A remarkable tricycle
Several times recently we have referred to Holland Birkett ‘s Raleigh-cum-Austin Seven tricycle, and having now covered a considerable mileage in its passenger’s seat we have come to the conclusion that it is a quite outstanding contrivance. Although it naturally used its supply of basic petrol up to the end of October, to obtain this extra ration was not its constructor-owner’s main intention. He had, in fact, several aims in mind when he started work. In the first place, he rather objected to paying £20 a year away in taxation just to run two of almost the smallest vehicles available for business use. Secondly, he has great faith in anything Austin Seven, but knew full well that to get decent performance from this little engine demands very lightweight construction of the remaining components. Thirdly, he wanted to he able to tow a trailer or a broken-down car with his utility vehicle. And so the plot of mating Raleigh and Austin Seven was devised. A contemporary has referred to him as a genius in connection therewith, and when we reflect that he built the car in ten weeks or thereabouts from the word “go,” in what spare time he had away from his veterinary surgeon’s practice, without recourse to his own lathe or welding plant, we have no desire to contradict this verdict. We will not go into the technicalities of this £5 tax, 60-m.p.h., 50-m.p.g., 8-cwt. car here, as we hope shortly to publish something about it written by Birkett himself. But we will mention that it has been a success from the start and remarkably free from teething troubles. It is really stable, both on fast main-road bends and corners and when flung about in cambered, rutted lanes or on mud and slime. It will carry four at a pinch and three in reasonable comfort, and rides most comfortably – far more so than many four-wheelers we wot of over appalling unevennesses, such as the Sunningdale level-crossing. The Austin engine is a four-speed unit, with Whatmough alloy head and high-lift camshaft, which has made light work of towing a 22 1/2-cwt. car, plus two persons, at 20-30 m.p.h. with one plug oiled up. The body is a triumph of amateur construction; a low e.g. is obtained by using a rear fuel tank with autovac feed from a Lancia “Lambda,” and all three brakes are coupled. Steering rake, brake and gear levers and exhaust system all conform to sports car standards, and there is a neat hood and tonneau cover. One cannot but feel sound satisfaction at the results achieved, and come to the conclusion that here is the basis for an after-the-war utility-car design. Not that Birkett contemplates going into production. But he will probably give the four-wheeler fraternity eager battle in future trials.
Readers of the weekly motoring Press have raised recently the problem of what sort of a car is the Aero, so details of this Czechoslovakian production would seem to be called for. Recently we were able to inspect a Type 50 Aero and to study the makers’ handbook covering both this and the smaller Type 30, all of which enables us to write intelligently of this interesting front-drive car, built at Prague and notable for the use of a quite large two-stroke engine. The Type 50 has, in fact, a four-cylinder two-stroke engine of 85 x 88 mm. (1,996 c.c.), rated at 18 h.p. in this country and said to develop 45 b.h.p. at 3,200 r.p.m. The cylinder head is of aluminium alloy, ignition is by twin coils, and a rather spidery fan layout and a pump look after cooling, the fan being boxed-in to the radiator. Indeed, cooling is altogether rather thorough, the radiator holding 9 3/4 litres of water and the engine 8 1/4 litres, while the plumbing is quite remarkable. The three-speed gearbox has umbrella-handle control and the front suspension comprises a transverse leaf spring carrying the front drive connections. Rear suspension consists of side-by-side transverse leaf springs, all wheels thus being sprung independently. A cylindrical fuel tank under the bonnet has a capacity of 4.6 litres, with 5 litres in reserve, and two exhaust pipes on the near side are disposed as a V, converging on a single exhaust pipe. Artillery wheels carry Bata 5.75″ x 16″ tyres and there is a 6-volt 60-a.h. battery beside the engine on the near side, so located that, while it is nicely accessible for topping up, the front wheel has to be removed before it can be drawn out via an opening in the wing valance. The catalogue gives the weight of the chassis as 780 kg. and that of the 2-seater and “limousine” as 950 kg. and 1,050 kg., respectively. It likewise quotes a maximum speed of 68 to 75 m.p.h. and a fuel consumption of around 20 m.p.g. Two-stroke enthusiasts should, we feel, regard this car with interest. As far as could be ascertained, the engine uses crankcase compression, with deflector top pistons. The car we inspected had a drophead coupé body constructed in typically Continental style. The instrument panel is quite simply arranged, with an oil gauge and combined ammeter, clock and speedometer before the driver, the drive being left hand. This particular car escaped during the invasion, was licensed in this country and was in regular use up to about a year ago; its lady owner, incidentally, would, we understand, accept for it a sum in the region of £150 – letters of enquiry can be forwarded. From the instruction book we deduced that the Type 30 is a two-cylinder two-stroke of half the size of the Type 50, i.e., 998.7 c.c. It is said to give 25 1/2 b.h.p. at 3,200 r.p.m. and, with 5.25″ x 16″ tyres, the chassis weight is given as 630 kg. The speed is quoted as just over 62 m.p.h. and the consumption of essence as approximately 28 m.p.g. That, then, is the Czechoslovakian Aero, and it is rather interesting.
A Rare Mercedes
Shortly before inspecting the Aero we were able to obtain details of another rare car about which not much is generally known, albeit one in a very different category. The car in question is none other than that 2-litre supercharged straight-eight Mercédès racing car on which the Hon. Dorothy Paget once spent a tidy sum of money with no better reward than that the car languished for ten years at T. and T.’s, until purchased by the present owner. Actually, it is rather more interesting than that, for Raymond Mays drove the car at Brooklands in 1927 and lapped at 116.91 m.p.h., covering the half mile at nearly 130 m.p.h., and Sir Henry Birkin took it round the Mountain. Why, then, did it languish in disuse from 1931, when Lady Dorothy Paget acquired it (Motor Sport, March, 1931), until the war? The reason is that it was an extremely dangerous piece of machinery. It seems that three of these cars were built to Dr. Porsche’s designs, and that two of them were destroyed when they crashed, killing their drivers in each case. Mays has reported finding the car he drove all but unmanageable on Brooklands, and the only thing he achieved with it was second place in a 100-m.p.h. Long Handicap at the Autumn B.A.R.C. Meeting of 1927, when Eyston’s 1 1/2-litre G.P. Bugatti, starting with it, beat it by 250 yards. Why did Dr. Porsche make such an undriveable car? Only recently has the explanation come to light. It seems that these cars were built in 1924 for sprint events, in which the suspension could be locked up almost solid. Indeed, the rear suspension hardly works at all, and Mays has remarked on the hard springing, which caused the car to leap all over the track. The front suspension is actually very reasonably flexible, but, unfortunately, axle movement alters the steering castor and, due to bad layout of the steering connections, sets up immense movement on the steering wheel. In a long race, either the suspension required to be so tightened up that the car would not steer or else it gradually slackened off until the unfortunate driver was suddenly confronted with steering reactions he was quite unable to control. This apparently happened when the cars ran in the French and Spanish Grand Prix races of 1924, as recounted by Laurence Pomeroy in his “Evolution of the Racing Car” article published in last month’s issue, and later led to the unhappy accidents aforementioned, Zborowski being killed at Monza. Apart from this chassis weakness, this Mercédès is a very outstanding car. If it could achieve 130 m.p.h. at Brooklands with such rigid springing that wheel grip must have been at a premium, it obviously has an extremely exciting potential performance. Pomeroy quotes its output as 170 b.h.p. at 7,000 r.p.m., with an absolutely straight power “curve” from 3,000 r.p.m. upwards. Mays seems to have found the pick-up poor from low speeds, but doubtless the present large S.U. carburetter has altered all that. The weight has been quoted recently as 19 cwt., but we have it on good authority that, as a chassis, there is actually 650 lb. on the front wheels and 550 lb. on the back wheels, or under 11 cwt. The engine obviously owes something to Mercédès aero-engine design of the last war, and it is set noticeably well back in the frame, the front dumb-irons being very long. It has twin o.h. camshafts and a beautifully constructed, fully balanced crankshaft. Main, big-end and little-end bearings are all of split-roller type, similar to those on recent G.P. Mercédès-Benz cars. The supercharger is a large four-lobe Boots blower at the rear of the engine, protruding into the cockpit and very reminiscent of the Zoller-E.R.A. The carburetter is on the near side and the long delivery pipe on the opposite side. A Bosch magneto mounted above the blower supplies single plugs per cylinder, set vertically in the heads between the flat-topped camshaft covers – Mays oiled plugs on the line in his first race with the car.
The crankcase and separate cylinders suggest the aero-engine influence and the sump is a box-like construction beneath. The excellent detail work does Stuttgart great credit – such matters, for instance, as a rib in the flange of the crankcase to accommodate a pipe running to an oil cooler that was fitted at one time, and the ingenious screw-pattern advance and retard control. Reverting to the chassis, and remembering that the vintage of the car is 1924, it is interesting to find the side members boxed-in, along the front dumb-irons in the region of the radiator and by the gearbox. At the rear the side members sweep sharply upwards and the track is quite wide. The front brake assembly and axle pivots are typically Mercédès, and the steering box is mounted on the off side side member. The radiator carries the Mercédès star badges and is just slightly pointed, but it is of unusual shape, nevertheless, and set very far back. The gearbox is, we believe, three-speed and is controlled by a central lever, while the hand brake comprises a long lever, with normal clasp ratchet control, outside the chassis side member. Some attempt was apparently made by T. and T.’s to cure the car’s dangerous habits, for a T.N.T. steering damper had been fitted, together with outsize front shock absorbers. The new owner intends to do the job thoroughly by using properly laid out radius arms to keep the steering pivots upright for the full travel of the axle, and he would dearly like to know why the obvious cause of all the trouble apparently escaped not only Ken Taylor, but Dr. Porsche himself. The engine was filled with inhibitor when the car was first stored, and this was drained out and a short run undertaken quite recently. It is the owner’s intention to strip the engine and blower down after the war and to rebuild the car carefully for what racing is then to be had – when modern as well as vintage machinery may well learn to fear and respect this 1924 Mercédès. Please note that this particular car is not for sale!
The war is getting a move on in a truly satisfactory manner. But it will not finish to-morrow. We sincerely hope that it will be possible to continue to publish Motor Sport in its present form until peace returns. But the prospect is no rosy one. The Editor is increasingly busy on M.A.P. duties and the stock of stand-by MSS. is rapidly diminishing. Therefore, may we appeal for voluntary contributions to help maintain the size of this paper and enthusiasm for the Sport during the trying times which still remain to be faced? Articles on any relevant subject are welcome and we can cope with matter in longhand on both sides of the paper. Further “Cars I Have Owned” accounts, descriptions of “specials,” of veterans, of rebuilt sports cars, considerations of future trials and racing policy, reminiscences of notable drives, experiences and competition successes, etc., all are welcome. MSS. not acceptable will be promptly returned; any that is retained will he used as soon as space is available. On that note we will conclude, thanking the many who have enabled us to keep Motor Sport going so successfully since war engulfed us, and wishing all our readers – at Home and Overseas, in the Services or on the Home Front – a very seasonable Christmas and a more prosperous New Year.