BABLOT’S 3-LITRE DELAGE, WINNER OF THE 1911 COUPE DE “L’AUTO”
THE regulations for the 1911 Coupe des Voitures Legeres, organised for “l’Auto” by Charles Faroux, were specially framed with the intention of fostering the development of the fairly normal small car. Freak designs like the Lion Peugeot with its enormous single-cylinder engine, had shown that the regulations for the 1910 race had served only to evolve unpractical vehicles. For 1911 the regulations stipulated 3-litre cars weighing not less than 800 kgs. Engines had to have four cylinders with a stroke : bore ratio not greater than 2 and not less than 1. The organisers evidently felt that the ultra-long stroke engines of the Peugeots and the Hispano Suizas, which had been so successful in the 1910 race, were not developing motor car design in the right direction. Two-seater bodies with wings and running boards had to he fitted and certain minimum dimensions were specified for these.
Before describing in detail the Delage car, which was ultimately victorious in the hands of Bablot, it may be of interest to make a quick survey of the other competitors. After their defeat in 1910 by the new Hispano-Suiza cars designed by Marc Birkigt, Peugeot Freres were more than ever keen to win the race in 1911. As exponents of the long-stroke engine they used, as one might expect, the maximum stroke : bore ratio permitted by the regulations. With their “V” four-cylinder engines (78 min. x 150 mm.) the Peugeots were undoubtedly the most formidable of the Delage’s rivals. It was claimed that in spite of their long stroke 2,400 r.p.m. was attained, but the power developed was kept secret.
Many makers, particularly those who were using the shorter-stroke engines, claimed the hitherto undreamt of crankshaft speed of 3,000 r.p.m. In their search for extra b.h.p. Aleyon, Sizaire Naudin and Mathis used four-valves per cylinder. Nearly half the entry had two plugs per cylinder, but Sizaire Naudin decided to use no fewer than three!
Lubrication by pressure was by no means universal, three makers relied solely on “barbotage.”
Overdrive gearboxes were popular. The Cote (a four-cylinder two-stroke which ran with great regularity) and the Delages both used five-speed gearboxes. On the latter fourth speed gave direct drive and fifth was an overdrive. On the Cote, however, direct drive was on third, and there were two geared-up ratios! Peugeot used a conventional four-speed box, while Calthorpe, Gregoire, F.I.F. and N.S.U. had four speeds with direct drive on third. Chain drive had almost disappeared being used only on two makes, Koechlin and N.S.U.
The Delage entries were handled by Bablot, Guyot, Thomas and Rigal. The car which I had an opportunity of inspecting recently is the winner, No. 10, which was driven by Bablot. Shortly before the last war it was owned by Captain Leslie Corah, of the 4th Leicesters, who was killed in action in 1915. He left the Delage to his cousin, Mr R. Corah, of Leicester, who has kept it ever since.
The engine has four cylinders (80mm. x149mm.) which are cast in two pairs. Two camshafts, one on each side of the crankcase, operate push-rods and rockers which, in turn, actuate the valves. These are placed horizontally in detachable cages on each side of the cylinder heads. This unusual arrangement necessitates exhaust ports on top of the engine and the four exhaust branches, in consequence, emerge through the top of the bonnet in a most spectacular fashion. Only two valves per cylinder are employed. A Bosch magneto is driven from the timing gears on the near side. Two plugs, situated centrally in the top of the head between the valves, are provided for each cylinder.
Originally a Claudel carburetter was fitted, but a Zenith has since been substituted and a hot-water jacket added to the induction pipe. These alteration have made the car much easier to start. Petrol is carried in a 25-gallon tank in the scuttle.
Oil is forced to the three main bearings, additional oil feeds being taken to the base of each cylinder bore and to each of the exposed rocker shafts. The oil, which is carried in a tank in the scuttle, reaches the engine via a visible drip feed on the dashboard.
Thermo syphon cooling is employed in conjunction with a large bow-fronted tubular radiator which is fitted with a quick-action filler cap. Surely this must be one of the earliest examples of the rapid-opening, clamp type filler cap used on a racing car.
The 3-litre engine was said to give off 70 b.h.p. at 2,250 r.p.m. and the car attained close on 100 m.p.h. with the overdrive in use.
The drive is transmitted through a multiple disc clutch to the five-speed gearbox. Fourth is direct drive, fifth being the geared-up overdrive. It is interesting to recall in this connection that fifteen years later the wonderful 1½-litre Delage racing cars were also equipped with five-speed gearboxes.
The body is only 28 inches wide and the mechanic’s seat is staggered some 9 inches behind the driver’s. Both brake and gear levers project some way outside the body.
The back axle is located by means of long radius arms on each side of the chassis in a manner rather reminiscent of the 2-litre Grand Prix Bugatti. The radius arms take the torque both of driving and braking. The axle ratio is 2.95 to 1. The brakes on the rear wheels are applied by the hand lever, while the foot pedal takes effect on the transmission brake. Axle movement was originally controlled by Triou hydraulic double-acting shock-absorbers, but friction dampers have been fitted subsequently to Mr. Corah’s car.
The Delage team ran in the race with larger tyres at the rear rather than at the front. Rudge Whitworth wheels shod with 820 x 120 Michelins were used on the back, while 815 x105 covers were used on the front. In spite of a narrow track (4 ft. 4 ins.) and a comparatively short wheelbase (8 ft. 11 ins.), the Delages were some of the heaviest cars in the race. They weighed in at 1,030 kgs., as compared with the Peugeots which turned the scale at 800 kgs.
In the race itself the Peugeot and Delage cars were very evenly matched. Georges Boillot (of immortal fame) took the lead with his Peugeot closely followed by Bablot’s Delage. They were, for the first few laps, closely pressed by two English Calthorpe cars. On the fifth lap Boillot lost his lead as a result of tyre failure and Bablot took his place. The tyre change put the Peugeot four minutes behind owing to the jack not functioning, but by hard driving Boillot began to reduce the Delage’s lead.
On his last lap Bablot had a puncture when only some 3 kilometres from the finish. With unabated speed he drove on, taking corners in wild slides and only managing to keep on the road as the result of a good deal of hard work with the steering wheel. He crossed the finishing line on the rim, just one minute ahead of Boillot’s Peugeot. Thomas and Guyot made the Delage victory the more complete by finishing third and fourth, thereby gaining the Coupe de Regularite in addition to the Coupe de “l’Auto.”