A WAR-TIME ROAD-TEST SOME RAPID MILES IN PETER CLARK’S LE MANS H.R.G.
WE can think of few better ways of temporarily forgetting blackouts, food rationing, the rising price of petrol and similar war-time unpleasantness than taking out a racing
-car on test. Consequently, we felt greatly indebted to Peter Clark when he offered us his H.R.G. which ran so well at Le Mans last year, together with enough Pool fuel to exercise it for one afternoon of exhilarating ” dicing.” This particular H.R.G. was built quite early in 1937, as the eleventh production of H. R. Godfrey’s little works at Tolworth. It was delivered in June and by the end of the year had covered 16,000 hard miles, running in all Manner of speed and reliability trials. For 1938 it was overhauled and slightly gingered, and at Le Mans it .finished second in the lf-litre category—indeed fine showing. It was vanquished only by the German Adler. At the Bo’ness hill climb Peter crashed it rather seriously and damaged both himself and the motor, but, nevertheless, the ” Herg ” started in the T.T. in Marcus Chambers’s capable hands and managed to finish, though it had a broken frame before the flag fell. Rather thorough modification for long-distance racing was completed in time for the 1939 season. It lapped at 91 m.p.h. in a B.A.R.C. Outer Circuit handicap, and won the 1.flitre class at Le Mans. averaging nearly 10 m.p.h. more than in 1938—acLually, 1,611 miles at 67 m.p.h, ” L’Ecurie de Lapin Blanc ” dealt with the Meadows engine, which has a Laystall crankshaft, special steel connecting rods, and a compression-ratio of about 9 to 1— Pool fuel is practicable and this is a pentroof head! The cooling water now goes to’ the rear of the head, with small branches to the block, and oil is taken from the pump to a large Tecalemit -coolingfilter below the radiator, while the oil pipe layout to the rocker gear is quite special, following failure in supplies during the 24 Hour Race of 1938. The gearbox has a bottom gear nearly as high as the standard second, but final drive ratio is unchanged. In full trim the weight is 15 cwt. and some 70 b.h.p. is produced. Using 18 inch Wheels at the rear the speed is 100 m.p.h. at 4,700 r.p.m. The engine runs to 5,500 r.p.m. and is probably happy up to 5,000 r.p.m. There is a big Silent bloc-mounted fuel tank behind the luggage space, with feed by two separate pumps and separate overhead leads, Although H.R.G. built a Le Mans long-tailed car as ‘a later production line, it was A. C. Scott’s car, not Clark’s, which sponsored the idea,. and the two ears have many points of
unsimilarity. Peter’s car now has a very beautiful long tail, though the body forward of it is largely standard, and there is a full length underpan ; Scott’s car was shorter. Thus this very attractive H.R.G., as we were invited to test it last month— incidentally on Pool petrol, on which something like 36 m.p.g. has been recorded on a 140 mile run. Being in the East End of London we repaired to the Southend arterial road, being charmed on the way by the H.R.G. gearbox, which even we could handle with something like skill, once we remembered that the gate is Bugatti in its ratio locations. Von can move the little lever from slot to slot as rapidly as the hand allows, using straightforward double-declutching going down, and the changes go through beautifully, while the lever could not be positioned better. There really is a lot to be said for constant mesh gears. The clutch slipped slightly once or twice, but has a light and very decisive action in the complimentary sense. We also appreciated the very generous steering lock in negotiating Dockland’s maze of streets, and found control completely accurate, and very light, notwithstanding a 1-1-11 turns lock to lock ratio. The brakes too, deal with any and every emergency. given a fairly decisive foot pres
sure—they have rather a hard feeling so that practice improves the progressiveness of anchorage. The little car is very attractively planted. The driving seat is about the only one on -a strange car that the writer, who is 5 ft. 8 ins, and. anxious to sit right up to the wheel, has had no desire to fill with cushions. The dashboard is nicely laid out and is just plainly, sensibly practical. From left to right it carries :— extra sump supply control, a line of lighting, ignition, dynamo and pump switches, St. Christopher badge, ammeter and oil thermometer above, dash lamp switch, lap scorer, starter, Jaeger WO m.p.h. Speedometer, Jaeger 6,000 r.p.m. rev, counter, choke, oil gauge and oil thermometer, etc. The horn button lives on the side of the scuttle. The wheel centre holds an M.C.C. silver medal, and on the wheel there is only the ignition advance and retard lever. The right hand accelerator is of roller pattern and the proximity of the brake pedal suggests narrow shoes. The central hand brake is of racing release type. A Pyrene keeps the passenger’s feet company and there are twin brake adjusters on the cockpit floor. The screen, of single pane type, gives excellent protection and there are proper cockpit doors. Peter says he has put on all his badges to increase the running temperature and, numbering as they do those of the Vintage S.C.C., N.W.L. M.C., A.A.A. of Michegau, C.S.C., Suribac, M.C.C., K.B.C.C., A.A. and Automobile Club de
l’Ouest, they make a fine array. The lighting nowadays is by a masked foglamp, the front tyres are 11unlop 4.50m x 16″, the rear are Dunlop Sports of 4. 50 x17″, and the bonnet has twin straps and carries the” White Rabbit “transfers. Racing number plaques and the G.B. sign tell of Le Mans visitations. All this we were able to take in while NO. 1 plug was changed before a spell
of real motoring. Soon we were for getting that 2,000 r.p.m. equals a lazy 40 m.p.h. and were cruising towards Southend at an equally effortless 80
m.p.h. This H.R.O. Steers with finger and thumb at this speed, and is altogether one of the most effortless fast -cars we have ever handled. The strident .exhaust note fades right away at over about 70 m.p.h., and 80 literally seems an -everyday cruising gait. The maximum we achieved Was 90 m.p.h., and the engine, like the roadholding, remained definitely unimpressed. This was done without riehening the mixture and with the screen erect, ‘while 85 m.p.h. was reached on several suitable occasions. The steering wheel kicks back a little and the facia shudders a bit over bad going,. but that is all. At this rate, despite unfamiliarity with the -car and sundry road diversions and traffic lights, we did the 30 miles into our seaside objective in exactly 30 minutes ; and did better coining home. Further rapid motoring, along narrow, twisty lanes, showed up the extreme -stability of this H.R.G. and 50 m.p.h. -Was quite normal, third snicking in before each corner and the brakes hold ing her in a dead straight line. The -punch in second and third is immense, accoMpanied by a growing exhaust twang, so that one is tempted to go up to 3,500 r.p.m. on every gear, equal to 22, 36 and 52 m.p.h. respectively. Actually, 2,500 r.p.m. or 15, 26 and 40 an.p.h. respectively, seems more re
speetable, but 60 m.p.h. is easily obtainable on third, and you change down at any speed up to this without hesitation. On fast corners there isn’t a trace of roll, but at tlines you are conscious of the load of precious fuel behind, and a thought more .castor action would be pleasant. However, in such matters this H.R.G. is stiff streets ahead of most sports motors. One of the most interesting parts of the test was to see how a racing engine would look at ” Pool.” Violent pinking there was, below 2,000 r.p.m., but by retarding the ignition this could largely be stifled, while all but full advance could be given when things were really turning over. In any ease, there is almost imperceptible loss of urge at full retard, and there seems no loss of economy. or signs of distress; although considerable pre-ignition is noticeable on switching off. The water temperature is 7580>C., the oil varies from 55–63C., and, with this variation, pressure changes from 60-65 lb. per square inch to 50 lb. Peter Clark says that the worst characteristic of Pool is the waxy deposit which has to be cleared from the S.U. pistons
at frequent intervals. The engine, incidentally, had not been touched for months and the oiling-up was attributed to an unsuitable ” bogie ” and worn valve guides. The rear shockers would have needed tightening, for track work, but the suspension was very firm tinder road con ditions. Thus, in spite of Nazism, we had, our run in a racing car, and felt all the old keenness return, doing, in all about 112 rapid miles. The outstanding impression of this H.R.G. which has so nobly upheld British prestige at Le Mans, is that it is most surprisingly effortless at a speed as high as a sustained 80 m.p.h. and that it handles like a 100 per Cent. thoroughbred—though with a different combination of wheel size it is said to be still more noticeably stable. It is • sheer delight to drive and, as we now expect even from racing-sports cars, it is absolutely docile and reliable. The most racing feature, of its make-up-, performance apart, is very audible lower ratios, and that is A vice we can personally always overlook. There have been some startling 11-litre sports-cars produced in the course Of time, but none can have been so all-round desirable as this long-tailed, Le Mans H.R.G. evolved by the enthusiasts of ” l’Ecurie du Lapin Blanc.” Peter Clark shows his appreciation by using it daily for office and Police Reserve duties, The fact that at Le Mans the rival Adler weighed 5 cwt. or so more, gave less power, but went quite a bit faster, led to plans being formed for the construction of a fully-faired H.R.G. for the 1940 24 Hour Race, but, unless Hitler has his outlook materially changed in double quick time, that will not now
come about. In the meantime there can be few unblown 11-litres as potent, as this H.R.G., and none more pleasant to handle on the road, war conditions not excepted.