I” Scuderias ” are more numerous than might have been expected. They certainly enable impecunious enthusiasts to run more cars at a time and to gain greater experience over a given run of ownership than would otherwise be possible. V. Davis, of Sunbury, here describes his efforts.—Ed.I
WHEN I was seventeen, as a result of much argument I induced my parents to allow me to obtain a provisional driving licence. After some three months’ concentrated practice I passed my test (in spite of the float of the Claudel-Hohson becoming -.stuck halfway through), this signal performance affording me much jubilation. Seen after this I acquired an ancient Donnet-Zedel saloon for the sum of £5. The garage at home is actually an old coach-house and the family have one half, but. the Donnet fitted in quite well, with plenty of room to spare, and together with John Hicks and Dennis Brock, my two partners in crime from time immemorial, I set to work. We first retrieved the body, objecting to saloons on principle. The Gallay radiator had burst at Sonic time or other, so this, too, was removed. The Chassis was cleaned and de-rusted and painted in the approved shade of green and an utterly horrific plywood body, which came to a point at the tail, was built up. Here operations Ceased, as our complete lack of tools made the job _ seem somewhat hopeless, and the Donnet was for the time being , abandoned. In case anybody is interest, ,i r. the Donnet had a four-cylinder e [I; ilic, rated at 12:9 h.p., ribbed brake drums, rear tank and right-hand gear lever and. brake, the engine being s.V. I are told that they competed in races abroad long ago, but I have never been able to confirm the fact.
About this time I became apprenticed to Aston-Martins, at Feltham, and the next twelve months were very pleasantly spent. Mr. Bertelli was very understanding and helpful, as were the excellent gang of fellows in the engine assembly part of the works, where I Spent most of that profitable time. I was sorry to leave later on for a more lucrative but infinitely less interesting job. My one thought now was to acquire some sort of car and rope in some other enthusiasts. with a view to investigating the possibilities of future “dicing.” My father, seeing that my keenness was no passing phase, bought me an Austin Seven, with a 2-seater sports body, to, as he put it, ” experiment with.” The Austin cost about £11. I then descended Upon a rather perplexed Johnnie a n d explained the ” Selideria ” idea to him. Having gained enthusiastic support in this quarter, Dennis was approached, and, after some deliberation, it was decided that the official title should be ” Seuderia Tornado.” Before long, however, sonic local wit nicknamed us the “Three Musketeers,” and this name stuck. However, as to the Austin. Having dispOiied of the Donnet-Zedel, we all set to work with great enthusiasm and fitted a deepnote exhaust system, two aero-screens on the scuttle, an enormous leather strap on the bonnet and painted the entire contraption a vivid red, the wheels being cream. Wicked and derisive people then dubbed it the ” meat-tin,” and I fear that the likeness was indisputable. However, the car eventually attained a speed
of 58 m.p.h. on a downhill section of the Chelmsford Bypass one fine morning, at which speed quantities of blue smoke issued from the floorboards and the slackness of the Steering made matters quite interesting. The next acquisition was another Austin Seven, but this time of the ” Special ” variety. It had. been underslung in the approved fashion by placing the transverse spring over instead of under the chassis. The radiator was brought down in front of this assembly and, together with a neat 2-seater body with two cowls on the scuttle, a single headlamp and cycle-type wings, the frontal appearance was most pleasing. The rear springs, for some reason, had not been flattened, but the effect was not too noticeable. The engine had had some attention paid to it as well. The ports had been enlarged and polished and the compression-ratio raised above by paring down the head, which was also
polished. There was a special inlet manifold and the exhaust was outside, the silencer being happily innocent of baffles. To complete our joy, there was a 1,tisinesslike remote-control gear-change, which slipped out of second gear unless you held it pressed in–but this seemed a Mere detail. We were able to obtain about 40 m.p.h. in second and 63 in top. These speeds are approximate, however, as the remote control effectively prevented. the fitting of’ a speedo-drive and we had to rely on the readings Of other cars. The foot brake, for some reason, had been removed and there were two band brakes, one inside and one outside. The outside one worked and was parallel to the ground, being prevented from establishing contact with same by a large strap. The original cost was £10, and we had a great deal of fun with it until it was disposed Of finally owing to the differential cracking up and the fact that we wanted to part exchange the remains for another car.
This next car was a six-Cylinder 14;45 ” Talbot, with a 2-seater fabric body and an excellent burble to the exhaust. The engine was the orthodox Talbot version with o.h.v., actuated by push-rods. The single carburetter was situated at the front of the engine, on the end of a long Manifold, and we intended. to do quite a lot of tuning and, incidentally, fit double S.U.s. Quite a unique feature was a fan, incorporated in the spokes of the flywheel. The Talbot had a four-speed box and an excellent third-gear performance. The brakes had large drums and could be uncomfortably effective. We managed to extract speeds round about the 80 mark in the small hours of a certain Sunday morning along the Kingston Bypass, though this speed was strictly as per speedo. and therefore open to question. Some weeks later we were reading the local paper, for want of something better to do, when we experienced something of a jolt. We looked again, but the advertisement still read the same. No less a vehicle than a Bugatti was advertised for the sum of *.:12 10s. On examination, which took place, incidentally, in an astonishingly short space of time, the car was found to be a ” Brescia,” with a semi-completed 2-seater body of highly professional aspect. It had the conventional reversed quarter-elliptic rear suspension and a single o.h.e. four-cylinder engine, rated at 11.9 h.p. In a very short time the Talbot was towing the Bugatti homewards. There was a pressure tank which had an air-leak somewhere, and that night we tried to start the engine for about four hours on end, without success. The following day, I remember, was Easter Sunday and we hitched the Bugatti behind the Nalbot and towed it. Apart from the fact that Johnnie ran into the back of the Talbot and dented its petrol tank, nothing happened. After this there was a good deal of argument, some constructive and some otherwise, and much tinkering with the obstinate Bugatti. After another council of war, I
sat within and everybody pushed and all at once that Bugatti came to unexpected and glorious life, and where I had once been a cloud of blue smoke remained. We did the most immense amount of work on that car and, for the first time, saw some really genuine come-back for our labours, for the acceleration was startling. I remember going out on the chassis for a test run, with Johnnie, perched on an improvised seat, working at the petrol pump for all he was worth and trying et the same time to keep himself from being flung off the car as we cornered in the approved style. The engine note was terrific, since there was no silencer at all, and two large minions of the Law severely cautioned us within three minutes of the motor being started. Brakes were only fitted to the rear axle and we did not think it politic to use the transmission brake. Never shall we forget the Bugatti. Plans were inaugurated to enter it for an event or two, but our finances by that time had, for various reasons, become very strained and these plans had to be abandoned.
Later on we bought another ” Special ” Austin Seven. This was very tame after the Bugatti and the Talbot. It had highcompression pistons and a large S.U. and was in very good condition ; it would knock up a genuine 60 m.p.h., but it somehow failed to impress and was eventually “liquidated.” Our next acquisition was an underslung and quite potent Salinson, with the 1923type Grand Prix engine. It had a marked tendency to catch lire and to throw its offside rear wheel. This, however, gave an added flavour to motoring. It was a very interesting car. It had double o.h.e. and the two-bearing crankshaft with splash feed, a tubular front axle, ribbed sump, and a very neat dash with a huge rev.-counter, all of which was excellent. The camshaft gears were rather noisy, but that was a detail. It was painted red and had raced in some small events at Brooklands. A large figure three remained as evidence of this, and we did not remove
it. The number, in case anybody might be interested, was Y L 2220. • The oil used was Castrol ” R ” and everybody, with the possible exception of the sorelytried local inhabitants, was highly delighted with this car. It was eventually fitted, they tell me, with a blower and achieved some 87 m.p.h. so equipped.
Some months afterwards we part exchanged the Salmson for a 19-h.p. Lagonda. Just the day after the deal was completed the h.p. tax went up to 25/per h.p., and so the Lagonda was reluctantly disposed of some months later, though this was one of the best cars which we ever had. It had an open 4-seater body, a six-cylinder Meadows engine and two huge S.U.s., but, as explained, its true potentialities were never discovered.
We then purchased an old Riley Nine saloon, intending to carry out some conversions. We removed the body with the aid of a large sleege-hammer. That was on a Friday. The following day things international began to look a trifle ominous and on the Sunday we were at war. Dennis was called-up and Johnnie later had to go to Wales, where he now moves and has his official being. Nevertheless, the following April we discovered a ” Daytona” Wolseley Hornet “Special” on a dump just off the Old Kent Road. The writer drove the car home and there it was completely stripped, the ” Scuderia’s ” workshop having now assumed the most businesslike proportions. A completely new set of big ends were fitted and also new rings. It was found that it had been bored-out 40 thou. oversize and had dome-top alloy pistons and also alloy rods. The wings were discarded in favour of four quite ineffective strips of sheet. These, however, were of pleasing appearance and were much lighter. A single aero-screen and the ” Tornado ” arms on the scuttle completed the job, except for discarding the hood, which was rightly regarded as spurious. After a little attention to the twin S.U.s and further tuning, a speedometer 77 m.p.h. was attained, and the acceleration left little to be desired. We felt, however, that we could do much better than tills, and it was with great pleasure that on one of his periodical wanderings the writer made the acquaintance of a certain most excellent gentleman out at Effingham, who was able to supply some useful data re Hornets. The car was accordingly stripped again. While work was thus in progress a friend, now in the R.A.F., suddenly materialised and expressed a profound desire to buy the Hornet. In the course of the resultant conversation he mentioned that his father had a Bentley which, for some reason undefinable by us was regarded as” being in the way.’ go, since We are keener about Vintagery, having particular regard to Vintage Bentleys than all the modern “sports cars” which could be named, myself and Johnnie, who happened to be at home just then, made very rapid tracks that afternoon for our friend’s house. We had always dreamed of a Bentley in the ” Seuderia.” The Hornet and the Bentley changed hands, and this brings us to the eleventh, last and best
acquisition of the ” Scuderia Tornado.” It is a 3-litre, red-label, short-chassis, and the log-book says” 1924,” but it is evident that one or two things have been done to it, since it has a Hardy-Spicer prop.shaft, ribbed brake drums on the rear wheels, and the brakes have compensating mechanism. All the innards are in lovely condition, the only parts needing renewal being the water-pump and the alloy camcover, regarding which great difficulty is being experienced. The car had a saloon body, but this, of course, has been removed and the entire chassis and engine have been stripped.
We intend to fit a 41-litre engine, which, with a “D “-type gearbox and the existing axle ratio of 3.9 to I and a light 2-seater body, should make quite a potent article, although the writer’s forthcoming entry into the R.A.P. may somewhat delay the job. However, now having at least procured the basis for one of our ideals, we intend to hang on to the Bentley and spare no effort to make a real job of it. We hope soon to start negotiations for a certain Bugatti, to be used exclusively for post-war “dicing,” which, with the Bentley as a second line of defence, and the excellent machinery of one or two others who are becoming interested, should go a long way towards making the “Scuderia Tornado” the organisation for which we have always hoped.
Best of luck to MoTon SPorer and your unfailing efforts to keep the Game going in these difficult times.