THE BERTELLI ASTONS
By E. M. Innian-Hunier
SHOULD Mr. IV. S. Renwick chance to sec this article I am confident he will forgive my choice of title. For whilst no one would AVitill to deer’ the large part played by him in the design of the ” new ” Aston-Martin (introduced after the original manufacturers had gone into liquidation), great credit is due to A. C. Bertelli, the co-designer and engineer-driver, who developed these ears, Persevering against numerous and varied difficulties to eventually bring home in triumph the Le Mans Biemaial Cup not once, but twice ! In my notes on the original Asi on
Conte:any punished in the May issue Or MOTOR SPORT, I mentioned how the Aston-Martin became quite at force to be reckoned with in races or the early twenties. It is interestingto note. therefore, that this same A. C. Bertelli competed against the Kensington-huilt Astons in the 1921 and 1922 200-Mile Races on Enfield Alldays cars, and in 1923 on a Burt-M(1’1111nm sleeve-valve job bearing his own name. Perhaps it. was respect wrought by stall close rivalry which prompted him to adopt the name Aston-Martin when some three or four years later he joined forces with W. S. Renwick in the production of a 1.1,-litre sports car.
In actual fact the new car was on the drawing board and an experimental ” mock up ” was running before the demise of Bamford & Martin, Ltd., which shows that the firm of Renwick & Bertelli, Ltd., engineers (upending from works at Feltham, on the verge of Hanworth Air Park) had the production of at sports car in mind before they hecante Aston Martin Motors, latd., of which company the Hon. John Benson was at director. It will be recalled that. it was he who had designed the 8-valve, twin-eam engine, which was the last design emanating from the Kensington works. On May 13th, 1926, the experimental chassis, named the H. & B., was put on the road. Very different indeed was this car from the model eventually put into production, as it was basically a 10-11.p. Enfield with certain engine modifications. in particular a new head and valve gear. The front, axle was also new. In all probahility this hybrid was merely used IS a means or testing the rather overhead-valve gear which was a feature of the entirely new car when introdueed at few months before the Show of 1927. IThe actual car is still in existence. rtVned hy I. M. Adams. Hod
There is an old maxim ‘amongst engineers that if a tiling looks right. then it is right.” That lacing the case. there was little wrong with this compact. low-built chassis. Beautifully proportioned and %veil finished, boasting several umisual but far from freakish features. it was, to the eyes of at least one enthusiast. a thing of beauty and a joy for Of 1,481-c.e. capacity. the engine had it bore :111(1 stroke of 69 min. by 99 nem. The cylinders and crankcase were cast together, forming a very rigid block with a detachable cylinder head which carried the overhead-valve gear of patented
design intended to combine the advantages of overhead valves and the turbulent, effect’s of’ at wedge-shaped. liicardo-type combustion chamber. To aellieve this aim the valves were inclined in relation to the axis of the cylinders, with all their stems parallel and mounted in the same latitudinal plane with regard to the engine. The single camshaft ran in three largediameter plain bearings. mounted in an aluminium casting %%-hiell also carried the eight roekers On eccentric pins, the rotation of whieh effected tappet adjustment. The rockers passed beneath the camshaft and bore upon hardened steel buttons positioned by a deep recess in the valve springcollar.;„ An invertedboth chain drove the camshaft from a countershalt driven at. half engine speed by a lea broil pinion (the hater wisely replaced by a steel component on the works racing (‘ars). The chain was tensioned by means of at \*eller sprite,. In order not to disturb the timing when Yellowing I he head, provision was made to sectire the camshaft sprocket on a vertical steel arm bolted to the block and passing through an aperture at the front of’ the head.
The camshaft was I nil how. and forcefeed lubrieation fed to the hearings and contacting surf:lees or t he rockers through small holes in the bearing surfaces and cant faces.
The dm:Alumni connecting rods were of’ 1I-section. with white metal hearings, the gudgteolt pins lacing secured in the 13.11.13. pistons by means of wire eirelips. Three white-metal bemire’s supported the Laystall crankshaft. Perhaps the most striking departure Iron, standard practice was the use or ansump lubrication, a system which even up to the present day has been used on only a very few engines, irrespective of cost. The oil was stored in a 21-gallon tank suspended between the front. (hind)irons on steel straps adjusted by turnbuckles. Prom this tank a flexible oil pipe led to a gear-type oil pump situated on the front plate of the engine and driven by the countershaft. Oil was fed at 15 lb. per square inch to all the principal bearings, via a large filter extending the full length of’ the crankcase on the off side, and consisting of a sheet of fine gauze edged with cork and covering a recess in the block from which three holes corn immicated with the camshaft bearings. Fitting over five central studs the gauze was clamped in position by a recessed aluminium cover, in the front bottom corner of which a port mated up with another hole in the engine front plate leading to the oil pump. A relief valve was also fitted in the cover. This filter chamber served as a crankcase oil gallery, and all the oil was forced through the gauze before feeding the main bearings. after which it seeped into the ribbed aluminium sump-plate, from whence it was forced back through -a flexible pipe into the oil
tank by means of a second and larger pump situated in front of, and driven in tandem by, the first pump. Mitch has been said for and against this method of lubrication, but the separate oil reservoir, positioned as it was in the main airstream, must have assisted materially in keeping the lubricant at a reasonable temperature. This aim of the designers to build a cool-running engine also led to an unusual water cooling
system. The cylinder walls and head were thermo-syphon cooled, whilst a water pump mounted on the near side provided a surge of water around the valve ports. Two R.A.G. carburetters on the off side and mounted on an aluminium cover plate, led direct into a manifold cast integrally with the bead. Dynamo and magneto were driven in tandem from the rear of the water pump. A very nice manual control lever in the centre of the steering wheel gave a good degree of
advance and retard for the ignition. On the same side of the engine as these auxiliaries a four-branch exhaust manifold led to a Vortex silencer which, in view of the car’s extraordinary low build (the ground clearance being only 7 in.) was of rather delightful oval section, with a large-diameter tail pipe, which subsequently was also ” flattened ” in sect ion. Behind the engine a ribbed aluminium bracket, spigot mounted to ensure positive alignment, carried the rear ball-race of the dry-plate clutch, the single disc of which was mounted on a shaft supported at its front end by a spigot ball-race in the open flywheel, and at the rear by the bearing referred to. A clutch stop was
provided, consisting of a small steel brake drum on which a Ferodo-lined aluminium shoe was pressed by a spring when the pedal was fully depressed. Thus the braking effort was not dependent upon the pedal pressure. To suit individual drivers the spring was adjustable.
Inside the steel drum was the front disc-type coupling of a tubular shaft which connected with the four-speed gearbox positioned approximately in the centre of the chassis. The use of a gearbox as a separate unit from the engine is most interesting. being introduced at a time when the majority of manufacturers were turning to unit construction, if. indeed, they had not already done so.
The Aston-Martin claim for using a separate box was that it provided a nicer machining job and facilitated ease of production. Having only recently had occasion to fit new speedometer drive gears in my own ” International ” model I might also add tl.at it undoubtedly facilitates ease of maintenance, for to be able to remove the gearbox from the chassis. strip it down completely, fit new speedo. gears and re-install in the chassis, singlehanded, in the course of one week-end provides almost sufficient reason in itself for this feature borrowed from vintage cult.
Another advantage of this form of construction in such a low-built car was that it enabled the fitting of a 4-in. gearlever operating in a gate on the lid of the box. M.G. and Singer enthusiasts please note that this short, positive lever falling directly to hand was a feature of Astons years before remote control became popular in company with bonnet straps and white helmets !
The box itself was of aluminium, told ribbed internally to prevent ” ring ” in the indireets. It was mounted on three Silent hloe bushes. Straight-tooth gears gave four ratios : 12.18 to 1, 7.57 to 1, 5.56 to 1 and 4.75 to I. All shafts were carried on ball or roller bearings, and the selector rods moved fore and aft with the forks secured to them as against the more usual practice of having the forks slide on the rods. This method enabled the spring catches to be mounted outside the box at the rear, and, therefore, facilitated case ??f adjustment without removing the lid. A right-hand gear-change was optional.
Immediately behind the gearbox a roller-bearing joint, enclosed in the bronze spherical housing of the torque tube, provided totally-enclosed transmission. The rear axle, trunnion-mounted on the springs, was of the fully-floating type and possessed several distinctive features, not the least of which was the underslung final worm drive chosen by virtue of its silence and low line of the propeller shaft. The worm gear was housed, together with the bevel gear differential, in an aluminium casting, the bearings being carried in steel shells. 13e11-shaped sleevcs of high tensile aluminium alloy were secured at their outer ends to steel flanges on which the brake torque plates were bolted. On each side of the worm housing, and communicating with it, large rectangular oil chambers were cast in the sleeve ends to form a sump with a capacity of more than 21 gallons. Just as the later type Bamford & Martin Astons became renowned for their braking power (they were early in the field with front-wheel brakes as standard), so the brakes on this new car were to receive a great deal of praise. The 14-in. diameter drums were of aluminium with steel linings. The shoes were also of aluminiuill, with hardened steel cam faces, the cams themselves pivoting in bronze cages and projecting through the back plates where, in the case of the rear brakes, a small lever was connected by cables running outside the chassis frame to similar levers keyed to the ends of a shaft running across the centre of the chassis and passing through the sidemembers. • Further forward in the chassis a second cross-shaft. was connected in
like manner to the Perrot-type front brakes, the linkages in this case being connected to levers mounted on short. shafts, forked at their outer ends where they engaged the Tracta-type joints immediately behind the brake cams, and pivoted on their inner ends in aluminium brackets which also received the trunnion brackets of the radiator. The latter component carried On the Aston tradition in general outline, but with a broad Vfront, and much deeper in section than the old s.v. cars.
In an effort to counteract the tremendous torque energised by such excellent brakes the front springs had four clips between the front eyelets and the axle.
Semi-elliptic springs mounted outside the frame were controlled to some extent by Hartford shock-absorbers, those at the front being of double pattern.
The chassis frame, with fairly deep sidemembers, was of robust construction and braced by no less than seven tubular, and one channel, cross-members positioned as follows. First, a tubular member at the extreme front end between the dumbirons, with a centre bearing for the permanent starting handle spindle which, at its rear end, passed through a second tubular member situated just ahead of the radiator and immediately over the front axle. Behind the engine, which was mounted on four stepped angle brackets, a really massive cast-aluminium bulkhead carried the -steering column, the gearbox of which was bolted through slotted holes with the shaft carrying the steering arm operating in a vertical position and supported at its bottom end by a second bearing attached to the frame, below which the steering arm itself moved in a horizontal are. Vert na I adjustment of the steering box was provided by slotted holes in the dash, and the provision of a sliding spline between the worm wheel and vertical shaft. In addition, a teleseopic steering column was instantly adjustable by hand. A few inches to the rear of the bulkhead a tubular member of oval section carried the three foot pedals on brazed brackets, whilst some 18 in. further back another tube, slightly bow-shaped, formed a cradle beneath the front end of the gearbox which was mounted on a single Silentbloc bush, and at the rear had a 1-in, hole bored across the base, through which a steel shaft was pressed with ends protruding 4 or 5 in. to receive Silentblocs secured in brackets bolted to a deep channel section u
crSti-Illeillber. The nearside bracket Was spaced a little wider than its opposite number in order to accommodate the hand-brake lever which pivoted on the horizontal shaft between the gearbox and the Silentbloe bracket. Further back in the chassis was yet another tubular member passing this time beneath the frame and carrying at each end the front shackles of the rear springs. At this point, the frame passed beneath the rear axle and narrowed considerably to where it. terminated in. behind the rear wheels. The next cross-member. again tubular, was positioned behind the axle, whilst another tube tied the extreme end of the frame where long inserts projected to carry the rear spring shackles. A 20-gallon petrol tank was mounted between these last two cross-members on
longitudinal channels and secured by steel straps.
The front axle was of I-section between the spring pads, and hollow where it swept steeply upwards to the stub axles. Rudge-Whitworth wire wheels with knock-off hub caps were shod with 30-in. by 4.50-in. tyres. The wheelbase was 8 ft. 6 in., and the track 4 ft. 4 in. Delightful 2or 3-seater bodies were available on this chassis to the design of Bertelli’s brother, whose initial was E, but who was known to one and all as “Harry.” These bodies were built in the Aston works, but a year or two later a separate company was formed, known as E. Bertelli, Ltd. This concern, in addition to being responsible for all Aston Martin coachwork up to the introduction of the 2-litre model, also made several bodies on various makes of chassis to special order, and in 1937 or thereabouts produced the short-lived Anglo-American
car known as the Graham-British-Special, from which was evolved the also shortlived Lammas.
The complete ” Sports ” model Aston was a fine-looking car with close-fitting, Cycle-type wings at both front and rear. The spare wheel was carried originally at the side, where it rather marred the clean, compact layout, and was soon moved to a vertical position at the back. With 2or 3-seater body the price asked was 2598. Certainly a most expensive motor car for its size, but, nevertheless, offering real value to those who appre
ciated a sound, beautifully turned-out engineering job. Performance could hardly be described as outstanding when thinking in terms of acceleration or all-out speed (maximum Speed was just short of 80 m.p.h.), due in no small measure to the fact that the complete car turned the scales at over 17 ewt, in spite of the extensive use of aluminium. Although the makers might
hotly deny it, I consider the final worm drive reduced maximum speed somewhat. However, with its wonderful brakes and superlative roadholding, it was capable of long rims at an average hard to approach
on any other contemporary 14-litre of whatever nationality. In addition to the sports model there was listed a ” Standard ” model which differed only in minor details, such as the
fitting of alsingle carburetter, and a fast touring car known as the model “T.” This latter model, with a 9 ft. 6 in. wheel base, was very different from either the ” Standard ” or ” Sports ” jobs. A wet sump replaced the dry-sump system of lubrication, and the single-carburetter engine had a lower compression-ratio. The frame was upswept over the rear axle and various other smaller modifica tions were incorporated, most noticeable of which was the tall radiator differing only in its winged badge from the style fitted to the cars emanating from the Kensington works. It does not appear at all unlikely that an effort was made here to utilise some of the large stock of s.v. spares available at the time, for the frame, with its tubular gussets bracing the front tubular cross-member, might well have been a Bamford & Martin product, a theory it would be interesting to have confirmed, for I am not sufficiently familiar with the old cars to claim it as being fact. The “T “-type chassis was mounted with a true vintage 4-seater body, rather pleasant, with long flowing wings and rear trunk. [Ian Metcalfe had one of these cars for sale last summer.— En.]
A 4-door saloon with V-fronted screen and rear trunk was offered at 2675, the most expensive model in the range. The ” Sports ” model, however, was the company’s piece de resistance, and it is doubtful if many “T “-type cars were built I myself have only seen one, a tourer, on the road, and when in 1930 I commenced my apprenticeship at Feltham there were a dozen or more of the upswept frames stacked in a corner of the machine shop. They were still there when I left four years later, and served no useful purpose other than forming an excellent means of hanging up one’s coat to dry on wet mornings That, then, was the make-up of the first of the Bertelli Astons. Like most cars they suffered from teething troubles, in particular, the vertical steering box proved a most expensive feature to assemble accurately, and was quickly replaced by a standard Marks unit mounted on the frame. It must also be admitted that the rear axle was never completely successful in spite of several modifications carried out between 1927
and 1932, when the car was entirely redesigned and an E.N.V. component substituted. Once production was under way an initial racing programme was drawn up, for Bertelli, as his 200-Mile Race ventures
showed, was a firm believer in competition as a means of testing his products. It is not my intention, however, to go into the racing history of the make until further data has come to hand, although
it is difficult to relate the development of the Aston-Martin without reference to its performance in racing, as the two subjects are so closely related. Their first appearance in competition was far from spectacular, but much useful knowledge was gained, and as a result of participation at Le Mans in 1928, quite a number of small but important changes were to be seen on the models exhibited at Olympia that year. The rear axle sleeves were reinforced by tie rods and the brake operating layout simplified. Whilst cables were retained for the connections between pedal, hand-lever and compensating gear, tr-in. steel rods were used for the main linkages • with large thumbscrews for immediate and accessible adjustment. The oval cross-member sup porting the foot pedals became a normal round tube of generous proportions, and, in place of the centre studs securing the oil filter cover, ten large-diameter studs were spaced around its periphery, giving
a more even tightness with less possibility of leakage. The cork edges of the filter gauze gave way to copper banding. Probably on the score of expense, the adjustable steel straps supporting the front oil tank were replaced by bolts passing through lugs soldered and riveted to the tank, rubber washers being interposed between these lugs and the nuts. Further small changes were the increased width of the engine bearers and the fitting of S.U. carburetters as standard. A polished engine was exhibited, fitted with a Powerplus blower (rumoured to be made of wood I) on the off side, the induc tion pipe leading direct into the manifold cover on which a large blow-off valve was fitted. No carburetter was fitted, but examination of the inlet flange on the underside of the blower casting revealed that had this component been fitted, it would have come below the sump —hardly an accessible position for changing jets. Is it surprising that nothing further was heard of this puldieit?,, stunt
Further modilications were made from time to time, and it Olympia in 1929 a polished chassis was exhibited for the first time. Readers who have wondered what becomes of show chassis in summer time might be interested to know that t his particular chassis •%,..w.; stored bet weett shows in the basement of Jack Ghling’s showrooms. Alas ! Where is it now ?
Examination of this cliassis revealed all the latest developments in detail. By titther steel tithes inside the rear axle sleeves it had been possible to discard the tie rods which had, after all, only been an unsiglitly compromise. Front brake torque was attended to by short steel caldes running from the rear shackle bracket of the front springs to vertical columns which at their base formed the top clamp plate of the springs. Bishop steering gear of cam-and-roller type was now used, and the brake gear modified still more, the only remaining cable in the layout being that connecting the band lever to the compensating gear. A large header tank in the radiator increased the water capacity.
1930 saw the advent of much cleaner and more practical coachwork. A 4scat er was introduced on tine sports chassis and named the ” International.” This body was copied in general outline by dozens of manufacturers and became quite the general style amongst the smaller sports cars of the period, although none were ahle to achieve quite the proportions mid businesslike air of the Aston.
And so development work continued, always with long-distance racing as a background. Often special models were built for individual clients. In particular, I recall a blue 2-seater sports with rather exaggerated racing-type cowls and outside brake and gear-levers, the latter protruding through a dummy door (Ugh !). Built to t he order of W. A. Cuthbert, it, probahly held an all-time record for short thiletere, as it was crashed on its way to delivery, Percy (Vauxhall) Kidner, a director of
Aston Martin, Ltd., had one of the first 2-door, 4-seater coupes with large rear trunk, a fascinating body rather spoilt in this case by a colour scheme of bright yellow and black. Far nicer, was the blue-grey model supplied to Mr. Mackintosh, of toffee fame. Basil Dean, the film producer, had a red-and-black 4-seater on which all the usual chromium fittings and engine auxiliaries were silver-plated. (Pity the poor man who had to polish them.) The make seemed to have a particular appeal for stage and film folk, Basil Emmot, a well-known cameraman, having a long run Of Astons, colitmeneing with a cream-and-red 2seater of 1929 vintage, its engine hidden beneath a locked bonnet. Re-cellulosed black this car was still to be seen in the Teddington district at the outbreak of war. Jimmy Nervo, of Nervo and Knox, had a 2-seater, on which he later had fitted a 4-seater body by an outside limn. Never shall I forget ” Harry ” Bertelli’s scathing remarks when, shortly after the change of laalies, the car was brought to him with the complaint that insufficient clearance had been allowed in the wheel arches. A ease of Daddy knowing hest ! This body, incidentally, had a slab-type rear petrol tank, and is said to have inspired the “Le lauis” 4-seater introduced by Astons at a later date.
For Mr. W. Headlam, a Whitby shipowner, E. Bertelli, Ltd., built, a magnificent fixed-head coupe with flowing wings but no running boards, quite the most expensive-looking car ever to leave Feltham. After the 1931 racing season, during which the make had done extremely well, the possibilities of supercharging were a??-ain considered, this time with more concrete results. For the basis of the experiments, one of the team cars was sent to the Welwyn workshops of I3irkin & Couper, who carried out the blower rm ?) installation. (Why an outside fi How impatient we all were to see ” the blown job.” ;u rid how thrilled when eventually it was towed back to Felt ham behind Jack Bezzant’s old :3-litre Bentley, for its first run in the hands of ” the maestro.” (Apologies to the Bugattisti.) Influenced by Birkin’s experience with
the blown BentIcy!-., the huge Powerpltis blower had been fitted between the froni. dumb-irons, the :,dready squat radiator having had nearly a third of its block cut. -away to enable it to saddle the compressor, whilst a new rectangular oil tank was fitted in the only availahle place on the near side between the cylinder Hock and the frame.
Unfortunately, I was never able to secure performance figures for this most potent motor car (D-Day secrets cannot be compared), but to see Bertelli almost take off on the gravel road outside the works was a sight never to 1.e forgotten. With a hail of stones like shots from a Bren gun, and with a screech %%11101 would have done justice to in Nterce&s, he would be gone, leaving the longest black marks. Or rather channels, in tile gravel 1 have ever seen. As might, be expected of what was admittedly only an experimental job, troubles seemed endless, and after several rear :txles had had their innards torn out, not to mention the firm’s Lank balance, the blower was removed and left to nisi in a corner of the stores as a reInhaler to one and all that the mere addition of a blower makes a very rapid hut heflishly-temperamental motor car. Tlic old racer itself was sold, only a strange channel cross-member beneath tlw
and a few vacant, bolt holes in the frame giving any clue as to what the poor thing had been through.
Other experiments were carried out around this time, including the use of aluminium-alk,v cylinder heads, some with inset , bronze valve scats and others with the valves twaring direct on to the alloy.
In 1932 It. Gordtat Sutherland, the present chief at Fell ham, became joint. inanaldier director with Bertai. who, with inerc:r*d finance availahle, entirely re-dcsi;,mcd I he (•11:1S8iS.
The l’11`111(‘ NV:1S 110-W mounted on four tubular brackets and ” modernised ” in several resi wets. The dynatho was placed on the nose of the crankshaft and the magneto moved forward to a spigot mounting behind the water pump. The starter motor, previously mounted at the side of the steeritc, box, was moved to I Inc near side, where it, Ivas more accessible. Drv-sump lubrication and the then’s,’syphon pump cooling were retained. A 4-speed gearbox of Moss manufacture. with remots-emitrol gear-change (cheers from the M.G. entlinsiasts !) was hulk in. unit with the ensine, the clutch now being totally (swill:se/I in a hell housing. A long, open propeller slialt conveyed
the drive to an E.N.V. rear axle. A new chassis frame was adopted. iii which the side-menihers remained parallel from the dash rearwards. with two channel-section c1’oss-111cl 111wrs in tlw centre. The frame still passed beneath
the rear axle, but had a step in the lop flange in place of the former tapering section. The use of an open propeller shaft necessitated the use of’ shackles at the rear end of the springs only. Entire revision of the brake gear also took place. The hand-lever now posi tioned on the off side and outside the frame. Enclosed cables vithi tubular telescopic ends led from the cross-shafts to the drums, in which each shoe had individual fulcrums. (The ” works ” cars had had their shoes fitted in this lash non
for several seasons past.) The torqueresisting cables :it the front were (liscontinued. At the time of its introduction no indication was given that this would be
anything but the only chassis available.
However. work was in progress on three ears intended for Le Mans, and the J.C.C. 7,000-Mile Race which was replacing the ” Double Twelve.” These tea in cars differed consjderal,Iy from the new :standard model and were, in fail, prido types of a new sports chassis to he introduced later in the year. Quite how the
1,000-Mile regulations were by-passed it IS difficult to imagine. With Le )bms, of course, it was a different: matter ! In these ears liberal use was inade of magnesium alloys. always a feature of the ” works ” cars, and a gearbox of A.M. manufacture with st might teeth was used in plaec of the Moss unit. The radiator, witha pronounced V-frout, ‘sas so low that the tie rod barely cleared the valve co V r and a large ” blister ” on the Off side of the bonnet gave a hint as to the size of the S.1′.s. Narrow 2-seater bodies with t w ri ng tails were rather spoilt by the use of ” banima ” wings braced in the most comic fashiim. Bitter experience
had taught Bertelli that it was very nearly impossible to retain four wings for 2l hours at high speed. Despite the humorous leg-pulling from Sammy Davis, the wire cables and blacksmith’s work stayed put and did their stuff.
Great difficulty was had in completing the ears in time for the J.C.C. event, and they had to be scratched on the very eve of the race after only a couple of days’ practice. The reason given was that they were being reserved for Le Mans, in which ease why had they been entered l’or the 1,000 Miles ? Actually, trouble was experivneed with the front suspension, and it was this that led to them not starting. llowever, that great Aston enthusiast, M. II. Morriss-Goodall, put up a very valiant show in his famous 1930 ” ex-works ” car, but failed to complete the 400 laps. For Le Mans the ears were in very good fettle and Bertelli and Driscoll carried off the 9th Biennial Cup, receiving a terrific reception on their return to Feltliani. Having halted around the corner from the works to place their victors’ garland on the folded gauze
screen, the deliriously happy Bertelli drove slowly into the assembly shop, where the entire staff assembled to ” hammer ” the hero in—a tradition of which I would like to know the origin.
With the Le Mans success as a sales boost the new “Le Mans” sports model was formally announced, and the company entered upon a new period of prosperity.
One of the first chassis to be delivered was built, less engine and gearbox, to the special order of Sir Malcolm Campbell, who intended fitting one of the old G.I’. Talbot engines. Nothing further was heard of this venture.
In keeping with their previous policy, development work continued unabated, and modifications were incorporated from time to time.
1933 saw the introduction of a 10-ft. chassis on which a full 4-seater body was mounted, selling at £625. Flexible outside exhausts became standard practice, although never used for racing. The following year came more changes, and the sports chassis was given the type designation of ” Mark IL” A fullycounterbalanced crankshaft was elliployed, machined from the solid billet, and the shape of the valve rockers was _modified. The gauze oil filter was replaced by a vertical Auto-Kleen unit and the Weller tensioning spring for the camshaft chain was increased in length. A refinement was a flexible tube leading the oil fumes from the valve cover. The chassis frame was of heavier section, strengthened by flanges where the crossmember, now of channel section, caine beneath the radiator. The front oil tank was secured by steel straps once more, and an additional cross-member was used behind the engine. For operating the brakes, tii.w -type cables were employed, wIlich remained constant in length lam cver sharp the bends they had to traverse. Plated radiator shutters, fitted as a unit with the shell, made the “Mark II” easily identifiable. Front suspension was considerably improved by the fitting of transverse shock absorbers, a change. for which we apprentices were more than thankful, for the new pattern axle beam with shockabsorber lugs had been coming in from Vickers for several months, and to us had previously fallen the task of grinding off those wretched lugs
It was now seven years since the first Renwick and Bedelli car had made its appearance, and through a steady process of gradual development finality in design Was drawing near, and with the arrival of the ” Aster ” model in 1035, the ultimate was :Lehieve(I. The ” l’Ister,” with its guaranteed speed of 100 m.p.h., was based on the
successful ” works team which had secured the Biennial Cup at Le Mans for the second tune, at an average speed of 75.22 m.p.h. The engine had a compression ratio of 9.5 to 1 and gave SO b.h.p. at 5,250 r.p.m., with perfect sakt y. Bond speeds claimed by the inannhieturers at 5,000 r.p.m. were as follows top, I. Ii to 1, 102 m.p.h. ; :frd, 5.22 to I, 80.75 m.p.h. ; 2nd, 7.15 to 1, 501.00 m.p.h.; 1st, 11.5 to 1, 36.25 m.p.h. Very careful assembly and use of light alloys were chiefly responsible for the performance, together with the usual timing tricks of mating all parts and polishing the inlet and exhaust manifolds, etc. With a 2-seater body, complete with wings, lamps and hood, the car was offered ” ready to race ” at £750.
Having got the ” Ulster ” clear of the drawing board, Bertelli began to think in terms of a larger engine and a 2-litre appeared in the entry list for the 1936 Le Mans race, which was unfortunately cancelled owing to labour troubles in France.
Externally the 2-litre appeared vastly different from the smaller car, but closer investigation showed that it was based, in most respects, on the previous models. The engine remained a 4-cylinder with bore and stroke of 78 mm. by 102 mm. Dry-sump lubrication was retained, as was the dual cooling system and the imtellied Renwick and Itertelli head, although the ea ii ‘uretters were moved to the near side and tit( exhaust to the ignition side. A Scintilla ” Vertex ” magneto with automatic advance was driven off the timing gears. The 4-speed gearbox built in unit with the engine drove a spiral bevel rear axle, via an exposed propeller shaft.
For the first time in Aston-Martin history the brakes were operated hp Irautically, the front torque being counteracted by the cable method abandoned on the later 11 litres. A patented feature was the trunnion-mounting of the front axle.
With the cancellation of Le Mans the car made its first public appearance in the Belgian 21-1f our Race, winning the Jacques de Liedekerke Trophy. Shortly.
afterwards, in the T.T., two cars were driven by the late Richard Seaman and A. R. Phipps, the former leading the race on handicap and breaking the 2-litre lap record at 78 m.p.h. before retiring on the 12th lap. Such showing in a first season gave promise of something really exciting, but sad to relate these new ears were not the genuine prototype of the 2-lit res which eventually reached the showrooms of Winter Garden Garages. standard model ,turned out a very t awe affair, all pressed tin and proprietary parts. True, the real A.M. engine was retained (minits the dry-sump luhrieation) and I he hrakes were truly Aston in their size and power, but somehow or other all the vintage glory appeared to have vanished overnight—or was this progress Out of sheer honesty it must be admitted that one page of the current catalogue was devoted to a dry-sump ” Speed ” model in the old tradition ; but how many were built
What right, after all, have we enthusiasts (most of us impecunious) to question the decisions of those board-room gentlemen to whom a sales chart means more than an acceleration graph ?
Well,T1937 saw the departure of A. C. Bertelliifrom Felthain, and in my heart I like to think he did so to escape a pressed-tin phobia.