Ramblings, Rumours and Reminiscences.
Being Asides About All Sorts of Things..
TT is the little things which count for so much in motor’ ing and one always sympathises with the individual
who insists on doing everything to his car by himself. Perhaps the washing of one’s own car may be considered as carrying things to an extreme, but during a somewhat messy operation many useful observations can be made, and at such times elusive squeaks and rattles, otherwise baffling, can be detected. Personally, I think, the washing of cars is a much neglected art, for the average garage hand does not care a tinker’s cuss for the reasons for car cleanliness; an external rub and polish passing as a method for collecting a few shillings from the owner for a perfunctorally performed job.
In the days when coachmen were trained as chauffeurs the standard of car appearance and longevity was much higher than it is to-day and if people would only spend a little time with hose, sponge and leathers, it is certain that greater all round improvement would result.
Speaking of doing things oneself, I had a sharp reminder quite recently. Having my car filled at a pump, my journey was continued, when suddenly without any warning a sheet of flame burst through the floor-boards. The car was stopped hurriedly and on opening the bonnet the whole engine was discovered to be ablaze and not due to an ordinary carburettor conflagration either. It looked a case for retiring whilst the petrol tank blew up, but a few seconds hectic efforts with my cap and gloves quelled the flames. Then the cause was discovered. The man who filled the tank neglected to screw the filler cap down tightly and it had worked off, swamping the engine as the car accelerated. Theoretically, I believe petrol will not ignite in the open without an exposed spark or flame, but if the latter did not exist theoretically, the equivalent was there in fact and but for the merest stroke of luck my car would have become a charred ruin at the side of the road some eighty miles from home.
If tackled in the right way, there is no cause for great alarm should a backfire cause the carburettor to catch on fire; but things become complicated when there happens to be a collection of oil and waste petrol in the undershield—another argument in favour of cleanliness. Directly the flames are observed, the petrol tap should be closed and then on accelerating the engine to its fullest extent, a few seconds will suffice to exhaust all the fuel in the float chamber and the fire becomes automatically extinguished. Apart from all that, there is much to be said in favour of including a Pyrene extinguisher as part of the car equipment. It may never be wanted, but when an emergency does arise it is wanted very badly. The replacement of a burnt out car may be covered by your insurance, but one generally prefers to save the bus, be the insurance company never so generous.
By the time these lines are in print we all hope that Capt. Malcolm Campbell will have overcome the experimental difficulties with his Napier-Campbell. Campbell is nothing if not enterprising, but one wonders.just what induced him to start out for hitherto unattained speeds with a gear box so tremendously unorthodox in design. Progress, of course, depends on experimental research, but Pendine Sands and 200 m.p.h. sprints hardly seem ideal for the purpose. There may be advantages in epicydic gearing for racing monsters, but at the risk of appearing conservative one would suggest something less experimental than the change speed gear used by Capt. Campbell on his unlucky attempt to beat Parry Thomas’ ” Babs “, which is a super-tuned giant built on well tried lines.
Then again, from a practical point of view, how far do such performances benefit the motoring public, or even the sporting motorist ? The whole idea seems to be wrong for cars in general use are never likely to develop on the lines of these huge speed monsters. Too much, it seems, is being offered upon the altar of Publicity and if the cost of the Napier-Campbell and the brains devoted thereto had been exerted in producing a really British sporting car, such as is really needed to cope with foreign competition, one could get quite enthusiastic about the proposition. Aero engines have their proper sphere, their influence on car design has been accepted, but attempts to use them for 200 m.p.h. sprints in dangerous and unwieldy cars, do not appear likely to benefit the development of the class of car needed for modern motoring conditions.
The new B.S.A. special sports” 493 c.c. side valve model, a photograph of which appears on p. 246 should prove of great interest to the competition rider and the clubman. The idea has been to provide a machine having a distinctly lively performance without the added expense and complications of overhead valve engines, and as far as one can see, the new model should make a very strong appeal to the class of rider for whom it has been produced.
A light aluminium alloy sports type two-ring piston gives a much higher compression ratio than the standard piston and further efficiency is secured by the careful polishing of both ports. The top gear ratio is 4.8 to 1 and the engine is capable of revving to a high rate, thus ensuring a maximum road speed calculated to delight the speedman. In appearance the whole machine is exceptionally neat and workmanlike and the specification includes a Terry saddle, knee grips on the petrol tank, new pattern quickly detachable carrier, steering damper, plated silencer and exhaust pipe, and special sports handlebars. Standard up-to-date practice is followed in such items as mechanical pump lubrication, shock absorbers on the front forks, internal expanding brakes on both wheels and 27in. by 2.75in. Dunlop cord tyres. The complete machine weighs 265 lbs. and is listed (ex works) at 249 10s.
There must be some basic reason for the horrible state in which many of the motor firms in this country find themselves and all sorts of commissions set out for America from time to time in order to study the conditions that make things so successful over there. Speaking as an ordinary individual with very little experience of business on the lines in vogue in this country, I could suggest a remedy for much of our industrial trouble. We grouse at the workman who endeavours to limit output and perhaps with reason ; but have you ever tried to do any business with anyone of importance in any motor or allied firm at 9 a.m. or 9.30 a.m. in the morning ? Of course not, because he will not be out of bed. You might want to buy a car at that hour, but even in Great Portland Street I doubt if the chinking of gold or the rustling of notes would strike on any ears but those of the cleaning ladies.
No, at 10.30 the captains of industry begin to arrive ; at 11.30 or, as soon as possible, something round the corner requires attention ; then lunch, the real business of the day, begins at 12.30 and lasts until about 3.0. A murrain on your commissions to America, gentlemen, begirt work sooner and pull your weight in the boat like the marvellous Yankees do. I remember a man who was associated with Sir Herbert Austin in the early days, talking of the example that great pioneer set to all his subordinates. “The chief worked so darned hard all the time,” he said, “that one felt an absolute fool if assailed by any inclination to slack.” As far as one can see the missing ingredient in the recipe for success in the motor world is ginger, manufacturers, agents, repairers all suffering from the same complaint to a greater or a lesser degree.
Rumour is busy again anent the coming racing season. Glen Kidston, if the reports are true, intends to race again with something very special from Molsheim. Major Coe will probably be seen at the wheel of a new Alfa Romeo and there are quite a lot of promising aspirants for worlds records in the 1,100 c.c. class.
Among the speeches at the Annual Banquet of the Essex Motor Club were two worthy of special mention, the first being by Mr. Bertram Marshall who in proposing the toast of the R.A.C. and the A.C.U. stated that not only were club members suffering under the ban of the S.M.M.T. on competitions, but also the trade was being seriously affected. Pointing out the interest displayed by the public in motor trials Mr. Marshall asked if the time had not arrived for a revision of the ruling on this vital matter.
In his reply Commander Armstrong of the R.A.C. stated that the Royal Automobile Club was entirely sympathetic with regard to the promotion of trials but they had no voice in the matter, as the decision was arrived at by the Council of the S.M.M.T., who, it was stated, still maintained the same views which led to the banning of most of the events hitherto participated in by their members.