VETERAN TYPES --- XXXVII

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VETERAN TYPES xxx vii

by KENT KARSLAKE

A 1901 7-h.p. PANHARD ET LEVASSOR

do not think that it is altogetlwr seemly to start an artfle of this sort on a personal note, but it is uot completely irrelevant to the subject in hand to remark tlutt this last autumn it occurred to irw that it was jitst twenty

years since I wrote the first Veteran Types ” article in Mryroa Semer, and also just, twenty years siti:o I first took part in the Veteran Car Run to Brighton. This reflection made me feel a very veteran type myself ; but what was worse than thinking that I had gone to Brighton twenty years ago was to think that I had not gone to Brighton— in the proper style I mean—since 1937. It is one thing to be a veteran, but it is quite another to be superannuated.

In these circumstances it was, to say the least of it, exceedingly pleasant when my friend Mr. Cecil Clutton informed me that Mr. Ilodsdon, whom he Was aVellStooted to accompany to Brighton in a Panhard, was proposing to travel this tithe by steamer and to entrust the Panhard to Mr. Clinton, who most kindly invited me to a seat beside him upon the Lox. The Run itself, moreover, WILS to be preceded by a journey to London front Lavenham in Suffolk, in the course of which I might try the Panhard for myself and record ray impressions in these rotund’s, so that the whole practically amounted to an invitation to return to a second childhood. I accepted, naturally, with alacrity ; exiwrience certainly had taught me that it earl be devilishly cold on the Brighton Run, but even apart from this the terms seemed to me to be much less hot than those offered to Faust.

Even in the matter of the cold, too, 1 felt extraordinarily oortfident, because earlier in the year a namesake of mine, who over very many years had made out name one to conjure with in the motorcycling world, had presented me with a coat. True, I have owned coats before, but this coat was something quite out of the ordinary ; no less an authority than Mr. D. 13. Tubbs, when he saw it at Brighton, declared that but for this visual proof to the contrary he would not have believed that such a coat existed outside the illustrations to the novels of C. N. and A. M. Williamson. Made of the best Irish frieze outside, which is completely impervious to the wet, and lined with the best leather, which is equally impervious to the cold. It stretches nearly to the ankles of It six-foot man and is fitted with a collar which nearly covers his head. When one is protected against the elements by this veritable suit of mail, the heroism of the Victorians and Edwardians recedes to its proper proportions. The morning rff the day before the Run. therefore, saw us at Mr. Hodsdon’s house at Lavenham, and whereas London was wreathed in damp and muggy autumn weather, Suffolk was in the grip of a white frost. It was, therefore, with ;trot:motion that we greeted the news that our first business Was to light Life fire in the Garditer-Serpollet steamer. Built in

this delectable vehicle naight easily be mistaken for a petrol car. What appears to be a round honeycomb radiator at the front is in reality a condenser ; behind tlatt a conventional bonnet covers a fiat-four poppet-valve engine in the Jowett Javelin style ; and behind that again is a luxurious side-entrance tonneau body, emiipped with a WindSereell It front and a lavish lent her hood, whirl* when Atrled, stands up almost vertically boom{ I hst back seat. Right down I elow it at the lank of’ the car, however, is a Serpollet coiled tube ” Ila-sh ” boiler, heated by a paraffin burner ; and it. wits to get, the latter going that was our present preoccupation. The conventional method employed, it appears, is to squirt a hit of methylated spirit about in the burner box, put a match to it, and then go on squirting methylated until I he paraffin gets sat% liciently interested to burn in true furnace style. To our host, however, this evidently is to be regarded as a somewhat halfhearted method, mid he prefers whenever possible to use a gas poker, fed from a Calor gas cylinder. On the present occasion this course proved as effective as tisnal—indeed at one moment we had flames licking up the back of the car almost to tlw height of the imposing leather hood-Intl nobody aecustoined to t his sort of t king seemed to be in the least bit alarmed. the flames and smoke quickly died away, to be replaced by a reassuring roar front the furnace, and after an interval which I wasotssured was unusually long, owing to the inclemency of the morning, Mr. Hodsdon announced that he had steam up. After this it scented almost magical that, he had then only to pash,. over a lever to ensure that the engine ran backwards or forwards as required, and to open the throttle for the car to run smoothly out of the garage. Ily comparison, the paraplwritalia of engaging gears and ehttehes necessary to get internal combustion-engined ears under way scented extraordivarily crude ; but in the. course of a subsequent road journey in the Serpollet I Caine to realise that the skill required of a steam car exponent it lie is to get smooth and effective perfOrmance. particularly in traffic, is rannething or which tlw ordinary driver has no inkling. The former’s life revolves around two levers—one or them the thrott lIre other it lever which brings int o action a donkey-engine whose function it is to seial more water to the boiler and make more steant—and so to regulate them that, wit It a flash boiler containing at any given moment only it minute quantity of water, you assure yourself of a good head of steam whenever you want it, without building tip so nitwit that it blows at the safety valve, requires

something approaelting a feat a legerdentain. To watch Mr. Hodsdon at the controls of his Gardner-Serpollet is an edtwation rtmd a real feat of artistic enjoyment. All tiffs, however, is by way of a digression, for our real business was with tire Panhard, and to this, once tlaSerpollet, had steam tip, we directed our attention. As soon as we pushed it out of its garage into the sunshine of a fine morning, which wits rapidly dispersing the earlier mists, it was apparent that this was a 3110St deleetable vehicle. Encrwn as La Papillon Ma, it is painted to match its name, and behind the familiar Panhard bonnet. and coiled tube radiator it is fitted with a most elegant rear-entrance tonneau body, the provision of four seats in conjunction with so short a wheelbase being a miracle which some modern exponents of inter-axle seating might dismiss as an impossibility. :%fter the mysteries of steam, moreover, it was something of a comfort to find oneself confronted with mechanield ” system ” one rould understand, for in all essential particulars the Panhard of 1901 and even earlier is a motor Mt AS it was to become known to later generations and not a horseless carriage. ‘Vith a vert hut eogine in front. a sliding-pinion gearbox amidships, and the drive to the back wheels arranged otherwise titan by belts, the Panhard almost front the first resembled the motor car of 1951—except, perlatps, those made in America. But as has been previously remarked upon in these trolumns, these features, widch nowadays appear to constitute a part of the law of nature, were for long entirely peculiar to Panhard et Levassor. A fl examination of all the earlier vehicles taking part in the lasi 13righttm Ilan is sunieient to illustrate this point. Of them, the Leon Bollee has the engine amidships and belt final drive ; the Benz, the Lux, the Lutzatann, the ‘Tartu, the Star, the Stephens and the early Georges Richard have a horizontal engine at t he back, and belt drive ; earlier de Nod Boutons have the. engine at the back and eonstant-inesit gears with clutches ; the Peugeot has a horizontal engine at the back ; the Deeauville a vortical engine at the back ; the New Orleans and Pieper have belt drive ; the Century and Crestmobile are hardly motor cars ; and the Loeontobile is a steamer. Only the English Daimler of 1900 resembles the Panhard in essentials and that was consciously built on Minium, lines: In the case of Le PapillOn Blets, the vertical engine is it twrecylinder, and ill this it resembles the very tirst,” Phoenix ” engine, designed by Milliard et LevaSsor themselves in 1895 to take the place of the Daimler V engine used in their ears in 1894. Whereas, however, the 4-11.1). engine or 1893 had dimensions of 80 by

120 ram., that fitted to Le Papillon Bleu Admits to 10 h.p, for taxation parposes, which indicates a bore of 90 nun. It is dterefore presumably of the 90 by 130-nun. type, which, known as the 6 h.p., made its Appearance as the firm’s racing engine for 1897. This is a matter of particular interest, because the original owner of Le Papillon Bku was none other than the Chevalier ItenC de KnytT ; and the Chevalier made his first appearance in the great races at the tiller of one of these original 6-h.p. cars in Marseilles-Nice-la Turbie at the end of January, 1897. Only a month or two ago I was shown a letter which had just been received from this :pioneer racing motorist by my friend Mr. Gerald Rose ; and having now had the privilege of driving his sometime personal motor car, I feel that I have indeed sat in a seat of flue mighty. In 1897, de Knyff was fourth in Marseilles. Nice-la Turf tie, fifth in Paris-I)ietspe and fourth in Paris–Trotiville. In 1898 he was third in Marseilles-Nice, first in Parisllordeaux (at 22.1 m.p.h., still on a 6-h.p.), and fourth in Paris-AmsterdamParis. In 1899 he was second in Paris–Bordeaux and won the Tour de Frame. averaging 30.2 m.p.h. for 1,350 miles on his 16-lap. Panhard. In 1900 he won the Circuit du Sud-Ottest at 43.8 m.p.h. and Nice Marseilles at $6.7 m.p.h.. In 1901 he was thin d in Paris–Berlin, and in 1902, the first year of the monster 70-It p. Panhard, lw was easily first, from Paris to Bel fort, on the first stage of Paris-Vjenna, averaging 54 m.p.h. for the 2331 miles. Row, later in the race, he broke down when within an ace of wimainp: the Gordon Rennett trophy ; and how, in spite of this misfortune, it was de Knyff who insisted that S. F. Edge should not be disqualified and that the ta(rphy should go to England, is an example of svirlsmansItip which I hope Ill. remembers now with even greater sat isfact ion than he would a victory. In the Gordon Bennett race of

1903 in Ireland, he -was the fastest of the French team, being only just beaten for first place by Jenatzy’s Nlereedes ; and I have always thought that it was the jealousy of lesser men that thereupon persuaded him that he was too old for motor raring and that he should retire. With de Elvin of the black spade beard and Ids faithful, if diminutive, mechanician, Aristide, who would never ride with anyone else, there went from motor racing one of its mostpicturesque figures.

It was with such thoughts in our minds, then, Bud we set about fitting the battery to Le Papillon Bka. The original It h.p. of 1897, of course, had tube ignition, but by 1900 the racing ears, while retaining this well-tried systern as a standby, were also fitted with an accumulator and trembler coil, and by 1901 both racing and touring cars had made this concession to modernity. Rotuma of the bonnet. for the par pose of thnoding the carburetter and printing, revealed an obviously longstroke engine, of which 1 he most remarkable feature to modern eyes is perhaps the exposed tinting gears and camshaft, which operates the exhaust valves through what appear, owing to their total exposure, to he enormously long tappets. The inlet valves are of course automat ie and in the head.

The starling handle rotates the crankshaft I ‘,rough I he intermediary of a chain, as a result of which it is offset, to Ili,’ longitudinal axis or the (sum’ and must be comparatively short in order to avoid fouling the off-side dumb-iron. For all that, it proved fully adequate for its purpose, and by means of it the engine VHS set going with consummate ease. The in combustion of the Pan hard, indeed, was got. going with. eonsiderably greater dispatch than the external sort. used by I Ite Serpollet, but, although we were now ready for the road; there was, for better or worse, no question of moving

the Panttard off by merely owning the throttle, if only for the very good reason that the Panitard has no throttle. Originally the engine was fitted with a governor, controlled by a pedal-operated decelerator, but the governor has been removed, and the pedal is no more than an °nutmeat. One is left, therefore, as far as engine control is concerned, only with the two famous Panhard twist-grip controls on the steering wheel. These grips, deeply knurled at their Outer ends, have to be pulled outwards against a spring in order to disengage them from a tine-toothed ratchet adjoining the steering column, and then turned vigorously and far, in a mariner which provides ample exercise for the wrists. On the car under examination, the righthand one constituted some kind of mixture control, and appeared in practice to be completely without influence on the situation. The left-hand one, on the contrary, which advanced and retarded the ignitions, was the sole bulwark between us and an actually constant-speed engine. ” In the ease of single-cylinder ungoverned engines,” says Mr. It. J. Meetedy in The Motor Book, published in 1903, ” . . . the speed of the engine is largely regulated by the sparking advance lever, arid in this connection the novice often labours under the mistake that if he wants to increase his speed he need only advance the sparking lever to do so.” As far as the Frustumd is concerned, it is a mistake, within limitations, under which this novice still labours. Only a short time before i.e Papillon Bleu was built, the typical Panhard was fitted with, a side brake lever whieh also withdrew the clutch, and indeed this interconinection may have been done away with since the car left the factory. I do not think, however, that it can ever have had the separate lever which engaged the reverse gear, all changes being „

effected by a smgie lever working on a quadrant, and a single haladeur. It is a quadrant, moreover, which offers no tempation to glance down at it in order to look for the next notch, for the simple reason that the notches are underneath it and consequently completely invisible. Until you get to know them, therefore, there is nothing for it hut to ” feel ” the gears. Rather remarkably, however, once you have learnt your way about, it is quite passible to find a sufficient neutral between the gears for downward changes to be made, with only the advance and retard as an engine speed control, by this new-fangled ” double-clutch ” method. Mr. Chit ton, in the course of our journey, proved himself an adept at this performance and even I scored one or tWO modest successes. On (lie other hand, as is usual with early gearboxes, to get a silent cliavige rip proved exceedingly difficult, unless ;me was lucky—and strong—enough to press the piano-pedal down so hard that the clutch really disengaged. Itut then, as Mr. Chilton most aptly .rcinarked, to change gear silently wa,s regarded as pretty sissy by the driverof 1901. According to the table of mechanical details it) Mr. Gerald Rose’s Record of Motor Haring, the 6-11.p. racing Panhard of 1897 was titled with ” three or four ” speeds ; and it is most remarkable, if he had experience or I)oth tilt ermitives,

that M. dle Knyll, as a director of Panhard et. Levassor, should have been content with three on his personal touring car or runabout. That is all, unlike 111081 Panhards, that Le Pupillim Bleu has, anti yet one feels that a fourth would be highly desirable. Top can only really be used if the road is flat and the wind not too unfavourable; second is certainly a highly satisfactory speed ; but first is so low that, whle even starting on a fairly steep gradient with a full load presents few terrors, resort to it reduces the car to little more than a walking pave, and once one has been forced onto it., as, for instance, through being baulked on a hill, a misfortune which overtook us, believe it or not, more than once cm the way to Brighton, all how of bridging. the substantial gap between it and second and of Making an npward change has practically to be abandoned mail the road flattens out again. An intermediate speed between first and second would, it seems, greatly improve the car’s performance. As soon AS one takes the wheel of this Panhard, one cannot help being impressed with the quality of sturdiness for which the marque was renowned in the early days of motoring. The steering wheel, with its twist-grip controls, is a monument of solidity, the side levers are patently more than ademuite for their purpose, and the whole car gives such an impression of durability that one is unable, when driving it, to remain surprised that it has lasted for half a century. There is, 1 presnme, no direct drive, and on all speeds there is a soothing hum of sonte of which, I imagine, emanatesfrom the unenelosed timing gears, but which is at any rate sufficient in the aggregate entirely to drown the howl of the chains, so that it would be practically impossible to discern. Idy aural itietinS alone, that they were responsible for the final drive. The steering, too, is impeccable (apart from the fact that, in spite of the typically Panhard track-rod in front of the axle lay-out, the lock is most strictly restricted in relation to the wheelbase), and on several occasions during the week-end Mr. Chat on demonstrated that the car could be safely steered downhill at a speed greatly in excess of that which it is

eapable Of attaining with the aid of gravity. It is, ineidentally, titled with a speedometer, driven off the front. wheel, which is as indolent in relathni Iii tbe true speedl as, apvtrentlyr p:liefieally all modern instruments are optimistic, but whielt indicates I hal the car’s comfortable gait On IL flat road is about 30 miles an. ‘Witt% The eyeloinet em, or dist micereowder, has a sep.trate and almost equally imp ‘sing dial, and the only other instrument. on the dashboard is a gauge which gives pressure readinps in metres of water. This, believe it or not, indicates the pressure, in metres, imparted to water—namdy the water in the eiOcula., ting systent–by the pump, and acts, incidentally. as it very reasouably accorate revolution-counter. ( by. since we are on the subject, is this instrument so often ealled a ” tadanneter ” The wdird ineanS 1)0 nlOre than an inStrlintent for measuring speed, and applies no more specifically where the sideed of the cranksluift is concerned Ilum the speed of the vehicle.) Did it not fail this function, the gauge, one feels, would be

irnewl et t redit tidatuL The cooling syston, apart front the coiled-tube radiator at the front of the bonnet, comprises a tank on the engine side of the dashboard, on the top of which is a tiller eap with a hole in it. Through ibis hole there issues, if 1l is well, a reassuring wreath of Water-Vapook ; if, on the other hand, the water by any chame should boil, it issues from t his orifice and eascades onto the ankles of the front passenger, who, in Such circumstances, would doubtless draw the driver’s attention to the Sit uation.

!however, no such contretemps marred our journey to London, and as dusk was falling we drove into Messrs. Rickards garage near Paddington, where i goodly collection o’ veteran ears Was already assembled. The scene was so enchanting that it, was hard not to be distraded, in favour of inspecting the latest arrival, from the imp.,rtatit business of refurbishing paint and brass-work ; but I am not so sure t hat the exeitement that evening could hod a eaudle, let alone an oil-lamp, to the drama or the following morning.

Few things, I think, other them the Brighton HUM, could drag Inc. almost cheerfully, from my bed at the dawn of a repellent winter morning ; but once we had readied Riekards, one realised that it had been worth it. The air was loud with the panting and wheezing of veteran engines, coaxed front their night’s sleep almost as unwillingly as had been So recently their owners, whit now added TO the din with their shouted instructions to their crews, their Unseasonaoie jokes and tlwir oeeasiottal impre.Atiotts as they wound feverishly at their starting handles ; while above all hung a faint pall of oil—and exhaust-smoke. At the far end of the garage there were diameters unconeernedly drinking coffee . . . We drove throughe a steady drizzle, in the cold light of dawn, to the banks of the Serpentine, where was assembled all the Inotoring world and his wife–or what passes for his wife on such occasions. A rude man asked me why I was only standing beside the Serpentine instead of bathing in it ; he survived. As oar time to start came, the heavens openett and a downpour of hall descended on our heads ; and once more -we were end naked iip.m the Run to Brighton. As a matter of fad the weather, running as untrue to form as usual,. cleared up before we were even out of London, and for thelirst part of our journey we were favoured with a I end-Went autumn morning of p.ile sunshine, which, however, shining on the glistening, rain-soaked roads, proved exceedingly (Muting. Nearer Brighton, we were met by a it and p averfol headwind, so that we noticed the erew of at least one early Benz erodielted how over the tiller. determined at least to avoid being driven Intek to Lonal(m. We rejoiced to observe the steady wogress of the lattzmann ; indeed by dint of stopping for a dip of eoffee after we had passed it the first time, we were able to rejoiee in the observ:ition twice. The Lutttnialin, in striking contrast to the Panhard, bears no rest:nib/alley to is motor car whatsoever. Sinei! it Was taking part in the Run, it is, I am persioided, a horseless carriage ; but it

requires quite an effort to expunge from the picture of it the actual horse with which the inuigination so remlily provides it.

As a result of the abolition of petrol rationing, we were accompanied on our journey by a very large number of modern ears, and from this circumstance it was possible to judge that the advance in the controllability of the automobile has just aheait maintained the pt.ce required of it. It was in fact obvious that the average driver of is modern car, with its powerful, flexible engine, synchro-rnesh gear-eltange and four-wheel brakes, had very nearly as Wttiell control over his nuiehine as had the drivers of the veterans. Thanks to the skill of the latter, accidents were satisfactorily few.

We arrived at Brighton in comfortable tinte for lunch, to which, I may say, we were fully prepared to do ample justice. So Sorat as it wits over, however, having neither a lorry on whielt to load OUT veteran, nor the leisure to defer our return journey wail Monday, we set the Faith:ad in motion once more and started out hdr lamdon. Night overtaking us as WC reaelted Reigate, we stopped and lit our oil lamps, and by their dickering light promoted on our way. It is no good telling me that cars do not run better at night ; our Pau hard that evening gave ample proof to the contrary, and as we finally regained Imndon it was palling so strongly that We felt tlutt it regarded a hundred tildes a day as no more than a warnthig-up lap. I do not know that I would say quite the same of the crew ; but at least,. in retrospect, every moment of Butt ilittrile2,, Was it solace to t ttoSe of us who had missed Marseilles. Nice lu Turbie.