Vintage Postbag, January 1969

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A Spot of History

Sir,

I am writing to support Mr. Keith Poynter in connection with the query he raises about the 1929 B.R.D.C. 500-Mile Race. I can confirm the information given by him. My car was retired after a very few laps when the built-up crankshaft failed. Pellew soon followed me into the pits with a badly lacerated forearm from a thrown tyre tread. I cannot remember if Margetts was the nominated spare driver, but after a delay of 15 or 20 Minutes the Stewards gave permission for me to take over the car for the remaining 450 miles. Unfortunately, the “Lobster” was too small for me and I had to drive without the upholstery!

Jersey, C.I. W. H. Green.

[This refers to a Lea-Francis in the first B.R.D.C. “500” at Brooklands.—Ed.]

* * *

The T.T. Humber Controversy

Sir,

I have been very interested in the correspondence on this subject.

None of your correspondents appear to have referred to a statement made by Mr. A. F. C. Hillstead in his book “Fifty Years with Motor Cars”. On page 117 he writes: “Soon after work had started at Conduit Street, Bentley Motors stretched its slender resources as far as buying one of the 1914 Burgess-designed T.T. Humbers. . . .”

This was in 1919 when F. T. Burgess was collaborating with W. O. Bentley in the design of the 3-litre Bentley. It would be interesting to know the previous history of this car. It clearly cannot be Mr. Kenneth Neve’s car as he has stated that this car remained with Humbers until it was bought by Charles Sgonina until it was sold to himself. Or can it be that this is a clue regarding the existence of a fourth T.T. Humber, possibly remaining in Humber’s hands until 1919? In this event F. T. Burgess would have known of its existence and might have arranged for its purchase. Its any event, it would be most interesting to learn of its subsequent history.

Incidentally, Mr. Hillstead is highly critical of the T.T. Humber.

Sherbourne St. John. L. A, Liddell (Col.).

[The time seems to have come to summarise this correspondence. Until we can get a sight of the pictures of the car Mr. Waley refers to as left in France on the outbreak of the 1914/18 War we cannot be certain that it was a 1914 T.T. Humber. Mr. Tarring and Mr. Neve confirm the generally accepted story that only three of these Humbers were built. Mr. Tim Haley casts a doubt on this, but has his memory failed him ? He refers to refusing to drive the fourth car because he regarded it as too dangerous and says this was confirmed when Parks’ car crashed in the race and landed the driver in hospital. Now none of the Humbers was involved in an accident in the 1914 race and the drivers were Burgess, Wright and Tuck. But Hancock’s Vauxhall overturned. In later years Park drove for Vauxhall, whose team in the 1922 T.T. was Park, Payne and Swain. It seems possible that Mr. Haley has confused Vauxhall with Humber and that what he didn’t wish to drive was a 130-b.h.p. Vauxhall with “water” brakes.

Col. Liddell raises an interesting point. There are all manner of permutations but the solution which seems most likely is as follows : Mr. Tarring says that after the race Humber advertised two cars for sale. If we assume that the Burgess car went straight to Sgonina without an interim period with Bentley, and was one of those advertised but not sold in 1915, the one Bentley copied could have been Wright’s car, which he would afterwards wish to dispose of quietly. Wallbank found it in very original condition in 1925; apparently Gallop used to drive the car Bentley had, and if “W. O.” copied mostly the chassis he may never have had occasion to remove the engine, leaving the car in original trim for Wallbank to find, described as a Peugeot. Wright’s car retired in the T.T. with overheating, which does not suggest a serious blow-up. But Tuck’s car went out early. If it had serious trouble it might well have been regarded as not worth repairing, or advertising subsequently. Now Rampon may have been looking for a car with the eventual aim of making an aero-engined car, in which case he might have bought the remaining Humber, with a defective engine. When he ran it at the Easter 1921 Brooklands Meeting, it was declared as 102 x 156 mm. This is significant, for the race engines were 82 x 156 mm. I would not have thought the engine would stand boring out by 20 mm. and a capacity increase of as much as 1,935 c.c. So it may have been that Hampon used another engine, or a new cylinder block. (This was prior to the installation in 1922 of the Sunbeam Arab aero engine, which was declared as 120 x 130 mm. (11,762 c.c.). If Wallbank had found this one, it should have been engineless, whereas it was its complete and original order.

The other possibilities are that Tuck’s car went to France and was found after the war by Rampon, who was a wine importer, and brought back to England. Or that, indeed, there were four of these cars. Is there any further evidence? And was there any subtle reason why these T.T. Humbers apparently had no name or badge of identification anywhere, thus causing Wallbank to think he had bought a Peugeot when he discovered one of them its 1925?—Ed.]

* * *

14/40 or 16/60?

Sir,

May I add a few comments to the correspondence in the August and October 1968 issues of Motor Sport concerning my Lea-Francis car RPK 500?

Mr. Peter Pringle points out (September issue) that while the engine of this car is from a standard Vulcan/Lea-Mancis 14/40, he cannot be sure of the origin of the chassis, and he passes no further comment. When I purchased the car, I was informed that the frame was from a special racing car, made at the Lea-Francis works, and subsequently dismantled. To me this can only mean one of the “Lobsters”, or the Miller straight-eight car. This latter seems extremely unlikely, as the radiator has already been moved forward some five inches to accommodate the present twin o.h.c. 6-cylinder unit.

I enclose photographs of the chassis frame in the hope that it might be recognised by some of your readers.

All the spring hangers are of Lea-Francis origin, but are not all as well fitted to the frame as one would expect of a factory-finished car. The frame has distinctively deep side-members which taper to the ends, being underslung at the rear, with quarter-elliptic springs, and conventional half-elliptics at the front.

Regarding the engine, LFS 318, Mr. Keith Poynter (November issue) has doubts as to its type. The Log Book (car first registered 30/5/52) states 1,676 c.c. as the capacity, corresponding to the 60 x 100 mm. of the standard 14:40. In 1959 new pistons or 61 mm. were fitted. Having the head off the car at present, I measured up, and was surprised to find a bore of 67 mm., thus accounting for Mr. Poynter’s over-2-litre capacity. I presume that my 14/40 block has been bored-out even bigger than a 16/60!

If anyone can tell us the origins of this interesting car I would he delighted to hear from them. [Letters can be forwarded.—Ed.]

Stowmarket. N. W. Portway.

[This correspondence is now closed.—Ed.]

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