SPORTS-CARS FROM TEN POUNDS
Sir, During the last few years I have attended many trial and race meetings. A certain aspect of these functions few others probably notice impressed me very much. And that was the envious, one might almost say forlorn, glances of those spectators and enthusiasts who either own very ordinary cheap cars or none at all. These folk, and I was once one of them, look at the sleek or fierce machines with admiration and wonder, yes, but also with envy. Of course, I know that the majority of enthusiasts attending these sports and racing events own their own special types of car, but many do not. Why ? For the simplest of all reasons : they cannot afford any car, least of all a
sports-car. To those unfortunates this letter intends to remedy their plight. I have owned twenty-four cars. Nineteen of them cost less than fifty pounds, ten less than thirty pounds and five less than ten pounds. I must make it quite clear that I fully realise that a real high performance car of comparatively low horse-power (an essential to economy) cannot be bought for a few pounds, but there are cars that can be bought to-day for between ten and twenty pounds that with a little work exerted upon them become sports-cars in the true sense of the word. I will not bore the reader with details of my own personal motor-cars, suffice to say they included such varied makes as Bentley, Bugatti, M.G., Talbot, F.W.D. Alvis, 12/50 Alvis, Morris, Austin Seven, 0.M., Lea-Francis, Delage, Ballot, Singer, etc., etc. But I think the first car I ever bought and details of it will clarify my point about the possibility of owning a sports-car on a f3 a week salary. I want to be perfectly frank about the money side of the whole matter because it is only lack of cash that prevents millions of individuals becoming members
of the sports-car community. And obviously the more members this section of the motoring public embraces the better for the movement as a whole. A one hundred per cent. red-blooded, healthy, movement if there ever was one.
The first car I ever bought was a 1927 14140 M.G. I bought it from a garage in Wimbledon for 04 in 1934. Its condition, except for paintivork was terrible, to say the least. Actually the transmission, clutch, etc., needed attention but never got it and never let me down. But the engine would not have run long in Its condition. It needed a rebore but I could not afford a good one so I decided to spend my few remaining pounds on a general overhaul and attempt to make it resemble a sports-car in appearance and performance. As far as the body was concerned I merely fitted a fold fiat windscreen (011010). I got off an old Sunbeam at a breaker’s, I took the clumsy Morris type mudguards off and had some T.T. type ones made for f2 by an ironmongers. With quick filler radiator cap and aeroscreens it began to look something like a speed model. But I was not, nor ever will be, a member of that fraternity that likes any car with two exhaust pipes, two bonnet straps and all the noise in the world. But I do realise the subconscious satisfaction gained by knowing one’s car does look something different which, in all truth, every motoring enthusiast’s ‘car is. As far as the engine was concerned this needed most attention but after merely fitting new pistons (being Morris they were cheap) and tightening up here and there the oil consumption was extremely low. When I bought the car it did fifteen miles to the gallon and about nine in traffic. After working on it, it ran twenty-four to twenty-seven to the gallon. Just before I sold it I fitted a thinner gasket and this helped raise the Performance slightly. The total cost of car and all repairs worked out at twentyone pounds and a few shillings. I always got accurate estimates before any of the work was started and made sure that nothing else was done and charged up afterwards. Under favourable conditions the car would do about 61 m.p.h. which for a 14 h.p. car was nothing. But it would do it all day, and in a holiday tour of 3,000 miles around the coasts of England during which I made the lighthouse film “Danger at Sea” absolutely nothing went wrong although I used 10d. a quart oil, 1/5 petrol and drove nearly flat out everywhere. Once I cruised at 55 m.p.h. for nearly three hours, only slowing down through villages. Compared with modern sports-cars it was of course nothing very terrific, but the car was a thoroughbred and like all of its type yielded to treatment in the form of tuning. For the benefit of any readers interested it would do 23 m.p.h. on first and 42 on third. A f14 motor nearly eight years old upon which I spent some g never to pay another penny. I finally sold the car one year after purchasing it and after covering about 12,000 miles absolutely without
any repairs of any sort. Curiously enough I saw the car the other day on the Great West Road giving a 1925 “Le Mans ” Singer a good run for its money. To-day you can go to any car breaker’s or cheap garage with ten, fifteen or twenty pounds in your pocket and, provided you are not too impatient and can if necessary wait a week or so while you look around, find an old M.G. like the above, an old Alvis 12/50 (in my opinion an absolutely unique car), a F.W.D. Alvis (in spite of unfavourable opinion I ran one of these for nine months, covering 6,000 miles, travelling from here to Scotland and back several times, again often keeping at 50 to 60 m.p.h. for mile after mile), or even an old Morris with a little time and work expended upon it will give you quite good motoring for many thousands of miles. Lightening the body, raising the compression and other simple methods add m.p.h. onto the performance and make it altogether
cheaper to run. Please understand that I am addressing this to those to whom ten pounds means a considerable amount and there are plenty of people thus affected. My advice is do not always look for out-and-out sports-cars with snappy bodies and “Mrs. Frequently ” written alongside the bonnet. Go rather for the reliable touring cars and look for possibilities for lightening bodies and tuning engines, and cars of the type listed previously are often easy to tamper with as secondhand spare parts are nearly always obtainable. Probably many are advertised in this very issue of MOTOR SPORT. Don’t wait till you have L50 or 000 before you join the growing band of enthusiasts who prefer real cars to “family ovens,” start right now and buy your sports-car for ten or twenty pounds. I am, Yours etc.,
ROBERT BRAUN. Wimbledon,