Letters from readers, February 1943

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Sir,

I have at last found time to write some notes on the very interesting article “G.N. Gen.” appearing in the November issue.

For its time the G.N. could run rings round any contemporary cycle-car or light car if the latter was less than 2.5 times the first cost of the G.N. The body was reasonably comfortable in the models with the pointed radiator, i.e., after the 1922 type, when the flat radiator-cum-dickey seat, a most attractive little car, was introduced. Earlier models were primitive with oil side lights, no door, an immense gap between the Cape cart hood and top of the one-piece windscreen, and a single headlamp mounted on the radiator and direct wired to a dynamo without a battery. The result of the latter was that below 28 m.p.h. in top gear the headlight went out. Even so, this was a de luxe feature; the average G.N. had a single acetylene headlamp. Also up to 1922 oiling was effected by means of a hand pump located in a tank on the off-side running-board. The procedure was to give a pumpful every five miles or so, or more likely when you felt the engine was running badly.

I remember one run back from Cambridge the engine appeared to be labouring badly and the oil pump cure effecting no improvement, a halt for diagnosis was called. Investigation showed the paint on the front hubs to be blistered and the two of us could hardly push the vehicle. The plain front hub bearings had just about seized. With an effort the wheels were got off, any high spots removed with emery cloth and fresh grease packed in. All was well again and the engine proved that it had never bad a sulky mood. To run a G.N. you needed a shifting spanner, pair of pliers, lots of copper wire and insulating tape, and a large screw-driver. The whole secret was the low weight of the chassis, which whipped in a weird and wonderful way, combined with the hefty punch developed at low revs. by the engine. Although rough and noisy, I would certainly like to own one to-day: 40-45 m.p.g. was regularly obtainable, and with special tuning 50 m.p.g. could be got without sacrificing performance.

The 1922 model was much more refined: dickey seat, dynamo lighting, engine-driven oil pump through sight feed on dash, etc., and sold for £230. Bolster states it sold until 1925; actually its popularity faded out in 1923. Frazer-Nash and Godfrey left the business and a new shaft-driven model was introduced. This sold at £210 as a side-valve Vee-twin air-cooled car of 1,600 c.c., or for £20 more with an 1,100 c.c. Ruby engine (4-cylinder water-cooled imported from France). The air-cooled engine was a flop, being liable to sudden and expensive failures of the big end and had no life or performance. The expenses called for under the guarantee liability were what really ruined the company, combined with the loss of their old clientele. In fact, by the end of 1923 the company were offering the 4-cylinder Ruby-engined model at a lower first cost than the air-cooled type. No cars of these models were made after 1923, and at the end of 1924 the Anzani-engined sports 2-seater was introduced. As Bolster says, this would run rings round a contemporary Frazer-Nash, but never “caught on” despite its cheap first cost of £265. The firm were too busy to turn out many, concentrating on ordinary garage work and the servicing of heavy commercial vehicles.

As Bolster says, the Anzani was an extraordinary engine. Nothing to look at and yet the 4-cylinder engine was used with great success by A. C. Crouch, Deemster, G.N., Frazer-Nash, Horstman, Lea-Francis, and later models of the Eric-Campbell, to name only a few. It was impossible to do up the near-side cylinder block holding nuts with any known spanner, the brutal method being to punch them up hard with a hammer and chisel.

After the 1920 200 miles race the Salmson Co. were so impressed with G.N. suspension that to their 1921 models they fitted the G.N. front end under licence. A number of G.N.s were made in France, and some were imported into this country and known as “Legere” models. They were much faster than the standard G.N., but all nuts and bolts were to metric threads, and a pest to obtain replacements for in this country in the early 1920’s.

Early in 1923 Archie Nash set up in Kingston in the show rooms later occupied by Beart, of Morgan fame. In addition to making the “Akela” model, he turned out some 4-cylinder Anzani-engined cars which were really Deemsters with a Frazer-Nash radiator and sundry improvements. Very few of these latter were made. The Deemster car went bust in 1922-23, but I would be interested to have particulars of them if available.

Before all details are lost in oblivion, would it be possible to have similar histories written of the old Crouch, A.B.C., Horstman, Hampton, H.E. Bayliss-Thomas, Frazer-Nash, etc.

Congratulations on keeping the paper going. My copy is eagerly read by three or four others.

I am, Yours etc.,

O. S. M. Raw (Major, R.E.M.E.) C/o Martin’s Bank, London, S.W.1.

[We shall be pleased to publish articles on other early small cars, as Major Raw suggests, if readers will provide data. The Editor has himself put on the road A.B.C., Rhode, Gwynne Eight and early Jowett small cars within the last six years.—Ed.]

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