A section devoted to old-car matters
From Mr. Roger West, Production Editor of the Industrial Railway Record publications, we have received No. 67 in this series (published last August and available for 75p, from R. V. Mulligan, 3, Cumberland Grove, Great Sutton, Wirral, Merseyside, L66 4XH) about the Spurn Head Railway. What has this to do with Motor Sport? Well, apart from some of our readers being interested in steam, it contains two photographs and some information about an old Itala car which was converted into a railcar on that line. This car was at one time thought to have been a Wolseley but one of these pictures clearly shows the big “hale inscription on the radiator. Mr. West wonders if it was a racing Itala and if so, which one?
It is difficult to answer this query, because most of the big Edwardians, when devoid of coachwork, could be mistaken for racing cars when they were, in fact, touring chassis. But the well-raked steering column, the two bucket seats at the back of the chassis, the long outside handbrake lever, and the lettering on the radiator, which would have seemed undignified on a touring or town car, certainly suggest that this was a racing car, which rumour supports. It was apparently put into service as a railcar, with a new front axle, and flanged rims attached to its wooden-spoked artillery rear wheels, in February 1918 or maybe earlier, and is clearly a pre-1914 car. It was used by a Lt. Lees, RE, from that date and remained in use “for a considerable number of years”, employed, it seems, as Officers’ transport! It was said to have had a 50 h.p., four-cylinder, coil-ignition engine and to do 60 m.p.h. on rails. In time the radiator had to be replaced by a water tank, and previous to this a wooden 4/5-seater body had been fitted.
What became of this Itala will probably never be known, nor its identity established. But there is one item that may be relevant. After the war a Major-General L. C. Holden, RE, took out a patent for converting warsurplus FWD lorries for railway work. Although he did not proceed with the idea, it was taken up after 1923 by Hardy Motors Ltd., and such a railcar was used on the Spurn Head line, as the aforesaid booklet describes and illustrates. Now this was surely the Col. Holden whom Locke-King had called in to design Brooklands Track. If so, he may well have had the task of equipping military railways during and after the war and have suggested to the WD the Hardy railcar for use at Spurn Head. If that was the case, he may earlier have discovered for them the old Itala car, for while at work on Brooklands Track he would have been aware of the Itala factory at Weybridge and of the LockeKing’s enthusiastic use of these cars. He might even have been himself provided with an Itala, perhaps a discarded racing car, to facilitate his journeys about the Brooklands Estate and to and from his home in Malvern, in 1906/7. This car could have become long in the mechanical tooth by 1918 and been sent up by Holden to serve on this military railway. It is a long shot I agree; but until anyone has anything better to offer . . . It might even have been Dame Ethel LockeKing’s own Itala, “Bambo”, that Holden knew to have been laid up during the war? The link between Brooklands and this Yorkshire railway is not quite so far-fetched perhaps as it might seem, because the Contractors who built the Track did work on the sea-wall there, from 1915, and in this connection took some of their locomotives to work over the railway. It might be that they had used the Itala on their contractors rails. at Brooklands, or as a converted lorry, and later took it to Spurn Head with them?—W.B.
V-E-V Miscellany.—The owner of a Fiat 501 tourer in Denmark is in need of an original eagle mascot and a Fiat Motometer, so that this “well-worn but running Fiat will look just the way it did when it first ran on the streets of Copenhagen in April 1923”. It has been reshod ‘with 760 x 90 tyres on a set of Italian Sankey-type Michelin wheels, found in Switzerland. If anyone can help with the other requirements, we can forward correspondence. The date of the previously-mentioned Historic Vehicle Silver Jubilee Tribute at Windsor has been announced as May 7th/8th next year. The arrangements are in the hands of the Transport Trust, the VCC, the VSCC, and the HCVC. Details from: The HVSJT, 32 Chesham Street, London, SW1 on receipt of an oblong stamped-addressed envelope.
An ancient motorcycle has been found in a remote croft in NW Scotland. It has a Villiers two-stroke engine with outside flywheel and a pressed-steel frame, so could well be a Baker. A reader reports seeing many delapidated old cars in a field outside Lyme Regis and a sorry-looking Matchless Morgan 3-wheeler and Rover Nine tourer in a nearby garage. A 1931/32 Austin 7 saloon that has languished in a barn since 1941 has been acquired by a reader after negotiations that occupied two years and it is to be restored. The new Secretary of the Scott OC is Mrs. S. Cummings, 22, Brendon Avenue, Chamberlain Road, Hull, Yorkshire. A 1926 Singer Ten tourer has been acquired by a reader, from the car’s second owner. This gentleman bought the car when he was 17, put it away for two years while he was in the Army, restored it, and ran it for 33 years, converting it to front-wheel brakes in the 1950s. In 1957 and 1958 the Singer was used for Land’s End-to-John O’Groats runs, these occupying a leisurely ten days, at 35 1/2 m.p.g. of petrol. The first owner was a farmer who laid the car up, partly dismantled and with no inner tubes, to prevent the Germans taking it during the war! It was sold by him for £6 10s. Among the spares with the car today is the original brakeless front axle. The Vauxhall Register points out that the 293 cars we referred to actually comprise the entire Register apart from 30/98s. David March’s 30/98 Register comprises 146 cars. We regret to have to report the death, at the age of 97, of U.Col. E. A. Rose, who first drove a motor car in 1897 and who took part in the 1,000Mile Trial in 1900, drove in some early road races, and raced an Arrol-Johnston at Brooklands, of which Company he was General Manager up to 1910. The Dundee Courier & Advertiser recently published a picture of a Tod tiller-steered three-wheeler said to have been built in Dunfermline in 1897 and not broken-up until the late 1950s, its engine now being in the Glasgow Transport Museum. National Benzoic in conjunction with the Transport Trust has already announced the date of the Cavalcade of Historical Transport which will be staged with the International Air Fair at Biggin Hill on May 14th and 15th. Details from: M. Milliken, Biggin Hill, Kent, TN16 3BN, on mentioning Motor Sport.
We are informed that the Rotherham Vintage Vehicles Rally and Steam Fair will take place next year on June 26th and that details are available from the Department of Amenities and Recreation, Recreation Office, Wellgate, Rotherham, S. Yorkshire. Anyone who regards driving an old car or a steamer as recreation will surely respond to this one! P. A. Adorian tells us that last September he drove his 1934 Dennis pump-escape fire-engine, which had lain in a garage neglected for ten years, from the Lambeth Fire Headquarters to the Headquarters of the Sapeurs-Pompiers in Paris in 17 hours 17 min. 42 sec., with assistance of both the Metropolitan and French Police and Hoverlloyd. A fire in the engine compartment in Parliament Square on the night before the departure seems to indicate that the old fire-engine was entering into the spirit of the thing. It is finished in the livery of dark green and black, which it wore when supplied originally to Letchworth UDC. The house magazine of the Nestles Group recently published pictures of some of the early transport vehicles used by Henri Nestle of Tutbury, Burton-on-Trent. They include a very early chain-drive Leyland steam-lorry and a fleet of six 1920s solidtyred petrol vehicles which appear to have been Daimlers, the latter used by Keiller as marmalade vans at their Silvertown depot. A 1936 Hermon sports car still exists, but has been somewhat vandalised. The owner needs a radiator badge and wonders if anyone knows what this looked like? He is also anxious to discover whether this is the actual Hermon that was raced at Brooklands in 1936. In connection with our “Country Garage” article in the September issue, it was Leonard Weston who drove the Hillman in 1920s sprint events, not Herbert Weston, as we stated. What a go-ahead, press-on Club the VSCC is! It has not only already published all its 1977 fixtures, 21 in all, but one of its 1978 dates into the bargain . . . The Frazer Nash Falcon that somebody thought he had found turns out to be a perfectly ordinary Type 315 or 319 Frazer Nash-BMW.
Sir, I knew Stephen Southall’s 40/50 Rolls tourer from new and often filled it up with petrol from cans which had to be brought down from the petrol store on the roof of
P. J. Evans Ltd., John Bright Street, Birmingham. Indeed I wrote you ten years ago about a chat I had in 1920 with Dr. Lewis Graham, as follows a point not mentioned by the Birmingham Post about this elegant car is that the Doctor had it finished in eggshell grey and as a brash young garage hand I asked him when he was going to have the finishing coat applied! His reply was a lesson in logic and courtesy I never forgot. He said that after long and careful thought he decided that, based on the certainty of 20 years (!) useful life, a Rolls would be the cheapest form of motoring. Since the darker and glossier a car the more it needs washing he decided on a dusty-grey for colour and eggshell finish to obviate bonnet glare when driving into the setting sun, concluding whimsically that as he saved the cost of the finishing coats in the first place, he could always have it done prior to resale. I wonder if he will ?
Re “Vintage Postbag”, I used your columns in the forties to try and get hold of a specific registration number and eventually found myself in a Berkshire farmyard looking at the remains of an old American tourer, complete with hens roosting on it and an Elderberry tree growing up through where the floorboards should have been. I bought it for £100, we used the number, and I lost sight of the remains until a few weeks ago when I saw a similar car on offer in your pages. On enquiry it turned out to be the same car, but now priced at £3,950!
Never a dull moment in your columns, for which I am duly grateful.
Farnborough W. A. EMETT
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I have received the October Motor Sport from the President of the MRR Club, Mr. Philip Taylor, containing a wonderful article on “Wendy” 89AE. She really looks marvellous, colour and trim almost Cambridge blue, engine polished to concours standard; is it all the latest photography? For I remember “Wendy” in Battleship grey with black trim ! But I an so pleased to learn of Mr. Southall’s enthusiasm and care for “Wendy”, although his father and two brothers are enthusiastic owners and mechanics on veteran cars. I recall Dr. Lewis Graham when on one of his annual visits to Hythe Road (he was staying with Dame Bertram Lloyd, owner of 1939 Wraith), Sunday morning phoning me, that an old friend would collect me to see to her trouble on the Wraith. 89AE duly arrived, Dr. Graham in his carpet slippers, and we drove out to Barnet Green. I soon located the defect and suggested to Dr. Graham that we try it out on the road. “No,” says he, “check over 89AE for faults.” That was how we were taught to do R-R service and to look after owners. I would like to point out, that the Penny was placed below the head of the Low Speed Jet-spindle and not High-Speed Jet, which only came into operation after the air valve had lifted, which was approximately 750 r.p.m., further that the extra oil valve was depressed by hand, or tool, when starting from cold, and when running after 2/3rd throttle for extra lubrication to pistons. I believe they were the standard two’-gallon petrol cans carried on the step of 89AE. The brakes on 89AE should be: footbrake Ferodo-lined, operating on the drums; handbrake cast-iron liners concentric with handbrake on rear drums.
It is grand to learn of so much enthusiasm for the old cars, and it gives me a lot of pleasure to see them. I am now 82 years old, but still enjoy looking over the old cars at the Britannia RN College Rally at Dartmouth, also our MRR Club rallies. Exmouth
L. C. FISHER Retired R-R Service Engineer for the Midlands
[I am glad the article gave you pleasure, but was not responsible for its “repaint” in the photograph! Apologies for the car’s toolbox being captioned as its gearbox—captionwriter, not Editor, to blame.—Ed.]
Not a Clerget
With reference to your comments in Motor Sport, September 1976 pages 1053/4, about an unidentified, aero-engine powered car, the following information may be of interest.
The only V-type Clerget engine of that period of which I am aware is the 200 h.p. V-8 Clerget of c. 1911. An engine of this type is in the National Aeronautical Collection and I enclose a copy of the descriptive label with brief details from “Jane’s All the World Aircraft 1912”. Presumably the 1921 Cooper brother’s car to which you refer used such an engine.
In common with other engines the Clerget V-8 does have a pair of magnetos driven by a cross shaft from the rear (in aircraft terms) of the engine. However, it has overhead valves with exhaust ports on the outside of the V so it is unlikely to have been the engine used in the second, unidentified, car seen in the breaker’s yard in 1926. I cannot believe that the exhaust pipes would have been swept up over the top of the cylinder head to merge into a large exhaust pipe in the centre of the V or that the breaker would fail to notice such a system. The engine you are trying to identify is likely to have been a side valve (because of the central exhaust) and to have two magnetos. A number of engines would fit that description, but without further details it would be impossible to pin it down. However, I enclose brief details of the Thomas & Sunbeam aeroengines from “Jane’s 1917”. The photograph of the V-I2 Sunbeam is particularly revealing as it shows clearly the large, central exhaust manifold. The engine was produced in V-8 and V-12 form over the period c. 1913-16. Cylinder dimensions for both were 90 mm. x 150 mm. giving powers of 150 h.p. and 225 h.p. at 2,000 r.p.m. The V-8 version was used, with either single or dual magnetos but there seems some doubt as to whether it was ever fitted with a large manifold of the type used on the V-12.
Although the limited information available does not allow us positively to identify the engine, I think we can safely say that it is unlikely to have been a Clerget. Should any more details of the engine come to light, I would be pleased to delve further into the matter.
London, SW7 P. R. MANN Research Assistant, National Aeronautical Collection, Science Museum.
[I am flattered that we have received a reply from none other than the Science Museum. It seems that the car in question was not the ill-fated Cooper-Clerget, nor could it have been Coatalen’s pre-1914 V-12 Sunbeam single-seater because, although this had the side-valve 90 mm. x 150 mm. engine, with the exhaust pipe emerging from the scuttle, it used shift, not chain, final-drive. Our thanks to Mr. Mann for his explanation.— Ed.]
Now that the year is drawing to an end and anniversary fever is nearly over, I feel I must draw your attention to an anniversary which has been overlooked by all the motoring press. July this year marked the fourth anniver sary of the introduction of the Autovia car. Much maligned—rightly or wrongly it is hard to say—as so few people have ever driven one, but a car which can probably lay claim to being the first British overhead-valve V8. (According to Cohn Clifford, who has probably had more experience with Autovia V8s and Riley 8/90s, the Autovia blocks he has come across all bear an earlier casting date than the Riley 8/90s.) Incidentally his special is powered by a developed Autovia engine—not a Riley engine. (Maybe splitting hairs, but the Autovia is recognised as a separate make in the latest VSCC PVT eligibility list.)
Southport NIGEL PLANT
Austin 7 Information
I wonder if any of your readers can shed any light on apparent inconsistency in information supplied by two sources, on the Austin 7.
According to “The Book of the Austin Seven and Eight” by Staton Abbey, published in the Pitman’s Motorists’ Library, the last Austin 7 chassis produced was in July 1938, number 290135. According to R. J. Wyatt in “The Austin Seven” published by David and Charles, this particular chassis 290135 was produced in 1939 (January), and the last saloon chassis 290570 was dated January 17th. The last van chassis, 291000 was made on March 3rd 1939.
The discrepancy of the dates of 290135 and in the definition of “last chassis” and the meaning of “produced” (laid down or completed?) prompts me to write requesting further information if anyone has it.
I am at present in the process of buying what is described as a 1938 (December) Austin 7 open four-seater tourer, whose chassis number is between 290135 and 290570. According to Wyatt this car should have been registered in January 1939. The logbook, however, gives December 1938. Can any readers enlighten me on these inconsistencies? Indeed Wyatt lists prices of the various Austin 7 models in 1938, but omits mention of an open four-seater tourer model. Bury L. A. GOLDSTONE
I have been reading “Some Unusual Engines” by Mr. L. J. K. Setright, which you briefly reviewed not long ago. It is based largely on a series of papers which formed a symposium held by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in 1971.
My main interest concerns the axial type or in USA the barrel engine. It is a worthy exposé on the general subject with only one minor error, the Air Vice-Marshal Banks referred to I take to be Air Commodore F. R. (Rod) Banks under whom I was privileged to serve. I take issue, however, with L.J.K. on his references to the Rolls-Royce “Exe” and ‘Vulture” as failures. Like the Pennine and Crecy also they were all experimental in character and far from failing (because they did not either reach flight or production stages) provided much valuable information. Royce was not an original inventor but a very outstanding development engineer who could pursue valid conceptions to their ultimate. Further his approach was empirical. He laid down the dictum which R-R continued to exercise by virtue of their facilities, namely “suck it and see”. We could do with many more able development engineers today. The latter are outnumbered by “ad hoc scientists” akin to the cow who everlastingly chases its tail.
The axial or barrel engine had many pioneers, its design being particularly attractive to aviation—reduced frontal area, etc. My old friend Georges Roesch submitted such a design to the Air Ministry during WWI without response. However, it is doubtful if there were a more persistent protagonist than G. B. Redrup (not Redrop) whom L.J.K. mentions only once, and yet in 1930 his axial “Fury” engine displayed at Olympia actually successfully flew (the world’s first) in a Simmonds “Spartan” biplane. Later in Detroit Bill Stout, designer of the Ford “Tin Goose”, built a special all stainless steel biplane powered by a barrel engine designed by Lee Oldfield. This was 1940. Redrup’s engine was said to have broken most of its con-rods during flight. Redrup hotly denied this and his denial is upheld by the pilot Capt. Mogens L. Bramson, a Danish engineer of repute. His story is briefly told in a letter he wrote to me some two years ago, then a consulting engineer in San Francisco. Incidentally Capt. Bramson is almost the last survivor of the SE5A “sky writing team” after WWI and was also the man whose favourable report made possible the private finance which enabled Frank Whittle (with whom and whose team I was associated for 6.i years) to pursue his ideas in practical form.
Shepperton V. N. L. BUTLER
PS: Rolls-Royce summation of the axial engine was that it would serve more effectively as a compressor where the pressures and temperatures were more civilised. L.J.K. does not mention the outstanding Lutz free-piston engine built in Germany during the war. I saw it as Volkenrode in 1945. BICERA brought it over and tested it. I have their report which they finalise by stating certain breakages occurred due to their reluctance to run at maximum design speed, which had they done would probably have been more successful.