Vintage Postbag, December 1966

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The Fate of a 1913 Indianapolis Sunbeam

Sir,

I was very interested to read a letter regarding a 1913 Indianapolis Sunbeam, in which S. T. B. Cripps made a kind reference to my late brother, Group Capt. H. W. G. J. Penderel. When my brother was posted overseas at the end of the 1920’s, I received a telegram from him asking me to pick up the Sunbeam at a small local station, to which it had come by rail. When I arrived to take delivery the Station Master was flabbergasted as he had nothing available to get this huge heavy car off the railway truck. However, a pleasure fair was entertaining at the station and with their help the car was got on to one of their large flat vehicles and from there on to the ground. Having failed to start it, I decided to have it towed by a coal lorry to my home about four miles away. En-route we passed a Welsh funeral and, as the mourners had never seen such a car, they stopped to watch us go by. During the time it was in my care I only got it going after I had attached a pair of horses to give it a tow! I regret to say that in the end the poor thing was sold for scrap for a fiver. My brother was killed flying in the last war.

Pontardawe. E. A. H. PENDEREL.

A Question of Handicapping

Sir,

In your article on the V.S.C.C. Castle Combe race meeting you mention “. . . the consternation of the 21-litre Metallurgique. .” Its consternation was very real, but however, was caused by its finding itself on the starting line in the back row of a handicap group of nine cars none of which had anything like its getaway, contrary to the F.I.A. ruling that the cars with the greatest acceleration potential should be in the front row.

It was inevitably completely baulked and deprived of its one chance of making up on its own heavy weight/brake ratio handicap which compels its driver to start pulling up 100 yards before its much lighter rear-wheel braked competitors.

Incidentally, I think on a course like Castle Combe where maximum speed is not of much use anyway, in handicapping rear-wheel braked only cars, the weight/brake ratio should be taken into consideration.

Sheringham. DOUGLAS FITZPATRICK.

The Violet-Bogey

Sir,

I was very interested to read about the Violet-Bogey car. My father, who was a doctor, ran one of these cars for some two years before purchasing, early in 1914, a 10 h.p. Singer. This particular V-B car had oil side and tail lights and an acetylene head-light operating from a generator on the running board.

It is quite true that the engine revolved in an anti-clockwise direction; the starting handle attachment was by means of a double claw on the end of the starting handle which coupled to a taper pin driven through the end of the crankshaft. From time to time this pin dropped out but as we lived at the top of a steep hill we had no trouble in coasting down to the repair garage which was at the bottom!

I note in the letter that the writer states “leather padding” on the flywheel rim; my father’s car, imported direct from France, had a large diameter thin driving disc on the end of a crankshaft extension and the periphery of the driven wheel, which slid sideways along the splined shaft in order to vary the gearing, was formed bank-note paper on edge compressed by a bolt-on-ring, thus forming a friction face about ¾in. wide.

It was alleged that this was the only material which was relatively free from “Flatting.” Neutral became operative when the sliding driven wheel was precisely centred on the axis of the drive shaft and became located in a hollow in the driving disc; reverse was engaged by sliding the driven wheel to the leit of the centre, all other gears being to the right. The gears were changed in a quadrant gearchange which had either 9 or 10 forward speed notches. This car was preceded for some three months by a Violette cyclecar “on loan,” and this was made by Monsieur Violet, the designer of the later car.

Stoke-on-Trent. I. LIST.

An Austin 7 in Vienna

Sir,

Devotees of the original Austin Seven will he interested in one of these cars seen recently in central Europe in rather unusual circumstances.

In September last we were in Vienna on holiday, and went one evening to the Raymond Theatre to see a performance of “Countess Maritza.” In the last act of this operetta the hero’s elderly aunt arrives at the estate he manages in Hungary, with the good news of a revival of the family fortunes. It seems she has travelled by car from Vienna, with her manservant driving, but—so the dialogue informs us—the car has broken down and is in fact being pushed the last few metres by a posse of peasants. The situation allows the chauffeur, a Harry Tate-like character, to comment at length on the various mechanical derangements which affect the car. The pushing may well have been arranged so as to conform to the regulations concerning use of petrol and i.c. engines inside buildings.

However, to my surprise, the car, which was eventually pushed on to the stage, was a very well preserved open 2-seater Austin Seven, of about 1929 or 1930 vintage I think—it had the slightly squared-up, and shallow, radiator which was fitted in those years. The body appeared to be a specially built one, with cutaway doors and a large folded hood; I could not see the shape of the tail, which was hidden. The front mudguards were flared, rather like a P series Midget, with small side lamps, and the two headlamps were on brackets connecting the radiator to the guards. There were no running boards. The wheels appeared to be originals, and the two front tyres visible were in good condition, as was all the paintwork and plating.

The front numberplate was white with red lettering, reading “CS P.211.” This Czech plate is intriguing—the play is set in Hungary in the 1920’s, and presumably the producer found and used this car as it is of the period. But the numberplate is out of character, an Austrian (or Viennese) registration should have been used to complete the illusion. So perhaps this car was loaned with its present (and actual) numberplate on it, and if so, it is interesting to speculate that this car is so well preserved, being at least 35 years old, probably more, and probably still used in present-day Czechoslovakia.

Is there perhaps a reader in Vienna who could tell us more about it?

Eastcote. EDWARD STOTT

Correction

Sir,

Motor Sport is noted for its accurate race reporting, so I am sure that you won’t mind my correcting your comments about my car in the Castle Combe report.

I was somewhat surprised to read that my Lagonda Rapier, which Jon Abson drives so ably, had “swelled to 1½ litres since its crash at Oulton Park.” I can assure you that it has never crashed at Oulton Park, or anywhere else—perhaps you are confusing it with the Crocker-Seddon 2-seater road-car, so badly damaged on that occasion. As for having “swelled to 1½ litres,” this engine is by no means new—it was first developed by Pat Black of Vanderven in 1957 for the 1½-litre Grand Prix formula, but never completed. I completed it two years ago, and it has been raced regularly in this car since June, 1965.

In this engine we use XK Jaguar con-rods—that they fit is not really so surprising, for as you doubtless know, Jaguars used a Rapier engine when designing their fine X.K unit!

Edinburgh. J. A. ELLIOT ELDER.

Who Built Them?

Sir,

Can anyone through Motor Sport supply the name and address of the coachbuilders who built hardwood frame bodies? They were covered with canvas, painted with camouflage colours as used on a 1915-19 model T Ford chassis.

They were built for the armed forces in World War One. They were the forerunner of the American Jeep and resemble the modern Land-Rover.

I wish to build a body of this type on a 1917 model-T Ford chassis and would appreciateinformation as to where detail measurements, sketches, drawings or photographs could be purchased.

Ontario. G. W. FIRTH.
[Letters can be forwarded.—ED.]

Packards

Sir,

I was most pleased to read that you have been “on safari” again, this time in a Packard 12. Perhaps I may offer a few more details about this model?

The 12 was offered for the last time in 1939 when the other “quality” model—the Super 8—had already been “cheapened” by fitting a 5-bearing in place of the previous 9-bearing crankshaft and using the same facia, etc., as the much cheaper 6 and 120 models.

I should think that very few of the 12’s were sold new in this country, but two examples that spring to mind are the sedanca de-ville that Messrs. Beaumont & Thomas used to exhibit those wonderful concours of the nineteen-thirties, and the very nice boat-tail speedster that the late Hon. Peter Aitken had for a short time in 1937—where are they now? The 12 that “The Autocar” road-tested in 1936 was, I seem to remember, loaned to them by an American visitor. Incidentally, I think it was W. Motors that offered for sale a 12 with a German-built Chevrolet body some few years ago.

The number of genuine American “classics” that still survive in this country must be very small and I do wish that Mr. Shell would drop the word “Classic” from the title of the club that he formed—not every pre-war American car is one!

Re the “Profile” on the Leyland Eights. The Sir Lionel Phillips car was built from spare parts by Thomson and Taylor in 1929 to the order of the Hon. David Tennant. [Yes!—ED.]

Stockport. DAVID GANDHI.

Sir,

I was indeeed most interested and very pleased to read your drivescription of the Packard V12. We were happy to be able to afford Major Lambton some degree of advice and assistance during the initial stages of the restoration on this car, and of course, Collard Denne is one of this club’s earliest members, and a very knowledgeable man indeed on Packards.

Most people who ride with me in one of my own Packards, who like yourself, have had little experience of them before, are immediately impressed with the fine performance on tap. Power which is almost akin to steam turbine power, enables one to move off from a standing start in top gear with absolutely no effort or strain at all, and the remarkably light, but positive steering coupled with first-class fluid brakes, enable one to to move around even on high speed motorways, with complete confidence and I have no hesitation at all in declaring that not one of the six Rolls, and two Bentleys I have previously owned ever gave me the true feeling of satisfaction my Packards have given, and indeed still do give me.

Incidentally, Major Lambton’s 17th series limousine is the first I have seen (and I have seen many) which does not have the front fender mounted spares—this seems rather curious. Also, I have a dim recollection from long ago—the registration number seems to ring a bell—that this car may well have been owned first time by Dr. Wellington Koo, the Chinese diplomat— remember him?

I currently own three Packards, all super 8s, a 6th series, a 10th series, and also a fifteenth series. The enclosed picture of my 15th series Club coupe may be interesting to your readers, and incidentally, it is the view most of the locals are more familiar with! Copthall. HARRY C. G. SHELL, Hon. Sec. Classic American Auto Club.

Sir,

As the owner of a 1937 Packard Twelve with an one-off 4-door drophead coups body by Glaser, Dresden, I have read with great interest the article about Major Charles Lambton’s Packard Twelve limousine, but for the sake of accuracy feel compelled to point out a number of inaccuracies in the article. From the photographs it appears that Major Lambton’s car must be a 1938 16th series model. The 1939 17th series carried a Twelve medallion on each side of the hood and grille bars were alternately painted and chromed. The capacity of the engine is 7.75-litres and not 7.1-litres, and the engine is a 67 deg. V12 engine and not 60 deg. The engine does not have hydraulic tappets, the valves are operated mechanically, but there is a special hydraulically-operated system which keeps the tappet clearance at zero to quieten the valve operation. [These to me are “hydraulic tappets.”—ED.]

If the exhaust manifold on Major Lambton’s car really has an off take at the back of each block the manifold cannot be original, because originally there was only one off take at the back of the off-side block. I believe Major Lambton’s car originally must have been delivered in France or perhaps Switzerland owing to the fact that it is fitted with Marehal headlamps. Nothing can be deduced from the car having left hand drive, because the Twelve could only be delivered with left-hand drive.

Copenhagen. H. J. BEIER.

On the Dealers’ Side

Sir,

Having read the letter from D. C. Robertson of Bearstead headed “A Nice Profit,” I can only say that I am staggered at the naivety of the man.

If he sells his car to a trader for £x it seems to be of paramount certainty that it will be offered for £x plus. The dealer is in the trade for his livelihood and that means making a profit.

If it had been a modern car, would the writer have written in about his “experience”? I think not. Why, because it happens to be a vintage or P.V.T. car, should the situation be any different? In my business, if I buy something I attempt to sell it for as much profit as I can and this, I assure Mr. Robertson, is quite normal in any trade. Why vintage car owners resent dealers making profits on their cars I cannot imagine. Because these cars are their hobby and pride and joy does not mean that if sold to a trader, the trader should then sell at a loss. If one cannot or dare not retail a vintage car, then don’t crab the trader who, after all, presumably gives a satisfactory price for the car (or no deal would take place) and then takes a profit on the deal.

One does not hear of dealers selling at a loss and then making a fuss to the previous owner. Once bought, that is that, and the same situation should exist once the owner has sold to the dealer. The car is then the dealer’s responsibility to do with as he sees fit. It also seems obvious to me that if a dealer can make £375 profit on a car then that profit is £300 better than selling it for £75 profit. What would anyone in their right mind do? It is all very well to talk, but if the talkers had their money in the cars, they would try to sell for large profits rather than small ones.

Otlev. C. A. WINDER.
[Which makes us rather glad we are not motor-copers!—ED.]

That Rolls-Royce at Repton

Sir,

In answer to your query about the “Repton Rolls-Royce,” it still finds sanctuary here, and is in daily use by me. I enclose a photograph taken recently (the background will be familiar to all Reptonians).

The car was first registered in 1927, hut its chassis No. is G.H.J. 21 and the engine No. 06L (do these particulars suggest an earlier date of birth?).

Repton. FRANK R. HILL (Master i/c Workshops, Repton School).

Sir,

An Early Morgan in Durban

Could any of your readers be of help to me, as I would like to have my Morgan dated?

In 1957 I found a three-wheeler Morgan Runabout in the bush 20 miles from Durban, completely rusted and rotten. The car was last used in 1914 before the original owner was killed in the war.

I might add I have received very little information on this vehicle. Morgan’s thought it might be around 1910, but we think much later.

The Morgan has been completely restored and I have taken it on the 1962 V.C.C. Rally, winning its class and 5th in Concours D’Elegance, and has been on numerous club events. It has a surrey roof, of which part is original, and the car is called a Colonial Model.

The following might be of help to you as far as dating the vehicle.

Make : Morgan Runabout Colonial.
Year : 1910-1913.
Engine : No. 2CX1I1/4036.
Casting : No. 169 (on timing case).
Bore : 82 mm. x102 mm. (stroke).
Name of engine : V-twin, overhead inlet, side-valve exhaust air-cooled.
Carburetter : Triumph twin-choke
Magnetos : H/T ML (two). Original Bosch twin.
Plugs : Two (Sphinx).
            Have fitted two ML mags., original mag. stolen; my M.A.G. engine does not fire at 180°.
Clutch : Cone.
Gearbox : Sliding-dog clutch.
Final drive : Two side chains.
Chassis : No. A10.(behind flywheel on torque tube).
Track : Front, 3 ft. 11½in.
Wheelbase : 6 ft. 3 in.
Steering : Wheel (four spokes with wood rim).
Suspension : Front. independent rear, trailing link.
Brakes : External expanding (single shoe) foot-brake on rear wheel. Handbrake only on rear wheel (non-original ratchet lever).
Wheels : Wire spokes.
Tyres : Beaded edge 26 x 3 (700 x 80).
Hubcap : Front, brass.
Coachwork : Open two-seater by Morgan.
Colour : Cape ivory body, red mudguards.
Hood : Surrey.
Hooter : Hamer Hand-operated klaxon, made by Smiths of London. (Hooter was not on car when I got it)
Lighting : Carbide, brass (Powell & Hanmer).
Dashboard : Oak.
Instruments :
Speedometer :
No name. 0-50 m.p.h.
Advance and retard lever on dash
Built-in toolbox inside cab

Hoping you would be able to help me in dating my Morgan for V.C,C. South Africa records and my own satiafaction.

Durban, Natal. JAMES PIRIE.

Klaxons Again

Sir,

I was delighted to read the letter to you about Klaxon horns and the necessity for spelling the work with a capital K. However, I feel sure that Messrs. Klaxon Ltd. appreciate the subtle compliment that is paid to them when people use the word as a common noun and NOT a proper noun. Obviously, the term has been incorporated into our vocabulary as a household word, along with macintosh, macadam, bloomers and wellingtons. Doubtless, Mr. R. T. Shenton would be interested to know that I have a Klaxon horn on my Lotus Cortina which has been transferred from car to car since 1926 when my father first bought it for his Darracq. It was, of course, 6-volt and has been overhauled only once when it was rewired to 12-volt. I have often felt that this magnificent horn has been worth an extra five miles per hour average on a long continental journey.

Leeds. JACK REISS.
[We have given Klaxon’s address to 27 dealers and forwarded 23 letters to them to date, so this vintage warning device is by no means played out !—ED.]

Roesch Talbot and Jaguar

Sir,

When truth is stripped naked in this climate it is likely to catch a cold, and this I fear is precisely what has happened to it in the hands of your correspondent Mr. King.

It is utterly pointless to compare power outputs in the thirties with those obtained today, just as no evaluation of the work of Georges Roesch can possibly be made outside the context of his times and the factory by which he was employed. Your correspondent leaves me in some doubt whether he understands the relationship between valve gear mass and engine efficiency; but he has made it abundantly clear that he has not the least notion of what Roesch was driving at in 1930.

It had then been common knowledge among engine designers for nearly twenty years that the most efficient form of cylinder head was one with inclined overhead valves, and that the most efficient method of operating these was by twin overhead camshafts. Nothing could have been simpler than for Georges Roesch to design his Talbots in this way, whereupon—as Mr. King suggests—they would, no doubt, have won Le Mans outright, and most other touring car races as well.

They would also have bankrupted the Firm within six months, for a car powered by such an engine would never have sold to the general public in the quantities necessary to keep the Talbot factory in business. In 1930 twin overhead camshafts were a barbaric necessity to those in search of the ultimate efficiency, and wholly unsuitable for commercial production. They were noisy, oily, expensive, and “mechanical abortions” when engine repair or maintenance was required. Even if Roesch had devoted his time and energy to civilising them, the last two objections would have reimined; and in the heart of the Great Depression, they were conclusive. We are talking of times far removed even from the relative affluence of the twenties and almost inconceivable to us today, when the total national market for large or even medium sized cars of a sporting cut amounted to no more than a few hundred units per year; to keep the Talbot factory in full production required an output nearer two thousand. It was this background of an impoverished factory and worldwide slump which obliged Georges Roesch to take as his design base the cheapest and simplest form of cylinder head and overhead valve operation; and one of his greatest contributions to motor engineering was his demonstration that these unpromising ingredients could be combined in an engine very nearly as efficient as a twin o.h.c. design, but which could also run as sweetly and reliably as a Rolls-Royce. This was a major breakthrough in commercial design, for (except to William Lyons) the extra power of twin o.h.c. has never since quite seemed worth the extra cost and complication; the Roesch Talbot was the first—and arguably the best—of the modern breed of high performance production engine.

In specific power output the Talbot stood far above its contemporaries. The 1936 3.3-litre engine gave 123 b.h.p. at 4,500 r.p.m., on a 7:1 compression and a single carburetter; the 4¼ Bentley, the 4½ Lagonda Rapide (and later the 4.3 Alvis) all gave around the same figure, with multi-carburetters. During the Tourist Trophy race that year the new 3.6 litre Delahaye, on 5:1 compression and three carburetters, broke the outright lap record by more than 2 m.p.h.; after the race it was bench-tested by Roesch to show a maximum of 118 b.h.p. at 4,000 r.p.m. The 3½-litre SS Jaguar just managed to exceed 100 b.h.p.; if Talbots had not been put out of business by their richer rivals, the Jaguar firm might still be making pretty patterns out of other people’s components.

Roesch’s test-bed figures are absolutely honest, but there are not many which are. Perhaps Mr. King can reveal the naked truth by explaining how in 1938 164 Talbot b.h.p. could propel Mike Couper’s stripped but square and upright four-seater touring car along the Brooklands Railway Straight at 137 m.p.h., when the best ever recorded road test maximum for the 265 b.h.p. Jaguar 150S fixed-head coupé was a mere 136.3, in 1960? Can itbhe that the value of a unit of brake horsepower has declined since the war in sympathy with the pound sterling?

Callington. ANTHONY BLIGHT

Badge-Engineering

Sir,

I was impressed with the range of your reading when I saw your Editorial quoting from a letter of mine in The Bentley Drivers’ Club Review, deriding the practice of applying the labels “Bentley” and “Rolls-Royce” indiscriminately to identical vehicles. I am glad to be associated with any campaign against the stupidity of “badge-engineering” but unfortunately the fragment which you mention, deprived of its preceding and succeeding sentences, appears to suggest that I am in favour of admitting Rolls-Royces to the Bentley Drivers’ Club. The reverse is the case. My aim was to expose the absurdity of admitting to the Club Rolls-Royces which happen to be adorned with Bentley insignia. The main theme of my letter was that Rolls-Royce should now drop the name “Bentley” from vehicles so uncharacteristic of its past tradition.

To change the subject drastically, I have little sympathy with the unemployed car workers. I think it true to say that if they had done a better job when they had a job they would not now be looking for a job. Nor would the country be in quite such-a mess. The low quality and unreliability of post-war cars are a national disgrace. Shall we ever have restored to us the priceless pearl of reliability beside which all other qualities are as trash?

Edinburgh. DAVID E. TULLOCH

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