WHY NOT TWO WHEELS?
I IN VIEW OF THE PRESENT HIGH COST OF MOTORING, THERE IS REASON TO CONSIDER THE CASE FOR THE SPORTS MOTOR-CYCLE, AND IN THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE SOME POINTS WORTH CONSIDERING ARE PUT FORWARD IN ITS FAVOUR—Ed.]
MY stable is limited to two motorcycles and the usual rebuilt Austin Special. The former consist of a 1920 side-valve Stinbeam which was purchased at the local garage for £2, and a new 1936/37 Vincent-H.R.D. The Austin is run in partnership with the owner of a 1936 ” PB ” M.G. and a Scott motor-cycle.
The Sunbeam was my first acquisition. We went on a ” big-twin ” A.J.S. to see one of the Veteran Motor-Cycle runs and when we arrived home we decided to try and hunt up a vintage motor-cycle for the next year’s run. I searched all the local. breakers’ yards and garages, but the Sunbeam was the best I could find and it was sixteen years too young. In between studies for a University of London Examination I managed to make a complete overhaul. Every part was taken down and cleaned and even the wheels were re-built and new tyres and tubes fitted. All the original nickel plating was stripped and chromiumed ; the enamel was fairly good and was touched up with Robbialac where necessary. The ” works ” were in excellent condition with the exception of the magneto which had fallen to pieces and was replaced by a C.A.V. of about the same vintage as the rest of the machine. The Sunbeam is very typical of the 1920 era, although perhaps a little advanced in design. It has a square-stroke sidevalve engine With non-detachable cylinder head, complete with a compression and priming tap in the central plug hole. The transmission is via a shock-absorber on the crankshaft, through a primary chain running in a Sunbeam oil bath, to a cork multi-plate clutch and three-speed gearbox of massive proportions. Another chain, again in an oil bath, takes the drive to the rear wheel which possesses an internal expanding brake and a quickly detachable hub. The frame is the usual diamond shape with the petrol tank between the two top tubes. The front forks are of unusual design, having a large leaf spring sccurell to the lower fork link platform and terminating in between two rollers fixed to stout mudguard stays. The front anchorage was the old stirrup pull-up brake which merely assisted the removal of paint from the front wheel rim.
When the Sunbeam was finally assembled again and had been passed road-worthy by the insurance coil’ }Any, I learnt to ride on it. I did many very successful runs on the old machine, usually to the Kentish coast and always back. Only twice • did I encounter trouble on the road, once when I inadvertently put the cones in the rear wheel the wrong way round, and they came tmput, and the second time when the glass of the hand lubricator pump cracked. and as I could not get a replacement I had to ride home—some 60 miles or so—with no means of lubrication except the oil already in the sump, and with no signs of seizure or overheating.
The maximum speed was in the region of 50 m.p.h., which was quite fast enough when trying to steer with the ” sit-upand-beg ” handlebars and the seemingly terrific wheelbase. I did two trials. In the first I climbed all the hills bar one, but was unable to cope with the 24 m.p.h. schedule in Kentish lanes, due to poor acceleration, brakes, and steering, and the added delay of missing the chalkmarked route when it went near a chalk pit. In the second, it more serious affair on Bagshot Heath—after I had managed to footslog up the first two sections I came to the timed test and just opened the throttle wide in second, all going well until I hit a tree stump, which caused the leaf spring to unship its front moorings and the ground clearance to decrease s uddenly from 6″ to about W. That was the end of that as the mudguard stay broke as well, so all that could be done was to jam the front forks up solid with tree stumps and motor home with solid forks. This was nearly the last run the Sunbeam did, as I had purchased a secondhand 1929 o.h.v. Sunbeam for 220. and it is now stored in a shed awaiting the formation of a Vintage motor-cycle club or a motor-cycle section of the existing Vintage S.C.C. The new Acquisition was just an ordinary Model 9 1929 two-port long-stroke model which gave yeoman service for about eighteen months. It had a maximum of about 75 m.p.h. and a fuel consumption of about 80 m.p.g., and was completely reliable and started easily. It was ex( elitionally docile, and once I managed to climb Cudham Hill in Kent entirely in top gear. It was eventually part-exchanged for the T.T. replica Model 95 Sunbeam which was the last T.T. replica that John Marston’s made. This was a real motor of which I have many pleasant memories. I took delivery at the local railway station taking petrol and oil down in the sidecar of the family Brough-Superior “
11/50″ Special. I remember I had difficulty in knowing which gear I was In, as there was an appreciable difference between the three-speed touring box with hand change fitted to the Model 9 and the close-ratio foot change on the new mount, which gave four-speeds with 9.6 to 1 bottom and 4.5 to 1 top. The new Sunbeam was carefully run in at gradually increasing speeds round a closed circuit of about 60 miles, one lap per night, and then a couple of long week-end runs were made to the West Country. I had all the performance that I wanted, although there were, too, the disadvantages one expects with a racing job in traffic. On one occasion a 350 c.c. O.H.C. Velocette got away from a standstill level with me on a certain long straight road and we both tried all we knew, flat along our tanks and almost peeping under the handlebars. I had great faith in the Sunbeam so I just kept in front by about half a length until at about 77278 I was absolutely flat out.
When the Veto drew alongside all I did was to change up into top and that finished the duel.
I eventually sold the ‘Beam as I was too bus y studying to be able to ride seriously for some nine months, and when I did ride I generally found that London traffic did nothing to improve the clutch linings.
The next machine I owned was the one that I am riding at present—a 500 c.c. Vincent-H.R.D. with spring frame and two 7 brake drums to each wheel. It is a beautiful job and in my opinion almost foolproof as regards riding. It stays on its own two wheels under all conditions and the compensated braking has to be tried to be believed. One road test at Brooklands produced the phenomenal figure of 22′ 6′ from 30 m.p.h. on the dry track,•and there is not to my knowledge another vehicle which has ever bettered this figure. Maximum speed with the rider absolutely flat along the tank but with all the road equipment in place is 87 m.p.h. and the acceleration is really good. The fuel consumption when cruising at speeds of 65-70 is about 70-75 m.p.g. I have ridden the H.R.D. pretty well all over England, and across the Continent to Venice, in trials and rallies and am now using it for official journeys and as a despatch rider’s mount on Home Guard duty. I maintain that a good motorcycle is the solution to this war-time motoring problem—it is reliable, cheap to tax and to insure, has a good fuel consumption on ” Pool,” while possessing performance that no car can give for a like expenditure. My advice to people who are forced to run about in horrible tin mousetraps for economy is to buy a motor-cycle when they should have more fun than any car can give them. Incidentally, the benefits of a spring frame can be assessed when I tell you that I went in for the last A.C.U. rally on the H.R.D. and did over 500 miles straight off without any aches or pains whatsoever, after not having ridden for six months: the total distance I had travelled before I started was a mere four miles on the evening before, to fill up with juice. I used to do a fair bit of spectating and officiating at car trials, and I was struck by the fact that if the ears found a bill unclimbable the bike would generally climb it easily on standard tyres, but if the cars found it easy I had to Manhandle the bike up them, generally with outside assistance. For example, Red Roads . near Camberley is difficult for the majority of sports-cars even with competition tyres, but almost any motorcycle over 250 c.c., even with standard tyres, will laugh at it. The H.R.D. was an ideal method of transport for spectating at trials, especially closed circuit events in Kent, due to its ease of handling in narrow lanes and its ability to go along footpaths where a car’s track would have been too wide. [Here we would remind readers that riding along footpaths is calculated to bring trials in to disrepute.-Ed.1 The most wonderful machine I have ridden was the 1,000 c.c. ” big-twin ” Vincent-11.11.1). I VMS at the works one Saturday when Vincent asked me if I would like to try the ” Rapide,” as it is rightly called. I opened the twist grip in the same manner as I usually did on my own motor and got into third gear within a few hundred yards thinking I must be doing about 40-45. Imagine my surprise on finding that I was doing 70. I hurriedly changed into top past the de-restriction sign, and then proceeded to open the throttle wide, sliding off the saddle on to the pillion. Cruising along the North Road at a very comfortable 90 m.p.h. seemed effortless, and there was still quite good acceleration from this speed ; actually the machine will do about 9:3-93 in third. Coming out of Baldock on the return journey a Wolseley 23 saloon came out of the limit at a respectable 30 and changed down to third. I promptly changed to second and opened the grip wide, hangingon for all I was worth. The spi:Tdometer needle shot round like a clock without a balance wheel and the car disappeared as if it were in reverse. Changing into top at about 90 I took the speedometer round to about 104 m.p.h. sitting more or less upright in the saddle and still gaining speed. The road seemed about the width of a plank. Having decided t hat 104 was fast enough for that day on what was a strange motor that I had only ridden for a few miles, I shut down and
experimented with speeds at the other end of the scale. I found that I could trundle along at 16 m.p.h. in top with no snatch and with the docility of a small two-stroke. I even increased speed from 16 to 18 m.p.h. with judicious use of the twist grip alone. The steering at all speeds has to be tried to be believed ; it is effortless, and 80-90 hands off is very usual and the machine can be taken round bends with a slight pressure from the knees. The machine tried was actually the one which Clarke had ridden through the M.C.C. ” Exeter ” Trial, and which averaged 64 m.p.g. for the whole trip, clocking 107 against a stop watch on the way home. I should very much like to try the H.R.D. ” Rapide ” against Mr. Lyeett’s 8-litre Bentley and a Type 57 Bugatti after the war.
and unsettling to aged ladies, and -although both these accomplishments may give pleasure for a time, they quickly lose their novelty.
one of the reasons why the Mercede.s engine is so grotesquely inefficient is that, despite quite small cylinders, it is only allowed to do 3,500 r.p.m, Had it only four cylinders it could hardly have done less.
Nor does this expensive product hold the road any better than it needs ; especially if the shock-absorbers are at all disordered. It is whispered that Merc6as always meant to make a sports edition of the 1934 G.P. formula car, but they never really gut around to it, and the 340 resulted.
I am most obliged to Mr. Maurice for the kind things he says about my article, but I think he does me an injustice in suggesting that, had the S.S. hailed from the Continent, I should have held it up as an example of all that was good and beautiful. The S.S. does, Indeed, provide unparalleled quickness for prime cost, and were it not for the Mae West mudguards, it would doubtless go a lot fast( r still. But I am not convinced that its road-holding is equal to its performance. Supposing I am correct in this opinion, Mr. Lyon is such an acknowledged enthusiast that I have no doubt he will rectify the matter as soon as he is satisfied that he has found the very best answer possible. ‘What a sports-car we should then have I I am, Yours etc.,
London, W.1 1. [We must incline to Cluttou’s beliefs. Recent Alfa-Romcos have not looked like real motor cars. Our road test of the 1;2,000 Type 500 5-litre MerealesBenz did not proclaim it as in any way outstanding. Even the earlier ” 38/250 ” six-cylinder only gave about 28 b.h.p. per litrein blown form. We have never tried the S.S. 100, but it has turned round rather frequently in racing, notably on the Crystal Palace circuit.—Ed.j Sir, Replying to Mr. 11. l.a. Biggs’s query in r November issue, the supercharged four-cylinder which Tall at Monza in 1929 was one ()I the 2-litre supercharged 1922 Targa Florio Mercedes ears. The Nvere the first racing. cars ever to he super charged. A four-cylinder supercharged model NV:Is also !WI nil 11Ced P. Hampton’s beautifully renovated nd were in Many res1 !Cc( S c(imen). a 1 1
miniatures of the 1911 41-litres, with liii separate cylinders. Incidentally. t he 1922 Targa Florio was won byoneof the 1914 ears. Neither of the snail’ fonr-cylindcr models was an? thing like so well known as the eight-cylinder 2-lit IT job, which, first appearing misupereharged in 1923 and giving 113 1).11.p.. was supercharged for 1924 and gave 1(3) 1).11.1). at 0,000 r.p.m. This compares with 113 b.h.p. at 3,200 r.p.m. for the unsupereharged 1914 41-litre engine. a jump from 25.3 to 80 b.h.p. per litre. The eight-cylinder machine won the 1921 Targa There is no authentic record of the 1914 engine ever being supercharged, and it w( add have been a dangerous experiment. Rosenberger won the 1929 St. Moritz G.P. on one of these cars and also covered a flying kilometre at 120.7 m.p.h. This represents an engine speed of 3,000 r.p.m., and must have been very near the sale limit, as the con-rods were only 1.3 min. thick in the web and had to thrash round a 103 inm. stroke. Admittedly, the above sliced was achieved
stripped, but it interettiug to have it in mind when thinking about the Linsupercharged 4′,-litre Bentleys of fifteen years later manufact ure. awl the twelvecylinder Lagonda of twenty-live years later. Reverting to the 2-litre eight-cylinder Mercedes, in supercharged form these ears would do 1:i0 ni.p.h„ which, again thinking of the 4i-litre Bentley, this time in its supercharged Dorothy Paget form, was not had for a 2-litre.” In fact, there is iniceli in Mercedes history to command our interest and impartial admiration not only, as Mr. Biggs so rightly points out, in the era immediately preceding what we have come to know as modern ” formula grand-prix “
but for ninny years still earlier. I While on the subject of the modern Grand Prix, may I be allowed to correct it misapprehension which appears to
exist widely, even editorially ? Other than by rather lavishly supplementing the prize money, and by giving every I ossible encouragement and facility in kind rather than cash, the Nazi government did !mt. sulisidise the racing activities of their two great coneernS. In 1938 the Auto-I’m don firm spent some £200,000 on racing, but had rather a lean year and only bagged 4 mere ten per cent. of that sum in prize money. That they continued is due partly to the fact that the Third Reich, having adopted a promotoring policy at home and having thus done much to foster home sales, ” wished ” the firm in return to continue its international propaganda racing, and partly to the actual tangible effect On the export sales of their D.K.W. cars— in South Africu, for example, at the expense of ” Minors and Minxes.” If things were so arranged that such export business was very profitable, that is another matter, as to the ethics of which I am expressing no opinion, but so far as racing itself was concerned, the facts, also without conunent are as stated. Incidentally. I think that the ” legend of the superiority of Continental cars ” to which the writer of ” Picking up Sam’s Gauntlet ” refers, may perhaps be caused by the fact that the Continental marques c(aitinue(1 to be actively raced whereas
English counterparts, alas, did not. 11licti I rumble solidly along in my ” Termite from Turin ” I imagine that it steers and stops like Gordini’s covey of mi«• and that it has a beautifully snappy four-speed gearbox which is a sheer joy to use : when I squeal round corners at 18 m.p.h. in my mother-in-law’s Standard
Eight I imagine that it has ” retractable undercarriage front suspension ” and a very stiff gearbox, part-filled with three ill-chosen ratios. I am, Yours etc.,
P. . C. CLARK. Hudnall Comp-Ion, T
Herts. [We should like to have Mr. Clark’s authority for his interesting statement relating to Germany’s subsidy of G.P. Continued on page 241 Sir, Please publish the following, if you have room. Having recently bought the ” remains ” Of a special two-seater Sports Austin Seven, 1 would like to get in touch with the former owner(s). The car was resting in a scrap yard, where it had been some months. The tax expired in December ’38. The Reg. No. is RK 4800. The front axle is of the ” Ulster ” or suchlike lowered type ; the track rod is in front. The engine of the mag. type, to my great delight has a very solid two-piece crankshaft, of the type I fitted to one of Almack’s jobs. The cylinder head is an Alta, the valve springs are
double. The body was almost rotten, SO was removed bv hammer.
Should any reader know anything of this motor, which was, no doubt, built by an unknown ” fan,” .1 would like to hear from him. I am, Yours etc., PRA TLE. v ” Beverlac,” 72, Walpole Road,
South Woodford, E.18.