THE MATTER OF MINOR CONTROLS
NO longer do designers have to find a place for numerous knobs and levers in the vicinity of the steering-wheel, for automatic control of water I empsrature and carburaticm and automatically governed ignition timing has done away with manual operation in a large number of modern cars, even on quite high-performance examples, and in this age of Mechanical perfection some makers have even dared to dispense with oil-gauge and ammeter.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that those who drive a wide variety of cars form quite decided opinions as to how they like the remaining minor controls arranged, and our own views and experiences may be of interest. In the very first place, one has to regret the too universal use of poorly-functioning levers and switches. Not every maker can provide minor controls that operate with the ease; certainty and smooth precision Of those that delight Rolls-Royce , and Bentley ‘owners, hut switches that would disgrace a cheap wireless set should have no place in a modern car, Commencing with lights, we have one grumble to air right away, namely that so often there is no indication of whether or not the .side lamps ate alight, which, coupled with an indecisive switch-action, is very unpleasant when changing -from head to ‘side lamps on entering well lit areas. A switch with considerable movement between off, dynamo, all-lamps and side-lamps positions assists, or 0, form of observation window with wording indicating what lights are on, as on oldschool Bentleys and modern AustinS, but the only satisfactory solution is a good, decisive switch, with ruby glasses in the back of the side lamps, Where these are separate from the head lamps and visible to the driver. Sometimes a switch works in a more positive manlier at the end of its travel than in intermediate positions, so that the head-lamp and sidelamp contacts can with advantage be at the ends of the travel, with dynamo and ” off ” settings intermediate. There is no objection to carrying the main lighting-switch on the fada, as change from head to side lamps is never an emergency movement, and we prefer this location to that of the wheel centre, when movement of the arm can accidentally switch Off the lamps. The dimming arrangement however must be within instant reach. One meets excellent foot-operated arrangements, but they are apt to work stiffly, aud are subject to rough usage. Moreover, with cars cruising at 60 m.p.h. behind modern lamp-beams, dimming should be possible instantaneously it unlit Cyclists are to be preserved, and on-coining cars are just as likely to be met when one’s left foot is operating the clutch for gear-changing as otherwise. So we prefer a hand-switch, either in the Wheel centre or on an extension arm Protruding from the steering column. The objection that when first switching on the head lamps one may be uncertain whether or not the lights are dimmed is a minor one to an alert driver, but a light, snap action is essential ; the Lucas switch on the Morris Eight conies to mind as excellent. 1,Ve have little use for dynamo-eharOug lights and insist on an animist:yr, vhich tells so many use ful tales. Similarly, spring-buttons and greeti lights to show that oil is circulating,
leave us -cold the age-old pressure gene is the only -way (i f ensuring real peace of mind to a fast driver. Instrument lighting is so often inadequate, yet it should be a commonsseuse matter. We recall one car which illuminated the whole front compartment when the panel was lit, another which shone an illuminated clock-dial inset in the mirror into a drivr’s eyes every time he wished to see the oil-pressure Or check his rate of travel, another in which a a() m.p.h. lamp dazzled one z.it anything over 2.5 m.p.h. After which the rheoetat control of the panel lighting on the Frazer-NashB.M.W. was greatly appreciated. There seems no objection to incorporating the ignition-key with the main lighting switch, although the writer recently stalled at a very busy roadjunction sold’ through inadvertently turning off the ignition when operating the light switch with gloved hand to warn an approaching driver that his lights were on in daylight—embarrassing as the car could not, in this instance, be driven to the Side of the road on the starter ! But if a screwdriver of a K.L.G. terminal-clip is a substitute for the key, why make that key detachable ? All ignition-keys should be of Vale pattern, and if the horn and electrical equipment can be rendered inoperative, as on the Bianchi, so much the better. The door lock should always be on the driver’s door. Direction indicators are now essential on all hut open cars and even open cars require one on the near side, and the press of fast traffic in open town squares makes positive signalling a boon, against which the indicator control is the easiest thing of all to overlook, so if the arms are of non-cancelling pattern an indicator lamp is useful. Curiously, we have -found a control on the extreme near side of tile facia as easy to reach as others set much .closer to the driver and, indeed, preferable to many. But the ideal position is on the wheel centre, unless an ignition lever is fitted, when dimmer, ignition and indicator controls, grouped,
will make for confusion. The correct place for the horn button is obviously the wheel centre—a good, big knob-eand if dual-tone horns are fitted the Solt note should be so controlled, with the open-road, clear-the-way note, which is not needed urgently to move pedestrians and wobbling cyclists, etc., elsewhere. We dislike pull-out starter knobs, convenient as they may be to operate remote-control switches, nor do we like floor-starters. A neat button is the ideal. Extra switches, for fog-lights, etc., should take the form of small push pull buttons like the H.R.G. ignition
switch. The positioning of the instruments is a matter of individual taste, given separate dials, clear readings and an unobstructed view of speedometer, rev.-counter and oil-gauge. The older type of screen wiper is usually tiresome to ” park ” satisfactorily. Window winders should be clear of
OCCUpalltS. tii)(INVS and big an arc.
tni the vexed question of petrol gauges we can only say that on most of the cars we test the gauges are reasonably accurate and the same applies to a friend’s Nforris Eight with nearly 45,000 miles to its credit, A reliablegauge is most useful preferal 1:?• of the dial variety. But a reserve supply is a useful safeguard against. 1 faulty gauge or careless reading ui1 it should )hold at least a gallon and should not re-operate the gauge when in action. It is pleasant to have a facia control so that one can go onto reserve without I,..aving the car. and often without stopping the engine, as on M.G. and B.M.W., while on the Baby Fiat and early Austin Sevens the tap on the tank operates in the Same way. We have still not forgiven the car which made us spend a night on the road because its reservetap was hidden in the luggage locker. Hand throttles arc still useful for warming up, competition work, or making adjustments while the engine is running, and a screw-control on the facia suffices. Hand-brakes, we feel, should be handbrakes. There can be no such things as a true ” parking-brake,” because there is always the need to hold a car on a gradient in traffic, although modern hand-brakes are not used to effect a pull-up or to check speed. The modern trigger-lever certainly leaves the floor clear but we prefer a lever set horizontally between the front seats—which incidentally allows one politely to refuse to carry two passengers in the front compartment. A modernised version of the older trigger ratchet-release usually works better than a press-button, or a maker’s
individual gadget-device. Of course the ideal hand-brake is that of the M.G., with fly-off action and a button ratchet-lock. H.R.G. attempted to combine the racing and non-racing types on earlier models, but there is really no advantage, for the M.G. lever does not fly off fiercely, it locks perfectly, and a it has to be pulled back to release, there is always greater braking action prior to release than when locked, so the ratchet action can be forgotten.
As for gear-levers, there is a weakness amongst the staff for big, girder-like righthand levers working ” crash ” boxes in visible gates, so suffice it to say that we expect modern levers to he rigid, even if lily-like, and that remote control is practically always acceptable and, if properly designed, can add greatly to the pleasure of driving any car, though one no longer sees the fine workmanship displayed on the earlier controls, as, for instance, that Of the ” Brooklimds ” Riley Nine.
This article having strayed beyond the bounds of its title, we will close oil the observation that the more foolproof cars become the more fastidious we get, and that the greater the care paid to details of control the further and faster can we drive in safety and comfort.
Constructors of home-built cars are in the fortunate position of being their own masters in this matter of minorcontrol arrangement and layout. not describe too
Club News, October 1935
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