Ken Wharton wins 1948 RAC British Trials Drivers' Championship: Rumblings, January 1949

Trials Champion

The warmest congratulations are due to Ken Wharton, in winning this year’s RAC British Trials-Drivers’ Championship.

Naturally, much interest attaches to the Ford Ten-engined car with which he won this honour and here is a brief description of it: —

The engine is standard save for two SU carburetters, a compression-ratio of 7 to 1, and stronger valve springs, and is computed to give about 38bhp. To it is mated a Ford Eight gearbox, while the transmission, rear wheels and, indeed, the chassis, are Austin Seven. The back axle ratio is 5.25 to 1 and 5.50 by 16 tyres are fitted on the rear wheels, the Ford front wheels carrying 4.50 by 17 tyres. Front suspension, it is interesting to note, is by a normal Ford front axle and transverse spring — no i.f.s. here — and the steering is coupled to the Ford arrangements via a Marles box and Austin Seven column. Austin Seven friction shock-absorbers and a 5-gallon fuel tank are used, feed being by A.C. pump.

The tiny radiator came from the Wharton sprint car but a large header tank supplements it. The body is of 20-gauge aluminium alloy sheet, strengthened half-shafts are a precaution in the rear axle, and 2 cwt of ballast is carried behind the seats. The brakes are Girling, normally applied by a fly-off external hand-lever. This Wharton Special emphasises, once again, the beauty of the high power/weight ratio formula for, although it has been built for trials motoring, in which sphere it has been overwhelmingly successful, and is consequently low-geared, it contrives to achieve rather more than 70mph on the road and around 45mpg at its habitual cruising speed of 60-65mph.

Another Ford Special

Regular readers of Motor Sport know that we believe the really lightweight 1100cc car, offering brisk performance with notable economy of fuel and tyres, has an assured future, especially if its components are of a popular proprietary make, ensuring reliability and world-wide service facilities.

In this category is CDF Buckler’s Buckler, which appeared in competition events about September, 1947, and which has since achieved, if not sensational, certainly quite creditable results. For instance, in racing, the Buckler, with unblown Ford Ten engine, ran non-stop through this year’s IOM Manx Cup Race, and, although it finished last, it did contrive to average 50.7mph, while using less than two gallons of fuel, ie, 30 mpg, and only a quarter of a pint of oil. At Goodwood it ran in one event and came in fifth out of eleven starters.

In sprint events the Buckler ran at ten 1948 meetings, gaining third place in its class at Great Auclum, a second place at Boscombe and first place in the up-to-2-litres Special Sports-Car Class at Lytchett Manor. Incidentally, at Brighton, running in the racing category, Buckler averaged 58.87mph.. At Prescott the car was first in the Handicap Class at the June Meeting and third in the 1 1/2-litre non-supercharged Sports-Car Class at the September Meeting.

Coming to trials, a dozen events had been entered for, up to the time when we decided to go down to Reading, where Buckler has an extensive engineering works, to learn something of this interesting car. In these twelve trials a Second-Class Award was won in the 1947 M.C.C. Sporting Trial, a Third-Class Award in this trial last year, while the MCC Award fell to Buckler’s modest ‘Special’ in the 1948 High Peak Trial, he secured the Hants and Berks Award in the Hunt Cup event, a Second-Class Award in the Cottingham and won the Bossingham Cup last November. Not a bad record, in a versatile list of events.

Basically, the Buckler is Ford Ten, but it has a combined chassis and body framework built up of welded 1 1/2-in. diameter 16-and 18-gauge steel tubing, of 45 tons tensile. This construction is slightly heavier than the Ford chassis, but is exceptionally rigid. This new frame has four cross-members at body-level, besides retaining cut-down Ford cross-members to carry front and rear spring mountings and the normal Ford cross-member to take the rear engine mountings. The rigidity which results can be imagined. The standard track of 3ft 9in and wheelbase of 7ft 6in are retained and the Ford Ten engine and rear axle unit with standard torque tube drop into place without modification. The gearbox is standard Ford Ten, although a special box with a high-top gear in place of the normal second gear was used for the Manx Cup Race. The standard 5.5 to 1 rear-axle ratio is likewise retained, tyre sizes being varied to suit a given competition event. When we tried the car it had 4.00-17 front and 5.75-16 rear tyres.

The engine, too, is virtually standard, with polished but not enlarged ports, although the compression ratio is up to 7.6 to 1. Standard carburetter settings, manifolding and coil ignition are employed. Even the valve springs are normal because the breathing limitations of the Ford Ten engine restrict the rev. limit to a few hundred rpm above the speed at which valve float sets in with single springs, so that the benefit of double springs is negatived and the increased stress set up in the valve gear is not deemed worth while.

A simple remote gear-change has been contrived; using a track-rod-end ball joint and rigid rods; the normal gear positions are retained. A new radiator, holding 21 gallons of water, is located behind the engine, thus improving weight distribution and assisting in reduction of frontal area. A fan is dispensed with. A 6 1/2-gallon triangulated fuel tank is located over the back axle and this tank is cut away on the near side to provide a niche for the battery. The silencer is Ford, but a Servais is soon to be fitted, because its oval shape improves ground clearance. A simple two-seater door-less light-alloy body is used, the wheels are Ford, the brakes are Ford-Girling, in fact, there is virtually nothing about the car which cannot easily be replaced.

We were told that the weight of the Buckler stripped for the IOM race was under 10 cwt, and that with strip wings, passengers’ aero screen and lamps this increases to about 10 1/4 cwt. To keep so light a car on the road is no easy task, and it is interesting that in the IOM the Buckler used a normal Ford front axle and spring, the latter softened by the removal of some of the leaves and damped by a pair of Newton shock-absorber struts. The rear spring was also softened in like manner. Some time later independent suspension was introduced by the popular expedient of adopting a split-axle, the same spring being used and the shock absorbers deleted.

A brief drive in the Buckler confirmed the excellent roadholding, front wheels moving appreciably over rough surfaces and riding easily over obstacles, but permitting no trace of pitching, while the rear suspension likewise permitted no rolling however fast the car was cornered. The ride was remarkably comfortable for a 10-cwt. car, the brakes were extremely powerful, and something like 45 m.p.h. in second gear and over 70 m.p.h. in top gear, were available. The simple facia carried a Ford speedometer, two thermometers and the usual switches, and forward visibility was excellent. Two bucket seats are used with a useful grab-handle or “bumping-bar” (for trials going) before the passenger’s. The engine, controlled by a well-drilled treadle accelerator, had a pleasant sound, almost as if supercharged, when really working and refused to “pink” on the ignition setting used. Acceleration from a standstill was slightly inferior to that of the o.h.c. 1 1/2-litre sports car which we pitted against the Buckler, but over wet, winding roads the latter proved the faster car. In top gear, on the “pink-free” ignition setting employed, a Tapley reading of 250 lb. per ton was recorded, and 440 lb. per ton in second gear. The light weight of the car naturally results in the much-sought-after fuel economy, 40 or even 45 m.p.g. being realised in road motoring, and these figures never dropping to less than 30 under hard-driving competition conditions.

All in all, the Buckler is the sort of sports car which many present-day enthusiasts crave.