Letters from Readers, February 1947

In order to vindicate my well-known and passionate love of accuracy in technical articles, I felt that I must write and point out two errors which appear in the printed version of my article describing the power unit of Mr. George Symond’s Austin Seven “Grasshopper.”

It may be that the rush to get your January issue out had occasioned these.

In the first place, the blower is obviously not driven from the dynamo spindle, but from a pulley mounted on the spindle carried in the special dynamo casing. This spindle carries a gear meshing with the camshaft gear and revolves at engine speed.

Secondly, the penultimate paragraph in my typescript is omitted, completely, from the printed version. This gives the ultimate paragrah, as printed, no referential context; it is therefore meaningless, and may be ignored.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Harold Biggs
Enfield, Middlesex.

I want to keep you in touch with the latest developments of the “500” Car Club movement.

On Monday, December 9th, there was a meeting at my house of the Technical Panel. Mr. Laurence Pomeroy came down from London to be present. Mr. Harding, Secretary of the Technical Panel, was there as well as General Secretary John Siddall, R. D. Caesar, P. McCormic, A. H. G. Butler, R. Bickerton. Mr. Roland Cross, of Bath, came as consultant to the panel. The main objects of the meeting were the functions of the Technical Panel and the way in which the club magazine, “Iota,” would he its mouthpiece. This magazine will have other functions as well, of course. It will be of some 40 pages and in format 8 by 6 in.

The Technical Panel will give guidance to such builders as require it, but it does not take responsibility that plans which it has approved or cars it has inspected will pass the R.A.C. scrutineer. Responsible representatives of the panel will be chosen in various areas to inspect cars built in their area.

Members of the Panel will provide a series of articles on various aspects of design and construction to appear monthly in the magazine “Iota.” Mr. Pomeroy promised to give this a start;

The Panel will approach suitable firms on behalf of the Club and enquire about the availability of engines, gearboxes and other materials. This will avoid the said firms being inundated with enquiries from individuals. Individuals with parts of engines for disposal are asked to inform the Panel so that this and the above information may be published in tabular form each month.

On Friday, December 20th, four of us went to talk to the M.A.C. at Birmingham on “This ‘500’ Business.” We were John Siddall, Dick Caesar, Jack Harding and myself. It was a great success. Dick Caesar showed the C.A.P.A. lilm as proof that cheap racing is possible though, of course, “500” racing will be different in many respects. Mr. Caesar then traced the history of the “500” formula. How he had mooted the “cadet class,” for stock Ford Ten or similar engines, at the M.E.C. meeting at Birmingham in October, 1943 (as previously put forward by Orlebar). How Neve had written in Motor Sport in support of a 500-c.c. class. Neve is an old friend of mine, and when he came to Bristol in November, 1944, I brought him and Caesar together and a fruitful discussion ensued. Then the B.A.C. Motor Sport Club held its meeting and at that and the subsequent meeting, at which representatives from clubs all over the country were present, the formula was evolved. Mr. Harding outlined the reasons for the various items of the formula. I amplified his statement and told a little about the plans of the magazine, of which I am Assistant Editor.

Mr. Siddall introduced the speakers and generally directed our part of the show. He also gave the latest “gen.” There were 82 cars building, 67 being expected by next spring. In the U.S.A. two clubs are being formed to our formula, in Australia three, in Belgium one and in Holland one. Possibly Italy may come in too. But the latter is not yet very certain; Lurani is interested, however.

After an interval there was a lively question time. At the end all our 50 entry forms went and many more left names, etc. The chairman of the meeting asked for a show of hands of those intending to build cars. Ten went up. It was a great success and we would like to thank the M.A.C. for their consideration and kindness and the warmth of their reception. Even before the meeting 14 cars were scheduled in this area.

One point of Dick Caesar’s I would emphasise, namely, that not everyone should aspire to become champion of this class of racing. There is plenty of room for local “Village Green” racing as well.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Jane Breyer
Press rep. “500” Club.

I, like Mr. R. C. Porter, was also very interested in the article by “Baladeur” on old de Dion’s. I was therefore careful to check my petrol consumption on a recent run of 440 miles in my 1904 6-h.p. model. On this journey 21 gallons were used which works out at 21 miles per gallon over good average roads. It seems, therefore, that these cars have a fairly heavy petrol consumption compared with modern standards and I am frankly amazed at Mr. Porter getting 45-50 to the gallon on his 4 1/2-h.p. car.

Incidentally, if any of your readers find difficulty in starting a veteran on “Pool” they will probably find that a few squibs of “Ronsonol” into the compression tap will give a sure start first swing. I carry an oil can full of “Ronsonol” on the de Dion and have no difficulty in starting in the coldest weather.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Brian Morgan
Birmingham, 20.
[We have always been under the impression that early small cars were moderately heavy on petrol — things like 2-cyl. Renaults, with mechanical valves, surely averaged about 33? – Ed.]

Consideration has recently been given to the possibility of holding the first Frazer-Nash Owners’ Dinner and Dance since the outbreak of war, which was always an outstanding event in the list of pre-war motoring functions. As things are still difficult in many ways, it would be very helpful if anyone interested would take the trouble to telephone or write to Mr. W. H. Aldington as to their possible requirements, so as to provide at least some idea of probable numbers.

We also hear that the Club (which was responsible for organising several successful pre-war events such as the Stanley Cup) will shortly be going on to an active footing.
I am, Yours, etc.,
for A.F.N. Limited.,
W. H. Aldington

I feel I should write a short note to correct a slight error in your” Personality Parade” in the December issue of Motor Sport. In mentioning the hotted-up engine in the latest “Seafire” you refer to the occasional opening up to full boost required to prevent “oiling-up plugs.” This occasional opening up, which should be done for about 80 seconds every 15 minutes (especially when outside air temperatures are very low and charge temperatures therefore lower than normal) is not to clear the plugs of oil, but of lead deposit. When the two-stage Merlins were fitted with the Rolls-Bendix (sometimes called Stromberg) instead of S.U. carburetters, the former being injection carburetters, the lead fouling of plugs was first encountered. It was found that the lead content in the fuel was prone to come out of suspension before the induction trunk was reached, due generally to either low rate of flow (at high boost and low revs.), and a low-charge temperature. By the periodical opening up to full boost which was adopted (1) any small formation on the plugs was cleared, and (2) the lead out of suspension was picked up in the increased swirl caused by full boost (and, of course, peak revs.), and thus dealt with in reasonably small quantities.

Additional measures were, blanking off a section of the intercooler intake to increase charge temperature, and a wider plug gap setting (the latter, of course, tieing up with the maximum altitude to which the particular aircraft was to ascend). The problem was never completely overcome and, in fact, one Mosquito crew was forced to bale out Shortly after D-Day when, having had to feather the port motor due to several cylinders being “out,” the starboard, even though then running at +9 lb./ sq. in. and 2,850 r.p.m. (max. revs. being 8,000), also started misbehaving and eventually also had to be feathered. They landed just a few yards on our side of the “area” having delayed baling out as long as they dared. (The lead merchants must have overproduced the previous week!)

I have no connection with Rolls-Royce, but would add that, other than this trouble on certain Merlin Marks due in no way to faulty engine design, probably only a small percentage of motor-racing enthusiasts realise that the latest Merlin engines (except for troubles from ancillaries) ran between their 800-hour overhaul periods just like an Austin Seven engine, with the great difference that at take-off boost their output per litre was so close to 77 b.h.p. as makes no difference, whilst climbing boost (used for half an hour each flight) was +12 lb./sq.in. giving about 62 b.h.p. per litre. Really and truly remarkable.
Yours, etc.,
J. K. Mason
Leatherhead, Surrey.

I greatly enjoyed the feature entitled “Sideslips,” by “Baladeur,” in the September issue, and was particularly interested as I am the owner of a 1902 Serpollet. Knowing how rare these cars are, I thought you might be interested in a picture of my Serpollet, which has recently been fully restored and is in excellent condition. It is a Gardner-Serpollet, Surrey (Victoria top) by Kellner et ses Fils, Model F., 1902.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Cameron Peck

I was glad to note from Mr. Davenport’s letter in your January issue that he is in favour of applying the system of nomenclature that was suggested by Motor Sport some months ago. It seemed to me at the time a logical and tidy way, and when writing to Mr. Davenport recently I added the postscript which he quotes. If this question of nomenclature becomes general on the lines you suggested, the word “Special” would not apply to the home-brewed machine, made of mixed components. Actually, it is a word some of us would like to see eliminated, but its use in connection with competition cars, I believe, came from America. Originally, the addition of “Special” to the name of a make implied that the car was genuinely of that make, but that it need not be a listed or standard model. It would be interesting to have the Editor’s opinion as to the practicability of using it only as originally intended.

Returning to Mr. Davenport’s G.N. “Spider” chassis, as has been stated, is standard 1920 with the addition of F.W.B. The first engine was a 2-valve-per-cylinder production model known as a 1922 O.H.C. “Vitesse” 1,100 c.c., 84 bore X 48 stroke. The chain-driving camshafts was at rear of cylinders. These engines had nice road manners as well as being fast. I believe it was one of these that the late Richard Bolster used.

The second engine fitted in “Spider” was one taken out of Captain Frazer-Nash’s single-seater “Mowgli.” This engine was built, one off, in the G.N. experimental shop in 1920-21, and at first was 1,100 c.c. It had 4-valve bronze heads with O.H. camshafts driven by a chain at the front. During the time it was in “Mowgli” the bore and stroke were increased to 89 x 120, making the capacity 1,500. Similar 4-valve heads were afterwards used on the bevel-driven O.H.C. “Akela” engine which ran in the early 200-mile races. Incidentally, “Mowgli,” like “Kim,” was the name of an individual car (not a type), whereas “Akela” was a type name for a number of engines.

I am naturally most interested in “Spider’s” re-appearance, as it is now 25 years since Nash and I worked on these twins.

Best wishes to Moto Sport: it is always completely interesting, not, the least “Sideslips” which surely is worthy of some illustrations.
I am, Yours, etc.,
H.R.G. Engineering Co., Ltd.
[We certainly are not in love with the term “Special” and agree that our suggested system of nomenclature might replace it. We seem to recall that in the British Grand Prix of 1926 every car entered had to be termed a “Special,” this term being tacked on to the maker’s name to indicate a 1 1/2-litre G.P. car as distinct, from a sports car. Even this seems unnecessarily cumbersome and race regulations should surely be sufficient to show the nature of the competing cars. — Ed.]

“Baladeur” in his article on the rule of the road did not probe the subject deeply enough. The Pope in question only made a law to confirm what was the natural habit of right-handed people all over the world. Way back in the dim ages when two cave men met on the trail they naturally moved over to the left so that their right, or club-carrying, hand was nearest to the other bloke, who might possibly be unfriendly — if he had the girl friend in tow he thrust her to his left hand. When horses got into production the same thing applied, with the added reason that the sword scabbard was worn on the left side, so one had to mount from the left-hand side of the horse — hence the pavement or mounting blocks were on that side of the road. The mediaeval tournament (see “Ivanhoe”) is a perfect example of this. All decorations, feathers, and other gew-gaws were worn on the left-hand side to give free use to the right. I quite agree with your contributor about the right-handed circle in the desert, but the “Rule of the Road” only applies when meeting other traffic and I maintain that the British rule is the naturally correct one, and that the French Revolutionaries would have quickly reverted when attacked.

The French have, since the Revolution, made great efforts to teach the children to be ambidextrous without much success; perhaps they had to do this when they altered the rule of the road from its natural side.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Eric E. B. Vereker