Vintage postbag, February 1965

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Salmson reminiscences

Sir,

I must say I thoroughly enjoyed reading the article on “The Cars Owned by Miss Betty Haig,” as the reference to the Salmson with the queer valve gear brought back vivid memories of my youth.

In 1931, when I was at the tender age of 17, a friend and I purchased a 1923 Brooklands-type Salmson for the princely sum of £3 10s. It was the model which had the passenger seat almost behind the driver, and to me the pièce de résistance was the long, large-diameter exhaust pipe bound with asbestos string so that the passenger did not burn his arm. It was painted a brilliant red, and was towed in triumphantly to a friend’s house whose misguided parents were kind enough to lend us their lock-up.

As my automobile knowledge was at that time rather sketchy, we decided the thing to do was to strip it down to pieces, and this was done. Upon rebuilding, and not knowing anything about ignition timing, we enlisted the services of a kindly garage proprietor who, as we found out later, in his thoughtfulness for our safety, timed it at near full retard.

When the car was rebuilt, we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly by running the engine up minus the silencer, and were delighted at the flames and bangs emitted from the exhaust pipe. By this time our kindly friends informed us that our stay was no longer welcome.

As I am disabled, when everything was ready for the trial run, and as there were no doors, I was loaded in position by being lifted up shoulder high and fed into the cockpit rather like a muzzle-loader. Our first run was not very exciting as we found that the top speed was only about 20 m.p.h., due to the, perhaps, misplaced kindness of the aforesaid. However, we then found an enthusiast for Salmson cars, and he put us on the right tracks.

Several exciting runs were undertaken, with numerous stops to replace the push-rods of the push/pull valve gear—we could not afford to buy new inlet valve return springs.

The car had a terrifying habit of shedding its wheels, owing to the fact that the threads on the quick-release hub caps were almost non-existent. I have a vivid recollection of going down the busy shopping centre of Westcliff-on-Sea when the near-side front wheel came off and gambolled into a milk-float. Having perhaps rather a queer sense of humour, I promptly had hysterics, whilst my poor friend attempted to pacify a very irate milkman who was dancing up and down in rage amongst his broken bottles and a gigantic pool of milk.

It was shortly after this that a friendly police Inspector advised us to get rid of the red monster, as the local Force could no longer shut its eyes to our regular near-misses. It was then sold to a local car breaker for 10s.!

D. Preston Cobb, Sales Director, p.p. Greeves Motor Cycles – Thundersley

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