Vintage Postbag, February 1953

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56

Sir,

I was pleased to read the letter from Mr. Montgomery as for some time now I have been hearing rumours of an “open Crossley in Bromley district.”

My own car is of slightly earlier date. First registered January, 1930, is her official birthday, but her cast of countenance suggests that she is approaching a more mature age than twenty-three. No face-lifting or other beauty treatment has been indulged in except to remove the sadly chipped paint, which revealed virgin aluminium. This has responded to much steel-wool, polish and elbow grease, and the original leather upholstery has been painted to match the wings.

She has never had in her youth the care she deserves. She did duty as an R.A.F. officers’ beer wagon during the war and then was flogged (for eggs ?) to a local farmer. I don’t think he ever managed to get her into top gear and I was able to do a deal on a Whit-Monday for two rather decrepit Morris Minors.

For the last five years about the only garage bill was for a rebore soon after I bought her. My wife and I have done all the minor and body work, and we have found the old lady a joy to work on.

The engine is a replica of Mr. Montgomery’s except for the inlet cover plate. Regarding the Lagonda discussion, you should have seen the expression on the face of the owner of a very high-falutin 2-litre Lag. when he saw me lift my bonnet.

She will hold 50-55 all day long, up hill and down dale, and does over 32 m.p.g. in the summer on a long run and about 26 running round Thanet in the winter. Oil, of course, has to be changed not added. Second and third gear are getting a bit noisy now and I think we shall have to decoke and grind in valves soon; it is over three years since we did this.

My wife, on a trip to Scotland this summer, found 350 miles a day easy touring, but our greatest boast is that she has never been off the road for one day except for the paint to dry. She is certainly a better financial proposition than many a later 10-h.p. car. There is only one snag I can see in owning a car of such magnificent breeding   —  you cannot hope to go anywhere without someone telling the wife.

I am, Yours, etc.,

T. J. Roberts

Broadstairs

***

Sir,

I enclose a photograph of my 1926 9-h.p. Fiat 509 drophead coupé, together with some information which may interest your readers.

The car, after considerable restoration, is now in daily service and gives a very good account of itself. Among the original documents that were with the car is a 12-page booklet entitled “The Biggest Thing in Small Cars,” being a reprint from a long article on the car by the Motoring Correspondent of the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News  dated October 2nd, 1926. The following extracts are perhaps worthy of your attention.

“The engine ignores hills as the brakes do descents, so easy is it to maintain speed without a hint of forcing. The car is relatively so light that it does not hurtle down grades, yet its road adhesion is astonishing.”

Then follows a long story about a trip to Dartmoor, where the author “happened on a very large private car, the occupants of which put up their hands in alarm to stop me for they were stationary and imagined that it would be impossible to pull up the 9-h.p. Fiat on the steep pitch in the space available.” However, all was well and the two cars then had a race up a steep hill, the Fiat winning, much to the disgust of the owner of the high-taxed powerful car.

Later we hear that  “It no more runs than Spanish women walk; it glides as they do, but how much more speedily.”  And again: “This car is not sold on eyewash as by tricking it out with a hundred and one gadgets in accordance with the current vogue.”  A remark which applies forcibly to our modern cars.

After ten pages of such praise there are four photographs showing the 2/3-seater at £215, torpedo four-seater tourer at £215, the saloon at £275, and the drophead coupé at £265. I believe that the coupé model was nicknamed “The Doctor’s Car” owing to its popularity with the medical men of those days.

The fact that this particular car had been with one owner for twenty years in the Isle of Wight and the service that it is now giving, makes me think that the praise given to it was not after all too much.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Peter Collings,

Denham.

***

Sir,

In the December issue of Motor Sport  you made reference to a Morris-Oxford two-seater, of the year 1925. From your remarks, it would appear that the machine to which you refer is rather different from the normal 1925 model.

The colour scheme is, of course, new. According to the Morris catalogue for the 1924 show, colours available were blue, claret, bronze green, and grey. No yellow wheels, thank goodness!

The radiator, please note, was not nickel-plated. The shiny part was solid nickel sheet. You could Brasso away as long as you liked. Incidentally, at present prices of nickel, a bull-nose radiator should be worth a shilling or two.

The two horns were finished in black enamel, the bulb-horn with nickel-plated fittings, the electric horn with a cast aluminium frame. The scuttle ventilator was nickel-plated. (My father’s four-seater once scooped in a passing sparrow with its scuttle ventilator.)

The battery was mounted on the near-side running-board in a wooden box, with the electric horn on its lid. I think the toolbox balanced it on the off side. (This was so on the four-seater.)

The standard carburetter was a Smith five-jet automatic, with hand tick-over throttle and mixture control.

On the four-seater the steering lock was covered in about 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 turns of the wheel, surely it would not be lower geared on the lighter model!

The calormeter was not a standard fitting until a year or so later; in 1925 an American Boyce Moto-meter with a column of liquid was fitted.

If it rode solidly on its 3/4 elliptic rear springs it was certainly different from the four-seater. With a good load aft, the spring rate and degree of over-steer were reminiscent of the worst excesses of Yankee automobilisrn.

List price was £260, or £250 with two-wheel brakes, and the catalogue compiler referred to it as “My Lady’s Choice.” No doubt “My Lady” was fairly slim, so that she had no difficulty in getting in and out!

Spare parts for the engine might not be so difficult as would at first sight appear, by the way, for it was produced up to a very recent date (it may still be in production, for ought I know) with a view to insertion in motor-boats and those little trucks that haul luggage about station platforms. Even the projection on the block casting, which used to carry the steering-box (worm and wheel), remained, unused, like a hen’s wings.

I am, Yours, etc.,

R.H. Jewitt

Rugby.

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