Trials with a Trojan

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[A. F. Scroggs, now with the R.A.F., used to achieve notable trials successes with Trojans—the engine-amidships type—when not driving a Ford Ten. This is such an unusual trials car that we asked Scroggs how it was done, and this is the answer. We admire his patience on the run back from, say, a “Land’s End,” and wish him equal success with present, faster, mounts.—Ed.]

IT would probably be fairly safe to say that very few drivers would regard a Trojan as an ideal trials motor; in fact, anything less like the conventional competition car would be hard to find. And yet, although they have not played a very big part in trials, I doubt if many cars can claim a higher proportion of successes. At first sight it may seem a little strange that a vehicle designed essentially as a cheap utility car should have been able not only to compete successfully in contemporary trials but to hold its own in company with up-to-date sports-cars for so many years. It is even possible that some of those who have watched a Trojan making its leisurely and determined way up, say, Doverhay or Blue Hills Mine may have wondered vaguely how it was done.

As a matter of fact, there really isn’t any mystery at all; there are no weird and wonderful devices and no “secrets of tune.” The truth is simply that the Trojan was designed as a utility car, and in the mind of the designer that meant that it must be able to “go anywhere”; it must be able to climb precipices and travel over any kind of road surface or even where there wasn’t a road at all, and it had to be so robust and reliable that it would go on doing these things until the cows came home. Sometimes I dare say it was used to bring them home! Well, isn’t that (all except the last bit) just what you want in a trials car? To do all these things it was given a simple two-stroke engine with immense pulling power especially at low speeds, an epicyclic gear, very flexible springs, a large ground clearance, and a solid back axle. It also had a good turning circle, high-geared steering, and excellent driving vision, all of which are, in my opinion, highly desirable features.

Of course there were snags as well. It was noisy, ugly and slow, but when I got my first Trojan, in 1925, I didn’t pay much attention to these things. Anyway, I had no intention of using it for trials and I would much rather “get there” slowly than stick half-way, even if “there” happened to be the top of a precipice or the middle of a moor. I have been laughed at pretty steadily for the last fifteen years and it doesn’t worry me at all; on the contrary, the very quaintness and unconventionality of the vehicle was, and is, an added attraction.

Having got my Trojan, I used her for a few months for ordinary driving, including rough stuff for amusement, and then it occurred to me that it might be rather fun to try her in an easy trial, such as the M.C.C. “Edinburgh.” At that time the schedule speed was still 20 m.p.h., and I thought that even with my maximum of 30 I might just manage it, for of course the hills were easy. It was a pleasant trial, though not without its excitements, for I found that with my low speed and solid tyres even a 20 m.p.h. average took some pretty hectic driving, and I don’t think my passenger, who wasn’t used to the peculiar behaviour of solid tyres on bumpy roads, has ever forgotten it !

We got our “Gold” all right, and that rather whetted my appetite. The run was an easy one, but at least it showed me that trials on a Trojan were a practical possibility, and for the next five years I drove this remarkable vehicle (which incidentally I had bought secondhand) in as many trials as time and cash would allow. The low speed was the only real drawback, but as long as there was no Special Test calling for something more in this respect than the Trojan could achieve, she won “Golds” with great regularity. On top gear about 1 in 8 could be climbed, and on bottom something over 1 in 3. By the way, my performance figures are taken from Tapley readings and a Bonniksen speedometer which I have personally checked on a stroboscope and found correct. This pulling power, together with the gripping power due to the solid axle, made almost any hill easy, but sometimes I had to hurry all I knew between observed sections.

During this time I made little alteration to the car, which remained substantially standard in all except details. After about three years I gave up solid tyres, not because they were uncomfortable but because they got expensive and rather unreliable. There were many rude stories told of Trojans in the old solid-tyre days, but I never suffered the fate of an enforced visit to the tramway depot, as folks used to say was unavoidable once one got into the tram lines! Only in one of these trials did I have any real trouble. That was in the Land’s End of 1929, when my top gear band came adrift somewhere near Newquay. It is made in two halves, and I was able to remove the broken part, tighten the remaining half and continue. Top gear slipped rather badly, and the vibration due to the unbalanced band was unpleasant, but we got there and acquired the “Gold” which had seemed to be lost.

Eventually I began to feel a desire for something new, preferably with a little more speed, and I handed over the old car to a friend. Sometime later she was crashed, while still going strong. I was rather relieved in a way, for I am a sentimental person and was glad to think that she had not broken down or worn out through old age. My next car was also a Trojan, but it had a larger body and was specially fitted with a three-speed gear (the standard one at that time was two-speed) and a modified engine which was said to have done great things on test. This engine presented me with a pretty mechanical problem, for although it had excellent pulling power, the speed was mysteriously far below what the reputed b.h.p. would lead one to expect, and I spent the next few months trying to trace those lost m.p.h. One day, one of my passengers had a brain wave and suggested that the trouble might be due to surging in the induction pipe, which after certain tests I decided was true. I then fitted a redesigned manifold which made an almost unbelievable improvement, and, together with a slightly altered cylinder head, it increased the power output by some 60 per cent., and the peak r.p.m. from 1,000 to 1,800. These experiments, and the incidental difficulties which appeared, gave me quite a lot of fun and also taught me several things I didn’t know before.

I kept this car only a comparatively short time as I was posted abroad, but she had time to win two M.C.C. Triple Awards. While I was away, I spent much time looking forward to choosing a new car when I got home, and thought this time I would get something more respectable, but when it came to the point I just couldn’t find anything which completely filled the bill. The car I did buy was very good for ordinary purposes, but didn’t much like rough stuff, and although she won a few P.A.s I began to find trials difficult. Moreover many people seemed to connect me inseparably with Trojans. The only thing seemed to be to get another, which wasn’t very easy as they hadn’t been made for some years, but I did succeed in getting a very second-hand one. It had the old performance, but had been rather badly treated and needed a good deal done, and before long I changed it for another which I was fortunate enough to find just about to be broken up. This was a 1927 model, and after I had spent about £10 in fitting my old engine and sundry modifications I drove it in an M.C.C. Sporting Trial, only missing a P.A. through the unauthorised movements of my passenger in an observed section. As I had got the car for nothing I felt that a thoroughly “trial-worthy” car for £10 wasn’t bad going

Alas, the war has sadly curtailed the activities of this, my present, Trojan. She has, however, achieved P.A.s in the “Exeter” and “Land’s End,” which gave me great joy as it showed that after all these years the old Trojan has still “got it there.” She is now awaiting more favourable times—still starting without fail on the coldest mornings; still doing her 39 m.p.g.; and still capable of climbing hills, but now only doing odd jobs. I only hope that some day trials will come back, and then I am confident that the old car will once again come in with a clean sheet.

I have said that trials, unless they include timed sections, are easy on a Trojan, and this is true, but to get the best out of one of these strange vehicles one must forget all normal ideas of driving. It is easy, but different. The same applies to maintenance. Possibly the greatest advantage from the competition point of view is the epicyclic gear, which I believe is unique in having a hand control. This makes re-starting on even the steepest hills easy and almost fool-proof. It is like this: with the left foot on the brake pedal and the right hand on the gear lever, you trickle up to line ”A” with everything wider complete control and no “juggling.” It is never necessary to change the position of hands or feet. At the word “go” you just push the gear lever gently forward and it’s done! The clutch pedal is never used at all. It may sound odd, but believe me it works. It is, of course, no sort of use to “rush” hills—one must rely only on pulling power. On the other hand, the ability of the car to pull slowly and grip bad surfaces enables one to keep complete control and pick a course carefully. One can change gear either way with the throttle wide open, which is sometimes a distinct advantage.

Almost equal to the gear in its value for trials is the solid back axle. There has been a good deal of argument from time to time about these, but it seems to me that their prohibition is in itself an acknowledgment of their value, which is not confined to trials driving. On slippery roads, or in snow, I feel safer driving a Trojan than anything else I know. The designer knew what he was about. The front, axle, too, is unusual in that it is tubular and can be rotated so as to allow varying degrees of castor angle for the steering pivots. I find that a little less than standard is pleasanter, as it enables full lock to be obtained with one hand, but it is a flatter of taste.

The chain-drive, as will be appreciated by members of the “chain gang,” has the advantage of allowing for different gear-ratios to be easily selected. The standard top is 4 to I, giving a bottom of 12 to 1, but I find that, with a hotted-up engine a somewhat lower ratio is better on the whole and I now use 4.6 to 1. Anything from 3.5 to 6 to 1 can be obtained. Chains wear out in time, of course, but with reasonable treatment last about 25,000 miles. It is very important to keep the gearbox full, as leakage from it oils the chain, and I find Castrol “R” is the best. It also makes the gears quieter.

The springs are exceptionally good for very rough roads, but were designed for running at low speeds. When the speed is increased it is desirable to fit shock-absorbers (not standard) and slightly stiffer springs.

As regards the engine, it needs very little attention beyond periodical cleaning of the exhaust ports. It never needs decarbonising and, of course, there are no valves. Mine, though essentially similar to the standard one, is peculiar in having a detachable head, which allows me to make experimental modifications—interesting, but a bit expensive!

The discerning reader will have gathered that I have a great affection for Trojans, but I hope he will also realise that it is by no means mere sentiment, and is based on practical considerations. Quite apart from trials, I am very fond of pottering about unfrequented country, and for this the Trojan is supreme. I have also used the car very successfully lately for towing a caravan. It is difficult to describe or analyse the peculiar fascination of a Trojan, but there is no doubt it is there. In the early days I lent mine one day to a friend who was thinking of buying quite a different kind of car; he was so fascinated that he promptly changed his mind and bought a Trojan! You can’t hurry them, but they give one the impression that they will quite certainly get there in the end and although Trojans have their limits they nearly always do.

I have always thought it a pity that the manifest advantages of what was in its day a really brilliant design—advantages which are not even now to be found all together in any single car at any price —should have been accompanied by drawbacks which made the car unacceptable to the average motorist. I believe these drawbacks could be overcome, and that a car embodying the same principles in a more up-to-date form could be produced and sold. There has been some discussion lately in various quarters concerning the two-stroke as a possible power unit for popular cars. It certainly has points to recommend it—cheapness of production, simplicity, reliability, long life, and easy maintenance but I think a good deal of research would have to be done to make it satisfy popular demands, especially in the relation between developed and taxable horse-power. Nevertheless, I do think that this research would be, ultimately, worthwhile and I hope it will be done. All the same, I should not be surprised to see two-strokes raced before they appear in any numbers on the road.

Before I finish, I should like to explain that I have no business connection with the Trojan company, although I have some valued friends among their staff, and I acknowledge with gratitude the help they have given me from time to time during the fifteen years I have known them. I also take off my hat to the genius of Mr. L. H. Hounsfield, the original designer. The Trojan is not everybody’s cup of tea, but it still tastes good to me!