BEING THE STORY OF “FROGGY BLEU II ” readers of MOTOR SPORT may remember a description of an old motor-car named “Froggy Bleu,” which much to the surprise of all and sundry yielded yeoman service to its owner long after it should have been
decently interred. Despite this ample education in the vagaries of vintage motoring, early enthusiasm still remains.
Number II of the series, a French car like its original namesake, began life as a 1926 “Grand Sports” Senechal. No doubt when new this title was well merited, but by the time it got into my hands in 1937 the appellation of ” Grand ” anything seemed a little out of place. The general appearance rather suggested acute starvation. The chassis was high, the wings Jong and flared, the tyre (old high pressure
700 x 80) looked hardly suitable for a push-bike let alone a sports-car. And to complete the picture a large ” V ” screen was stuck high up on the scuttle. However, it undoubtedly went. As
it was picked up cheap no test run had been given before purchase, so on taking delivery any and all sorts of trouble was expected. To our surprise, though, the engine started on the third turn of the handle and seemed to have plenty of life, although only firing on three. This proved to be merely an oiled-up plug and once cleaned we had no more trouble in this direction.
Water, oil and petrol, in respective order of importance, were taken on board and the crew of two embarked, which should have been an occasion for the presenting of yet another medal to the Intrepid girl-friend who lends her sanction to these adventures.
However, passing up the heroics, the clutch was engaged instead and, to the accompaniment of chronic back axle whine transmitted through the prop shaft to mingle with power vibrations from the engine, the self-propelled equipage sailed out of the garage and onto the King’s Highway, thereby providing full-time employment to the ” cop ” squad cars of the Metropolitan Police Force.
Still, once top gear was engaged and with an open road in front, the car went quite well. There was a fair amount of play in the steering which, added to the lack of castor action, made 50 m.p.h. distinctly exciting. But the springing was not so bad as it looked, and the general feel was O.K. The foot brakes
were, of course, of a somewhat minus quantity as they operated on the two rear wheels only, but the hand transmission brake worked exceedingly well and was smooth enough for a sudden emergency stop.
The top speed was about 55 m.p.h. on the level and about 35 m.p.h. in second. After a little attention to the steering and castor action the car was not touched until the end of September last year. During the winter it went into dock for alterations and repairs. Firstly, the back axle was taken down and new ball races installed where necessary, which did help to reduce the noise,
although, as the crown wheel and pinion have straight bevels, they cannot be quietened very much.
It was next decided that front brakes were an essential fitment, so an Amilcar front axle with 12-inch brake drums was obtained and fitted. This was no easy job, since the Senechal has transverse front springing, and the new axle was designed for a semi-elliptic layout. These brakes were coupled to the foot pedal and the rear brakes transferred to a large outside hand lever, which system works excellently.
A steering box from an Amilcar was also used as the old one was too badly worn to be repaired. The body was the next item on the programme. The ” V” screen was scrapped and a fold fiat fitted. The
cowling was extended backwards the passengers’ side, and a radiator cowl • made up and fitted. Pneumatic seats were substituted for the original wirespring affairs and enabled the occupants to sit in instead of on the car.
As regards the engine, not an awful lot was done, but aluminium pistons were substituted. for the original steel ones and an outside exhaust made up, which was a definite improvement since the engine ran much cooler. The old three-speed gearbox was scrapped and a four-speed installed instead. These alterations have made the
old Senechal a very pleasant motor of its type. The engine is much smoother and has a healthy “poke.” Speed is now 70 m.p.h. or a little more in top, 55 m.p.h. in third, and 35 m.p.h. in second. The cruising speed is 50 to 55 m.p.h., and the brakes are easily up to their job.
Recently oversize rear tyres were fitted which considerably increased the comfort and also the road-holding, and a hotter engine is now in the throes of construction.
Of course, the motor isn’t suitable for even mild speed trials or hill-climbs, and I’m not interested in “mud-slinging,” but for its own purpose, which is road work for pleasure only, it’s a very attractive little car to run.