Sports Cars in Winter
Ignoring the fatherly warnings of the motoring bodies and the railway companies that the North of England was unsafe for motor-cars, last month I pursued a somewhat erratic path up the Great North Road en route to Harrogate. In the course of the 200-mile journey, we must have passed nearly a hundred cars, every one was a family saloon of the
most box-like characteristics. I have always wondered whatever happens to the Alfas, the Bentleys, and all the other sporting cars one sees at Brooklands throughout the summer; though, as a matter of fact, even in the fine weather one seldom meets such vehicles on the road.
Judging from the number of vehicles • which had skidded off the road at various points, the lower centre of gravity of the sports car would be of real advantage on icy surfaces. I certainly did not find any difficulty in driving mine. I am afraid it must be that the modern generation of sports car owners are a less hardy crowd than those of ten years ago, and do not care to face the elements even with the protection of a modern hood and side-curtains.
As far as I could gather, newspaper reports of the severity of the weather in those parts was much exaggerated. Round Carlisle, however, conditions were definitely arctic, and a friend of mine who drove up to Scotland just before Christmas told me that without that modern equivalent of the dragon’s breath, the electrical hot-screen, he would have been quite unable to proceed.
To be comfortable on a long journey, one of the most important factors is to have a good driving position, which covers not only the placing of the controls and the fact that one’s left foot should be firmly planted on the ramp board. Equally important to my mind is that one should be able to see well over the bonnet and also to command the two wings. On a closed. car with pneumatic upholstery, the cushions can generally be blown up to give the seating position which does the trick, but on an open tourer the problem is complicated by the amount of clothing put on. Wearing a heavy leather coat and with a thick rug swathed round my middle I find myself raised nearly three inches above summer-level, and the
problem is further complicated in my case by my car having a rather shallow wind-screen. I do not know whether anyone has invented a bucket seat adjustable for height. If not, there, is a possible solution in the tilting seat-mechanism made by the Leveroll people. I am told that this is also excellent for providing a slight change of position, just enough to avoid cramp from driving for a long period in the same attitude.
Another matter which links up with that of the driving position is the type of windscreen-wiper used. The original type in which the motor was pivoted at the top edge of the screen was obviously wrong in principle, as the rain, sleet or ” what-not ” removed by the wiper blade was simply lifted to the top of the panel, and ran down again as soon as the blade swung back. The modern fashion of pivoting the blades at the lower edge of the glass so that the water is scraped downwards and outwards, is much sounder, but I have found trouble on some of the newer cars through having to look through the upper part of the cleared
space, which is also the narrowest. The ideal method from the point of view of visibility would be to have blades travelling horizontally and covering the whole area of the glass as is done on the latest London taxis, but this type of wiper is, I understand, operated by engine suction, and ceases functioning when the throttle is put firmly down.
After a slow beginning the Monte Carlo entries closed for quite a satisfactory 103, some sixty down on last year’s figures. Hotchkiss, Delahaye and Ford have all entered strong teams, while of our own firms, Triumph have put in a last-moment brace in the persons of Miss Joan Richmond and Donald Healey. Miss Richmond’s car is the sister to the one with which Ridley won the iflitre class last year, sans blower of course this time, and ” Don ” has likewise removed the supercharger from his car and has fitted two carburetters.
Snow or Water?
As I write this, Rally competitors are feverishly debating whether gum-boots or snow boots are the appropriate wear. Many of the northern roads in Scotland are blocked with snow and may well make the route from John o’ Groats quite unusually severe. Meanwhile, from abroad, come accounts of rain in Athens and Tallinn which will produce mud,and slush instead of•the snow one always associates with the Rally run.
The A.A. • tell me that most of the floods in the Rhone valley have subsided, and there only remains the question of how to negotiate Avignon, where many streets are still under water. From time to time, one sees descriptions of amazing amphibious cars which make 60 m.p.h. on land and 15 in the water, but none of the Rally cars I have seen so far have shown aquatic instincts. Plasticine for the magnetos and a flexible tail-pipe reaching well above the danger level are the nearest that most people have got.
There is no country in the world where motor fuel is better, and few in which it is cheaper, than in Great Britain. This was brought very forcibly to my notice by a list of petrol prices recently issued by the R.A.C. The cheapest countries are Morocco, where it costs is. per gallon, and Austria, where towing spirit costs is. 2d., though the high-grade stuff is quoted at 2s. 4d. Denmark, Norway and Sweden are all is. 3d. On the other hand, in Holland it costs is. 10d., in Germany 2s. 10d., less, of course, if you use Registered Marks, and in France the high-water mark of 3s. 6d. Italy is quoted at 3s. id., but I understand now it has been raised to 5s.
Lubricating oil is proportionately costly. The French price is 1 ls. 3d., in Germany it costs 15s. per gallon, while Austria and Hungary break all records with 25s. and 27s. respectively. And they do not even give away cameras and bridge-sets with it.
Dixon Moving South
I met the inimitable Freddy Dixon the other night at a London ice-skating rink (this sounds like Consequences, aftermath of Christmas, no doubt).
His enforced stay in Durham had given him a chance to recover fully from his varied accidents and he was looking forward keenly to next season. Incidentally, he had nothing to do with the tuning of the Durham police-cars—if he had, as he said, they would never have caught anything again.
Feeling that the local authorities have a grudge against him, he is planning to move his garage down close to London, Reigate or somewhere to the South, which will also be handyfor Brooklands. He has given up the idea of further work on the Silver Bullet, for though he is confident he could beat Blue Bird’s speed of 301 m.p.h., he considers there is no further knowledge to be gained in doing so using an enormous aero engine. His new designs call for an engine of some eight to ten litres in a chassis of tubular type with independent springing and possibly four-wheeldrive.
He has bought one of the 3.3 Grand Prix-type Bugattis and considers that he should be able to make it go a great deal faster than, has yet been done, and will also be driving Rileys in the French Grand Prix and at Ulster.
No one can tell yet what is going to happen in next year’s Grand Prix racing abroad, but in England, at any rate, there are excellent prospects of interesting racing. I hear that next season one or more 41–litre blown Bentleys special cars with cut-down chassis will be raced at Brooklands, while there is a good chance
of an 8-litre being entered for Le Mans. With open four-seater bodies and running on fifty-fifty, these cars should be capable of 130 m.p.h., and the Le Mans circuit is straight and wide enough to allow them to reach their maximum. The only trouble would be the amount of fuel needed, which would he not far short of fifty gallons. The regulations provide, of course, that a certain number of laps must he covered between each stop for re-fuelling.
Rileys will also figure prominently in the news, and a well-known driver is going very thoroughly into supercharging the P2-litre four-cylinder. A. F. Ashby of Hendon is making a welcome re-appearance at Brooklands. He also approves of the four-cylinder engine, but is reducing the capacity to 1,100 c.c. while still retaining the advantage of three main bearings.
A Light Special
Towards the end of last season the Appleton Special, which has a very much modified Riley engine, started to show a fine turn of speed, and the owner has great plans for Brooklands and Shelsley this year, with more boost and a couple of extra bearings in the engine. The chassis was originally Maserati, but is also so modified that the famous Fratelli certainly would not recognise it. The side members only weigh 102 lb. or less than the petrol tank.
A Notable Revival
Large-car enthusiasts were very favourably impressed at the last Olympia Show by the new litre Lagonda, produced under the wgis of Mr. W. O. Bentley, and a few days ago I had the privilege of a run in one of the new cars. Unfortunately the engine was not fully run in, so we had to content ourselves with a burst up to 75 m.p.h.,
at which speed, incidentally, the engine is running at less than 3,000 r.p.m. What most impressed me were the smoothness and silence of the engine and the excellent springing. With the additional power now available, the standard tourer should be capable of a level 100 m.p.h.
Last month the Annual General Meeting of the B.A.R.C. was held down at the Clubhouse, followed by a film-show. Proceedings were less animated than usual, largely, no doubt, because the proprietors are following the suggestions made by this and the other motoring journals,. that adequate accommodation should be provided for spectators.
Cecil Kimber suggested that races should finish at the Fork, where everyone could see them,. but the difficulty here is that cars could not be stopped in time if they only had the finishing straight in which to pull up. Still, why not continue rounc) the Outside Circuit? An enclosure on the Railway Straight was being held up until the departure of the sewage works, while a demand for accommodation alongside the Finishing Straight and behind the 500-miles Race pits is being met by earth ramps built up behind the railings. Chronograph Villa will be demolished to give a better view at the Fork.
A thing that everyone would welcome would be loudspeakers at the finishing line on the Railway Straight, but apparently the trouble there lies in bringing the current round the track to operate the speakers. A suggestion was put up and considered, that an electric signboard should be put up on the Clubhouse tower to show the winners in short races and possibly the leaders in long events, and this would undoubtedly be a popular move.