Vintage Postbag

FWD Alvis matters


I was, of course, extremely interested to read the article by Hugh Torrens regarding the FC front-drive Alvis in the current issue of MOTOR SPORT.

I was particularly interested to learn that John Cooper once owned "WMZ 142 a TO 12/50 whose present whereabouts is unknown". I purchased this Car in May 1951 off a Birmingham bomb site for £28. The chassis No. was 11584 and the engine No. was 7048. I used the car continually up to May 1956 when its life came io an ignoble end, but it was, however, a life of adventure. It was not unfortunately in its original form when I purchased it. Someone had cut the chassis in half, turned the rear half upside down, and underslung it under the rear axle. On this he had fitted an ex-W.D. Austin 8-h.p. tourer body, but apart from the sacrileg of the exercise I must admit that it did not look bad, and whoever it was who did it knew what he was doing, structurally. Furthermore, he had fitted an 8-h.p. Zenith carburetter to the engine which, incredibly, worked well. In May 1956 I was living in Gloucestershire and garaged the car in an old outbuilding which had a roof of heavy pantiles on very old and rotten timbers.

One night there occurred a real storm, and the roof fell in on to the Alvis,. I shall not ponder on this.

After due consideration I decided that in view of the fact that it was unoriginal, restoration was out of the question and I sold the 'engine and front and rear axles complete to an Alvis enthusiast in Stroud.

However, I kept the radiator, the headlamps and sidelights, together with the lovely brass petrol tank filler cap.

The highly, polished filler eap hangs on a wall in the hall and I have long had the notion of mounting the radiator on the wall and possibly even connecting to the heating System.

I fixed the headlamps on to the 12/60 which I purchased soon after the tragedy and which I still own. Kingswood A. E. KING


I read with interest your article on the front-wheel-drive Alvis cars. The following information may be of some interest to you. T can remember in 1937/38 that a gentleman named Bill Pitcher who owned a garage in Rugby, Warwicks purchased from Alvis Cars, Coventry, a new supercharged 8-cylinder Alvis engine, and some time later acquired a burnt-out Alvis FWD single-seater racing chassis. He intended to build this up, hut when the war started it was put on one side. I do know he still owned it in the early postwar years. Bill Pitcher was in partnership with Jack Parker trading under the name of Bill Pitcher. Lawford Road, Rugby. I believe that Bill Pitcher is still connected with the business. They were both speedway riders of repute, and used to winter in Australia quite frequently. I wondered if this could be how the surviving car finished up in Australia.

I had often wondered what had happened to this car.


Racing Alvis Recollection


I was extremely interested to read Mr. Torrens' article On the FC FWD Alvis in the December issue.

Although I drove the unsupercharged 4-cylinder FA at Le Mans in 1928, and the supercharged car in the TT later in the same year, I had no knowledge that the TT cars had the PC engine, nor did I realise that the fixed-head engine existed.

Turning out my old photographs, I have discovered an excellent side view of an Ulster car, probably the one I drove, which was taken, I suspect, during scrutineering. This I enclose. The experts may be able to deduce some further information from it. I cannot myself comment, since I never worked on the TT engine. However, the block does look very similar to the block in Rab Gunnell's possession. Incidentally, I wonder whether John Cooper managed to install an FC engine into his FD which went to Australia? Perhaps that is how the block went there, and maybe the engine was changed later.

My car in the TT was a works prepared and supported Car, entered by me to preserve my amateur status. The same :applied to Purdy's car.

As the article points out, the Alvis Company frequently allowed too little preparation time for the FWD competition cars, and those entered for the 1928 TT were no exception. Indeed, I had to do some practice on my own 12/50 WM 47 to learn the Ards circuit, before the FWD car became available. To be fair, we had been given plenty of time to practise with the FA cars at Le Mans.

Certainly the Ulster cars had a greatly improved performance over those at Le Mans. They were faster and, in many respects, more stable. However, the transfer of the battery ahead of the radiator—which Alvis alleged was intended to increase adhesion of the front wheels—seemed to make the TT cars more liable to an uncontrollable spin if, and when, the rear end broke away. My race ended when I encountered a localised wet patch on the road while accelerating uphill on a fast bend. The rear wheels lost adhesion without warning; the car spun, hit the bank and turned over. I enclose a second photograph which shows it upside down. May T add that I was not responsible for the fallen tree in the background!!

My riding mechanic. Jimmy; was thrown clear. I stayed inside the car hut was saved by my crash helmet which left a 30 yard blue streak on the road surface.

Harvey had earlier suffered a similar spin without turning over and Presumably for the same reason. Incidentally Harvey had put in more racing hours in FWD cars than any of the rest of us.

In modern terms, when the breakaway point came, there was a very sudden and unpredictable transition from understeer to violent oversteer. In my case this occurred with the power on. I had my foot hard down. I have little doubt that moving the battery back to the mid-chassis position in later models was a small but significant weight change which improved the balance. The later straight-eight cars did not have the battery in this position. Their road-holding was very good.

The engine of the TT car was superb. It was only too easy to exceed the 5,000 r.p.m. limit set by Alvis, and on more than one occasion Jimmy had to thump me on the knee and point to the rev-counter during the race. It was our constant fear that a piston would fail and, in Purdy's case, this happened.

The Alvis Company offered an allegedly "new" FWD car for my wife to drive in the 1928 Boillot Cup race but, fearing it would not be ready in time, she wisely preferred to rely on our well-trusted 12/50 WM 47. In that race. Harvey also had piston trouble when driving WK 7343. After the race it was the 12/50 which towed the FWD back to the pits.

I have no means of telling which chassis or car number my TT car had, nor its registration number. The photograph of WK 6948 in your last issue shows Harvey in the driving seat, with Tattersall beside him, so one can perhaps assume that he drove that car in the TT.

I suspect that the very ugly single-seater 4-cy1inder FWD car which took the three Class-F records in September 1928 must have been one of the TT cars. It could even have been my car rebodied. I cannot recall ever driving it, though I well remember driving the much-better-looking straight-eight single. seater the following Easter.

Incidentally, are you correct in saying that Alvis used "Alfa-Rootes" superchargers? Peter Hull's book says they were of Rootes design made by Alvis, i.e. " Alvis-Rootes" I doubt whether Smith-Clarke would have tolerated any "foreign" influence in his cars at that time.

I am sorry that I cannot provide any further information to add to the story of the FC. engine. I can only express my admiration at the painstaking research of Mr. Torrens, and my thanks to MOTOR SPORT for an article which brought back some very happy memories.


Cars in the Sudan


Further to my letter of September last regarding the Arrol-Johnston Dogcart in the Sudan. I have since then managed to contact Sir Ronald Wingate, Bart., the son of General Sir Francis Reginald Wingate, Governor General of the Sudan 1899-1916. In a letter to me Sir Ronald has confirmed that his father, in conjunction with his friend Sir William Arrol of Arrol-Johnston, experimented with this car on Belhaven Sands near Dunbar and after having some modifications made it was taken out to the Sudan, where it proved successful., Sir Ronald recalls being taken for a run on this car, which he describes as rather like a sleigh—with the driver in the middle, he thinks that the year was 1905, and that it was the first car in the Sudan. Leith JAMES N. SAVAGE

More About Sleeve-Valve Daimlers


As the owner and regular user of a 35/120 Daintier for the past 13 years, may I be permitted to make some comments further to the recent article and correspondence on these cars.

First, I believe that the tar responsible for this interest, is not strictly a 35/120, but an R..1 30. Doubtless Mr. Ardran himself would confirm or deny this. The most obvious difference is that the 35/120 cylinders were arranged in two blocks of three, whereas the R & N.1 30's were in three blocks. I also believe that the moving oil troughs were not used on the 35/120. My car, built in 1927, certainly does not have this system.

There are two devices for increased lubrication of the sleeves when cold: first, an oiling gallery on the port side of the engine, through which oil is injected directly to the sleeves on operation of the starter button. For this reason it is desirable to press the starter button for several seconds before switching on, When the engine is cold. The second is the oil printer mentioned by Mr. Oldham, although I feel that the principal function of this is to compensate for the neat petrol injected simultaneously by the petrol primer. As these primers operate only with the mixture control quadrant in the "start" position, I find it very hard to believe that any chauffeur ever drove a Daimler in this way. I am Sure that the chauffeurs a the 1920s were More professional than their present-day counterparts, and even the most idiotic driver now does not drive with the choke permanently out.

I find the oil and petrol consumption figures quoted by Mr. Oldham, hard to credit. I do not think that Daimlers themselves envisaged 800 m.p.g. let alone 800 m.p.p. of oil. My information on petrol consumption is that one can hope for 13-14. A former Stratstone (sorry, Stratton and Instone) workshop foreman told me that some car hire companies obtained slightly better than this, by altering the positions and/or sizes of the 7 jets in the carburetter —but this was at the expense Of smooth running and performance.

I have acquired the greatest respect for my Daintier, which has withstood my maltreatment and gross neglect for so many years, and would commend the fining of 23 in. tyres to all vehicles being driven through the flood Waters of East Anglia, having satisfactorily completed a journey recently which no car of lesser stature could have survived.


Hampstead, NW3


I was interested in the Daintier in White Elephantitis. I enclose a photograph of a Daimler I drove for .six years; the only trouble I had was a broken contact-breaker spring. The best car I ever drove, The engine was silent but it began to get heavy on oil, and developed a slight knock. It must have been sold; I never saw it again and I got put on a Sunbeam.

It was a pleasure to drive and I have driven most of them, from a "Tin Lizzie" to a 40-50 Rolls-Royce.

Edinburgh A. RHIND

Peugot Engines


There is probably no greater living authority On-motorcycle racing history than Erwin Tragatsch who has been my friend and mentor in these matters during the past twenty years. However, his account of the origins and development of the o.h.c. Peugeot vertical-twin in your December issue differs from that which I have gathered mainly from French sources and the English magazines.

I have been Unable to trace any evidence that the o.h.c. twin competed in 1913 although its appearance in 1914 created a minor sensation. Housed in a traditional, late vintage frame with belt final drive was an eight valve, twin o.h.c. vertical twin (62 mm. x 82 mm.) with the drive to the camshafts by a train of gears between the cylinders. The design of this engine is usually attributed to Ernest Henry.

Antonescu, otherwise Antonesco, joined Peugeot in 1919 and introduced a number of modifications including chain drive. Although they were the most promising French machines in the 500 class the promise was not fulfilled until Antonescu redesigned the top-end for the 1923 season with only two valves per cylinder operated by a single o.h.c. driven from the right side of the engine by vertical shaft and bevel gears. In this form Peugeot were able to claim 21 wins out of the 23 events they had entered, the score including the Swiss GP, the GP des Nations at Monza and the Spanish GP at Sitges. Their regular team being: Paul Péan„ René Gillard and Jean Richard. In addition to the 500 they built a 750 version which was successful in hill-climbs and sprints and also a 350 which was not raced. In the remaining period 1924/26 the opposition had the edge on them by .dint of better handling and some brilliant riders but the ,Peugeot engines were still years ahead of their time.