SPECIALISING IN OLD MASTERS WE VISIT THE INTERNATIONAL HORSELESS CARRIAGE CORPORATION
It is difficult to imagine a greater contrast in cars than between a fiery FrazerNash and a 1A h.p. Benz Velocipede. Last month we had the good fortune to interview a man who divides his atten
tion between the two. This versatile gentleman is Mr. R. G. J. Nash, who made fastest time at Shelsley in 1931. and 1932 on the famous ” Terror.” He still retains his keenness for this sort of work, building in his own workshop at Brooklands the ” Spook ” and then the ” Union-Special ” with the Frazer-Nash two-blower engine. During the winter he turns his attention to the other end of the stale and busies himself with the 1.H.C.C. (for interpretation see heading).
The premises of the Corporation are situated on the edge of Brooklands Aerodrome. The business was originally one which dealt with the older (and cheaper) type of racing car, and the veteran Lorraine ” Vieux Charles Trois ” still remains as part of the stock in trade. Dealing in veteran cars was then merely a side-line and the whole thing was taken over by Mr. Nash more or less as a hobby. He soon found that apart from the interest in working on old cars and the small demand which existed for them amongst private individuals that there was a wider field to be found in hiring them out to ‘film companies, theatres and other institutions Which required the temporary use of genuine ” old-timers.” The collection has now been extended to cover other early types of mechanical transport, especially bone-shaker and penny-farthing bicycles. The oldest of
these dates from 1867 and was manufac tured in France, while a still older tricycle,. quaintly named the ” I,ady’s Accelerator,” was supposed to have been con s here in the thirties of last century.trueted somewhere Suspended in the rafters is a Sopwith Camel of 1917 fitted with a pre-wai radial Anzani engine. In the spring Nash proposes to regain his “A” licence flying on this machine, but the summit of his ambition is a 1913 Farman aeroplane which he discovered and bought at the
aerodrome in France. This particular machine, which is a three-seater fitted with two engines, was Maurice Farman ‘s persona) ‘plane Wore the war. It is still in perfect flying condition and is to be used
next year in making a film called “The Conquest of the Air.” Our own visit to Brooklands was not connected with the flying side of the business, but to admire and try the latest ” find ” of the Corporation, an 1895 Benz Velocipede. Only two cars we know of in England can claim to be older than this veteran, an 1894 Peugeot owned by R. 0. Shuttleworth and a Benz, now in the South Kensington museum, which has a horizontal flywheel and which is said to date from about 1892. It is worth noting
that the engine number is 382 and the chassis number is 589. while the Benz factory states that by May, 1896,, no less than 600 Benz cars had been built. So much for those who imagine that motoring began in the first years of the present century.
How this particular Benz reached England is not clear, for :ts original owner lived in Basle. When Nash heard of it, it was lying out in the open on a Leicestershire farm, with the body half rotted away and such important components as the bigend missing altogether. The engine and chassis were Completely stripped and rebuilt, and the wheels fitted with new spokes and furnished with solid tyres made by Connolly’s of North London, who made the original ones for the Benz Company back at the end of last century. Thebody has also been restored to its original condition.
The engine is rated at 1i h.p. (bore and stroke roughly 60 mm. by 90 mm.) and, possibly as a result of the extra half horse, this wee little car was supposed to carry four people. Two sat on the driving seat facing forward, a third on a small seat facing them and the fourth was perched at the back over the engine. A series of gratings could be let down on chains in the style of the horse-drawn dog-cart and provided No. 4 with a place to put his feet. When we got down to Brooklands a mechanic was engaged in trying to start the engine by pulling round the flywheel, but beyond a few coughs there was no response. It has not been possible to get the special light fuel suited to the surface carburetter, and aviation petrol is not sufficiently volatile until the car
buretter has been warmed for some time by the exhaust from the engine. All hands then set to push, and after we had covered quite a large proportion of the road back to the paddock the “humph-humph” from the automatic inlet valve was joined occasionally by a feeble chuff from the exhaust. Nash, as the technician, had the important task of juggling with the controls as well as helping
to push, and at last he found a position of the air and petrol control at which the car would tire fairly evenly.
Not daring to mount on high in case our weight might upset the first signs of life, we trotted alongside for some time, the owner steering an erratic course with the vertical control at the top of the control column. At last we judged the time ripe to leap aboard, and set off down the road at a full seven miles an hour, the little car throbbing with the effort of its one lung. Unfortunately the engine was but newly built up and was too stiff to pull its other higher gear, so we contented ourselves in making a turn in the width of the road and heading for home. The motorists of those days probably did not get quite the thrill of speed which we look for nowadays, though the twin-cylinder Benz built on the same principle was supposed to be a real flyer, but at any rate the old-timers could claim that their hobby was both instructive and energetic. As a motor-car the Benz was not giving its best that day, but there was much in the chassis which was of the greatest interest. The engine is a single-cylinder carried horizontally at the back in the manner of the present-day stationary paraffin-engine. It is started, in theory at least, by pulling round the fly
wheel. The big-end is exposed and carries a large greaser, and the camshaft is driven from the crank-shaft by exposed pinions. The exhaust valve is operated by a cam and roller and the camshaft also carried a fibre drum with a brass
segment. A springy brass strip makes contact with it and can be moved round to vary the timing. The carburetter is simply a brass tank filled with wick, petrol being supplied
from underneath as required by means of a hall-cock similiar to that used in a well-known component of domestic plumb
ing, though somewhat smaller. From the top of the carburetter the mixture passes along a long pipe to the inlet valve, vaporised to some extent on the way by passing through three or four layers of wire gauze.
The cooling arrangements are quite ambitious and consist of a brass cooler on top of the cylinder leading to a condenser tube on the outside of the body, the water tank fitted to the side of the body being only used to maintain the level. The transmission is by means of flat leather belts to fast and loose pulleys on the countershaft, which drives the rear wheels through side-chains. The steering is carried out by means of a pinion at the bottom of the steering column which pushes and pulls on two rods work
ing on a yoke. From this the motion passes to a split track-rod which connects to each of the front wheels, thereby anticipating the M.G. Magnette by quite a number of years. The controls consist of a throttle lever, which remains permanently open, the mixture control already mentioned, and the advance and retard control which is a sort of cupboard bolt dropping into one of several notches and attached to the make and break by means of a length of wire. The gears are shifted by means of two further levers beneath the steering handle.
After our experiences with the ancestral Benz Mr. Nash directed our attention to a youngster of 1903, the Silent Fifteen Panhard, which he had driven to Brighton a couple of days before in the Veteran run, covering the distance of 56 miles, despite shocking weather conditions, in just three hours. This car was in constant use up to 1920, and still had its original coachwork and paint. The body w as a double phaeton, i.e. an open fourseater, remarkable for its height and the intricacy of its moulding, but its performance showed strikingly the progress which had taken place in those ten years at the beginning of the twentieth century. On flooding the carburetter the Panhard started up with two pulls of the starting handle, and we set off down the road, if not in complete silence, at any rate with commendable acceleration. On top gear we achieved a comfortable 35 m.p.h., and 45 was possible when the car had been fully run in after its complete overhaul. We were well sheltered behind the enormous windscreen and Nash said that he had had quite a pleasant journey down to Brighton. We admit to a feeling of slight alarm at the speed at which he took corners, but evidently
it was more stable than its height suggested, and made no attempt to overturn on top of us.
The engine was a four-cylinder with cylinders independently cast, and double branched exhaust pipes which would please the enthusiast.
The engine speed was limited by a governor at the front of the engine which was connected to the throttle of the Krebs carburetter, the effect of the accelerator pedal being to limit the action of the said governor. The idling speed and the ignition timing were regulated by means of a beautiful pair of twist grips carried on the spokes of the steering wheel and containing drums which wound in lengths of piano wire. Dual ignition was fitted and the combined low-tension magneto and coil makeand-break, which was chain-driven oft the rear end of the camshaft projected into the driving compartment in the same way as that of the G.P. Bugatti of later date. Other components we do not have .nowadays were the engine oiling tank with its two spring-loaded pumps and
drip feeds, and the large greaser for the countershaft bearings.
The water pump was friction driven oft the outside of the flywheel, which seems an unusual position until one remembers that there was a seven-gallon cooling water tank at the back of the chassis, the grilled tubes in front of the engine being just for the immediate cooling effect.
The gear-box cum differential is supported at the front end on a single bolt and at the rear end on the cross-shaft which carries the front chain sprockets. The leather cone clutch is disengaged by a shaft running right through the gearbox and out at the back, and is disengaged when the hand brake is applied. There are four speeds and reverse selected by the usual sear-lever working in a quadrant. The chassis is of wood, strengthened by steel flitch plates, and the engine and gear-box are carried on a steel sub-frame, as was the custom in those days. Taking it all round however this 1903 car was a perfectly practical vehicle, and except for tyre troubles and bits of car which. drop
ped off, the motorist of those days stood a very reasonable chance of reaching his destination on schedule.
Apart from the Benz and the Panhard Mr. Nash has a number of other interesting vehicles stored away.
One is a 2-cylinder Benz very similar to the smaller one. It is started by means of a handle at the side and this usually sticks in position, whirling round and round like the scythes on Boadicea’s chariot and then flying off at a tangent in some unexpected direction. Another is a Charles B. Crowden, one of the earlier of British cars, but not yet in full going order. Then there is a fleet of three Peugeots, two 1902 and one 1903 if we remember rightly. The gem of the collection is the steam-driven Locomobile which is shortly to be put on the road. Mr. Nash kindly invited us to come down later on to witness its first trials and to sic beside him on the driving seat, and added somewhat darkly as we parted “Don’t forget to bring your parachute.” or as the road contractors say ” you have been warned.”