ON BRITISH HIGH-PERFORMANCE CARS
(Continued from the June Issue)
And now, having offered up the suggestion that this country has nothing to fear in the high-performance field, and that the American Invasion can be met by modern British productions, we may run through the British high-performance cars and refresh our memories as to what this country can offer, that fortunate prospective buyers here, and the world over, may take their choice. I deal with the matter in alphabetical order to obviate fear or favour.
. The A. C. people go on making the Six which S. F. Edge endowed with renown years and years ago, and which still has its single chain-drive o.h. camshaft engine of alloy construction with wet
cylinder liners. The chassis has halfelliptic suspension with telecontrol shockabsorbers and a synchromesh gearbox, and the ” Ace ” two-seater is a very good looking, very smart fast car that is also notably smooth and silent in operation. The example we tested last July did. 10 to 50 in 114 sees., 80 m.p.h. and. 21 fn,p,g.
Down at Tolworth, Geoffrey Taylor builds very potent racing Altas, but he also lists a range of 9, 12 and 15 h.p. sports models which embody something of the old-school tradition of construction, being of advanced design and highrevving capabilities, and possessed of extremely fine performance, whether blown or tmblown. The Alta engine is a twin o.h. camshaft unit based on the Riley, and Taylor favours the Wilson self-change box. We have not yet been privileged to try the production job.
When T. G. John designed the old ” 12-50″ for the Alvis Company he set the seal to the fortunes of this respected
British concern. To-day the ” 12-70″ Alvis, with very smooth flexibly-mounted four-cylinder engine, full synchro-mesh gearbox and an interesting combination of vivid performance and refinement, is offered as the successor of previous “12-50s.” In addition, the bigger sixcylinder Alvis cars, notably the 2.7-litre ” Speed Twenty-Five” and the 4.3-litre, represent excellent examples of essentially modern push-rod high-performance cars, of high finish and beautiful construction, and having all-synchro gearboxes, and independent front suspension of the transverse leaf-spring variety. The 34-litre saloon which Mo’rox SroaT tried in February 1936 did 10 to 50 m.p.h. in 13.5 secs., 90 m.p.h. and 14 m.p.g.
The Aston-Martin 2-litre is another example of the modern big “four,” and is a car in which the best old school qualities and modern conveniences and fashions have been happily combined. The fastest model of the range is the Speed Model on the short chassis, and a
privately-owned example reached nearly 100 m.p.h. on the road, as we recorded in May.
The Atalanta, which has been fully described in MOTOR Sl’ORT, is an attempt to offer a really fast and special car for
the true enthusiast. The specification embraces I OT 2-litre o.h. camshaft four-cylinder engines which can be supercharged under control of the driver, Cotal magnetic gearbox, and all-round independent suspension.
The Autovia appeals by reason of dignified appearance and great performance achieved in considerable refinement by the employment of an efficient and very compact V8 2.8-litre engine of Riley de
sign. The compact engine enables spacious bodywork to be accommodated on a fairly short chassis and a limousine is listed as standard at 025.
It is difficult merely to catalogue the 41-litre Bentley and not to enthuse. The fact remains that the modern Bentley is one of the finest examples of modern automobile engineering, and it has sold remarkably well, in both closed and open form, since Messrs. Rolls-Royce Ltd. introduced it in 34litre size some five years ago. The pushrod o.h.v. six-cylinder engine does its job absolutely unobtrusively, all controls, minor and major, function with a smooth, positive action characteristic of Rolls-Royce productions and the brakes are applied by a beautifully constructed mechanical servo that figures also on the 20/25 and 50 h.p. Rolls-Royce cars. A closed 41-litre tested by MOTOR SPORT in June 1936 did 10 to 50 m.p.h. in 10 secs., 10 to 70 m.p.h. in 20 secs., 94 m.p.h. over the half-mile, 13 m.p.g. of fuel, and stopped in 57 feet from 40 m.p.h.
The British Salmson engineers remain faithful to the hemispherical cylinder head, having valves actuated by a shaftdriven o.h. camshaft, a layout actually based on that of the early French Salinson. The 14 h.p. model has independent front suspension as has the “Six,” and the aim with all models has been to offer solid, hand-assembled cars of high performance and. considerable economy, capable of outlasting cheaper, quantity produced cars. The ” 20-90 ” sports “
Six” is capable of about 60 m.p.h. and is especially well appointed for competition work.
The B.S.A. Scout has a very well tried system of front wheel drive that encourages rapid cornering, and it is a lowpriced economical car offering the snap of the real sports-car with open car attractions, for a list price of under £170 and a tax of only 1:7 10s.
The Frazer-Nash represents the true enthusiasts’ car par excellence. With a variety of high-output engines, simple yet essentially practical equipment which may be varied at the client’s request, and the famous all-chain transmission, it is in a class of its own. The twin-blower ” Shelsley ” two-seater is probably the highest-performance production 11-litre in the world, and in production single
seater trim holds the Shelsley Walsh Hill-Climb record.
The H.R.G. is one of the few remaining sports-cars of the fiercer type, capable of 88 m p.h. and acceleration of the order of to 50 m.p.h. in 9.8 secs., with a fuel consumption of 30 m.p.g. It was fully reported in MOTOR SPORT last June, and with well-tried Meadows push-rod fourcylinder 14–litre engine, Moss crash-type gearbox and E.N.V. rear axle, it has proved itself in all classes of competitive motoring.
The Invicta has recently returned to the market in 24-litre and 4-litre quality form, based on a Continental design.
Unquestionably the V12 Lagonda is the car of the moment. Capable of over 100 m.p.h. in complete silence and carrying spacious closed bodywork, it sets a new value of luxury and performance in the 44-litre clam The W. 0. Bentley-designed V12 o.h.c. engine runs smoothly and effortlessly up to 5,500 r.p.m. on the indirect gears to ensure high speeds (86 m.p.h. on third) and immense acceleration, the whole chassis is built to the highest conception of British automobile engineering standards and torsional independent front suspension is productive of a high degree of comfort and stability. The 44-litre six-cylinder model, with straightforward push-rod o.h.v. engine, Is one of the highest performance cars
on the market, and, tested by MOTOR SPORT in May 1936, did 10 to 50 m.p.h.
in 11.5 sees., 1.0 to 70 m.p.h. in 20 secs., 13 m.p.g., 95 m.p.h. and 40 to m.p.h. in 56 feet. Last year at Brooklands a T.T. model covered over 104 miles in the hour.
The Lea-Francis has just come amongst us again as a quality 11-litre having pushrod actuation of fully inclined valves.
The M.G. is, perhaps, the most famous sports-car on the British market. The 1Hitre and 2-litre models offer very comfortable and well-equipped bodywork and excellent performance derived from normal high-efficiency push-rod engines. The T-Midget, with 1,292 c.c. four-cylinder engine in a light rigid chassis, has performed outstandingly in trials, races and rallies. Tested by MOTOR SPORT in January 1937, it recorded 10 to 50 m.p.h. in 15 secs., 10 to 60 m.p.h. in 22.8 secs., 80 m.p.h. and over 27 m.p.h.
The little Morgan 4/4 is well suited to the requirements of the sportsman. Its o.h, inlet side-valve exhaust engine of 1,122 c.c. provides excellent performance with a reasonable fuel consumption, and the front wheels are sprung independently on the well tried Morgan coil-spring
The Riley has won more important races than any other unblown car of recent times and has convincingly demonstrated the efficiency and reliability of its powerunit, which is notable for the use of pushrods on each side of the block, enabling fully inclined o.h. valves to be employed without resort to o.h. camshaft complications. Very smooth 80 m.p.h. performance is provided by the V8 2,178 c.c. “Eight-Ninety ” model, and the fourcylinder 11-litre ” Sprite ” is the speed model of the range, with extremely neat coachwork and Wilson pre-selector gearbox.
The Phantom III Rolls-Royce can be included under the heading of a highperformance, if not of a sports-cars. The 7.3-litre V12 engine provides a maximum speed of over 90 m.p.h. in complete
silence, even with coachwork of the seven-seater saloon order, and the lightness of the controls and immense reserve of power belie the 11 ft. 10 in. wheelbase, while the coil-spring independent front suspension and driver-controlled dampers enable one to put the “Phantom III” exactly where it is wanted so that, if the mood dictates, it can outperform some of our best sports motor-cars.
The modern SS is far removed from the original models of the marque, which some of us regarded as unnecessarily long in bonnet and low in body for the urge endowed. The present 31-litre SS “
100′, is one of the fastest cars marketed, able to comfortably exceed 100 m.p.h., and remarkably good value at £445. The use of special water-flow in the head has enabled a really high compression ratio to be employed with a pentroof combustion chamber, and similar treatment has endowed the I flitre and 21-litre models with excellent performance, so that amongst closed cars they admirably represent that very worthwhile class of comfortable high-performance cars of semi-sports type. Blackpool endorsed the potency of the 3i-litre so very soundly.
The 31-litre SS in saloon form does over 90 m.p.h. which, combined with its excellent acceleration and smart appearance, makes it a remarkable proposition at 045 and a dangerous rival of much more costly cars.
The Standard V8 seeks very effectively to combine vivid acceleration and a reasonable maximum speed with touring car assets and a list price as low as £325.
The famous House of Talbot offers an attractive and smart sports-car in the side-valve 1,185 c.c. Ten, which is very economical by reason of having wide-gap ignition. The new 3-litre Talbot, based on that excellent high-performance touring car, the Hillman Eighty, is a most interesting job, offering dignified appearance, full touring car comfort and a respectable performance, from a big sidevalve engine of modern conception. The push-rod o.h.v. Roesch-designed 31-litre, on which present Talbot status has been built up, remains in the range.
The Triumph Company offers a really fine range of cars which may be said to fill the gap which exists between the sports-car proper and the purely utility
car. With four and six-cylinder twin carburetter push-rod o.h.v. engines, remote gear-control and stable suspension they provide rapid travel for five persons and handle in a manner that pleases the expert. At Blackpool the new ” Dolomite ” roadster, of modern outline and practical layout, attracted very favourable comment. We tried the 1,767 c.c. ” Dolomite ” saloon last June and its figures were : 10 to 50 m.p.h. in 16 secs., 10 to 60 m.p.h. in 23 secs., 66 m.p.h. and 17 m.p.g.
The very old-established Wolseley concern has quite recently contributed to the increasing class of what are best described as fast touring cars, the rather
remarkable 3k-litre Wolseley TwentyFive drop-head coupe, which possesses good steering and road-clinging qualities, does 66 on third and 90 m.p.h. on .top gear, nearly 20 m.p.g., yet still sells at under 1500. Unfortunately, it has only been possible to review extremely briefly the range of British high-performance cars. But, carefully considering what British manufacturers offer in this field, it is possible to go on our respective ways rejoicing that we can ably hold our own with the rest of the world. Indeed, I honestly cannot see why we should not in actual fact frown just as heavily on our fellow countrymen who effect foreign motor-cars as did the patriotic characters who graced that series of advertisements issued a short while ago by the British Motor Industry—” My dear, he has arrived in a foreign car ! ‘ A sense of humour is almost as traditionally British as our love of belittling our own endeavours, and so, when I suppose I really should close on a dignified note extolling the quality and excellence of our productions, I will, instead, recall the remark of the bright young thing who, as Rosemeyer sang over the line at Donington last October, winner of the Grand Prix in the German Auto-Union, solemnly turned to her escort and said : ” My dear, he is driving a foreign motor-car I”
Racing apart, this country can hold its own in the matter of high performance with anything produced anywhere else in the world.