Vintage Postbag, December 1965

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Race Reporting

Sir,
Re. your article on “Race Reporting” on pages 856 and 858 of the October issue of MOTOR SPORT—perhaps you would be interested to know of the discrepancies I have discovered in checking the engine sizes of the various cars involved in the Grands Prix of the period concerned, i.e. 1906-14 inclusive.

In each case the figure I quote first is that given in Mr. Mathieson’s new book, followed by those from Karslake’s accounts (which agree with, or are copied from, G. Rose’s original volume.)

Although in some cases, as you will see, the differences in bore and/or stroke is only 1 cm., the differences resulting in the swept volume is noticeable, and of course in other cases the differences are far more pronounced.

Now, as an historian of the sport yourself, please advise me as to which authority I bow to in these particular cases, Mr. Boddy —if you can!

I should be most interested to have your comments (and corrections ?) on the above mystifying matter.
Southsea. GORDON BEVIS.

Ash for Cars

Sir,
The “wet-dry-wet-dry” behaviour of this wood has been most unsatisfactory where wet has had access to it. Rotting of the lower part of the door-post in Abbott bodies is well known, and repair or replacement very difficult.

I have always understood that the ideal wood for ” wet-dry-wet-dry ” conditions is elm. This is the wood used for riverside landing-stage piles, sea break-waters, when it is available, and under these extreme conditions it has a long life. I wish that some of the makers of the coach-built cars I have owned had known of this wood.
Carmel. C. C. PLOWDEN.

SIr,
Mr. W. Franks’ concern regarding the hitherto practice of using ash wood for motor-car bodywork is unfounded.

The sole property of ash is its ability to withstand twisting strain. Such arguments against its use as its tendency to split easily with an axe are irrelevant. It will burn more readily than teakwood for that matter.

The principal woods utilised in the original coachbuilding shops were: oak, for strength (spokes of wheels); ash, for flexibility (felloes, or outer rim of wheels); and elm for strength and resistance to splitting (naves, or hubs of wheels). The wooden wheel is an excellent example of the coachbuilder’s skill in applying the timber most suited to the requirements, and the same followed throughout the bodywork in the horse-drawn and, later, motorised vehicle

The spoke of the wheel takes the weight of the vehicle, and must therefore be of maximum strength. The hub is the centre joint of the wheel, and whilst taking the weight also, holds the spokes together. It must never split. The felloes though, will flex with the surface of the road, due to the circumference of the wheel, and must therefore ” give.” According to J. Geraint Jenkins, “The English Farm Wagon,” pp. 68, elm and beechwood have been used as a replacement for ash in this particular case, but with ” less satisfaction.” Horse-drawn vehicles were a combination of these three timbers in the past. Mahogany, an imported wood was always expensive, although it has the required qualities, beech was also used, and, in the later years for panelwork, plywood. Today, motor vehicles with coachbuilt bodies are generally of mahogany, ash and beech. Oak is nowadays more expensive than imported timber, and Mr. Franks will be very lucky to find any wood other than beech in furniture today, although oak was the criterion for framework in the good old days, and mahogany for panelling.

To say that our forebears were pulling a fast one in stipulating ash for car bodies is surely an insult. Life was not always a mad rush to get rich quickly, and some people were once proud to do a day’s work.
Edmonton. J. I. WADE.

Sir,
I was interested to read the letter from W. J. Franks on the use of ash in coachbuilt cars.

I have no knowledge of timber technology, but having carried out extensive restoration to the coachbuilt body of a 1936 Triumph Gloria, I have by trial and error gained some knowledge of the properties of timber for this type of work.

I can only assume that the fact that the timber was not seasoned, enabled Mr. Franks to easily dispose of the fallen ash tree. Having attempted to bend wheel arches from seasoned ash, I can assure you that ash is not an easily formed timber, at least in the hands of the inexperienced woodworker such as myself. It was on the advice of a boatbuilder that I used American elm, and with great success. The strength of this timber is almost equal to ash, having the long fibrous grain that is necessary for steam bending. Its most important property is its superior resistance to wet, indeed alternate wetting and drying have no effect on it. Hence its advantage for boatbuilding, which can be exploited for coachbuilding.

I have no hesitation in recommending the use of this timber as being ideal for restoration of a coachbuilt body. The fibrous grain calls for keen-edged tools, and it holds fastenings well.
Southsea. ROBERT G. DAVIS.

The Identity of the Charabanc

Sir,
On reading your October edition I saw the photograph of “Vera.” I wonder would it be possible for you to let me have a copy of this photograph ? You see, it holds great interest to our family. My father went with Mr. J. Regan to buy these Talbot ambulances from the Army after the 1914-18 War and then converted the bodies to make them into some of the first charabancs that came to Huddersfield.
Huddersfield. MISS VERA MARTON.
The picture concerned showed the back of an overloaded charabanc called “Vera,” and we are delighted to be able to disclose its identity. The photograph was sent in by a reader and a copy has been forwarded to Miss Marton.—Ed

The Carson Special

Sir,
With reference to the photograph of the 30/98 Vauxhall on page 961 of the November MOTOR SPORT, although it is probably unintentional, I feel your caption may lead some readers to think that this was a good vintage car which some callous individual has spoilt.

In fact the reverse is true. This car was built by Tim Carson in 1934 from various bits and pieces, mostly 30/98, and, known as the Carson Special,” it figured prominently in pre-war V.S.C.C. events and also at Sheisley Walsh and similar open events. I know.—Ed.]

In those days it was a very effective competition special with no concessions at all to aesthetic considerations or passenger comfort. When Jack Wilson bought it from Tim in 1951, it consisted of little more than a running chassis with two scats and a pair of ” bidons ” behind them serving as fuel tanks. He is responsible for making it into the, by no means unattractive, recognisable 30/98 it is today. I think that it has shown itself, this season, in the hands of David Densham, to still possess a good measure of its high performance.

The rear half of the chassis frame is turned upside down to pass under the axle and the engine is most interesting, consisting of ” E “-type crankcase, crankshaft, connecting-rods and camshaft, with OE ” block and valve gear. This combines the larger capacity (10 mm. longer stroke) of the ” E “-type with the o.h.v. advantages of the OE.” Considerable difficulty was experienced in determining the correct tappet clearances to match the side-valve camshaft with the overhead valves.

The T.T. Vauxhall-like cowls were, presumably, influenced by Tim Carson’s earlier associations with one of these cars. .
GEOFFREY W. SAMSON,

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