Vintage postbag, December 1960

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76

Sir,

Perhaps readers of your “Vintage Postbag” columns will be interested to see the enclosed photograph of a 1929 Clyno 9-h.p. fabric saloon, PK 6411, and to learn something of its history. I believe that 1929 was the last year that Clyno cars were in production.

The car was bought new (price £160) in February 1929, and extreme care was exercised during its running-in period. After four months on the country roads of Surrey, it took three passengers and luggage for a tour of the North-West Highlands of Scotland, which included visits to remote parts of Sutherland, and the north of the Isle of Skye. No trouble was experienced throughout this 1,900-mile journey, much of which was over very rough roads. During the next six years the car made five more trips from Surrey to the Highlands and back, and in the meantime served as a general “family runabout.” Its Scottish journeys included three return crossings of the famous Pass of the Cattle, in Ross-shire, with its fearsome gradients.

Apart from the replacement (after about 2,000 miles) of the carburetter by an instrument of a simpler type, the re-bushing of the front stub-axles, and the renewal of two broken springs, serious trouble was conspicuous by its absence. The new carburetter improved the petrol consumption. Top-gear performance at quite low speeds was good, and the three-speed gearbox gave easy changing, up and down. The car always held the road well, although the steering was light, and the four-wheel brakes were efficient. Eventually, part of the fabric covering wore and cracked, but a patch of American cloth and a coat of paint quickly made good the dilapidation.

By the autumn or 1936, PK 6411 had some 88,000 miles to its credit, and was beginning to feel its age. The big-ends had become decidedly “sloppy,” but reboring of the cylinders had never become necessary, nor were outsize piston rings fitted. A few weeks later I parted with my old friend for £25. When I took delivery of a new car (another 9-h.p. saloon of well-known make) the garage proprietor warned me: “You are buying a good car, but you must not expect to run 88,000 miles without reboring. Popular-priced cars are not made like that now.” This was tribute indeed to the old-stager.

I must emphasise that PK 6411 was never “thrashed,” and always received regular attention at the hands of a skilled mechanic. That, I think, was the real secret of its success.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Godalming. – H. A. Vallance.

* * * * *

Sir,

As a regular reader for many years of your excellent publication, I should be very interested to know if any examples of a car I drove in 1933 still exist. The car was known as an Andre V6, and I think was made by T. P. Andre, the shock-absorber makers, at their Putney branch, but I do not know how many examples were made.

As an enthusiastic motorcyclist at that time, I was loaned an Andre V6 for a long week-end to give my opinion of this car with a view to possible sales to motorcyclists who might require four wheels and a little more comfort and protection, and yet still retain a motorcycle engine and good performance. As far as I remember the car was fitted with a V-twin Matchless or J.A.P. o.h.v. engine. The performance was very good and compared favourably with the current J2 M.G.s and Singer Nines of that period.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Wallington. – Norman Holder.

[I, too, have often wondered if any Andre V6s still exist. – Ed.]

* * * * *

Sir,

Your correspondent Jim Blow (Nov., page 953) is correct about the Sopwith Kitten. The engine had a habit of cutting out on one cylinder – the pilot then put the tail over his shoulder and carried the thing back to base. A more successful effort was the A.N.E.C., circa 1924, which used the 3-h.p. A.B.C. motorcycle engine. This flew remarkably well if and when the engine could be made to perform. I always regarded Bradshaw as a sort of engineering poet, had he had a competent engineer to vet his designs some of them would still be in use, but the designs were always half-baked. Lest this seems unkind I will give a few details: Dragonfly – never ran two hours at full b.h.p., but an excellent sausage fryer; Belsize Bradshaw: oil pump air-locked on left-hand corner taken over 15 m.p.h.; A.B.C. motorcycle: roller bearings on soft crank, useless kick-starter and valve gear, steel cylinders which warped and scored.

Flat Bradshaw motorcycle excellent at low speeds, at high speeds everything fried. There were excellent reliable motorcycles in those days so please don’t swallow the “guff” about pioneering.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Sevenoaks. – “Old Tom.”

* * * * *

Sir,

After reading ” W.B.’s” comments on my car in the report on vintage Prescott, I decided to take up the challenge and reply.

“W.B.” claims that my Invicta has been converted into a red and alloy boy’s racer. This is not so. It has always been a boy’s racer, only when it was new it was called a sports car. Now I have no objection to constructive criticism, but I dislike adverse comments whose only basis is non-originality, although the only visible modification I have fitted to my car is the external exhaust system. I rebuilt the rest as it was, and that took me two years of very hard work.

The first owner of my car was Captain Macklin, and it was an experimental car, which was in fact one of the prototype 4-1/2-litre Invictas, with the larger engine and transmission in what is basically a 3-litre chassis. This accounts for the light weight of only 20 cwt.

I am, Yours, etc.,

London, S.W.19. – M. J. Skipp.

* * * * *

Sir,

It is not often that fellow correspondents to your excellent magazine are guilty of writing romantic nonsense. However, I fear “Rumblings” Volume 36, No. 8, of August last endows Mr. Hilaire Belloc’s “Mr. Petre” with perceptive power that he did not necessarily possess.

I have before me a brochure which reads “A new set of drawings embodying many improvements are now in hand and when completed the construction of an engine will be commenced in this country, so that although a French invention, to England will belong the credit of producing the first satisfactory rotary internal combustion engine.”

Then follows details and drawings and the brochure ends as follows: “The first Bergasse Rotary Engine was under construction in these works when the European war broke out and it is to be regretted that these works have fallen into German hands.”

The European war referred to was, of course, started by “Kaiser Bill” and doubtless Mr. Petre was a participant and so had available the information quoted.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Chittlehamptnn. – Joe Mellor.

* * * * *

Sir,

I was interested in Mr. Peter Morris’ photograph of a Protos, as I saw another example of this marque in Vienna last year. It was fitted with a van body but I was unable to find out from the owner, whose English was as limited as my German, whether this was original or not. However, I did gather that the car was of 1920 manufacture and was made by Siemens-Schuchert of Berlin.

Mr. Morris’ car seems to have a Munich registration plate, so I wonder if it is the car which appeared at the Karl Benz Anniversary Rally at Munich in 1958. This was a 1926 45-h.p. four-cylinder tourer.

Towards the end of the vintage period Protos amalgamated with N.A.G., who listed an impressive 4-1/2-litre straight-eight known as the NAG-Protos 218, in the early thirties.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Watford. – G. N. Georgeano.

• • • • •

Sir,

I refer to your reader’s inquiry regarding Protos cars and am pleased to be able to let him know the following specification:—

Protos cars of German manufacture approximately up to 1926/27. Four-cylinder, I0/45 PS, 80 x 130 mm., 2.6-litres, thermo-syphon cooling, magneto, four-speed gearbox, standard chassis design, Zenith carburetter.

Speciality: Provision in the cylinder block for carburetter link, left to right aide.

Sump, flywheel housing, parts of clutch made from aluminium alloy (silumin), also gearbox.

Proton clutch: Exchangeable (leather) double-wedged elements on ring-shaped single single plate, the elements assembled in “swallow-tail”-shaped groove and pressed by single coil-spring into accordingly formed ring-groove in flywheel. Easily adjustable pedal.

With regard to the 1926 Sentinel: Being at that time with the Skoda Works I had designed for these excellent vehicles some implements and alterations, such as axles and wheels for pneumatic tyres, a small steam turbine driving dynamo for lighting, turbine-driven compressor, implements for water and emulsion-spraying, etc.

Sentinels have been in extensive use in transport (municipal vehicles), breweries (Pilsner beer) and, as far as I remember, for military transport, with heavy trailers attached. No complaints known, except shocks from static electricity.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Potton. – O. V. Smekal, Ing,(Dr.techn.).

* * * * *

Sir,

Mr. Padley-Smith asks about steam wagons with horizontal boilers. It is good to know that someone still cares for them. From my present address I cannot advise your correspondent about any still to be had, but if he is lucky enough to locate one I implore him to (1) watch the bottom of the smokebox where the front axle perch-bolt was often attached (rain dribbles down the chimney and rusts it.); (2) examine the differential (often exposed on the rear axle and the cause of many wagons being scrapped); (3) get a “competent man” to have a good look at the firebox and tubes. No doubt the traction engine fans could help him in this respect. The Road Loco Society has much data on them.

This particular kind of wagon was called an “overtype” because the engine lay on top of the boiler. The “undertype” (like the Sentinel) had an engine slung under the chassis frame and usually, though not invariably, a vertical water-tube boiler. Atkinson, Leyland and Fowler were leading undertype makers and there were others too numerous to mention. Many of the overtype makers had a shot at undertypes at one time or another. Then there were the Yorkshire, with boiler across the frame, and the Mann Undertype, with a carden-shaft-and-worm drive. But undertypes and autotypes are a whole story in themselves. Let’s have a look at the overtype. which Mr. Padley-Smith (and the Editor, and myself) would seem to prefer.

He quotes the Foden, the first one (introduced 1901), and generally held to be the best of the lot. At first they were all on iron tyres with two-cylinder compound engine; 4 in. x 6-3/4 in. x 7 in. stroke, 200 lb./sq. in., two speeds, trunnions outside the back wheels like railway wagons. The 3-ton wagon he mentions came out in 1914 and was then allowed a speed of 12 m.p.h. (on rubber tyres), against the 8 m.p.h. of the 5-tonner. The 6-ton improved overtype of 1922-1935 (the last) had a bigger engine, 220 lb./sq. in. pressure, and an enclosed cab with windscreens (regarded as highly decadent by the Old School!). Some had right-hand steering; all pre-1922 Fodens and many later ones were “left-handed” – to keep you out of the ditch on a dark night. All rubber-tyred ones had shock-chains between the front wheels, to keep you from being knocked silly by static electricity; small boys often looped up the chain while the crew were enjoying the amenities of the ale-house, or so the crew alleged. There were considerable social and economic differences between the driver (who also fired, ate sandwiches, held a licence) and the steersman (who sat outside the frame and did not need a licence).

Other makers of overtypes were: Allchin, Northamtpton (faster and lighter than the Foden; very similar in appearance). Aveling & Porter, of steam-roller fame (brass horse on the front, spoilt by a short chassis frame). Burrells of Thetford (famous showmen’s engines) made a wagon with two chains, one each side (N.B. – Over-long driving chains, stretching and exposed, were the curse of all overtypes). Clayton (mentioned by our Editor), a heavy, clumsy copy of the Foden, but it did very well in World War I – much used for “de-lousing” (live steam from boiler was poured over discarded uniforms in all-steel body). Also made a good undertype – a firm cursed by bad luck. William Foster, Lincoln – another showman’s engine firm, came late to the wagon trade, 1921-24; a good wagon but too much space taken by boiler, too little by body. Garrett— fast but noisy, superheated. Mann, Leeds – side-fired boiler, could be driven from either side – two steering wheels, two sets of levers, boiler and engine separated driver and fireman; a good wagon, the only one which could be comfortably driven by one man when necessary (again I speak of overtypes). Ransomes – came too late (1923). Robey, Lincoln – right-hand steering, enclosed motion, fast and “modern” as early as 1919; Charringtons, the London coal merchants, had a fleet of them (Beck & Pollitzer used Manns). (Most Garrett overtypes were also right-hand steering; so was the short-lived Sentinel overtype.) Taskers, Andover, Hants – if Mr. Padley-Smith finds one of these he should please communicate at once with Messrs. Tasker, who need one for their museum, where it will be religiously preserved. A good, sturdy overtype very like the Foden – known as the “Little Giant.” Wallis & Steevens, Basingstoke – a crude wagon, not many made, because their heart was with the light steam tractor-and-trailer combination, at which they excelled. They also made the Wallis Advance, probably the world’s best steam-roller.

A few oddments – the Danks, only a handful made; Naylor’s, Hereford, ditto; Sentinel Overtype (already mentioned), only about a dozen made; Wantage Eng. Co. (very early); Straker-Squire (rejoice, ye Motor Sport readers!) made a 5-ton compound overtype before they ever dreamed of sports cars!; and Ruston Hornsby (1925), probably Ransomes under another name. And I think that’s the lot, but will be so glad if someone can prove that I am wrong.

Oh, I have lots more to tell (like the Ancient Mariner) but must ask readers to contact me if they want to know about it or if they have similar unknown knowledge to impart. (I drive a Peugeot 203 – not a Foden, alas!)

Here is an excerpt from verses in The Autocar, circa 1925 (author unknown). which may interest readers.

If a Foden should crowd you, an’ try to come through—

Give ‘im room, never mind if it’s gutter for you;

Don’t risk a collision; you’ll find, if you do,

‘E’s too big; and too ‘ard. for the driver!”

A pity nobody today has seen a real Foden – if he did, on a wet night, with oil lamps, he’d turn green! (N.B. – Especially with the ashes pouring on the road, and two white spectres flailed with oil and graphite from the con.-rod in front of them!)

I am, Yours, etc.,

Durban, South Africa. – E. Godfrey Hobson.

* * * * *

Sir,

I am searching for as much information as I can in an attempt to write a history of the taxi-cab.

Unfortunately the subject has been neglected and as a result I am finding it very difficult to find details of the many makes.

I should, therefore, be very interested to hear from any of your readers who could give me information of any kind.

I am particularly in need of photographs, handbooks, workshop manuals, etc.

All letters will be acknowledged.

I am, Yours, etc.,

London, N.W.3. – Iain Cowan.

[Letters can be forwarded. – Ed.].

• • • • •

Sir,

In your report of the V.S.C.C. Prescott Meeting last August you query the commentator’s remark that Sir Ralph Millais’ Alfa Romeo is the 1931 Le Mans car.

It has now been firmly established to the Club Committee’s satisfaction by no less authorities than Earl Howe and Count Lurani that the car is in fact the 1931 Le Mans winning car.

Whether the car was made before December 31st 1930 has not yet been established, though this is quite possible and it is hoped that the definite date of manufacture will be available before next season.

l am, Yours, etc.,

Kingsdere. – T. W. Carson, Secretary, V.S.C.C.

[While we hesitate before querying such authorities as Earl Howe and Count Lurani, memories are sometimes at fault, and Sir Ralph Millais’ Alfa Romeo exactly resembles a 1932 Le Mans car, being, surely, a sister model to the Hawthorn car, which has always been accepted as 1932. If it has been rebuilt following the 1931 victory, the question arises, when was this done and why? – surely if the car has been rebuilt in recent years it would have been put into winning 1931 trim, and if those concerned care to look at contemporary photographs they will see that there is considerable difference between the 1931 and 1932 Le Mans cars and that Sir R. Millais’ car definitely looks like one of the latter. If the car is 1931, but rebuilt after winning, it is rather droll that everyone seems to have been ashamed of the fact at the time, for before the 1932 Le Mans race the previous year’s winners, Howe and Birkin, were asked to do a lap of honour, which they did in Howe’s Alfa Romeo which contemporary reports merely referred to as “of similar type to that which won in 1931.” Surely if Howe had the actual car he had driven to victory in 1931 everyone would have been delighted to say so? It seems probable that he drove a works car in 1931, then bought the car he ran in 1932, which is the one now owned by Millais.

Accepting the car as the 1931 Le Mans winner, which it no longer resembles, as Alfa Romeo were badly behind in March with their first 2.3 Mille Miglia cars for 1931, is it likely they had laid down a car not required until June as early as December 1930? It all depends, of course, what you mean by “laid-down.” Lines no doubt existed on paper, the chassis frame may have been stacked in a corner, but it is going rather far to date a car in this way. I am glad to hear that the Millais car will, for the time being, be regarded by the V.S.C.C. as an Historic Racing Car but not as a vintage car. And, while we are all seeking the truth in these matters, can the V.S.C.C. explain to me how R. W. Husband’s excellent Talbot 105 racer qualifies as an Historic Racing Car? – Ed.]

––––––––––––––––––––––––

Old cars continue to be discovered. Thus we hear of what is probably the last of the sleeve-valve 25/70 Vauxhalls still in existence which ran well until two years ago but now needs restoring and is looking for a good home. It is a saloon with built-in trunk, by Grosvenor. Then we hear of two apparently Edwardian motorcycles complete with spare engines, gearboxes, carburetters, magnetos and other parts which have come to light and are worth identifying. Another reader offers a Talbot Z10 engine of about 1925 vintage, an O.M, crown-wheel and pinion and a set of Ceirano hub caps to any serious enquirer. Further, in Scotland a 1913/14 Straker-Squire engine which is almost complete except for the carburetter has turned up, in very reasonable shape, while it seems that a garage in Lancashire has on its roof a two-seater Chrysler said to be of 1930 or earlier vintage which is used as a form of advertisement. Another reader points out that in H. P. Denly’s showroom in Birmingham there reposes a 1932 Star Comet 21/60 saloon in immaculate order which until a few years ago was Mr. Denly’s personal car. He thinks that the genuine mileage is about 33,000 and it might now be possible to acquire the car and get it back on the road. On the subject of Star, the same correspondent has found an Edwardian landaulette of this make which he is endeavonring to obtain, the date apparently being about 1912. He has also acquired a 1931 Swift Cadet saloon which cost £6, has run 44,600 miles, and was laid up from 1935 to 1955. He proposes to put it on the road this winter. At Benson, Oxon, a 1928 Buick saloon exists, completely restorable, and in a nearby scrapyard several Standard radiators, a Jowett chassis, and parts of Buick, Clyno, Morris and A.J.S., etc., were about to be scrapped.

* * * * *

And after the finds, the requests: A reader in London is restoring a 1925 type AD 16-h.p. Minerva and would like to hear from other owners of cars of this make. He requires a few parts to complete restoration of this car which R. G. Phelps, of Mayer and Phelps, the surgical instrument makers bought in April 1931 from someone living in Camberley, and used it until his death three years ago. The car generally is in an excellent state of repair, being almost unmarked, while the original tools are all present. A garage in Cornwall have unearthed a New Pick which they think may be of 1908 vintage, the car carrying a two-seater coupé body with a door on the near-side only. They would appreciate any information on New Picks which would help the restoration and enable them to date accurately their particular car. In Australia, a reader who is restoring a 1928 type 450 side-valve Mercedes-Benz straight-8, a 4.7-litre tourer version, seeks facts about performance, faults, and a description of the dashboard layout to enable the car to be properly restored. This reader would like to hear from any other owners of these cars in the United Kingdom or elsewhere and would particularly appreciate news by air letter. Finally, the owner of a Star light car urgently requires a 30 x 3-1/2 Michelin four-stud disc wheel for this car. Letters can be forwarded.

________________________

Rally navigators will find the Comprehensive Average Speed Computer compiled by Roy Bellion and Ronald Taylor, price 15s., or 20s. 3d., post free, from Red Rose Publicity Service, Back Regent Road, Blackpool, most useful. It contains 106 tables, going from 20 to 35 m.p.h. in increments of 0.1 m.p.h.

________________________

Factory methods in the Vintage era

No. 4: Standard

In 1928 the Standard Motor Company was in full production with the new 9-h.p. car which had been designed hurriedly in 1927 to save an ugly situation which had come about due to redundancy of the once-popular earlier models.

The Standard Nine was being turned out alrnost entirely in fabric saloon form, all except the least-expensive version with a sliding roof.

Machinery and components erection was undertaken in the original factory at Cash’s Lane in Coventry East End, while at the newer works at Canley, in the west of Coventry the components were marshalled, the chassis assembled and the bodywork constructed.

In the Nine Standards were anxious to offer a silent gearbox and the ground pinions were checked visually on a huge light-projection machine at Cash’s Lane, which, in a dark room, enabled the contour of each gear tooth to be magnified fifty times and compared on a white surface with a theoretically-correct outline, the gear thereby being checked for dimensional accuracy of involute form, eccentricity, thickness of tooth and division, 1/20th of an inch of shadow being equivalent to 0.001 in. in the actual gear. Every single road spring was also subjected to careful tests, a weight of 438 lb. being applied to the centre line of the spring to deflect it 3/16th of an inch, the tolerance permitted being + or – 5%. A record was kept in a book of each spring and they were matched in good quartettes before being assembled to a chassis frame.

The executives of the Standard Motor Company claimed in 1928 that they purposely used their cars as customers would have to use them, treating them rough, leaving them out in the open, neglecting to de-coke them and so on, as Alec Issigonis does today with his Morris Mini-Minor.

Proper mass-production was in progress at Canley, the cars being erected on the conveyor system, being pushed along on separate trolleys as assembly proceeded. The wheels and tyres, which slid down a ramp from a gallery, were put on last. The chassis was then road-tested before the bodywork was fitted. – W.B.

****************************

A good torch

In winter an electric torch is an essential adjunct to motoring. We have been using for the past year a B.M. torch, which was written up in the December 1959 Motor Sport. This quite excellent torch has given no trouble and the original batteries are still in use. It has many unique, long-life features and is a best buy amongst torches. So many readers have enquired that we will repeat the maker’s address – Bardic Ltd., Northam, Southampton, Hampshire. When written-up the price was 35s.

Miniatures news

Following on Lesney’s fine 1906 Rolls-Royce miniature referred to last month come their “Matchbox” size Vauxhall Victor, Ford Zodiac, Thames Estate Car and American Ford station wagon, the last two with windows and all four jolly little replicas, respectively. Nos. 45, 33, 70 and 31.

The latest Dinky Supertoys miniature is of an extremely realistic snow plough, while Automec, 328, St. Albans Road, Watford, Herts., are agents for the French Rami 1/43 in. miniatures that include a fine Type 35C Bugatti (with non-standard exhaust system), 1906 Type Coupe Sizaire-Nandin (a pity it lacks pedals) and two-cylinder Renault taxi, besides many others. They cost 9s. 9d., post paid.

The No. 11 Bayko Building Outfit, for 9s. 11d., enables you to house your miniatures in realistic garages. These models make excellent presents and the more of them you buy from the toy shops the greater the variety the manufacturers will go on offering us! – W.B.

***************************************

” ‘Aeromodeller’ Annual – 1960-61,” Compiled by D. J. Laidlaw-Dickson and C. S. Bushbrooke. F.S.M.A.E. 8-5/8 x. in. 5-9/16in. (Model Aeronautical Press Ltd., 38, Clarendon Road. Watford, Herts. 10s. 6d.).

This little annual is always welcome. It contains everything anyone could want to know about model aeronautics. There are plans of successful models, lists of records, constructional details and those intriguing test-reports on model engines, etc. This year we are particularly fascinated by details of electrically-powered models which have flown and of a flying model of a 1909 Valkyrie monoplane with its Cox Space Hopper engine hidden as one of seven cylinders in the dummy engine. – W.B.