Vintage Postbag

Crossley Reliability


I was very interested to see the Crossley chassis picture.

In 1922, my firm had a 25/30 ex RFC Crossley tender, of which the rear wheels (twin) were shod with the steel-studded tyres as can be seen on the chassis in the photograph, on the offside rear wheel. During 1923 we built a small 'bus body onto the chassis, scrapping the tender body, and later I drove this 'bus for about an average of 170 miles per day, 6 or 7 days per week, for several years, in fact from 1924 until late 1929 and the total mileage must have been enormous. In all this time, the only troubles were broken axle shafts on two occasions, due to the sudden grab of the cone clutch, after initial very bad slipping caused by water in the undershield; the brakes were a source of trouble, as they were always so poor on the handbrake, which of course was the service brake, rear wheels only, and the foot-transmission brake when lined with cast iron shoes (fitted rather) would stop one more suddenly than any modern brake! I am puzzled about the registration letters of the photo chassis, as they appear to be a Wiltshire prefix of three letters, which I don't think came into operation until the mid-thirties, in rural districts at any rate.

Carmarthen -- E. MARSHALL

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The Peacey Steam-Cars


In reply to the letter by Mr. Anthony Bird in your September edition, it may very well be that I am mistaken in stating that the engine was of Locomobile manufacture, but my father always spoke of the engine as being of this make. I will try and describe it as best I can, considering it is 63 years since I last saw it, and I was very young at the time.

The engine was a very small one of three cylinders; these cylinders were lagged with polished wood. The crankshaft, connecting rods and eccentric rods for the valve gear were all exposed. This small engine was mounted under the front seat, and from time to time my father would open a door which was hinged at the bottom to the floor-boards, and held closed by a spring catch under the front seat, thus exposing the engine and allowing him to lubricate the moving parts with a squirt-type oil can. Incidentally the front seat got very hot and, as it had buttoned upholstery, it was most uncomfortable on a hot summer's day. The engine looked to be very like the ones one saw in later years on roundabouts in fairs.

I enclose a photograph of a car wholly built by my father around 1913 but constantly modified until about 1925-6. This car originally was built with a three-cylinder, single-acting steam engine, 2-in. bore and 2-in. stroke. It had a rotary disc valve, patented by my father, and was supplied with steam by a semi-flash boiler, also patented by my father. Transmission was by friction discs giving almost infinitely variable ratios (20 notches). The chassis was of ash. The rear axle was also of ash with stub axles let in with steel flitch plates, the rear wheels being driven by chain from the friction drive. The car was used all through the First World War on steam until unfortunately I burst the boiler, going up the hill under Dowdeswell viaduct and using 1,750 p.s.i. The normal pressure being 1,250 p.s.i. In about 1920 he took the engine from my 1908, four-cylinder, single-geared, FN motorcycle, and installed this instead of the steam plant. This proved too feeble and so was changed for a TAC engine which was an almost exact copy of the FN but bigger, and made by the Wilkinson Sword Company. This was not terribly successful, so a 1,300 cc engine, four-cylinder, air-cooled, said to have come from a racing-car made by a Mr. Buckingham and called the "Red Devil", was installed. This was more successful, but when he blew one of the cylinders off, while experimenting with humidifiers, he had new cylinders cast and converted the engine to rotary valves, for at this time he and I were experimenting with rotary valve motorcycles. I still have the rotary valve steam engine and the Buckingham-based rotary valve petrol engine. The little car had quite a few unique features, the front axle was built up in the form of a box, from channel sections with a case of ash. It never gave any trouble whatsoever. Steering was by means of cable and bobbin, a much better system of steering than many people believe. The chain drive from the cross-shaft of the friction drive had a two-speed gear incorporated so as to overcome the known snag of friction drive, that is, that it is inefficient in the lower ratios.

I hope this may be of some interest to the readers.

Cheltenham -- R. S. PEACEY


The 35/120 Daimler


I enjoyed your article on the 35/120 Daimler and the question of the oiling troughs does indeed raise a very interesting point for Daimler experts. I note you say the car has a healthy thirst for oil, but it is true, as you suggest, that the blue exhaust haze has been exaggerated and Daimlers, like other sleeve-valve cars did not always pour out blue smoke. I have only the vaguest mental picture of the bell-cranks and links in a Daimler crankcase and cannot possibly remember how they worked as I have never personally worked on a Daimler engine. I very much doubt though whether it would be possible to reverse the intended action by wrong assembly. My guess is that the linkage was arranged with an "up and over" action, or some sort of interlink between hand and foot controls, to raise the troughs for cold starting, to lower them for normal running and to raise them again for three-quarters to full throttle working. This would make sense and would account for the fact that one saw the densest smoke from a Daimler after a prolonged stretch of fast going or hill-climbing, followed by a pause on the over-run and then followed by another opening of the throttle fairly gently. Then the smoke usually came out pretty thickly for a few seconds. I believe Peugeots and Minervas had arrangements for increasing the oil supply on heavy going and my 1924 Panhard-Levassor certainly had. It had no troughs, and the two interconnected oil tanks were separated from the crankcase, though forming part of the structure, and as soon as the throttle linkage was moved far enough to bring the second choke of the carburettor into action a large mushroom valve in the o/s. tank opened, oil poured into the base, the level rose very quickly and in due time the inverted-tooth timing chain acted as a bucket dredger and returned the surplus oil to the tank via a big bore pipe which, on the way, filled an affair like a little Victorian lavatory pan, in the top of the tank, and this fed directly to the long back main bearing by a small bore pipe.

It has always struck me as very odd that so many, indeed nearly all I believe, of the Knight engines developed for motor-car work continued to rely on splash lubrication with some sort of' device to increase supply under heavy going. One would have thought the Knight engine would have benefited greatly from some form of positive pressure lubrication with, if need be again, an auxiliary supply to the sleeves for full throttle work, but I believe only Peugeot did anything on these lines. It is as though the designers exhausted all their ingenuity on the sleeves and the linkages to work them, picked some kind of old-fashioned splash system out of the nearest text book and left an apprentice draughtsman to adapt it to their engine. Some five years ago I had a talk with dear old Harry Ricardo and raised this point. He said it had not occurred to him and agreed it was odd.

Potbridge -- A. BIRD

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I have my October copy of Motor Sport and was most interested to read of your run in the 35/120 Daimler; it is a pity in a way it is such an early one, the later ones were better. The model was still being made until 1932, but by this time it was only available in the two long-chassis forms, as it seemed that owner-driver versions were not very popular.

I was surprised that petrol consumption was so heavy. Many people who had the model in its day could get 17-1/2 m.p.g. on National Benzoic Mixture and about 800 m.p.p. on Daimler Lubricating Oil if the car had steel sleeves, usually cruising at 50/60 m.p.h. on a long run.

I was most interested in what you had to say about the smoking exhaust, which bears out EXACTLY what I have always said. Some of the later models DID simply belch smoke, but this was because they incorporated an oil-primer on the mixture control quadrant and chauffeurs would run with the oil-primer permanently in action. Daimler Hire Cars were, however, properly driven and one NEVER saw any smoke from them once the engine was warmed up.

The 35/120 was an outstanding engine. It was used in 'buses, both double and single-decker, and also in a "super" Motor-HorseBox. A big Hire firm in the East End of London, who used to do what he called "Coast Runs", told me that the 35/120 was a far better car than the "New Phantom" as far as reliability went for this work, but they had been forced into having R-Rs owing to the Daimler spares situation. This was in about 1947/8.


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Peugeot Valve Gear


I am not competent to decide who created the double-cam Peugeot racing-car engines of 1912, but I can add the fact that Peugeot produced already by 1913 not dissimilar engines for racing motorcycles.

These double-o.h.c. engines were 492-c.c. vertical-twins, with gear-driven o.h. camshafts. On later models shafts superseded the gears. Interesting the fact that some versions of the motorcycle racing engine got, in the 'twenties, single-o.h.c. heads. In this shape they came in 1924 to the Isle of Man for the Senior TT, with Pierre Péan, Jéan Richards, and René Gillard. Gillard retired. Péan finished 11th and Richards 14th. Despite the superior speed of these engines, the cycle parts, especially forks, proved unsuitable for the TT circuit. Also the lack of knowledge of the 37 miles around the Island proved a great handicap for the riders.

The designer of the 1913-built double-cam Peugeot vertical-twins was not Henry or even Paul Zuccarelli. It was a Rumanian designer with the name of Antoinescu, who created — according to official information at that period —these potent motorcycles. And, I wonder, if this man had any connections at all with the car engines ... or if he got only some twin-cam drawings from the racing car department for the creation of the motorcycle engines ? I wonder, also if René Thomas, who has been connected with motorcycle racing at Peugeots as well as with cars, can remember facts in connection with motorcycles, which eventually could lead to facts in connection with the car affair. Incidentally, the Peugeot two-cylinder motorcycles were raced officially until 1927.

Bielefeld, Germany -- ERWIN TRAGATSCH

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Salmson Smatterings


I read with great interest your article on the Salmson (October issue), for I had often listened to my uncle, Owen Wilson-Jones, talking about his Salmson days. I think, in fact, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Garland. Although you mention the manner in which Salmsons were imported, I remember my uncle telling me that it was possible for him to travel to Paris by train, returning the same day with a new car. He was never a devotee of "running in" as we knew it in the old days, so a fairly fast drive to Calais enabled him to catch the evening boat. He also talked of the push-rod problem and the fact that owners used to come from far and wide, even the north of England, for him to overcome this particular problem.

During his association with Salmsons (the 1920s) Owen Wilson-Jones sporting activities were carried out "on a shoe-string". I remember his telling me that he would rebuild his gearbox on Friday evening to give all forward speeds, race at Brooklands on Saturday, and rebuild the gearbox with the reverse gear on Saturday evening, thus enabling him to enter a trial on the Sunday (this was confirmed by my grandmother as the rebuilding activities took place on the kitchen table !).

I am happy to say that the association between our Company and the Spikins family is still in being, in as much as Bob Spikins (Jnr.) is the Manager of one of our Associate Companies. Finally, I am pleased to hear that Mr. Garland is so well, although I am quite sure that my late uncle would not have approved of his form of transport !

Bromley -- GARTH McGRAW, Managing Director K. J. Motors Ltd.

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I have just checked through the issues of Motor Sport for 1974 and of the 10 issued so far in no less than eight of them are references to Salmsons. These references are either articles, reports of cars in competitions or for sale, and culminated with the very interesting article in October on the Marque and the review of Chris Draper's book on Salmsons.

All this goes a long way towards helping the big effort we are putting in to stimulate interest in Salmsons. Although they are fairly rare these days, in the mid-twenties they were the outstanding 1,100 c.c. car then competing. In fact I have been told that they won more races than any other make of car. This coupled with a lap at Brooklands of 114 m.p.h. which stood for 7 years and a second overall at Le Mans in the famous Bentley White House crash race all served to prove what an outstanding car it was. Like many others in the "thirties" where demand for comfort drove them into a rather pedestrian-type market. Many may not know that Salmsons, which were manufactured in France, were still available in the mid-50s and in fact one of the 2.3-litre cars recently travelled from Morocco for the annual Amilcar/Salmson get-together in the New Forest.

Naturally, we are always pleased to hear from people who own Salmsons and who would like to join our register. The subscriptions are £1 p.a. (UK owners and associates) and £1.50 (overseas owners and associates).

If any of your readers are able to supply any information on the cars or are prepared to write articles for the register we would be delighted to hear from them. Anyone interested in a French Light Car Club in the UK ?

Ditchling -- I. S. MAXWELL

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I was interested in Mr. Carter's letter (Vintage Postbag, Nov. 1974) concerning the British Salmson car.

I own a 1934 54C which is fitted with a sports body by Rondah. I am most impressed by its solid construction and sophisticated chassis and engine. I consider these cars to be a fine example of mid thirties medium priced sports cars. Many cars more well known than the Salmson, such as the Wolseley Hornet can hardly be classified as sports cars, and yet appear to command more interest and value. Surely cars like this must be classified as a poor example of 1930s sports car?

Please can we have an article on the Salmson in your excellent magazine. I do find your "Matters of the Moment" depressing these days and can only hope that your forecasted gloom does keep at bay for a few more years.

Bishop's Cleeve -- W. BANGHAM

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Rolls-Royce Armoured Cars


I read with interest the letter from Simon O'Dwyer-Russell in your November issue.

From 1937-1940 I had the honour to serve with the 2nd Bn. The Black Watch in Jerusalem. During the "troubles" in 1938 we frequently were joined in our duties by a "Flight" of RAF armoured cars from Sarafand.

The enclosed photograph shows the type of armoured car with which the Sarafand Squadron were equipped. It will be noted that, besides the Vickers machine gun in the turret, they also had a Lewis gun mounted on a ring outside the hatch of the vehicle.

The 11th Hussars were equipped with similar vehicles and I remember on one occasion being shown the date 1913 on the Rolls-Royce engine by one of the fitters. Whether this was on an 11th Hussar or on an RAF armoured car I cannot, after 36 years, now remember.

In June 1942, at Gambut in the Western Desert, I met up, again, with the legendary Wing Commander Cassano who was still commanding the RAF armoured cars. They were, by this time, equipped with South African made Marmon-Harringtons. On asking Cass what had happened to the RollsRoyces he replied, in his usual colourful way, that they were "scattered all over the something desert"—so perhaps Simon O'Dwyer- Russell is right in his last supposition.

The caption on the back of the photograph is interesting. I had sent it home, with other photographs, to my parents and it reads ". . . Good men these . . ." You may also note, on the side of the car, its name "HMAC Cairo".

Madley, Hereford --- R. P. H. SHELMERDINE

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Rover Recollections


I find the letter from Mr. H. A. Nimmo in the November Motor Sport quite interesting, He refers to Rover Recollections and I would think that his car had the same engine and chassis as one I owned.

Mine I bought in 1933. It was a Rover Regal with a full-sized Weymann body and it gave me excellent service. I used it for personal transport and also to carry scrap nonferrous metals to Coventry Motor Spares in Coventry, owned by H. L. (Leslie) Brooke. From Leslie I used to buy surplus motor spares which I sold in the West Country to the trade. Thus the car was always overloaded and overdriven.

I had a few troubles! Firstly a number of plugs oiled up one day descending the hill to Northleach and to cure this very sudden trouble I had to remove the block and fit new rings which were a complete cure. The oiling trouble came upon me very suddenly and before that day I had no such trouble. While the engine was down I took the opportunity of fitting a flattened steel pipe from the oil pump to the middle of the sump to cure loss of oil on corners, I forget now whether left or right!

I too had a very sudden attack of steering wobble and it took a bit of curing. I took all the following steps to no avail: new king pins and bushes, set the toe-in correctly, put wedges between axle and springs and tried both ways. I also took up all play in the spring shackles front and back and had all the road springs set up. The whole steering gear is adjustable on these cars and I saw to this as well. The last thing I did was to fit a new set of tyres all round, the wheels had of course previously been balanced. As none of these things did the slightest bit of good I made up a steering damper from a large Hartford shocker and that really did the trick.

The only other trouble I had with the car was fan belts. These had to be of the Whittle link type as it was not possible to fit an endless belt without disconnecting the front engine bearer and jacking up the engine, and then only just was it possible. The Whittle belts used to break, they were very long, and I had small dents in the top of the bonnet where the broken ends landed after breaking. All in all it was a good car and nice to drive.

The only other Rover I owned was a "Ten" which had less power than any other of the many cars I have owned, with the possible exception of an Austin 12/6 which had practically none.

As to the photograph of a row of cars on page 1211, I wonder if any of these makes fit? Hampton, Hands, Stoneleigh? Incidentally there is a Hands being restored in Bradford on Avon and I hope to see it ere long.

Chippenham -- R. CHAPMAN