AN OLD MASTER RE-DISCOVERED
A. POWYS-LYBBE’S GRAND PRIX TALBOT RECALLS THE GLORIES OF THE li-LITRE FORMULA
IN the last few years. there have been a number of races confined to 11-1itre ears, and it has been gratifying to note the successess of British cars in such events. It was the success of the E.R.A.s in the 1,500 c.c. race during the Eifelrennen of 1935 which focused the interest of the Continent once more upon this type of event, and since then there has been keen competition, even if overshadowed by the mighty formula cars of 1934-1937. Twelve years ago, however, 1 I-litre -racing was at its zenith. At that time the Grand Prix formula set a limit of 1,500 c.c., a limit reached in a descending scale of engine sizes, decreasing over a number of years in view of the speeds which were being attained by the formula
.cars. After the l-litre formula period, Grand Prix racing lapsed for a time, till it regained its full glories under the recently expired formula.
But the fame of the old li-litre Grand Prix cars is still undimmed. They were built regardless of cost, as pure racing machines from start to finish. Even the E;.R.A., it must be remembered, was originally developed from a sports-Car design, and its cost is far less than that of the Grand Prix cars, which must have been comparable to that of the present day formula machines, i.e. about £5,000 each, though the figure has never been accurately checked. That the thoroughbred cars of the last decade are not by any means back numbers at the present day was proved by R. J. 13. Seaman in 1930, when in his ten-year-old Delage he scored victory after victory against the latest modern
lflitre designs. Even now, in 1938, Earl Howe still holds the lap record for 1,500 c.c. ears on the outer circuit at Brooklands at 127.05 m.p.h., with a pelage of the long dead formula.
Not much has been heard lately of Seaman’s Delage, now owned by ” B. Bira,” but another of the famous cars of the same era has been resurrected, one of the straight-eight Talbots, principal rivals of the Deluges in their hey-day.
One of these cars was recently found in Italy, and was acquired by Mr. A. PowysLybbe, the well known racing driver, who has scored many successes with Alyis and Alfa-Romeo cars. During the past year it has been entirely rebuilt by ” T. & or Messrs. Thompson and Taylor, of Brooklands Track, but the work has been handicapped by the difficulty of obtaining Certain parts, owing to the re-armament programme. Now at last the work has been completed,
and the car is ready to do battle with its modern rivals. Before describing the straight-eight 1-litre supercharged Talbot, it is of interest to recall some of the history of the period during which it was designed and built. The Delages were the most consistent winners under the 1 -litre formula, but, in addition to the Talbots,
they met .a strong challenge from other teatus. Bugatti was not out of the limelight, winning the Tarp. Florio right through the period, and at that time the ” Targa “—now, .alas, fallen OA evil times—really was a race. Great Britain, too, even at that time, had promising contenders in the two Thomas Specials, supercharged straighteight cars like the others, and designed and built by the late J. G. Parry Thomas to the international formula. But
Thomes’s tragic death at Pendine Sands robbed the British machines of their presiding genius. Italy was not strongly represented among the 11-litre cars, till late in 1927 Fiat brought out a team of twelvee vlinder 1,500 c.c. machines, which only r.,n in two races, displaying prodigious prmvrs, before the Fiat coinpany was
ordered to concentrate on the Schneider Trophy. This was the last appearance of the famous Fiat concern in Grand Prix racing, where once it was supreme, and the rumours of cars from this factory for the 1938 formula are therefore doubly interesting. As regards the Talbots, some confusion has always existed concerning the French
and English companies bearing that name. The position in 1926 was different from that at the present time, for at that period the ” S.T.D.,” or Sunbeam Talbot-Darracq combine, was still in existence. The three firms, two English and one French, used to work in common, and their racing cars sometimes bore the name of one member of the combine,
and sometimes of another. The same car might, indeed, be called a Talbot in one race, and a Darracq, or TalbotDarracq, in another. Later the combine split up, and at the present time there is no connection between the Britisn firm oi Clement Talbot, Ltd., and the French Talbot company, whose cars in England are now called Darracqs, and which raced with success in the last Tourist Trophy under the name of Talbot-Darracq. A con
nection has, however, been re-established between the English Talbots and their old partners, the Sunbeams, for both firms are now members of the Rootes combine. As has been stated, at the period of the If-litre Grand Prix formula the British Talbots and the French Darracqs were in close alliance. The straight eight supercharged Grand Prix cars were built at the Suresues factory near Paris, which is still the home of the French Talbot company, and they were designed by two celebrated engineers, Bertarione and Bechia. Bertarione, amongst other exploits, had won fame by designing for the third member of the ” S.T.D.” the Sunbeams with one of which the late Sir Henry Segrave won
the French Grand Prix in 1923. Bertarione, incidentally, is now chief engineer of the Hotchkiss company, and Bechia is still chief engineer of the French Talbot company. After the 2-litre Grand Prix formula expired in 1925, Sunbeams built no more racing-cars to the new 11-litre limit, and the new cars were shared, as it were, between the other two members of the
combine. When the cars raced in England, they were known as Talbots. When they raced abroad, they were known as TalbotDarracqs. The cars were really designed for the French Grand Prix of 1926, the first year of the new formula, but neither
Talbot nor Delage were successful in that race, which was won by I3ugatti. Later in the same year, however, the two teams took part in the British Grand Prix at Brooklands, when Delage was suc cessful. There must be many spectators who still remember the bearded Senechal leaping from his car in that race to plunge his overheated lea in a bucket of cooling
water ! He and Wagner shared the driving of the winning car. The Talbot troubles, however, were more serious than an overheated cockpit. The cars had shown terrific speed, and throughout their history they were, indeed, regarded as being faster than the Delages. However, brake troubles developed, and the cars would not hold the track satisfactorily, even in the hands of Segrave, Count Conelli, and Moriceau. On subsequent experiments it was found that the design of the chassis frame was
defective. The frame was very deep, and had great longitudinal strength, but there was a lack of torsional resistance.
However, later in 1926 the great Segrave scored his third victory in the 200-Miles Race with one of the Talbots, their undoubted speed defeating all opposition. When at the end of 1027 the manufacturers temporarily abandimed participation in Grand Prix events, the Talbot team was broken up, and several of the cars were sent to Italy. The car now owned by Powys-Lybbe was the
The cockpit, showing the gearbox by the side of the driver, and the two magnetos projecting through the dash.
Property of G. Plate, who still retains another of the straight-eight Talbots. In Milan extensive modifications were carried out. Indeed, Powys-Lybbe’s car has embossed upon its camshaft covers the words “Milano Talbot Spec iale.” A new frame, again with very deep and massive longitudinal members, was fitted, and, though accurate weights are not at the moment available, it seenis probable that the car is now considerably
heavier than its original form. It is estimated that the original weight was round about 650 kgs., and that at present the modified car weighs some 750 kgs. It may be noted that the minimum weight for 1,500 c.c. supercharged cars under the 1988 formula is 560 kgs. (10 cwt.), so that the Talbot, while fully eligible, would be giving away weight to modern built machines.
Another modification carried out in Italy was the fitting of hydraulic brakes, in view of the trouble originally experienced. The car also has a Weber carburetter. The engine has a roller-bearing crankshaft, a design considered essential on racing-cars at the time, with nine main roller-bearings, and one ball-bearing at
the front. The big-ends also are all roller-bearings, and each of the twin overhead camshafts has five roller-bearings. The crankshaft bearings are pressure lubricated by small jets, and the big-ends by splash. The valves are set at 45°, with central plugs, and the camshafts are driven by a train of straight-cut gears at the rear of the engine. An interesting feature is that off the centre pinion of the camshaft gear train two magnetos are driven, by means of a spherical joint, each supplying the ignition for four of the cylinders. The twin magnetos project through the dash in a readily accessible position. The camshafts operate the valves through the
medium of “fingers,” or rocking levers, and tappet adjustment is made by means of specially machined thimbles, of varying thicknesses, on top of the valve stems.
At the front of the crankshaft, the Roots supercharger is driven, through a laminated spring drive, to absorb shocks, and a drive is also provided for a single water pump, and for a plunger pump to maintain pressure in the fuel tank. The engine has a dry sump, and a four-gallon oil tank is located under the driver’s cockpit.
The whole of the engine and transmission is off-set, or desaxe, in the chassis, to enable the driver to sit low beside the propeller shaft. This was a feature of the racing single-seaters of the time, whereas the modern practice is to place the driver relatively high up above a central shaft. A four-speed gearbox is fitted, not a fivespeed, as on the Delage. The springs are short and stiff, and are off-set both fore and aft. The shockabsorbers are extremely small, and may have to be modified. The track-rod is placed above the frame, an unusual feature, and runs across behind the radiator. At present a 10148 rear axle is fitted, and the caution mark on the rev, counter begins at 6,000 r.p.m. In its original form, the engine developed 100 b.h.p. at 7,000 r.p.m., using a fuel consisting of
56 per cent. alcohol, 40 per cent. benzole, and 4 per cent. ether, so that with modern developments in racing fuels the power could certainly be increased. The car is also much changed in appearance from the days of the British Grand Prix, when its sharply sloping
square radiator was quite distinctive.
In its modern form, as assembled by Thompson and Taylor’s, it will be strange if the car, in the hands of as good a driver as Powys-Lybbe, does not prove :a formidable contestant, and its debut in the coming season will be an event of note.