Fragments on Forgotten Makes No. 8: The Straker-Squire

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We had recently the pleasure of meeting Mr. H. J. Bentley, who, in 1920, was racing mechanic to H. Kensington Moir at the Straker-Squire factory at Edmonton. Mr. Bentley recalls that when the six-cylinder Straker-Squire car engine was being developed various carburetters were tried, Claudel-Hobson at first, then the leather-bellows S.U., Zenith being finally specified. Straker-Squire had their own panel-beating shops and made their own bodies, including the racing two-seater with streamlined undershield, used on the racing Straker-Squire. ThiS car was at first given a standard engine developing 75 b.h.p., but at the end of its Brooklands’ career had been persuaded to poke out 115 b.h.p., modifications including special pistons to increase the compression ratio in each of the separate cylinders and increased lift on the inlet valves. The engine (it was a 4-litre, so the b.h.p. per litre was still under 30, but this was a long time ago and it ran on petrol) peaked at 3,000 r.p.m. and various sizes of rear wheels were taken to the Track so that experiments could be conducted in order to find the size that would enable this crankshaft speed to be maintained round the Track. Rapid changes of wheels were the order of the day, because Moir was waiting to drive the car and see what would be the result. Mr. Bentley recalls an occasion when Moir remarked to the Palmer representative that one tyre seemed to be wearing badly. The Palmer man looked at the car and retorted coldly that matters would be much improved if tyres of the same size were tried on each side of the car!

The six separate exhaust pipes, arranged organ-fashion along the near side of the car. were Mr. Straker’s idea, and he also thought up the black and white dazzle painting, to draw attention to the car. We asked whether the separate pipes were of varying lengths to obtain a scientific extractor effect but were told that this wasn’t so, although, of course, a pipe per exhaust valve did result in minimum back pressure. Incidentally, radiator shutters, adopted for the production Straker-Squires, were not used on the racing car, the water temperature being maintained at approximately 85 deg. C. by altering the area of the opening of the radiator cowl. This dazzle-painted Straker-Squire was driven from Edmonton to Brooklands in those far-away, carefree days. It was registered MD7901.

The only real shortcoming of the car, which eventually lapped at over 106 m.p.h., was the unsteady ride caused by cantilever rear springing, even when these were Houdaille-damped. On one occasion a front wheel came off as Moir was driving behind the hill at Brooklands, due to both front hubs having right-hand threads, one of which unscrewed, and on another occasion a loose petrol union caused a fire which was doused with earth beside the Byfleet banking, the car afterwards being towed to London and the engine stripped before the race, necessitating all-night work.

Mr. Bentley referred to a mysterious extra three b.h.p. which the racing engine once developed on the Froude test-bench without any alterations having been made. He then found he had inadvertently left the carbon brush out of the magneto distributor and the spark-gap thereby created resulted in better ignition. Once, when Moir broke a tooth on the crown wheel when making a racing start and no spare was available, a tooth was made up and brazed into place, the axle functioning perfectly satisfactorily!

Every production Straker-Squire engine was bench-tested and we are writing of the days when bearings were scraped-in by hand. Mr. Bentley recalls no shortcomings in the chassis of the six-cylinder Straker-Squire but when the original skew-gear-drive of the o.h. camshaft was replaced by bevel gears these proved very noisy and engines were assembled on surface plates to ensure that all components were running absolutely in line, in an endeavour to trace the source of all noises. The o.h.c. engine was designed by Roy Fedden but a Mr. North was Chief Engineer and Mr. Bolton was Works Manager.

When Mr. Straker’s son left Harrow he came to the works and amused himself developing the three-cylinder Cosmos radial engine, which proved difficult to carburate and too noisy for car use. Mr. Bentley assembled this engine and recalls test-runs with young Mr. Straker, who came accompanied by big bags of sweets!

After leaving Straker-Squire Mr. Bentley went to Aston-Martin, where he assembled the 1922 G.P. engines for Zborowski and Gallop. He later went to the Bentley Company and is now at the de Havilland Engine Division. — W. B.

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The Bull-Nose Morris Club, which assembled the remarkable number of 91 of these cars at their Woburn Park Bally, recognises cars made between 1913 and 1926, but as they know of only 33 Morris cars made prior to 1922. it can be said that their considerable membership comes within a belt of four years only. The Secretary is L. P. Jarman, 27, Oakfield Road. Rugby.

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In Surrey a 1927 9/20 Rover has been found, in sound mechanical condition but with poor bodywork, and restoration work is in hand. Incidentally, its owner offers on loan a model-T Ford workshop manual—letters from interested readers can be forwarded.

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Harking back for a moment to the articles on “The Motor Car in Fiction and Biography” which appeared in Motor Sport some years ago and promoted a record correspondence, the Editor has discovered some further fascinating references to cars in books recently read. For instance, there is mention of a yellow Edwardian Charron in “Boy and Man,” by Lawrence Hanson, while we wonder whether the Humber Register has discovered the reference to a vintage (or Edwardian?) Humber (and pondered the accuracy of the associated technicalities) which is to be found in “Home for the Holidays,” by Winifred Peck. The same authoress refers, although not by name, to a Phoenix car, remarking, rather obscurely, that her family had to get rid of it after hunting everywhere, without success, for suitable replacement plugs. Finally, in “Votes for Women,” by Roger Fulford, there is an unexpected reference to Brooklands Track and a racing Triumph motor-cycle called “The Suffragette.”

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A garage hand on the Hampshire/Wiltshire border uses daily a vintage mid-engined Trojan tourer, in a decent state of preservation.

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It was nice to see a drawing of the 1923 racing Marlborough-Thomas in a recent Specialloid, Ltd., advertisement in The Automobile Engineer. But were the ¼-elliptic front springs correct? As raced at Brooklands this ingenious small car surely had Parry Thomas-inspired torsion-bar suspension, involving coupling the front axle to the chassis with rigid arms?

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Apart from the reference to an early Armstrong Siddeley car in autobiography quoted last month at the heading to the article on the history of this make, the Editor was surprised to come soon afterwards upon another similar quotation, by Reginald Reynolds in his book “My Life and Crimes.” He refers to “our big Armstrong” which he drove for Clark, Son ‘and Morland as an apprentice commercial traveller in the Midlands and South Wales and which was involved in an accident while “we sped north from Cheltenham.”

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Changes of address: T. W. Carson, Secretary of the V.S.C.C., now live sat 3, Kingselere House Stables, Kingsclere, Newbury, Berks. Victor Side has resigned as Secretary of the V.S.C.C. Light Car Section, his place being taken by L. P. Sawers, whose address is: Freshfield, Station Avenue, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey.

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Whose is the rare, large vintage Panhard-Levassor saloon with GF registration letters, seen in S. Harrow last month? On the same journey we encountered two well-preserved Lancia Lambdas: one open, the other a saloon.

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