Vintage postbag, December 1983

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Australian Austin Sevens

Sir,

I enjoyed your little article on “Al Chatter”. You did not mention those superbly built little Al Racers raced at some VSCC and 750 Car Club events a couple of years ago by a team of visiting Australians. These cars were technically very interesting and reflect very well on those enthusiasts “Down Under” who do not have access to all the facilities and old parts so readily available in this country.

The engines and gearboxes were of particular interest to me in that outwardly they appeared standard Magneto engines with three speed gearboxes but with gear-driven Marshal J75 Blowers mounted horizontally on the front of the engine these being driven at anything from 1:1 engine speed to 1.4:1. However, internally these engines were very special, using Renault 4 connecting rods, Gordon Allen cranks and the usual twecks to make these engines really go. Having raced John Oulde’s car at VSCC Cadwell Park I reckon the claimed 72 bhp was not far off the mark and would rev to somewhere around 7,000 rpm.

However, the gearboxes were the real “joke”. Under Australian Vintage rules they are allowed to use four speed ‘boxes but that was not supposed to be the case under VSCC rules, thus the cars ended up in this country with the early three speed boxes with the gate marked R123. After studying these cars very carefully at Prescott and watching them go up the hill it was very obvious to someone with some experience of these things that the cars were fitted with four speed ‘boxes and very close ratio ones at that, thus I went and stood at the start to watch carefully. Sure enough, in all cases, reverse was selected and once underway into first and so on. On making polite enquiries as to how this could be I was informed with a little smile that “R” on the gate stood for Racing Starts!!

It says much for the spirit in the VSCC that no one objected, protested or even complained about this nice little bit of “hoodwinkery” and that these friendly people who had all come over here at their own expense with their beautifully turned out little cars were allowed to continue their little series without rancour.

I, for one, hope they all come again and with luck John Oulde’s car may have acquired some brakes, the outposts of Cadwell Park having looked very inviting once or twice.

Leafield, Bill Morris

G. W. A. Brown

Sir,

Your article on Talbots raised the question concerning G. W. A. Brown’s subsequent career after leaving Talbots.

I own a 1920 Coventry-Premier designed by this outstanding automobile engineer. From 1905 the Premier Cycle Co built excellent motorcycles, and just prior to the first World War marketed a rather primitive four wheel cyclecar. Brown was employed by them in 1913, but whether this four-wheeler was his brainchild I do not know. However, during the war he designed a completely new three-wheel cyclecar which was introduced under the name of Coventry Premier in 1919. CP’s made the mistake of many cyclecar manufacturers at this time, in that they designed and manufactured all components “in house” (unlike Morgan, and ON, who brought in many parts). This initial tooling cost, coupled with early problems involving the recall of many vehicles, led to the company’s downfall. In 1922 they were taken over by Singer who had always been closely associated with the firm, and they then sold a four-wheeled version for a short time, still using the original frame and engine; this was phased out in 1923 and Coventry Premier disappeared. Whether G. W. A. Brown went to Singer’s as part of the deal I do not know, but perhaps another reader can fill in some later details. My CP is far from complete and I would welcome any spares or information that anyone can supply.

Walsall, Mark D. Longmere (aged 13 years)

A pair of Knights

Sir,

Please find enclosed a photograph which I hope you may find interesting. This was taken in the 1930s, outside the garage of the home of my late grandfather, Mr. W. A. Bogod of “Leeside”, Radyr, Nr. Cardiff. It shows a pair of Willys Knights, with vastly differing bodywork, proudly looked over by his chauffeur, Charlie. Perhaps you or one of your readers may be able to tell me something about these cars, and if either has survived.

Portslade, Philip Simons

Another Jackson

Sir,

I was very interested to read your article on the Jackson and noted in your statement in the last paragraph that at least two have survived. I can increase that number by 50%, as we have a 1907 single-cylinder De Dion-engined Jackson open tourer.

This car is now in the caring hands of the Lincoln Vintage Vehicle Society who look after it for us, letting it out whenever we require it for promotional purposes.

Lincoln, E. David Jackson
Director: Jackson Shipley Ltd

VSCC Colerne

Sir,

Your list of the 12 fastest terminal speeds (Motor Sport p.1090) highlighted the poor performance of the Vauxhall Villiers in an event which should be right up its street. The interest shown in the Vauxhall is always a pleasant surprise to me and well-wishers like to know what’s going on or going wrong. At Colerne the egg on the face was double yolked, I knew the car was off form but couldn’t say why.

There is no excuse for a poor performance but there is usually a reason, in this case a very bad reason as the valve timing proved to be way out. Prior to the Co!erne events the Vauxhall’s last Kilo Sprint was at BARC’s Church Fenton some years ago. Although marred by trouble en route the figures were encouraging: ¼ 14.24, kilo 26.45, MPH *95.49 *(freewheeling in neutral due to cracked liner)

When the new noise was heard and the engine switched off the rev counter was showing 5,600 on a 3.9 gear.

Perhaps some slide rule / computer wizard could calculate a potential kilo time from these figures if the finish speed had been 130 mph?

Hampsthwaite, Anthony Brooke

Rare Encounters

Sir,

Reading Rare Encounters in the September issue reminded me of one in, I suppose, 1923 or ’24, when I would have been seven or eight.

On holiday with my parents in Hythe, Kent, my father and I one Sunday morning came upon an enormous Lorraine-Dietrich by the kerbside. My father was most intrigued, as he seemed to remember it either from before the War or post-War at Brooklands. To me it was a monster, towering high above me but most exciting to see and redolent of speed. So far as I remember, it was dark blue, had the cross of Lorraine on the radiator and was chain-driven, something I hadn’t seen before on a car. I wonder now if it was Vieux Charles Trois.

Some three or four years later, we were on a pleasure steamer near Frinton or Clacton, when one of the new Chris-Craft speed boats started circling round and round us. My father recognised the pilot as L. G. “Cupid” Hornsted, of Brooklands fame and afterwards had a chat with him. Hornsted was apparently a salesman / demonstrator for the Chris-Craft and was enthusiastic about their money-making possibilities. My father was more dubious — and stuck to the garage business!

Totteridge, J. Classey

Bentley History

Sir,

I was fascinated to read your two splendid articles based on the memoirs of the late Oliver Bertram. Ln the second of the two articles you raised several very interesting points regarding the fate of MT 3464, “Old Number One”, the double Le Mans winning Speed Six Bentley. May I be bold enough to proffer a few thoughts concerning this and other cars with which Bertram was associated? I am sure that you are correct in assuming that, when Barnato decided to rebuild his victorious Speed Six, he, or rather Walter Hassan, reconstructed the vehicle on a new, undrilled 4-litre Bentley frame (MT3465). In his book, “Climax in Coventry”, Walter Hassan describes how he incorporated the immensely tough 4-litre frame into the re-vamped vehicle. It is interesting to note, as an aside, that Hassan comments that he had experienced troubles with the chassis frame on “Old Number One”. This was not a unique experience to those involved with Bentley Motors, since nearly all of the 3 and 4½-litre Team Cars received replacement frames at some stage during their racing careers. “Old Mother Gun”, the 41/2-litre prototype which won the 1928 Le Mans, certainly received one replacement frame, and possibly two!

Returning to the matter in hand, it would appear that the radiator, engine, gearbox (racing “D” type), bulkhead and differential nosepiece from the original “Old Number One” were mounted to the new frame. As you pointed out in your article, the Speed Six engine was soon replaced by a new 8-litre engine, which Barnato (now on the Board of Bentley Motors 1931 Ltd.) persuaded Rolls-Royce to part with. This was some accomplishment, since Rolls-Royce had instructed most of the 8-litre engine components to be defaced on their machined surfaces and then sold as valuable scrap magnesium-alloy. It was this 8-litre engined version of MT 3464 which “went over the top” of the Brooklands banking whilst poor old Clive Dunfee was trying to overtake car number 33, which I think was the Hon. Brian Lewis in his Talbot, during the 1932 “500 Miles Race”. (In the darkest, most sombre corner of the Bentley Drivers Club archives are numerous photographs depicting the incident, second by second. Their grisly association with Dunfee’s death forbids that they should ever be exposed.)

Research has indicated that the Mulliner Coupe, which was pictured at the Syston Speed Trials in your July article, was the product of an extensive rebuild of the crash-damaged car, including its 8-litre engine, number YH 5127. There is no indication that this engine was ever fitted to the Barnato-Hassan Special.

MT 3464 still exists in the USA with the front-axle beam, bulkhead, gearbox and nosepiece for the original “Old Number One” Speed Six, and the engine, chassis cross-members and rear-axle casing from the car which crashed in 1932. The front cross-member still carries the original chassis number from “Old Number One”.

I am going to be bold enough to say that very few, possibly no, components from the crashed MT 3464 were used in the Barnato-Hassan. It is clearly established that the Bamato-Hassan was based on an 11-ft wheelbase chassis designed by Hassan. Admitted, at the outset, the Speed Six engine from the original “Old Number One” was employed, but, after putting a connecting-rod through both sides of the crankcase during the 1934 “500 Miles Race”, that immortal engine was scrapped and replaced with an 8-litre unit which, after much tuning by Hassan (including the fitting of special tubular con-rods, triple SU carburettors and a compression ratio of 8.7:1) endowed the car with performance sufficient to claim a Brooklands lap at 143.11 mph. This was achieved during lap four of the Dunlop Jubilee Cup Race in 1938 and it is a pleasant thought that the best-ever Brooklands lap speed for a vehicle fitted with a motor, car, as opposed to arm, engine was accomplished with an 8-litre Bentley power unit.

I was interested in your comment that the Bowler-Hofmann Special survives. Certainly, the engine lived on in a 3-litre chassis (number DN 1726) and was raced by Basil Mountford some years ago, but does the rest of the car still remain?

I was pleased to see a photograph of the 4½ Blower Bentley — UW 3761, in your July article, on the start-line at Syston Park, along with the Mulliner Coupe version of MT 3464. It is interesting to note that this vehicle was the first production “Blower” to be constructed, was the Olympia Motor Show Blower in 1929 and was subsequently road-tested in The Motor on April 22nd, 1930. The car still exists and attended the BDC’s Kensington Gardens Rally in 1982 in immaculate condition but, regrettably, not sporting the rather elegant coach-line that ran along the bonnet-hinge and scuttle on the original body. My thanks and congratulations for your continuing excellence of editorship, which makes Motor Sport such a worthwhile Journal for all tastes and motoring inclinations.

London S.E.1., Timothy Houlding
Archivist to Bentley DC

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