Vintage Postbag, December 1969

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A Sports Clyno

Sir,

I enclose a photograph of my “bargain”. I bought it in 1933 from a dealer for £12. It was about 1927/28 vintage and I was told the radiator was “furred up”. It certainly had those symptoms as it boiled furiously after a short run and just about made 40 m.p.h. On a more detailed examination I found the timing had slipped and after rectifying this and a general decoke and tune, it went like a bomb. I did over 30,000 miles in three years in her and never spent a penny on spares or repairs. The car was named “Tallulah Bedstead”. Partly after the noted actress, who was in her heyday at the time, and secondly because the passenger seat was in a recess, about a foot behind the driver’s, and its occupant almost laid full length alongside him. Quite useful at times, when one had the 1930 version of a “Dolly” as a passenger.

I never found out the car’s true history but was told that Clyno had made two as an experiment and both had been tried out on Brooklands. It was certainly a professional job both mechanically and bodywise and definitely not a special. Have any of your readers any information on the model? It had a normal Clyno block with Ricardo aluminium head, twin carbs., Brooklands silencer, and a 3-in. copper exhaust pipe which really “waffled”. The gear change was central and the hand-brake outside. No front wheel brakes!!, two aero screens and the biggest steering wheel I have ever seen. The body had no doors, a small hood and a long pointed tail. When tuned it would do a genuine 65 m.p.h., but one had always to “think ahead” as its stopping qualities were not of the best. However I never hit anything in it and whilst I owned it did many tours, including the then notorious Porlock and Countisbury hills without mishap. My best ever effort was from Birmingham at midday, down to Dagenham and back in time for a pint before they closed at 10 p.m. locally in Sutton Coldfield.

The car was eventually traded in for £25 in part-exchange for a new Austin Ruby and I never knew what eventually happened to it.

Sutton Goldfield. A. E. Gammelien.

* * *

“Two Fiat ‘Firsts’—and a Fiat Failure”

Sir,

Your article in the November issue on 1½-litre racing Fiats greatly interested me as I, too, have puzzled over the conflicting information on these cars, particularly regarding their supercharging. Having read in an Italian paper that the car with which Alessandro Cagno won the 1923 Circuit of Brescia was supercharged, I wrote to Cagno himself in 1960 asking if he could confirm this. The enclosed photograph was the results, indicating that the car was supercharged, but Cagno was not specific in an accompanying letter as to whether the car had a Wittig or Roots-type supercharger.

Me belief is that it was a Wittig, primarily because the Brescia race (strictly the 3rd Gran Premio Vetturette, over 30 laps of the 17.39-k.m. Montichiari circuit outside Brescia) was held on June 29th, 1923, i.e., three days before the much more famous French GP in which the 2-litre supercharged Fiats ran for the first time. These cars were Wittig-blown, as it was in this race that the Italians learned the short-comings of these superchargers, subsequently switching to Roots-type in time to win the Italian GP in September. I feel it unlikely that they would already have applied a Roots-type blower to a Fiat voiturette, running in a lesser event three days earlier.

As to why Cagno’s car, if Wittig-blown, did not manifest the same dire supercharger troubles that assailed its 2-litre sisters in the French GP, this might have been because the Montichiari roads were better metalled than those of Tours, which became very much torn up during the 500-mile Grand Prix, and also because Cagno’s car was much less extended during its 324-mile race. It held first place from start to finish, leading second man Lenti’s Brescia Bugatti home by over 34 minutes in a race lasting just over four hours, while the Chiribiri which finished third was a further five minutes back. It must have been a dull race, even if a significant one. Nevertheless, Cagno’s winning average of 80.33 m.p.h. was a marked improvement on the 71.93 m.p.h. achieved on the same course in 1921 by Fredrich’s Bugatti—whose victory, by the way, earned the 1½-litre four-cylinder 16-valve Bugatti its honoured name of “Brescia”.

Ewell. Cyril Posthumus.

———

Sir,

Thank you for the article on the Fiat, which made very enjoyable reading. One or two points which may be of interest arise from it. Whatever Daimler-Benz may say to the contrary about superchargers it is inconceivable that all the reports of them being fitted at the time could be wrong. Whether one was on Sailer’s car is a different matter and no mention is made in a contemporary Italian report (Auto Italiana). However, this paper could have unwittingly started the rumour. It tells of the story about the German’s tyres having come with him and in the same context refers to a compressor. A long shot perhaps, but you never know.

Another arising from a similar source concerns the Coppa Florio. This was often run concurrently with the Targa and the Coppa cars used to complete an extra lap. It was not uncommon for one of these to be in second place when the Targa flag was put out and he would often go on to win his own particular prize. Well it happened once, and this may have led to retrospection on the part of someone. More so as the Mercedes was essentially a sports car.

The first race won by a supercharged car was the 1910 Fairmount Park 200 won by Len Zengle in a Chadwick.

Second behind Cagno’s Fiat in the 1923 Brescia race was Lenti, Bugatti, but Marconcini in the Chiribiri cannot be written off at this time as insignificant opposition. Waite won the 750 class in the race with his Austin.

Lastly, and just to deepen the mystery, Valpreda finished third in the 1924 Circuit of La Spezia in a car that the uncorroborated report says was one of the “race-winning” 803s. We all know the trouble that Valpreda caused historians when he acquired that 1½-litre GP Delage. He must have had a penchant for losing 1,500-c.c. supercharged cars?

Luton. Brian E. Bolton.
[This draws a Chadwick red-herring across the Fiat trail. I know Chadwick, in America, was one of the pioneers of supercharging experiments but I did not know he had won a race with a supercharged car and refuse to enter thus deeply into American motor-racing history. Can someone “across the pond” enlarge on this ?—Ed.]

———

Sir,

I was very interested in your article on Fiats and blowers in the November issue. If I may first deal with blowers; W. F. Bradley writing in Autocar of May 4th, 1967, states clearly that the Sailer Mercedes of 1921 was supercharged. Does this mean that he has changed his mind? Just to confuse the issue still further, Canestrini writing in his excellent book “La favolosa Targa Florio” makes no mention of this car being blown! Lastly, Bradley. in the above mentioned article on supercharging shows a cutaway of the vane-type blower of the 1923 “Tours” Fiat and makes reference to it as a “Zerbi compressor”—not Wittig?!

If I may now pass on to Fiats; I have never heard of the 4.8-litre cars running in a road race. Referring to Canestrini’s book again, he mentions the 1914 GP cars several times, the three noteworthy ones being as follows :—

1. Ascari won the first post-war Italian race (Parma-Poggio di Berceto) in 1919 driving a 4.5-litre Fiat made in 1914.
2. Both Ascari and Masetti drove 1914 Fiats in the 1919 Targa Florio.
3. The car in which Masetti won the Targa Florio in 1921 was a 4.5-litre car specifically noted as pre-war.

Lastly, in 1922 the Targa Florio was run at the beginning of April and the works cars driven by Giaccone and Lampiano in the 1.5-litre class are referred to by Canestrini as Tipo 803/403 cars (Giaccone finished 5th and Lampiano 14th overall). So it seems that these cars were thus designated from early 1922, even though unblown. Sir Malcolm Campbell in his book “30 Years of Speed” suggests that Salamano, on being confronted with the open expanse of Brooklands, simply over-revved the engine, and he did likewise trying to keep up. This seems unlikely as Salamano had raced previously at Monza and would not be likely to disregard rev.-limits simply when confronted with the vast open expanse of a banked track. Campbell, himself, certainly would not! The most likely of the possible explanations would seem to be that the cars were fitted with axle ratios which were too low—although even this seems strange for an efficient racing department such as Fiat’s.

Hoping the above adds something to the mystery.

Liphook, Hants. Simon Moore.

* * *

The Identity of a Lea-Francis

Sir,

Thank you for your kind remarks about my Lea-Francis in your report of the VSCC Presteigne Rally. The extreme state of cleanliness was in part occasioned by the fact that we were celebrating the car’s 40th birthday, it having been erected on October 7th, 1929! Incidentally, should any previous owner of RX 6868 see this, I should be glad to hear from him—I restored the car from scrap, and its previous history is obscure.

May I, with due respect, point out that you have fallen into a very common trap! You described my car as a Hyper, which I fear it is not! Many people make this mistake, and it is occasioned by the 15-degree sloping radiator, a Hyper feature which was only duplicated on this one series of cars, the Weymann-bodied V-type Sportsman’ Coupés, of which about 105 were made. They could be had with the standard 12/40 Meadows 4ED engine, or, like mine, with the twin-carb. Brooklands engine. There was, as far as I know, no official description for this latter variant, but it is often referred to as a 1250 in the LFOC.

To confuse the issue still further, the same body style was available on the Hyper chassis, though only a handful were produced. Mechanically there was little difference between a Hyper and any other of the later 12/40 Leafs apart from the fitting of a blower. The real distinction was in the chassis number! 17000 series for V types, 14000 series for S types (Hypers).

Still further confusion is caused by another series of cars—the W-type Francis saloon. These also had a sloping radiator, but in this case it was raked at the more modest angle of 10 degrees! It also strayed on to one or two individual cars such as the first of the short-chassis Ace of Spades cars—a saloon which I once owned. Many Francis saloons suffered the common fate of fabric saloons and were converted to sports cars of various kinds when the fabric bodies fell off! This has given rise to quite a race of cars which have been claimed as Hypers, as have several converted V-types which started life like my car! In fact, I think there cannot be more than six of seven V-types left with the original body fitted, and we have on our register a total of 24 Hypers, one of which is in New Zealand and two in Australia. There are perhaps half a dozen others in this country which have escaped inclusion in the Register so far, which brings us to a total of 30, so beware of anyone who has a “Genuine Hyper” to sell! So far the existence of the 1928 TT-winning car has not been established beyond all doubt—there is considerable confusion even over the claims of the two most likely cars, one of which is in Australia! If anyone has anything which may help us eliminate some of the doubts, I should be very pleased to hear from him!

Sutton Coldfield, Peter Pringle,
Chairman, Lea-Francis OC.

* * *

Inflated Prices

Sir,

From time to time I have noticed comments in your magazine regarding the inflated prices asked for Vintage vehicles and while most of us would agree that we buy older vehicles that will not at least suffer from depreciation, the odd car for sale at an above average price commands attention.

Six years ago I was the owner of a 1930 Morgan Aero Reg. No. OF 7062 which the previous owner had built up from various components: a rather rare “C” type chassis, an aero body, an engine built two years earlier and a pair of “three speeder Wheels” with a hydraulic brake conversion. Put together, the whole lot made a Morgan, albeit rather non-original! I sold the car for £60 and the next owner did quite a bit of work on it and that was about the last I heard of it until I saw its picture in Motor Sport this year with a van conversion on the back. As the car was quite well known, this caused a fair bit of mirth among Morgan club members, though it is, to my knowledge, the only Morgan van in existence.

However, this month I note that the car is again pictured in your magazine for sale at the price of £475! I sincerely hope that prospective purchasers are informed that the car is rather more modern than one would suppose. Anyway, at this sort of price it would pay the Morgan Motor Co. to put the Aero back into production again!

I apologise for having to bring a mercenary note into your magazine but I was asked to write to you on behalf of a number of friends, all Morgan three wheeler owners, who fear that it is the sort of thing that inflates prices for those enthusiasts who have the ability and time but not vast amounts of cash to spare.

Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk. Jeremy Woods