In view of the recent interest in elderly commercial vehicles, I thought this photograph of a 1925 Austin Heavy Twelve Ice Cream Van might be of interest to readers. [Photo at top of next column — Ed.]
The photograph was taken last year at Robin Hood’s Bay, near Whitby, and the driver assures me that the vehicle is original except for the radiator shell. This van ascends and descends the notorious 1-in-3½ Bay Bank every day of the season, and never falters. In the same village there are also a 1927 Heavy Twelve and 1928 Morris-Cowley in daily use. In view of the number of steep hills in the area, this seems to recommend the “old ‘uns.”
I am, Yours, etc.,
John L. Brigg
I think the answer to the query raised in Mr. E. D. Woolley’s letter in the current issue is that there were at least three varieties of Rexette—the one he has, another with a 7-h.p. V-twin, air-cooled engine and a wicker forecarriage, and a third water-cooled model. single-cylinder, 6 (or 8) h.p. chain driven and rejoicing in the description “Coach Built.”
This had an open tubular frame, a coachbuilt forecarriage and a comfortably upholstered bucket seat for the driver around which the radiator was “wrapped,” a long, tapered, metal “beetle-back” over the rear wheel and wheel steering. I remember the Rexette pretty well as it was my first motor vehicle bought second-hand (very) when I was 16—in 1906.
It was utterly unreliable so I gained a lot of useful practical experience from it—to keep it going at all was an art, but fortunately in those days the few motorists on the road were very friendly to one another and always stopped to help a boy en pause. This Tricar was very heavy for its powers and had to be helped up the Hampstead Hills either by shedding the passenger or by leaping out myself and steering as I ran beside it, jumping in again gasping for breath whilst still going, when the summit was reached.
This was not “motoring” as envisaged in my dreams, so as soon as I had saved a few more pounds I exchanged the Rexette for a 7-h.p. Twin Vindec motor-cycle, followed by a 9-h.p. Laurin and Klement racing M.C. driven by a fiat belt and from these and subsequent mounts learned something about speed. Fortunately I still have a clean licence!
I am, Yours, etc.,
Can any reader tell me anything about the le Zebre make of car. I enclose a photograph [see below — Ed.] of a fine example that I have been busy renovating.
I believe they were made very early on—1904 at least—but no one I have spoken to seems to have heard of this make, and I should he most grateful for any information and, most especially, to hear from anyone who owns a car of this make. The one I have is of 1921 manufacture, engine number 10235.
I am, Yours, etc.,
R. R. Brain
I can provide a certain amount of information concerning the vintage fire-engine shown in the December Motor Sport. The vehicle in question is now the mascot of the Royal College of Science, one of the constituent colleges of the Imperial College of Science and Technology in South Kensington. It is a 1916 Dennis, of slightly uncertain capacity, believed to be around 45 h.p., and of considerable thirst. It belonged for many years to a soap manufacturing firm in Warrington, acting as the works fire engine. They finally decided to dispose of it in 1955. We had been looking for a suitable state chariot for the Union President for some time and, hearing of this fire-engine—which seemed ideal—an offer was accordingly made, but the firm in question, seeing that it was going to a home where, it would be cherished, presented it to the college, where it arrived in the summer of 1955. A certain amount of time was spent getting accustomed to its little ways but it is now in full running order. It is, incidentally, known as Jezebel, the Scarlet Woman, and attends various college functions. It also put in an appearance at the V.S.C.C. meeting at Silverstone last June, and it is hoped to make this an annual event.
I fear this account is slightly deficient on the technical details, but I left the college in 1955 shortly after Jezebel arrived. However, I imagine that you will in all probability be hearing from the College Union, which will be able to tell you more about the actual fuel consumption, etc.
It is probably worth mentioning that Jezebel is not the only mechanical mascot in Imperial College. The Royal School of Mines possesses an Aveling traction engine, known as Clementine which has attended the Appleford rallies, and the City and Guilds College has, for many years, had a 1901 James & Brown car, called Boanerges or “Bo.” This regularly attends the Brighton Run and is also fairly frequently seen around London.
Perhaps the most distinguished appearance of the three mascots occurred recently when the Queen Mother opened the new Aeronautics Building. They were presented to her, in highly polished condition, and evoked considerable interest.
I am, Yours, etc.,
John C. Hendy
Your article in the September 1957 issue on the Straker-Squire racing car gave me great pleasure. I was an apprentice with this firm from 1919 to 1924 and spent many hours working on the car, and to see it is still running gave me quite a kick. I have enclosed a photograph [at foot of column — Ed.] I took at the time which I am sure will interest you and the present owner.
It shows the car in its full stripes, with Mr. Bentley and Mr. Moore, the two racing mechanics.
I am, Yours, etc.,
F. P. Gowler
I was interested to see, in Mr. F. H. Hayward’s “Memories of the 1920s,” the only reference that I have seen to the Licorne, other than a class win in, I think, the Monte Carlo Rally.
This was the first car that my parents owned, its full title being Corre la Licorne. It was bought from the factory near Paris and shipped to London after my parents returned there, my father having worked in Paris from about 1909 to 1919. The exchange rate made the purchase advantageous.
I know no technical details of the car, or its year, but think it was an 11 or 12-h.p. four-cylinder. lt was built like a battleship and as roomy as a limousine. The photograph reveals the single off-side door, solid wheels, fine radiator and split opening windscreen. It was painted grey and black, and the registered number was ML 598. The car served my parents for eight years with no trouble, save a puncture during delivery from Dover docks to London.
Some time after my father disposed of it we saw it in a service station in Wimbledon as we drove past, repainted blue. I suppose she couldn’t still be running? Incidentally, as there was no driver’s door the brake and gear-levers were on the right.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Peter G. Gough
Referring to the letter from Mr. Basil Crookes in your December issue, I would suggest that the engine is a Locomobile Type 38 R.7 or 48 M.7. I obtained this information from a copy of Dyke’s Automobile and Gasoline Engines Encyclopaedia. There is, however, one difference in the layout: the water manifold does not slope as it does on the Locomobile, the remainder, however, appears to be the sante, the carburetter and magneto being on the off side.
With reference to Dyke’s encyclopaedia, this might be of interest to you. It covers the period 1911-1921 in American automobiles and I believe copies of it are rare. The publishers are The Goodheart-Willcox Co., Inc., and their offices were at 2009, South Michigan Avenue, Chicago.
This is quite a book, as it deals with every aspect of automobile engineering and covers the “necessary equipment” for travelling abroad, even giving recipes and tips on cooking. Hints on law and insurance, etc., are also included, and two pages, in table form, are devoted to the automobile licence and speed regulations of the various States.
I am, Yours, etc.,
B. T. Davison
On browsing through Motor Sport, I saw a letter from P. M. Rambault asking for particulars of the Short-Ashby car.
I was in the Navy with Victor Ashby, Junr., in the 1914-18 war and he gave me my first job on demob. in 1919. I was fitter-cum-turner-cum-tester at his garage at Towcester, Northants.
The car started life with a wooden chassis and a Coventry-Victor two-cylinder, air-cooled, horizontally-opposed 5.6-h.p. engine. Later, larger cylinders and pistons were fitted, bringing it up to 8 h.p. The final design used a four-cylinder 7/8-h.p. “Ruby” engine, imported, I believe, from France. The great point of the car was the reduction gear from the friction drive to the solid back axle; most cyclecars were resorting to a chain for the final reduction.
When the car was sufficiently developed, I was sent with about six other mechanics to Short Bros. at Rochester, who were to produce it for the market. It was shown at the Earls Court part of the Motor Show in about 1922 or ’23, where the sales apparently did not justify further expense. Ashby’s men were sent back to Towcester, while I remained at Short Bros. for another three years before going back to sea. The chief draughtsman was Mr. Simpson, a very well-known personality in the motor world at that time. He came to us from G.W.K.s.
The enclosed photograph is of the very first Ashby, with the bell he mentions fitted at the left of the clutch pedal and before the body was fitted. It was painted a pale mauve.
If Mr. Rambaut has not already heard from anyone connected with this car, I should be pleased to send him more photographs and a more detailed history of its inception.
I am, Yours, etc.,
W. A. Careless
Recent correspondence referring to Argyll cars has revived my interest and prompts me to write you.
My father was a very firm believer in Argylls and from 1910, when he bought his first one, to 1932, when he bought his last (secondhand), his faith never wavered.
The photograph I enclose was taken in 1917 and shows the 25/50 model tourer, seating five in great comfort. This was his third car, bought in May 1914 and with C.A.V. electric lights. The enormous headlamps, which I still have, were nickel plated and had plain glass lenses. In the photograph you can see the paper discs inside the glass to reduce the light to some small extent; this was the 1914-18 war restriction in times of Zeppelin raids. Also in this photograph can be seen the front-wheel brakes, which were standardised by Argyll at latest by 1913, if not before.
They were indeed wonderful old cars, with very quiet engines, but not always easy to start—no electric starters. I learnt my driving and many tricks of motoring on a succession of these cars. The 25/50 had dual ignition, coil for starting and magneto for running, but there was no choke arrangement, so that a rag was generally held over the air intake until the engine had started and would run without faltering. We had quite a number of the 1913 and 1914 models, all except the 25/50 being secondhand. The last one was bought from a farmer, I think in Northumberland, and boasted the “foreign” registration letters and number EY 524. We later found the letters were the owner’s initials and the number was his telephone number.
For some reason, in the early ‘twenties the company discontinued front-wheel brakes and the only two post-war models we had were 1926 and 1927 12-h.p. tourers.
All the engines from, I think, 1913 onwards—if not before as well—were single sleeve-valve units, manufactured under Burt McCollurn patents, and our experience of them was that they were entirely trouble-free.
I remember, in the early ‘thirties, taking at least three of these 1913-14 models back for reconditioning at the Argyll Works, in Hozier Street, Bridgeton, Glasgow, where they had moved from the Alexandria Works at Dumbarton. As far As I could learn the very imposing and massive (for those days) building at Alexandria was completed not long before the war and the company were relying on several years of expanding trade to pay for it. As it happened, the 1914 war broke out and, their works taken from them for munitions, the company’s back was broken. They restarted some years after the war on a much smaller scale in Bridgeton, hut never survived the competition which the post-war years brought.
For reconditioning engines they had some method—which I never perfectly understood—of “cooking the cylinder block slowly,” then reboring and refitting the sleeves. It seemed to work.
I myself used to spend many hours tinkering with these cars and well remember the multiplate clutch which ran in a mixture of approximately two parts paraffin to one of engine oil. If we found this was slipping we added paraffin, if it was too fierce we added oil! Rule-of-thumb!
Another point of interest was that we fitted Warland rims to facilitate tyre changing. This certainly was a great advance on the existing method, which involved several tyre levers, great strength and a technique only borne of experience.
The body of the car in the photograph was an early attempt at streamlining. From the square radiator the top sloped up to the windscreen and the sides out to the full width of the body. It was truly coachbuilt, with leather upholstery. The windscreen was low by normal standards and was split along its length, both top and bottom halves being hinged. We opened them when it rained, the better to see—there were no wipers. All-up weight was well over 2 tons and top speed about 70 m.p.h.
Without doubt they were one of the finest cars of their day—built like battleships.
Argylls were my training ground for driving and maintenance, and they never fail to arouse my interest.
I am, Yours; etc.,
J. M. S. Lambie, Managing Director, Lambie (Wallsend) Ltd.
I enjoyed your article about the 1911 Cottin Desgouttes, but I believe there is a misstatement about the gearbox. There is direct drive only on the two upper ratios; first, second, and reverse, being “through the gears” via shaft on the left (photograph, page 675).
My father owned, and I drove, a 1909 18/24 Pilain—also built in Lyons, not far from the C.D. works—which had an identical gearbox, so I know!
Instead of chains, the final drive was through universal joints and a set of step-down gears in each wheel-hub. The engine comprised two pairs of two cylinders of 110 by 140 mm. (about 4.2 litres), with T-head and very large valves. Peak r.p.m. was about 1,800. The carburetter had a circular float-chamber, arranged around the air inlet, and six small jets. A very long cone could be screwed up or down to adjust the venturi. A spring-loaded adjustable valve at the bottom of the cone served as additional air inlet.
A special feature was the “air brake.” By pushing the “gas” handle to the top of the quadrant on the steering-wheel, the carburetter was entirely shut off and the inlet manifold largely opened to “pure air.” This proved useful on mountain roads, to spare the very small brakes; for example, Galibier to Grenoble, 92 km, down. A similar device was used later on Saurer lorries. The car was a terrific climber and quite pleasant to drive, but the suspension was rough and the 815 by 105 high-pressure tyres didn’t help much. There were no shock-absorbers. We had that Pilain ten years.
Another car I would like to mention is an 1897 6-h.p. Panhard et Levassor. My father bought it in a garage in Nice in 1900, and it was supposed to be the car in which M. Levassor crashed in the Paris-Marseilles race and subsequently died of his injuries. The engine is a Phenix Benz two-cylinder. Originally, ignition was by platinum tubes heated by a blow torch, but was later converted to plugs and trembler coils. One day, when cash was scarce, I got hold of these heavy platinum tubes and sold them. A nice feature is that when the engine reaches its maximum safe speed (about 850 r.p.m), a governor on the timing gear neatly kicks away the (hinged) push-rods from under the exhaust valve stems, so the valves stay shut and the engine is very efficiently “stifled.”
Another quaint feature is the reversing process. Two sliding crown-wheels are mounted one on each side of the driving pinion and either the left or right crown-wheels can be engaged by means of a separate lever next to the long “all in line” gear-lever. Consequently, you can go backward in fourth if you feel like it and are good at reversing, or if the forward crown comes loose. This happened once, and my father did eight miles in reverse—getting back to town!
Eventually, my father sold that Panhard to his father, who later gave it to me to play with, and now I have just given it to my son (age 34), who is doing an extensive renovating job on it and hopes to get it back on the road some day—if he can get hold of some tyres (915 by 105 rear and 815 by 105 front). That of course is a big headache. I wrote about it to an American old-car fan, who told me he had induced Firestone to make some special tyres for his cars—he owns about 30 “ancestors,” including a de Dion steamer—but the price is “stunning.” Any tips on the matter would be welcome.
With thanks for some very pleasant reading in your paper.
I am, Yours, etc.,
[M. Jorrand’s reference to the Cottin-et-Desgouttes gearbox is interesting and we think correct. Three crown-wheels and pinions are used but the layshaft is engaged for first and second speeds, although one gear train is thereby eliminated in those speeds and a pure direct drive obtained in third and top. Circa 1908 Berliet, another car made in Lyons, employed dual crown-wheels and pinion, to provide direct drive in third and top gears in their 40 and 60-h.p. cars. They appear to have required an additional pair of gears, however, to transmit first and second speeds back via one or other of the final drives. — Ed.]
For some months new I have been the enthusiastic owner of an M.G. 18/80 Mk. II four-seater tourer of 1930. Some of your readers might have noticed this bright-green example commuting between Coventry and Shrewsbury at weekends.
So much joy do I derive from driving this motor car, that I cannot but be surprised at the fact that I have never seen mention of this marque in your articles or correspondence columns.
I am certain that my car is nowhere near unique—although rare— So where are all you other 18/80 owners hiding? Let’s hear something of your cars through the medium of the World’s finest motoring periodical.
Sometimes I think that the M.G. tends to be regarded as rather a “non-U ” car among vintage and “p.v.t.” addicts—though why this should be I can’t imagine.
I am, Yours, etc.,
J. H. Cock