Apprentice's Story



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Apprentice’s Story

This.article, unlike a Traveller’s Tale, sets down the true facts about some interesting cars owned by Lt. C. N. Mackie, R.A.S.C., now in Malta, chiefly when he was an apprentice with “The Leyland.” Congratulations to Censor No. 6666 who stamped all 18 pages of

the MSS.—Ed. MY first car was acquired before I was old enough to possess a driving licence, and motoring had to be confined to a special course round the farm and fields belonging to the father of one of my friends. The car was one of the old 12-h.p., o.h.e., Wolseleys, circa 1923, purchased for £2. To this day I still think that that car, bought at a time when I knew absolutely nothing at all about the inner workings of such machinery, was the best bargain I ever made. I have no idea what mileage was covered careering round our private course, stripped of mudguards, lamps and windscreen etc., but it must have been fairly high, and apart from a battery supplied by Garnages at an absurdly low price, no other replacements or repairs were needed. I eventually sold the thing

for 23. .

Next on the list, and still prior to driving licence age, VMS a 500-e.e. sidevalve New Hudson motor-cycle. This was purchased from a dealer in London for £1. Owing to some misunderstanding, the machine was delivered to my home by express passenger train and cost me about 30s. in freight, which was a terrific setback to my finances. However, here again I was very lucky, and after fitting a replacement magneto obtained from a scrapyard for nothing, except the muttered injunction to take what I wanted and clear out, I then proceeded to explore the by-ways (only !) of Shropshire, after dark, by the aid of a flickering acetylene lamp. On my seventeenth birthday I was doing a gala run with a friend of mine on the pillion, during which we hit a hidden gully while going downhill at a colossal speed, and for the third time in recent weeks I had to telephone home and ask my father to come and pick us up, at about ten o’clock at night, from some remote country hamlet miles away from civilisation. He came all right, but with an ultimatum. This was to the effect that if I wished to continue my motor-cycling I must buy a new machine, and a small, inexpensive one at that. This was really very sporting of him, but the choice of motor-cycles was, unfortunately, not so sporting, and a few weeks later I went to the station and, blushing with mortification, took collection of a 250-c.c. 2-stroke Ivory Calthorpe. It wasn’t really a bad machine for what it cost, but it never had a chance. Shortly afterwards I left school and went to Leyland Motors, Ltd., for an apprenticeship course, and there I landed in the thick of about the most rabid band of enthusiasts I’ve ever come across, headed by the late Martin Soames. I hadn’t been there long before I realised that the only safe thing for the Calthorpe was to find a remote and secret lock-up for it before the said enthusiasts modified it out of existence, or the piston wore its way through the barrel with constant seizure during test of each modification. However, I had some very pleasant runs before I finally parted with it, one in particular standing out. This was at the instigation of a fellow motor-cyclist in the works, and one Saturday afternoon

he came with me on the pinion and conducted me over a trials course he wanted to reconnoitre. We slipped and slithered over some terrible ground, plunged through water splashes, bellied the machine on outsize boulders, walked it up some of the steeper hills, and generally flogged it for nearly 100 miles, returning to Leyland at about 7 p.m. However, I was feeling so pleased with myself that, after depositing my passenger at his house, I decided to carry on home for the week-end. This was a further 80 miles, and it was covered at a very satisfactory average, through pouring rain, and without any mishaps or breakdown for the whole 180 miles.

My eighteenth birthday was approaching and I put in such effective pleading for a car that, when the day arrived, to my great astonishment I was given a limit of up to £60 and told to go and buy one myself. This was more than I had bargained for. I caught the first train up to town, and within half an hour of my arrival the car I had tentatively earmarked was mine—a 1928 ” Brooklands” Riley—and I returned home the following day at fantastic speed and unmentionable r.p.m. (or so they seemed to me at the time), fairly bursting with pride in my new possession. My parents took it very well, but they were unable to hide their chagrin completely.

However, this rosy state of affairs did not last for long and one day, pulling away smartly from some traffic lights on the outskirts of Wigan, an “expensive noise “suddenly happened. Fortunately, one of the works’ testers ” happened ” about the same time, and we completed the journey to Leyland on tow behind a massive Leyland “ Beaver Six,” attached by a very short rope and praying fervently that the rear ballast weight, which weighed about a ton would not fall off and squash us. It didn’t.

Upon dismantling the engine it was found that No. 1 connecting rod had parted from the piston at the little-end. The piston had jammed in the top of the bore and the rod, being just too long, had stayed put and not poked itself through the side of the crankcase in the usual manner. Two new valves, a piston and a connecting rod would soon put this right, but as the piston was a 11.r •. oversize Martlett which had to be specially. made, the intervening time was devoted to a complete overhaul of the rest of the car. I undertook this myself with the assistance of an ex-tool-room chargehand.

The crankshaft main bearings were skimmed up on a lathe and new bearing shells turned up, remetalled and bored out. The big-end journals were reduced by hand from .005-in. ovality to less than .0005-in. This sounds pretty keen, and it was, too. About eight hours must have been devoted to each bearing, but the care then expended was well repaid later. The .big-ends were remetalled and bored and, the piston having arrived, the engine was reassembled. Doing this I made (as far as I know) my first mistake, due to my lack of experience and, apart from smearing a little oil on all the obvious places, I was too stringent with it, the result being that the motor very nearly seized up when first started, before the oil pressure gauge came to life. During the running-in period the clutch thrust race began to utter some alarming shrieks, the dashboard parted company from the scuttle, and the gearbox gave symptoms that all was not well. So after 750 miles of careful running-in, the engine was taken out and the. bearings examined and found to be in first-class. condition. The gearbox was dismantled and the rear mainshaft bearing was found to be worn and turning in its housing. A new bearing was obtained and, copperplated round the outside, became a nice press lit into the housing. A new clutch thrust race, a new dashboard made of Fin. sheet aluminium, and. the inevitable brackets for the o.h.v. inspection plates, and we were ready for some motoring. • The first time out 5,000 r.p.m. was clocked with ease, but over thata regular missing note crept in, and about an extra 100 r.p.m. was all that could be achieved: However, the performance up to 5,000 r.pan. was so satisfactory that I didn’t worry overmuch at first about the missing 500 r.p.m., and vaguely suspected valve bounce, which I was not then in a financial position to cure anyhow. This was all settled for me in a very short time. Whilst proceeding along Watling Street one day the engine suddenly cut out dead, and upon investigation, it was found that there was no urge to the plugs.’ Further probing revealed a broken maketind-break spring. As we had come to rest 50 yards from a garage we were able to procure and fit a new spring in a very short time. As soon as we started off again I realised that the elusive 500 r.p.m. had been found at last ! The run to town was completed at a very brisk pace, and at one time such was my joie de vie that I let the motor run up to 5,750 r.p.m. in third gear without it suffering any ill effects. After this incident I had no further mechanical trouble at all for about 8,000 miles. During this time I enjoyed some very fine runs and the car put up some phenomenal averages (none of which I have the slightest intention of revealing), some of them remaining unbeaten to this day in spite of all my efforts inlarger and faster ears. Although did. not realise it at the time, I think the splendid performance of this car was considerably aided by the body. This was not a standard ” Brooklands ” job, but one of the few which were made with

a fabric fixed-head coupe. By the time the car came into my possession the roof, of course, had been sawn off. The tail was cut off square just aft of the rear shackles and the spare wheel mounted on Lt. It must have been considerably lighter than the standard ” Brooklands ” model and, indeed, it was its very flimsiness which gave me more trouble thereafter than anything else. The rattling and distortion frayed wires all over the place and I was continually subduing minor fires, not to mention its disconcerting habit of shedding bits of itself at awkward moments. I think the: most amusing of these incidents was, when I decided to visit my school with another old school friend for the final of the bumping races. . Arriving at a brisk pace it was necessary to take a sharp right-hand turn into the car park. My friend, entering into the spirit of the occasion, had most unwisely seated himself on the near-side door, or rather a piece of plywood which was doing duty whilst the proper article was being repaired. The combination of his weight and the extra thrust as we sped around the coiner was too much for the shbstitute; which parted from the rest of the • body with a ‘series of horrible cracking noises and, together with ncy friend; who was too surprised to make any noise, went neatly toboganning down the centre of the road for fully 50 yards.All this ‘before the astounded gaze of assembled parents and to the ecstatic’ delight of their several offspring. All good things come to an end and the Riley chose to do so one Christmas Eve at about 10 p.m., on the outskirts of Wigan. It had been an exasperating day altogether, as I had intended to start for home immediately after breakfast. The canalise of the autopulse petrol pump and water in the feed line, heaven knows how, combined with a temperature well below freezing point, all helped to delay the start until after 5 p.m.. Then the dynamo packed up and I could not afford to use the headlights, and snow began to fall on top of an already ice.-coated road, so I supnose we were quite fortunate to get to Wigan at all. Then, pulling away, ever so gently, from the identical traffic lights where I had had my previous misfdrtune, there was a soul-searing “clunk” from the engine, with two or three further dying ‘gasps and then complete expiration. Although I had only a vague suspicion of what had happened I, at any rate. realised that the ” clunk ” was too definite and expensive to entertain any further hopes of the car reaching hotne. So the car was pushed to the side of the road and abandoned after all removable items had been taken out, and I finished the journey by train. My appearance about 1 a.m. on Christmas morning caused quite an uproar. I hadn’t packed properly before le:1 V I lig Leyland—such is the general habit. with car oWners-L-but had just chucked everything I thought I would want, plus Christmas presents, into the back of the car. Of course I looked more like a Christmas tree than any Christmas tree has ever looked before. A. sponge bag and an attacht ell Se contaitaal my more intimate items of clothing. rest was just hooked. on two pairs of-shoes, tied together with their laces, round my neck, seat cushions, It fire extinguisher, a spot light, a mackintosh, presents and, just to put the lid on it, I had been inveigled into buying my parents some young bulb shoots as an ” original gift ” and, of course, the only way to prevent these from getting damaged was to carry them, upright, one pot in each hand I My worst suspicions of the car’s ailments were correct (they nearly always are), and it was found that the crankshaft had broken at No. 4 journal. This meant a lot of work to fix the engine up again in its original trim, and I felt I would rather expend my energy on some other type. So a secondhand crankshaft was procured, the engine patched up, and the car disposed of. I cannot remember much of technical interest about the Riley, I’m afraid, after all this time and at this remote distance. I carried out one or two minor modifications, such as fitting a Tecalemit grease nipple on the clatch cover plate with a piece of copper tubing, so arranged that, with periodic injection, oil -would drip on the thrust race ana.lubricate it, but I think this is now afairly well-known tip. I later on fitted double springs to the make-andbreak as a precaution against losing any performance from that source. The brakes, fortunately, never gave any trouble and w re always adequate, for which I was thankful, as I did not fancy having to play about with the horrible cat’s-cradle arrangement of cable. The gearbox was not a very good oil retainer! It used to ooze down the column of the remote control .gear lever,. and I often suspected it of jeaking down the torque tube into the rear axle. At any rate, the latter never wanted topping up and the former did, much too often. Although the Riley gave me about as good a performance for its size and cost as probably anything else I could have obtained at that time (about 1935), I did not fancy twit-bearing crankshafts any more, so early in 1930, after looking round, I finally purchased a Type 37 Bugatti for }limit 270. Never to this day have I forgotten the thrill of being initiated into )low to start the car, how to slip it into first gear whilst at rest, pumping up of air, pressure in the tank, and manipulation of the taps after the engine had been started to enable the mechanical pump to tala over. Far ale it was akin to the initiation of an aspiring debutante into the mysteries of a Court presentation. And I am sure that never to this day has the man I bought the car from forgotten my departure from his garage, .as, with a completely uncontrolled. leap and bound, we shot out of the cul-de-sac across the pavement and straight into the Edgware Road, where we promptly had the highest number of pheni)inenal avoidances anyone has ever I I:14 1 tit t he space Of a few seconds. fly the time we reached Palmers Green I was beginning to get the hang of things, and after an excellent lUnch I proceeded on my way. Before I reached home darkness had descended and, apart from two token sidelights. all I had wa!i a small Bosch spotlight to light me on my way. But it was a wonderful lamp ; it bathed the surrounding countryside for miles in a white, fierce light. The journey, which eventually finished up at -Leyland the followipg day, although a wonderful revelation of what the feel and handling of a thoroughbred should be like, brought

to light several defects which pointed to the need for a major overhaul in the near future, and I was not loath to begin. The engine came out and the crankcase, crankshaft and rods were sent away for suitable treatment by Laystalls. One of the rear engine mountings was found to be cracked, so the sump was removed and taken into the works for attention. I was advised by the foreman Of the foundry to try a repair which seemed very novel to me then, and still does. 1-le was of the opinion that all the nature had been taken out of the metal by Previous attempts to weld the crack, and his idea was to set the fracture in moulding sand, leaving about 4 in. clear each side of the crack, and then pour molten aluminium over the exposed surfaces, thereby effecting a clean joint with new metal. So, accordingly, a massive jig was made to hold the broken bearer in position and the operation was then carried out. After about a week of cliselling, the bearer was eventually reduced to its original shape, polished up, and revealed no signs of any cracks or faults. After further unprecedented labour, completely hindered by the cooling tubes, removing moulding sand from the sump, the engine was eventually reinstalled in the chassis. The front axle was attended to next, the stub axles being rebushed and the axle beam, springs and all steering parts highly polished. At this juncture I also effected what I thought was a very neat and simple fitting for a pair of Marehal headlamps, which I had obtained off an old Delage. Two oblong aluminium blocks were shaped to lie along the top of the frame members, between the shockabsorber body and bracket, and drilled horizontally for the retaining bolt to pass

through. studs were inserted, to which the headlamp standards were bolted. Thus, without any drilling of the frame or the addition of any untidy tie bars, etc., a rigid and simple mounting was effected. I mention this because I have never seen it on any other Bugatti, and it is SO simple to do. After a decoke and grinding of valves the engine was assembled, and here I must confess that one or two piston rings were broken before finally getting the block back into position. The rest of the assembly was completed without any mishap. One thing that completely ” foxed ” me was the valve timing. I wrote to 13ugattis and obtained from them two very different settings for two series of engine numbers. As my engine number did not fall within either of the series quoted, both settings were tried without the slightest appreciable difference. The first real tryout on the road nearly ended in disaster. During assembly of the oil pipes the pressure release valve had been completely cut out. If I remember rightly there is a pipe which leads from the pressure side of the pump back to the release valve, and during assembly the pipes had been fitted in such a way that the excess oil was led back direct into the pump body. Anyhow, after going about 10 miles with the pressure gauge needle right off the dial, the unions on the main bearing gallery pipe decided they had had enough, and an equally impressive drop in pressure was suddenly registered. however, when

the cause of the trouble was realised and put right, sufficient pressure could be maintained to permit the return journey to be made safely. Before proceeding, I must here describe briefly my experience with a 2-seater, 4-cylinder, side-valve Anzani-engined A.C. of about 1924 vintage. This was commandeered from my sister for use whilst the Bugatti was being overhauled. Its chief characteristics were its terrific maximum (60 m.p.h. comfortably), terrific oil consumption, and absolutely lack of stopping power, although the (rear wheel only) brakes locked easily. It performed yeoman service, transporting bits and pieces of the Bugatti hither and thither and taking four up to Donington for several of the earlier events of the season, without any breakdowns. When the Bugatti was finished, I decided to do my sister a good turn and fit a new set of rings to the A.C. to try to curb the terrific oil consumption. However, by this time I devised a special spanner which was successful in removing the rear cylinder block holding-down nut tucked away behind the tappets, the Bugatti had claimed all the cash I had set aside for the new rings. So everything was cleaned up and reassembled, and the car was returned to my sister, together with a 5-gallon tin of Gamage oil, presented to her free, gratis and for nothing !

‘I he Bugatti engine began to settle down and was sufficiently promising to put ideas into my head of doing some real “dicing.” Tentative enquiries as to the price of a secondhand blower and fittings completely shattered me, and the idea .was temporarily shelved whilst I argued with my conscience. During this period, at one of the Donington meetings, whilst manoeuvring the car in the parks the near-side front wheel hit an oversize rock and the rear near-side engine bearer cracked again. This was most exasperating and really brought matters to a head, as I didn’t feel like stripping the car and doing everything short of separating the frame side-members, to get the sump out and repair the bearer, unless I was going to go the whole hog of fitting a blower and getting some real tuning done. In this frame of mind I was proceeding to London one morning by train in order to collect the family Lagonda, which had been having an overhaul. It was on a Tuesday, and I naturally bought a copy of The Motor to peruse. Upon opening it at the page of illustrated advertisements I saw one of the very cars for sale which I had coveted ever since their inception in 1930; one of the road-racing Talbot “90s,” PIA to be exact. I am a hopeless salesman and a most gullible sort of person altogether, but, somehow, before the day was over I had persuaded the owner of ” PIA ” to do a level swop with me for the Bugatti, cracked engine bearer included Next day one of his men accompanied me home in the Lagonda and took the Bugatti away, and I collected “PM” about three days later after repairs had been made to the selectors to make them select more positively, and the hood had been re-covered. “PM ” was in a very bad condition externally and, as subsequently revealed, internally as well. The revelation came whilst I was proudly demonstrating the car’s paces to about four of the gang at Leyland, Martin Soames included. We were doing about 70 m.p.h., when two connecting rods decided they had had enough and that it was time they departed this life. This they did by making a most impressive exit through the side of the crankcase and were never seen again. So the car was pushed home to the accompaniment of much pungent comment and sarcasm from Martin! But I had come a long way in his estimation since the days of the Calthorpe, and even he could not find much fault in my taste for the right kind of car, even if I was a little unfortunate in my choice. Also, I am proud to relate,

I had assisted him in the preparation of his incredible Morgan for the 1935 L.C.C. Relay Race. This had mostly consisted of drilling boles in everything and making up special pipes, etc., as I had the entry

into the coppersmiths’ department at the time, which he had not. This was not very highly skilled work, and the team was scratched in the end, but even so, I felt that at last I had actually assisted in the preparation of a real “racer.”

Repairs to the resulting disorganisation in the engine of the Talbot were really beyond my scope this time, and in any case I was in too much of a hurry to do some motoring with the car to want to spend all the winte: repairing it. So instead of buying a blower for the Bugatti, the money was spent on having ” PM’s” engine repaired by an outside firm. The work was done by the Burtonwood Engineering Co., Ltd., near Warrington, who carried out a very efficient job. The block was welded, bored out, and sleeved, the crankshaft ground all over, and a complete new set of pistons, connecting rods, valves, springs and guides fitted. The flywheel clutch thrust face was skimmed up, the water pump and dynamotor overhauled and a Lucas “Sports” coil fitted. Motoring was once again resumed and at odd intervals during the course of the winter new mudguards on the lines of those fitted to some of the reconditioned Bentleys were made up and fitted, and the small racing headlights removed and replaced by standard Talbot lamps. Vast sums were also spent on liquid for the Hobson Telegauges, causing them to record some surprising information!

The front axle swivel pins, brakes and shackles were all suitably dealt with, and when at the beginning of 1937, when a I2-hour sports-car race at Donington was proposed, more thoughts of having a real ” dice ” arose. But when the matter was really thrashed out it was decided that, in spite of the reasonable entrance fees, the accumulation of a certain amount of pit equipment and extra spare wheels, and the consumption of tyres and fuel, added to the cost of preparation of the car, made the overall expense prohibitive. So we merely spectated instead, after having spent a most hectic non-stop 86 hours previously, fitting a new crown wheel and pinion, and almost completely rewiring the car after a major electrical conflagration. After all this, troubles were eliminated for a spell and some really fast, silent and unobtrusive runs were made. The possession of a car with a 4-seater body opened our scope of operations considerably, as the cost of petrol could be defrayed between four persons instead of

only two as before. Several times we left Leyland on Saturday morning to attend a Brooklands meeting, returning the same night. A trial held under the auspices of the newly-formed Northern branch of the Vintage S.C.C. was essayed. This was not a success. My navigator was not the least bit interested in navigating, and we came completely unstuck on, I think, Litton Slack, where we were required to do a stop-and-restart test on the steepest part of the hill. ” PTA’s ” bottom gear was much too high to attempt this sort of nonsense, so we just roared through non-stop, scattering stones and marshals left and right. Upon emerging over the crest of the bill we found ourselves in the wide open spaces and with an innumerable choice of tracks. The navigator chose this moment to announce that he had lost the route card, so what the hell ! This meant waiting for the next competitor to come along so that we could tail him. We eventually arrived at the finish hours late, everyone having adjourned for tea. Upon our return from this painful episode it was decided to give the engine a decoke. Removal of the bead and valves revealed two slightly cracked exhaust valve seats. At that time I was ignorant of the fact that Talbots would often run quite happily in this condition without detriment. A search was made and eventually a head from an old ” 75 ” in good condition was obtained for 5s. The holding-down stud holes were enlarged to accommodate the more robust studs of the “90’s ” head, about IV in. was milled off the face and, after grinding the valves, etc., it was refitted. Then the most exasperating series of mishaps occurred. Whilst tightening down, a stud was pulled clean out of the block. A new stud had to be turned down and screw cut with the bottom threads left at the next oversize and the block drilled and tapped to suit. At the next effort to secure the head exactly the same thing occurred. This happened five further times, the fifth time being the absolute “cat’s whiskers.” When screwing the new stud into the block, the oversized portion would not go down absolutely flush with the surface, so I removed it to clean out the hole a bit more. Removal of the stud also neatly removed the new thread, as the bottom of the stud had burred over owing to my efforts to screw it down flush. So yet another stud had to be turned, with yet another step up on circumference at the bottom end. When drilling and tapping the block again I was terrified of emerging through into the water jacket, but, fortunately, this did not happen and the head was finally secured. I should like here to state emphatically that this series of mishaps was not due to my ham-handedness ! A thick Klingerit gasket was being fitted in lieu of the old, very thin, allcopper one, and the head had to be held down very securely if the gasket was not to leak. One theory put forward was that the metal of the block had been affected in some way during its preheating prior to welding, but not being much of a metallurgist I am not in a position to express any opinion on this. Perhaps some of your more knowledgeable readers may be able to deduce some reason for this and also express their

opinions on the method adopted of repairing the Bugatti engine bearer.

The possession of ” PL4 ” had given me the opportunity to become acquainted with Mr. R. Hebeler, of Fox & Nicholls, in my quest for information and spares. At each visit much time was devoted to worship before the specially-built 2-seater “90,” which Mr. Hebeler had constructed on the chassis of the original white singleseater. This car seemed to me the ideal sports car, and I used to think that if I had been given a free hand, with no expense to be spared, I could not have evolved a better. The idea of becoming the owner of such a superb automobile never entered my head, until one day whilst visiting Fox & Nicholls, Mr. Hebeler being absent, someone volunteered the information that he was shortly getting married. So many lights of the motoring firmament have been extinguished after this operation that, after making some pertinent enquiries by correspondence, I found to my delight that Mr. Hebeler was not going to be an exception ! After lengthy negotiation, and including a wonderful demonstration run, faultlessly piloted by Mr. Hebeler, I finally took possession of the car on New Year’s Day, 1938.

” PL4,” perhaps in a fit of pique, decided to let me down at the last moment. The symptoms, developed on Christmas Eve, were chronic misfiring and overheating. This got steadily worse and, on the great day, was so bad that the car had to be towed all the way from Liverpool to London. What a nightmare journey it was, too. We didn’t finish seeing the New Year in until well after 4 a.m., by which time we couldn’t see anything any more. The trouble was found to be a leaking gasket between Nos. 5 and 6 cylinders, considerably aggravated by my rash attempts to keep the car going. In fact, the passage at high speed of well-warmed gases had burnt a hole in the head to a depth of nearly + in. The new car, also referred to by its registration number, ” GX68,” did not require any of the usual preliminary titivation, and was ‘ready for immediate high-speed progression. So here, instead of the woeful list of necessary initial repairs, is a description of its specification. The chassis frame was replaced when the rebuilding was commenced, as they were liable to split at the point where • the gearbox cross-member is bolted to the bottom flange. Extensions were made to the gearbox cross-member so that it could be bolted to the new frame through the side channel, leaving the bottom flange undisturbed. A later-type front axle, with slightly more drop between the king-pin eye and spring platform, together , with flattened front springs, effected a considerable reduction in overall height. The addition of a specially built up radiator 8 in. shorter than standard, but with a considerably deeper film to retain cooling area, permitted the rest of the body to be kept down to a reasonable height. One leaf was removed from each of the rear 1-elliptic springs, and special Holden & Hunt brake drums and Andre Telecontml shock-absorbeis fitted. The rear of the frame was cut off just aft of the rear axle arch, a 20-gallon petrol tank made up and fitted within the wheelbase, the brake and gear levers

shortened, and the latter cranked back to effect better clearance of the lowered scuttle. The engine had been completely stripped and all worn parts replaced, the block being bored and new oversize, standard-compression pistons fitted. A Scintilla ” Vertex ” magneto replaced the Delco Remy distributor and coil and, after reducing the height of the steeringbox mounting, room was made to fit a specially-built induction manifold carrying two S.U. carburetters, these being fed by twin S.U. petrol pumps. With the present head fitted, a compression ratio of about 8.5 to 1 is obtained. This, I think, is a shade higher than that of the standard “90.”

At the time I took delivery, new and standard ” 90 ” gears had been fitted, but the rear axle ratio was somewhat higher, 4 to 1, the same as used by the team cars when racing, with 5.25 in. by 19 in. tyres fitted. A very neat 2-seater body was developed, the spare wheel being carried over the rear axle underneath a detachable panel. There is room behind the seats and between the petrol tank for a fairly generous size of suitcase and odds and ends. The lighting now consists of a centrally-mounted, flat-topbeam, Notex lamp, carried immediately above the dumb-iron fairing. Also centrally mounted, and immediately above, is fitted an ordinary Lucas spotlight with a 60-watt bulb. This arrangement gives as good a forward illumination as anything else I have sat behind, and does not cause so much extra wind resistance.

Other special features consist of’ a spring-loaded roller blind to control water temperature, fitted vertically on the near side of the radiator grill, oil temperature gauge in addition to the usual gauges, and semi-flexible frontengine mountings.

The temperature blind is controlled by hand with the aid of an aircraft parking brake ratchet device taken from an old Bristol ” Bulldog ” fighter and connected with Bowden cable. The oil temperature gauge element is inserted into the sump through the boss which normally accommodated the Hobson Telegauge float. The front engine mountings have never been disturbed, so I cannot give any details. They were evolved in an effort to eliminate constant breaking of the ordinary bolts, a defect I experienced several times on “PM,” and have been completely successful. The appearance and finish of the whole car is just right, and the plating and cellulose in new condition. The outlines conform to the best vintage traditions without offering too many chunky projections to the atmosphere. No unnecessary frills have been permitted and tile only badges displayed are those of thc Midland Automobile Club and the Vintage S.C.C. •••••••••• ***** •••• ******************

During approximately 12,000 miles’ motoring before the war called a halt, the only repairs required were a reconditioned dynamotor from Lucas, front brakes relined, and the drums skimmed up. Considering that this mileage included a day out at Donington with the Vintage S.C.C., where a third place was obtained, much to my surprise, in an unlimited 6lap scratch race, a day at Prescott, where, with a sticky surface and smooth rear tyres, a climb was managed in 60 secs. dead without any special preparation, a trip to the German Grand Prix to see Dick Seaman win his laurels, and many other long-distance runs, ” GX68 ” has given me about as reliable, fast and enjoyable performance as any car could possibly give, and at a first cost of well under 1300. Not long after I came into possession of the car I moved from Lancashire to Coventry. My ” digs ” were right in the town and maintenance and tuning had to be carried out in the street by the aid of gaslight. This, I decided, was not fitting for such a car, so a search was made for new lodgings in the country where more space would be available. I very luckily found what I wanted, about seven miles out, where I had the run of a large barn. But I did not fancy using ” GX68 ” as a hack for going to and from work, so I looked round for a cheap (15) model of the same make as the firm I was working with ! I found one soon enough, but the garage also had for sale an old 4i-litre Bentley with a fixed-head fabric coupe body by Gurney Nutting, in superb condition, and in which a 3-litre engine had been installed. Needless to say, I succumbed. Although, after I had thrown away the Smith’s five-jet carburetter and fitted a Sokx, the performance was very satisfactory, and the fuel consumption on a long run over 20 m.p.g., my finances could not support such a high standard of living, especially with the increased horse-power tax. and I eventually traded the Bentley for a 1935 2-seater Morris Eight. This was flogged unmercifully, gave very reliable service, and apart from one or two enlarged big-ends and replacement front springs and shackles, needed no extra expenditure for its maintenance. I unfortunately wrote it off completely one night in November, 1040, when I collided with the rear of an unilluminated and fully-laden Leyland “Octopus.”

My war-time motoring has had its exciting moments, but always on perfectly sober and standard W.D. machinery, the excitement and urge for speed being provided by Jerry, in spite of the entire unsuitability of most parts of the Western Desert for any such pastime. At present, in Malta, I am enjoying the use of an excellent W.D. Teledraulic Matchless, to which a little extra special attention has been paid. But I do not think it advisable to go into details until hostilities are over and I am once more in” civvies.” This really brings me to the end of this awful effusion, with the exception of my plans for when peace comes again. ” GX68 ” is carefully stored away and I hope to carry out one or two more refinements which should improve the performance still more, and to enjoy many more thousands of miles of quiet, reliable and high-speed motoring with suitable club events thrown in.