Nothing new .. .
JAPANESE automotive engineers are reported as looking at four-wheel steering as a means of making cars easier to handle and even for improving roadholding. Mazda in particular are said to be thinking along these lines. Well, therein nothing new, perhaps in this instance I should say under the Rising In 1923 the Holverter chassis, built at French’s Motor Engineering Works in Balham High Road ( I have often wondered if this became the Eton Garage, where in the late 1930s I used to keep my cars), was not only steered by all four wheels but had four-wheel-drive, which so many years later Subaru were to incorporate so effectively on ordinary private car types, and to complete the Holverter’s originality, it had all-round independent suspension, by cantiliver springs, and as if that were not enough, there was automatic control of spring stiffness, according to the car’s speed, by means of an oil pump driven from the
transmission, which reduced the length, and therefore the suppleness of the road springs, the quicker the car was driven.
The method of obtaining a drive to each wheel was also highly ingenious, an additional gearbox behind a normal rh-control Wrigley four-speed box containing spur gears and a differential. The spur gears drove two separate propeller-shafts, one on each side of the chassis but at an angle outwards from the parallel side-members, bevel gears at the extremities of each prop-shaft driving crown wheels within the front and back wheels. To allow for suspension movements, universal joints were incorporated in these prop-shafts, and there were no axles, as such. The steering drop-arm operated a mechanism in the centre of the chassis that turned the back wheels, the action being that as the front wheels moved one way the rear ones went in the opposite direction, the Holverter pivoting on its centre-line! This highly ingenious chassis had a 11/2-litre side-valve Anzani engine driving
through a cone clutch, a radiator somewhat resembling that of a Bugatti, and Michelin-shod centre-lock wire wheels. The four-wheel brakes had water-cooled shoes and an oil pump servo action. The steering could be altered when the car was stationary to give normal front-wheel only control, or the aforesaid small-turning circle by having the rear wheels steer in the opposite direction, or it could be so arranged that a crabwise travel, for parking in a tight space, could be obtained.
Late in 1923 the Holverter, or Holle as it was also called (Reg No XP 765), was demonstrated at Box Hill, in chassis form with a rigged up driver’s seat. It proved adept at ascending grassy gradients, but was hampered by somewhat poor ground clearance. If it could be discovered today it would be possible to have a four-wheel-drive car genuinely eligible for VSCC events and pre-dating cars like the 4WD Subarus, etc by more than 55 years! Rear-wheel steering with the wheels following the same arcs was obviously tricky if one parked too close to a high kerb, but this did not prevent Leyat using it on his propeller-driven Leyat cyclecars, in this case with non-steering front wheels. The back axle was centre-pivoted in this case and controlled by wire-and-bobbin. But in those days, except in Paris, there were presumably not many herbs to worry about. — W.B.
V-E-V Odds & Ends. — On the 60th anniversary of Count Louis Zborowski’s fatal accident at Monza someone put a large home-made laurel wreath bearing the simple inscription “Monza 1924” on his grave at Burton Laz.ars. The °wheat.. Observer of 1909 was complaining of how the growing motor-cab industry was taking business from job-masters during the Goodwood race week and how the growth of motor traffic was taking patrons away from the Chichester hotels at this time, J. Scheel of Ontario takes me to task for saying an early 31/2 hp Benz had hot-tube ignition, as he thinks these cars all had electric ignition, even from the advent of the experimental 3-wheeler of 1885 / 86. I can only say I was quoting from recollections of a pioneer motorist, who may have remembered incorrectly. A 1907 six-cylinder 71/2-litre Darracq, one of a number imported by a well-known bus company for taking passengers up a mountain road to a holiday resort in South Island, is being restored in New Zealand and our correspondent would like to bentfrom owners of similar cars existing in Europe. In connection with our recent article on six-cylinder engines, Mr P. Hicks who is rebuilding this big Darracq says its crankshaft was beautifully machined from a 750 lb solid billet of steel, and has four mate bearings with a total area of 80 sq in, lubricated by a very rudimentary splash system. He has made new alloy pistons for the engine and properly balanced the reciprocating parts but as there is no
vibration-damper he is wondering if the engine will shake itself out of the car when run above its original maximum of 1,200 rpm. Incidentally, the Darracq’s camshaft had to be completely rephased, as the original seemed to have had cams ground by guesswork, giving a different timing for each of the six cylinders — perhaps bearing out the reputation of the make for being of somewhat crude construction? Letters from other Darracq owners can be forwarded. A reader who stated recently at the Tredethy Country Hotel in Bodmin, Cornwall, reminds us that the house was formerly the home of Prince Chula and Prince “Bira” and is still very original, with the bar still named “flint’s Bar”. The stables where the ERAs were kept have been converted into holiday cottages and our informant slept in a unit that was once the racing workshop, with the settee directly over the inspection pit — this when the racing cars were not being administered to at the White Mouse Garages, presumably. The graves of the Chula pet dogs are in the grounds. The ERA Club might well stage a rally at this hotel?.
As a “second-thought” about Sage-engined cars, which were the subject of an article in the September issue of MOTOR SPORT, these engines were, of course, used in the Silver Hawk light-cars of the early1920s. Indeed, the Silver Hawk with which Sir Noel Mackin did so well at Kop hill-climb in 1920 and ran at Brooklands had an overhead-camshaft Sage engine with somewhat modified lubrication system which ran to over 4,000 rpm and had been hotted-up to exceed the 35 bhp of the standard engine.
A MOTOR SPORT reader tells of meeting, in “The Blue Cow” in South Witham, just off the old Great North Road, a venerable old gentleman wearing a billy-cock hat and smoking a clay pipe. This worthy, a local game-keeper, confessed that before the war one of his hobbies was to take his horse-and-trap out onto the then narrow Great North Road and drive it slowly down the middle of that famous highway, holding up “the toffs” in their Rolls-Royces who were hurrying to Scotland for the grouse shooting. The big cars had to mount the grass verges before they could pass. That is until the day a Bentley grazed the horse and in deference to the animal he gave up. Will that Bentley driver, if he reads this, now own up! Enlarging a little on last month’s article on the Type 43 Bugatti, it may be said that Malcolm Campbell won the very first BARC Mountain Handicap at Brooklands in 1930, with his “FT car. averaging 62.56 mph from scratch, that Denis Evans’ Type 43 was the ex-Earl Howe TT car and that among the users of Type 43 Bugattis in later times was Brian Finglass, who had the special Bachelier car ‘Reg No AWX 7) which he once drove to Molsheim, where its pre-selector gearbox was looked at with
some distaste Incidentally, among other Bugattis owned by Brian Finglass were a 2-litre Grand Prix (Reg No 0028), the ex-Col Giles’ Type 44 four-seater (GU 7), a supercharged Type 37A OP (Reg No EPF 7611, which proved troublesome, so was changed for the Type 49 tourer (Reg No AXD 437) that was afterwards owned by Mrs Rodney Clarke and referred to by her as “Poppy”, and then a Type 504.9 blown dh coupe, that was very fast but inclined to he a bit of a handful at speed. It offset the disappointment, however, of being beaten to it by Chinctti when Finglass tried to buy from Bugatti in Paris the ex-Archile Varzi GP car. Then came his Type 57 era, when Brian owned among others a T57 dh coupe (Reg No BAP 181), T57SC Vanden Plus two / four-seater (Reg No FGW 384), another T57SC Vanden Plus car, Reg No DXI) 970) now believed to be in America, and a T57S dh coupe (Reg No HLH 302). Those were Brian Finglass’ later Bugattis. He began his ownership of she make with a beautiful Durlacher-bodied Brescia two-seater (Reg No EM 15911 found in a Wandsworth showroom and bought for £25 by easy-payments. It provided the young Finglass with many thousands of miles of good motoring while he still was an apprentice at the Erie Longden works in Manette Street. at Charing Cross, in London. He thinks the Durlacher coachworks were in Horseferry Road, Victoria, and they were, I believe, Diatto agents. Finglass joined the Bugarti OC and later had a very sporting tulip-wood Brescia two-seater (Reg No X K 8037), followed by a door-less four-seater Brescia (Reg No PT 1417), which was replaced with a Full Brescia with the eight-plug cylinder block, twin magnetos and outside brake and gear levers and a French pointed-tail body (Reg No XW 8522). Then came the Type 37 OP Bugatti (Reg No VP 9663) in which Brian drove for the first time to the works in
Molsheim. This led to the aforesaid 2-litre GP Bugatti, only changed for the Type 44 at the behest of Brian’s girl-friend, who disliked going out in the GP.
We regret to learn of the death of Hartley-Smith, ex-Sunbeam racing-car mechanic of the early days, who accompanied these cars to the American board tracks, etc.
Up in Scotland Tom Abernethy has made a very good replica of a Gordon England Brooklands Austin 7, the one with the fullystreamlined two-seater production-type racing body, and we hear that another such replica is likely to be constructed further south. — W.B.
An Air Pioneer
SOME 85 years ago on September 30th, 1899, a brave and dedicated pioneer of aviation crashed to his death in the parkland that surrounds Stanford Hall in Leicestershire. It is axiomatic that it is only winners who are remembered, and few people today know that an Englishman was, in the late 1890s, in the very forefront of experimental heavier-than-air flight. But it is a fact that in the four years that preceded his death, Percy Sinclair Pitcher was the only man in the world consistently and successfully to engage in gliding flights. After an unrewarding early attempt, Pilcher twice visited the great German pioneer aviator Otto Lillienthal in 1895, and on his return, eventually built “The Hawk” which he flex. from 1896 until his heal accident. To this day a full-size replica of this machine exists at Stanford Hall, and to a layman it is far more recognisably a forerunner of the aeroplane than is the Wright brothers’ -Hy,a 1903! Pilcher’s last flight was made against his better judgement. Not only was the weather far from ideal, hut the fabric lifting surfaces
of “The Hawk” were soaked in dew as a result of its having been pegged out overnight. But Pitcher was reluctant to disappoint the contingent of Army officers present at the invitation of his host, Lord Braye, to witness this remarkable novelty. So he decided to make at least a trial ascent, and launched by a rope and winch, he safely took off and landed. Thus emboldened, he decided to make a prolonged flight, and again took off. At a height of 60 feet part of the tail of “The Hawk” broke, the aircraft fell precipitously, and poor Pitcher received injuries from which he died on October 2nd, at the age of 33.
Thereupon, a paralysis descended upon practical flying throughout Europe, but in America, the Weights began all over again and eventually flew under power on December 3rd, 1903.
It is very likely indeed that the accident which robbed Filcher of his life also stole his chance of immortality because he was quite confident that some time in 1900 he would successfully fly “The Hawk” under power! He was no “mere mechanicbut a mathematician, university lecturer, and a qualified practical engineer of note. He had already taken advantage of his connections with the infant motor industry to have designed, built and tested a four-cylinder petrol engine of extremely light weight, and developing four horsepower, more than enough by his calculations to sustain .The Hawk” in the air. Had he not died, there is no reason to doubt that he might well have flown some time in 1900. It has been objected that “The Hawk” had no control surfaces its attitude in the air being controlled by the pilot shifting by centre of gravity relative to the air frame)
and that this would have been impractical and dangerous. To some degree, true. But Filcher had flown “The Hawk” as a glider for four years and knew its limitations. And it may well have been that his priority was to FLY — and then to deal with problems of manoeuvring as they arose. And a system of wing-warping for lateral control had been proposed and indeed patented as long ago m 1884!
Had Percy Filcher flown in 1900, what then? Contrary to myth, the Armed Forces were intensely interested in the possibility of manned flight, and anyone who doubts this should consider the energy with which the British Army pursued the Wright brothers — in stark contrast to the utter indifference shown by the US War Department!
And the first flight from British soil was that of Cody’s “Army Aeroplane No 1” in October 1908. Filcher would not have lacked for capable and enthusiastic hacking from the so called “Balloon Factory”. But of course it was not to be. And more is the pity, because although no one can deny the Weights their wonderful achievement, a combination of indifference by the US War Department and their own reluctance to give away their “secrets” held back the development of the aeroplane for a good live years. Furthermore, every feature of their design with its deliberately inherent instability had eventually to be abandoned in the pursuit of truly practical flight! Speculation is vanity, to be sure, but it is tempting indeed to wonder about the subsequent history of flight, indeed the history of the World as it would have been had Filcher not crashed on September 30th, 1899. — G. B. Woolley