OPEN CARS ARE BEST
OPEN CARS ARE BEST NEED FOR DEVELOPMENT IN DESIGN FOR ALL PURPOSE WINTER MOTORING
SOME! people prefer to lay up their cars in the winter, but it is unlikely that many readers of this paper are included in their number. For the real enthusiast winter motoring is almost more pleasurable than summer driving, for any difficulties which present themselves merely add zest to the sport.
It seemsunfortunate that in the greatest winter motoring competition of all, the Monte Carlo Rally, recently concluded, opeii sports-cars have been banned. Few competitions would have had a more beneficial effect upon. the development of the open eat, if the regulations had been framed with this end in view.
Instead, in former times the organisers left the way Open for those intent on winning the premier award to build freak bodies quite unsuitable for touring, and designed only to save weight with a view to performance in the final tests. Sonic almost got back to the old idea of two bucket seats fixed on a stripped chassis, which may be an :enthusiast’s machine par excellMee, but is not a development along modern lines, likely to increase the popularity and the sales of open cars. To meet this diffi-ulty, it was ruled that ” cars entered must be of ordinary standard manufacture and one of a series of not less than thirty cars described in an official catalogue.” So far, so good, but the next article continued ” The only cars qualified will be closed cars, cabriolets,
and all-weather cars. By the term cabriolet and all-weather body it is meant bodies that can be entirely closed by means of a hood or roof and windows., excluding side curtains or sides not an integral part of the hood or coachwork.” It is well known that the greater part of the population prefers, or is compelled by family oi. business reasons, to travel about shut up in a machine of this type. But then, only a few of the Monte Carlo Rally competitors are mere average drivers, representing the greater part of the population. The majority are experienced and enthusiastic motorists, and not a few, both of competitors and would-be competitors, would . still ‘choose an open car, with its lighter weight and
better controllability, for an adventurous expedition of this nature.
Such might not desire a stripped chassis, which is too much of a good thing, but would welcome regulations which, preventing the heroic and the over-enthusiastic from running away with the event, would provide scope for a well-equipped and comfortable open touring or sportscar. ” Coachwork must be of ordinary standard manufacture and one of a series of not less than thirty, illustrated in an official catalogue.” continue the present
Rally regulation’s. Special coachwork is also acceptable, provided that it conforms to the above regulation including the minimum number to be completed. But why only closed cars ? Why not coachwork of ordinary standard manufacture, etc., for both closed and open cars ?
This would give manufacturers a real chance to develop their open models, and to make them an attractive proposition not only for Rally competitors but for the buying public.. There is no reason at all why an open car, so immeasurably superior in summer, should not be made practically as comfortable as a closed model for the rigours of winter also. It merelyneeds that some of the .care and ingenuity at present de-Voted almost entirely to closed cars by design staffs should he diverted to the open model. Side curtains form the dividing line between an open cat and a convertible or drophead model, and one may consider these first. On the old type of open cars, they used to rattle and let in draughts. A big advance has been made with the modern form of fasteners, which consist of screw-hi clamps as compared with the
old socket type. The clamps help to hold the side curtain more rigidly, though often the frames themselves could be made More robust. What is needed is for the front edge Of the side curtain frame to fit snugly against the screen pillar. One does not wish for wider screen pillars, for that would remove one of the advantages of open models, with their superior visibility
and the narrowness of their ” blind spots.” A frame Of spring steel, with a wide rubber strip, which could easily be renewed, pressing against the pillar, would cut out most draughts.
If the door is hinged in front and ‘opens at the rear, an arrangement which has other advantages, it should not be difficult to fit a positively secured flexible strip connecting the curtain frame and the screen pillar, due allowance being made for the movement of the door. Similarly, with a two-door body, as on many close-coupled open cars of modern type, one can fit a flexible strip between front and rear side curtains if the door is hinged at the rear, to exclude draughts. It is difficult, but by no means impossible, to secure a draught-proof fit between the top of the side curtains and the hood, in much the same way as this can be done on a drophead model with glass
windows. It is only necessary for the hood irons, if necessary lined with rubber, to provide a sufficiently firm basis for the side -curtain frame to butt against. A double projecting valance formed by the hood fabric itself also helps.
An interesting arrangement was that Seen on one of the Morgans at the Earl’s Court Show. Detachable glass windows were used, fitting on top of the doors like the usual side curtains, but with a catch to enable them to be removed and stowed in a locker. In this way the door could be made much lighter than if winding windows had been employed, while a recess could also be made to give increased elbow-room.
Nearly all open car drivers prefer a cut-away door, providing an, arm-rest, with greater freedom of movement. The disadvantages are that one’s elbow is thus exposed: to the rain, and unless a special waterproof ” dry-sleeve ” is worn can rapidly become saturated, while the mounting of the side curtain is also complicated. Many do not use a side curtain on the driving side, so that they are even more exposed. Both these points can be met by an admirable scheme developed by Triumphs for their open models, On top of the door there is a hinged panel, which can
be folded down and covered by a leather flap, clamped on top of the “cut-away,” and providing a comfortable arm-rest. In bad weather the hinged panel can be brought up, and gives protection right up to the driver’s shoulder. A fiat top to the door is also secured, which simplifies the side curtain mounting. The writer has had experience of this feature, and it has proved invaluable.
Small glass side pieces to the screen protect one from wind and rain, whether the hood is up or down. A noteworthy feature of Aston-Martins has been for some years that detachable aero screens are normally kept bolted to the screen pillars, in a vertical position, where they act as efficient side pieces, and are ready for use in place of the main screen.
Some open car drivers scorn aero screens, as marks of the pseudo-racing car, classed with white helmets and suchlike. However, there are others who do not fit them to ape racing drivers, but because they like as much fresh air as possible when conditions permit. Also, the wind resistance is small, whereas a normal screen can make a difference of 5 m.p.h. or more to maximum speed. The advantage of an aero screen is that, although one is still in the rush of the wind, the small glass panel can be adjusted so that the main breeze passes over one’s head, while one’s face and
eyes are protected. Goggles are then unnecessary, but it is undoubtedly very tiring, as well as harmful to the eyes, to drive without goggles or aero screen if the main screen is folded flat. In the summer an aero screen will also divert insects or other foreign bodies which can impinge unpleasantly upon the face.
Often it is undesirable to have to look through two sheets of glass, so if the aero screens are a permanent fixture, an excellent arrangement is that by which when the main screen is erected, the aero screens lie below the line of vision, but when the main screen is folded forward, the small screens are automatically raised to the correct height. Alternatively, the aero screens can be removed altogether, and fixed in the rear locker on duplicate lugs similar to thejr front attachments. They will thus be kept securely out of harm’s way. A wind deflector, or curved air-scoop on the upswept scuttle, is a poor substitute for an aero screen. ‘When these
are overdone it is certainly a case of aping racing-cars, for the wind deflection on a shallow scoop does not begin to operate till over 80 m.p.h., and if the projecting scoop is high, it seriously interferes with forward vision. This is not to say that a shallow upswept scuttle does not provide a convenient shape for the dashboard, and also an excellent mounting on top of which to fit an aero screen. On a well designed open car, a sloping screen is a sine qua non, both to avoid back-draught, and to lessen wind resistance. Also, the driver must be placed as close as possible to the screen. If his face is not more than 2 or 3 ft. from the panel, he will be able to drive even in quite heavy rain without having to put up the hood, as the water will all pass over his head, at any rate if the car
is moving at any speed. If one had a small glass or celluloid panel which could be fixed on top of the screen, in the manner of a sun-visor, it should scarcely be necessary to put the hood up at all unless the car is stationary.
A really good screen will not only fold. forward, but can also be opened up outwards from the bottom. This enables the driver to have the screen open with the hood up, as in fog or a Scotch mist. The mounting, however, must be solidly designed, or the screen will rattle. An invaluable accessory for winter driving is a defroster, which can be used to keep both ice and mist from forming on the glass. Many screenwipers will not work at all as snow piles up on the glass but a defroster entirely obviates the trouble. Nevertheless, the wiper blade itself sometimes freezes, and a cure is to treat it with glycerine. Some wiper blades are hollow, so that a pipe cleaner soaked in glycerine can be in
serted inside. Defrosters often use a good deal of current, and the more expensive models have alternative positions for the switch, so that one or more heated wires can be brought into use. What has really retarded the popularity of the open car more than anything is the usual lack of protection for the rear seat passengers. Rear screens were once available, but they were somewhat cumbersome, and took up a lot of room, so that they were in general use only on the larger cars. It is still difficult to
tit a rear screen of neat appearance on a close-coupled two-door body, without seriously impeding entry and exit for the passengers. This problem can be surmounted, however, by a hinged cross-panel behind the front seats, with two aero screens mounted upon it, or if desired a full
width screen. An exceptionally neat arrangement has been devised for the Jensen open tourer, in such a way that the rear screens add to, rather than detract from, the appearance of the car.
If only one rear seat passenger is to be carried, there is much to commend the three-seater type of body, with a single rear seat facing sideways, and placed close up to the back of the front seats. The seat is thus well within the wheelbase—always an important point—and the rear passenger receives a large measure of protection from the front screen. Conversation with the occupants of the front seats is also facilitated. A number of Continental drophead bodies have been built upon this principle.
An open car scores heavily over the drophead body not only in the neater folding of the hood, in most cases, but because for some reason a tonneau cover is rarely provided on the latter type. A cover over the rear seats is an essential, and if it is extended to cover the front seats also, one no longer has the necessity to put up the hood if the car is parked. in showery weather. The front portion of the cover may be divided by a zip-fastener, so that all the seats except that of the driver may be protected. With a well designed screen, this removes still further the need to raise the hood on solo journeys except in the worst weather.
Fog driving is frequently a feature of winter travel, and here the open car driver is at a great advantage over the saloon, owing to his better visibility. Even on an open car, nevertheless, special fog lamps prove a great help, such as the well known split-reflector Lucas type. The fiat beam given by such lamps is also useful as a non-dazzle driving light. If an open car driver opens or folds his screen, seats himself as high as possible, and turns on a modern fog equipment, he will be able to get through where saloon drivers abandon their cars in despair.
MASERATI WINS THE FIRST TWO RACES OF 1939
IN the South African Grand Prix at the Prince George Circuit, East London, on January 2nd, Luigi Villoresi, driving a 14-litre Maserati, won at 99.06 m.p.h., with Francesco Cortese in another 14-litre Maserati second, 84 seconds behind. Dr. Massacuratti was third in another 14-litre Maserati. The race distance was 198 miles and Villoresi was racing for only 1 hr. 59 mins. 26 secs. Some reports say the first two cars home were four-cylinder Maseratis, others say they were sixes—we incline to the view that they were six-cylinder cars ; certainly they could not be the new
short-stroke four-cylinder cars. R. Hesketh was fourth bn the ex-Norman Black E.R.A. and Lord Howe (ERA.) was fifth, delayed by a stop for plugs, and loss of oil pressure in the closing
stages. Peter Whitehead’s E.R.A. broke a piston after two laps and Miss Fay Taylour had engine maladies with Dixon’s Riley on lap 5.
Fifty thousand spectators turned. out and the llaseratis won a total of /825. The race was a 14-litre scratch race with a first prize of E400. Our own B.R.D.C. believes that such a race would be a failure over here because you would not get the Italians to play. Peter Aitken’s E.R.A. was seventh and last. On January 14th the Grosvenor Grand Prix was contested over the Grosvenor
circuit near Capetown. Francesco Cortese won at 76.8 m.p.h., driving a works six-cylinder Maserati—so presumably sixcylinder cars gained the previous grand slam. This time the Hon. Peter Aitken was second, 6 mins, behind the winning Maserati and, 20 seconds ahead of Chiappini’s independent Maserati which was third. The race was over 2034 miles or 44 laps of the 41 mile course. Last year’s winner, Lord Howe, had gearbox trouble and his E.R.A. retired and Whitehead’s E.R.A. had trouble which led to retirement on lap 1. Fay Taylour’s Dixon Riley did not start.