A Section Devoted to Old-Car Matters
BY CADILLAC TO BRIGHTON The Editor Co-Drives the Brighton Motor Museum’s 1903 Model-A on the London-Brighton Veteran Car Run
NO. not that sort of Cadillac! Since the war I have been able to drive veteran cars in the R.A.C./V.C.C. London-Brighton Run through the thoughtfulness.of Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, instead of just cadging a lift as I was obliged to do before 1939. This year His Lordship generously laid on another “new” car, the driving of which I shared with Eric Thompson, Chairman of Beaulieu’s Motorcycle Advisory Board. This was a 1903 single-cylinder Cadillac, owned by Lt.-Comdr. F. S. Bennett, which has in recent times retired into the Brighton Motor Museum. All veterans are distinctive and of great value, but this Cadillac has had a particularly distinguished career. A year after this famous American make of Henry Leland’s went into production, the late Fred S. Bennett began to import them into England and in that year took part in an officially-observed 1,000-Mile Trial with the first one to be imported into Great Britain. In 1913 he repeated this performance and, in 1953, when over 80 years of age, he again undertook this long journey round England, in this same Cadillac, under V.C.C. observation. I remember I went as one of the observers, on that occasion.
Mr. Bennett must indeed, have been one of the first persons to see the value of a veteran car for publicity purposes. For some time this original import served a chemist as his delivery van but it seems that it was re-acquired by the Cadillac agents. In 1924, having held a 21st-birthday party in Londtin for Cadillic, he arranged a procession of modern Cadillacs headed by the car I used for this year’s Brighton Run. In a now forgotten book, “The Autocar—Biofgraphy of Owen John” (Iliffe & Son. 1927) the author recalls that this ’03 model, “a machine shaped like an old-lashioned pram,” proceeded “along the Mall, Constitution Hill, Piccadilly and through Mayfair. Mr. Bennett led, and some of his passengers, including Mr. Massic Buist of the Morning Post, always considered to be the doyen of motor scribes, wore top-hats in honour of the occasion. In aristocratic Grosvenor Square I, being in the second State carriage, noticed liquid dropping out of the first vehicle. Suddenly the stuff ignited, and in less than no time that ancient car was blazirg up like a successful Christmas pudding with all its fashionably-dressed patsengers wondering, firstly, what we were shouting about, and, secondly, what on earth was happening to them. The door of the contraption was at the back, and as nobody was able to find the handle, out of the machine over the highly-omamented sides they all jumped, while all the crowd screamed, the neighbouring windows filled themselves tip with belted carls, and confusion reigned supreme. The rest of us pulled up and watched the bonfire. Half the fire-engines and escapes, with all their appurtenances, in London seemed to rush up in less than no time, and on their arrival no one ever saw in all their life in that haunt of ancient peace such an unholy mess as promptly ensued. Then we resumed, but without our leader, though I believe even after this disaster the old car once more came up smiling again.”
This, as we know, was very true! When the first revived Brighton Run took place in 1927, Fred Bennett and his famous Cadillac were there. He took part in all the subsequent “Brightons” until very recently. In 1928, for example, the Cadillac averaged 10.8 m.p.h., and when veteran car races were instituted at Brooklands, F. S. Bennett entered, the old car, driven by G. Bennett, lapping the Mountain circuit at 20.34 m.p.h. Then, when this activity wasn’t possible any more, Lord Montagu gave the Cadillac a home in the Brighton Motor Museum. As I have said, we were honoured to be on such a very historic and well-knomn veteran.
These original Cadillacs were simple single-cylinder vehicles, with “foolproof ” epicyclic transmission, with high ground clearance to suit American roads and enough performance to cope with the distances American pioneer motorists expected to cover. This highly historic Model-A Cadillac, YU 1974, now has a four-seater tonneau-entrance body (fitted by 1924, as we have seen) but was originally, it is believed, a two-seater. Its 127 x 127-mm. single-cylinder engine not only anticipated today’s “square” bore and stroke dimensions but, sweeping no less than 1,604 c.c., is one of the biggest “one-pot” power plants I am likely to experience! It lies horizontally in the chassis, facing rearwards. It drives via a 2-speed epicyclic gearbox and central final-drive chain. Suspension is by ½-elliptic leaf-springs, those at the rear being shackled at both ends. and located by tie-rods enabling chain tension to be adjusted. The front axle is tubular and there arc protruding brass hub-caps of Carriage type. The wheels ran originally on ball-bearings but as the correct size was unobtainable when the Cadillac was being overhauled— rebuilt would be incorrect—roller bearings were substituted. The front wheels are Shod with 26 in. x 3 in-. Dunlop Motorcycle tyres, the rear ones with 810 x 90 Dunlop Cord tyres.
The only means of retardation, apart from putting in reverse gear, is the foot-brake, which applies contracting bands on drums, one each side of the differential easing of the back axle. The engine has no throttle, speed being controlled by increasing or decreasing inlet valve lift by means of a hand-lever under the small wood-rimmed steering wheel with its four convex brass spokes, the inlet valve being located above the exhaust valve, i.o.e. style, and acculted by a long side rod and transverse rocker. The ignition arrangements are unusual. There are three sparking plugs, one at the top of the head and two beneath, with curious curved dual electrodes. A chain-driven vintage-type E.I.C. magneto mounted on the n/s of the chassis supplies the upper plug and has a motorcycle-type advance and retard lever by the driver’s right hand. I imagine this was added when Bennett re-acquired the car after the 1914/18 war. The other two plugs are fed by trembler coils contained in the n/s locker on the low facia and a long ratchet-ed advance and retard lever rises from beside the o/s of the driver’s seat cushion. The two tumbler ignition switches are on the inside of the body, convenient to the driver’s right hand.
There is an interesting torm of rack-and-pinion steering at the base of the nearly vertical steering column, and the anti-clockwise starting handle engages directly on the n/s of the crankshaft by the heavy flywheel and is clipped to the footboard when not in use. Lubrication cotisists of a McCoom box-type pump agitated by a spring-belt, which distributes oil to piston, main bearings, etc., via four drip-feeds, these being out of sight behind the front seat.
Cooling is looked after by a copper jacket round the cylinder and a front-mounted gilled-tube radiator supplied from a water tank by the front occupants’ feet, originally no doubt of copper but since re-fashioned in brass. It needs a special cranked funnel to fill it. The petrol tank, with enormous filler orifice, is beneath the driver’s seat. The front of the car carries s brass Cadillac name-plate.
The controls of this 63-year-old Cadillac were no doubt simple enough when there was nothing conventional with which to compare them; today, a driver can be excused for regarding them with some apprehension. A long way down on the floorboards are a couple of pedals. The smaller left-hand one engages low-speed when depressed—it has to be held down, and the harder it is pressed the better grip the low-speed band obtains. The other, large, pedal applies the aforesaid brakes. A long r.h. lever moves forward to engage high-speed, after the low-speed pedal has been released, and as this gear is engaged through a separate disc clutch, the action, as the lever is cased forward, is akin to letting-in a clutch pedal. Neutral is the central position of this lever and pulling it back selects reverse. So, although the designer of this First of All the Cadillacs no doubt felt that the driver’s task was simple—what more elementary than pressing one pedal down to get going and the other one down if you desired to reduce speed?—my co-driver and I were kept pretty busy. The Cadillac displays A.A., V.C.C. and R.A.C. badges, has a fine “curly” bulb-horn and Lucas “King of the Road” oil sidelamps.
These single-cylinder Cadillacs cost £200 new, and were continued until 1908, although in later years a dummy bonnet made them look more sophisticated. Another publicity stunt devised by F. S. Bennett was to take three brand new models to Brooldands in 1908, have them dismantled and all the parts, together with some new ones, thoroughly mixed up on the floor of the old tuning sheds behind the Hill, after which, to prove the interchangeability of the components they were reassembled under R.A.C. observation and restarted at the first swing of the starting handle, afterwards running 500 miles on the Track. This won Cadillac the Dewar Trophy.
That, then, was the car I was to share with Eric Thompson, our passengers being Charlie Rous of Auto News (who was obviously going to have a slower ride over the Madiera Drive kilometre this time than he does on the big Vincent!) and my youngest daughter. Bob Johnson, P.R.O. of General Motors in this country, had very kindly offered to put me up at his apartment overlooking Hyde Park on the night before the Run, so saving the normal early rising to drive up to the start from Hampshire—this was pure generosity and thoughtfulness on Mr. Johnson’s part, not a method of ensuring that a driver of one of his Company’s products did not desert, for G.M. did not absorb Cadillac until 1908.
So, packing my faithful Sidcot suit, bought years ago from “Uncle Lewis'” clothing shop in Carburton Street, in which I have never felt cold, and the ex-Canadian Army trench coat I acquired on the eve of the first H.C.V.C. “Brighton” some years ago, we set off London-wards in the VW 1600TL Fastback I happened to have on test—an admirable tender-car for such an occasion.
A pelting wet Guy Fawkes night gave way to quite a decent Sunday, except for isolated showers. Up at 6 a.m., we were off by 8.25 a.m., and soon the Cadillac’s controls were mastered and driving it was found to be simplicity itself, although the gap between high- and low-speed was considerable, and caused me to stall the engine on one occasion. Once high-speed had been engaged this 1.6-litre one-lunger galloped along splendidly, and in remarkable silence, its enormous expansion-box having as outlets two absurd little downward-facing pipes of about 1/8 in. dia.! The big flywheel enabled the engine to slog until each separate firing stroke could be felt. Any lack of power on the foot-brake’s part was matched by the expediency of easing in reverse to halt our headlong progress. . . .
So we got along well, changing drivers before Croydon, so that Thompson took her into the hospitable R. P. Garage at Redhill for a couple of gallons of Shell and replenishment of oil and water. I then resumed the wheel and we devoured some more of the route, Rous sometimes running behind up the hills. Handcross wss no trouble, although slight loss of power was suspected.
Changing drivers again after a strong middle-of-the-road ascent, we hadn’t gone far when the engine began to emit horrid thumps. Investigation showed that the spring belt of the oil-feed had jumped the bottom pulley. This replaced, the engine resolutely refused to restart, although we got a tow from a Rover 90 of the M.M.M. staff.
There was nothing to do but wait for Chief Engineer Louis Giron and the Museum’s Land-Rovers. From 12.30 p.m. to 2 p.m. we waited forlornly en panne by the roadside near Bolney Cross Roads. Nearby C. F. Smith’s 1903 Sunbeam was stationary, a bead having pulled out of a back tyre, but it continued, whereas our long wait went on. . . .
When he did arrive, after successfully re-welding the exhaust valve of A. J. Mortimer’s 1900, Royal Enfield Quad, which was to sail by a little later, Giron confirmed my diagnosis of a “run” big-end, and proved his worth by taking up the slack, putting in fresh plugs and sending us on our way. Thompson now had a nerve-racking job, because revs had to be kept down when the engine was running light and he was obliged to drive mainly on the ignition lever, conscious that there were 15 miles to cover in 1½ hours if we were to qualify. He did a splendid job, experience of an early Rover Eight and countless motorcycles coming into play. It seemed we would do it, in spite of the long haul up Pyecombe, but the public, even when the Run is nearly over, streams into Brighton with the instinct of lemings, so that traffic blocks were soon encountered. The Police, mostly so very helpful all along the route, had apparently not foreseen this, although one most welcome motorcycle control led us and other veterans along a third lane past Preston Park and in the town we were allowed to take the “Buses Only” lane.
But the minutes were ticking away and it was touch and go. Thompson remained calm and efficient even when a constable held up the traffic right by the finish, seemingly interminably. Then we were away, all stops out, parting the crowd, to shouts and cheers on all sides. The “Finish” caravan came into view. It seemed to be half-a-minute past qualifying time, yet we were given our medal and flag. Another highly exciting Brighton Run was over.
V.S.C.C. EASTERN RALLY (Oct. 23rd) Results : The Eastern : S. E.
The Eastern Trophy : S. E. Charity (1937 Riley).
The Barrett Memorial Trophy (Navigator of winning car) : J. P. Gooilacre. Light Car Award : D. K. Woodburn (1925 Gwynne).
First Class Awards : I. P. I.. Newton (1930 Lea-Francis), P. M. G. Perrow (19.36 Riley), J. W. Rowley 4.927 Vauxhall), B. R. Cocks (1927 Bentley), J. R. Hamilton (1937 Riley), V. P. Stafford (1932 Riley) and D. Hodgso ) 1929 Austin). Second Class Awards : j. Woollard (192.7 Lagonda), L. Stoton (1937 Riley’, A. Lomas 0935 Riley), F. E. Day (1929 Bentley), N. Carrington (i935 Fiat;, D. Macmillan (1928 Rolls-Royce) and W. R. Alexander ,1926 Vauxhall). Third Class Awards : J. M. Hill (1929 0.M.), F. G. Moore (1934 Raitton • G. Liston Young (1935 Fiat), T. Ely (193..4 Riley), R. C. England (193t
W. S. May (1926 Frazer Nash), D. K. Woodburn (1925 Gwynne) and G. Le: (1925 Ceirano).
Team Result : tat: Midland Team (Day’s Bentley, Rowley’s Vauxhall and Charity’s Riley).
THE SUPERIORITY OF THE VINTAGE CAR “I a new
“I recently purchased a new car of renowned make at a Cost of over £1,000. I have parted with a 1922 car of the same make, and I very much wish I had not done so. My advice is to look out for a high-grade 20 to 25-h.p. car of about 1922 or 1924, and have it rebuilt. Such cars will go anywhere from John o’ Groats to Land’s End without the slightest discomfort or fatigue. Give me back the fine old cars of years ago : the modern one is a flapper 1 “—A letter in The Autocar of July r rth, 1930.
THE THINGS THEY SAY . . . ” Modern man is enamoured of the automobile. His involve
” man enamoured of the automobile. His involvement with it is the greatest love affair of our time. It is his substitute for power and sex, his fantasy world, his expression of freedom and virility, his dream. It is part of him.”—Froin an advertising, leaflet tor we new Derek Jewell book “Man ek Motor.”
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