THE FRONT WHEEL DRIVE B.S.A.
TIEERE are certain ideas in automobile construction, which although commended in theory by many people, are seldom put into practice. ‘IN.vo examples of these departures from orthodox design are front-wheel drive and independent wheel suspension. The advantages of the latter are accepted without reserve by all those who have driven a car so equipped, but there remains in the mind of many people a certain doubt as to the benefits of the former. The chief argument against front-wheel drive in the past has been that when fast cornering is indulged in, unless the engine is used to pull the car round the curve, the car tends to become uncontrollable. On the other hand, front-wheel drive exponents counter by saying that this criticism only applies to badly designed examples, and that anyway no car should be driven fast round corners without using the engine.
In England front-wheel drive, like independent wheel-springing, has never been popular, the only example in recent years being the Alvis. In the U.S.A. the racing Millers have had it for some time, and the Cord touring car is so propelled with successful results. On the Continent the Tracta showed how good front-wheel drive can be, and now the new Maserati proves that its uses for racing are still being explored. The only car in England to-day A SMOOTH ENGINE, GOOD ROAD -HOLDING, AND EXCELLENT VALUE FOR
MONEY. with front wheel drive is the 9 h.p. B.S.A., and we recently had an opportunity of trying for ourselves the performance of this interesting little car on the road. Anyone expecting a totally different ” feel ” about the car when driven normally would be disappointed, for it is not until fast cornering is indulged in that the advantages of the frontwheel drive of the B.S.A. become apparent. In fact one’s first
pression of the car is that the machine as a wholeis a very solidly built piece of work, an impression only given as a rule by very much larger vehicles.
As we proceeded out of Town we took stock of the characteristics of the car, and by the time we had reached the suburbs we decided that we could look forward to a week-end of very enjoyable motoring. Constant restarts in traffic showed us that the clutch was as sweet as we could wish, it being possible to get away smoothly with a minimum of speeding up the engine. The action of the clutch was rendered all the better by its even engagement throughout the travel of the pedal. The gear change was simple, and was quick from second to top, a slightly longer pause being necessary from low to second. Of the position of the gear-lever itself, we were not entirely enamoured. In all frontwheel drive cars this detail presents certain difficulties, and in the past it has generally resulted in the change being operated by a short lever
situated on the dash-board. On the B.S.A. a normal lever from the floor is used, but differs from usual practice in being placed between the driver’s legs, slightly nearer the left knee than the right. Owing to a low steering column and wheel, the lever cannot be reached comfortably without twisting one’s ” clutchleg ” sideways, and to avoid this movement one naturally prefers to reach the lever through the spokes of the steering wheel. When cornering, of course, this procedure is impossible, and one has to decide which method is to be adopted in advance. However, this criticism applies chiefly when one is not used to the gear change, although a cranked lever to the left of the driver would be a definite improvement.
One of the most praiseworthy features of the 9 h.p. B.S.A. is its suspension, the front wheels being indendently sprung by four quarter elliptic springs each, while at the rear normal semi-elliptic springs are used. Going slowly over a wavy surface in towns produced a certain amount of pitching, but once its normal cruising speed was reached the car was absolutely steady, no matter how rough the surface. In conjunction with light, but high geared steering, through which no trace of road-shocks was transmitted to the steering wheel, the car was very restful to control, and demanded a minimum amount of nervous tension from the driver. Cornering at all times was safe and steady. We purposely encouraged the B.S.A. to reveal any of those tricks on corners sometimes attributed to front wheel drive cars, and took corners fast without the use of the engine. Nothing untoward happened, while driving the car round on the engine resulted in some astonishingly rapid performances on curves which would normally require a. certain amount of respect. The high geared steering naturally gives one confidence, and there is just sufficient self centering action when
travelling at normal speeds to eliminate the necessity of any ” unwinding.” As is only to be expected with such a roomy body, and its feel of solidity, the car takes a fair time to work up to its cruising speed, but once this has been reached it can be maintained indefinitely. On arterial or good main roads 45 m.p.h. is a comfortable gait, at which speed the engine is quite happy. We have seldom known a smoother 4 cylinder power unit. There was not a trace of vibration throughout its entire
range, and at 60 m.p.h. the maximum reached during the course of our test, only a subdued hum was audible.
On second gear a maximum of 40 m.p.h. can be attained without fuss, but thereafter the acceleration was not as rapid as might be expected, a state of affairs which could probably be remedied by a little attention to the carburettor. The brakes were smooth and positive in operation, the hand brake being unusual in that the ” on ” position was forward instead of back, thereby allowing easy entrance and exit by the off-side door. The body provides a comfortable seating position for both driver and
passenger, while two passengers can be accommodated, if desired, in the rear. The driving position is very restful, the wheel being low on the driver’s lap, but rather too far away for fast work requiring quick cornering—although this may only be a matter of personal taste. The hood and side curtains fitted snugly, without giving the impression of cramped space sometimes met with on small sports cars, so that the car would be perfectly serviceable as a means of transport to dances or theatres.
At 2160 we found the 9 h.p. B.S.A. sports model a thoroughly attractive vehicle. It possesses a performance which, though not spectacular, is accomplished in complete comfort and without fuss, so that on all-day runs on top higher averages could probably be put up than with faster, but less solid cars. It cruises at 45 m.p.h., the tax is only 29, and it does 40 miles to the gallon—what more can one want for £160?
The car was placed at our disposal by Messrs. Stratstone, Ltd., 27, Pall Mall, S.W.1, the London Distributors for all B.S.A., Daimler and Lanchester models, and from whom any further particulars or a trial run can be obtained.