IN FAVOUR OF THE 1,100-c.c. H.R.G.
W. G. S. Wike confirms the praise bestowed by several recent Correspondents on this modern British Small Sports Car IN the summer of 1939 I was running a fairly large car, consisting of one of the last 3-litre Bentleys ever made, with standard Van-den-Plas open fabric body and with a very good 4i-litre engine, close-ratio gearbox and 3.53 to 1 axle. In other words, a pretty fruity motor-car. It would do over 90 m.p.h. and its average fuel consumption was 16-18 m.p.g. My work as a sort of glorified commercial traveller required a fair amount of carry big space. However, Mr. Hitler, Mr. Chamberlain and Mr. Wike decided that there was going to be a war pretty soon, and the latter decided that he had better look round for a car with much lower fuel consumption than the Bentley. My requirements were : Adequate luggage ac:conunodation, room for two people in some comfort, ability to run steadily at 60 m.p.h. on a fairly small throttle opening, and a fuel consumption limited by an arbitrary choice of a maximum R.A.C. rating of 10 h.p. Much of my running was on hilly, winding roads with bad surfaces, so that good power-to-weight ratio, good cornering and robustness were needed. Although I am a Vintagent of the worst sort, I decided to get a new car if I could afford it, as the only Vintage cars suitable seemed to be over 10 h.p., much as the memory of three excellent Frazer-Nashes hinted at a fourth I
My Vintage friends had sneered so loudly at the T-type M.G. that I at once asked for a run in one, and was able to spend a day in it, doing over 100 miles, mostly on bad roads. The performance seemed good, the brakes were Lockheed at their best and the accessibility firstclass. There was, however, insufficient luggage space, the cornering was rather intimidating, it rained on you when the hood was up (I detest side-curtains) and the springs and some other parts of the chassis did not seem to like me. Also, although it would run easily at 60 m.p.h., quite a number of fellow-motorists, in somewhat unexpected vehicles, suddenly became capable of the same performance ! I was luckily situated for trying cars, having a number of friends in the trade, so next I tried the Morris and Austin Eights. The body of the former was exactly what I wanted, lots of room, a sensible hood with the irons outside the body (not what my friends call a “congealed hood “) and, although the dashboard carried few instruments, there was plenty of room for additions ; also, this car had a proper hand brake. The horses stabled in the front part of the machine had, however, the wrong diameter legs and their dwelling-place was a miracle of inaccessibility. The small Austin had
insufficient room for me and could not be driven in comfort with the hood up. The same applied to the Morgan 4/4, there was enough leg-room, but I was uncomfortable; it ran quite well. The finish seemed poor, and those I have seen at about 30,000 miles do not look very impressive.
The Standard Eight had only three speeds, although it was beautifully sprung, cornered well, had unexpectedly good steering and was commodious. I have ‘since bought a saloon of this type for my wife, but I would not say that 60 m.p.h. is advisable for any great length of time, although it will reach it.
I frequently drove a Ford Ten, so did not bother to try the open model ; the road-holding and steering were not good enough. I was also familiar with the latest series B.S.A., which appealed from the design and accessibility standpoints, but again had only three speeds and was a little lacking in speed and luggage accommodation, also I did not really want a 4-seater.
Quite by chance I saw an 1,100-c.c. H.R.G. in a showroom in Bradford ; this morel was then new. The price was rather higher than I wanted to pay for a 9-11.p. car, although I admired the ‘Nash front-end, general accessibility and air of crude strength. I was able to try a Singer with the same engine, but here again we had three speeds and rather quaint steering.
About this time I had a good offer for the Bentley, and although it was a wrench to part with it, I accepted, leaving myself with only a 6-h.p. De Dion, hardly the ideal car for fast road-work! I was again tempted by the H.R.G., and had a trial run on it. It was so light and highgeared that it flew up and down the hills of Bradford at a fearsome speed, and the first time I took the wheel I saw that the steering and road-holding would do. The body was unexpectedly large, although it had a rather narrow hood (” congealed “). I was informed that it had been run-in by the works, so bang went saxpence. It seemed very small on that first run home, but once I had got used to doing as much as 8,000 r.p.m. at 60 m.p.h. I was able to run after all the other cars and show off in a most childish manner! It was tuned for performance regardless, doing about 30 m.p.g. I cured this. . . . Its bad points are : The hood is rather narrow and you get rained on. The doorcatches died very early and were replaced by a more robust type. There is really nowhere to carry the jack and startinghandle, which have to live behind the front seats. There are two greasers on
the brake cross-shaft which have never been greased yet, as it is just not possible —penetrating oil has to do the trick.
At the moment of writing it has done 20,087 miles and consumed 537 gallons of petrol and, apart from periodical changes, under 2 gallons of oil. The head and sump are still intact. One battery has been replaced, there being two 6-volt, in series. The spare wheel was stolen and a new one obtained by return from the makers, and a small aluminium bracket cracked and was replaced under guarantee. The valve clearance is checked at each change of oil and has rarely required any alteration—some of the tappets are as set when new. Two sets of contact-points have been fitted, and the rear brakes were relined at 17,923 miles, although the front ones do most of the work and are not worn appreciably-. Wide-gap ignition, a high-voltage cod, needles giving weak mixture in the cruising range and CoxAtmos economisers have all proved their worth ; the various coloured moth-ball dopes to put in the petrol have not. I except Redex, which is definitely capable of removing carbon ; when this begins to form there are signs of after-burning, but a good dose of Redex cures this for a month or two. As my speedometer appears to be accurate, I will not give any maximum speeds, for that would be an anti-climax !
The suspension, which is virtually Frazer-Nash in front and M.G. at the rear, is unexpectedly comfortable, although the quarter-elliptic springs give the usual “‘Nash kick” over bad bumps. Another ‘Nash feature is the problem of jacking-up, but when you know how it is very easy and perfectly safe—not like a ‘Nash I had, in which the only way to jack up the back wheels was to put the jack under the plywood tool-box !
I am sometimes asked how a 7 to 1 compression ratio (I have been told it is 7.5, but doubt it) fares on ” pool ” petrol. With manual ignition advance there is no trouble, and it runs most of the time advanced far past the makers’ setting. Retarded, it ticks over at less than the rev.-counter will record. Incidentally, I would rather have a clock than a rev.counter ; I quite miss the former, which is not fitted, and even if the rev.-counter gives more useful information than a speedometer, a mileage-recorder is desirable and may as well be incorporated in the instrument provided. I am too mean to buy a clock, anyway . [The foregoing opinions are, of course, those formed by Mr. Wike in his search for a personal ideal, and have no Editorial backing.—Ed.]