Vintage Postbag, January 1966

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84

The “Henry” Peugeots

Sir,
Reading Kent Karslake’s letter, one point struck me as being slightly incorrect. He says “The Cars which used 4-wheel brakes in the 1914 Grand Prix . . . were the first serious racing cars which had ever done so.” Should not “G.P” be substituted for “racing” ? Surely the 1913 “Coupe de l’Auto” cars were serious racing cars and they had 4-wheel brakes—being virtually smaller prototypes of the 1914 G.P. cars—those at the front being foot operated and those at the rear by hand.

On the same subject, I was surprised to read in “Racing Cars”(Batsford 1962) the statement by no less an authority than Cecil Clutton that “None of the Henry Peugeots survive” (pages 54 and 57). I had been aware since February 1961 of one of the 1913 cars in a semi-private museum in Bordeaux.

I was recently privileged to see this car—and the others in the museum—and was told that another example exists in a collection in the U.S. The car in Bordeaux is reputedly the one driven by Boillot and is, as far as is known, original with the exception of the carburetter (at present a Solex) and—I suspect— one of the two magnetos, since they differ somewhat. A fact concerning these magnetos which I have not seen in print—only one is in operation the other is a “stand-by,” being brought into use in the event of a breakdown of the first.

The museum at Bordeaux is owned by M. Bonnal, who is also owner of a well-known (in France) paint manufacturing company, being housed in two buildings in the company’s grounds. These buildings house a whole range of unusual machinery—from an 1891 Peugeot to post-war Lago Talbots and including several “Rolls” including a “Goshawk,” three De Dion Boutons including one of 1907 with a tubular frame chassis and “The” rear axle, a Bedelia cyclecar, several Bugattis, a Morgan Darmont 3-wheeler of 1922 and several local products made in and around Bordeaux in the first quarter of the century.

These latter include a “Schaudel” of 1901 with reputedly the first “Bloc-moteur” in the world with integral gearbox below the crankshaft. The whole is mounted transversely, the cylinders (2) being in front of the bulkhead and the gearbox behind in the cockpit. From the gearbox the drive is taken by chain—miles of it !—to the rear axle.

‘There are over fifty cars in the Museum—many restored, very beautifully—which are housed in a building rather like a modern showroom with all-glass front, whilst the other building is given over to those which are undergoing restoration and those awaiting “the treatment.” In addition to the cars there are several old motorcycles including a 4-cylinder F.N. of 1906 with shaft drive. I spent two very enjoyable hours being shown around and would have liked to have stayed much longer, but business—my own and my guide’s—was pressing, and I had to leave, but I am hoping that one day I may be-able to return and spend much longer there.

M/V “Cape Corso”, F.H. Lamming (Captain)

Ash for Cars

Sir.
Although Mr. Wade gives elm as a possible alternative, the mechanical properties of the two are : Mr. Plowden seems to think elm is more water resistant than ash, but this is rather doubtful if one considers how rain rots elm trees, which, while appearing quite sound until blown down, often reveal a hollow shell with the inside rotted away completely. Whether this specification is still carried out or not is unknown, but at one time all lifeboat keels were made out of elm as this timber is rot resistant to the highest degree when used in salt water, but will rot when used in fresh water unless very well protected. It is thought that ash has been used as the framework for vehicles for some hundreds of years. and one would he hard put to it to find a more suitable timber. Amongst other uses that come to mind are shafts for horse-drawn vehicles. The frame of the American Franklin car was made of ash fliched with mild steel and I still have a pair of ash engine bearers out of an S.E.5B aircraft.

Liverpool, 18. B.B. BATEMAN

Sir,
After a lifetime’s study of the use of ash for vehicle frames, you can imagine my elation at reading your correspondent’s questions in “Vintage Postbag.” With glee I write the complete answer to all Mr. Franks’ queries. We could take his points in order but I would prefer to list them in order of importance.

(1) Resistance to termites. Terrnitologists are fully aware of the fantastic aversion of termites to ash. I can guarantee that if you dug up every ash tree in Sussex, not one termite would you find.
(2) Dry rot. This disease is prevalent in wood in direct proportion to the density. Ash has a density of 50 lb. per cubic foot, greater than mahogany or hickory, and is hence practically immune from dry rot.
(3) Young Modulus has nothing whatsoever to do with the subject.
(4) Tensile strength of ash is superior to any other wood, with a U.T.S. of 14,600. Pine has a U.T.S. of 6,060.
(5) Cornpressive strength is again in proportion to density, see point (2).

To sum up, the technical advantages of ash as a frame material are greater than those of any other wood with the possible exception of spruce. Commercially, in this country at any rate, ash has the advantage of ready availability, avoiding that crippling 15% temporary import surcharge, and is also relatively easy to work.

Wadhurst. A.D. Taylor.

Sir,
In reply to your request for comment on the above, might I suggest that the ash tree which was cut up for firewood was indeed “firewood.” A fallen tree is usually drained of strength.

Enclosed is a piece of ash cut from a body built in 1921 of which I have the pleasure of renovating. The usual test is to push the finger nail into the grain. Good quality ash, if seasoned properly, is indeed easy to work, but only with sharp tools, which of course no self-respecting craftsman would be without.

I remember a test made in 1927 when several pieces of timber of equal thickness were placed across two girders and belted with a 28-lb. sledge hammer, the ash proved easily the toughest and we had a satisfied customer for a Rolls-Royce saloon.

I was at that time an apprentice to Messrs. J.C. Beadle, of Dartford, Kent, where the body framings were always choice ash, and all joints treated with white lead, the whole properly primed and painted. After such treatment you have the best job its the world. That straight grain was distinctly an advantage when steam-bending for wheel arches, etc. Ash moves very little, usually towards the centre. Thus a door pillar would (in the good old days) be quartered ash. Any movement would then have a tendency to close the door. A door so made would never, I repeat, NEVER gape at you at either the top or bottom.

I have the pleasure of renovating, repairing, etc., the cabs which patrol the Blackpool Promenade, and I am always surprised and delighted at the soundness of the ash in these vehicles of the early 1900s.

Bispham, O. Woodiwiss, Director and Carriage Builder, K. W. Bodies Ltd.

Sir,
Having been handling ash for aircraft and coachbuilding since the First World War, starting with the DH8 and, in one field or the other, up to the Mosquito DH98. I should point out to W.J. Franks that he is confusing American ash, Fraxinus Americana (42 lb.), covering around ten different species, with the British native ash, Fraxinus Excelsior (46/47 lb.). I quote the authority of Alexander Howard : “Among English woods, ash is without equal for toughness and power of withstanding sudden shock”. In practice I have found that there is no comparison between English and American ash; in fact, I have laminated American in 3/16 lams using phenol/furfinal as adhesive up, to 1 1/2-in. thick and under test the result has not equalled the equivalent thickness in solid English ash.

If further proof of the strength of English ash is needed it should serve to say the keels of airship gondolas were entrusted to this timber, and I well recollect buying a specimen tree from the Hampden Estate yielding 45 ft. to the first limb, destined for the purpose.

If Mr. Franks is seeking an equal timber to English ash, suggest he tries one of the hickories (Carya, 46/50 lb.). This, I noted, was used on the wheels of the beautifully restored vintage Rolls at Madresfield Rally in 1964, and is also to be seen in the spokes of the 1908 Boneshaker at Suttleworth. On the subject of facias, I am proud to have produced some of the finest ever of these for Rolls, Daimler, Lanchester, Alvis, etc., chassis and to the order of Hooper, Windover, Mulliner, Vanden Plas and Mann Egerton, etc., and among the finest ever that I can still recollect were members of solid Honduras mahogany veneered over curves on two planes with amboyna and thuya burrs.

“V.S.C.C. MEMBER 3792.”

Sir,
The traditional wood for building or furniture in this country is, of course, oak and its near neighbour ash; and when the coachbuilding era commenced it was natural to turn to materials of the day.

Mahogany had by this time been introduced by a clergyman for building a church but the carpenters despised this foreign wood so much that they refused to work with it and it finished up as furniture. The net result, the many beautiful pieces of period furniture which we still have today.

Oak and ash remained the main building materials and would be used in the first carriages, which were probably farm carts, etc. Oak, however,. is not suitable for exterior work of any finish because it sometimes gives off a blue stain (tannic acid) when wet. This is the Ancient Britons’ woad, and therefore ash came into prominence in this trade.

It was favoured by the axe and adze carpenters of the day for its lightness, straight grain, and easy splitting properties, and even in these days of modern machinery and cheap Malayan timbers it is still used by the discerning craftsman, The simple answer therefore is “Woad”!

Accrington. Frank Sanderson.

Sir,
Your correspondent W.J. Franks seems to be in some confusion of the actual sort of stress which occurs in a car body.

Ash is a fairly light wood, and was traditionally applied to the aircraft frames of days of yore, and, nearer home, for hammer handles. Ash is a very springy wood, well able to resist shock, and when it does break across the grain this requires considerable force, and does not result in a complete rupture, but a stringy sort of hinge is left. Thus a bent car would only be bent, and not broken. The ease with which ash splits enables it to be shaped so that the least number of fibres are severed, and makes sure that the resultant members are not cross-grained, knotty pieces. After all he says himself “straight grained almost totally devoid of knots”.

Ash is also admirable for firewood, in that it will burn even when green. Any Boy Scout will confirm this.

Campden, T.R. Stevens

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