VETERAN TYPES AT ASTON CLINTON
It is nearly six years now since there appeared in this journal an article entitled ” Where are the Veterans ? ” We pledged ourselves at that time to seek out the ancient champions of the road which might still be running and to describe their prowess in these columns. Since then a procession of motor cars of the heroic age has passed in review across these pages, and perhaps the account of them has given some pleasure to the readers of MOTOR SPORT who are thrilled by survivals from the Golden Age. Unfortunately these efforts to save the old and mighty from oblivion had no measure of permanence. Even the author himself having flashed the floodlight of publicity on the ancients, has found that they have passed all too quickly from his ken, out again into the outer darkness. The inception of our taste corresponded fairly exactly with the formation of the Veteran Car Club, which has united the really old cars and inspired their owners
with a true enthusiasm. This club originally selected 1904 as the latest date of manufacture which conferred eligibility for the activities which it organised. For half-a-dozen years this date has remained unaltered, and rightly or wrongly, other cars, young only by comparison, are apparently to be excluded permanently from its rallies. It seemed the gravest pity that no provision was made for the cars of the period from 1904 at least until the outbreak of the war.
At last, however, this gap has been filled, by the Vintage Sports Car Club. This club, it is true, is not exclusively for the real ancients, for an age limit of five years is its main criterion. It has, however, set out to encourage the truly veteran sports car, and in this it fulfils a really deserving purpose. The club’s speed trials, organised last month, at Aston Clinton, included nothing less than a class for pre-1914 cars, The By BALADEUR
field, it must be admitted, was not enormous. There were but five entries, and one of these, the vice-president’s 1910 Fafnir was unfortunately a non-starter. Of the others,, one was the monster 1908 Grand Prix type Itala, which we described in MOTOR SPORT of February 1985, and another that mechanical curiosity the 1,500 c.C. single-cylinder Sizaire-Naudin which figured in these pages last August. The others were a 1914 3-litre S.A.V.A., a marque which I may perhaps be permitted to doubt is so Much as known to some of my readers, and a 1907 7i-litre Renault, which name at least is still familiar to the motoring world. This Renault was mightily impressive as it thundered tip to its place at the start. Do you remember that giant red racer (national colours were not de rigueur• then), with which Szis!’z won the first Grand Prix at Le Mans in 1906 ? It seemed that here we had a replica of it, on perhaps a slightly smaller scale. There was the same familiar Renault bonnet, but with wire netting replacing the usual metal sheets for its, front and sides so that the machinery within was refreshingly visible. It is a feature incidentally which somewhat stultifies ‘,bilis Renault’s old argument that having the radiator behind the engine prevented dust-laden air being drawn straight into the cylinders via the carburetter, but it looks magnificent. Through the wire-netting one catches a glimpse of the big 4-cylinder engine. Its bore is known to be 130 mm., its stroke is uncertain. According, however, to my “catalogue des Catalogues,” that amazing volume which gives details of French cars back till the days of the Flood, the Renault type AI series 13 and D, made
from 1906 till 1910 had a bore and stroke of 130 x 140 min. ; and this, I take it is the type in question, in which case I calculate that the capacity is 7,433 c.c. These massive cylinders are cast in pairs, with the valves, in correct Renault style at the sides. In front, driven by a cross shaft is the high-tension magneto. When one looks at the near side of the engine, however, one gets rather a start from the sight of a perfectly good S.U. down-draught carburetter, with its inlet manifold in the best nickel plating. This, one need hardly explain, is a modification carried out by the present owner, who found that the original carburetter made starting almost impossible and did not provide very satisfactory running. The original throttle pedal, too, gave only two positions—flat out or stop—and has been replaced by one from a Speed Six Bentley, which looks a trifle incongruous
projecting from the floorboards. It is, however, the only touch of modernity in the cockpit. Behind a low dash the steering column, devoid. of all support, is raked back at a sharp angle and the wheel comes comfortably into the lap of the driver who sits but little above the level of the floor.
The engine drives to a 4-speed gearbox and thence to a live rear-axle, for Louis Renault could never abide chains. The gear ratios are 7,6, 4.3, 2.75 and 1.5 to 1 There are the familiar big wooden wheels, fitted with those detachable rims which almost more than anything else won that first Grand Prix for Szisz.
This car has had rather an extraordinary history, for it spent some part of its life in America, and still carries its New York licence plaque on its scuttle. But it came back again to Europe if not to its native France, and nearly thirty years after it first took the road paraded at Aston Clinton to take part in a quarter-mile standing-start sprint. The S.A.V.A., though only seven years younger than the Renault, gives the impression that it belongs to a different age. It is in fact typical of the light sports car of the immediate pre-war period, a type which is perhaps best known from the Alfonso Hispano-Suiza. I wish that I could claim a greater acquaintance with this Antwerp production. The initials of its name stand, I believe, for the Societe Anonyme des Voitures (or is it Voiturettes ?) Anversoise. The marque was, I think, tolerably well-known in England before the entry of a car in the 1914 Tourist Trophy brought it more prominently before the notice of the motoring world. There are, however, a number of rather mysterious and uncertain points about this particular car which ran at Aston Clinton. Even its bore and stroke are not known with any degree of certainty. Its capacity is believed to be approwimately 3 litres, and from an outward glance the engine certainly gives this impression. Now there was in 1914 a standard model S.A.V.A. with a bore and stroke of 82 x 140 m.m, which gives a capacity of 2,958 c.c. The owner of the car in question, however, considers that its bore is 84 mm., and has gone so far as to license it on this assumption. Moreover the standard model seems undoubtedly to have had push-rod operated overhead inlet valves and side
exhaust valves. This engine, on the contrary, while boasting the most delightful bellied push-rods, has the exhaust valves overhead and the inlets at the side. This method obviously has much to be said for it from the point of view of keeping the exhaust valves cool, and indeed I believe that the prevalence of “I over E” and the rarity of” E over I” is solely due to the fact that the former was a survival of the earlier practice of a side exhaust valve with an automatic inlet valve mounted directly above it in the pocket. Obviously when you had only got to operate one valve mechanically you put that one with its butt end nearest the crankshaft. Be that as it may. the arrangement of the valves on this S.A.V.A. is not the standard one, and is the same as that used on the T.T. car. Nevertheless I do not think that this was the car which ran in the Isle of Man. The chassis appears to be too long, and besides I think I know where the actual T.T. racer is. At the same time I incline to the view that this car is fitted with a T.T. type engine. In the crankcase there is a large inspection door, through which one can see the beautiful tubular connecting rods which rather suggest the racing engine of the
day, as does the Bosch dual ignition. Both the owner and I wish that we knew rather more about the S.A.V.A., and we should both be grateful if any other reader of MOTOR SPORT could shed a little light on our darkness. The veteran class was scheduled to be run off after the younger cars had had their fling, and the time of their starting was further delayed by a tropical thunderstorm. When at last their turn came, four aged engines responded to the efforts
of their crews on the starting handles, and one by one they thundered off over the standing start 1-mile. The resulting times were as follows :— RESULT
J. S. Pole (1008 12-litre Itala) 23.6s.
M. Chambers (1907 71-litre Renault) 30.7s.
A. Birks (1914 3-litre 8.A.V.A.) 31.3s. E. K. H. .Karshike (1908 1,500 c.c. Sizaire-Naudin)
45.78. The club, however, had derived an ingenious formula on which to base the result, and into which entered the age,
weight and engine size of the cars. Perhaps this somewhat penalised the larger engines, for on formula the SizaireNaudin came out first, with the S.A.V.A. second, the Renault third and the Itala fourth—a case of the last being first and the first last with a vengeance. Be that as it may, the Vintage Sports Car Club, in organising this event, has made a good start. The moving spirits behind it, however, will not be satisfied until they can unite a much more representative field in the veteran class in future speed trials. The Fafnir will appear as soon as the overhaul which it is at present undergoing is completed. But there are various other motor cars which it is hoped can be persuaded to
take part. There is another S.A.V.A., the actual one I believe, which took part in the 1914 T.T., and I think that the 1914 Grand Prix Opel which we described in MOTOR SPORT in December 1931 is now in the same ownership. The 1914 Tourist Trophy might be well represented, for I believe that the Sunbeam, which was probably the actual winner, and which we described in November 1930 is still going, and although I have lost sight of it since it figured in MoToR SPORT in May 1931 the Humber should still be somewhere about. 1914 cars, having been comparatively little used during the war period, which immediately succeeded their construction, have a special category and the club already boasts the membership of the famous Bugatti ” Black Bess.” Going further back there is the giant Gordon Bennett Napier of 1903, which Continued on page 355 has taken part in various events organised by the Veteran Car Club, and another famous motor-car, the Grand Prix Lorraine-Dietrich “Vieux Charles III,” which when it was built in 1912 was already a survival from an earlier age. Then there must even now be a few giant Mercedes left—we have described a 1908 “Sixty ” and a 1918 ” Ninety ” in MOTOR SPORT and an Alfonso Hispano or two. Those who own and appreciate these grand survivals should rally round to the Vintage Sports Club Car, whose hon. secrtary is Mr. E. T. Lewis of 81,
Rusland Road, Harrow. If only they will we shall yet see a meeting where there will be portrayed the pageant of the prewar days from the town-to-town races to that last and most dramatic Grand Prix at Lyon of the summer of 1914.