One of the greatest advances in car design of recent years has been the fact that manufacturers have contrived to get a steadily increasing performance from their models, and at the same time have avoided any tendency to produce a harsh and intractable engine.
There is now a growing demand for a type of vehicle which a few years ago was non-existent except in the very expensive big engined type of car. There are two quite easy ways of getting increased performance—one is to fit bigger power units and so produce a machine expensive to run and not very efficient in operation, and the other is to “hot up” an existing size of engine. The method of this is to bump up the compression, increase valve lifts, etc., and so destroy the smooth running and flexibility so desirable for anything except actual racing. This gives economy of running as regards fuel and tax, but gives increased wear and tear on the more highly stressed working parts. The most desirable state of affairs, and one which requires real skill and care in design and manufacture, is to get a lively performance from a small engine without sacrificing sweetness of running or silence, and in the 16-60 h.p. H.E. which was recently placed at our disposal by the London distributors of 138 Long Acre, this end has been very successfully achieved. The engine is a six cylinder unit of 2,290 c.c. and in view of the size and comfort of the body the performance with such a comparatively small engine is really excellent. The smoothness of the engine is such that speed is very deceptive, and a cruising speed of 60 m.p.h. seems to call for no effort, and as this speed may be comfortably exceeded on third gear (5.96 to 1) the performance on hills is very pleasing, and a maximum speed of 75 m.p.h. can be attained without having to choose favourable circumstances and it would therefore not be difficult to get 80 m.p.h. on ocasion.
Although the engine is very pleasant to drive, the greatest charm of the H.E. is in the clutch and gearbox, the manipulation of the gear change being as good as any we have known. The clutch is so astonishingly light, that at first it is really quite hard to notice any resistance when withdrawing it. We know of many cars in which the pressure required to depress the accelerator pedal is considerably greater than that required to operate the H.E. clutch and on a long run the benefit of this feature has to be experienced to be fully appreciated.
The change is correspondingly light, and upward changes require only a short pause, the lever seeming to fall into place almost of its own accord at the right moment, and there is certainly no excuse for any owner of one of these models making a noisy change either up or down.
The gear ratios are 16.9, 8.75, 5.96 and 4.7 to 1.
The Marles steering is light and with ample centering action, and the road holding at speed and on corners leaves nothing to be desired, the slight feeling of “tailheaviness” apparent in some 4-seater cars being entirely eliminated. In fact a general lightness of control is the main feature of the H.E., the only point in which this had not been carried out on the actual car we tried was the braking system, this being direct operating and rather heavy. As however all models are being fitted with a vacuum servo system, this control will come up to the very high standard set by the others. . The brakes themselves work well giving full retardation without unevenness or affecting the steering, and it was only the heavy pressure required which prevented better braking figures being attained. Even so a stopping distance of 80ft. from 40 m.p.h. is well up to the average and the actual model available to the public in future should have very safe braking indeed.
The H.E. certainly gives one the impression of being a “long distance car.” The position is such as to ensure comfort combined with good control and the whole finish of the body work is first class. Pneumatic upholstery is fitted throughout and the comfort of the rear passengers has not been sacrificed in producing good lines, as sufficient room has been left on the chassis to provide length without overhanging the rear axle, but the weight distribution is arranged to avoid it seeming long chassis when driving. An 18 gallon petrol tank is another very useful fitting when the car is used for long trips. The price with open 4-seater body is £695.