There is very little club news, although there may be a Vintage S.C.C. meeting later on, Sam Clutton has some pretty devastating ideas which may well come into operation before the war ends, and the J.C.C. has produced yet another “Gazette.” The latter is really good, more particularly the copious news of members, as well as the naughty cartoon and rhymes. E. N. Duffield has an article on small cars of the first year of the previous great blitz and says some quite cutting things, chiefly about Enfields, Hurlincars, G.W.K.s, J.B.S.s, Marlboroughs, rear-axle-gearbox Singer Tens and such like. He praises an 8-15 h.p. De Dion Bouton which we remember meeting previously in the pages of “The Auto” before that paper developed into a cinder-track newspaper. Duffield is said to be busy on a book and if it mentions cars by make, as this brief article does, and is as rude about the bad ‘uns as his writings in “The Auto” used to be, it will be amongst the motoring best-sellers.
The January Bulletin contained many articles of interest to Austin Seven fans. A meeting was held at the end of last month, and the next fixture will be a gathering at the pleasant Ashdown Park Hotel, Coulsdon, at 11.30 a.m. on March 2nd—a Sunday. Non-members are welcome, especially if they run cars of 8 h.p. R.A.C. rating and we hope a large number of enthusiasts will support this only war-time club fixture. Hon. Sec., P. H. Hunter, 39, Warland Road, London, S.E.18.
WE HEAR. .
We hear that Roddy Seys is running a Talbot “75” pre-selective saloon, complete with trafficators, stop-lamps, armrests, scent bottles, powder puffs and the like, and is enjoying it. He has sold the “J2” M.G. and his 4½-litre Bentley is stored at Peter Cox’s in Gloucestershire, with the latter’s “PA” M.G. On the run down he noted a “38/250” Mercedes-Benz in Cheltenham and one of his officers runs a blown 2-litre Lagonda. Mertens still runs his 4½-litre Bentley and John Morley his sports Packard, of which only six came to England and a mere three of which were in use when war came. Morley recently had sick leave from the R.A.F. on account of a damaged leg; Peter Robertson-Roger is also in the R.A.F. Lieut. Pat Stephenson, of the now famed “Scuderia Impecuniosa,” is working on a “Brooklands” Riley Nine; Harry Mundy spent a week’s leave from the R.A.F. (engine repair branch) overhauling his “12/60” Alvis which he still uses and Peter Templeman has changed his “12/60” Alvis for a Norton motor-cycle. Charlie Martin is down at Gosport, while in the I.O.W. Cavanagh is building a rear-engined special with the aid of an f.w.d. Alvis front end, and is searching for one of the straight-eight f.w.d. Alvis cars. Lots of readers have been stirred by Guy N. C. Smith’s description of a 1918 racing Sunbeam in Bradford, and as we have lost his address, would he please let us have it again? G. C. Oxley-Sidey, P/O. in the R.A.F., is overhauling his “Ulster” Austin Seven and running a special Austin with 1932 500 Mile Race engine, “Ulster” type clutch and gearbox, downdraught carburetter, bronze head, and 12-gallon rear tank, the whole installed in a lowered van chassis, with new “Nippy” body, oversize tyres and Telecontrols. Midshipman R. Harty, R.N., is running a car built in 1937 at Devonport, and still known as “College Special,” comprising a special-series Riley Nine engine and parts from various other cars. He is getting only 23-25 m.p.g. from twin horizontal S.U. carburetters on a long, streamlined manifold, with VS needles, and raising the running temperature from 60°C. to 80’C. has increased power but had no effect on fuel consumption. If anyone can suggest a remedy, please write to him c/o The Royal Naval Engineering College, Devonport. Gunner O. P. Bell, of the 307th (H) Field Battery, R.A., is thinking of buying and preserving a 1931 T.T. Aston-Martin, once owned, it is believed, by Whitney Straight. At present he co-owns a 1932 M.G. Midget which covered some 150,000 miles without a re-bore, only being given new rings, before being put aside for overhaul. Samuelson, now in the 123rd O.C.T.U. has laid up his 1914 7½-litre Peugeot for the duration. A G.P. Salmson engine, less magneto, dynamo and carburetter, and a D.M.S. Delage Vanvooren saloon, at a low price, are for sale in Lancashire. Quite a lot of enquiries come to hand for inexpensive Frazer-Noshes.
Norman Smith is prepared to dispose of his overhauled 1926 10.8 h.p. Rhode, and has for disposal Blake’s short-chassis Lancia Lambda tourer, in good order but with the engine dismantled, the price being £8 10s. 0d. Anthony Mills is now in the Warwickshires, complete with a commission and a Bren-gun carrier to dice. He acquired a Brescia Bugatti while he was stationed near Hartley Wintney—a blue three-seater with f.w.b., two good high-pressure tyres, safety glass aero-screens, twin Solex carburetters, overhauled back axle and the rev. counter faired off way out in front of the driver’s screen. Alas, he could not get the oil pump to work and the car is now for sale at a garage near Camberley, at £15. There is a supercharged, straight-eight Amilcar saloon derelict, in Hayes. Peter Vaughan, of Becke Powerplus fame, is in the Welsh Guards, stationed in London, and T. A. S. 0. Mathieson is A.D.C. to a real general and was at Le Mans after Dunkirk. Everyone who met Percy Bradley in his official capacity of Clerk of the Course at Weybridge will be sorry to hear he has severed his connection with the B.A.R.C. A contemporary recently published a drawing of the F.I.A.T. “Mephistopheles” in 1908 guise, but the outside drilled brake and gear levers had apparently fallen of. A prominent road-tester has bravely admitted that he was for a time quite unaware that the Type 57 Bugatti had a four-speed gearbox and constant-mesh four-speed, when he took the wheel of one of these cars recently. Miss Worthing, of South Farnborough, is rebuilding a Frazer-Nash which has a twin o.h.c. four-cylinder Anzani engine like that which the Squire used in blown form. There is a rumour that twenty of these unblown engines were made experimentally in 1934, but can anyone solve the mystery of who put this engine in a Frazer-Nash chassis? The very last 3-litre Bentley to leave the works, a tourer, now mildly tuned and in very fine order, is available in the London area for a moderate sum. A reader wishes to acquire a Napier; someone else a Gwynne Eight car or engine. An instruction book for the Le Mans 9 h.p. Singer is requested, also a big-port “12/50” Alvis head, cylinder block or complete engine.
The Institution of Automobile Engineers recently held a Graduates Debate on “Can Small Quantity Production Survive?” The opening speaker was firmly of the impression that the British temperament would always demand a “car that was different.” Two classes of specialist buyer were mentioned, the sportsman who will buy performance even at a high price and the man to whom a car, either of luxury or quality type, was a valued possession. Such cars were bought by those who had pride of possession and “investment,” traits that are essentially British. Later speakers, while conceding a personal wish that such cars would continue to be made, felt that utility models would force them from the market. A large factory could offer value for money and service which would outweigh other considerations. The vote was taken and indicated that quantity production had won the day. Nevertheless, Morris, Austin and Ford all offer large-engined cars, and the quality car of high performance, while it can never be made in large numbers, plays an exceedingly important part in meeting the transport needs of a certain section of the community—which is especially the case these days, as witness the big-engined cars sold under permit since the new-car sales ban came into force, and the Rolls-Bentleys and V12 Lagondas and Big Alvises you encounter these times on business journeys. Our correspondence columns are open to anyone wishing to continue this debate.
Naturally, we all hope that competition motoring will start again in earnest as soon as peace breaks out, but if for any reason trials and races take some time to get going, those clubs which want to open up right away might well consider putting over touring week-ends. Such social occasions, usually at a Venue abroad, to be followed by a return visit to this country, have proved useful and enjoyable functions in the aviation world for a number of years. After we have won this war we shall want to enjoy the luxury of motoring unlimited mileages again. We might well wish to meet old friends and gradually to relax in an atmosphere less strenuous than that engendered by competitive motoring. If a venue were chosen by a club at which members could forgather at lunch time on Saturday after a decent morning’s motoring and from which they would disperse after lunch on Sunday, the aforesaid need could be met. Cars could be discussed and examined at leisure, the scenery and change of air fully appreciated, and a bit more thought given to the lady who in the past has sat so enduringly on your left throughout trial after trial. It cannot be said that very much occasion for such relaxation offered itself during trials week-ends, unless one was fortunate enough to go down to the starting place on the Friday and return on the Monday, a happy procedure which only the favoured few could follow. A simple arrival contest, a short run through good scenery, perhaps a demonstration of an outstanding new car, and, for the rest, good food served in idealistic surroundings, should be all that would be necessary to ensure the success of such week-end gatherings. In any ease, competition motoring, while it enlarges one’s knowledge of the country and takes in much varied and pleasurable scenery, is not entirely conducive to a detailed study of our land. Unless trials break out in great profusion immediately we have recovered from our armistice hang-over, we intend to fill in the interim by driving through Friday night to distant places we have always wanted to visit or re-visit, spending Saturday and Sunday morning motoring and walking at the chosen venue, then hurrying back, perhaps over 300 or more miles, during Sunday afternoon and evening. Doubtless many other enthusiasts will put fast cars to good use in this manner. Meanwhile, what an added incentive for each and all of us to work just that much harder at our war-winning tasks. . . .
Will readers expecting a reply to letters, or enclosing correspondence they require forwarded, please remember the 2½d. stamped envelope.
Norman Smith, 61, Great Bridge, Staffs, has a collection of tyres of Edwardian sizes, which he is prepared to dispose of for a few shillings each, if anyone needs tyres for a pre-1914 carriage— and there is quite a lot to be said for getting as much motoring as possible, in point of time, from each unit of the basic ration. So Edwardians may come amongst us again next spring. C. H. Peacock’s Gwynne is sold.
The Post Office lost Forrest Lycett’s “Cars I Have Owned” MSS., prepared for last month’s issue. We hope to be able to present this long-awaited article in the near future.
Well, the first full year of the war has not been exactly a time for motoring relaxation, but it went out very effectively with a run in the Mark V Bentley, which excited friends delivered to the exiled one lateish one Saturday evening, whereupon “A30” was promptly sought and very good time made right down into Somerset, until, carelessly, we had to go in search of more fuel, so that our hotel, high up on a mound overlooking Watersmeet, was not gained until the early a.m. A hilarious supper consumed and we all slept soundly, starting the next day’s diverse motoring quite late, which you can do in a car of this calibre. We were not stopped once on the road, either going down or returning, but nevertheless had ample evidence of how well protected and completely militarised this island is. The writer could not accompany the car right into London, but he understands that the great fire in the City, seen quite 35 miles out, was watched from the vantage point of the Crystal Palace parade, after which the energetic crew went on to a private cine-film show, featuring some Brooklands shots and an Alpine tour, in colour, with an open Speed Twenty Alvis. Very different was a run up to London in the black-out, when the Gwynne disgraced itself by splitting its radiator cowl in such a manner that it could not be swung, and, the battery having condescended to light the laps without the dynamo’s aid, but only just, it became necessary to tear off the shell and cast away the bonnet, an act watched with awe by some very inebriated passers-by. But it is typical of the vintage car that six pennyworth of whittle belt put the dynamo drive right, although it is of interest that while the car has a real radiator honeycomb, a very well-made header tank and most sensible water hoses, it nevertheless was given a dummy tin shell, and that in 1924. Next day, the decidedly Alvis-like engine exposed to all and sundry and the make setting a real poser by reason of the lack of radiator-identification, we ran most satisfactorily out to Henley-on-Thames to discover a really old De Dion tourer and a model T Ford tourer, neither of which greatly intrigued. The real object of the excursion was to review the Targa Florio and ex-“Bluebird” Itala—alas, the radiator has been sacrilegiously remounted too far forward, the Vauxhall engine looks more early “Prince Henry” than “30/98” and the elements have done their damnedest.
But the drive was really worth while, albeit, as longer evenings make heavier demands on the coupons, and as the longer it takes to burn the ration the greater fun you have, it really seems as if our enforced retreat into the country will do what loads of peacetime enthusiasm never brought to a head, and that the spring may see us motoring in some sound, small Edwardian. . . . After all, the war must be momentarily put aside sometimes.
The restriction on motoring which the war has brought about result in one casting back all the more fervently on what driving was possible during the past fifteen months, and, whereas in former times only fast, good road-test cars seemed worth renewed comment, one now ticks off the cars one has experienced sort of reverently, one by one. Personally, the war saw me using a very funny contrivance, in the form of a hoodless and scruffy 1928 “Chummy” Austin Seven endowed with a 1934 four-speed engine unit which was quite standard save for Terry double “Aero” valve springs, light pistons and a compression-ratio of 6.1 to 1. In the first place this little car had cost £3 10s. 0d. without an engine, and some £8 had been paid for an overhaul to the four-speed unit, now in its fifth chassis, while new tyres graced the front wheels, and some wood had been bought from which to manufacture light front wings—these, and the scrapping of the running boards and the use of a semi-outside exhaust system even increased the traditionally cheeky appearance of these little cars. The finished article was about the cheapest nonstandard car to run imaginable from the point of view of tax, insurance, and fuel consumption, and, indeed, it was quite a practical little vehicle, going along journeys before the war. I remember that it had electrical troubles and poor brakes and cost me £2 for it fine because some unsporting mobile policemen found out that the brake ratchet had yet to be made to work, although admitting the braking power to be adequate. But it was an excellent mud-stormer and would have been better still had we troubled to put a lower-ratio axle in, and it must have done 60 m.p.h. or so in places, and had brisk acceleration on a useful third gear. Once, it is true, it nearly got parked for eternity in a side street, having unshipped its front axle radius arms just prior to being reversed up the camber during process of turning, the spragging effect being both astonishing and baffling! And, dependable as the late-type Austin unit was, a worn carburetter sometimes resulted in much swinging to get started and for a long time I never dared to make the tyres squeal on corners. But the Austin took me back from all-night A.R.P. duties during the early days of the war and enabled me to get a little air and sunshine off duty. It lined up with the best of them for a last complete tankful before fuel rationing came in, and afterwards did yeoman work in evacuating persons, and their property, where previously it had been scorned. Alas, “Pool” eventually resulted in chronic misfiring—maybe a valve had stuck or the h.c. gasket commenced to blow, I never had time to look—and I let the car go, although I have often wished that I had kept the engine. After that an Austin “Ruby” saloon was shared with a friend, and it cruised at 45 or so, did its over-40 to the gallon, and always started instantly. It nearly always justified its ration by carrying four persons and proved worth its weight in gold (about 12 cwt.) as a means of relaxation from 24-hour spells of A.R.P. until a ‘bus unkindly smote it hard one dark night in the fog and ice and “blackout.”
Meanwhile, Peter Clark’s Le Mans Meadows-H.R.G. had provided me with an entirely joyous return to the real thing, and did a phenomenal average down to, of all places, Southend. This car handles so much more enthrallingly than spongy, podgy moderns, and really does go for a 1½-litre.
All, or nearly all, the Frazer-Nash appeal is there, and I sometimes wonder why seekers after quite expensive ‘Nashes don’t look out simultaneously for a secondhand H.R.G. not that there are many about of either grande marque. Having discovered that I could still use a plain gear-change and go into the roundabouts not too slowly, I did my best to depart this planet by getting well and truly frozen up on a 900 mile motor-coach trip to Scotland, while hardly recovered from the Austin crash and at low ebb, withal, after long, sleepless nights playing Air Raid Precautions. But the dizzy feeling and the black spots subsided after a time, and, anyway, there was that great run down almost to the Cotswolds, as passenger, in Anthony Heal’s 5-litre 1919 Ballot, which, at 92 m.p.h. or so, felt about as dangerous as anything I’ve been in on those narrow roads. On that occasion I rode, too, in Anthony’s very lovable, if not very standard, high-compression 90 m.p.h. “30/08” Vauxhall. His handling of the black-out situation on the homeward drive was a revelation and full return for having to leave our Fiat 500 behind with a lack of electrics and all that implied in unanticipated “Pool” absorption in fetching it on the morrow. As we agreed to mention every car tried since war began this Fiat must be included, but it wasn’t a very brilliant example, being hard to start and prone to a chassis-shaking wheel-wobble, though it was snug enough and quite delightful to put round bends—we contrived, of course, to stick with it on a Buckinghamshire trials hill, ere it swallowed the last current coupon. . . .
Another Austin “Ruby” later re placed the crashed one, albeit a rougher example, and one which had quite a thirst for oil. But it gave excellent service, like its predecessors, and was greatly in demand during the spring and summer as a means of much-needed relaxation, within the limits of fuel rationing. We actually tried to do without a car for two months in the summer, but it was a terrible strain, and when the need arose for transport into and out of London independently of trains, it was thankfully retaxed before a new quarter started. Then, at the time when the air raids broke, it proved absolutely invaluable and was in use right through the winter, taking part in the “Free Lifts” scheme. Towards the end it broke a rear spring, had hardly any brakes, and a temperamental dynamo, but it was given a quick overhaul, stiff rear springs imparting an amusing sit-up-and-beg attitude, and was only sold, at a profit with the tyres almost through, a short while ago. This anticipates things, for early in the year that keen and methodical person, Peter Clark, provided a 2-litre Georges-Irat for brief fun and games—the last time, alas, that we were able to take a car on Brooklands. The Citroen engine and f.w.d. transmission gave assurance of reliability and the rest of the car was very modern and distinctly handle-able, the curious rubber suspension lending additional interest. The advent of summer was greeted by a week-end of over 350 miles in a 2½-litre six-cylinder Daimler saloon, a very admirable car which imparted a sense of luxury suggesting a far higher price than the £525 at which it sold. Incidentally, it was the first pre-selector job the writer had seriously handled. It could hurry on occasion, cruising at 60-70 m.p.h. and achieving 74 m.p.h. on the level, and the i.f.s. worked well, albeit we incurred the wrath of our passengers for taking one double bend far too fast and having slight difficulty from i.f.s. roll. You could play amusing and instructive tricks by leaning on the car and holding it stationary at small throttle openings on the fluid drive, and altogether a happy week-end was spent on the coast, where naval gunfire yet reminded us of sterner things. It then became possible to test a Ford Eight “Anglia” saloon over 200 miles, when the car’s liveliness, correctness of handling, and fuel consumption of 40 m.p.g. endeared this war-time small car to all to whom we demonstrated it; once again we enthused over those very admirable Girling anchors. The Modern Ford is certainly a very faithful servant indeed, and you can observe them these days serving the farmer, off the beaten track, as well as going fast and economically about the highway. Much more exciting, naturally, was the 1934 Mark II long-chassis Aston-Martin, which Rowland Smith put up for test and in which we did about 100 miles of excellent motoring. The o.h.c. engine would run down to 6 m.p.h. in top gear, but, at the other end of the scale, would propel this not very light four-seater at 80, and gave no trouble at all. The steering and road holding, in old-school style, were entirely satisfying and the plain remote-control gearbox was sheer joy, if very noisy, while the engine ran up willingly to 4,700 r.p.m. on the indirects. A most pleasant day was spent, in shower and sunshine, with this sound second-hander. Next followed an invitation from Sam Clutton to go out in his 1911 9-litre sleeve-valve Great Daimler, a most dignified if leisurely proceeding, from which we returned by motor coach. Incidentally, on sundry other occasions we have had to do a certain 35-mile journey by local coach service, and it is good that such services remain extremely popular and able to get their fuel, even for running many extra relief coaches at busy times, for they score in every way over the now chronic short-distance train services. You are doing road transport a distinct good turn by using them. There were runs, too, in a modern Ford Ten saloon, and an older Ford Eight, and sundry excursions in a Riley “Gamecock,” one, to a car club gathering, coinciding with the raid on Croydon. Nor must the divers Austin, Wolseley and Morris A.R.P. cars and American Terraplane and Studebaker ambulances be forgotten, nor will the game old Sunbeam “Sixteen” used in one of these services be easily overlooked. The 1924 Gwynne Eight was bought to put certain pet war-time theories to the test, and must now have done over 1,500 miles, largely under black-out conditions. More recently, there was that great run in Lycett’s 8-litre Bentley, when one could claim one of the fastest passenger experiences on the road, to line up with a similar “record” of happier times, on the track and the 500-mile dash to Devon and back in the experimental Mark V Bentley. So war has not entirely spoilt one’s continued motoring experience, and maybe, now we are acclimatised to limited mileage, 1941 will not seem too grim, and after that Hitler will probably have had about enough and the prospect of resuming real motoring will be in sight.
SOME “12/50” LEA-FRANCIS NOTES
Through D. B. Tubbs, Eddie Wrigley sends some notes on the Lea-Francis vintage editions, which may assist prospective owners of these cars. His own “12/50” was tuned mainly with the aid of Woolworth tools, copper wire and insulating tape. Tappet adjustment is achieved, vide the Instruction Book, by twiddling the push-rods! The “12/50” twin-carburetter model has an axle-ratio of 4.75 to 1, and 4.4, 4.1 and 3.9 to 1 axles are available. Post-1927 cars have no torque members and long half-elliptic springs. Earlier cars, sometimes 1928 in the log-book, have a torque-reaction member from the axle, which axle is less satisfactory. The clutch is heavy and the gearbox noisy, but both components are reliable; the latter is removed by uncoupling the front universal joint and pushing the prop. shaft sideways, away from the battery. Properly adjusted, the brakes are sound and the radiator is reliable. Valve bounce sets in about 4,000 r.p.m., but Wrigley got 4,700 r.p.m. regularly, using heavier springs. Normal oil pressure: 12-15 lb. per square inch at 30 m.p.h., when hot. Wrigley used 12 hp. Talbot steel connecting rods, but duralumin rods are satisfactory if lubrication is in order, and J. L. Currie’s blown Lea-Francis does just over 90 m.p.h. and has never thrown a rod. With close-ratio box the “12/50” did 20, 38, 62-65 and about 72 m.p.h. in the gears. The close-ratio box has constant-mesh third and top gears and is far superior to the inverted tooth-type gearbox.