A section devoted to old-car matters
The Dawn of “The Daimler”
Last month’s issue of Motor Sport had quite a Daimler flavour to it, what with my description of an outing up Shelsley Walsh in the British Leyland Heritage/Coventry Museum’s fine big Edwardian of that make, and my article about the motor-cars of Mr. Bolton, a gentleman who had a preference for Daimlers and drove them at Shelsley Walsh and in other competition events.
So let us look at the picture that forms the heading illustration to this month’s V-E-V section, to complete, as it were, the Daimler session. I do not pretend that it has never been published previously, but I wonder if the occupants on the two very early Daimler petroleum-carriages it depicts have ever before been properly identified? No doubt Daimler historians will get their teeth into this. Meanwhile, let me tell you that I believe this to be one of many photographs taken for the Pennington Company and/or the Great Horseless Carriage Co. Ltd., outside the Motor Mill beside the canal at Coventry, where the first English Daimlers were built. It is apparently a picture taken in 1897 and I believe it came to me from the late Mr. John Pollitt, an historian who was more interested in the origins, linking-up and fate of motor companies than of cars, but who was very knowledgeable about Rovers, having been with that Company for many years. He used to contribute to the long-defunct magazine The Vintage & Thoroughbred Car.
It seems that the car on the left side of the photograph is the first Daimler ever built by the Great Horseless Carriage Co. and that it was known as the “Iveagh Phaeton” because it was sent to Lord Iveagh for the use of HRH the Duke of York (later King George V) at a shooting party in September/October 1897, the car having been completed in May/June 1897. This makes it an extremely historic vehicle, as one of the motor cars that introduced Royalty to automobilism and resulted in the British Royal Family remaining faithful to Daimlers for so many years — as someone said, a car equal in historical status to George Stephenson’s “Locomotion”. . .
The Daimler on the right of the picture is said to be the second Daimler built, which had just returned from two days’ testing on the road, over a distance of 100 miles, with the object of proving that the Great Horseless Carriage Company had commenced regular output of the new horseless-carriages by July 1897.
It may be remembered that at this early stage the Great Horseless Carriage Co. and the Daimler Company occupied adjacent buildings at the old Mill, which is said to have resulted in 1889 in the reporter from a cycling paper, sent all the way to Coventry to write-up the Daimler factory, seeing an open door, going in, and being shown round.He duly wrote his piece, which resulted in the paper receiving a rude letter asking why the story was captioned “A Visit to the Daimler Works” when, in fact, it described those of the Great Horseless Carriage Co., round which the reporter had been conducted by the Manager, George Iden — the reporter had found the wrong door! It would need a qualified historian to tell us how the “autocars” of the latter company differed from the first flowerings of “The Daimler”. I am also aware that the reference to the Duke of York using a Daimler at a shooting-party in September/October 1897 pre-dates the second motoring experience of HRH The Prince of Wales, which took place in the grounds of Buckingham Palace at the end of November 1897. That is something else that the more erudite students of pioneer motoring who read me may care to think about!
Now to the occupants perched on these two 1897 Daimlers. The long-hand caption to this historic picture says that the person holding the tiller of the left-hand vehicle is Mr. F. E. Baon, Works Manager of the Great Horseless Carriage Co. The bowler-hatted gentleman in the middle is Jack Brookes, a friend who happened to be staying with the Baons but who had no connection with the Company. On his left, in a homberg hat, is the Company’s Chief Cashier, Mr. J. H. Barrows. Of those seated on the second car, the straw-hatted gentleman is Mr. Pilkington, assistant to the Chief Cashier, and at the tiller is W. McNiel, a wages-clerk. On his left, in the motoring hat, is Mr. Davies, who was Mr. Baon’s assistant and in complete charge of this car. Towering above him from the tonneau is a works’ time-clerk. The door behind the “Iveagh Phaeton” hides the hoist used to get the cars up onto the first floor of the Mill and in the original print can be seen the outside staircase leading to the second-floor premises of the notorious Mr. E. Pennington, who had been capitalising on his bogus motor inventions. As the caption comes from Mr. Baon himself, I assume it must be correct. Thus I seem to have stumbled on a rare piece of motoring history. On the other hand, although these two veteran cars appear to have been photographed on behalf of Pennington and to have been built by the Works Manager of the Great Horseless Carriage Co., which had been promoted by financier H. J. Lawson in 1896 with capital of no less than £750,000, I am fairly sure they should be called Daimlers, not MMCs. It is good to know that a surprisingly large number of these Daimlers, made before the turn of the century or very soon afterwards, has survived to the present time. One of the best known is Comdr. Ted Woolley’s 1897 4 h.p. example, still on tube-ignition, and solid tyres. To celebrate the 80th year of the English Daimler Company I arranged to be driven in a modern V12 Daimler Double-Six to see and try a few of these truly-historic Daimler heirlooms from the dawn of motoring. We looked first at Mrs. Vaux’s 1897 Daimler and then at Lord Montagu’s 1899 four-cylinder 12 h.p. Daimler, and the Black Collection’s 1899 4 h.p. Daimler, as well as the National Motor Museum’s more modern 1903/4 four-cylinder car. (The description of this Daimler-tour will be found in the colour-section of Motor Sport dated September 1976.) I see, too, that the Vaux Daimler was entered in last month’s Veteran Car Club Brighton Run, together with Murcott’s and Flather’s 1897 Daimlers, Page’s 1898 car and James’ 1900 model . . .
Thinking of the bigger poppet-valve Daimlers, made before the sleeve-valve invasion of 1909, quite a number of these imposing cars have also survived, in addition to that fine specimen from the Coventry Museum which Motor Sport featured last month. I remembered since that a big Edwardian Daimler had formed part of one of “Baladeur’s” articles in the “Veteran Types” series that was once a feature of Motor Sport and I wondered whether this might have been about the same car as that now in the Coventry Museum, the history of which is obscure since it was made until the time when it went to earth in a remote corner of the Daimler factory. So I hunted out my April 1937 issue of Motor Sport, which showed me what I should have remembered, namely that this great 9.2-litre Daimler is not the same car as I tried in Worcestershire last September, because it had a Knight double-sleeve-valve engine.
However, just as the age of the Coventry specimen is in doubt, being quoted as anything from 1904 to 1906 or ’07, so the date of the Daimler which a party of VSCC members had gone up to Preston to sample, before the war, was also open to debate. The owner, Mr. Bradshaw, quoted it as 1906 but “Baladeur” sagely thought it to be at least three years more recent. Based on the poppet-less engine he was obviously right. But in all other respects the specification of this 48 h.p. Daimler was so like that of the Coventry Museum’s poppet-valve car that I find myself wondering whether it might have been a prototype in the “valve-less” period, with the 140 x 150 mm. Knight engine put into an earlier, say a 1906, chassis? Anyway, where is this old Daintier now? — W. B.
The Clyno Register has come to life again, with a well-written duplicated Clyno Gazette, which echoes our dislike of inflated prices for all things appertaining to the older motor cars. It marks the half-century since the Clyno Engineering Company (1922) Ltd. went into liquidation, which means, apart from the possibility of a few Clynos having been assembled by Colliers from the spares they purchased in 1930, that all Clynos are at least 50 years old. As the anonymous compiler of this broadsheet so rightly says, if his Gazette looks different from the one last produced in 1973, how much more so does 1929 seem to belong to a completely different world? But Clynos survive, which is pleasing when I recall how much I enjoyed the 1926 10.6 h.p. tourer I ran for a short time in 1951. A rare 12/28 saloon has come to light in Ireland and the Registrar found a complete 1924 chassis, still on its beaded-edge wheels, earlier this year. The Register caters for Clyno motorcycles as well as cars and operates from New Farm, Startley, Chippingham, Wiltshire. Incidentally, it is emphatic that the AJS had no connection with the Clyno Nine, although the latter as well as the 12/35 Clyno was available with wire wheels as an optional extra in 1929.
Extraordinary, the things people do — the October Newsletter of the Pre-War Austin Seven Club contained a picture of a BSA motorcycle combination with an Austin 7 engine, converted to air-cooling, with fins on head and block, each one individually brazed on! Another picture showed a convincing replica of the 1924/25 Gordon England Brooklands-model Austin Seven. A reader has sent us details of a 1931 six-cylinder 26.3 h.p. Chevrolet sedan that is still >in regular use by its original owner in Liverpool, on the south coast of Nova Scotia. It has its original paint and the engine has not had a rebore, but holds its recommended compression pressures in all cylinders. The only additions have been signalling-flashers to comply with a 1938 requirement, and an electric instead of a suction screen-wiper. This Chevrolet once did 25.2 m.p.g. but this has dropped to 20 m.p.g. The car is not entered for Concours d’Elegance, nor does its owner belong to an old-car club because of it. Nor is the car for sale. How refreshing! The Wolseley Hornet-Special Club Magazine had a picture, which appeared in The Geographical Magazine in 1937, showing a Hornet Special caught in a traffic jam. It has five occupants, two of whom are girls, one in a white flying helmet, and the road appears to be taking one-way traffic, perhaps on the way to or from some local event. The Wolseley’s screen is flat. Other cars in this hold-up include a Chevrolet saloon, several Morrises — the picture was discovered by Harry Edwards of the Morris Register — two motorcycle combinations, a Riley Nine saloon with two occupants standing up, through its sunshine roof, and, almost out of camera range, a Ford Eight saloon and an Austin 7 Chummy. The Club wonders who owned TG 6173 and where it is today?
Marchal Motoring, the newsletter of SEV (UK) Limited, recently carried a picture of a big chain-drive Edwardian Mathis touring-car, in which were riding Nazzaro, beside the driver who is Ettore Bugatti, M. Mathis, Pierre Marchal, Rembrandt Bugatti, Lancia and Wagner, while standing beside the car are Frederich, and Agnelli. The Vauxhall OC reports that in Cornwall a Vauxhall 20/60 Grafton coupe-cabriolet which had become a garage breakdown-truck has been restored, and that a lady member uses almost daily in Cheshire as her second car a 1927 Vauxhall 14/40 Princetown tourer which she and her husband bought as a new car. It has done nearly 60,000 miles, is in original condition, and the only change has been replacing the Watford magneto with a Bosch magneto. Also reported in course of restoration in Bedfordshire is a Vauxhall LM 14/40. A Staffordshire reader who has recently bought a 1925 3-litre Bentley, reg. no. MB 7720, seeks information about its history. It is a long-chassis, with Corsica drop-head-coupe body, which has recently returned from spending 20 years in America. According to “All The Pre-War Bentleys” by Stanley Sedgwick, this car was delivered to a Mr. Proctor in December 1924 and then had a Freestone & Webb Weymann saloon body, and engine number 936. Letters can be forwarded. The Hispano-Suiza Society has issued a Roster of all known cars of this make, both verified and unverified and in museums. It makes very absorbing reading. The verified cars consist of 103 French-built HB and H6B, 37 of the K6, 33 of the model-12, 31 of the H6C, 21 T15 Alfonsos, 11 T49, 8 of the Jr, 7 of the T16, 6 of 15-20 h.p., 3 each of the T48 and T56, 2 each of the 8-10 h.p. and 12 h.p., and lone examples of the 30 h.p. T-HD, 30 h.p. o.h.v., Spanish H6, Czech H6 and T60 RLA, together with eight unspecified models, a total of 280. With the unverified Hispano-Suizas the total rises to 386 left in the world. Details of the Society and this very complete breakdown from J. M. Heumann, 175, St. Germain Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94114, USA. — W.B.
Some more Bentley Conundrums
There is something Bentley historians may care to look at, in “Lucky All My Life”, the comprehensive book about the career of that ace-engine-tuner, the late Harry Weslake, written by Jeff Clew, published by Haynes, and reviewed in last month’s Motor Sport. I am thinking of the rather remarkable introduction that Weslake had to W. O. Bentley. According to Clew, Harry had been summoned into the presence of the great man, apparently around 1926, and when he arrived at Oxgate Lane, accompanied by the Managing Director of the Automotive Engineering Company of Twickenham, a man named Hewitt, they found what is described as “a prototype 600 c.c. side-valve engine on the Heenan & Froude test-bench”. The story goes that this engine was producing only 11 or 11 1/2 h.p. and that W. O. Bentley asked Weslake if he could do anything about it. Harry said he thought he could and was given just a head and barrel of what is inferred to have been a very archaic piece of engineering. Having done air-flow tests on these with Jack Connor at the Automotive Engineering works and modified the ports, Harry took the bits back to Bentley Motors, where Wally Hawgood, a foreman, is said to have reassembled the engine and retested it, when it gave 17 b.h.p. “The results shook W.O.,” says Clew, and he immediately wanted to employ Weslake and agreed to pay him a retainer of £500 a year.
Now one or two things puzzle me. In the first place, it seems odd that we have not heard previously of Wally Hawgood as a Bentley foreman. The Bentley DC has compiled a long list of all known Bentley Motors’ employees, trying to trace any they have no record of, but including all known names of ex-employees of the Company. Hawgood, who is described as having been mechanic to Bishop, the Canadian air-ace, during the war, is not among them. Then it surprises me that W.O., who was experienced in such diverse petrol engines as his big rotary aero-motors and his 3-litre Bentley car engine, not to mention the pre-war racing DFPs for which he introduced pioneer aluminium pistons, should have been so impressed with a 5 1/2 to 6 h.p. power increase in his test-rig plot. Especially as, according to Clew, racing motorcycle engines of smaller capacity were developing over 40 b.h.p. at this time, although he does not specify which make, or whether of s.v. or o.h.v. type. I am not so surprised that Bentley called in Weslake, because air-flow through valve ports was a new science in the nineteen-twenties and Harry was the expert in this field. But the big mystery is, why was W.O. investigating a side-valve engine at this time?
Jeff Clew, in his detailed book, says that work on this test-rig engine continued, with the object of getting as much power as possible from it, and that it formed the basis of an engine that had an overhead-inlet-valve and side-exhaust-valve. Now I am aware that it is customary to build single-cylinder test-rigs of multi-cylinder engines, for experimental purposes. But if an i.o.e. design was being investigated, would a side-by-side-valve test-rig have taught the designers anything? If not, surely W.O. was not contemplating replacing his celebrated four-valve-per-cylinder overhead-camshaft engine with a side-valve engine, in 1927? But if he simply wanted to extract more power from his 3-litre and 4 1/2-litre engines by better breathing, why did he not have a test-rig made of that configuration?
The inference is that this testing was done in respect of the 4-litre i.o.e. six-cylinder Bentley. But this did not appear in production form until 1931, it has always been regarded as a panic measure taken when Bentley Motors’ finances began to run down, and its cylinder-head was, I think, laid out primarily by Harry Ricardo. W.O., indeed, described the 4-litre as a “last desperate fling” of the old Bentley Company, so it can hardly have been on the stocks in 1926/7. So what was the object of using a 600 c.c. side-valve test-rig at Cricklewood at that time? Remarkably, Donald Bastow says that by 1931 W.O. was contemplating a side-valve car but that the Ricardo i.o.e. 4-litre was designed instead, a 653 c.c. test-rig with this valve formation being used in conjunction with this project, which gave 25 b.h.p. at 4,200 r.p.m.
Coming to the 6 1/2-litre Speed-Six Bentley engine, in Clew’s book Harry Weslake is said to have asked W.O. how he managed to obtain such an impossibly low horse-power from it — one can, without much difficulty, imagine W.O. ‘s look, if this remark registered with him! The power output is quoted as 120 b.h.p. at the time, although most sources give it as 140 b.h.p. The outcome, we are told, is that Weslake took away a 6 1/2-litre cylinder block (the head was of course integral) unknown to W.O. and conducted air-flow tests on it, after which he modified “the ports and inlet manifold”. Incidentally, it seems that such research only occupied a single day. The outcome was that when W.O. was having tea with Weslake and told him the 6½-litre was a “dud engine”, Harry was able, like a conjurer, to produce the stolen cylinder block. When an engine had been assembled with this block the power output was 175 b.h.p., which led to further port modifications, when the engine gave, and I quote, “a staggering 208 h.p.”, using two Aero Zenith carburetters. For Le Mans, with No. 8 SU carburetters, the output was “around the 200 mark”.
According to Clew’s fascinating book, Weslake took the 4 1/2-litre Bentley engine in hand as well; indeed, he claims to have worked on all four of the 1928 Le Mans entries, altering the shape of their inlet valves and ports. He had the satisfaction of seeing Bentleys come home 1, 2, 3, 4 at Le Mans in 1929 — Barnato and Birkin winning with the Speed-Six at 73.62 m.p.h., followed by the 4 1/2-litre cars of Kidston/Dunfee, Benjafield/d’Erlanger and Clement/Chassagne, ahead of Stutz and Chrysler opposition. Then, in 1930, the Speed-Sixes, apparently using even bigger SUs than No. 8s, came in first and second, ahead of the Talbots, at Le Mans. The Weslake book says that Harry worked on far more than air-flow on these Bentley engines, leaving his flow-measuring instruments at Oxgate Lane for several months, Stan Ivermee using them on Bentley blocks and also on the presumably aforesaid side-valve single-cylinder test-rig. It says that “running experiments were made on plug positions, port shapes and cylinder head design”, although the fixed head of these Bentley engines must have proved rather restrictive, surely?
Jeff Clew knows this to be controversial, because he remarks that the facts in his book appear to conflict with those in Elizabeth Nagle’s memorable book “The Other Bentley Boys” (Harrap, 1964), in which Nobby Clark recalls working overtime with Hassan to build an airtight box over the carburetters of a 6 1/2-litre Bentley engine, so that Weslake could conduct air-flow experiments on it, a footnote from W.O. confirming that “that is all he did”. Incidentally, I think it was with the first Big-Six engine that Weslake got the alleged power increase of 55 b.h.p. — not the Speed-Six from which power was lifted from 140 to 208 b.h.p.
Naturally, I turned to that erudite book by Donald Bastow about Bentley engineering (“W. O. Bentley — Engineer”, Haynes, 1978) for some light on these matters. Bastow implies that it wasn’t until the Speed-Six engines were being readied for the Le Mans race of 1929 that Weslake was eventually called in. He suggested alterations to both porting and inlet manifolding and apparently remarked that the exhaust ports would have been better as inlet ports — but it wasn’t until the advent of the 8-litre Bentley engine that the cylinder block was reversed, it is usually said for a different reason. I confess I do not see why Clew should think W. O. Bentley’s footnote in the Nagle book, applying to the Big-Six engine, to the effect that Weslake only improved the engine’s gas-flow, has to be queried. Reverting to the i.o.e. 4-litre Bentley engine, in the Nagle book Walter Hassan says all three cylinder-head boffins, Weslake, Ricardo and Whatmough, had a hand in its design, which seems extravagant!
Clew’s book takes a poor view of W. O. Bentley in other ways. For instance, when Weslake was called in to assist with development of the V12 Lagonda engine and suggested that its valves were too large there is said to have been disagreement with his views, but before the Le Mans participation smaller valves were fitted, at the recommendation of Stan Ivermee, who remembered how much Weslake had done to improve the power output of Bentley engines. Then, when Weslake was helping with the 4 1/2-litre Lagonda Rapide engine he is said to have improved its power output on his own test-bed by something like 30 to 40 b.h.p. but when it went back to Staines it was 20 b.h.p. down on this. W.O. is said to have consulted Harry, who was able to point out that the silencers of the Lagonda test-rig had become choked! Well, at times the best of us overlook the obvious. But if the anecdote is true it was unkind to W.O.’s memory to reveal it. Incidentally, there is no mention that I can find of Harry Weslake in any of the books ascribed to W. O. Bentley. — W.B.
NB I was glancing through the programme of the 1922 Indianapolis 500-Mile Race the other day and, in an article about the competing cars, came upon the following: “England’s entry is new to American racing. She is represented by a Bentley. This is a four-cylinder car of conventional design, with four valves to the cylinder, and is being piloted by the engineer who designed it, W. Douglas Hawkes” . .!
V-E-V Odds and Ends
We remarked last month that the Mitchell which the RFC officer was using here in 1915 (see “Diaries of an RFC Officer”) was apparently a rare car, even in America, which is where it was made. However, there is one in this country, which David Harrison has restored. It was discovered in South America in 1973 in very decrepit condition and it took three years to restore it. It is the 40 h.p. 6.3-litre four-cylinder model, dating from 1913, with Bosch dual ignition incorporating magneto and coil, and it has dynamo lighting and electric starting on the Burdun system. The three-speed gearbox has a ball-gate and this big 7-seater Mitchell tourer will do some 60 m.p.h. The Autumn issue of Bugantics, magazine of the Bugatti O.C., contained an article by Harold Hastings about the very first ascents made at Prescott hill, at the rally in 1938 that preceded the first actual speed hill-climb there. So this venue is 44 years old. Best time on that occasion was made by Craig in a supercharged Type 49 Bugatti in 55.58 sec., Ronnie Symondson was second-quickest driving his Type 57S Bugatti, and a highly creditable third place was secured by Cecil Clinton with the 1908 GP Itala. Incidentally, the book about the history of the much-older Shelsley Walsh hill-climb of the MAC, edited by Hastings, is still available and proceeds from sales go to the Midland AC. It is called “Seventy Years of Shelsley Walsh”, and is published by the MAC itself, from 65, Coventry Street, Kidderminster, at £4.50 post free.
A further report on the progress that is being made with the rebuild of the 90 h.p. Napier racing-car “Samson” by Bob Chamberlain in Australia has reached us. It seems that the Napier is unlikely to be seen here until the middle or end of next year, at the earliest, because some unforeseen problems with the engine have delayed things. The cylinders will have the correct electro-deposited copper water jackets but it was not foreseen that new cylinders would be required. This is because the original ones consisted of thin-section steel barrels with cast-iron valve pockets screwed into these at an angle. The years have taken their toll and after many repairs the six barrels will need to be renewed. This work is now well in hand, apparently, but the car will not be ready to be taken to Daytona Beach next April to re-enact its 1905 record bid there. However, it seems that policing the entire beach is regarded as impossible these days and that only standing-start 1/4-mile contests with other old cars will be possible, which was not what Mr. Chamberlain had in mind. In the meantime he has almost completed the restoration of a 1914 Cadillac roadster and intends to do some work on the ex-George Syme 1910 Prince Henry Benz, now equipped with hydraulic four-wheel-brakes, after the Napier is running. — W.B.