— a rather rare Continental Car
During the war some interest was aroused by descriptions of popular Continental cars, which appeared in Motor Sport. Now that a further hiatus in joy-through-motoring has occurred, and Motor Sport has again room for reminiscences, I venture to offer some information on the car which I consider to be the best of the Continentals — the Adler.
The Adler deserves to be better known in England than it appears to be, as it could not but bring joy to those who admire Continental trends. It should be of particular interest to Citroen enthusiasts, as the Adler possesses most of the features which have made the Citroen so famous, and a few more besides. I once heard a well-known Irish racing driver say that the Adler had all the virtues of the Citroen, without its faults. It is not, however, an imitation of the Citroen, as the two cars — front-drive Adler and front-drive Citroen — came out at about the same time (I do not remember which came first, but a few months covered both appearances).
Adler cars were produced since before the first world war, by Adlerwerke, Frankfort-am-Main, Germany. In 1934 they became of interest to enthusiasts by the introduction of a range of unorthodox cars, designed by the former chief engineer of the Rohr company, which had closed down some time before. The range consisted of three models “Diplomat,” “Trümpf,” and “Trümpf-Junior.” The last-named, commonly called “the Junior,” was by far the most popular model of the range, and it is with it that I shall chiefly concern myself. In brief its specification was as follows: —
Engine — 4 cylinders, 65 by 75 mm., 995 c.c., RAC rating 10.48 h.p., inclined side-valves, three-bearing crankshaft, 25 b.h.p. at 4,000 r.p.m. Updraught Solex carburetter fed by a scuttle tank of 5 1/2 gallons capacity, including 3/4 gallon reserve. The engine drove forward to a single-plate dry clutch and four-speed gearbox. From the gearbox the drive was to the front wheels by half-shafts, each having two universal joints. Final drive ratio was 5.42 to 1. Front susension was by twin transverse half-elliptic springs mounted one above the other. Steering was by rack-and-pinion. The frame was a box-section structure, to which was welded the metal-floored body, the whole being closely akin to an integral construction, but the frame was quite strong enough to permit open and convertible coachwork. Across the rear of the frame was a transverse hollow tube containing two co-axial torsion bars, each of which was splined to a rigid support in the centre of the tube, and ran to the outer end. Each brake backplate was attached to a swinging arm which was splined to the torsion bar at its other end. The arrangement was thus somewhat similar to the Porsche system, but the swinging arms were leading instead of trailing. Damping front and rear was by Adler hydraulic dampers, and I have heard it suggested that the back dampers were expected to do far too much of the suspension work. Be that as it may, there are few cars, and no low-priced cars which give a more stable ride than the Adler. The wheelbase of the Junior was 8 ft. 2 3/8 ins, and track 4 ft. 0 in. Prices were £245-£275.
The Trümpf followed closely on the lines of the Junior, but had orthodox rear suspension, by half-elliptics, and had an engine of 1,645-c.c.
The Diplomat, which is a very rare specimen indeed (I knew of only one in Ireland), had rear drive and an engine of about 3 litres.
The Adler was first introduced into Ireland in 1934 by Mr. R. Briscoe, T.D., and later was taken over by Mr. “Charlie” Manders, a well-known figure in Irish motoring sport, who assembled it for the Irish market. For an unfamiliar make its success was astonishing, and it easily outsold other better-known Continentals. I have no idea how many were sold, but in Ireland one sees five Adlers to every “1,100” F.I.A.T. or Citroen. I am convinced that its popularity was greatly enhanced by the successes of Mr. Manders’ Adler racing team, which operated from 1934 to 1939. Its best-remembered victory was in 1934, when a Trümpf won the Leinster Trophy race, driven by Miss Fay Taylour. Adler’s other racing achievements in Ireland I do not recall — as I am at present separated from my motoring literature I am relying on my memory for the material for this article. The team cars were road-equipped two-seaters, though Mr. Manders later developed a pretty good single-seater.
Standard saloon Adlers have always been prominent in Irish trials. An Adler saloon team, the drivers being C. H. Manders, G. A. S. Moran, and V. L. M. O’Reilly, competed regularly in 1938 and 1939. The 1938 Hewison Trophy, an award given for best aggregate performance in all the trials of the year, saw Adlers tie for first place, and also take third and fourth. The Hewison Team Trophy was won that year by the team mentioned above. While the Adlers weren’t encountering any mud-pluggers of the Allard calibre, nevertheless, of the sixty or so regular trials men of that time the greater part drove some form of sports car, so this was a splendid show by three small saloons, in everyday use.
The Junior first appeared with a boxy-looking saloon body in the 1934 tradition, but in 1936 the body was redesigned, though the machinery remained basically unchanged. This later model is the best-known, and I have heard much said for and against its appearance. Personally, I regard it as the smartest of all “modest men’s motors,” with its long bonnet, rakish mudguards, wide windscreen and stylishly swept tail. Internally it is plain but good. The dashboard is metal, with two cubby-holes, between which a large speedometer, shaped like an ellipse with the ends cut off, contains oil and petrol gauges. No ammeter was fitted, but there was a red light to warn you of something-or-other. The equipment included a cigarette lighter, which generally got tired after a few months. The gear lever is on the left-hand side of the steering column, and a similar lever on the other side operates the lights. The six-volt electrical system is by Bosch, and is very reliable (except, of course, for the cigarette lighter). No starting-handle accommodation is provided, and I have never heard an Adler owner deplore this. The saloon weighs 16 1/2 cwt., which is far too much, but at least shows that the car is not flimsily built. Petrol consumption is heavy, about 30 m.p.g. being normal. Body styles are: Saloon (two and four-door), cabriolet, and drophead coupé. The latter is by Karmann, and is of great aesthetic appeal.
On the road, the Junior is a delight to handle. The seating position is superb — one sits well up behind the almost vertical steering wheel, and the visibility is excellent. The roadholding and suspension are splendid, and there is no trace of roll on fast corners, though the tail will slide if provoked. As the front track is not constant the tyres scrub, and wear themselves out in 12,000-15,000 miles. This rapid wear, however, must to some extent be due to the natural tendency to drive the car in a rather “dashing” manner. It will take indifferent surfaces without a jar, though, as insinuated earlier, if the rear dampers are in poor condition, it bounces excessively. The steering is very high-geared and rather heavy, firm but not lively. It is very accurate, and does not appear to develop much backlash with age. Incidentally, this remark applies to the whole car, which keeps its tune amazingly. I have driven ten-year old, 70,000-mile models, the freedom from rattle and slackness of which would put much less-used products of Coventry to shame. But you must keep your Adler well lubricated, especially the transmission and front suspension. This, of course, is the chief guarantee of long life with any car, and very much so with the Adler.
I have no authoritative knowledge of performance figures and can only say that it can hold its own with most cars in its class, and is brisker than the “Eights” of comparable cylinder capacity. The brakes, which are cable-operated, are adequate but not outstanding. The handbrake operates on all four wheels.
The Trümpf was also available with various forms of convertible coachwork, which were so popular that I have seen only one saloon in Ireland. Ireland’s only Diplomat is a cabriolet which resembles a Horch in appearance.
The German company entered regularly for lesser Continental sports-car races and trials, but as these were rarely reported in the British motoring Press, I don’t know how these Adlers fared. However, it may be recalled that a team of streamlined Trümpf saloons won the Team Prize in the 1936 Spa 24-Hour Race, and a Trümpf saloon carried off the 1938 Biennial Cup at be Mans. The firm also went in for long-distance records — a Trümpf took the 24 Hours’ Class E record at 99 m.p.h. in 1936, and a 995-c.c. Junior took the Class C Six Days’ and 10,000 mile records at 66 m.p.h. in the same year. The firm always displayed much interest in streamlining, and the 1938 range included a streamlined saloon, possibly on the Diplomat chassis, which was at Earls Court in 1937. It was probably very efficient aerodynamically, but aerodynamics are not everything, and this Adler is one of the ugliest and clumsiest cars I have ever seen.
A car of such individual design as the Adler is not made for fools and is not foolproof. Hence it needs understanding and skilled assistance when mishaps occur. Such is not to be found in Ireland, outside the chief cities, and this probably accounts for the prejudice against the Adler which one occasionally encounters. However, I have never met anyone whose Adler had proved unsatisfactory, without discovering, on investigation, that the fault was on the part of the owner, rather than that of the car. Ordinary maintenance is simple as everything is intelligently laid-out and quite accessible. The firm evidently believed in concentrating on the essentials, as distinct from the astonishing presentday policy of calling-in a gentleman to style (ugh!) the body, afterwards rigging up some sort of machinery to fit conveniently into the “stylist’s conception.” I am horrified at the growth of this iniquitous practice, which has got so bad that even serious enthusiasts discuss the appearance of new cars as though nothing else mattered.
After the war I endeavoured continually to ascertain the probable future of the Adlerwerke, without success, until I learned from a recent issue of the Autocar that the works are scheduled for dismantling. [This article provides an “eye-witness account,” as it were, of yet another Continental utility car with sporting tendencies. Would anyone like to give us practical experience of any remaining European cars of this kind which have not yet been covered — the Renault Eight, for instance? — Ed.]