The articles concerning Minerva’s which you publish from time to time in MOTOR SPORT have always interested me as over the last six years I have never owned less than two of these cars at any one time.
I am particularly intrigued by the article in the April 1969 issue, for its brief description of the well-known Baker type AK. One cannot be a Minerva enthusiast without being aware of the existence of this car, but until reading your article I knew very little of it, other than, that it was fast and that it had a boat-tailed body. Your article now leads me to suspect that this car may have a greater claim to fame than its mere performance. If I am sticking my neck out you are perfectly welcome to exercise the historical axe, certainly Michael Sedgwick is already sharpening one for use on what may be described as the other side of the same neck.
To start at the beginning, page 154 of “The Age of Motoring” carries an illustration of a large boat-tailed Minerva which according to the caption is the eight-cylinder type AL. I have always doubted this for various reasons, not the least of which is the very notable presence of cantilever rear springs. To the hest of my knowledge the type AL always had semi-elliptic springs all round, as indeed so did the later type AK. One of the Vintage car pocket books carries a photograph of what appears to be the same car, accompanied by a caption which goes into the details of the eight-cylinder car at great length but which finally mentions in the last line, in an inconspicuous fashion, that the car illustrated is in fact a type AK six cylinder. I suspect that mis-reading of this caption may have lead to the error in “The Age of Motoring”. [Yes, it is the ex-Baker Minerva.—ED.]
The point of all this is that from the information contained in your April article I now suspect that the car illustrated in the two books mentioned above, was in fact Baker’s car. Even more important. I suspect that Baker’s car may have been on exhibition at Olympia late in 1928.
The October 4th 1929 issue of The Autocar, on page 640 carries an article about new Minerva models and to quote the last sentence of the second paragraph “one car is a straight eight rated at 40 h.p. and the other is a six-litre speed model with six-cylinders, a car obviously developed from the magnificent looking sports cars which occupied the stand at Olympia last year”.
If my loosely connected chain of reasoning cum wishful thinking is correct, then Baker’s car is, if not the prototype, the inspiration for the type AKS. This model is, as you will undoubtedly know, a very rare bird with the same bore and stroke as the type AK but with light steel sleeves instead of the much thicker cast iron sleeves of the type AK, full pressure lubrication of the crankshaft, a shorter wheelbase and vastly enhanced performance. I would be interested to know if many of this model still survive.
One section of your April article has me puzzled. On page 648 you start discussing exhaust pipes and their relative placing. I can confirm the foot warming abilities of the exhaust pipe on the type AC from my own experience of the type AE, which is virtually the AC with the 3.4-litre engine, but I cannot understand your comment that “the long flexible exhaust off-take pipe curving over from the near side to the off side of the engine and running through the crank case is missing on Rankin’s car” or your further deduction that “Baker’s exhaust manifolding was on the near side, as it is on Rankin’s car”. The type AC Minerva, which is Rankin’s never did have the off-take curving Across the front of the engine so it can hardly be described as missing on Rankin’s car, while your comment about Baker’s exhaust is even more baffling, as not only was it the AK that did have the off-take curving across the front of the engine, but this is clearly shown in the top photograph on page 347. Is this a slip, or have we our wires crossed?
I would like to take you to task about the succeeding paragraph in your article wherein you state that “the earlier car has slightly smaller brake drums at the front than at the rear, whereas the 32/34 Minerva had equal sized drums”. My own AK (32/34) which is of approximately r931 Origin has the identical brakes to my 1926 type AE, which in turn are identical to those fitted to the type AC. In round figures the rear brakes are 18in, in diameter and the front brakes are t 6in. and I recall that you described a similar set in one of your white elephant articles. The very late AK may have had equal sized brakes, but I am Sure that the Baker car would have had the smaller front brakes and this suspicion is borne out by the photograph at the top of page 347 of your April issue where a distinct gap can be seen between the front wheel rim and the brake drum. Had the front wheels carried the larger brakes of the rear wheels it would not be possible to see a gap, unless of course the brake sizes were equalised by reducing the size of the rear brakes to match those at the from, an exercise which would have been most inadvisable in view of the performance of the type AK and its considerable weight.
I can answer your query about the bronze-hued radiator. In the early twenties the radiator shells were made of German silver, but by 1925 they had adopted a nickel-plated brass shell. However, this did not stop the handbook from continuing to describe the radiator as German silver and this has led many Minerva owners, including myself, to the sufficiently vigorous use of metal polish to remove the layer of nickel and expose the brass underneath. The only remedy for this is a complete replating, which is a fearsome job as the shell is in one piece with the radiator. I know of at least one owner who, when faced with this problem brought out fine emery paper and removed all the nickel so that the appearance of the radiator would at least be uniform. This probably is what has happened to Rankin’s car. As a matter of interest the lamps and radiator on my 1931 type AK are chromium-plated, a state of affairs which I have found necessary to draw to the attention of all and sundry to authenticate the validity of the final restoration.
E. E. Stevens.