This series of articles has been about the most popular we have published. In the following contribution Geoffrey Robson, the Lancia “Lambda” enthusiast, in describing his cars, tells how he came to acquire his interest in real motoring and how he had a quite inexpensive Continental holiday by grace of a very vintage Lancia “Lambda” – Ed.
Having read a number of articles on this subject I conclude that it is customary to start one’s motoring career with “the inevitable Morris Cowley,” “the inevitable Austin Seven,” or possibly “the inevitable Model-T Ford.” However, with my astonishing flair for originality, I successfully avoided the inevitable by buying, at the age of 17, a 1927 Austin 12/4 tourer. A travelling scholarship, which was intended to enable me to study mediaeval domestic architecture in the Midlands, provided the £15 required to buy the car, but I have no idea how I managed to find the money to run it. The old Austin Twelve is practically foolproof and unbreakable – both characteristics being essential under the circumstances – and taught me a lot about gear changing and avoiding cars with superior brakes. The clutch was lubricated freely from the rear main bearing, the engine used a quart of oil in about 40 miles, and the brakes, in the fine old Austin tradition, were more or less negligible (apart from the transmission brake which was a great aid in rear-wheel sliding); but otherwise it was quite sound and very considerately remained in one piece until a week or so after I sold it, when the engine disintegrated and became a total loss.The next year, 1937, having even less money, I bought another Austin Twelve tourer – 1928 this time. It will be apparent by now to the observant reader that in those days I was not concerned with performance, the car merely being a rather more convenient and pleasant means of transport than the railway, which can hardly be considered to set an impossibly high standard. It was essential that it should be cheap to buy, economical to run, reliable and capable of carrying seven or eight passengers; its other characteristics did not concern me. My second car had been used as a baker’s van and was some feet deep in breadcrumbs; it cost me £15, with nine months’ licence thrown in, and motored very well for many thousands of miles. Practically its only fault was an almost completely choked radiator; the water, having nowhere else to go, used to disappear rapidly down the overflow pipe, until one day the overflow became choked and the radiator exploded in a spectacular manner outside a lunatic asylum in Essex. My routine maintenance schedule was amazingly simple: if the bearings rattled when I took a corner fast, I put some oil in; if the pistons seized, I filled up with water; when the tyres showed more than two layers of canvas, I painted them black or wrapped them with insulating tape. Two points which should be watched are the transmission shaft fabric coupling, which wears fairly quickly and sets up appalling vibration if it is not renewed, and the fact that if the rear springs are flattened by fatigue or overloading, the “pot” type universal joint in the transmission may become dislocated, owing to the axle moving too far back. This happened to me once, and I cured it (by the roadside) by removing the back axle, putting the joint together again and packing out the front coupling with about 18 washers; this never gave any more trouble, and I believe the old car is still being used, by the farmer to whom I sold it at the end of 1937, for carrying vegetables and livestock to Evesham market.
During the winter of 1937-8 I had my first opportunity of driving some good cars and I began to realise how much I had been missing. I drove an “18/85” Talbot quite extensively and was tremendously impressed (as I still am) by the feeling of tense liveliness throughout the engine and chassis, of having plenty of power in reserve, by the superb gearbox (it was a pre-Wilson box Talbot) and the excellent road-holding and brakes. I tried several other cars at the time, including a twin-cam 8-litre Sunbeam, a three-carburetter “Silver Eagle” and a Weymann saloon-bodied long chassis Seventh “Lambda,” and having decided that these were all too expensive to run, I inconsistently bought a 1930 “14/45” Talbot with a fine touring body. These cars had a very low second-hand value by then, and mine cost me £10 in incredibly good condition; apart from its sleek and impressive appearance, it had accurate steering and fine road-holding, a very smooth and quiet engine, which always started at the first touch of the starter, tremendously powerful brakes and the beautiful gearbox common to all the Talbots of this period. Its great drawback was the weight of the chassis and body and the consequent low axle ratio of about 5.8 to 1; the maximum speed was very little over 60 m.p.h., though the acceleration low down was excellent, and the petrol consumption was phenomenal, averaging about 17 m.p.g. on a long run and 14 m.p.g. in London. The springing was too stiff at the back and only gave good results with about six passengers in the car, when it really began to feel comfortable. I think that given a reasonably light chassis and an axle ratio of around 4.6 to 1, the engine and gearbox could have performed outstandingly well, as it is still an extremely efficient unit even by comparison with present-day engines of the same capacity. However, in addition to the running expenses, the spidery wire wheels were constantly breaking spokes and cracking round the hub under the stress of rapid cornering, the linings were loose on the clutch centre plate, and I felt I was not really getting my money’s worth. I had an excellent holiday in North Devon in the car, and climbed Beggars’ Roost and Station Hill on the day after the Land’s End, and then started to look around for something with more speed, reliability and a much smaller thirst for petrol. I must admit that for anyone in these circumstances, the “12/50” Alvis is the only really suitable car (Austin Sevens, Amilcars, Salmsons, etc., being too small for my purpose), and I think that its incredible reliability with good performance, handling qualities, economy and length of life make it just about the finest car in its class ever made, but for some reason, probably because I was fascinated by its appearance and unorthodox design, I was determined to buy a Lancia “Lambda.” Eventually I found a very decrepit fifth series car with the Italian torpedo body and high-pressure beaded-edge tyres, and was so delighted by its slim, coffin-like appearance that I borrowed £20 and bought it on the spot, and although this was far too much to pay for the car I have never for a moment regretted it.
I was completely unaccustomed to the low-revving high-geared type of car, and to make things worse the main spring loaded timing gear wheel was broken and the ignition about 30° too far retarded; and although it would on occasion reach 70 m.p.h., it would sometimes refuse to do more than about 20 m.p.h., and was extremely susceptible to changes of weather. Fortunately, I made the acquaintance of West and Chittenden, who found out the snags and gave me a tremendous amount of useful information and advice about the “Lambda.” As I had only run the car for a few weeks the engine was still in reasonable condition, so I turned my attention to the matter of steering and tyres. The steering was so heavy that one almost needed a crowbar to turn the small rigid steering wheel; this was attributed by the enthusiastic Italian dealer to the fact that the suspension had been entirely rebuilt and had not yet “bedded down.” I attributed it to the car having hit some heavy object at high speed and having been rebuilt by a blacksmith with an 18″ Stilson. However, it worked, and cornering was amazingly fast and steady, although one side appeared to be completely unsprung and the other had about 2″ vertical movement – but, after all, Bentleys, Frazer-Nashes and “30/98s” seem to get along quite well without much springing at either end. After a few weeks of enthusiastic motoring the antiquated tyres, which had started with a coat of paint and three layers of canvas, were reduced to one layer of canvas and began to explode violently on the least provocation. I stuffed them with straw and carried a small spare haystack in the back of the car, but as this was considered rather unconventional by the authorities I threw away the old tyres and wheels and fitted balloon tyres and wheels from a sixth series “Lambda.” These were also beaded edge and I remember motoring noisily round Berkeley Square one sunny Sunday morning whilst a rear tyre bowled merrily away into a taxi-rank. Fortunately, this did not often happen and, in any case, the car was so stable that it made very little difference.
During the summer of 1938 I won a scholarship for foreign travel and reluctantly decided to sell the Lancia in order to raise some more money. Fortunately, my prospective customer was frightened out of buying it by his local garage, so I decided to take the car abroad, just to show how much I trusted it. I gathered an intrepid crew of two and, amid rude laughter and ignorant remarks about big-ends (to which the common people attribute the sinister rattling noise caused by the valve gear), we crossed the Channel and promptly broke a rear spring whilst motoring violently over the Belgian pave. Undeterred, if somewhat lopsided, we drove from Brussels to Paris at an average of about 46 m.p.h., carrying a vast American hitch-hiker on the spare wheels, and in Paris had a new spring leaf made for a few francs. Leaving Paris, we drove south, casting off minor details of equipment, such as the windscreen wiper, the battery box and, finally, the silencer. We spent the nights in the open, rolled up in rugs and overcoats, wherever we happened to be when it became dark, generally woke very early in the morning and motored anything up to 80 miles before breakfast. After driving some 250 miles without a silencer, passing like a battery of machine guns through the so-called “Zones de Silence” of the Riviera (through which 20-ton Diesel lorries perpetually howl their way at lethal speeds), we stayed for some days with friends near Mentone whilst the silencer was welded up. We crossed into Italy by Ponte St. Luigi and toured through Genoa, Pisa, Florence and Bologna to meet a friend in Padua. Driving hard over atrocious roads (and, incidentally, being passed right and left by Aprilias and “1,500” Fiats) one of the tubular members of the battered “trapezoidal” front frame broke, and we arrived in Padua with the front end holding together purely by force of habit. The moment we stopped a mechanic came up to the car and took us round to a back street garage, where they welded the frame extremely well in less than half an hour in the street, and charged us the equivalent of about 2/s; I find it difficult to imagine this happening in England. Incidentally, our friend, who should have been waiting for us in Padua in a respectable modern Ford V8, was not present, his differential having liquefied in a very dull provincial town in the middle of France, where he spent a week waiting for spares to arrive. From Padua we went to Venice, and on the great causeway-autostrada across the marshes held a steady 70 m.p.h. for some miles. Going north again we crossed the Simplon and ran down to the Rhone Valley; then, running short of money, we ended by driving 370 miles overnight to Paris and, as a result of too much speed and too little water, blew the head gasket over two cylinders. We were unable to obtain a spare, so having pumped the water out via plugholes and compression taps, with water dripping from the exhaust pipe and exhaust puffing from the radiator filler, we steamed impressively out of Paris, followed by derisive cries of “Steemeeng!” “Railway!” ” Bateau à Vapeur!” and “Ha! G.B.!” However, we reached London literally under our own steam; we even picked up two English schoolboys and their bicycles and took them to Dieppe. In spite of all the odd bits of trouble the total bill for repairs – welding the battery box, silencer and front frame, making a spring leaf and buying a second-hand tyre in Belgium – came to about 39/- when translated, and my share of the expenses for a motoring holiday of nearly five weeks, covering 3,500 miles, came to about £22, including all the necessary documents and the expense of getting the car across the Channel.
The “anti-vintage” motorist will no doubt see in this an example of the stupidity of people like myself and the unreliability of even the expensive cars of the early twenties. When I consider my complete ignorance of the machinery, the derelict state of the chassis, the fact that it was always cruised at 55 to 60 m.p.h. and taken over any country, roads or no roads, and carried on occasion anything up to 14 people, I consider it a staggering feat of endurance and reliability.
On returning to England I made the acquaintance of George Foxlee, who although better known for his trials driving in various “12/50” Alvises was, and still is, a great enthusiast for the “Lambda” and has owned quite a number at various times. At the time he was living in a farmhouse in North Hertfordshire, surrounded by barns full of vintage motors, belonging to himself and to various other enthusiastic friends; apart from week-end visitors there were at least three “12/50” Alvises, a “Silver Eagle,” three or four “Lambdas,” a 3-litre Lagonda chassis, a 2-litre O.M., a side-valve Aston-Martin and dozens of engines, gearboxes and bits and pieces generally. I arrived late one night, slept in one of the fields and, waking early, entered the farmhouse and demanded breakfast and bits of Lancia from a somewhat surprised Foxlee. Introductions having, so to speak, been effected, the Lancia settled down as another guest for the winter.
As I required some sort of a car for immediate use, a friend of his sold me an elderly Morris Cowley 2-seater for 24/-, which had recently been stolen and run without water until the engine had assumed an odd shape internally and refused to work. After some time I persuaded it to motor after a fashion, and set off for Cornwall with my mother and brother. Apart from clutch trouble, which necessitated a lot of pushing by my brother in order to get us up the hill at Lyme Regis, a burnt-out dynamotor, an electrical fire behind the dash and a complete absence of lights, we went to Cornwall and back without any trouble and I ran the car for several hundred more miles before the clutch, which I had taken up until there was no adjustment left, finally ceased to transmit any power at all, and the old car was allowed to run gently downhill into a scrap yard, where she fetched £1.
During the winter I spent most of my week-ends at George’s farm dismantling the engine and the front suspension of the Lancia and finding out how it all worked. I shall never forget some of the sunny Winter’s mornings there, frost on the ground and the smell of “rich mixture” and Castrol “R” in the keen air as cars warmed up with a burble or a sharp crackle of exhaust in the yard behind the white farmhouse, or fast runs in a 1924 boat-tailed “12/50” Alvis, the quiet exhaust note becoming instantly crisp when one opened the throttle, the engine turning effortlessly and smoothly and yet with a feeling of toughness and solidity, which practically nothing built these days seems to give, however powerful and however smooth. George was busy rebuilding his trials “12/50” Alvis, spending weeks fitting the bearings, and the place was full of activities, from amateur trials in the surrounding fields to dancing on the excellent “home-made” floor above one of the barns, and visiting cars ranged from ancient Austin Sevens to palatial modern “4.3” Alvises. A friend of mine who came up one week-end to help me was captivated by the old s.v. Aston-Martin, and we spent some time fitting a new back axle supplied by Lambert, as one of the original half shafts had become unaccountably bent; we had some fine runs with that car, but it never had sufficient work put into it to bring the condition of the chassis up to the standard of the engine. I should very much like to get hold of one of these cars myself, as they are undoubtedly one of the most beautifully made cars ever produced and one of the pleasantest to drive, but unfortunately they are very scarce, only about 180 having been made altogether.
To return to the Lancia. I removed the complete front suspension assembly and replaced it by a good one from another fifth series car; the flywheel was removed and taken to West and Chittenden’s, who machined off the whole of the flange, the gasket was made to stay in after some strong-arm work, the brakes were relined and finally, with my little hack-saw, several pieces of wire and a couple of straps, I made a comic fold-flat screen out of the inverted top half of the old three-piece screen. In the following March the car was on the road again and it really did motor extremely well; the exertions of the previous year and my own lack of knowledge of the machinery had loosened the main bearings badly, but I could not afford to do anything about it. The maximum, with lightened flywheel and lower windscreen, was up to 74 m.p.h., which I reached several times, and as maximum safe revolutions represented about 70 m.p.h. in top gear it is not surprising that after a couple of months or so a rod broke and knocked off a large piece of cylinder liner, incidentally bending both valves. After this occurrence, the engine being somewhat unbalanced, I drove gently into a country garage nearby and informed the mechanic that I had broken a connecting rod. To this he made no reply, but switched on the ignition and started the engine; after watching it leaping up and down for a little while, he assumed an expression of deep wisdom, solemnly removed one of the plugs, cleaned it and told me that the engine was missing on one cylinder. I felt that this was, if anything, an understatement, and as I had just discovered that I had only 1/8 in my pocket, which was not enough to pay my ‘bus fare, I started up and motored home, nearly 40 miles, at a gentle 10 m.p.h., fortunately doing no more damage, as the piston and most of the rod had jammed at the top of the cylinder just clear of the valves and the remains of the big-end were lying in the sump.
I took it down the next day and a very depressing sight it was: the crankshaft journal was rather rough and a large piece of the cast-iron liner was broken away at the bottom, but the piston was undamaged except for two slight dents where it had hit the valves. Fortunately, I had a spare rod, which I had re-metalled and fitted after cleaning up the journal with emery paper. fitting two new valves and the original piston, minus bottom ring. Astonishingly enough this lasted very well, partly because I had by then really learned my lesson about engine speeds, and I ran the car for the rest of the summer and had two very strenuous holidays in it, in North Devon and Dorset, without having to touch the machinery at all. After a very “trials” holiday in Dorset I went over to France with several friends in a brand new 1,750-c.c. S.S. drophead coupé and an open, Series “E,” Morris Eight. The S.S. had the usual troubles with pinking and auto-ignition and had insufficient ground clearance even for second-class roads, let alone fields and trials country. However, the engine and gearbox were quite pleasant and the road-holding was fairly reasonable with only two people aboard; with four up and luggage it was hopeless, in spite of André shock absorbers fore and aft. The Morris was quite a good little chassis, though the engine felt rather anaemic, and could be slid round corners quite nicely, but like most modern English cars succeeded in being too heavy without being correspondingly tough, a contrast to the most successful baby car, the early Austin Seven, which was amazingly light and yet stood up to any sort of treatment one could give it. The holiday was cut short by the imminence of war and we returned via Dieppe, the cars following some 10 days later by cargo steamer. Everyone was streaming north from the Riviera, and we met one unfortunate gentleman who had been in such a hurry that all the bearing metal had disappeared from the big-ends of his 3 1/2-litre Bentley, leaving him to get it back to England as best he might.
Shortly after this I had a trip across Wales and did three 250-mile runs in a week, and on the last of these (incidentally, on the day petrol rationing started), being pressed for time, I cast aside my prudent resolution not to exceed a 50 m.p.h. cruising speed and had been cruising at 60 m.p.h. for about 80 miles when, opening the throttle to pass a car in a hurry, and doing between 65 and 70 m.p.h., a rod broke and carried away a large portion of the block into the Warwickshire countryside. Seeing that the damage was quite irreparable and feeling that anyhow I should have to give up motoring for a long time, I removed the remains of the rod and piston through the hole, started up again and drove gently along for about three miles to the next garage, where I sold the remains, with a good battery and a full tank, for £2 10s. 0d. I have never ceased to regret this, but at the time it seemed to be the only thing I could do.
However, it is generally acknowledged that in the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of Grand Prix Bugattis and supercharged Alfa-Romeos, and in February, 1940, feeling very lonely without a Lancia, I found a long chassis eighth series drophead coupé lying dismantled on a Hertfordshire farm. This car had not been run since 1937 and had been bought very cheaply owing to the fact that it had too much water in the sump and too little in the radiator. As nobody seemed to know why, the farmer’s son had lost enthusiasm and it seemed likely to remain in pieces indefinitely. The fabric bodywork was deplorable, but apart from the engine the chassis seemed in excellent condition, and having come to an agreement with the owner to pay him £8 10s. 0d. and a bill of 30/- for having the valve seatings recut, I set to work on reassembly and tracing the leaks. The gasket had not blown, the head was apparently not cracked, and the leakage was found to be due to the head being warped between the lines of studs, and also to the water pump, which needed packing. I bought a spare head from Breen, which was warped in exactly the same way, had it machined flat, which cost me 15/-, repacked the water pump, and that was the end of all the troubles. The rings had rusted badly and as a result the engine used a lot of oil, but it has given no trouble whatsoever in two and a half years, during which time it has never failed to start easily and has on one occasion reached 78 m.p.h. on the clock. The body was incredibly decayed, as it has now lived in the open for nearly five years, but is extremely useful, holding five people inside and two in the dickey. The steering is beautifully light and accurate, having about 1/4″ free movement, measured on the circumference of the steering wheel. It has always been cruised at 60 m.p.h. or a bit over and at this speed gives 20 m.p.g. with the now standard horizontal V-type Zenith. In 1940 I drove it up to Scotland when I took up a job with an aircraft firm in Ayrshire; I ran it quite a lot and during over two weeks in the winter of 1940 ran it 100 miles a day on business, doing a 49-mile run over twisty roads regularly in an hour, or an hour and five minutes under icy conditions; and at Christmas I did a 210-mile run in just over 4 1/2 hours, in pouring rain. The only mechanical trouble I have had with it has been the disintegration of a ball bearing in the back axle, which cost me 25/- to replace. During the summer of 1941 I was careless enough to have an accident, which bent one side of the tubular front frame. I fitted a new frame and rebuilt the original spring and stub axle assemblies with great care, and the steering is now lighter and more accurate than it was before, no ill effects of the smash being apparent. At the end of last year it returned from Scotland towing an extremely ancient, high and heavy Eccles caravan, in which I have lived for the past two years, the only difficulty being a tendency to tow the caravan too fast, the car being so stable that the extra weight and swing of the caravan passed almost unnoticed; incidentally, it averaged nearly 17 m.p.g. over the whole run. At the beginning of this year the fabric body was almost reduced to a skeleton, large sheets of covering flying away quite frequently; as I was unable to obtain fabric, I re-covered the frame with canvas-backed roofing felt, and the old car looks almost respectable once more! In spite of its rough life, every bit of equipment and every instrument worked perfectly when I acquired the car, and I have no intention of disposing of it. At the moment it sits outside the caravan, adding interest to an otherwise dull field and waiting for better days.
During the first summer I was in Scotland I shared George Foxlee’s very special “12/50” Alvis. This car has the big port head with ports polished and opened out as far as the casting allows, dural rods with fully floating gudgeon pins and a special manifold with down-draught Zenith Stromberg carburetter. There were some fine hills in the district and we had a lot of fun with the car until George left again for the South in an excellent 1931 “12/50” Alvis 2-seater which he bought locally to tow his caravan.
About this time I felt the need for a small car and very foolishly bought an incredibly bad o.h.c. Morris Minor for £6. I ran this for some weeks very gently, without any brakes at all; in an emergency I changed into bottom gear and switched off the ignition. On one occasion the little wretch, having been left on a slight slope with the hand brake on and bottom gear engaged, started to roll away before a strong wind, and on another occasion I went halfway up a flight of steps in order to avoid a cyclist who didn’t quite realise the danger he was in. After a few weeks the big-ends started to go, and eventually I took the rods out (and a more unpleasant-looking bit of blacksmith’s work it would be difficult to find) and replaced them by remetalled rods at 6/- a time. These, being standard size, would not look at the crankshaft, Which appeared to have about 1/2″ ovality and a surface like a coarse file. Thoroughly peeved by this time, I fitted them with the aid of emery paper, a file and a hub clouter, and replaced most of the valve gear with bits taken from scrap cars (most of which were in better condition than my own). Surprisingly enough, after this crude repair, the engine started up immediately and showed an oil pressure of 80 lb./sq. in.; this lasted for some weeks, the engine being very smooth and silent and quite energetic. After this the pressure slowly began to drop, and as I was on the point of leaving Scotland I raffled it round the works for 1/- tickets and made no less than £12 10s. 0d.; after which I decamped hurriedly in the Lancia.
One would expect to find a considerable number of people in any branch of engineering with some knowledge of and interest in cars, but in three years in the aircraft industry I have met singularly few; practically the only person I met in Scotland with any enthusiasm for motoring was one Bertie Gilmore, and at the time I made his acquaintance he was running an extremely horrible straight eight Terraplane, with an open 4-seater aluminium body. This car would accelerate from 0 to 30 m.p.h. in approximately no time at all and refused to answer to the tiller at any speed, cornering being more a matter of will power than anything else. One day when we were floating along a road, fortunately quite gently, Bertie applied the self-energising brakes, and one particularly energetic brake took it into its head to lock solid; when the noise of tearing tinware and breaking glass had subsided it became apparent that the axle had slipped back on one front spring, causing the car to bank steeply and irresistibly to starboard and dive into a 7′ ditch at unabated speed. Apart from a few cuts and bruises we were unhurt, and when a passing tractor had removed the remains from the ditch (in which it was standing almost vertically on its nose) I was delighted to see that the front end was quite nicely written off. Shortly after this, Bertie, completely converted from semi-dirigible motor-cars, went South with all his available money and, after sampling a rather spent “E” type “30/98” Vauxhall, returned with a Series I Lancia “Astura.” This is a really superb car and a great advance on the “Lambda” in many ways. The engine, an extremely shortstroke V8 of slightly greater capacity than the eighth series “Lambda,” produces 75 b.h.p. extremely smoothly and silently, giving quite startling acceleration, even with the rather heavy coachbuilt saloon body it had at the time. The gearbox is an absolute joy and quicker than anything else I have ever come across, except the “Augusta” and “Aprilia” boxes, which are similar, but lighter, in action; when the oil is cold it is almost impossible to move the lever quickly enough to catch upward changes. Top speed is not much over 75 m.p.h., the engine feeling rather undergeared and “busy,” but owing to the short stroke (about 84 mm.) it can be cruised at nearly 70 m.p.h. and is quite silent and effortless at 50 m.p.h. in third gear. The under-bonnet appearance is superb, everything being neatly and accessibly laid out, and the engine is really beautifully finished and as good to look at as any of the best “vintage” sports engines and far tidier than most. The body, being too heavy, was recently removed single-handed, by the simple expedient of driving the car up an artificial ramp under a tree, unbolting the body, attaching it to a strong branch and driving away again. The car in chassis form, I understand, goes like a bomb and, in spite of the lack of weight at the back, the cornering is better than ever.
In addition to this we had a 1931 Austin Seven, which Bertie acquired after the fabric saloon body had been trodden on by a stampeding horse. When the rest of the body had been removed it performed extremely well, and was the only cheap Austin Seven we ever came across with a sound rear main bearing. We both tried hard, but found it quite unbreakable, and it served as an admirable little runabout for quite a long time. Owing to its size and extreme lightness one could always lift it out of awkward positions, hide it in long grass or park it in cycle racks if necessary, but nobody took it very seriously and ill-disposed people were always crossing the ignition leads, putting sugar in the tank or turning it upside down in car parks. Eventually the engine was fitted into a pointed tail aluminium-bodied 2-seater, which I ran very reliably and economically for the first six months of this year. Having made the brakes work slightly and straightened out numerous bits of chassis, it worked very well and cruised happily at 40 m.p.h. on the clock, though oddly enough I frequently averaged 36 to 38 m.p.h. on a long run without ever exceeding an indicated 40 m.p.h. Driven reasonably it frequently gave over 50 m.p.g. and I was very sorry to have to sell it in June this year.
During the same month I heard reports of a short chassis eighth series “Lambda” tourer through George Foxlee, but as neither of us had seen the car we fully expected it to turn out to be a decrepit fifth series car or something similar. However, after a lot of negotiations by George, the car was presented for our inspection and turned out to be the “real thing” – a 1929 car in excellent condition. I bought it very cheaply, complete with good tyres and a new battery, and during the short time I was able to run the car it exceeded all my expectations. The speedometer shows 38,000 miles, a small mileage for a car of this type, and is obviously correct judging from the condition of the engine and transmission. The engine is exceedingly quiet for a “Lambda,” having very little wear in timing gears or valve gear, the gearbox is perfect, the transmission has no noticeable backlash, the pistons are tight in the bores – in fact, the machinery is practically “as new.” I have made no attempt to see what the maximum speed is, but it has reached 75 m.p.h. very rapidly and will obviously do a genuine 80 m.p.h. on the level. It cruised smoothly and without any apparent effort at 60 to 65 m.p.h., and on the only two runs of any distance I have done has averaged over 45 m.p.h. The rear shock absorbers are missing and I am fitting a pair of standard triple Hartfords at the moment, but apart from that everything (except a broken rev.-counter and petrol gauge pump, which I have replaced) is complete and in working order. In short, a perfect investment for post-war motoring, and I hope that some time in the near future it will be the nucleus of a small “stable” composed of cars suitable for all kinds of work, more or less as follows: The short eighth series tourer for general motoring, holidays and Continental(?) touring; the old coupé, suitably rejuvenated, for comfortable motoring in the depths of winter; a small hack, possibly a dealt-with Austin Seven, a Riley Nine, or even a “12/50” Alvis; and a sports and trials car based on a short eighth series Lancia “Lambda” chassis, with a more potent engine. (Incidentally, I bought one of these chassis from Breen two years ago with this idea in mind and it has recently been broken up in my absence by some unscrupulous person or persons unknown – however, the bare chassis frame remains and may be usable – some time). And then I might possibly acquire a veteran for a different kind of amusement; and possibly a Bugatti, if only for the pleasure of looking at the radiator and polishing the steering connections; and possibly … well, quite possibly we won’t have any cars at all, but – what a prospect!