A Diesel Hillman
Last month, on the principle of “trying anything once,” we covered a considerable mileage in an outwardly-normal Hillman Minx saloon, but one which had one of those remarkable Perkins “Four 99” diesel engines under its bonnet. Far from “trying it once,” we would be prepared to own one of these fascinating cars if it came our way, because there is a foolproof feeling when driving behind this new Perkins engine that it is essentially reliable and will go on for ever. This, indeed, it almost does. When we enquired the life of a “Four 99” we were told that it was only introduced last year, so not much data is available on the subject. “An engine has been stripped after 100,000 miles,” a Perkins spokesman will tell you, “and negligible wear was found—it should be good for another 100,000 miles without overhaul.”
That is one advantage of diesel motoring. The engine should outlast several cars, and certainly go the life of one without needing any attention! The other is fuel economy. Using fuel oil which costs the same per gallon in this country as cheap petrol, consumptions of 45-50 m.p.g. are realised under arduous conditions. For instance, a Bedford van engaged on short stop-and-go journeys which brought its petrol m.p.g. to 15, gave 38 m.p.g. when a Perkins “Four 99” was installed and in London traffic. Beardmore Mk. 7 taxis have been averaging 36 m.p.g. compared to 18 m.p.g. on petrol.
These two economy factors render the Perkins “Four 99” a worthwhile proposition in spite of its price of £226 17s. 6d. in the case of the Hillman conversion, a price reduced somewhat because an allowance is made for the petrol engine. That the good fuel consumption is no fluke is borne out by R.A.C.—observed tests which show 56.6 m.p.g. for a Perkins Vauxhall Velox and 50.8 m.p.g. for a Perkins Ford Consul, both at average speeds of nearly 35 m.p.h. The Hillman gave nearly 40 m.p.g., driving it hard, representing over 275 miles on a tankful of ” Derv.”
We found a mile speed (some 76 m.p.h.) and pick-up in the Hillman, which, apart from some diesel roughness unless the engine is pulling hard, was as any other Minx. The normal four-speed gearbox with steering column change is retained and apart from an additional starter switch incorporating a heater setting which may be required for 15 or 20 sec. when starting from cold, the controls are normal, with a knob for stopping the engine by cutting off the fuel feed and a similar knob to control the idling setting. Nor does any trace of diesel fumes enter the car.
We found the purposeful if noisy running of the Perkins-Minx very much to our liking. The engine is a 76.2 x 88.9 mm. (1.621-c.c.) unit with a compression-ratio of 20 to 1, giving 43 b.h.p. at a governed maximum speed of 4,000 r.p.m. Quite apart from the diesel conversion, reacquaintance with the Minx, which was a Series III with steering-column gear shift and bench seat, confirmed what a sensible sized, nicely appointed, leather-upholstered family saloon the Hillman is.
These Perkins “Four 99” engines are available in kit-conversion form for Ford Consul, Vauxhall Velox and Wyvern and Morris Oxford, as well as the Hillman Minx and those who appreciate good engineering which spells longevity and fuel economy which should be especially palatable to farmers and others who already use “Derv,” should give them serious consideration. Details are available from Perkins Engines Ltd., Peterborough, Northants, England.
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Automatic transmission is often scorned by skilful motorists yet has been praised by more than one of our leading racing drivers. Now that the Rootes Group has taken the initiative of offering fully automatic transmission on a 1½-litre family car (Smith’s “Easidrive” on the Hillman Minx) other manufacturers are likely to try to follow suit. If they are looking for a good proprietary fully automatic transmission they might fare far worse than consider the Hobbs’ system.
We have been driving an aged 1½-litre o.h.v. Morris-Oxford saloon so endowed. Not only did the Hobbs Mecha-Matic transmission function with indifferent reliability and operate smoothly, given care with the accelerator when moving off, but it has the merit of enabling the steering column stalk which selects “A,” “N” or “R” to also hold any of the three-speed trains if so desired. Indeed, you can change up and down with this lever as you would with a normal steering-column gear change controlling a three-speed gearbox, which will endear the Hobbs’ system to enthusiastic drivers, especially as full braking is then available in each of these speeds. Creep is entirely absent, as is gear whine and the instantaneous change between first and reverse should be ideal for special tests.
There is the usual kick-down selection of a lower gear, the action lagging somewhat in returning to top gear. But in general this Hobbs’ system is an excellent and simple application of fully-automatic transmission to cars of modest power. It operates as a three-stage epicyclic system, using five main components, a clutch unit, a brake unit, a hydraulic unit, a pump unit and the planetary gear train. So foolproof is the resultant action that the children passed a wet Sunday morning driving the Mecha-Matic Morris round the garden without disaster.
Good as this Hobbs’ transmission is, the 1954 Morris-Oxford to which it was fitted merely served to emphasise the progress which has been made in the past few years. With heavy indecisive, low-geared steering that transmitted nothing except anaemic kicks to the oddly-positioned wheel, suspension that was virtually undamped, vague road-holding and non-self-cancelling wipers that left a lethal unwiped area in the centre of the windscreen, it is understandable why such cars are inevitably driven at a mere 40 m.p.h. far out in the middle of the road. In its wide bench, leather-upholstered seats, adequate but fierce and heavy brakes and lumbering automatic progression this queerly-styled Morris-Oxford, new but a few years ago, was akin to a large vintage-style car of 1930-35. As such it had a certain taxi-like charm. Yes, B.M.C. have inevitably progressed!
Those manufacturers interested in the Hobbs’ transmission can obtain full roll details from the manufacturers, whose address is: Hobbs’ Transmission Ltd., Sydenham House, 78, Russell Terrace, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire.