AN ENTHUSIAST AND HIS CARS
AN ENTHUSIAST AND HIS CARS MR. SHUTTLEWORTH SHOWS US ROUND.
SIMPLE things for simple people, so they say, but I must admit I am intrigued by an atmosphere of mystery. Whenever I cross Romney Minh I keep a sharp look-out when passing the farms and houses by the wayside, hoping to see the tail of one of the ” Chittys,” said to have found a last resting place in that part of the world, sticking Out of a tumble-down .shed, and the rubbish-heaps of country blacksmiths conjure up for me visions of ancient Benzes and Peugeots, though so far those I have examined have never yielded anything more romantic than the internals of 1920 Dodges and Overlands. Early this year, however, I
seemed to have struck on a really good thing. I was told of a medieval castle standing in a great park, the whole place alive with motor-cars, . and the whole account suggested something like that amusing film, ” A Yankee at the Court of King Arthur,” in the scene with the American Baby Austins. Mr. R. 0. Shuttleworth, well known to our readers through his fast G.P. Bugattis, was the hero of the romance, and as a result of a date made when he was over at the Manniri races this year, I set off from London one rather dismal October morning en route to Biggleswade, a town some sixty miles up the Great North Road.
The park, and the house, were there quite definitely, though the latter was built some time after the age of knights in armour, but the motoring element was not revealed until I had turned into the big stables at the back, passing. open doors through which a. variety of vehicles could be seen, and drove on to the inner yard. Here I was confronted with a Pre-war Rolls chassis, an enormous trailer, a monster fireengine, a two-seater Jowett, several odd Mortises and all sorts of parts from other cars. A faint sound of machinery came from a building at the far side, and I went in, to find Mr. Shuttleworth at work over a lathe. a . , “I’m just making a valve for the Benz over there,” he said, ” we’re very busy just now preparing for the Brighton Run in ten days time.” We went over and examined this machine, the usual small f?nr-wheeler with two seats in front and talkr steering, and a single-cylinder horizontal engine at the rear, with crossed belts and fast and loose pulleys for changing gear. It was actually built in England in 1898 under Benz patents, but follows tie German design. Driving it is a full time job, and Shuttleworth acts as mechanic, tending the belts, which need to . be taken up several times on the Brighton run, and keeping the mixture riot in the surface carburettor, while lus driver dev and the brakes.otes his time to steering The other car in the workshop was a 1901 Wolseley, a tiny car with a singlecylinder engine combined with a twospeed gear-box, the unit being slung in the centre of the chassis. Mrs. Shuttleworth, who is just as keen on veteran cars as her son, was to take this car on the Brighton run, and in preparation for the journey it had been taken entirely to pieces and refitted with new bushes, bearings and other parts, so as to restore it as far as possible to its original condition. As early as 1928, the first year of the Brighton revival, Shuttleworth had realised how the old cars were disappearing, and has taken a pride in
collecting and restoring all he carne across. Bins full of parts labeled ” 1898 Benz,” ” Peugeot,” ” Wolseley,” and so forth, bore witness to his enthusiasm, and a Museum collection of old lamps and accessories in another place enables him to deck the cars out with the appropriate tackle. ” In time I hope to get them all into working order, if possible, just as they left the factories,” he said. ” You’d like so to see the rest of the collection now, and afterwards we’ll go down to the aerodrome on the Wolseley.” The veterans were stored in a series of coach-houses, and the first one contained, besides a fairly modern blown Austin Seven, a 1898 Mors and a Peugeot. The Mors was a rare specimen, with a fiat
twin engine and a three-speed gear-box with two sliding bevels, so that it also had three reverse gears. It was steered by a cross-bar on a vertical column, with an ignition switch on one extremity to cut out the engine if all else failed. After a short period of use it went out of action with a broken crank-shaft, but Shuttleworth hopes soon to get it under way. One of its joys was the dickey seat, which was erected ” by numbers.” First one raised the flap, then the back, then the sides, and finally the supports, the finished article being exactly like the typical ” tiger” Or groom’s seats at the back of open carriages. The Peugeot was a single
cylinder car of disputed date, the possibilities being between 1900 and 1903. It was suffering from loose rims, and when its turn comes for repair, these will be restored by covering the fellows with three-ply wood, and heating and shrinking on the old rims again. The greatest problem in connection with restoring the old cars is to obtain suitable tyres, for the old sizes, such as ” 1010 by 90″ have long since disappeared, but it is hoped that some of the old moulds may be found, and that fresh sets of tyres may be manufactured for the benefit of the “Old Crock” enthusiasts. There were three noble cars in the next shed—a 1903 RichardBrasier, a twelve-horse Paiihard, which had taken part in the Hurst Park speed trials in 1901, and an Arrol-Johnsou dog-cart. The firstnamed was fitted with the tonneau or ” governess car” body usual in those days, but in wet weather a coupe de ville effect was obtained by swinging up two halves of a leather hood from each side of the back and clamping them together on top. On the other hand, when all-out speed was required, the owner simply loosed a few bolts and the back part of the body slid right Off,
leaving only the two bucket seats. The four-cylinder engine was fitted with low-tension ignition
so complex that even Shuttleworth was defeated by it, and he had never been able to get the car to run for any length of time, but continued experience with these ” old-timers ” teaches one a great deal, and he is confident that he will eventually discover how it worked. The Panhard was said to have been raced by the Chevalier de Knyff in some race abroad, but became the property of one of the Rothschilds in 1901 and was fitted with a closed body by Morgans, of Leighton Buzzard. This structure was quite eight feet high, and was entered by tipping aside the two front seats. It once had a wooden extension covering the driver’s seat, but after the owner had nearly been blown over and upset into the sea at the conclusion of the Brighton
run, he decided it would be wiser to remove it.
Many people will remember seeing the Arrol-Johnson, with its high varnished body, in last year’s Brighton run. It was found at the Arrol Johnson works at Dumfries, and after buying it for £12 our collector announced his intention of driving it home by road. The first day he got as far as Carlisle, and then set off to do the 240 miles to Coventry, which were accomplished in 24 hours, a pretty exhausting drive, as may be imagined. These cars were fitted with a two-cylinder four-piston engine which worked the crank shaft by rocking levers, and an ArrolJohnson with this type of engine won the 1905 Tourist Trophy Race in the Isle of Man. The engine, incidently, is started by a cord which is hitched round the flywheel.
Two more cars completed the collection, and these were, if anything, the most interesting. The first was an 1894 Peugeot, the third car to be brought to England, and the only one which was shown at the Tunbridge Wells Show of that year. It belonged to Sir David Salamons and remained in the same neighbourhood until it was brought to its present home. The two-cylinder engine lives behind the seat, and is so ” hand-made ” that even the bores of the two cylinders are different. The exhaust valves are actuated by grooves cut in the balanceweights, and the original tube ignition is still fitted. The gears are carried on shafts which are carried on the frame, and the latter anticipated the Auto
Union, being tubular and used for carrying the circulating water. The original tiller steering is still fitted.
The other machine is an English one, a two-cylinder Daimler of 1896, and was in use as a brewer’s lorry up to 1924, and was only discarded then because the gear-box was worn out. This vehicle still has tiller steering and tube-ignition, and at speed is liable to develop a most alarming “tiller-flap.” After seeing the collection of veterans, which I should think must be the finest private collection in the country, I remarked that all that was lacking was one of the pre-1905 racing cars, but was reminded of the De Dietrich which lapped the outer circuit in 1930 at 58 m.p.h., and is still game for any veteran event
on the track. This last car brings the total up to ten. The present-day cars were more ortho dox vehicles ; I remember a 6i-litre Bentley, a Railton Terraplane, a Riley and some other small car, all closed, a 3-litre Bentley and a 30-98 Vauxhall, both with open bodies, also two old Rolls Royces besides the chassis already mentioned. Most of the older vehicles had been bought with the idea of converting them to something else, but as most adapters find, fitting new bodies is an extremely difficult task. We must not forget the three Jowetts, a.ma,rque which Shuttleworth particularly favours, two Arrol-Astors and one or two odd vans. The Morris situation was not easily assessed, for the ground-engineer had followed in his employer’s footsteps and was building up one car out of several old ones after his machine had been
damaged by a falling tree, but we reckoned that at least five belonged to the Hall, and we calculated that the total with the 2-litre and the ” 2.3 ” Bugattis down at brooklands came to over thirty. However, except for racing and the tuning of old cars, Shuttleworth has lost most of his interest in land travel. This reminded us about the visit to the aerodrome, so we went back to the workshop to see how the Wolseley was progressing.
A battery had been fitted, and the trembler buzzed cheerfully, but apart from a succession of pig-like grunts from the automatic inlet valve, and an occasional wrist-shattering back-fire the car refused to “play,” part of the difficulty being that the chassis was so light that it lifted up and down as the handle was swung. Then the two-seater body was brought, an easy job for one man, and dropped straight on to the chassis, where it fitted exactly, and all hands turned out to push. The compression was terrific, but eventually we got the engine turning. Clouds of white smoke poured out as we ran it up and down the workshop and it fired. Shuttleworth dared not stop, but took a perilous path past lathes and spares to the open door. I managed to leap aboard during a brief halt, and then with the little car trembling to the beat of its one lung we set off across the park to the aerodrome. Unfortunately, the engine did not maintain its early promise—the mixture was too strong after a trial blockage of one of the extra air ports—and the best we could do was some 10 m.p.h. on the low gear. The last rise before the hangar did us down, but a little pushing took us over the crest and we coasted down to the workshop.
Concluded at foot of next page. The flying field is an extensive one
yards square, and the hangars, workshop and dope shop are fully equipped. Shuttleworth has two Desoutters, with which his pilots run a taxiservice, a Moth, which is in much request by Cambridge Undergraduates who want to fly themselves, and a Compel’, which he is re-building. Another interesting machine is the Arec, one of the small machines built for the first Light Aeroplane meeting at Lympne, and which is fitted with a small A.B.C. engine. The greatest disadvantage of air travel is that aerodromes are usually situated some .mile or so from the nearest town or railway station, so to overcome this Shuttleworth has designed a bicycle with small wheels and a frame which folds up
to the same size, so that the whole outfit may be carried in a suit-case, and this he intends taking with him on future air trips. An unorthodox, but quite sound, way of getting over the difficulty. We returned to the house in yet another car, one of the first pre-war Morris Oxfords, built about 1911 and fitted with a White and Poppe T-head engine, which Shuttleworth had purchased from a local chimney-sweep. It certainly had been a day of contrasts, which continued to the end, for I learnt that he had been thinking of flying to Germany to try to purchase one of the Auto-Union racing cars, but had been told that there was no chance of their being sold to foreign drivers. He intends to carry on with the double-camshaft Bugatti, and may
possibly convert the 2-litre to a ” 2.3 ” single camshaft and sell it.
Well, the mystery was solved and very satisfactorily, too, for the collection of Veteran Types was worth coming many miles to see, and it was encouraging to know that they were in the hands of such an enthusiast. It only remained to thank Mr. Shuttleworth for his entertaining afternoon and then the open road again, with interesting speculations as to how far the thirty odd cars would stretch if placed end to end. It only remains for him to import a few Belisha Beacons, Speed Cops and some steel studs to have a complete pageant of British road history, but for the sake of his peace of mind I hope he keeps them out of Old Warden Park.