engine runs comfortably up to 4,500 r.p.m., though with increased noise after 4,000 r.p.m., giving as maxima in the indirect gears 27, 42, 53 m.p.h., 4,500 on top is 75 m.p.h., but on this gear the car may be nearly 5,000 r.p.m. without unpleasant consequences.
The engine is mounted on rubber, so that the chassis is insulated from any vibration. Carburetion is good throughout the range, but there was occasionally a slight check on putting down the accelerator after a sudden braking, possibly due to our not retarding the spark sufficiently.
The brakes were powerful, but were considerably out of adjustment, so that one of the back ones locked solid and the figures recorded varied from 55 to 65 feet from 40 m.p.h. Correctly set a figure of 52 feet should easily be possible. Continuing the test on the road, we quickly settled down to a gait of 60 m.p.h. and found that this speed could be maintained indefinitely without feeling that
the car or the driver was working bard. The exhaust note at this speed and in fact right up to the maximum was nothing more than a steady hum, and the wheelbase, quite a long one for a if-litre car, avoids any tendency towards pitching and helped to give that big-car feeling.
All the body, except the rear panel and spare wheel, is within the wheel-base, and the car corners without any effort. The steering is light and proved satisfactory at all speeds, though a little more caster would be welcome on winding roads. The maximum we attained on the road with the screen raised was about 70 m.p.h., and the day on which the car was tested made it definitely unhealthy to have it long in any other position.
The driving position we found not sufficiently upright for our liking, but this was easily overcome by a wedgeshaped cushion behind the back. Thus supported it was possible to see all the off-side and the top of the near-side mudguard, and the steering wheel was just under the hands. There was plenty of room round the pedals, but the hand-brake lever might have been with advantage brought nearer. The front of the car is roomy enough to use heavy rugs, and the elbow could be kept inside the body with the side curtains in position. The windscreen afforded excellent protection. An extended run on main highways simply served to confirm the effortless gait of the Salmson as a fast :tourer, so we decided to test it on the narrow roads and byways of the Downs. Under such conditions an easily handled and comparatively small car is a distinct asset, while the powerful and well-siIenced four-cylinder engine of the car under test carried out its duties with a pleasing absence of fuss. Actually, we did not get our best impression of the car until we had discarded our heavy driving gloves. The light steering, the fingeroperated gear-change and the general sense of stability could then be appreciated to the full, and with the powerful brakes,
even though out of adjustment at the time, permitted fast runs on winding roads without getting into difficulties. ” White Downs,” which was once quite a difficult semi-trial hill, was attempted, but now that the (balk has given place to a tarmac surface, we were able to give
second gear after the hair-pin bend. Returning after lighting-up time, we found the large-diameter Lucas headlamps gave an evenly distributed field of light, and were powerful enough to allow
full speed to be maintained after dark. The special lenses give a rectangular beam lighting up the whole width of the road, and a finger-tip control on the steering
column controls the dip and switch mechanism, and also the side lamps and the winter and summer charging rates.
The engine of the Salmson is a robust and well-finished unit with many original points. In the first place it has two overhead camshafts driven through a vertical shaft and skew gears from the rear end of the crank-shaft, the valves being arranged at 90° to one another in a hemispherical combustion chamber. The cams bear on hollow pistons sliding in recesses in the head, and the lower sides of these bear on the tops of the short valve stems. The valve clearances are adjusted by shims, which need no attention between the periods of decarbonisation, and the pistons take the side thrust from the cams. A spring-loaded dummy cam is fitted in the centre of each camshaft and balances out the thrusts of the working cams, thus making the shafts run steadily and without noise. The distributor and the rev, counter are driven by a cross-shaft, actuated by skew gears on the vertical drive ; and 18 mm. plugs are carried in masked holes between the valves.
The crank-shaft is fully balanced statically and dynamically, and is carried in three massive white-metal bearings. The aluminium crank-case consists of two parts, with an oil filter between the two, and the sump holds + gallons. The cylinder head is also of aluminium, while the block is of special alloy so bard that the makers guarantee a life of 40,000 miles without reboring. An external oil filter is carried on the near side. A single carburettor has been found to give more power than two small ones, and the large Solex instrument is supplied by an S.1_1. electric pump from the 10-gallon rear tank, Thermo-syphon cooling is used, and owing to the ‘exceptional size of the water connections the temperature remains remarkably constant under
all conditions. A substantial dynamotor is used, bolted on to the front end of the crank-case, and gives easy and silent starting. The twelve-volt battery is arranged in two units behind the gear-box.
This latter is fixed in unit with the engine, and receives its power through a single-plate clutch. A very effective type of synch ro-mesh mechanism is used for third and top gears. Profile-ground gears are used, and a dip-stick is provided. Quarter-elliptic rear springing is used so the final drive is taken through a torque tube, with a ball-joint at the rear of the gearbox. Half-elliptic springs are used in front, and friction shock absorbers are fitted all round, those at the back being mounted
transversely. Cable-:operated Bendix brakes are used and the hand-brake operates on all four wheels. The chassis is upswept over the back and front axles, with four cross-members, a particularly stout one of H section uniting the flanged side members at the rear spring-mountings D.W.S. permanent jacks are fitted to the back and front axles. The open car is very attractive in appearance, low-built and with the spare wheel partly sunk into the sloping rear panel. The front seats are well padded, readily adjustable and afford plenty of leg-room. The rear seat is also well upholstered, but since there are no foot-wells, accommodation is rather cramped, and on a long journey not more
than one rear passenger could be carried.
It is interesting to know that every part of the British Sahnson except the rear axle, gears and the accessories are made at the factory which lies just off the Kingston By-Pass, and which even has its own foundry. Any enthusiast who cares to make the round of the works and see the engines and other parts being assembled and run, gems being matched and other matters of hand-made routine can understand more fully the amount of care and testing which goes to the making of this quality-built motor-car, which incidently is guaranteed for two years. The address of the makers is British Salrnson Aero Engines, Ltd., Raynes Park, London, S.W. 20.