The 11.9 h.p Aston Martin

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48

The latest product of a line of thoroughbreds

The name of Aston-Martin has always been one to command respect from the connoisseur in motoring matters, and in the works at Feltham where these cars are made one soon realises why this is so. Before taking over the car which we were going to test on behalf of MOTOR SPORT we took the opportunity of examining the components in various stages of manufacture, and we would advise anyone who thinks that progress in design has given way to mass production, to visit Feltham. There he will see one instance at any rate of a firm whose one aim is to produce the best possible at all costs.

Throughout the chassis there are illustrations of the extraordinary amount of care and forethought which goes to the building of a thoroughbred motor car.

Every single piece of the chassis, from the most insignificant bolt to the chassis frames themselves are made of steel to a special specification to suit the particular job. The rear axle casing is of aluminium alloy, but to avoid carrying any of the ball races in aluminium, these are all carried in special steel housings which in turn are supported by the main bolts which hold the two halves of the axle together. The brake drums are also made of aluminium alloy bolted to a steel hub and with steel liners pressed in to take the actual wear.

The front axle is a very neat and well considered piece of work and the ample size of the bearings on the steering pivots should ensure an abnormal length of life for this part, which in many cars wears out all too soon. The engine, which is chiefly remarkable for the unusual sloping overhead valve head for which Mr. Bettelli is responsible, gives 63 b.h.p. on the Heenan and Fronde dynamometer at 4750 r.p.m. in its standard form. Every engine is balanced statically and dynamically at the works when built, so that there will never be any need for an Aston-Martin owner to consider having any work done on his car in this direction.

In a car of this type the transmission requires careful thought, for in top gear the cardan shaft will be turning round on occasions, at nearly 5,000 r.p.m., and the universal joint behind the gear box will have to be able to deal with this power at this speed without any chance of getting at all out of centre. In the Aston-Martin, the joint itself is a very neat roller bearing job and the concentricity is further looked after by ball-races immediately fore and aft of the joint.

There are many other points such as the clever arrangement for taking the torque of the front wheel brakes, the flexible oil and petrol piping, etc., but we have given enough instances to illustrate the point we have raised, that quality is the first consideration.

The first thing to impress us when driving the car was the steering, and however long one drove it, or however many cars one may have driven, this still remains an outstanding feature. It is almost incredibly light, and yet it is not ” dead ” like some light steering we have driven. It has a very ” live ” feeling which makes it easy to place the car with absolute accuracy under any conditions, and yet it is not affected by road shocks.

Many cars sprung for road-holding at high speeds are liable to be harsh when taken over freak surfaces at ordinary speeds, but in the case of this car we found that as well as being abnormally steady at high speeds even on bad surfaces, it was very good on rough stuff without altering the adjustment of the Hartfords.

A comparatively brief run on the Saturday on which we took over the car so impressed us that we decided to take it down to the West Country the next day and see how it performed over the chief hills on the Lands End course.

Our confidence in the Aston Martin was demonstrated by the fact that we were due in London for dinner the same evening, so the possibility of trouble with the car could not be considered. Accordingly the break of day saw us making our way over the winding lanes of Hertfordshire en route for Camberley and the main road to the West. As it was raining heavily we had an opportunity to satisfy ourselves that the hood of a sports car, can, if carefully designed, give as good protection as on a more sedate vehicle ; and further this particular specimen is definitely a ” one-man ” hood, which is none too common in these days of complicated weather protection.

The wet roads gave further proof of the remarkable stability on corners, and of the power of the brakes, which do not appear to lose their effectiveness whatever the road conditions. A hundred miles or so from London brought us to sunshine, and being able to see clearly the taps were turned on a bit further.

The car will hold 70-75 m.p.h. indefinitely with plenty of throttle left and will reach 80 m.p.h. from rest in a little over half a minute without excessive revving in the gears.

A very large revolution counter was fitted in place of a speedometer, and the maximum speed according to this was 84 m.p.h. This was attained in both directions so that it may be taken as fairly correct as the surface, being as nearly perfect as we know, would make wheelspin negligible and the speed was held steadily for some distance. More interesting however than its maximum speed, which is remarkable for a standard unsupercharged 1500 c.c. engine, is the astonishing average speed which can be achieved with absolute safety. The gear ratios, which are 12.18, 7.58, 5.57 and 4.75 to 1, have a lot to do with this, as have the brakes which are as good as any we have used. They are direct operating with very accessible adjustment, are light to operate without a sign of fierceness, and will bring the car from 40 m.p.h. to rest in 51ft. on dry tarmac.

Travelling by way of Frome and Glastonbury to Porlock we ascended the hill, naturally without difficulty. However although Porlock has long since ceased to be regarded a serious obstacle the fact remains that it is definitely a useful climb, and many cars arrive at the top ready to make tea, while the Aston Martin only showed an increase of five degrees centrigrade on the normal running temperature, although the radiator was partially blanked off. And far from being ready for tea we were in excellent time for lunch ! On the lower part of the hill between the hairpins a touch of throttle was sufficient to maintain 3500 r.p.m. or more in bottom gear, and it would, we are sure, be possible to take second gear between the bends. As no time would be saved we did not attempt to do so, though of course we did not remain in low after the chief corners were passed. After passing through Lynmouth and up Lynton Hill we made a short detour to see if a 12 to 1 low gear was sufficient for Beggars Roost. The hill itself was in a very bad state after the recent heavy weather but this did not worry the A.M. which pulled steadily over the ” pimple ” without a falter, and romped up the remainder of the climb, as if to say, ” What about a little real hill climbing for a change ? “

In memory of the days when hills really mattered, we dropped into Parracombe village and from a standing start at the bottom of the 1 in 5 hill out of it, we reached 4500 r.p.m. in bottom before changing into second and attained 4000 r.p.m. in this gear before the top of the hill.

The road from here to Taunton gave further demonstration of the wonderful cornering of this car. The weight distribution fore and aft appears to be ideal, as when taking a long bend at its limit control is perfect, and when the skidding point is reached the tail goes, which is as it should be. It does not tend however to swing round and overslide, and correction is practically automatic, and although an occasional squeal from the rear tyres may proclaim that centrifugal force is doing its best, there is no tail-wagging and the whole operation is perfectly smooth. At the same time if, on a sharp corner, it is required to skid intentionally, a touch on the throttle in the appropriate gear will bring the tail round to the required extent, and the skid can be stopped, as and when wanted, with perfect ease.

The central gear change has a very short lever which as the gear box is a separate unit comes directly under the left hand. The gear change owing to the extreme closeness of the ratios is very quick, and when changing down, especially to third, only the gentlest touch on the accelerator is required or the revs will be increased too much. However once the gaps between the ratios have been ascertained perfectly silent changes can be made and the gearbox becomes a delight to use. Naturally on a car of this type considerable use of the gear box is required to get the best out of it, but it must not be imagined that top gear is no good at low speeds. The top gear performance provided that the ignition control is used intelligently, is remarkably good, and throughout the whole of its range the engine is so smooth and free from any vibration, that it is sometimes hard to believe it is only a four cylinder unit. A detour over narrow lanes, made necessary by the floods, gave us a further test, and the car proved as at home in deep mud as anywhere else, and by taking to the worst of it got past a cavalcade of vehicles which looked like remaining there for the night, and so once more towards London.

By this time we had a chance of testing the Craftsman headlamps, and found that they were fully in keeping with the rest of the car. The effect was just as if a rectangular block of daylight were preceding the car, and this made it absolutely safe to maintain a good speed at night. A good point of these lamps is the fact that each has a fine adjustment for the tilt of the lamp, operated by a wing nut on the back, and the beam can be adjusted accurately instead of by the usual crude method of slacking off a nut and pushing the lamp about by hand.

Duly to time we arrived in London for dinner, and later gently pottered the odd 20 miles home, feeling quite fresh after over 400 miles in the day, under almost every known condition of rain, sun, main roads, mud, and rocky tracks. During the whole of our test we never opened the tool kit nor even the bonnet, and in spite of the continuous hard driving, the petrol consumption worked out at approximately 25 miles per gallon.

The car we used was anything but new, having many thousands of miles of hard work to its credit in the hands of many drivers, and in spite of this there was no detectable wear in any part of the chassis, and there was never a sound from the body even under the most violent treatment.

£598 may sound at first a lot for a 1½-litre car, but we think that anyone who has driven the Aston Martin and examined its construction will agree that in this case it is more than worth it.

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