LAST month we made reference to the unique experience of a Nottingham enthusiast who was rumoured literally to have bought an E.R.A. in a cycle shop. This has resulted in a very interesting letter from Flight-Lieut. Harry Mundy, R.A.F.V.R., who was with English Racing Automobiles. Mundy, who is a friend of John Cooper, throws some light on the mysterious 4 and 5-litre E.R.A. engines which our Midlands enthusiast bought. This is what Mundy writes :
After reading your reference to the sports E.R.A. in the November issue I feel I must correct and continent on many of the statements made.
Under the direction of the late Murray Jamieson, I was responsible for the design of this engine and gearbox, and, naturally, was also closely connected with the chassis details.
For your information, only one engine was built and run on the test bench ; incidentally, the valves were inclined at 15 and twin plugs were never experimented with. During a short running on the test bench, which the engine received, troubles were revealed which would obvimusly have had to be rectified before the engine could have been put into production. In endeavouring to reduce the weight to an atsllute minimum, I consider that stiffness was lost in the crankcase design, inasmuch as there were no dividing walls between the cylinder liners, the top and bottom rims of which. actually touched in the plane of the crankshaft centre line, i.e., the upper half of the crankcase consisted in effect of only four walls and the only stiffening webs occurred at each main bearing in the lower half of the crankcase.
A further difficulty encountered, due to this squeezing up in the length, was the positioning of ports, which resulted in the engine being ” under ported.causing the maximum b.h.p. to occur at lower r.p.m. than desired. Furthermore, this resulted in very inaccessible fixings of induction and exhaust manifold flanges.
It was also my own belief that the construction of having the oil sump adjacent to the water kekets and exhaust manifolds was not satisfactory, and that a higl-er Oil temperature than AO’ C. would have resulted, which figure I consider too high. The additional height necessary for a normal stunp design would have been very little and a much More satisfactory arrangement.
The engine was the only part of the proposed car which was ever built, and the rest, apart from the manufacture of a few gear blanks and gearbox shafts, never got beyond the design stage. The gearbox easing was certainly never east, so that the version given in your last month’s issue is hardly correct. The description of the suspension given by you was the one first considered, but, due to the higher deflections required in
this type of car than in a racing car and also to obtain good steering geometry with high deflection, the trailing links would have to be very long ; and to obtain the necessary stiffness the unsprung weight would have been considerable. When all the possibilities of this type of suspension had been explored the job came to a close and no alternative type was investigated.
In reply to the present owner’s question : “Where did the chassis go ? ” I can state that this was never even laid out in full detail, only the front and rear ends in so far as it affected the suspension being considered. I should be interested to know what the buycr of such bits and pieces as were Made intends to do with them. I could
supply him with many tletails of design and modifications iCh I myself consider necessary, and others which were shown as being necessary during the testing on the bench. Your reference to the completely ” hush-hush ” 5-litre Grand Prix E.R.A. engine I consider most amusing. This was an engine designed in 032, based on the original Vauxhall-Villiers engine, to he put in a car of similar type, which was then going to be the original E.R.A. This engine was never assembled and was, I believe, deficient of many parts when the project was dropped in favour of development work on the original ” NV1iite Riley.” I can visualise many teething troubles for whoever contemplates building. and running this engine, and consider the design so obsolete as to be a complete waste of time. Moreover, so many parts are missing and would involve further design work and expense, as all records of this engine were scrapped._ Incidentally, Mundy is running a 1930-type 2-litre Alvis which gives him 80 m.p.h. in top and 60 m.p.h. in third with hood and screen up, under somewhat favourable conditions, and withal returns 244 m.p.g. with sane handling, keeping the maximum down to 55 m.p.h. The owner observes : ” From my experience of both types (” 12/5(1 ” and ” 16/95 “) I can endorse the opinion of one noted driver who considers that the perforninuce of the 1930 2-litre is equal to that of the 3-litre Bentley, and without a doubt I say that in acceleration it is superior.” Bentley fanatics will
doubtless observe that the 3-litre dates back to 1919.
On various occasions in the past reference has Leen made in this section to books having no direct motoring associations, because they have been considered likely to be of interest to those who drive, and have their being amongst, fast motors. None could be more worthy of recommendation than the slender but so very absorbing volume that the writer has just laid down—” Fighter Pilot,” published at 6/by B. T. Batsford & Co. Written delightfully, by an anonymous R.A.F. Squadron Leader, it tells the personal story of his activities with Hurricanes of the A.A.S.F., from September 8th, 1939, to June 13th, 1940. It is the greatest flying book of this war that we have yet had—and already there have been more than a few. It is a simple account of great deeds and experiences, technically accurate and just sufficiently detailed to “get over” tremendously effectively. The language is definitely R.A.F. The photographs are good generally and some (the author’s) are the best pictures yet of the present war-in-the-air. Incidentally, where they occur, makes of cars and lorries are quoted, which, alone, shows a pleasing attention to detail. One is left with an uninterpretable admiration for these fighter-pilot boys. They succeed, through all the horrors and privations of war, in regarding their new existence as damned good fun, another game of Rugger, as another international Tnotoring contest, if you like. So many could have kept out of the war. So many could have served more safely elsewhere. They volunteered to do the job and, doing it, succeeded in treating it as the best possible pastime, which it was only for brief moments of a packed career. That spirit is so very British. It was so very recognisable in the young sportsmen who drove racing cars for fun in peace time. It is, one ventures to think, something that Jerry will never understand, certainly never defeat. Co out and grab a copy of “Fighter Pilot” to read at Christmas. But be warned—unless you are really in this war it will make you feel restless
and ill-at-ease ; any fun still going was certainly had by these pilots, but they had earned it.
We regret to record that Walter Handley, the T.T. rider who later raced Riley and M.G. cars and had more bad luck than most, has been killed serving his country. Handley was in command of a Ferry Pool and died flying, as “The Aeroplane” has it : “As he would have wished . . . with his boots on and at the helm of a fast-moving mechanical contraption.” Handley owned a vintage Bristol Fighter before the war and flew with the Midland Aero Club.
Ulster enthusiasts were due to hold a Rally on December 14th at Crawfordsburn Inn, County Down, and a monoposto K.3 M.G., Barbour’s M.C.-engined Sunbeam, a C-Type Aston-Martin and other interesting cars were to assemble.
Congratulations to Mr. Rowbotham and Mr. Sidgreaves, of Rolls-Royce Ltd., on their important warproduction appointments.
Condolences to the many friends of J. B. Bergel, who was killed recently while serving as an A.T.A. ferry pilot.
Street & Duller now have only one Bugatti for disposal—a straight-eight G.P. in racing trim, at £150. Jimmy Ward has just sold a very fine 2-litre G.P. In our opinion the person who painted ” Popeye ” on the bonnet and put the ” Love-Bug ” plaque on the facia should be made to do a severe penance.