Letters from readers, February 1941




I have been very interested in the recent letters re “Scuderia Impecuniosa.” However, for me, the adjective lmpecuniosissima would be more appropriate! Nevertheless, I am a great Bugatti enthusiast.

Soon after the war started I bought a very aged four-cylinder, 1,500 c.c. sixteen-valve model and after spending a lot of time thinking out improvements to give more urge, got only as far as stripping it when I was given a 1925 2-litre Bugatti. This had been laid up since the end of 1929 and had done less than 25,000 miles. I received it in pieces and soon built it up and had it on the road (on trade plates). Bad misfiring occurred and at the moment the engine is down again, prior to it coming on the road next quarter.

I have never come across any articles or road tests about this model and I should be exceedingly glad if any of your readers could let me know what can be done cheaply in the way of increasing performance; also if anyone has cheap spares I should be glad if they would get in touch with me. Ignition is by Delco-Remy coil, the distributor being driven from the back of the camshaft. The dynamo is driven by a flat belt, from an enormous pulley on the back of the camshaft. The engine number is 4486.

I really would be grateful if anyone can give me any further information about this engine.

I am, Yours etc..


St. John’s College,


[Please write direct. There were several types of 2-litre.—Ed.]

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The list of books given in the December issue of MOTOR SPORT by Eric Sydney was very comprehensive and extremely interesting. I would appreciate more particulars of the fictional works.

A German publication was included in a similar list drawn up by Eric Sydney and printed in “Speed” (January, 1937), viz. “Der Kraftfahrsport im Neuen Deutschland,” by Adolf Maurer (Verkehrsverlag Deutschland G.M.B.H.). Another book dealing in part. with motor racing in the early days is “Wheels of Fortune,” by Sir Arthur du Cros, Bt. (Chapman & Hall).

In the May, 1940, issue of MOTOR SPORT a book by Wilbur Shaw was reviewed entitled “Why I Became a Race Driver.”

I am, Yours etc.,



[The last-named was merely an advertising booklet.—Ed.]

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I have just finished reading Mr. J. L. Wyer’s article in the December issue and make haste to congratulate him as I think it is excellent in every way. There are just two points I wish to query.

Why did Sunbeams build an Indianapolis car in 1917?

There was no race at Indianapolis that year and I cannot make out how Sunbeams could spare the time to build racing cars at that period of the Great War when they must have been very busy building aero engines. When did the car actually run at Indianapolis, in 1919? I seem to remember reading that Resta drove one and a Portuguese named Porporato drove the other.

My second query concerns the 1½-litre car. Where did they run, as I do not remember any mention of these cars in motor journals of that time? They must have appeared when the Talbot-Darracqs were starting their unbroken series of wins.

Perhaps at some future date Mr. J. L. Wyer would clear up these two points for me.

I am still keen to get hold of a 1924-25 2-litre as I think they represent one of the finest efforts ever turned out to represent Britain on the Continent. Others seem to have the same view, but if anyone has one for disposal I am a buyer. I shall look forward to more articles from the pen of Mr. Wyer.

Mr. P. T. C. Clark’s article on Mercedes I have read with interest.

I think Mr. Clark is wrong when he says that the eight-cylinder 2-litre Mercedes won the 1924 Targa. I think he will find that Christian Werner on a 2-litre four-cylinder won the race. Three Mercedes started, driven by Werner, Neubauer and, I think, Lautenschlager. Three similar cars had run at Indianapolis the year before, but their roadholding was bad, and although one of them held third place for a time, only one finished. The drivers were the same as in the Targa, but Carl Siehr drove in place of Neubauer.

In the autumn of 1924 four 2-litre eight-cylinder supercharged cars ran in the Italian G.P. at Monza. They were outclassed by the P2 Alfas and all were withdrawn when Count Louis Zborowski skidded off the course at the dreaded Lesmo bend and was killed. Two of the other cars were driven by Count Masetti and Neubauer, and I think Werner drove the fourth car. My records are not beside me so I speak from memory. These cars did not appear again until 1926 when Otto Merz won the 2-litre class at the Solitude races in Germany. These races I think, were national events, as no foreign drivers’ names appear in the list of starters. Later on in the year Caracciola won his first big race in one of these cars, i.e., the G.P. of Germany run at the Avus. The race was marred by a very serious accident, when Rosenberger, driving a similar model, skidded off the track and crashed into the timekeeper’s box, killing three of the occupants.

Raymond Mays ran one of these cars in this country in sprint events in 1927, and in one small meeting at Brooklands when he lapped at 117, I believe. The road-holding was bad owing to wrong weight distribution and the car was not very controllable compared with the G.P. Sunbeam and Bugatti of that period. With regard to the 4½-litre, I have seen a photograph of this car in the Klausen hill climb of 1927 when it made second fastest time of the day to Chiron’s Bugatti. It is definitely stated there that the car was supercharged.

I am, Yours etc.,


11 .Q. 52nd Lowland Division,

Home Forces.

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When reading your last few issues one cannot help noticing a growing dissatisfaction with British cars, expressed by contributors and correspondents alike. The opinion of these people cannot be lightly dismissed with the suggestion that they would be completely satisfied with the British vehicle were it twice as dear and bearing a foreign name.

Many people buy British cars because they want reliability. In fact, they state that Continental cars are unreliable. This is a very mistaken view.

One hears more about Continental failures because most mechanics are not acquainted with the car, making repairs slow and tedious, while the car has to spend long periods in dock, waiting for some small spare costing perhaps £1, while the carriage due on it is £5.

British cars? Every mechanic knows something about every model. A spare, if not actually in stock, may be obtained by ‘phone in five minutes. There is no inconvenience, and the owner soon forgets all about it—but the breakdown was there all the time.

Who does not know the British car which habitually breaks its shock-absorber mountings; or another whose spring shackles tear away when the brakes are applied fiercely? The British are a cautious race, and will accept nothing until they think it is proved. Is it for that reason that one of our manufacturers turns out a model giving 25 per cent. less b.h.p. than other similar cars, while another gives us a sports model with hardly any springs at all?

Where is our reply to the beauty, comfort, and controllability of the Fiat 500, even at a 25 per cent. increase in capacity? Where is our 1,350 c.c., 80 m.p.h. five-seater saloon, like the Aprilia; or our safety for the timorous with low build and f.w.d. like the Citroen? Why did we not have f.w.d. and integral construction in 1935, when Citroen swept the world’s markets?

One could continue thus for some time. It would appear that in the past our manufacturers have used the Continental marques as experimental shops, trusting to our insularity to prevent it from buying the latter’s wares.

If we are to increase, or even maintain, our present markets at home and abroad. this state of affairs must cease. After the war, if we are not first and best with every class and type of vehicle, that market will be lost for good.

What should be the manufacturer’s aim? More efficient engines, even if less flexible: four-speed with high top for cruising: a choice of gearbox, either a sweet, straight one, or a fully automatic one: better i.f.s.: more roomy large bodies, and more streamlined small ones: a choice of large, or aero-dynamically efficient bodies with similar engines: lower centre of gravity: integral construction: some f.w.d. models: hydraulic brakes: and much, much less weight.

Perhaps the British public don’t want such things. Don’t they?. Look at the success of the Fiat 500, the Lancia Aprilia, the Citroen, and the Vauxhall Ten.

This last car started from scratch, incorporating most of the required features. It achieved immediate recognition and a phenomenal success in competition with many already well-established makes. It was designed to fit in with the then existing market. After the war, when markets are altered, it could form the basis for a very fine model—£50 more to be spent on increased power, or a four-speed gearbox with higher top gear, and minor alterations to body to provide less wind resistance and a lower centre of gravity. We should then have a car equal to the Lancia Aprilia, yet costing £100 less, and the superior of every other small car.

It does not seem much to ask. Most Continental manufacturers are already nearly through this programme, and are laying down new ones. Ours have hardly started. We have much leeway to make up before we can be in a position to lead the motoring world. Let us “Go to it.”

I am, Yours etc.,



[To which we would observe that there is a major, all-in war to win. Is the Continental manufacturer really getting on producing new models? Are not new car sales virtually banned in this country? Concerning the Vauxhall Ten, it is an excellent car; the Director of this paper has done 12,000 miles with his with absolutely no attention of any sort.—Ed.]

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I have read with great interest Prince Chula’s article in your November issue entitled “Those Who Work, and Those Who Don’t.” It seems that Prince Chula’s remarks about Raymond Mays are rather unkind. They definitely give the impression that the author has decided doubts as to Mays’s actual engineering ability and knowledge of his cars.

Even to suggest that he is not completely au fait with every detail of his cars seems completely absurd in view of the fact that he was, together with Peter Berthon, very largely responsible for the construction of the E.R.A. in the first instance, and. that it was his accumulated knowledge and experience, obtained over a period of years, in modifying and racing so many different types of machines ever since the years directly following the last world war which so largely contributed to the immediate success of the E.R.A.

Prince Chula is very fond of taking every opportunity in the motoring Press, to extol his cousin’s undoubted race-winning capabilities that I wonder if he has ever realised that “Bira’s” run of successes would probably never have come about but for the opportune advent of the E.R.A.—which in turn can be directly traced to Mays’s great work on the white Riley and his earlier ears.

Also Prince Chula often seems to overlook the fact that while “Bira” has been busy winning races Mays has often failed on account of his driving experimental and untried machines. Thus while “Bira” has undoubtedly an excellent record of success, it is my humble opinion that his contribution to the Sport will go down in history as only negligible compared with that of Raymond Mays.

Be that as it may, I can assure Prince Chula that those who know best have the greatest respect for Mays’s capabilities as a test driver and his ability to trace and identify faults which would pass unnoticed by the majority of drivers. This is, perhaps, hardly surprising in view of the fact that he has been personally responsible for the testing and tuning of every E.R.A. produced.

As to whether Raymond Mays ever does any actual work on his cars, it is probably true to that no other driver has ever worked harder on the actual work of preparing his cars than Mays did during all the earlier years of his racing career from 1921-1932. Remember, too, that Mays was busy racing at a time when “Bira”  was scantly out of his cradle, and during these exciting early years it is safe to say that Mays and his friends and Berthon seldom had “clean hands and faces” day or night!

Since the advent of the E.R.A. Mays has, admittedly, done less actual manual work on his cars, but non can deny that no other driver has ever taken greater interest in the actual preparation of the cars, and seen that the work was properly done whilst taking many notes on every detail of the development and experiments on his cars.

It must be borne in mind, too, that Mays, in contrast to so many other drivers, has a business of his own to attend to, which, no doubt, takes up a great deal of his time.

Certainly, despite the unfortunate tone of Prince Chula’s remarks, there is every reason to suppose that Raymond Mays is, in fact, a very capable engineer and a driver of the very front rank, who is fully conversant with every detail of the cars he drives.

Congratulations on “carrying on” with MOTOR SPORT and making it so very interesting. Best wishes for its future.

I am, Yours etc.,



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I should like to second Mr. Farquharson’s suggestion for an article on the Aston-Martin.

I wonder how many of your readers have come across the Harris-Leon-Laine? Some years ago I had the use of one of these cars and thought perhaps a few notes might be of interest.

I believe only three cars were built, under French patent, in this country about 1933, the chief point of interest being that they had rubber suspension. Two had rear-wheel drive and one front-wheel drive. It was the latter car which came into my hands.

The chassis members were tubular and it was powered (or under-powered) by a six-cylinder 14-h.p. Standard engine set back-to-front. The transmission was bad as the differential was a separate unit from the gearbox and correct alignment was difficult.

The suspension was independent. Each wheel being carried on an arm coupled to a piston operating between two rubber blocks within the chassis members. The blocks were about 5″ diameter by 5″ long. One block looked after the suspension, the other taking up the rebound.

The front arms trailed and those at the rear faced forward. On sudden braking the nose would go down and the back come up, a most unpleasant sensation.

Steering was excellent, about one turn front lock to lock. The view from the front seat over the low bonnet was rather reminiscent of a Lancia “Lambda.”

The vertical gear lever worked in a gate which protruded through the dashboard. The selector adjustment was rather vague, the selector rod itself being inclined to jump out of position, necessitating immediate removal of the top of the gearbox; this usually occurred on the most awkward occasions.

The car as it stood was not a success, but perhaps a f.w.d. Alvis assembly and attention to the damping arrangements would have improved matters.

Of other cars that come to mind there was a rather special 1927 (I think) D.M.S. Delage coupe, reputed to have attained 100 m.p.h. when new. I myself did 89 in it on an indifferent road. It had, I believe, a 3 to 1 back axle ratio, 60 being quite a normal speed at which to change into top. Incidentally, the exhaust note altered at that speed in third.

Another Delage was my father’s Type D.8.N saloon; a very fine car which I always considered was under-geared, but which possessed remarkable acceleration. My first car was a 1931 Wolseley Hornet which originally was a saloon. On being inverted by its previous owner it started life anew as an open car. Much time was spent on this car, the reward being a neat hole in the crankcase, I then had a 1933 J.2 M.G. Midget— quite a pleasant little car if not driven too near its maximum. (Yes, it did break its crankshaft!)

A 1934 Austin Ten gave excellent service for six months and was then traded in for my present car, a 1931 “International” Aston-Martin. It has a special close-coupled open two/three-seater body by Youngs of Bromley, in black fabric, which is still in perfect condition. A previous owner fitted 19″ wheels with 5.00″ tyres at the rear in place of the 21″ wheels, which much improved the appearance. Should any of your readers have owned this car I should be pleased to know some of its history. It is KR 8731, chassis No. JO-79. I still manage quite a decent mileage on supplementary rations, and recently had a good run from South Wales to York.

Finally, I would mention that I have taken MOTOR SPORT since 1931 and am very pleased you are continuing publication.

I am, Yours etc.,