Letters from Readers, December 1946

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Sir,
At the risk of encroaching upon your valuable time, I an appending some details of “The Monoposto” — a not very original name for a car (I hesitate to use the word “racing”) which we have built in my unit, from salvaged materials.

A short description of its construction may prove of interest. The frame is of channel section iron welded up into a rectangle and strengthened by bolted-on angle-iron cross-members near the centre, and a flat sheet-steel decking which acts as the floor at the front. The engine is a 750-c.c. horizontally-opposed twin, touring type B.M.W., mounted on longitudinal angle-irons, which are bolted to the cross-members. The drive is taken through the car-type gearbox of the B.M.W., via an adapted Jeep propeller-shaft and two universal joints to an orthodox rear-axle which is bolted to the frame without springing. Rubber blocks inserted between axle-mounting and frame absorb some of the road shocks.

The front suspension is independent by means of two transverse leaf springs, joined at their outer ends by two U-shaped members which carry the king-pin bearings — plain tubes. The front wheels — motorcycle type — are carried in forks made up from tube, to which are welded two arms to carry the king-pin after it has been inserted in its plain tube bearing. Steering is by divided track rod from an orthodox steering box mounted centrally between the front springs, the whole assembly having been turned through a right angle so that the “drop-arm” lies parallel with, and above, the steering column.

Remote control of clutch and throttle has been effected by Bowden cables to normal pedals, and the brake pedal operates brakes on the rear wheels by a simple open cable system. Gear selection proved one of the most difficult problems to solve as this engine has a ball-type gearbox and hand-change when mounted in a motor-cycle. However, a system has been evolved which utilises the existing lever bent until it lies vertically down alongside the box, its knob entering a tube whieh runs alongside the frame to a short lever working in a “gate.”

The upper end of the steering column is supported by a sheet-metal bracket from a curved bar just in front of the driver’s scat, the speedometer being mounted in the bracket. Before mentioning performance, a few facts about the engine and gear ratios might be of interest. The rear-axle ratio proved to be approximately 4.6 to 1, and this allied with the rather unusual top gear ratio of 11 to 10 gives an overall top of about 5 to 1. The other ratios are approximately 7.4 to 1, 11 to 1 and 15.2 to 1. The wheels are fitted with 19 by 3.25 tyres, and peak revs, proved to be in the neighbourhood of 4,000. The engine is not in very good condition and originally contained two over-size Ford V8 pistons, one of which collapsed during trials. This was replaced by the only other available piston — a 500-c.c. Norton type, which was 1 mm. over-size and was hand-filed by my German mechanics to fit. The big-ends are beginning to make unhealthy noises, but owing to a total lack of spares, We dare not risk any major overhaul.

I have been able to test this car on a disused runway, and despite the poor surface, reached a speed of approximately 68 m.p.h. The acceleration in bottom is very spectacular, especially on the desert, and general stability is remarkably good. The front suspension works excellently, and owing to the forward seating the shocks from the solid rear are not too apparent.

The next step is to fit a body on the lines of the latest rear-engined flat-12 Alfa-Romeo. My one regret is that I know of no method of getting it home when I return in about a month’s time. With change of engine, etc., I think it would swell the number of the 500-c.c. class entrants.

In conclusion, I cannot say too strongly how much pleasure the all-too-slim Motor Sport brings each month. Is it too much to hope that the recent mention of release of more newsprint will enable you to extend this pleasure over a longer period?
I am, Yours, etc.,
“Enthusiast”
M.E.L.F.

Sir,

In reply to H. L. Biggs’ query on the Austin Seven “Grasshoppers,” I may be able to shed a little light, though I am speaking purely from memory.

There were, I think, eight or nine cars, the first series of which had the two-bearing crank, the later ones having three bearings. Early in the war three were sold as a team to the Austin agent in Portugal or Spain, I am not sure which. Carlaw and Valentine bought their cars, in fact as far as I know Carlaw bought two. A further one was sold to Lloyd Evans, of Carmarthen, who went “hedging and ditching” somewhere about Ross, doing himself and the motor no sort of good at all, though both happily recovered.

The blue car which is owned by Wilson has the two-bearing crank, though it was built much later. This car, incidentally, is much better finished than the others, having refinements in the way of doors, swept wings, etc.

I have often wondered if it was generally realised how very standard were the majority of the components used in these remarkable cars.

I was interested in the rumour that the o.h.c. racing cars are to come out again next year; they were very badly stored during the war, at one time actually lying in the open!

I understood that these cars were the personal property of the late Lord Austin and as such were not under the jurisdiction of the company; however, I hope you are right and we do see them again with Hadley (where is he these days, by the way?) at the wheel. I still think he can made f.t.d. at Shelsley.

Your excellent publication is a refreshing sign of returning normality.

A final “sting in the tail” — the “Grasshoppers” were sold for about £70 each!!
I am, Yours, etc.,
Hugh S. Baird.
Birmingham.

Sir,

We notice in your November issue, page 255, that you state Abecassis used the Grand Prix Alta engine in his 1 1/2-litre car at Prescott. Actually this is not the case at all, as Abecassis used my engine out of my 1936 2-litre racing Alta.

This engine, however, was modified and now has a counter-balanced crankshaft similar to the Grand Prix car and the special big-end bearings are also being used in the Grand Prix car. Apart from this the engine is a standard high supercharged pre-war unit and differs in a great many respects from the Grand Prix engine.

We thought in the interests of factual accuracy that you would like this information.
We are, Yours faithfully,
Alta Car & Engineering Co., Ltd.,
Geoffrey Taylor, Director.
Surbiton.

Sir,
Thank you for writing — in “General Notes” — so charmingly about the country around Aldershot. The quotation from “Sagittarius Rising” took me in an instant back to Farnborough in 1916-17.

What wonderful summers those seemed to be — the woods burning with white smoke by day and a red glow flung into the sky by night.

As I read your notes I could plainly hear the drone of the Maurice Farmans, B.E.s, Sopwith Babies, and the other products of the age as they toiled across the sky. They looked so slow: one could lie on the common and see them grind lazily overhead, and as they passed the zenith the sunlight showed through their wings and every rib was picked out as with X-rays.

Perhaps it is distance lending enchantment, but I still think it was a wonderful place. I have not seen it for nearly 30 years!

You may recollect my pursuit of a Lancia “Lambda,” in which you were so helpful. I have now succeeded in buying two 7th series tourers — one of which I shall keep.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Bernard Ryder.
Wirral, Cheshire.

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