V-E-V miscellany, February 1984, February 1984

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— Arising from the photograph we published in the December 1983 issue, of the blower 4 1/2-litre Bentley bought new by the late T.G. Moore when he was the owner of Motor Sport, Mr A. Fielding writes to say that he owned this car up to 1958, when he sold it to Mr Carter in the States, not in 1952 as the previous correspondent thought. When he acquired the Bentley in 1955 it was very good mechanically but in need of retrirnming, etc. It was black and the chassis number is thought to have been MS3925; the picture we published was taken outside the White Lion at Talybont in 1955, when Mr Fielding purchased it.

There are two items related to the VSCC which we make without comment. One is that when the Club transferred its last month’s driving tests from Brooklands to Goodwood it said this was because with “the various building and reconstruction that is going on there it is not possible focus to use the Track for our Surrey Driving Tests”. The other item is that a suggestion that rear-engined GP cars from the non-ground-effects period, that is, those made between 1958 and 1978 should be accepted for VSCC racing, proposed by two members of the Committee, has been defeated. However, like a dog worrying a bone, it has been decided that, if sufficient support is forthcoming, there will be an invitation race for such recent racing cars at the VSCC Donington Race Meeting on May 7th. Hang on, chaps, if you wait long enough your 1980 cars may become vintage acquisitions yet! We see from The Moth, that excellent magazine of the enthusiastic DH Moth Club, that David Black has broadened his repertoire by acquiring a DH94 Moth Minor and joining the Club.

Those who enjoy assimilating every piece of Rolls-Royce lore may be interested to know, if they didn’t already, that A. P. Sloane, Vice-President of General Motors, had ordered a new Rolls-Royce when on holiday in Europe with his wife in the summer of 1920, intending to use it for a tour, but the slump caused him to return to the USA in August 1920 before he could take delivery of it. General Motors had been formed by W. C. Durant (who came from a carriage-trade background and reorganised the failing Buick Company in 1904) in 1908, the same year in which Henry Ford introduced the Model-T, both epochmaking events. At first GM consisted of the friction-drive Cartercar, the two-stroke Elmore, and other “white-elephants”. As the Corporation grew it absorbed firms like Champion-AC spark plugs, Fisher bodies, and similar accessory and component makers. After WWI the car makes involved were Sheridan, Cadillac, Buick, Olds, Oakland, Chevrolet, plus GMT commercial vehicles. Also Samson Tractors and the Guardian Frigerator Co which was to become the mighty Frigidaire Division. The need to reorganise was seen in 1921, when GM’s range doubled up too much in the 1,300 to 2,100 dollar models. There were the Chevrolet 490 and FB models, the cheap six-cylinder Oakland, four, six and eight-cylinder Olds, the first using the Chevrolet FB engine, a Scripps-Booth with the Oakland six-cylinder engine, the Sheridan which like the four-cylinder Olds had the Chevrolet FB engine, a six-cylinder. Buick and the vee-eight Cadillac. GM were second to Ford in output, as they were to be for many years, the 1920 figures being 393,075 vehicles (Chevrolet 129,525, Buick 112,208) to GM, 1,074,336 to Ford.

Sloane felt the six-cylinder engine to be no attraction in America at that time, the obsolescent Olds and Oakland to be competing at nearly identical prices, and the Oakland was in trouble in other ways while waiting for a new engine, the crankshaft of the existing one being unable to cope with the 35 to 40 bhp developed and workmanship being poor, so that production varied from ten to 50 cars a day as troubles were fixed up. (I trust I do not unduly depress any owners of early vintage Oaklands). Oakland output fell from 41,127 in 1919 to only 11,852 in 1921, Olds did little better, with 41,127 1919 sales, down to 18,978 by 1921, but Cadillac sold 19,790 cars in 1920, the high price at the time of the slump dropping this to 11,130 by 1921. This resulted in rationalisation and somehow GM survived the debacle of the air-cooled Chevrolet. The Oakland faded away but not before the 1924 “True Blue” Oakland had scored a “first” for its durable Duco lacquer finish, previous to which the Dodge Brothers car had led with its enamel finish, with no paint or varnish. Generously it seems, by 1925 GM had made Duco available to the entire Industry. GM claimed other “firsts”, such as automatic transmission, after Cadillac and Oldsmobile had conducted experiments, at first with semi-auto systems requiring a clutch pedal, which became the Buick-built Hydra-Matic transmission pioneered by Oldsmobile it 1940 and Cadillac in 1941, leading to the Buick Dynaflow fluid converter of 1948, and the Chevrolet Powerglide of 1950. Dubonnet in France and Maurice Olley who had left Rolls-Royce for Cadillac developed ifs for GM, testing on a “bump-rig” as used by Rolls-Royce much earlier, and by 1930s Cadillac had experimental layouts of different kinds on the road. The flat ride of the two Cadillacs when tried against a beam-axle Buick with GM’s top-brass on board convinced them that they had to have ifs but the 1933 slump killed automatic transmissions for a while.

Cadillac, Buick and Oldsmobile went for wish-bone ifs by 1933, Chevrolet, and later Pontiac, used the Dubonnet system by 1934, Bill Knudsen of Chevrolet refusing to be put off by O. E. Hunt, GM’s Engineering Vice-President when told there were not enough centre-less grinding machines in the USA to grind the coil-spring. WB

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