THE RAILTON LIGHT SPORTS TOURER
After a run on the new light Rai1ton -the most hardened of critics could hardly suppress a feeling of exhilaration and a strong tendency to express himself entirely in superlatives. To begin with, an engine giving some 120 h.p. mounted in a chassis weighing only 19 cwt. gives a performance which is really breath-taking.
The question of road-holding has not been neglected and the car is safe and stable at the high speeds of which it is capable, and the flexible slow-running characteristics of the standard RaiIton engine are to a large extent retained. The lines of the shell body are sporting and businesslike, and in a word this new car is a happy answer to the enthusiast who still maintains that the essential points of a sports car are speed acceleration and an absence of unnecessary frills. It has been developed, incidentally, from the standard model by the collaboration of the factory and Mescrs. Thomson and Taylors, whose experience of speed tuning covers the whole field from Campbell’s “Bluebird” to single-seater ” 750’s.”
We began our test with the car stripped of wings, lamps and windscreen, exactly as it had been in one of the Long Handicaps at Brooklands in October, when its official speed for nine miles worked out at over 100 m.p.h. in spite of high winds prevailing on the day of the race. The same conditions were present on the day of the road-test, and we expected a rough ride as we jolted to the track with shockabsorbers hard up. Mr. Leon Cushman, the one-time driver of racing Alvises, was at the wheel, and without further ado we set out to determine the maximum speed and acceleration figures. A head wind was blowing on the Railway Straight, limiting our speed to some 90 m.p.h., but once in the shelter of the Byfleet Banking the needle quickly swung further round, and we had the satisfaction of recording 102.86 m.p.h. over the flying half-mile. With the wind behind us up the slope of the Home Banking the speed rose to 110 m.p.h. The car was perfectly controllable at these speeds, and with the wheel to steady him the driver remains comfortably in his seat, though the passenger, as usually happens in a light car on Brooklands, needs to
maintain a firm hold on a conveniently situated body stay. On taking the wheel ourselves we had found the steering comfortable and free from snatch at 100 m.p.h. and continued for a short distance ” hands-off ” at this speed without the car tending to deviate from its path round the banking. The acceleration can only be described as sensational. Getting away from a standstill with a little wheelspin, we reached 60 m.p.h. in 8 4/5 seconds, and starting as it seemed quite gently in the Railway Straight were doing our hundred behind the aerodrome. These figures and those shown on the chart opposite are easily the best figures we have attained on an unsupercharged car and are indeed better than those of some models fitted with blowers. Unfortunately we were unable to try the Car completely equipped, but here again, using a back-axle ratio of 3.6 instead of 3.3 to 1, it is capable of attaining just over 100 M.p.h., so the other figures should be about the same. • The gear-change was in each case quick and simple and the clutch took op the
drive smoothly and without slip. The maximum speeds in the gears were 50 in first and 70 in second, at 4,300 r.p.m. in each case. The second part of the test was with the car completely equipped, and very businesslike it looked with its compact fines, its long square bonnet, tiny wings covering enormous tyres, and heartening husky sound from the Brooklands exhaust
system. The shock-absorbers had now been slacked off and the car rode smoothly through restricted areas but with a full tank we found that the car was hardly steady enough for speed. .This was easily remedied by taking up the dampers half a turn all round, and then we settled down to enjoy some really rapid motoring. There are certainly few cars on the road so exilarating as the Railton. With full throttle on bottom gear of 8 to 1 the seat back definitely comes forward and strikes one, and the rev-limit is reached almost before the driver has had
time to think of changing up. This flying progress persists to 70 m.p.h. and beyond, and the car settles down to a cruising speed of 80-85 m.p.h. if road conditions permit. At this latter speed the revs are only 3,300, and at the more normal gait of 65 just over 2,500. Running up in the gears one hears an encouraging exhaust note which suggests a well-known supercharged foreign car, though there is nothing loud enough to offend the ever-sensitive police force, while on top gear the only sound comes from the straight-tooth bevels in the back axle. Unless all-out performance is required however, the revs, in the gears need not exceed two or three thousand, the magnificent power-weight ratio being sufficient to sweep the car on then on top gear ; except possibly for racing the absence of a third gear is no disadvantage. At the same time the very high top-gear somewhat limits the car’s performance in touring trim, and with the windscreen erected the all-out speed is not much over 90 m.p.h.
The acceleration chart of the Railion.
The Light Tourer differs from the standard Railton in having the engine moved farther back in the chassis, and this gives the car a perfect balance on fast bends, so that the driver has no hesitation in cornering at high speeds. The steering is rather lower-geared than on many of the average sports cars, but half an hour at the wheel overcomes any objection to this. The steering is free from snatch, and there is sufficient self-centring action to make the car hold a straight course without effort at speed.
The brakes had been slacked off when the car was raced and had not been re-set to give their full effect. They were smooth and light in action but as the rear ones came on much too early we were unable to get any satisfactory figures. The makers claim a stopping distance of 45 feet from 40 m.p.h., exceptional figures which should be possible in view of the large tyres and light chassis.
With a view to competing at Shelsley Walsh, the car had been fitted with the smallest size of headlamps eligible for the sports-car category, and as a consequence our speed after dark was limited to some 50 m.p.h. However this gave us a good opportun;ty of trying the topgear performance, and we found that on a cross-country journey of 75 miles with gradients up to perhaps 1 in 12 it was never necessary to leave top gear except in towns and on one or two right-hand art& bends. Truly a surprising performance on a top gear of 3.3 to 1. To give the best acceleration the mixture was set rather rich at the bottom end, making running at low speeds somewhat lumpy but this could have been over
come with a little adjustment. The springing was somewhat harsh for townw ork, but not sufficiently uncomfortable for it to make it worth while getting out to slack off the ” shockers.”
The trip concluded with a hundred-mile run hack to Town, and though the roads were still awash after heavy over-night rain, this part of the journey was by no means the least pleasant. The enormous Racing Dunlop low-pressure tyres (6.50 by 16 inch) gave a feeling of absolute security at speed and we drove at a steady 75 m.p.h. without feeling that we were being in any way brave. The journey was accomplished in ten minutes longer than our best time on a dry day, so there is no doubt of the car’s safety on wet roads. It is of course possible to get wheel-spin on the gears, but only if the throttle is intentionally mishandled. The hood, which is easily erected over a folding frame, gave adequate protection, and plenty of head-room. The mudguards are effective in spite of their small size and any spray which escapes them is carried directly backwards below artn-level. The body, which was built by Newns of Thames Ditton, is constructed entirely of aluminium and duralumin, and is carried on rubber blocks at three points. It weighs only one hundredweight complete
with wings. The seats are carried on the chassis itself, and the floating dash is supported on rods independent of the body.
The front seats have pneumatic upholstery and are comfortable in spite of ,their light weight. Doors of course are not fitted, and it would be advantageous to reinforce the seat backs with tubular supports, as one’s natural tendency is to lean on them heavily when climbing into the car. The driving position is of paramount importance in a semi-racing car like the Railton and we found the seat angle suited us well. The high bonnet prevents one from seeing the near-side mudguard, but this was largely due to the ” rollerskate ” wheels fitted. A point we did not care about was the position of the pedals. The seats were carried inboard because of the narrow body, but the pedals were all too much to the right, and we found our knee fouling the steering wheel when operating the clutch pedal, which has a
long travel, and the right heel straying en to the accelerator when applying the brake. These points could be easily overcome, and need to be on a car capable of 100 m.p.h. The rear seats comply with sports-car
regulations. Two full-sized passengers can be carried with their feet in the wells and their legs against the front seats, while a single person would find ample room .itting diagonally across the car. There is a space over the petrol tank at present used only for storing the hood and hood-sticks, but if it were floored over it would provide a convenient place for carrying a couple of suit-cases.
The engine fitted to the Light Tourer differs but little from that used in the standard Railton. The compression has been slightly raised, but the car still runs quite happily on Pratts or B.P. Ethyl. A down-draught Zenith carburetter is used, and a Scintilla magneto replaces the coil and distributor. The crankshaft is fully balanced and runs in five main bearings. Steel con
necting rods and silicon aluminium pistons are used. The sump holds 14-gallons and the oil passes through special cooling paths in the side of the crank-case. A mechanically operated petrol pump is used for drawing the fuel from a 13-gallon rear tank. The petrol consumption under a variety of conditions worked out at 12 m.p.g. The clutch has a single plate with cork insets running in oil, and the engine and gear-box unit are mounted on rubber. A tiny central remote control is fitted to the gear-box. A bevel driven back-axle
completes the transmission line. The ratio on the car we drove was 3.3 to 1 as against 4.1 to 1 on the standard Railton. Semi-elliptic springs are used all round, and the articulated axle used two years ago has been given up in favour of a rigid type. Bendix duo-servo brakes are used, those fitted to the Light Sports being larger than standard. The handbrake is mounted outside the body and has a racing lever with a rachet engaging only when the knob is pressed. The rear springs are splayed out to give better
riding. Two sets of Hartford shockabsorbers are fitted to the front axle, and one set of hydraulics and one set of the friction type at the rear. 6-volt lighting, and starting is used, with a 120 amp-hour battery.
Certain changes in specification will be possible such as large lamps, Telecontrol’ shock-absorbers, and the choice of a 3.3 or a 3.6 back-axle ratio with straight or spiral-bevel gears, and these refinements would obviously be worth having if the car were intended primarily for use on the road.
As it is the Light Sports Railton is a notable addition to the super-sports cars available on the British market and should give an excellent account of itself in competition next year, while its performance on the road ensures showing a clean pair of wheels to anything but the hottest of supercharged cars.
Trying is believing and demonstration cars are available at Railton Cars, Ltd.,. Fairmile, Cobham, Surrey.