Vintage Postbag, January 1979

Single-Plate Clutches


I wouldn’t call myself an historian but I can read reference books, let’s hope they are right; single-plate clutches were fitted by E. R. Thomas, De Dion Bouton, Knox, Rover and Austin between 1908-12 and possibly earlier. Other makes listed as using a disc or plate clutch, not multiplate, before WW1 include, Berliet, Dolphin, Hallamshire, La Buire, Lorraine Dietrich, Lotis, Mass, Mercedes, Minerva, Niclausse, Phoenix, Piccard Pictet, Pilain, Reo, Standard, Valveless, Zedel and Zust, although I only have Section drawings of the first five.

Discussing clutches in general, in his “Motor Pocket Book”, c. 1908, Mervyn O’Gorman, having described the male and female components of the cone clutch, wrote: “No man is entitled to infer by reference to these names any suggestion of superiority in one of these parts over the other. Here, as in life, the female is an incentive to work, and she turns her partner round and round whenever he comes near. Eventually things settle down after a little not unnatural friction, but they should never come to blows”.

The Austin clutch mentioned was, of course, that built by the Austin Automobile Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Chelmsford. Frank Lugg

Bugatti and the LNER


Being a premium apprentice under Sir Nigel Gresley and afterwards a draughtsman with the LNER, may I give some light regarding Bugatti as mentioned by Paul Shaw in last month’s issue.

It was well known in the office, that Sir Nigel went over to Italy to discuss with Bugatti streamlining with regard to Sir Nigel’s new Pacific locos., and one of my most vivid memories is that of a tablecloth shown to me by our Chief Draughtsman upon which were sketches of the wedge idea by Bugatti himself.

The wedge was used by Sir Nigel directly as a result of his consulting Bugatti.

We had little or no consultation with German engineers of that era, apart from a journey by Sir Nigel in the “Flying Hamburger” and a question to the German engineers which was: How long would the journey take from London to Newcastle with the Flying Hamburger?

Gradients etc. were sent to Germany and an answer was given.

Mr. Windle, the LNER Chief Draughtsman, was told we must improve on or equal this timing, but that the British public would not endure the lack of comfort on the German train. The LNER answer is history. We produced a comfortable train, which went from London to Newcastle at the fastest time in the world over this distance.

Doncaster. B. A. Winkfield



In “Cars in Books” in the November issue, reference is made to the Cuban Marquis de Casa Manry. The Marquis was in fact Mones-Manry who as a member of the Crossley-Bugatti team finished third in the 1500 class of the 1922 TT in the loM. He was also the original owner of the Curzon Cinema in Mayfair where a number of late-night motoring film shows took place immediately after World War Two. The Stutz driver was not boxer-turned-actor Carl Brisson.

June is best remembered by those who were around at the time for the number of “Inverclyde in June” jokes her unsuccessful coupling with Inverclyde provoked.

Woking, Surrey. C. Walsh

Non-Lada Exhibitionism


It was somewhat of a relief this year to find that the Brighton run did not have its usual quota of entertainment “celebrities” seeking cheap publicity although there was one of the false nose and funny hat brigade in a Dennis.

However an even more blatant exhibition of vulgar publicity was made by the distributors of Lada cars who chose to add to the already congested traffic by running up and down in a fleet of Ladas covered in gutter-press advertising matter and countless balloons, making the run look something like Coney Island on a bank holiday.

This is bad enough but how any reputable firm could muscle in like this on an event sponsored by a rival car firm I just cannot imagine it was ill-mannered in the extreme and compared very unfavourably with the conduct of the Renault Company who, although they provided considerable financial sponsorship, did nothing in the least undignified or obtrusive.

It is some comfort to know, from the comments I heard, that Ladas did themselves considerably more harm than good and it is to be hoped that this may discourage similar behaviour on future events.

Meysey Hampton. E. D. Woolley

Brooklands Memories


The interesting letter of A. F. Rivers-Fletcher last November, in which he refers to Major C. G. Coe, brought back memories to me of my one and only visit to Brooklands. This was on Whit Monday, June 1st, 1925, and it was a memorable day. The lap record broken by J. C. P. Thomas at 129.36 m.p.h.

The miraculous escape of Major Coe and his mechanic, when their Vauxhall Vixen crashed at over 100 m.p.h. Major Coe was only slightly injured and was able to walk, but his mechanic with head injuries was carried off on a stretcher. In the same race Thomas had one wheel over the banking.

I made the return trip from Tyneside, where I then lived, on my trusty 16H Norton. I noticed at one corner near London white lines painted along the centre of the road. Had never seen this before!

Hartlepool. J. Wray

Chitty III


My feelings in writing this letter can be described as “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread”. In Mr. Windsor-Richards’ most interesting letter he mentions that the engine of Chitty III was a 6-cylinder 17.8-litre Maybach Zeppelin with an overhead camshaft. Between 1909-1918 the Motorenbau G.m.b.H. Friedrichshafen built Maybach engines with two “downstairs” camshafts. Until 1915 Maybach possessed a T-head with four valves per cylinder. From 1916 onwards these Zeppelin and aeroplane engines had four overhead valves. Apart from the camshaft situation, the cubic capacity of the different Maybach motors do not concur with either 17.8 or 14.8-litres. These capacities are as follows:

1909 20.0-litres 160 x 170 mm. 1,050 rev./m. 140 hp,

1912 20.0-litres 160 x 170 mm. 1,200 rev./m. 165 h.p.

1913 20.0-litres 160 x 170 mm. 1,250 rev./m. 180 h.p.

1914 22.8-litres 160 x 190 mm. 1,200 rev./m. 210 h.p.

1917 23.0-litres 165 x 180 mm. 1,400 rev/m. 260 h.p.

I therefore beg to submit a theory that the engine of Chitty III was a Mercedes D III CC., 14.78-litres, b. x s. 140 x 160 mm., overhead-camshaft 170 h.p. or a D III of same c.c. but 180 h.p. These descriptions tally more or less with the first declaration, although the stroke is 160 mm. compared with 180 mm. As regards the second declaration, a 6-cylinder Benz III Avu might fit: 17.6-litres, b. x s. 140 X 190 mm. 195 h.p. But like all the Benz aero-engines this motor had two “downstairs” camshafts.

Krullenlaan. J. C. Northals Altes

(This is most interesting. Whereas the 1917 Maybach engine corresponds to that used in Chitty I (although said to give 305 b.h.p. at 1,500 r.p.m. as installed in the car), I am of the opinion that Chitty III had a single-o.h.c. Mercedes aero-engine, no doubt the DM CC type referred to above, of 140 x 160 mm. It has been recalled by two people I have met that Count Zborowski used a big Mercedes aero-engine to drive the lighting plant at Higham, and that in about 1922 this was replaced by a heavy-oil engine. Could Clive Gallop have overhauled this engine in the Higham workshops and used it in Chitty III? If so, it might have become a bit tired before Daimler-Benz sold the car (always assuming this to have been Chitty III) to the Pole and they might have replaced it with a 148 x 170 mm. o.h.c. 17.8-litre Mercedes. – Ed.)

Engine Dimensions


I have this year recommenced taking your excellent magazine after a lapse of many years and am pleased to find that some things do not change although I note the demise of the editorial Beetle and the addition of the colour section as two improvements. I preferred the old cover design though and do feel you could at least publish the World Championship for Drivers standings with each GP report, despite your evident antipathy to this Championship.

However, I am prompted to write by your comments on varying engine dimensions in the recent articles concerning the the Brooklands Riley Nine and the Amilcar Six and offer the following thoughts.

In the case of the Riley I imagine that in 1924 Riley would have been working in Imperial units, albeit to produce an engine capacity equivalent to slightly less than 1,100 c.c. Examination of the most precisely given dimensions for bore and stroke of 60.3 x 95.2 mm. show them to be approximately 2 3/8″ x 3¾”.The exact conversion is 60.325 x 95.25 mm. which gives a capacity of 1,089 c.c. to the nearest c.c., which I suggest is the true figure. 60.3 x 95.2 mm. gives 1,087 c.c. and 60 x 95mm. gives 1,074 c.c., thus illustrating the not inconsiderable differences resulting from rounding off dimensions.

Presumably Amilear would have been using metric dimensions for their 6-cylinder car, and certainly the quoted dimensions for bore and stroke do not approximate to any Imperial fractional dimension. There appears to have been a tendency to round down the capacities as 55 x 77 mm. gives 1,097.6 c.c., 56 X 74 mm. gives 1,093.6 c.c. and 56 X 77 mm. gives 1,137.9 c.c, perhaps this was standard practice. The works though appear to have perpetrated a fine piece of French perfidy in 1928 as 54.87 x 78.98 mm. gives a capacity of 1,120.5 c.c., not 1,096 c.c. as quoted. Is it too late to protect any results gained with this motor?

The article on the Riley was of particular interest as I had a 2½-litre RMF saloon about ten years ago which, apart from being a rather shabby example and having an insatiable appetite for one of the clutch operating rods, was a really super car.

Brunei. P. Llloyd

Pity the Poor Historian


I was most interested to read the letter from Alan C. Campbell-Orde regarding his race in the Ballot with Dick Howey. Recently I was at the library at Beaulieu and in The Autocar 1926 it states that the George Boillot Cup was due to take place on August 26th 1926 at Boulogne. Now Scrap Thistlethwaite had come third in the Speed Trial and Hill-Climb the previous day in the 9 ft. chassis 3-litre Bentley which he drove with Clive Gallop at Le Mans in 1926. He had also entered for the Georges Boillot Cup but withdrew when his great friend R. B. Howey was killed in an air-crash – that’s what it says in The Autocar. So how did Dick Howey die?

I now own the Thistlethwaite-Gallop 3-litre and would be grateful if any readers have any old photographs or recollections of the car either when raced or afterwards.

I have been an avid reader of your magazine since 1951 and I may say that nothing compares – keep it up!

Bedford. Brian Hamilton (Dr.)

(I have checked, and The Autocar says nothing about an air-crash. R. B. Howey was killed when his 5-litre Ballot crashed at the Boulogne Speed Trials and the car was buried at sea. – Ed.)