Vintage Postbag, December 1957

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66

Sir,

I am constantly reading letters in Motor Sport of the unlikely places in which vintage and veteran cars have been found, but I think none of them are more unlikely than the place where I recently found new and boxed components for T-type Fords. It was on a desert island in the Pacific. This island has been uninhabited since 1926.

The parts, which consisted of about 36 wheels, a dozen petrol tanks, six radiators, innumerable mudguards, two chassis and a large number of trembler coils, had been salvaged from a sailing ship which had been wrecked off the island in about 1920; the inhabitants had stored these parts in a stone building where they lie to this day. Unfortunately the roof of the building had fallen in, and the ravages of many years of salt air and tropical sun has made these bits and pieces quite beyond restoration.

Also on the island was a narrow gauge railway powered by a massive o.h.v. water-cooled vertical twin petrol engine; the carburetter, which was a huge bronze affair, had the year 1906 cast on its lid, the push rods were fully 18 in. long and the plugs were 24 mm. Rajahs.

I am, Yours. etc., R. Windey. Newbury.

*

Sir,

We recently had a meeting of the Antique Car Club of California, and remembering those puzzle photographs you used to run, I wonder how many of your readers could identify the engine in the enclosed picture?

According to the radiator it was a Biflex Eight, but I cannot think the Eight stood for cylinders, as there appeared to be either three pairs with two spark plugs per cylinder, or three fours. Perhaps you can answer this from your vast store of motoring history.

I am, Yours, etc., Basil Crookes. San Francisco.

*

Sir,

A few notes about the Bedelia, as requested by E. D. Woolley in your October issue (page 596).

1. I believe the first models had rear-seat steering, but I never saw one.

2. In 1911 they had a showroom on the Avenue de l’Opera (N.4 I think). I was 13 at the time (born 1898 and still going strong!) and was building a car for myself, so each time I went to Paris I spent hours in silent contemplation of what was, for me, the dream car of the time. I never managed to duplicate it, the variable diam. pulleys being above my mechanical ability and means at the time, but did get a tandem-seat car on the road.

3. The car on show had front-seat steering; the wheels had wooden rims and very slanting bicycle spokes (wide hub) which made them look like the landing wheels of the aeroplanes of the same vintage.

4. The Bedelia firm could supply two types of car: the V-twin or the single-cylinder. A fellow I knew (and envied!) who couldn’t afford the twin ordered the single. Well, believe me if you like, the engine was the same, except that the second cylinder opening in the crankcase was closed with a square piece of sheet iron held in place by the very same bolts used for the “single” cylinder! Why bother about two sets of castings and crankshafts — or balancing! It wasn’t much of a car and gave lots of trouble, but Super or not, it had front-seat steering.

S. The Bedelia had a V-belt drive to both rear wheels. The driving pulleys had a sliding flange operated by the “shift” lever, varying diameter as required.

I would like to mention a very clever torque converter using a V-belt and two variable pulleys. The driving pulley on the engine shaft is operated by a suitable governor that changes its width (and useful diameter) according to torque requirements. The driven pulley flanges are kept together by a spring so as to keep a uniform tension. This perfectly automatic “gear” shift is used on a 75-c.c. bike called Hobby, built by D.K.W. and under licence by Manu Rhin in France. I don’t know about belt wear, but I can see no good reason why such a converter, using two, three or more larger V-belts, could not be used to drive a light car. It should be silent and not waste power, also cheap to build.

I am, Yours, etc., C. Jorrand. Blessac, France.

*

Sir,

Let not Mr. Keith A. Rose look back in anger at the unmentionable person who cut away the rear part of his Model T Ford to make it into a farm truck; this is probably the reason it is still in existence.

Way back in the 1920s many Model Ts and others were cut about after they became too shabby for private use.

In those distant days we did not realise that everyday hacks would have a sentimental and commercial value.

I must admit to cutting about a Darracq of about 1908 and some 12 h.p. with gear change under steering wheel, tying a horse mower behind and cutting some eight acres for hay in 1920/1.

Some time later I saw what, as far as I can remember, was a three-cylinder Rolls-Royce and a three-cylinder Vauxhall sold in a Manchester motor auction for round about £40 each; now I understand there is only one known three-cylinder Rolls.

Model Ts were used on the small hill farms of Cheshire-Derbyshire borders. I remember one elderly poultry farmer who used to carry crates of flea-ridden hens in his Model T. This model ran a big end, the farmer removed the somewhat large sump and replaced the missing white metal with a piece of old harness leather, and ran for quite a lot of miles.

Although now the owner of a charming, middle-aged lady made in Derby, and also the very latest trans-Atlantic-styled product, I can, and do, appreciate the good points of both; but cannot help remembering and regretting an Itala of about 1908, 148 by 180-mm. bore and stroke, and a slide valve Imperia which I owned, a Silver Ghost I knew in mint condition, all of which went to the knacker’s yard.

I am, Yours, etc., “Simple Simon.” Cheshire.

*

Sir,

If that Butler Lacey is not a Bean and if our legs are not being pulled, I am the Prince of Wales!

I am, Yours, etc., L. D. Beavis. Wheathamstead.

*

Sir,

I was very interested to see mention of a Butler-Lacey car in the October edition of your very interesting magazine. I, too, would like to know more about this make, as it was one of many cars owned at various times by an Australian uncle of mine. (I remember that he had the most beautiful 30/98 that I have ever seen.) After looking through many photos I have found the enclosed [see foot of page. — Ed.], taken in 1939, which I am sure shows the Lacey, a true vintage car. This particular car, unfortunately, is no longer with us, as it was taken to Malaya, and, like many other good cars, was driven into the harbour when the Japanese came.

In a way this was an ironical ending, for the firm of Butler-Lacey had many things in common with the Japanese. Their cars were, I gather, almost invariably cheaper replicas of other makes, and in many cases one could obtain “spares” from the models they copied.

One would expect that writs were eventually issued for breach of copyright, but the plaintiffs must have withdrawn their actions, for I can find no record of any hearing. Perhaps they were advised that they would not be able to recover any damages that might be awarded to them.

The output of the concern was very small indeed, and I doubt whether more than 50 cars were ever made, if that.

I hope that one of your readers will soon find one still in its original state, and then we will be able to have an article on its restoration.

I am, Yours, etc., Bernard Kain. Charlcombe.

[Not an Oakland ?! — Ed.]

 

 

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