Vintage postbag, January 1965

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73

Eagle-eyed!

Sir,

Your December issue, p. 1027: is not “1920” a misprint for “1924”—see p. 163 of “The Vintage Motor Car,” by Clutton and Stanford? Surely the front-wheel brakes and 24/70 = 1924?

Kenneth C. McGuffie – Amersham.

[Yes, it would seem so—we quoted from The Lord Mayor’s Show—Ed.]

* * * *
The beauty of vintage cars

Sir,

If Wolverhampton-built Sunbeams were in production today, they would doubtless possess a performance appreciably better than that of the 24/70-h.p. model illustrated on page 1027 of the current issue of Motor Sport.

So far as appearance is concerned, however, my ageing eyes have a distinct preference for the older car, its flowing lines and absence of excrescences being infinitely preferable to the present day ugliness masquerading as modernity. The old Sunbeam company turned out some beautifully constructed machines and it is a thousand pities that it went to the wall in 1935. About two years ago I was driving through Wolverhampton and made a point of traversing Villiers Street with a view to seeing something f the shades of past greatness. Stopping outside a collection of buildings which was obviously a factory, I inquired as to the whereabouts of the old Sunbeam works, and was told that I was then looking at it. Before going on my way I spent a few minutes in silent contemplation of fame that has gone forever.

My motoring interest was awakened in 1919 when, among other cars competing against Rolls-Royce, the 50-h.p. Sheffield-Simplex was one of the most expensive, its chassis price being £2,250. As you appear to have considerable facilities for research, do you think you could produce a short article on this long defunct luxury car? So far as I remember, there was little of outstanding technical merit but I imagine that it must have been constructed of the very best materials.

N. Paddison – Neath.

* * * *
Who was first with light-alloy pistons?

Sir,

Regarding the first efficient use of aluminium pistons in car aero engines, there are certain points in your correspondence under the nom de plume “Old Tome” which in my opinion should be queried.

“1914-1919,” surely rather a long period to claim without specific dates. Especially so as through these years design was pressing forward very urgently on all petrol engine development in the desperate efforts to gain air supremacy between the nations at war. The French-operated concern of Hispano-Suiza, in their patriotic endeavours to help their country’s air pilots in their desperate struggle against numerical odds, were probably experimentally using the aluminium piston in their 12-litre engines during 1918. On the other hand, however:

W. O. Bentley was using alloy pistons of Brooklands between the months of June and July, 1913. Engines in aircraft modified under his design to the use of aluminium pistons were flying by April or May, 1916.

I feel that your correspondent should weigh his facts rather more carefully before making what appears to be bold assertions.

B. L. Pickford – Tongham.

* * * *
O.M. and Rileys in Africa

Sir,

I believe I can throw some light on the fate of the ex-Widengren 8-cylinder G.P. O.M. mentioned in Ivor Linsdell’s very interesting O.M. History in April, and again in J. J. Hall’s letter in September.

Until four years ago I lived in Capetown, South Africa, and first saw the G.P. car there in 1938 soon after it had been brought to the country by Peter Burroughs, The car had arrived fitted with a Ford V8 engine and Wilson gearbox, but otherwise in original trim. I believe the conversion was made, by Arthur Baron, and it was said that the original engine had remained in Jersey.

In the following year I spent a considerable part of my spare time working on this car and can testify to the superb workmanship of the individual parts, but complete lack of rigidity in the chassis. Some time in 1939 we finally made the conversion work well, only to find the chassis a mass of cracks at the rear engine mounts. Alas, in those days we understood little of the effect of stress concentration, and stripped the car with the intention of plating the chassis at the cracks, which had occurred at the transition from inverted U to double L section. Incidentally, no lead was found in the U section.

The war broke out in the middle of this operation and the parts of the O.M. never came together again, but were lost in the confusion of the time. I believe I was the last to drive the car in a trial run on the old Grosvenor circuit, after which the cracks in the chassis were discovered. The original radiator had been abandoned early due to overheating, and this remained in my garage for many years after the war until it too went for scrap.

Only a few years ago, in 1959, I bought what may be the only other O.M. to come to South Africa, a circa 1925 1-1/2-litre tourer, which had been in storage for many years. I was rebuilding this car when I decided to come to North America, and sold it to the V.C.C. of S.A. I notice that it is entered in the 1964 Veteran Vintage Rally there.

From my experience with these cars I cannot agree that the G.P. car used a tourer frame, as there was little similarity. However, the brake mechanism was very similar and the use of cast-iron brake linings was common to both. The G.P. car used a straight tubular front axle, with the spring carriers bolted and keyed to it, and the axle hung on the king-pins, with a ball thrust bearing and castellated nut on the top.

While on the subject of historic cars in South Africa, I can shed some light on some other cars mentioned in recent issues.

In the March issue there is a picture of a Brescia Bugatti, ex-Munton and Billy Mills. This must be the same car which I saw in pieces at the home of Gordon Henderson in Durban in 1946. Many enthusiasts have tried to buy it, but without success. To my knowledge it was the only Brescia ever to come to South Africa. I doubt if all its parts still exist. It has never been rebuilt to my knowledge.

The ex-Dobbs 1-1/2-litre Riley in which Buller Meyer wort the 4th S.A. Grand Prix remained in Meyer’s possession until 1946, when Frank Hoal of Capetown bought it and raced it with some success. Frank, incidentally, also married Buller’s daughter! Frank and his brother Edgar bought an ex-works 1-1/2-litre Riley about the same time, which, from photographs taken on first arrival in S.A., proved to be the works car lent to Freddie Dixon in 1936 when he won the T.T. Edgar later fitted a post-war 2-1/2-litre Riley engine and raced the car with much success until he crashed it at East London. I believe he still owned the car at the time of his death last year. The ex-Dobbs car was still in Capetown in honourable retirement and in good shape a few years ago.

W. Irvine Low – Hudson Hope, British Columbia.

* * * *
Vintage in verse

Sir,

I note that your “Cars in Books” series reminds us of John Betjeman’s references to various motor cars.

May I draw your attention to John Betjeman’s Collected Poems printed in paper-back form by John Murray at 5s? On page 151—”Indoor Games near Lewbury”—the following appears

Rich the makes of motor whirring

Past the pine-plantation purring.

Come up, Hupmobile, Delage!

Short the way your chauffeurs travel,

Crunching over private gravel

Each from out his warm garage.”

and also:

“Spingle-spangled stars are peeping

At the lush Lagonda creeping . . .”

(Mrs.) Glenys Clark-Monks – Leicester.

* * * *
Sensible prices!

Sir,

In connection with your comments on the prices of vintage cars, I would like to tell of my experience of “cheap sales.” My friend and I were passing a house in the south of London and spotted an old car embedded under a tarpaulin. Seeing somebody in the house, we asked him if he wished to keep the car and if we could inspect it. The automobile, to our surprise, was a 1933 Singer Le Mans, which to our horror possessed a blown cylinder head. But this did not deter us and after a little forceful haggling we acquired the car for £1. The car now, after much work, is hoped to be running by next Christmas, so some cars aren’t quite as expensive as the Singers advertised in your excellent magazine for £300.

Martin Triggs – Labrington Park.

* * * *
Martini memories

Sir,

My father had a car in the early ‘twenties and he believes the name was Martini. Could you confirm and give any further information?

One annoying habit the car possessed was at any dip in the road of any appreciable size, the chassis would flex and the rear end of the prop.-shaft would spring out of the back-axle case!

All strength to Motor Sport—still the only reliable and “gimmick-free” motor journal.

Gordon Pattison – Birmingham.

* * * *
Where are the Tipo 815s?

Sir,

May I please ask for your assistance. I would be very grateful if you could print this in your correspondence column.

Would any motor-racing and facts and figures specialist kindly assist us in tracing the post-war history of the two Tipo 815 Ferraris?

We have the following notes in the Register, but want more information, and old photos if available

.

The two cars were built by Nardi, to instructions from Le Commandatore, using two Fiat blocks fitted end to end. Raced by Ascari and the Marquis de Rangoni, they retired

After being returned to Nardi, we have a recording that one fitted with a 2-litre Maserati engine raced at the Eifelrennen in 1949 and again in the Salon Cup of that same year.

We would be very grateful if any reader could supply the name of the driver, any lap times in either event, or subsequent history.

R. M. Kitchingman, Competition Recorder, Ferrari Register (U.K.) – Bridport

[Now that the V.S.C.C. recognises certain racing cars made as late as 1960, I feel this must count as “Vintage Postbag”!—Ed.]

* * * *
A problem of identity

Sir,

I have hesitated for some time before troubling you with the following query, but I can think of no other likely source of information.

The very rough sketch enclosed is intended to represent the plan view of the remains of a small cyclecar, discovered in a barn by a friend of mine. The chassis-body structure is entirely of wood, the two side-members being 1 ft, wide by 1/2-in. thick planks curved inwards towards the front. The bracing members are all 1-1/4-in. square ash.

The engine is a Union two-stroke of about 300 c.c. Drive is by chain to a planetary 2-speed gear and thence by vee-belt to the solid axle.

Suspension at the front is rather like the Morgan, but the upper and lower axle members are of angle, not tube. There is no springing of any kind at the rear end, the live axle bearings being attached directly to the side-members. Steering is direct and rather frightening in its crudity, while the brakes are both on the belt rim. Control of the gear is by pedal and includes a simple ratchet lock to hold neutral.

I would be very grateful indeed for any information at all.

Douglas E. Capes – Hexham.

* * * *
The Richardson

Sir,

With apologies in case I have missed any articles or correspondence in your columns, may I ask if anyone can give any information on the Richardson car, or the firm which made it?

I recall my mother speaking of the car she owned about 1920, which she always called “Dick,” also a photograph showing its side view, 2-seater with folding hood and flimsy wheels. It apparently had some weird and wonderful infinitely variable transmission consisting of two cones rubbing against each other, which were liable to catch fire on the slightest provocation.

I would also welcome some information on the German Brennabor—I used to see one in Warminster regularly of, I think, 1908, and although I never managed to speak to the owner, I did hear that it was the only surviving example in the world.

A. R. Buchanan – Letchworth.

* * * *
The diesel engine in old cars

Sir,

For the last three years or so I have been a convert to the larger car, originally of 4-litres plus capacity, but with its petrol engine replaced by a standard diesel engine. My first car thus equipped was a 1938 Siddeley Special, but with the 5-litre petrol engine substituted by a Perkins P6 diesel engine. The original pre-selector gearbox was retained, also its separate clutch, and the operation of the latter together with the gearbox band release mechanism was vacuum servo assisted—as was the effective braking system. An engine-driven exhauster with vacuum reservoir looked after this operation.

The car was a delight to drive with the especially high rear-axle fitted; 38 m.p.g. was obtained in normal operation, with adequate performance.

My present car is a 1931 4-litre Bentley saloon which in 1951 was rebuilt, fitted with a Perkins P6 engine in unit with a David Brown 5-speed gearbox (5th speed overdrive), and re-registered. I am returning a fuel consumption figure of 35-38 m.p.g. with this car.

To me, this form of propulsion is the absolute answer for a car of nearly 2-1/2 tons all-up weight. In addition to its fuel economy, there are many further advantages over its petrol-consuming counterpart. To list a few—greater reliability, longer life, increased mileage between overhauls, easier starting with less temperament on cold damp mornings.

The performance is adequate—a comfortable cruising speed of 60 m.p.h. is available, 75 m.p.h. possible without over-revving the engine on its over-all ratio of about 3.2 to I in 5th gear (6.50 x 20 tyres). The exceptionally good low-speed torque gives the car brisk performance on hills without having to change down to the extent that one would with a petrol engine,

Disadvantages? I cannot think of any, providing the car has a sufficiently rugged transmission to deal with the enormous torque available.

It would be interesting to hear from readers who are also “diesel minded” in respect of private cars of this type.

N. J. Parmenter – Stockbridge

* * * *
Morris 1100 troubles

Sir,

The remarks of F. E. Greaves and other correspondents on the S.U. petrol pumps makes very interesting reading, and it would seem that this is the weak point of the 1100 series.

Kicking and thumping the pump effects a temporary but very short-term cure. Recently, in order to get home, I had to perform this operation eleven times on a 7-mile journey. The pump, however, usually advertising its intentions by a loud ticking noise.

My Morris 1100 has already consumed three petrol pumps in 20 months and 20,000 miles, thus making for expensive motoring if this appetite continues throughout its life. I have recently received the account for the fitting of the last pump, and when I questioned this I was informed that as I had not paid for the previous one, replaced under guarantee, no guarantee could apply to the pump in question!

To add a further comment on the question of batteries, the Lucas battery fitted to this Morris failed after only fourteen months and a starting handle cannot be fitted.

In addition, the car has been back to the distributors four times to have the paintwork rectified, including two complete resprays.

After the wonderful road-holding and steering and other good points of the 1100, it seems a great pity that all the Issigonis-Moulton genius should be ruined by small details.

I would like an Austin 1800 but I have my doubts. . . .

N.B.—Should the initials of the pump be reversed?

B. Pears – Dronfield.