“The Sky Suspended,” by Jim Bailey. 166 pp. 8 3/4 in. x 5 3/4 in. (Hodder & Stroughton, Warwick Lane, London, E.C.4. 21s.)
Jim Bailey, now a publisher in Africa, is the son of Sir Abe Bailey and his mother was a famous airwoman. In this book he tells of the impact of serving in World War II as a fighter pilot in the R.A.F. which interrupted his Studies at Oxford.
Bailey writes simply, effectively, without any padding, writes as an introvert, yet captures, or more correctly gives glimpses of, the atmosphere of the pilot’s war of 1940-1945. He has been ranked alongside Pierre Closterman and Richard Hillary as a thinking fighter.
There is not much motoring in “The Sky Suspended,” apart from the author’s mention of the Morris Eight he used to drive about the Battle of Britain airfields, of Hugh Perey’s “giant-green-racing-Bentley.”
Those who fought and flew in England and overseas during the last war should enjoy every page of Bailey’s memoirs. The only things that jar are mention of a Kestrel engine with a small “k,” reference to unreliable slieve-valve engines in Beaufighters where sleeve-valve is intended, and confusion over inter-comm. tubes, which the author calls “Gosford tubes” when surely he means Gosport tubes ? The Foreword, by Gp. Capt. Peter Townsend, is every bit as good as the book.—W. B.
“Vintage Automobiles—Vol. I,” by H. Thornton Rutter. 223 pp. 8 3/4 in. x 5 1/2 in. (J.H. Haynes & Co. Ltd., 44, Old Bond Street, London; W.1. 30s.)
This is a selection of photolitho reprints from “Motors. of Today,” published originally in 1928. It describes and illustrates then-current cars, with maintenance data. A good deal of the material, which covers cars as diverse as Trojan and Hispano-Suiza, will be known to one-make Clubs and the thing is unhappily superficial—the Frazer Nash, for instance, is disposed of in three pages and a table of valve timings and carburetter settings—and when I had read that “The general features of all these (Frazer Nash) models are the same, in that the clutch is a dry three-plate one, Ferodo lined, the drive is taken by a tubular clutch shaft through a hardy joint to the bevels in the back axle, a dog-clutch type of sliding gearbox, to make gear changing easy, having three forward speeds, and fitted with an interlocking gear, which obviates the risk of a double gear engagement “ (our italics—no mention of chain drive!), I dismissed this book as unnecessary and dangerously misleading.—W. B.
Cars in books
Last month I commented that one of the “perks” of editing Motor Sport is the number of books and publications relating to motoring that come to my notice. A case in point is the loan of a most unusual little book, “Machines and Men,” by W.F. Watson (Allen & Unwin, 1935), through the generosity of Mr. T.W. Pinnock, of London.
This book tells of the career of a mechanic, from 1896, through the period when wages were low, unemployment rife and Trade Unions in their infancy. The author became a skilled turner and engineer and writes very intelligently of workshop practice from the time of his youth to the mid-1930s. He was an early member of the A.S.E., gained, a perhaps, undeserved reputation as an agitator, and was patently a Socialist. What is so interesting about his account are the several references to motor engineering firms where he was employed.
At Chaser Lea’s at Golden Lane, Clerkenwell, only bicycle parts were made when he was there in 1897, and although a few years later, the rapidly growing motor industry offered the best opportunities, “middle-aged craftsmen were bitterly prejudiced against motor work as they contemptuously termed it, just as they were previously prejudiced against cycle work. . . . Their conception of engineering was confined to marine, steam, gas, and railway engines, printing machines, and armaments. Motor work was boys’ work!”
But the author, desperate for work after being laid off for three or four weeks, was taken on by the Century Motor Engineering Company at Willesden. “The firm made the Century Tri-Car, a three-wheeled vehicle fitted with a 7 h.p. Aster engine imported from France. . . .” The mechanics went to admire their handiwork on the Century stand at the 1901 Motor Exhibition at the Agricultural Hall. It may interest V.C.C. members who own such vehicles that : “The steering arms were primitive affairs, very awkward to machine. The ball-joint, the stud connecting it with the axle lug, and the part attached to the link, were forged in one piece, consequently they were difficult to swing in the lathe. We got over them, somehow, but the balls were far from being perfect spheres!” In August 1903 this job ended, when the manufacturers closed down for a while.
Incidentally, Watson paints an interesting picture of the times when he writes of “chain wheels and hubs being made of malleable iron castings, and the teeth cast in the former, some castings as soft as cheese, others hard as flint, some were porous and full of blow-holes, others contained hard knobs and could not be machined. Every known method of pickling and annealing was tried unsuccessfully, so back they went to the foundry.” At Century he made a dozen steel studs for fastening the chain wheels to wooden artillery road-wheels, at 1s. each on piecework, or, as work fell off, a gross for 6d. each.
Next job was with the Bedford Park Motor Works, next door to the “Tabard Inn.” It lasted only a week, due to foreman trouble!
A later job was with the Albany Motor Company in Scrubbs Lane, “next door to Century’s old shop.” The boss, Mr. Lamplough. “was one of the first to experiment with a rotary engine, not unlike the aeroplane engines of today” [but surely such engines were radials by the mid-thirties ?], and improvements on engines and chassis generally. The foreman was Joe Ottino, who “spent his spare time designing weird aircraft.” Next, after a row with Ottino, Watson went to the Simms Bosch Magneto Company in Willesden Lane, who “besides assembling German-made magnetos, did motor repairs and constructed a chassis of some sort. [Presumably the Simms-Welbeek.] Straightening camshafts was boring work, so the author took a job at the new sheds being built at Ealing for the District Railway. The engineer-in-charge was an American, of German origin, “the electrification being carried through by an American firm; except for some of the cars, everything came from the States.”
Here there are some bitter comparisons of British lathes with the lighter American lathes, the latter having bigger, longer bearings, and being far more suitable, in the author’s opinion, for quick repetition work. He also refers to a fleet of Rheineker shell drawing machines installed in Woolwich Arsenal as close to hostilities as 1914. While the British put up with crude measuring devices, micrometers, verniers, height gauges and squares arrived from America, although “Chestermans have always reigned supreme.as makers of the finest rules in the world.” The author admitted that “in recent years C.A.V. and Moore & Wright have put on the market admirable, well-made engineer’s tools, but our American cousins had 25 years’ start. To this day Brown & Sharpe, Starrett, and Slocomb are terms synonymous with micrometers, verniers and height gauges.”But”, he conceded, “British tool steel is the best.” Incidentally, he claims to have machined the first pair of bogie wheels ever turned at Ealing and the first bogie axle. Automatic doors on the Underground gave a lot of trouble in 1906 and were abandoned for some years. Peter Salter was a mechanic who could always get the cocks airtight. . . .
From railway work Watson went to Thornycroft’s at Chiswick, who “were working day and night to complete the five torpedo-boat destroyers.” After that he found himself at Napier’s, “recently removed from Belvedore Road, Westminster, to Acton.”Here they turned crankshafts, for 38s. a week. This was 1s. under Union rates so Watson refused them, and was taken on by the Speedwell Motor Company—”We certainly spent a lot of time on a weird vehicle called the Speedwell, but I don’t remember it ever reaching the road, let alone the market!” [He could be wrong !]. The lathes were unsuited to car construction and “the boss, a dapper little City man, knew little of engineering.” A strike on the first day of 1907 ended that job for Watson and he went back to the Albany Eng. Co., Lamplough still the chief, George Shave, later Chief Engineer for the L.G.O.C., as his partner, and Fred Wilkins the foreman. They did car repairs, developed inventions and made spare parts, including “a very efficient water pump with helical gears.” At this time, 1907, “the Wilkinson Sword Company of Acton were launching out in the motor trade. A new bay, equipped with the latest machines, had been added to the factory, in preparation for the mass production of Mors cars.”Bob Hazlegrove was the foreman, when Watson went there, for 9 1/2d. an hour. However, the Mors scheme fell through, the firm shut down for 10 days at Whitsun, and 100 men were discharged. The car side of Sword survived by taking on outside work and machining crankshafts, etc., for the big motor firms. These included cranks for the L.G.O.C., “probably the first to be made of chrome-nickel steel “instead of Ubas mild steel case-hardened to about 0.01 in. deep. This early c.n. steel often formed knobs as hard as flint, and was impossible to machine, as Sword’s had no crank grinder, although they did have a Boggart crank-turning lathe. Another product built by Wilkinson’s was “a 4-cylinder motor-cycle, designed by Mr. Tacchi, an Italian, born in Aldersgate Street.” Watson made almost all the parts for the first one, including “the dinky little gearbox which could go into one’s overcoat pocket.” He quotes the price as £90, or £105 for the de luxe version and thinks about 200 were made. In those days Wilkinson’s had very unreliable heating equipment in the factory, supplemented by braziers, and a gas engine to generate electricity “which sometimes took half-an-hour to get going” and caused a strike because the men were sent home without pay when it wouldn’t work. Then Watson went to Panhard’s, on the gear bench, doing repairs, testing being the best part of the job, Bill Mocket taking them for long drives out into the country.
In 1910 the author went to the Laystall Motor Engineering Company, their plant consisting then of “a few old lathes of the English variety, one modern American, a serviceable milling machine, two old drill presses, and a few vices.” These were in a dark, dank, unventilated cellar under Queen Street, Cheapside. Laystall did cylinder re-boring and grinding and straightening and skimming of crankshafts—and there were no grinding machines, emery cloth on a wooden plunger sufficing. (The making of parts for racing-car engines came later.]
From Laystall’s Watson went to a 51-hour week in the “lofty. clean, spacious factory” of Evershed & Vignoles, and then served a few weeks at Vandervell’s C.A.V. tool-room at Acton, where there was a lightning strike. Of those days, the author recalls, “there was no White City then, no trams running from Shepherd’s Bush to Willesden.” After waiting some time,_ because there were no castings, so no work, Watson was taken on by Mepsted & Hayward, where he bored crankcases during the 1914/18 war, first for Straker Squire, then for Tilling-Stevens, on a magnificent German boring machines, from which the enemy name had been obliterated! The clients provided their own jigs, gauges, tools and boring bars, incidentally. Surprise is expressed at having to work on cast-iron gearboxes in 1915—previously it had been gunmetal and phosphor-bronze and the author remembered the first aluminium, “what terribly spongy, brittle stuff it was,” at the Islington Hall motor shows, but, he adds, “cast-iron gearboxes in 1915… ! ”
There was a complicated crankcase, like a skeleton, nearly 5 ft. long, from a shot-down Austrian-Daimler aero-engine, to serve as a pattern for Beardmore crankcases. They made the entire thing, including the 12 mm. rocker-pin hole which had to be in perfect alignment with the cam and crank bearings, using 27 tools for the main bearings, nine rough boring, nine finishing and nine facing, the holes not varying 0.003 in. from first hole to last. Watson got 25s. each and could complete one crankcase in a little over two hours. The order came from Gordon Watney of Weybridge, who got the contract from Beardmore, who got it from the Government. Gordon Watney had “shops filled with the latest labour-saving tools,” yet these same crankcases were being made there by one man “using die single-point tool method of antiquity”—he took five to six hours, at 17s. 6d. each! No wonder munitions manufacturers grew wealthy….
This firm in Pentonville Road also made nose pieces for A.B.C. aero engines, for which Watson got 2s 6d. each and machined thousands, and some very complex cylinders, gearboxes and crankcases for Mr. Beattie, of Beanie-Wright and Hendon fame. In 1924 the author was with A.E.C. of Walthamstow, where he made. parts for the L.G.O.C., “of chrome-nickel steel, beautiful stuff to machine,” threads having to pass the test of the Wickman gauge and a shaft being rejected if it was 5/1,000s down from top diameter. In 1926 he went to Braund Patents & Eng. Co. Ltd. in Chalton Street, Euston Road, a 49-hour shop paying only time and a quarter. Originally a group of cottages off the main road. “Rose Cottage” was still inscribed over one of the doors and the whole place was terribly tumble-down and dangerous. I do not suppose the Bentley D.C. realises that on antiquated Whitworth lathes, freak American lathes and one new Drummond—the author was put on a 7 in. Neat-Braund, made, besides oil, petrol and grease pumps, “thousands of steering ball-joints and hundreds of brake sets,–all extremely accurate work–for Bentley cars.” The work came to that “dank dust-hole” through “a firm of component manufacturers with a modern factory.” Interesting. very interesting!—W. B.
Some very disturbing reports of aggressive treatment of motorists by the police have come in recently. There was the arrest of an innocent member of a motor club, a spastic, on the assumption that he was drunk in charge of his stationary car, under very odd circumstances if reports in the Sunday Express and a weekly motor paper are correct. This motorist was removed in a police vehicle and held for two hours. An enquiry is apparently being conducted by Mr. T.C.B. Hodgson, Chief Constable of Berkshire. There was the case of a van driven by an 18-year-old boy which was rammed unnecessarily by a police car having no official marking; and manned by plain-clothes policemen. It is said that the Chief Constable of Birmingham’s Police Force is “considering” making a report on this unfortunate incident. And there have been two cases reported of motorists, who failed to receive summons for speeding, being arrested, and in one case taken handcuffed to Court and kept for two nights in a Glasgow prison in a cell with persons charged with criminal offences—we are happy to add that this driver has received an apology from the Secretary of State for Scotland. Then there is Cdr. A.R.O. Price, J.P., criticising Hitchin Magistrates for being too lenient over speeding fines, and a lorry driver and his mate being fined a total of £16 because, in doing a good turn in towing in a broken-down mobile shop they used, in ignorance, a tow-rope 18 ft. 3 in. long, whereas this is 3 ft. 3 in. over the permitted maximum (no accident caused)!
What. is going wrong? The average motorist copes very well with inadequate roads and growing congestion, and pays heavy taxes. Why treat him or her like a petty criminal—it is the real criminals the Police should be after, the chaps who have frightened them so much that our policemen are now armed and have the Army to protect them fronm jail-breakers. With the fresh restrictions now imposed by Mr. Fraser on every driver, let us hear less of this un-British police persecution of non-criminal motorists in 1966.—W. B.
The Things They Say . . . “
“The new speed limit is yet another symptom of the general puritanism which afflicts our rulers. Their guiding principle is : “Find out what the ordinary citizen is doing and tell him not to! “—A.J.P. Taylor, delivering a powerful attack on Mr. Tom Fraser, “the worst Minister of Transport we have had for some years,” in the Sunday Express of November 28th.
“The roads of France, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland are buzzing with Fiat 500s . . . many Englishmen who have to count the pennies regard it as the best proposition. Why, then, don’t the British manufacturers make something comparable ? ” John Bolster in Autosport of November 26th, 1965.
“. it is well-known in the Trade that the 500 has not sold well so far…. Although the ride qualities of this ingenious set-up are among the best, it really is time that some form of self-levelling device was introduced to deal with the often exaggerated attitudes taken up by heavily-loaded cars. B.M.C. should be looking for a simple way of doing what Citroen, Mercedes and (at last, under Citroen licences) Rolls-Royce have to offer in self-levelling gear.”—”A.A.G.R.” writing of the Austin 1800. in “Technical Notebook” for November 26th, 1965.
What About Unlit Bicycles?
The Chief Constable of Buckinghamshire, Brig. Cheney, has sent us particulars of the results of a check on the lighting of 4,589 vehicles “of all types,” carried out over a six-week period in his county. Goods vehicles accounted for 43% of those with detective lighting; private cars 25%, motorcycles 19%. The Chief Constable intends to “apply. a stringent enforcement” of the Regulations, although, of course, it is impossible to tell when a vehicle lamp is detective as no tell-tales are normally fitted by the manufacturers. He advocates that all drivers should carry a spare set, of bulbs—“replacement is simple”—and we appreciate Brig. Cheney’s desire to make winter motoring safer. But his report contains nothing about unlit bicycles, which make driving after dark so hazardous and may precipitate accidents in which the almost invisible riders are not involved. We intend to ask him why?.
Tripoli – A dip into the past
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A moment of fame
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