VETERAN TYPES No. XX A 1919 INDIANAPOLIS STRAIGHT-EIGHT BALLOT
[A DESCRIPTION OF CECIL CLUTTON’S 1921 3-LITRE GRAND PRIX BALLOT APPEARED IN JULY 1937 “MOTOR SPORT,” SO IT MAY BE OF INTEREST TO RECOUNT THE CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH ATTENDED THE PRODUCTION OF ITS PROTOTYPE—THE 1919 5-LITRE BALLOT. ESSENTIALLY A TRACK CAR.—Ed.] AFTER the Armistice in 1918, French motor car manufacturers agreed among themselves not to enter for racing until they had had time to change over from war to peace con
ditions. The organisers of the Indianapolis 500 were however very eager to obtain European entries for their first post war race. M. Maurice Ballot, whose firm had manufactured motor car engines before the war, decided that France should be represented in the American race. The story of how he accomplished the apparently impossible task of designing and building a team of four new racing cars in four months cannot unfortunately be related here in detail. The designers started work, in the greatest secrecy, on Boxing Day 1918, and in spite of enormous manufacturing difficulties arising from the then prevailing disorganised state of French industry and railways, the first car was taken out on test on April 7th, 1919-101 days after the designers had started work. To have accomplished such a feat, each man connected with the design and with the production must have put his whole heart and soul into the work. The new cars were found to be very fast and had every chance of success in the race. In practice, however, they were found to be slightly overgeared for the short Indianapolis course. The wheels were accordingly rebuilt to a smaller size and American tyres had to be pro cured in consequence. This proved to be the team’s undoing. Although the new Ballots were the fastest cars in the race they were dogged by constant
tyre trouble and the vibration set up by the brick surface of the track broke a lot of wheel spokes. Guyot finished
fourth, Thomas eleventh. Ballot and Wagner had to retire. On returning to Europe, one car was brought to Brooklands where it took the One Hour record driven by Jean Cha-ssagne. What happened to each car subsequently the writer is not absolutely sure, but a certain amount is known about their later careers. Count Louis Zborowski ran one of them at Brooklauds and in hill climbs until his death at Monza in 1924. His duel with Segrave on the 5-litre Sunbeam in the Brooklands Championship in 1922 will long be remembered. Captain Clive Gallop drove this car for Zborowski on many occasions, its lap speed was then about 118 m.p.h. After Zborowski’s death, R. B. Howey drove the same white Ballot and attained some very high speeds with it, lapping at 121 m.p.h. He won the Brooklands
Founder’s Gold Cup in 1926. Unfortunately he was killed in the hill climb at the Boulogne meeting in 1926 and the wrecked remains of his car were buried in mid-Channel by his friends. Captain H. W. Cook used to drive a sister car at Brooklands about 1925. M. Ballot himself used one with touring equipment in Paris, it is said. The Ballot factory in 1926 .fitted front brakes to one car and sent it to Australia where it has recently been driven by James Gullan. Chris Shorrock, the Centric supercharger expert drove another Ballot at Southport until a few years ago. This car, which was presumably Captain
Cook’s machine, was acquired, two years ago by the writer. Gullan’s car unluckily threw a rod in an Australian race last December and the remains of the engine have been sent to the writer for use as spares for his car. When M. Maurice Ballot decided to enter for the Indianapolis 500 he engaged. Rene Thomas who had won the race in 1914 on a Delage. Thomas laid it down that the new cars should have low centre of gravity, powerful ac -aeration. and good road-holding to reduce tyre
wear. M. Ernest Henri, who had designed. the famous Peugeot racing cars of 1913,. undertook the design.
The very strong family resemblanceisreadily observable when comparing the 5-litre Ballot with M. Ernest Henri’s other designs—the 1913 Peugeot and the 1921 Ballot. The straight-eight engine has two. cylinder blocks of 74 mm. x 140 mm. bore and stroke. Two overhead camshafts, gear driven from the front, operate four valves per cyliuder. Two. large Claude! Hobson carburetters are fitted. The built up Crankshaft is carried on five ball bearings while the con
necting rods have unusual plain big end_ bearings with floating bushes. A curious. form of dry sump lubrication is employed. Oil is forced by pressure in the oil tank through drip feeds to the bearings. A Scavenge pump collects it from the sump
and returns it mixed with air to the tank. The air builds up the pressure in. the tank which is regulated by a release valve. Maximum revs. are about 3,500_ A simple One clutch took the drive to the four-speed gearbox in the original design but the previous owner fitted a_ Borg and Beck clutch to the writer’s. car to cope with increased power output_ The engine and gearbox are mounted. in a U-shaped sub-frame which is sup
ported on the chassis by three ball and. socket joints. The drive is taken by an open propeller shaft to the rear axle The final ratio is 3 to 1. Brakes were originally on the rear wheels only and atransmission brake was fitted behind the gearbox. The writes’s car has been fitted with Darracq front brakes and axle. For Indianapolis, cylindrical bolster tanks were used but both Howey’s and
Gullan’s cars subsequently carried streamlined bodies with pointed tails.
The maximum speed obtained by the Ballot team at Indianapolis is not known. to the writer but Guyot managed to. average 84.4 m.p.h. in spite of tyre trouble. Howey’s machine, after careful
attention from Thomson and Taylor reached over 120 with a compression ratio of only 5 to 1. Gullies car managed the same speed and was doing just over 100 m.p.h. in third gear when,. as a result of the car leaving the ground over a bump, a rod parted. The writer unfortunately has not had much opportunity of ascertaining his car’s maximum performance but on the short straight at Donington he obtained 108 m.p.h. at the first race meeting in which he drove his car. The 5-litre Ballot is a delightful car to drive. The high geared steering gives very positive control and the large eight cylinder engine gives very satis fying acceleration. Top gear can be. engaged before reaching the top of the hill after leaving the Melbourne corner. In the first race in which he drove his Ballot, the writer was embarrassed to find himself in the lead as a result of the car’s acceleration. Although he had set out with the firm intention to tour round carefully. The Ballot was not to be denied however, and she won the first race in which her new owner drove her
A. S. Hears 5-titre Straight-Eight Ballot on the Coppice Corner, Donington. The radiator is not original.