THE EFFECT OF NATIONAL CONDITIONS ON DESIGN

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THE EFFECT OF NATIONAL CONDITIONS ON DESIGN

M AURTCE PLATT, M.Eng., late technical editor of ” The Motor “

and now with the Engineering Dept. of Vauxhall Motors, Ltd., delivered his paper on the Effect of National Conditions on Automobile Design in Great Britain, before the I.A.E. at the Royal Society of Arts on December 7th. Although it deals with utility car development the paper is of considerable interest to readers of MOTOR SPORT, particularly that section referring to British road conditions, because the sports-car user either drives fast for fun or goes long distances to attend distant sporting events or for the sheer pleasure of driving, and he is especially restricted by inadequate roads and by adverse public feeling resulting from road accidents. We give a brief summary of Mr. Platt’s paper, editorial comment on which is enclosed within brackets. The author did not believe our system of taxation on the R.A.C. formula to have so far affected design to any marked degree, but he recognised seven outstanding National conditions haying a big influence on British design, namely, a fair degree of general prosperity, the high cost of motoring, the road system, congested traffic, variety of topography, individualism of British character, and conservation of British outlook. He estimated that 80 per cent, of the record total of 320,239 new car registrations for 1937 was shared by six industrial groups–Austin • Morris, Wol. eley, M.G.; Ford ; Standard; Humber-Hillman; and Vauxhall. He believed that three of these producers must have an output exceeding 50,000 cars a year. In Appendix I he showed that there are thirty-three British individual manufacturing organisations. [Of these, twenty-seven produced, apparently, 20 per cent. of the 1937 output of 320,239 cars for the home market, or an average of 2,372 a year each. As nineteen of these organisations market sports-cars the ailera:ze sports-car output is 45,068 and it seems likely that a quarter of this figure as actual output of sports-cars only would not be an optimistic estimate.] Mr. Platt pointed out that in 1924 we had 37,969 miles of classified roads and 35.2 vehicles per mile, and in 1936 43,870 miles to carry 63.1 vehicles per mile, during which period unclassified road mileage dvreased from 139,352 to 131,233. He paid warm tribute to Mr. Walter Groves for his thirty-three years’ work in a campaign for road improvement, during which he continually discussed road improvement in ” The Mot-..-r.” We favoured small cars because we felt safer in tbein in congested thoroughfares, because small cars were handier in congested places and because in heavy week-end traffic conditions the superior capabilities of the powerful car can seldom be employed to advantage. [The author emphasised that these comments did not apply to all kinds of motoring and we suggest that a 41-litre Bentley, for instance, that is responsive, restful to handle and accurate as to control, is more pleasant in London on a wet night than any baby car. Also, sports cat users travelling fifty miles north or north-west of London will find miles of clear roads where high performance can be fully utilised even on a summer Bankholiday.] Accleration was emphasised as more important than slicer speed even for family cars. [Agreed. but a very high maximum still has its appeal, particularly to regular entrants for events like the Brooklands High Speed Trials, and, if it is less true than formerly that a high maximum ensures effortless cruising, certainly design of high speed usually releases, also, excellent hill-climbing and accelerative qualities.] Good roadholding, riding ( omfort, good braking. reasonable fuel consumption and the ability to restart on gradients of 1 in 4 with -full load were essential qualities of British cais of all kinds. Braking, in many respects, was the most satisfactory of all per`ormance qualities, but many 10 it.p. saloon:, could not better 30 m.p.g. Springing has not progressed very favourably, especially on small cars in which load variations vary between a ratio 1.4 to 1. In the author’s experience many Continental cars cannot restart on slopes steeper than 1 in 5 under full load. [Bottom gear-ratios for utility cars are not quoted in the author’s appendixes, but perhaps there is something to be said for trials ratios ?] In considering safety in car design it was emphasised that Mr. F. C. Cook, a distinguished official of the Ministry of Transport, had quoted fatal road ac idents for 1935 as .022 per 100,000 vehiclemiles for private cars, .033 for motor vans, lorries, etc., and .035 for public conveyances. In his historical survey of utility car trends, 1919-1927, the Austin Seven of 1922, Morris-Cowley of 1925 and Morris 12-4 are prominently mentioned by the author. Front brake re-introduction in 1924-5 is emphasised, notably the Lockheed, Rubury and Perrot proprietary systems and Vauxhall hydraulic, Rolls-Royce servo, and Hotchkiss pullrod systems. [Delage and Hispano also used mechanical servos, Chenard•Walcher a Hanot servo operating front brakes only, and Daimler a magnetic system. Deirandre popularised the vacuum-servo.] The North Lucas had all-round coilspring independent suspension and the Leyland Thomas of 1921 has torsional suspension to supplement leaf springs. [The correct designation is Leyland Eight. Thomas later raced a standard Leyland Eight. The modified singleseater Leyland-Thomas radirg-cara were produced about 1923-4. The ThomasSpecials were iflitre racing-cars, the first based on the streamline of the LeylandThomas and built of M.A.B. components, and in 1927 eame the two straight eight “flat-iron ” cars There was also the Marlborough-Thomas, with ovalsection two-seater body, raced by Thomas at Kop and in the 1924 ” 2011,” when it fell to bits, and shown as a sports-car at Olympia. The Leyland Eight was shown at Olympia in 1920, priced at „1,2,500 as a chassis. It was discontinued in 1925, and about eighteen were built. The chassis price was reduced bv 1922 to 11 8;5.] In 1925 the -erage touring engine gave 2 b.h.p. per 100 c.c., peaking at about 3.000 r.p.m. Geared to do 1,100 r.p.m. at 20 m.p.h. Maximum speed averaged 55 in.p.h The author gives an historical survey of the development of seven popular makes from 1927-1938. The Morris Minor, introdured in 1929, was the first British competitor of the Austin Seven. [No mention is made of the Jowett, Singer Junior, Triumph Seven or Gwynne Eight, produced prior to 1929. nor of the Gillett and Waverley /100 cars (the latter admittedly a 2-cylinder) or the Rover ” Scarab.”1 Hillman Minx, Morris Ten, Standard Little Nine, Vauxhall Light Six and Ten, Ford Eight and Ten, followed as extremely successful small cars. Alvis, Vauxhall, and Morgan were relatively early users of independent suspension, adopted by Humber-Hillman for 1936, Rolls-Royce for 1937 and Daimler-Lanchester for 1938. Lockheed, Bendix and Girling braking systems were highly successful. Vauxhall introduced synchro-mesh gear-change in January 1932, Riley having developed the “silent third,” and it became general from 19834, killing the free-wheel, now only found on one British car of consequence—Rover. In England, and to a lesser extent in other countries, the ” exclusive ” type of car manufacturer concentrates on large powerful high-priced cars, sports-cars, and ” de-luxe ” editions in the 12-18 h.p. class. Their position is becoming more difficult as the quality and performance of quantity-produced cars improves and in the author’s opinion it was sad to see the market shrinking for cars which provide a special pleasure of ownership and handling and which can be designed without special reference to tool and equipment costs. Future developments may give more scope in this field than is ordinarily anticipated. [We sincerely hope Mr. Platt is right.] During 1919-1927 a number of excellent British sports-cars was -produced and these undoubtedly assisted the improvement of the ordinary touring car to a very marked extent. New ideas would be tried out in a sports model of limited production in a way not open to the builder of cars in quantities. Nowadays when the sports-car is so often maligned, its service to the Industry in the early post-war years was worth recalling. [To which we would add that sports-car makers no longer inflict experiments on their clients. In many ways the modern sports-car is the only sound solution of present restrictions on fast travel and its consequent commercial significance is too valuable to !eopardised (N.B.—We are unable to quote from the discussion following Mr. Platt’s paper as we closed for Press before it was read, the above extracts being taken from the full report of the paper in the December issue of the I.A.E. Journal. Those genuinely interested are always welcome at I.A.E. lectures, on signing the Visitors’ Book. On January 4th at the Royal Sooety of Arts, at 7.45 p.m., Dr. F. W. Lanchester, F.R .S., and Mr. G. H. Lanchester will deliver a paper “On Independent Springing.”)