FORGOTTEN MAKES: No.88 The Maudslay
THE Maudslay Company of Parkside, Coventry, was a highly respected engineering concern before it turned to making cars in 1902, at a branch of the mainstream business that was building marine engines and other products. The first cars had threecylinder power-units, noted for their overhead-camshaft valve-gear which remained a Maudslay hallmark into commercial vehicle days. The threecylinder models were developed as 40 hp and 60 hp six-cylinder chassis of double the capacity, by doubling the number of cylinders, and the cylinderical radiator by which these cars could be easily distinguished (unless mistaken for a Hotchkiss or a Delaunay Belleville) was adopted by 1905.
In time, the larger cars were abandoned in favour of the 17 hp “Sweet Seventeen”, which remained in production up to the outbreak of WW1. A very over-square 20 hp Maudslay had been entered for the 1905 loM TT, without success. Maudslay’s true forte was commercial vehicles, perhaps more in keeping with a firm founded in 1798 by Henry Maudslay, who devised the screwcutting lathe, the slide-rest, and the micrometer, who had co-operated in making a durable steam bus in 1883, and who was to supply 80% of the steamengines used by the British Navy. The factory moved to Coventry from Lambeth in 1840, later to make tools and components for the infant Motor Industry. The first commercial vehicle was produced in 1903.
The purpose of the overhead-camshaft used on these vehicles, from which a dashboard-mounted magneto was driven was accessibility rather than that of defeating valve-bounce, the entire valve-gear being hinged so that by undoing a couple of bolts it could be swung clear of the cylinder head, and a valve could be removed in two minutes. In the 1920s, this was further developed, and trap doors in the crankcase enabled the pistons to be withdrawn in 15 minutes. Such aids to rapid maintenance were a great asset in the world of trucks
and buses. Maudslay lorries to WO.. Subsidy saw active service in 1914/18, more than 1500 being employed at the
Front, some built at Rover’s. The war over, it seemed that Parkside had finished with cars — until 1923. In that year considerable surprise was caused by the Company’s return to the private-car sector. And what a car! It had
a 2-litre, twin-cam, all-roller-bearing engine in a chassis of advanced design. Quite what prompted Maudslay to go for such an advanced chassis remains one of motoring’s mysteries. It is somewhat on a par with Humber making similarily advanced racing-cars for the 1914 TT, although here there may have been a desire for continuity, in as much as Humber’s had run cars in the four previous Us. Whereas Maudslay had never made even a sporting-type car. . . Be that as it
may, work on the new car proceeded under its designer, J A Kemp (who later became Albion’s Director and chief designer of their commercial vehicles), with J R Hamilton (later to become Maudslay’s Technical Manager) doing the detail work, while it was apparent that Alexander Craig (who had been associated with Henry Maudslay’s brother Reginald in forming the Standard Motor Company in 1903 but who was now MD of Maudslay’s) was responsible for the concept of this exciting, but totally unexpected car.
When it emerged late in 1923, as the 15/80 hp Type 2L6 Maudslay, the motoring world was taken by storm. The Autocar observed that not since the Fergus has appeared in 1915, with its single oh-camshaft 2.6-litre engine and supple cantilever springing, had a design so full of interest been encountered — which seems unfair to the Leyland Eight, which had been called the “Lion of Olympia” in 1920 and was of equally ingenious concept. However, in 1923 a twin-cam roller-bearing engine was associated only with racing cars and the new Maudslay had other endearing features as well. The engine, a six-cylinder of 65 x 100 mm (1991 cc), had the valves fully inclined in the detachable head, giving
hemispherical combustion chambers with central sparking plugs, in the best racing-car fashion. The cams acted directly on the valve stems via steel inverted-pistons. The valves, of tulip shape, were large, and closed by compound springs. Each oh-camshaft ran, in six roller-bearings and a locating ballbearing, in oil, under detachable camcases, surplus oil draining through a gauze filter to the sump. The camshafts were actuated from the rear of the engine by a 2-to-1 reduction gear driving a roller-race eccentric connected to a light, H-section, Y-shaped member so neatly enclosed in the cylinder block as to puzzle those who looked for a conventional camshafts drive. The arms of the “Y” had further roller-races turning crank-pins on the camshafts, which were thus driven by the rotary motion of this Y-member. (The Leyland Eight had a different form of eccentric-drive for its single oh-camshaft). Maudslay had used such a mechanism “for other purposes”, presumably in their marine engines. Quiet running was no doubt the objective, for otherwise a twin-cam engine of the 1920s could have been objectionably noisy. The Ymember and the camshaft-driving cranks were balanced with bob-weights and although the unit was within the
cylinder block, a large cover plate made it accessible. It is a mark of a tool-maker that the timing-gears for the Y-member were hardened and ground, and significant that these were the only gears in the entire engine! This was possible because the distributor for the coil-ignition was driven from the forward end of the o/s camshaft (nothing is new. . . witness this on some modern German engines!), and as roller-bearings do not require pressure oil-feed, an oscillating plungerpump was sufficient to distribute the necessary oil-mist, and this was driven from a boss on the eccentric-strap of the camshaft-driving gear.
Pump cooling was used, the water pump a turbine formed round the nose of the seven-bearing crankshaft. Any water-loss from the rear gland fell into the road. A thermostat was incorporated in the water pipe to the radiator. Ahead of the statorbladed pump was a fixed starting-handle. The water jackets provided a free flow round the cylinder barrels. Another ingenious feature was the combined CAV starter/dynamo within the flywheel, Model-T Ford fashion, which was, however, completely accessible. This 2L6 Maudslay was a remarkable car, with its racing-style engine. . .
This engine was installed in a chassis with a unit 4-speed and reverse gearbox, controlled by an open-gate rh lever, with the hand brake outboard and behind it. A single-plate clutch and enclosed propshaft were used, with a spiral-bevel back axle. Half-elliptic springs slid in slots cut in large rollers free to rock in the attachment brackets. The springs had ground leaves and were gaitered and the gearbox had a centre bearing and so a driving/driven shaft spigot-bearing was eliminated. The gears and shafts were hardened and ground, and throughout the chassis the utmost care was taken to achieve maximum efficiency. Perrot four-wheel brakes with large ribbed aluminium drums, and Rudge wire wheels with 34 x 4Y Dunlop tyres, were fitted. The engine incorporated Hsection con-rods bolted to the big-ends for easy withdrawal of the aluminum pistons, and two Solex carburettors on the o/s. The ribbed exhaust manifold was on the n/s and refinements included a gearbox-driven speedometer, fullyfloating back axle shafts machined from bar-forgings, a light alloy axle casing, forged instead of brazed brackets for the tubular cross-members of the chassis frame, and the ability to withdraw the Clutch without disturbing engine or gearbox. As with the 3-litre Bentley, tax was £16 a year and the chassis-price was fixed at £825, or £75 less than for the Bentley. The wheelbase was 10 ft. 3 in., the track 4 ft. 5 in. A chassis was tested exhaustively in the Coventry area, and the original single-row 7/16in big-end races giving trouble, they were replaced with two-row 5/161n roller-races, and the supply of oil
mist increased. The ingenious camshaftdrive had been observed under an oscilloscope but it, too, needed a good deal of development to get right. It was intended to have sports-tourer, saloon and landaulette bodies on the new Maudslay at the 1923 Olympia Show, but it seems as if only two chassis existed at this time. The one intended for exhibiting was sent to the coachbuilder, only to be destroyed in a fire. The test chassis was hurriedly cleaned and substituted, on Stand
No.180. After which, no more was heard of this ambitious car. . . Usually brief road-test impressions of new cars were published but of the 15/80 Maudslay — nothing! Perhaps the complex engine with its built-up crankshaft and 22 main roller-races and four ballraces proved too much for the production department. Anyway, Maudslay went on with commercial chassis and merged with AEC in 1948. But the 2L6 car deserves to be remembered, as a good try. . . WB