Veteran Edwardian Vintage, December 1975

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A section devoted to old-car matters
Austin Twenties

Our recent comments on the Austin Twenty has brought the following comments from John Oldham, the Rolls-Royce historian, who owned two of the four-cylinder models before discovering that spares are more easily obtainable for the cars built in Derby:

I was most interested in your description of the Austin Ten Driver’s Rally and the photograph of the 7 h.p. alongside the Twenty. The Twenty is an 11 ft. 4 in. wheelbase Ranelagh landaulette. I have not seen one for years, the car could be either a 6-cylinder or a 4-cylinder. In the days that the models were new it was only possible to tell if it was a 6-cylinder by looking at the licence disc tax £24 and the centre of the steering wheel to see if there were three levers or two. Two levers, Magneto and Gas, mean it was a 6-cylinder with a very small gate change. The 4-cylinder was taxed at £23 and had three levers, the extra one being marked Air, and the gate for the central gear-lever was a massive affair.

From the photograph the car could be either 1928 or 1929 as the model was in production for both years, the differences between the two years being white instruments with black faces, petrol tank under the front seat with gauge alongside the filler and spare wheel mounted at the rear going into a well with a centre securing bolt for 1928.

1929 models had black instruments with white lettering, the fuel tank still under the front seat but Hobson Telegauge on dash and the filler was a side extension, so it was not necessary to remove the squab. The steering wheel was thinner and of greater diameter and the spare wheel simply dropped into a recess, so that the lowest section of the tyre was supported on a metal strap. 1929 was the last year of the 4-cylinder engine.

Though I have not had an Austin Twenty now for 10 years I still have a great weakness for them, but spare parts are virtually non-existent, which would not suit me at all as I like to have my old motor cars in constant use and this is where a Rolls-Royce scores so heavily as one can get the parts so readily. There were 17,000 units of the 4-cylinder version built between 1919 and 1929 and some 7,000 units built of the 6-cylinder version between 1927 and 1938. From mid-1928 right up to the end of the 6-cylinder 20 h.p. artillery wheels were available on the 6-cylinder as an alternative to the wires with no extra charge until about 1934, then an extra charge was made. I had an uncle who owned a 1937 Mayfair limousine. He stipulated artillery: it looked very nice. The 16 and 18 h.p. models reduced the number of 6-cylinder 20 h.p., as many people preferred the 16 h.p. or 18 h.p. as an owner-driver car, it being smaller and having a lesser annual taxation. It is sad that so few 20 h.p. in both versions survive.

The Austin 18 is an utterly different design to the 6-cyl. 20-h.p. The 18 has a cast-iron block and crankcase all in one piece. The crankshaft has four main bearings and the timing is at the front of the engine, in fact, the whole thing is cheapened rather after the style of the 12/6 and the Light 12/4, though it is a much better car than that awful 12/6, and it did become a great favourite with country hire firms; it was originally introduced as a 1934 model and carried on until the outbreak of war and looked like a huge Austin 10 Cambridge with twin rear windows. Personally, I think the best year of the 18 was 1937, when it had easy clean wheels and the body was still a respectable shape and the car looked the same as the last model 6-cyl. 20-h.p.

The 6-cyl. 20-h.p. had an aluminium crankcase, detachable iron block, with the timing at the back-end which ran between the two rear main bearings, thus making eight mains in all; it came originally as a 1927 model and was shown at Olympia in 1926 for the first time and it was made until the end of the production of the 6-cyl. 20-h.p. in 1938 with only minor changes; thermostat, coil ignition in place of magneto, updraught carburettor gave way to downdraught, etc.

The 16-h.p. made from 1928 until 1934 at the end of the season was simply a more or less scaled-down version of the 6-cyl. 20-h.p. with the engine mounted in a 12 h.p. (heavy) chassis. I think the best year was 1932, which was the last one with aluminium body, the first with Magna wheels and bumpers and apron over the petrol tank. 1933 and 1934 models had pressed-steel bodies, which rust.

V-E-V Miscellany.—Another Rolls-Royce has left these shores for America—a 1930 Phanton II tourer with helmet-crown mudguards, side-mounted spare-wheels and rear windscreen, restored in 1969 by Frank Dale & Stepsons and shipped by Trandex International Ltd. to Savannah, Georgia, en route for Tennessee. A fine scale-model of a Type 35 GP Bugatti, complete with openable bonnet and detailed engine, was presented recently to Baron Philippe de Rothschild on behalf of the Academy of Pure Malt Whisky, in recognition of the Baron’s “contribution to the art of good living”. Part of this “good living” on the Baron’s part included pre-war motor racing as an amateur driver. He won at Dijon in 1929 with a Bugatti, was in the Stutz team at Le Mans in 1929 and 1930, finishing fifth partnered by Bouriat in the former year, and competed in other races as “Philippe”, to offset family objections. A reader in Lincolnshire possesses two axles from vintage cars, one from an Essex Six, with wooden spokes and detachable rims, the other a mystery, as it bears the inscription “Levis, King’s Cross” On the hub caps, the letters ”LKC” picked out in bold capitals, yet it cannot he anything to do with the well-known motorcycle of that name, as it is a bowed axle with six-stud pressed-steel artillery wheels. Has anyone any ideas? The BSA Front-Wheel Drive Club’s Registrar was interested in our reference to a four-wheeled vee-twin BSA having been found in a house in Buckinghamshire, because the Club knows of only two surviving FW32 models one fairly complete but in storage, the other a chassis, although two BSA three-wheelers have been converted to four wheels, one running in Lancashire, the other being built up in New Zealand.

Next year’s VMCC Banbury Run is to be organised by John Moore and Denis Harris. A reader wishes to know whether his 1927 SD 12/50 Alvis, Reg, No, KO 5404, was used by Alvis Ltd. for racing before being sold by Jack Bartlett in 1929. Letters can he forwarded. Besides the two veterans referred to on page 1384. Mercedes-Benz were represented during the Brighton Run weekend by a 1905 28-hp. Mercedes-engined ‘bus. It was used in Tunbridge Wells, then in Brighton, and has been sold to America. A similar ‘bus, discovered adjacent to the Brighton Road and bearing LGOC. hub caps, has been bought by the HCVC.

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