CARS I HAVE OWNED
[THIS TIME BY JOHN BOLSTER, WHO REQUIRES ABSOLUTELY NO INTRODUCTION.—ED.]
IPROPOSE to depart a little from the title of this article, and deal wit h some of the more amusing cars owned by mymother, wife, and brother, in addition to my own machines. I also propose to leave out the numerous Austin Sevens and Morris-Cowleys which we have collected at different times, likewise all racing devices, which are rather outside the scope of this opus.
A large part of my extreme youth was spent in acute discomfort in the rear seats of. my mother’s big Mereddes, which had a most dashing ” Gordon Watney ” sports body. :Nh. worship of this car was only exceeded hy my adoration of my uncle’s Mercedes, which had a six-cylinder Maybach-Zeppelin engine and, joy of joys, enormous outside exhaust pipes. It did 60 m.p.h. at 800 r.p.m., but it could not be driven very fast or the tyres would burst, and a burst tyre on that car meant just one thing—a crash ! As a result of this sporting upbringing. I viewed my first Austin Seven with contempt, and my life really started, and also nearly finished, when I became the proud owner of a Frazer-Nash. When one is a real ‘Nash enthusiast no other car has any attraction whatever, and although my Nash was dreadfully unreliable, I wouldn’t have swapped it for anything in the world, except another ‘Nash. Mine was one of the very light Anzani-engined models, and although it would only do 74 m.p.h., its acceleration, road-holding, and brakes were excellent. On winding roads, one could motor sideways round corners under perfect control, but if you did happen to clout the bank, the narrow rear track was a disadvantage, as the car would turn over rather too easily. A good driver, of course, does not use his car as a battering ram.
At. this time my mother had a 3-litre ” Bed Label ” Bentley, but it seemed a rough, heavy, ill-sprung car by comparison with the ‘Nash. It was faster, of course, and much more reliable, but its acceleration was rather disappointing, and it would take a genius to evolve worse suspension. She also had a ” 12/50 ” Alvis, which did :35 m.p.g. and never used any oil, in spite of hard driving. It was very light on tyres, too, in fact, it was a most economical and reliable little car, but it was spoilt by feeble brakes. This car was subsequently exchanged for a Meadows-engined Frazer-Nash, which was just that little bit heavier than the old ‘Nashes, so that it was not so light and responsive to handle, nor were the brakes so good. The Meadows engine gave a lot Of trouble with pistons and big-ends, too, so that was rather a disappointing car. A very different machine was her sixcylinder twin o.h.c. Black burne-engined ‘Nash. This car really would do 90 m.p.h., and was quite reliable. It had a beautifully smooth engine, and would have been a really delightful car if it had not been so heavy. The splendid cornering and braking associated with the early ‘Nashes is at once lost if you
add a few hundredweights, and if only that extra poundage had not been present, the ‘Nash ” six ” would have been one of the best :sports-cars on the market. My brother was also a ‘Nash owner at this time, and had a remarkably fast side-valve model, which would exceed 80 m.p.h. It was one of those rather scruffy-looking aluminium-bodied affairs, but it was extremely light, Sc) would steer and stop to perfection. But alas 1 A terrible blitzkrieg occurred under the bonnet, and the engine was beyond repair. Another Anzani engine was fitted, but that car never did 80 m.p.h. again. Finding my ‘Nash unsuitable for towing a racing-car, I looked around for something cheap and sturdy to do this job, and eventually bought an old “
30/98″ Vauxhall. To my astonishment, I found that this old car would beat up the ‘Nash “six,” and that it would cruise all day at 80 m.p.h. I bought a brand new set of Dunlop tyres, and wore them right, out in the first fortnight I had the car, bemuse rd got into the habit of ” Nashing ” sideways round corners. I told Mr. Dunlop what had happened, and he said,” Go away and buy some other make of tyre, our tyres are made for people who drive properly.” After that, I tried to drive like a gentleman, but even so, I once happened to notice that I had covered 62 miles in less than an hour, and this with virtually no brakes. The 80/98″ brakes were what started me drinking, because on long journeys they used to get hotter and hotter, and feebler and feebler, till you had to stop at a public-house for them to cool down. Of course, after one had had enough of these stops for the brakes to cool, one achieved sufficient courage to complete the journey without any brakes at all.
Having grown to love ” Mr. Vauxhall,” I fitted him up with Bentley brakes, lowered him, gave him proper shockabsorbers, and hotted up his engine. I then told a eoachbuilder to make him look all pansy, after which he gave me over 150,000 miles of excellent motoring. I kept him for many years. and only found him a good home with a friend because nobody will ride in an open car nowadays, and I found that I was always having to go to social functions in the back seats of my friend’s horrible saloons. My brother’s ‘Nash gave place to a 17 h.p. short-chassis Lancia ” Lambda,” hotted up by West & Chit tenden. This car had really marvellous independent suspension, and the road-holding and springing were beyond reproach. The :engine was rough and noisy, however, and gave a good deal of trouble with gaskets, as a result Of the liners working loose in the light alloy block. It was exchanged for a B.M.W., a three-car
buret I er 14-litre saloon. This is a splendid little car, having good aeceleration, and excellent. independent suspension. It is completely reliable and shows no signs of wear after a great mileage, but the brakes are tot ally inadequate. Another good car which joined the family was my wife’s ” Smoky.” She has had this car almost ever since she was old enough to drive, and it has done almost as many miles as ” Mr. Vauxhall.” It consists of a standard 1927 Morris Cowley chassis, fitted with Girling brakes, a light Jensen body, and a very much hotted up six-cylinder ” Isis ” engine. It will exceed 90 m.p.h., but is not really safe at over 70 M.p.h., and my wife is the only person who can corner it fast without having an accident. It has excellent acceleration, and once won the Ladies’ Cup at Shelsley, beating such things as supercharged Bugattis and “30/98s.” ” Smoky ” is wonderfully smooth and flexible, completely reliable, and damnably uncomfortable 1
Aly wife also has a little coupe designed by her father, and called the ” T.CS. Special.” It is a very short little car, and exceedingly low, so that you would think it had an 8 or 10 h.p. engine. Actually, it has a 30 h.p. Hudson :engine fitted with four S.U. carburetters, and goes like manure off a spade. It has a timed maximum speed of 96, and dim hs hills such as SheLsley and Bwleh-y-groes on top gear with the greatest of ease. Unfortunately the engine occupies Most of the chassis, so that I he wretched driver sits on the back axle, and takes his meals standing after a long run. Personally, I always have a headache after driving it, because the closed body is so small, but it’s great fun for short journeys.
My mother had an open Railton sports for a time, and this was a most reliable car. The 6 volt, electrical system was rather inadequate, and the brakes weren’t very clever, but it was very well sprung and almost completely silent. With practice, quite fast cornering could be achieved, although the thing didn’t handle like a thoroughbred, but the real reason why she got rid of it was because you couldn’t see where you were going, owing to the high, wide bonnet. After that, she went round all the showrooms and sat in every sort of motor-car, with the avowed intention of buying the first one from the driving seat of which you could see the whole of both front mudguards. Modern cars being what they are, it seemed a hopeless quest, till one day she returned victorious at the wheel of a 1)6/70 Delage drophead coupe. This delectable machine absolutely oozed pavement appeal, but had it anything else ? Oh boy, it had !
Did I say you can corner sideways in a ‘Nash ? O.K., then you can corner backwards or any other way you like in a Delage. The road-holding and suspension of this car are incredibly good; and as for brakes, they’re simply magnificent. Then there’s that Cot al gearbox, which almost. &tittles t he perforrnance of the car, and . . . . but that’s enough ! In sober fact:, this is a luxurious drophead coupe, with rat her a small engine, and its timed maximum speed is only 87 m.p.h. Stated like that, it sounds pretty dreary, and yet this is the best car I have ever driven.
A friend of mine was seen pub-crawling in a most fantastic car. It was a red two-seater with an enormously long tail, and mudguards like the wings of a Junkers 87. A chromium-plated heron hovered menacingly over the radiator, chromiumplated wire netting also garishly decorated that useful component, and a hostile crowd collected wherever it was parked. It was, in fact, a short-chassis IsottaFraschini which had once cost £3,500, and, to my shame, I bought it for £16. Stripped of all its finery, its imposing radiator dropped Many inches between its dumb irons, its enormous tail replaced by a slab petrol tank, it looks a mere shadow of its former self, but I love it because it rushes round corners in a certain way, and does this and that when you finger its steering wheel. It now has four S.U. carburetters, and I wonder if I shall ever be able to afford to run it. It must be confessed that I have also another car, a D8, 100S Delage. I bought this because they didn’t want much money for it, and also because it. only had one carburetter for eight cylinders. I threw this away and fitted four S.U.s, whereupon the engine gave so much power that the gearbox broke in sunder. I gave Mr. J. Vatter’ all the rest of my money, and he modified the box to take the urge. We then motored all over France at a great rate, and came home with our brakes utterly destroyed, so Mr. McKenzie fitted some enormous Girling brakes, and now
it is quite a good car. has a drophead body in which the head disappears into the shapely tail, and the Suspension and steering are very nice. Lastly, I must refer to the 1903 Panhard et Levassor. This car deserves an article of its own as, without any doubt, this
veteran motoring is the best there is. The Panhard will do 32 m.p.h. and has practically no brakes at all, and yet I miss the Brighton run even more than Shelsley. All the cars are now hidden away, and I am no longer a motorist, except for short runs in my wife’s Fiat “Mouse,” the suspension and brakes of which remind me so much of the real thing. Let’s destroy this perverted hOusepainter quickly, and get the good motors crack
ing again ! As regards the future, I should dearly love to own the kind of Delage that M. Louis Gerard ran at Le Mans, or a good Delahaye or Darracq would do nicely, thank you. Also, I have always wanted a SSK Mercedes two-seater, though I know they have their faults. [Contributions to this fascinating series are still very welcome.—Ed.]