ANCIENT AND MODERN
[Leonard Potter, of the M.G.C.C. and Vintage S.C.C., contributes his reminiscences, which we timidly suggest might be regarded as a sidelight on that Vintage-Modern axis ! We are strictly neutral.—Edd
A14″l’ER much road burning on a four-cylinder Ariel motor-cycle, the call of the motor car got the better of me and I took Over a 1934 M.G. J.2. It had a trials back axle ratio, and an outrigger bearing on the front of the crankshaft to minimise whip, and proved a very likeable motor. It would go up to about 70 and used an unbelievably large amount of oil. However, funny noises soon became sadly apparent, and removal of sump revealed many pieces Of piston ring. As it was two days off holiday time and I was going away in the car, I withdrew the pistons from beneath, and fitted new rings—and was it ftm getting the pistons back ? By the morning after they were back, with one or two casualties in the way of rings. A trial run showed the engine to be in terrible form, the bores being very oval and the rings very round. Then the gear-lever came off in my hand. That *as the last straw, and I heartily cursed motor ears in general, and this one in particular, while I got into third by dint of taking: the gearbox cover off, to the accompaniment of interested comments from the local “bobby.” I went away by train . . . .1 Returning in a refreshed and more temperate state of mind, I decided to completely overhaul the car myself. This I did, taking practically three months of spare time. Hub caps, lamp grilles and filler cap, etc., were all chromed, and a new 2′ diameter ribbed tube, upswept exhaust system was evolved. The engine was completely stripped and rebored, and ” Heplex ” pistons were fitted, after I had procured quotations and literature from every pistons manufacturer I could think of. I decided to do an experiment in balancing the con-rods (No, not on my nose, Mr. Roddy). First. of all I weighed them all normally, and then ascertained the weights of the big end and little end by suspending the rod horizontally at one end whilst weighing the other. I then took the heaviest rod and administered enough solder to the others to bring them up to the weight of the heaviest, and in such a position along the rods that the big ends and little ends ?veighed the same as those of the hea V iest rod. The solder was attached in the ” I ” section. The compression ratio appeared to be about 8 to I, so I left that very severely alone, confining myself to having the head eopperised. A lot of detail modification was made to the equipment of the car, and at last it was ready for trial. When it worked there was considerable jubilation–which was, perhaps, a little sullied when a valve broke and dropped into one of the virgin cylinders. However, no important objectives were hit, and so I committed the offending valve to the dustbin. A period of prosperity (for the M.G.) then followed and I enjoyed myself by winding it up to about 80, its safe maximum—though once when I was on a down grade and chasing an
S.S. 100 I wound up to such a speed that I should blush to repeat it. Incidentally, throughout the work the M.G. Car Co. Ltd. were most helpful and sent me detailed instructions and even blue prints to assist me, for all of which I was very thankful.
Alas, in due course, the M.G. fell from grace (assisted by noises off) with troubled mains. Another holiday was in the offing, and I cast round for a temporary vehicle. An immense Wcymann-bodied Rover “
16″ was offered for £4 10s. Od. It ran like a clock, so after a brief attention to brake adjustments and a thorough greasing, particularly of the steering shackles, etc., which seemed to have been long neglected, we set off. The greasing of the steering was my undoing, for we hadn’t gone very far when we had terrifying and uncontrollable wheel wobble. The only way to stop it was to pull up as expeditiously as possible, and start off again, and then all went well until one of the front wheels hit a bump. I’d got farther on my holidays than in the M.G. though hardly a satisfactory distance. A frantic huddle produced the opinion that the aid of Mr. Stephenson’s machine should be sought, and so once more my holidays were preceded by hectic sitting about on luggage in crowded corridors which is the lot of any who assist the ” swear ” dealers at holiday time. During the holiday I had time to cogitate, and this produced the decision that I should seek a really good vintage motor car, and have it, oh ! so carefully overhauled, lest my unwary spirit should be trapped again. Soon after returning, I fell in with George Mangoletsi, who used to race Lea-Francis, and still retained immense enthusiasm for this marque. One memor
able evening I spent until well into the small hours in his emporium amongst some of his bits and pieces. He had some of his old racing Motorcycles including an incredibly old Indian ” twin ” capable of some 90 m.p.h. (his story). There was a veritable sea of Lea-Francis parts, Cozette blowers and the like, and many of his own inventions, including an engine with two cams per valve so arranged that the valve both opened and closed by cam action. There was also a 1928 ” Hyper ” Lea-Francis tourer, with a large five-seater touring body, which I determined should be mine. The blower had been removed and a later type Meadows head fitted, with twin Solex carburetters. The engine had been rebored and would be completely overhauled, as would the steering (at my emphatic request) and all the wheel bearings, etc., and I could have an ordinary or roller-bearing crankshaft (I Chose the ordinary). I was a bit of a fatalist by then, and when I took it out for my first run I rather expected something to happen. It did ! At a suitable distance from home the engine faded out and a brief examination showed that the radiator hose had split, and with great cunning and malice aforethought, tipped the contents of the header tank into the magneto. During the next week, when the car seemed practically impossible to start, and did 12 m.p.h. or so, the starter shaft sheared, the auto-pulse burst, and the back axle broke. There was nothing to do but to take the bull by the horns. so I took the ” Leaf” by its earburct I ers and tore them off, replacing them with a couple of ex-Morris Cowley S.U.s. From that moment the car took on a new lease of life, and I never had another moment’s trouble with it. A marvellous
car to drive, though a little heavy, it did 25 m.p.g. at least, used very little oil, and would cruise very happily indeed at 50-60 m.p.h., with a maximum on the level of 70-75 m.p.h. Owing to the top gear of 4.2 to 1, it could be given its head on down grades without fear of anything expensive happening. Even with this high ratio it would go up most main road hills in top gear, and would amble along beautifully at 15 m.p.h.—not that I ever wanted it to. I kept the car until the beginning of the war, when I disposed of it with much regret. As a matter of fact., when the war started I had three cars, and disposed of this first, as it. was the biggest. The other two were an 8 h.p. F.I.A.T. and a Root sblown Amilcar. The F.I.A.T. I procured because I required a small car to play with now that the Lea-Francis didn’t need any attention and because I couldn’t pass by an overhead camshaft $ h.p. two-seater in fine condition for a fiver. It was a really marvellous car. Easy starting, powerful brakes (the front ones had a sort of servo action), lovely steering, gear change like butter, and excellent hill climbing . There seemed practically nothing (of the ordinary variety) and there was certainly nothing locally, that it couldn’t climb in top. It did :;5 m.p.g., but it had a thirst for oil that is only equalled by the thirst of Vintage S.C.C. men for ale, and I used to leave a rare smoke screen about. When a big end ran, I decided to fit new big ends. I was, to say the least, disappointed to find that the sump couldn’t be removed without taking the engine from the chassis, but many ropes were brought and many shoulders were bent to the task. Putting the engine back was no little feat of skill. Strong men held a wooden beam to which the engine was slung. Weaker men tried to guide the wayward block into its resting place, whilst my job was to persuade the splines that. coupled the clutch to the gearbox to mate ; it was evident from the first that this wouldn’t be an easy matter . . . . After this oil consumption was negligible, and it gave 45 m.p.g. of petrol. I ran the car very hard until there were signs of further big end troubles, and then I let a chap have it for general use as a hack on a farm and it’sstill going strong. Whilst all this was going on I had a longing, often latent, but always therefor a Prater-Nash, and had a good trial run in a 1935 ” Colmorc ” (which ran a big end during the run) and a 1933 ” T.T. Rep.” (Meadows). Both ears wound up to about 80, and I shall certainly get a Nash at the first opportunity after the Trouble, though it will have to be vintage. Whilst I was out in the ” Colmore I spotted in a wayside garage a very rakish tail, and I was back there again the first opportunity. The motor turned out to be a 1929 Amilcar, with a very low streamlined body, quite unlike the usual rather high one. The engine was the four-cylinder s.v. 1,100 c.c. job, with a Marshall-Roots blower at the front. I towed it home with the
F.I.A.T. The performance was very exciting indeed. The peculiar see-saw motion of the front axle at speed was emphasised by the starkness of the car, and the shattering exhaust note persisted, although I fitted an extra silencer behind the one already attached. Petrol was in the realm of 25 m.p.g. and oil was 1,000 m.p.g. or so. One of my great joys in the Amilcar was to follow some pseudo sports-car—I’ll give no names—and then at about 60 go into third and pass it with a howl of the exhaust and shrill squeal of the blower gears. These things led to a funny noise in the back, which on examination proved to be a twisted prop-shaft, which was about to fracture. I drew a most careful diagram of same, but Amilcar had never made a prop-shaft that size, so Mr. Barimar’s aid was solicited, and he made a really splendid job of the shaft, building a new keyed-end to it to take the bevel, and welding everything up so that any join was indetectable. I got everything together again almost four months ago, and to hear the sound of the engine running on the Disco’ left in the tank was sheer jay.
I expected to do no more motoring during the Trouble, but the call was irresistible, and a Riley ” Gamecock ” (twin carburetters) T1OW robs me of my ration, but gives great joy in return. But, oh for a morning run up to Buxton for some trial or other, a wade in some mud, and ale and bread and cheese for lunch !