Vintage Postbag, January 1975

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Vintage Postbag

Rolls-Royce Armoured Cars

Sir,

Reference is made in MOTOR SPORT for November 1974 to Rolls-Royce Armoured Cars. Ilow nice to read about your young reader, and his whetted appetite for information about the RAF Armoured Cars, and also his interest in RAF heritage.

May we, through your magazine, have the pleasure in informing him (and your readers) that two books are almost complete, in preparation for publication :

“HMAC His Ma sty’s Armoured Cars,” a written history of the RAF Armoured Car Companies 1921-46.

“The ‘Pictorial History’ of the RAF Armoured Car Companies, 1921-46.”

Authors, R. M. Cook and K. C. Bastian.

All the information required by young “Simon” will soon be available, if he will tarry a while (at least he has youth in his favour), and his thirst for knowledge on this interesting subject then will be satisfied. RAE, Cranwell R. M. COOK & K. C. BASTIAN. Engineers Science Wing

Early Armstrong Siddeley 14s

Sir,

I think that the five cars shown in the picture on page 1211 of the Nov. MOTOR SPORT could well be the fleet of 14-h.p. Armstrong Siddeley cars which toured the country in a sales drive in the mid 1920s.

Each car had a different body style and each was painted in a striking and different colour.

I had a 1923 14-h.p. 2-seater which had rear wheel brakes only, ¼-elliptic springs all round, no -shock absorbers, and a wonderfully-smooth 4-cylinder push rod o.h.v. engine completely devoid of power.

I think the cars pictured are later models, perhaps 1925-27.

Congleton JOHN WEBBERLEY

Mystery Solved

Sir, Your photographic conundrum published in the November issue is a print from an 8. in x 6. in glass negative I have in my possession. It is part of-a collection I have which records life during the period 1890 to 1925. The photograph you publish was taken by a photographer named George Weaks who had a business in South Wales, I think at Kiddelly. The cars were assembled outside the Harries Towy Works at the side of the river Towi, Carmarthen. Five Oakland cars are shown offered for sale at various prices according to their particular finish, the price range from left to right for each of the cars is £350 and rising by £25 increments to £450. The name and price is displayed behind the windscreen of each car and may be seen with a powerful eye glass on the original negative plate. I believe the particular event as photographed to be an early sales drive during the year 1923.

Drayton RHYDDIAN EDWARDS

That Mystery Picture

Sir,

Sir,

I recognised instantly your “mystery picture” in the November MOTOR SPORT. It was taken outside the premises of “Towy Works” in Carmarthen who are still in business as Builders’ Merchants and Ironmongers.

The photograph is very similar to one in my late father’s collection, taken in August 1926 showing several 13.9-h.p. Overland cars taking part in a publicity drive entitled “Wales the Land of the Overland” seemingly undertaken by Crossleys of Manchester on behalf of the “Carmathen Automobile and Posting Company”, their agents in West Wales.

The records of this company provide a. fascinating insight into the motor trade in Wales just after the First World War. Keeping a foot in each camp they handled both British and American marques (eventually deciding the future lay with Morris). At varying times between 1919 and 1928 they held the following agencies, Willys-Overland, Crossley, Morris, Wolseley, Vandy, Vulcan, I lampton, Daimler, Ruston-Hornsby. Their final fling apparently was the purchase of the 1928 Motor Show Waverleys. As a sideline they sold Scott and Martinsyde Motor Cycles.

Carmarthen E. M. LOWNDES

More About That Beardmore

Sir,

With reference to the recent correspondence in “Vintage Postbag” regarding Cyril Paul’s racing Beardmore car. I am able to give some further information which may be of interest

During the early nineteen-thirties the car was brought to me by Mr. Sewell of Sewell and King Motor Engineers of Chelmsford, with a view to sale. However, I had at that time purchased an Alfa Romeo which I had dismantled for complete overhaul so had to refuse the Beardmore. I remember it had dual ignition, lightening holes in the chassis and Cyril Paul’s name on the steering wheel. It had, I believe, been used in a hill-climb in Essex.

Later I sold the Alfa and took steps to acquire the Beardmore which of course Messrs. Sewell and King had then sold. However, I traced it to Braintree, from there to Woodford and then to Clare in Suffolk where I lost trace. However, I wrote to Beardmores during 1933 asking whether anyone had applied to them for any spares for it; they wrote to say that a Mr. Norris of Maidenhead had in fact done so and they kindly gave me his address. Mr. Norris wrote saying he still had the car, also spare chassis, axles, wheels and engine parts; in fact there was probably a complete car less body. Later he wrote to say that he had sold the car and all the spares to a man in Manchester so I left it at that.

I still have some of the original letters. I also owned an 11.9-h.p. Beardmore tourer and engine and gear unit from the. 13.9-h.p. model, both were overhead camshaft, the former having gear drive, the latter chain (inverted tooth). I sold the two engines a year or so after the last War.

Billericay. R. C. SHELLEY

A TT Alvis

Sir,

I have read with great interest in the December issue of MOTOR SPORT the article on the FWD 8-cyl. blown Alvis.

I have written below an account of a FWD 8-cyl. blown Alvis, which was, or rather I bought as, the car that ran in the 1928 TT and came 2nd, Kaye Don being 1st in a Lea-Francis. Anyway to begin, after returning from South America, I was looking for something out of the ordinary. This was in 1932, and I was told by a friend of mine that a friend of his had a very interesting Car, which I might like; he owned a .garage in London and if I liked go up and he would show me the car.

I went up to London and to the garage, unfortunately I cannot remember the name, but it was off Portland Street. The car was covered in a dust-sheet. On removing the sheet, there stood what I thought was something out of this world: I was just 21 then! It was a very sleek 2-seater—British Racing Green, and with the white discs painted on each side of the car, but no numbers. I was told it was the car that ran in the 1928 TT and came second driven by L. Cushman. After starting up the car and going for a short trip around the block, I was determined to have the car, although I thought it would cost more than I could give. After arriving back at the garage, I asked what he wanted for the car. His remark gave me great hopes, which was, “Well, it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and I don’t. suppose I shall be able to sell it for quite a time. How about £250?” I couldn’t believe my ears and asked him again and was told he was sorry but he couldn’t lower the price but it was mine for £250. Of course I clinched the deal, and after organising insurance and tax, I drove it back to Saxmundham in Suffolk, where I was then living. At first I was a bit shall I say nervous as my driving experience in those days had been mostly on motor bikes and sedate Morris Cowleys. The journey back to Saxmundham went without any mishaps, but I remember when coming out of London, whenever I had to pull up for traffic those around asked “What is it?” “How fast does it go?” “Are you going to race it?” etc. etc., which, of course, made my head a size larger. I used the car for everyday motoring, —that is going into Ipswich—town driving in London on several occasions and found that the passenger seat was never empty and was a terrific Dolly Puller. After having had the car for about two months, a slight knock started in the engine. At that time there was a garage in Saxmundharn who dealt in the overhaul of sports cars and whose mechanic was an Italian—and did he now about engines! Anyway, the engine was taken out of the car and pulled down. We found that the crank was needle bearing ind the big-ends roller bearings, the trouble was found to be that two or three of the needle bearings had somehow been chewed f one can describe it like that and of course he journal was in a mess. I contacted Alvis cars in Coventry and they said it would be bater if I could bring the crank up, so that they could examine it and sec how the other journals were, as they were sorry, but they had only a few of the needle bearings left.

I took the crank up and as a matter of interest asked about the car—if it had really raced in the 1928 TT. They said yes and showed me another 8-cyl. FWD car, with a sports 2-seater body which, they said, Cushman used to use. Anyhow, they examined the crank and unfortunately the examination was bad news—the journals were well worn and needed a regrind, but unfortunately they had no bearings to go with the reground crank. Their only suggestion was to let them patch up the bad journal, give me some needles and to drive the car carefully. The cost was £10. They were very interested in the car and said it had been built specially for the 1928 TT, a very lightweight 2-seater with a sloping back which held the spare wheel with hinged cover. The car was duly rebuilt and I did quite a lot of miles in the car—even taking it down to Devon and Cornwall. I never had any trouble with the car engine wise—starting in the mornings or even after a fairly fast run, the car would obtain 100 m.p.h, fairly quickly and was a joy for cornering in dry weather but rather dicey in wet if you didn’t watch out. She was very light in the tracks.

After a time I exchanged her for a TT 1½ Aston Martin which had, I was told, been raced by Reggie Tongue. I don’t know what happened to the car but somewhere I have a photo or two which if you are interested I would send up to you, if I could have them back again. The registration No. was VC 10. I only wish I had kept the plates.

Radley TERENCE MAUNSELI.

Cars in the Sudan

Sir,

Unfortunately I missed Mr. R. H. ‘Tracey’s letter in the September number but would like to add something to those of the late Mr. Anthony Bird and James N. Savage in the November issue. I have some photographs of the rather special Arrol-Johnston touring car taken in Khartoum, with my father at the wheel (1910). This was on the occasion of the visit of the ex President Roosevelt with his wife and party. As a matter of interest, the Photographs include some other well-known persons of the day, one of them being Stalin who, as you may know, was a prisoner of the Mahdi (General Gordon and all that). The car in question was a 60 h.p. with an Aster engine. As far as I know, the first car in the Sudan was taken in by my father (1904). Again, I have a photograph of this being brought ashore, coming off the ferry on the Blue Nile on Christmas Day of that year. It was a special 24-11.p. Wolseley, started and run on paraffin [ ?ED), a rear tonneau entrance, of course. There is a particularly fine photograph of this vehicle in the desert with various senior military officials on board.

Earlier, perhaps, were the large lorries which were run from the workshops at Khartoum. I have some photographs of these, one a Fiat and the other, more interestingly, a Milnes Daimler of 1904. A short report of this latter states that on one journey it did 21 miles in three hours, unloaded, but, towing its trailer and coming back with four tons of stores and thirteen passengers, it did 24 miles in 51 hours, the temperature 109 degrees in the shade. The rack transmission was interesting.

Experiments with vehicles for desert use had been made a year or two previously by the Wolseley Company for military purposes. A photograph of one of these, numbered XSP2, has the disc wheels very similar to the Arrol Johnston. It is shown being tested and towing a searchlight through the sand dunes somewhere in England.

A detailed report was prepared by the military in the Sudan on the possibility of using self-propelled vehicles for patrol work, rather than the Camel Corps. The conclusion reached was that this was not advisable on account of the difficulty of maintaining European fitters and staff in that country to keep these vehicles operational. The habits and internal works of the Camel being more readily understood by the locals.

If anyone is interested, I would be pleased to correspond.

Mirfield S. J. E. HUXLEY

Sir,

I visited the museum in Omdurman in which the Arrol-Johnston is kept, first in July and again in November 1970.

A placard with the car states that it was the first motor car in the Sudan, and that it was for the use of the Governor-General. If my memory is correct the date of its manufacture is claimed to be 1903. Exhibited with the car are Contemporary photographs showing Sir Francis Wingate riding in the back seat on at least one formal occasion.

The car shows a very close relationShip to a 4-wheeled wagonet, sans shafts, particularly at the front end which is complete with splash, or foot-board, for the driver and front seat passenger.

The wheels are wooden discs, built up from fairly thick planks, with iron tyres. I would estimate them to be about 3½ ft. in diameter.

The engine appears to be reasonably complete, although rusted. It is located around the rear axle and, for such a large and heavy-looking vehicle, appeared to be very small.

The leather upholstery is in poor condition, with horsehair stuffing and springs showing through large rents.

The museum in which the car is housed is devoted to the history of the Sudan in the late nineteenth and very early twentieth century.

The majority of the exhibits are of items connected with the British military struggle with the Mahdi, and there are many relics of the Battle of Omdurman itself. Among the items to be seen are coats of chain mail, worn by the Mahdi’s warriors at the Battle of Omdurman, but believed to have originally been captured from Crusaders and handed down, or perhaps captured several times through the intervening 600 years. Another item on show is the ship’s wheel from “Daffodil”, one of the river gunboats which arrived too late for the relief of Omdurman.

The museum building itself was the residence of Lord Kitchener, before the Governor’s Palace was built. It is a warren of small rooms built of mud-bricks in the Sudanese fashion of a hundred and more years ago.

Cookham Dean P. L. PARROTT Wing Commander, RAF (Retired)

The Sleeve-valve Daimler

Sir,

I was pleased to read your article on the 35/120 Daimler, and knowing the car it was all the more interesting. It is unusual in that it has a transitional engine that was produced from 1923 until early in 1925. In all respects it is the same as the earlier engines with cast iron sleeves, but these were merely replaced with the new light steel type. This increased the cubic capacity of the engine from 4,962 c.c. to 5,764 c.c.

The lubrication of this and earlier engines is front a multiple plunger oil pump. This had seven pistons, six supplying oil to the troughs under the big-ends, and the centre one supplying oil under pressure to the main bearings. The lubrication of the big-ends, little-ends-and sleeves was therefore only by oil thrown from the six troughs. Cast iron is a very good bearing and oil retaining material so this system was quite adequate for the early engines. In 1925 full oil pressure lubrication was introduced on all sleeve-valve engines. The big-ends and main bearings were supplied from a conventional gear pump driven from the-eccentric shaft. The bottom ends of both sleeves were drilled with many holes to allow thrown oil and vapour to penetrate between the sliding surfaces. It was retained by horizontal grooves machined along the length of the sleeve.

Two other methods of lubricating the sleeves were fitted. One was operated when the starter pedal was depressed. A system of levers connected with an oil valve. When it was in operation, i.e. when the engine was started, oil from the oil pump was injected into each cylinder and thus to the sleeves. The other system was incorporated in the mixture control attached to the carburetter. The .steering wheel quadrant was graduated from “weak” to “rich” through “primer” and on to “start”. In the primer position a valve is opened in a pipe which connects the sump oil to the induction pipe, on the engine side of the butterfly. The valve remains open in the start position as well. This system provided lubrication, when the engine was cold, to the combustion chambers and therefore to the upper parts of the sleeves and junk rings. The primer section can also be used for a short while to provide more oil after a period of heavy going.

A rather Edwardian touch is added to these engines by the presence of two cup taps on the induction manifold. The handbook instructs the chauffeur: “In very cold weather, when the oil may be too stiff to flow, the induction pipe can be primed with warm oil through the cocks whilst starting the engine.” Incidentally I have tried this and one needs the combined services of the cook, gardener and the chauffeur! The combination of these different lubrication systems worked well until the reintroduction of poppet-valve engines in 1933/34.

The only reasons that steel-valve engines could smoke, apart from gross wear, are either the maladjustment of the two oil priming systems or, as John Oldham says, if the mixture control is left in the “primer” position; but this would also mean that the carburetter was permanently rich which seems to me to be an unlikely explanation.

I hope this letter will clarify some of the misconceptions regarding the Knight engine which have evolved like an evil spectre over the years.

Penarth, Glamorgan C. B. HANCOCK