Vintage Postbag, January 1973

Singer History


Although the correspondence on the team Singers was closed a couple of months ago, may 1, for the sake of future historians, be allowed to correct one or two mistakes that arose? In Mr. Montgomery’s interesting letter ( July issue) he mentions J. E. S. Jones as the owner of one of these cars. This should he A. W. Jones, who raced the car before and after the war. J. E. S. Jones was a member of the MG “Cream Crackers” team. Mr. Montgomery will be sorry to hear that Donald !farm died about two years ago.

Mr. Horne (also July issue) s;ates that the Hodge/Carr single-seater was built for the JCC. This should he the Junior Racing Drivers’ Club (the pioneer of our present-day racing schools.)

Turning to matters in the November issue Tony Rolt most certainly competed in the Spa 24-hour race with a Triumph Southern Cross and did very well in his class, too!

Finally, in your most absorbing Hispano v. Stutz article the driver of the Stutz was Earl (not Tom) Cooper.

I still enjoy Motor Sport after nearly 40 years of reading it.

Stockport, David L. Gandhi

Austin Ulster Memories


Like your contributors Keith Elliott and Gerald Adams the picture of a supercharged Ulster Austin brought back many happy memories for me.

My car was certainly aster than Mr. Adams’ and my records show that competing in the 1931 Relay race it made its fastest lap at 83.7 m.p.h.

On this occasion I teamed up with Vernon Balls and one Crowther—all with blown Austins. Photo enclosed of Vernon giving instructions.

Hentield. Leslie Seyd

Pre-War Difficulties


As an avid reader of your excellent magazine, I often see ankles mentioning how various motorists are victimised by the posters that be and, recently, the doubts expressed concerning pre-war car motoring.

I think that my recent experiences in motoring with my 1936 Austin Ruby may be of interest to you and your readers. At the start of this year I joined a club which claimed to give its members owning pre-war vehicles, special garage workshop facilities and reduced prices, in return for a high membership fee.

With this in mind I tool: an engine with a minimal amount of bottom-end trouble to the club for repair and foolishly trusted a verbal quotation. The final price exceeded the real value of the car and no amount of applied pressure has succeeded in obtaining a compromise.

After fitting an old spare engine to the car and renewing brake linings, king-pins and bushes and track rod end pins and bushes 1 got the car through its M.o.T. (after being layed up for seven months) and was just waiting for completion of the insurance policy after receiving the usual cover note, when I was informed that I must supply them with and independent engineers report.

I have been insured with the General Accident Fire and Life Co. for three years accident free, so why the sudden change of attitude? Also what is an M.o.T. supposed to he? I can only think that this Company is very short-sighted, as the majority of pre-war cars are now in a far better condition than many six-year-old rust box vehicles that we see running around held together with paste and pop rivets.

I have held on to my particular Austin because of the pleasure obtained in driving it all over Britain, but after this year’s events it Makes even an enthusiast sick to the point of contemplating its sale.

Beware pre-war owners—the end is definitely drawing nigh!

David Rhodes. L.S.L.A. Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Vintage Cars and the ECC


With reference to Mr. Shaw’s letter in last month’s issue, in response to my own in that of October, relative to the use of Vintage motor cars on French Motorways: perhaps I did not make myself clear: It is French Registered vintage and veteran motor cars which are precluded from the Motorways – Tourists (including the mad-English) are permitted.

My French friend made this clear to me, as I have used my “4.1/2” 1928 Bentley on Motorways in France. Let us hope that this prohibition does not come about in England, after we have joined the Common Market.

London, NW2. C. J. L. Mertens.

Fake Restorations


I am particularly interested in the letter under the heading “Fake Restorations”. I completely concur with the views of Mr. MacLean and find that with the two elderly motor cars I Own myself, namely a Phantom I Rolls-Royce four-seater tourer and an XR120 Jaguar roadster, the moment they are displayed in public swarms of people are heard to wander round, pointing out with glee everything on each model which has been changed since the car was made.

However enthusiastic one is for old cars, it is always somewhat of a disappointment when this happens and bearing in mind that we all own these vehicles for enjoyment, not only for ourselves but for others too, it seems a shame that this attitude has arisen.

I think that John Heath of the Dudley Heath Partnership in Much Hadhain, who designed and made the tourer body on my Phantom I, was very sensible when 11-s asked me never to refer to it as a replica.

He prefers to describe the car as having a completely new body incorporating his own ideas and endeavouring to keep it completely in character with cars that were made at that time. This seems much more sensible to me than using this word “replica”, as very few of the new bodies one sees are an exact replica of anything at all.

London W1. M. H. Groves.

A Renault Restoration


Referring to your observation of a vintage Renault being towed along the A40 on its rear Wheels, I can clarify what type of vehicle it was that you saw, as I was towing it. The car was in fact a 1922 Model II Renault Paris taxi. I had found this car earlier during the year just outside Paris where it had obviously been lying under cover for some considerable time. The car was, as far as I could determine, almost absolutely Original except for a missing magneto—which is why you saw it being towed. Interesting for 1922, it was left-hand-drive.

You were right about the drop-head body. The chauffeur’s compartment, as you saw, had no side windows and a roll back leathercloth roof covering, whilst the top of the passenger compartment folded completely down. The windows in the passengers doors and the division all opened on Straps in true carriage style. Do you think that they were thinking of passenger comfort when they designed the independent suspension for the REAR and not the usual front end on this model? (Surely not i.r.s.—Ed.) I imported the car and have now sold it to a gentleman in London who is going to completely restore it both with regard to condition and use, as he intends to make it available for weddings.

I notice that several readers have driven on French Motorways in vintage cars (and at what great cost!), and I also recently made such a journey in a 20/25 Rolls. When we had trouble with the exhaust system just out from Le Havre on a Sunday morning we found a garage which was most helpful. The attendant removed the exhaust system, took it away for a friend to weld and then replaced it. He asked for 10 francs for his friend but would accept nothing for himself, declaring it an honour to work on such a motorcar!

Having brought several cars from France this year it is now obvious that their prices are becoming far more outrageous than ours and that the French authorities are very reluctant to allow vintage and PVT cars out of France at all. “It is like a work of art Monsieur, we must protect our heritage” is typical of their attitude. It seems such a pity that we in England have to pay so much duty and tax in order to import such precious objects and yet can export our heritage without any official hair being turned. I cannot be held blame-free myself for exporting cars but I have certainly imported more than I have exported and this is the balance which I shall strive to maintain as a principle.

Steeple Aston. Malcolm C. Elder

Homes of the Racing Drivers


I was attracted by the photograph of Gwernyfed Park—featured in your series “Houses of the Racing Drivers”—due to the astounding similarity of my own house, Hoar Cross Hall. For a moment I thought the feature was about myself, as I raced at Donington in pre-war days and actively competed from 1954-1969 in a variety of Formulae.

More recently, my wife and I were hosts to the ABC Owners Club Rally at Hoar Cross Hall, as reported in your magazine.

Burton-on-Trent. W. A. Bickerton Jones.

Asides About Valve Gear


I was most interested in your comments on the Birkigt valve gear design. Perhaps I may continue the story with some information about its later application in the Wolseley 4/50 and 6/80 and Morris Six after the war.

The valve gear for these engines was designed, I believe, by Tom Brown, then the Chief Engineer at Morris Engines, Courthouse ‘Green, Coventry, and subsequently a director of Sheepbridge Stokes. Apparently he saw merit in the Birkigt design ‘and decided to de a modern adaptation into his new engines. The units were designed and subsequently built in series at Courthouse Green, since in those days that was where the engines were built for the Nuffield organisation cars, excepting Rileys, which had their own engineering design department at Dunbar Avenue, Coventry.

Unlike the valve gear used in such 1972 engines as the Fiat 128, Vauxhall Victor etc. as listed by you on page 1243 (November issue), the Birkigt does not have any means of absorbing valve side thrust other than on the valve stem and guide: in other words it misses out the vital bucket tappet, the principle of which was first used by Fiat in 1910 on the four cylinder ten-litre engine in the S61.

Unfortunately this valve gear design of Birkigt’s, whilst being suitable for gentle lift cams with very amply proportioned valve stems and guides, was quite unsuitable for the altogether cheaper cam and skinny valves of the Tom Brown design. The result was catastrophic valve stem wear. Fortunately Morris Engines then had in their employ a very able induction heating engineer, Jack Bridle. He had been involved in much of the pioneering work on this process with Zandstra of Phillips, and by his ingenuity was able to devise a very neat induction hardening rig to surface harden the hard pressed valve stems. This was probably the first ever precision induction heating job and the rig was subsequently used by Valves Ltd. of Coventry to produce the production components. It was a difficult job to harden because after hardening the stem had to be drilled and tapped to accept the valve adjustment mechanism. Any lack of precision in the hardening pattern’s extent or depth would have made this very difficult.

Even with the valves so hardened, the engines became notorious in their later life for oil consumption, due to stem-guide clearance wear. As if this wasn’t enough, the engine also suffered from chronic running-on when switched off, due to the combustion chamber shape or perhaps an overdose of compression ratio for the then newly announced post-war higher octane fuel. Nor were the valve seats trouble free—they didn’t seem to like the new lead content and gave a lot of development trouble before a reasonable solution was found (rather like a certain current family saloon!) to cure the running-on. I believe there was a pull knob on the dashboard to cut off the fuel to the carburetter jet, or was this just a development fitting—my memory fails me?

Whilst not denying that the Birkigt valve gear enabled these engines to produce quite a respectable output from relatively high revs. (by contemporary standards) it was not a successful long life design. In the short term however, the unit carved quite a niche in history by powering, in modified form, MG record breakers driven by Goldie Gardner and others. I think, if we are honest in restrospect, we must admit that the valve gear of the 4/50 and 6/80 was basically an unsound design, and better analysis of the problem should have made this evident at the time. Maybe different proportions would have made a more reliable design, but it would always have been at a disadvantage compared to those with bucket tappets, or potentially lighter and higher revving still, finger followers.

It would be interesting not to wait for events to become history, and start documenting current day designs which show a similar lack of foresight.

Crick. C. R. Smith

Charles Weymann


I was most interested to read in your November issue the account of the Match Race between Charles Weymann and Paul Moskovics in 1928. I see your contributor— or was it you?—refer to Charles T. Weymann as a Frenchman. If he is the Charles Terres Weymann I am thinking of, he flew as the

American representative for the 1913 and 1914 Coupe Maritime d’Aviation Jacques Schneider Race at Monaco. This Charles Terres Weymann was the offspring of an American father and a French mother, being born in Port au Prince, Haiti in August 1889.

As a point of interest, knowing your enthusiasm for aviation, he flew a Nieuport-Gnome in the 1913 Race and a Nieuport-Le Rhone in the 1914 race. He gave up flying almost immediately after the 1914 Race to concentrate on his coach-building business and to supervise his patents interests. I don’t know whether he took French nationality during or after the Kaiser War. He may well have done so, because he spent most of his life in France and was more French than American.

Birmingham. Edward Eves.

[To be fair to L’Anthilogie Automobile, M. Charles Weymann in their interview describes himself as American—”My parents were American and I was born in the W. Indies when they were on a journey, in 1889. From the W. Indies we went to France; I was six months old. I think my parents went to France simply because they had heard it was very pleasant. My entire childhood was spent in France, but I remained American—an American who could not speak a word of English”. – Ed.

A Palladimn


I enclose a photograph of an early 20th Palladium. It belonged to my Grandfather pictured here with his wife, and son-in-law driving. It was given to my grandfather by the Lord Mayor of London, Sir. G. Truscott.

Can your readers please give any information about this car as unfortunately it is no longer a family heirloom? I run a Mk. I Sprite, not as desirable as the Palladium but good fun.

Colchester. R. W. Bywater.

Forty Years on . .


In 1931, Mr. O. Wilson-Jones, Managing Director of K. J. Motors Ltd., was contacted by a friend, Mr. Hubert Lenanton, who said that he was about to purchase a Hispano-Suiza and would Mr. Wilson-Jones check it over for him. As a result of this check Mr. Wilson-Jones advised Mr. Lenanton against this purchase—much to his disappointment. Shortly afterwards, however, K. J. Motors sold a new Rover Meteor to a man in Widmore Road, Bromley, and took in part exchange a 1925 Hispano-Suiza. It was a low mileage car and was sold to Mr. Lenanton. This was in 1932 and Mr. Lenanton considered it an excellent buy. Although he was not directly concerned with the sale, Mr. Harold Dagnall, now Director and General Manager of K. J. Motors (Orpington) Ltd., well remembers the deal.

From 1932-38 the car was taken On several trips and was regularly serviced by K. J. Motors, the usual mechanic being W. (Bill) Jackson, who is at present Manager of the K. J. Group’s Bromley Used Vehicle Preparation Department. In 1938 the car was overhauled and again taken to Europe. Later that year Mr. Lenanton was visiting Prague and One morning was ‘Ad that the Germans were moving across the Czech frontier. He left Prague just in time to miss the German invasion. The journey through Austria, Luxembourg and France took a remarkably short time as Mr. Lenanton drove his Hispano at great speed. On reaching the French coast he took the boat across to England.

Mr. Lenanton left home on September 1st, 1939, to join his T.A. Regiment, hut continued to use the car until going overseas. From 1939-45 the car was laid up but great care was taken of it and arrangements made to have the engine “turned over” on frequent occasions. Immediately after the war the car was returned to K. J. Motors as Mr. Lenanton wished to Use it again. The job card for this work was made out by Frank Uden, at present an Executive Director of the K. J. Group, and once again the work was carried out by Mr. Jackson. The car led an uneventful and more mundane life up to 1950. From 1950-72 the car was garaged at Mr. Lenanton’s house and little notice was taken of it.

In the Spring of 1972 Mr. Lenanton telephoned the present Managing Director of the K. J. Group, Mr. Garth Magraw (a nephew of Mr. Wilson-Jones) to ask if the car could be put in running order once again. Mr. Magraw was very surprised to find that four members of the staff were well aware of the history of this car, for apart from the three mentioned above, the Group’s Technical Service Manager, W. (Bill) Marshall, was a fitter in the Service Department when the car was sold in 1932. The car was towed in to the K. J. Group’s Used Vehicle Preparation Department and once again Mr. Jackson had it under his jurisdiction. As it had not been used for over 20 years, it was necessary to drain and clean the petrol tank and free the engine. Upon charging the batteries and turning the engine the Hispano started and ticked over as new – a tribute to the manufacturer and the Overhauls and servicing done by K. J.

The car is an 8-litre with 2 distributors and 12 sparking plugs. It weighs 2.1/2 tons and has a 24 gallon fuel tank, the fuel consumption being around 9 m.p.g. The car was capable of speeds up to 95 m.p.h. with the exhaust “cut-out” open. The body is of an aluminium alloy, so after 47 years there is still no rust. The car was handbuilt in the tradition of the times, the coachwork being by Thrupp and Maherly.

Amongst interested visitors during this last overhaul was the Secretary of the Hispano Suiza Owners’ Club. It is with regret that Mr. Lenanton recently decided to sell the car —a new owner has been found. Thus a 40-year association between a car, an owner and an old-established motor company has drawn to a conclusion.

Bromley. Stephen P. Lowe

p.p. K. J. Group

[ Interesting but a pity the original owner has sold the car—One hopes not at a vast profit. Incidentally, why is the famous mascot flying backwards in the picture?—Ed.]

EEC Dissenter


Congratulations on the courageous stand you are taking, single-handed, it would appear, against the inherent menace of EEC transport legislation being forced upon us without the possibility of any effective protest on our part. It will, as you rightly point out relegate all historic transport to museums and many safe and experienced drivers to their fireside.

As the organiser of an annual Vintage and Historic Vehicle rally in Europe I have had it pointed out by many official sources that the Use of some 90% of our member vehicles including ALL the preserved commercials would not be possible for nationals of the countries we visit under EXISTING regulations in EEC. After our entry both the Veteran Car and Historic Commercial Vehicle runs to Brighton will become a part of the vanished past. With no incentive to preserve them a few will moulder on in isolated sheds or museums but the great majority will be chopped up and melted down to produce expendable modern rot-boxes.

It has never been the custom in the past for sport activities to take part in political discussiein but at least as far as motor sport is concerned this is now forced upon us. If we do nothing we shall rapidly lose a very right we possess in this field. Unless we are prepared to become political—even militant—we can simply sit back and watch the destruction of the Veteran Vintage and Historic Vehicle tradition in this country, by the Eurocrats of Brussels.

One must be completely realistic and admit that it is of no .possible avail to protest to the MP’s who have taken us into EEC without more mandate than to negotiate. They will now be as powerless as any of us to resist. The only action which makes any sense at all is to bind ourselves into a pressure group together with any other interests which can force them to take us out again before irremediable damage is done both to our hobby and to the entire motor industry itself.

Crawley. H. W. Hill

Crawley Group, National Front

Le Mans Singer


Regarding the letter in Vintage Postbag (November) from W. K. Elliot of Dirleton and the Le Mans Singer. I well remember seeing this car in Kirkcaldy many years ago, in fact pre-war, but I believe that it belonged to Leslie Macdonald of “The Motor House” in Devon, which has now I think gone, like many of the older garages. I would suggest that, if he has not already done so, Mr. Elliot contact Mr. Jam Wales of the “County Motors” Garage, in Kirkcaldy who might be able to help him.

Today I wondered if I was seeing things! “Jenks” article on the Citroen SM (December) shows photographs of it, registration KPP 727L, today’s Daily Express“, page 3, 1/2-page advert for Citroen GS, registration KPP 727L! I would have thought that Citroen could afford to register two cars.

Bury. S. McCreadie.

V-E-V Odds & Ends.—Two 1935 Morris Eights, and a Villiers-engined vintage motorcycle, make so far undetermined, have been found at a school in Montgomeryshire, where they were used for instructional purposes. Apparently an Austin Twenty hearse stood behind Summertown House in Oxford until recently—has it been scrapped ? An Austin 12/6, circa 1936, is said to be in an Essex breaker’s yard, looking much too good for the crusher. In conversation recently a lady recalled a car she and her husband had in South Wales in the 1920s which, with its flowing mudguards, bonnet-strap and open body, was often mistaken for a 3-litre Bentley. In fact, it was a Rolland Pilain, finished in twotone grey, and she wonders whether this was the first use of two-tone paintwork ?

A SCC member had bought the two Liberty aero-engines we mentioned recently, before he had read his copy of Motor Sport. He hopes to overhaul and install one of diem in an ancient chain-drive Napier chassis he has discovered, this having formed the base of a caravan for many years, the commendable idea being to use the car on the road. . . To expedite this ambition the constructor requires a large radiator, preferably early Napier, and some spoked wheel centres for hubs of this period. The intention is to use bended-edge tyres. Philip Mann has been elected President of the FIVA.