SOME HUMBLER TYPES
D. F. Maltalieu describes some sports cars he has owned, of the sort that the less wealthy enthusiasts find particularly Interesting
THE cars I have owned as regards performance are what Mr. Bolster would call definitely dreary, with which statement I may save people who expect to read of speeds of 90 m.p.h. a few valuable minutes. I started motoring eleven years ago on a 1921 Slade Jap ; the make of Slade I have neither heard of before nor since, although it seems reasonable that they made more than one. I gave someone 23 les. for it and learnt a considerable amount about belt-drive and leaking petrol-tanks from it. The only reliable thing was the engine, which never gave me the slightest cause to take it to bits. I spotted a 1926 350 c.c. Rudge and managed to persuade a little man in a bowler hat to buy the Slade for 25, borrowed a further £2 10s. and became the owner of the Budge. I really can’t say much in the Rudge’s favour. It had rim-brakes that went on strike immediately it rained, it cracked its cylinderhead between the exhaust-valves, pushed its push-rods far too far, right into the petrol-tank on one occasion, and promptly lay down flat if it spotted a rain-cloud and a tramline at the same time. Its one redeeming feature was that it possessed a really beautiful four-speed gearbox. I changed it for a 500 c.c. Budge of about 1928 vintage, which was much better, in fact, I never fell off this all the time I had it, and it was quite fast, churning along around the 80 mark almost on every occasion that it was asked. My pal at that time had a genuine oil-cooled T.T. Dot Bradshaw, and did it take a lot of oil to cool it ! It had a polished cylinderhead, and it was finished like a show model inside and out, but had a nasty habit of shaking its crankshaft out of line. It had an outside flywheel and one half of the crank had to be inserted in the crank-case, then the con-rod, and then the other half of the crank. At this stage it had to be trued and tightened up, which was no easy job, as the first half couldn’t really be held firmly in anything. Many are the times we have reassembled it with tissue paper on the tapers on wet nights miles from anywhere by the light of flashlights. My pal scrapped it and inserted a 350 c.c. J.A.P. I swapped the Rudge for a 1929 Dot Jap, which was a really good machine in every respect and I kept it until I was 21, when I became, on my birthday, the owner of a KSS Vetocette, the Bugatti of motor-cycles, which served me well and provided me with many fast miles of enjoyable motoring until I thought I should like four wheels. I bought a 1928 Brescia Bugatti with Bosch mag., noisy timing, lovely steering and springing, beautiful gearbox, no brakes and a fuel consumption of 10 to 15 m.p.g. I overhauled it, learning more French from the instruction-book than I even learnt at school, and got the petrol-consumption down to 22 m.p.g. It generated expensive noises in the clutch, then in the back axle, and when my father refused (in fact, he was rather nasty about it) to lend me any more money, I changed it for an Amilcar ; although its
steering and road-gripping are the standard by which I still judge other cars. The Amilcar was a 1928 ” Surbaisse,” in rather a sickly condition. The springs wanted resetting, the engine decoking and there was a considerable amount of rust to remove. These things I did, and in the filial trial canter round the field in which the garage was situatedithe axle unjustly, as the steering and road-holding were quite good if the shockers, which were built/in, and not an afterthought as in the majority of cars, were kept adjusted evenly, and the tyres on the two back wheels kept in the samelcondition (this latter was important, as if one were smooth and the other not the car had a tendency, due to the solid back axle, to go
pinion dropped off. I nearlyIburst into tears and spent about 10s. in ‘phone calls to try and acquire a new prop, shaft, but there wasn’t one anywhere within a radius of 40 miles of Manchester, so I had to have one made out of a Morris shaft, which functioned until I parted with the car. The Amilcar was like that, delicate, but quite all right if it liked you, and it possessed one of the smoothest 4-cylinder engines that I have ever sat behind. It wasn’t ‘rubber-mounted, either ! There has beer a certain amount of mud slung at the road-holdingjeapabilitiesjof/Amilears recently in this paper, in my opinion round in small circles. The back hubs came loose on the half-shafts when you weren’t looking, and made a horrid mess of the key-ways. This back-axle used to send cold shivers down my spine when I turned round on a non-skid road, as I could always imagine something twisting off. I ran the car for about a year in its ” catalogue ” form, which left something to be desired in one or two directions, the main one being filet it overheated and boiled at the slightest provocation, anotherithatlI could not get:a magneto to work for more than a month at a time. I consumed about six magnetos in the year,
all secondhand, so I might have been unlucky. It roasted one’s feet, too. As I liked the car, and it was economical to run, I decided to rebuild it and incorporate some modifications to try end overcome its weak points. I stripped it to the last nut and bolt, cleaned and painted everything, polished the front axle and steering4:oin ections, fitted a I3urnaan1)ouglas steering-box, and a column with a fore and aft drag-link in place of the Amilear transverse affair, flattened the Springs, overhauled and polished the engine, moved the petrol-tank to the tail, made and fitted an outside exhaust-system, put extra louvres in the Scuttle, fitted two aeroscreens, cut the radiator cowl away and made a stone guard, and, last and never again, I painted the whole car what I thought cream, but what everybody else called yellow. I also made the braking system work by increasing leverages here and there and cutting out some of the compensating gear. I then ran it in this form many more miles. The only trouble I had was piston-tops coming off with distressing regularity. I eventually sold it to a garage in Manchester; its registered number was VI117711 and I should be ittter1,0(1 to know what finally became of it. :Nly father, daring the same period, had a Morris Cowley, the chassis of which I think was made of rubber, and an Alvis “12/50,” the propeller-shaft of which became detached at the front end at around the 50 mark—I might say that the next few minutes were most uncomfortable, although, apart from this, it was a fine car. He also hada, Triumph Super Seven, about which the least said the better, and a Riley ” Bic rritz,” a grand little car which never gave [a minute’s trouble. A Wolseley Hornet “Trinity Special” was another of his cars. It had a beautiful crignie and gearbox, but was completely lacking in directional stability, and a body which was most:unpractical, althoughvery pretty to look at. His Riley “Monaco” never thought quite as good as the Biarritz, but his Riley 12/6 ” Lynx ” Tourer was a delightful car in every respect. It was a single-carburetter job and not very fast, but would cruise all day at 60 and was as smooth as milk. He changed the ” Lynx ” for a Riley 12/6 ” Kestrel ” saloon, which wasn’t quite as good, being very hot to the feet in the front compartment, and not so fast or smooth. He then retired and has since had a Fiat 500, a Riley Nine, an Austin* Seven 2-seater and an Austin Ten 2-seater, in that order, so he has about completed the circle. To get back to my own vehicles. After I rebuilt the Amilear on the first day of the new quarter I remem bered I had a date with a blonde, of the type that demands the hood to be put up upon feeling the first drop of rain. We went to the pictures, after which, although the night was rather cold, we decided to
motor the longest way back to her home. Now I had almost got everything complete, but one of the items that needed finishing off were the floorboards, the cover over the fabric universal being missing ; the universal projected above the floor. The air-pump had to be used continuously, due to sundry air-leaks and a plug or two went funny, and when we were descending a nice long hill at around the 45 mark the back axle locked solid. I managed to keep the boat somewhere on the road, although the period between the brakes locking and the stop, broadside-on, on a wide corner, was full of incident. The rug which I had thoughtfully provided for the lady (the best one of my mother’s) had wrapped round the universal and a very neat job it had made of it. It took me 1t hours to cut it off, with a pair of manicure scissors, while the lass sat and shivered on a wall. This incident was the cause of the breaking up of a quite beautiful friendship, and the raining of a perfectly good rug. I put the cover on the very next day. I changed the Amilcar for a ” M ” type M.G. Midget, the main reason for the change being that I think I had used up practically every scrapped Amilear in the country for vital spares and a pal of mine also had an ” M ” type M.G. and found it a very good little car. I ran mine for about six months and never had cause to spend a penny on replacements after I had put in two new fabric universals right at the start. I changed the ” M ” type for a ” J2 ” M.G., which always felt as if it could do with a higher gear-ratio, while the steering and brakes left something to be desired. I ran it for about a year without breaking anything vital, probably due to the fact that three pals of mine, also with ” JWs,” all broke their crankshafts, which so scared me that I never exceeded about 4,700 r.p.m. I then changed this for a 1934 2-carburetter Riley Nine “Kestrel.” It had done about 35,000 when I bought it and I did another 35,000 and it was still a very good car when I sold it. It was, in my opinion, the best ” Nine ” saloon ever made. It looked good, was comfortable in front and in the back and, although its performance
was not exciting, it would get from A to B as cheaply and as quickly as the majority of ears. Its steering was about the nearest approach to the Bugatti of any other car I have driven and its brakes were excellent. Altogether a most satisfactory car. When war broke out I changed it, for the sake of economy, for an ” Ulster ” Austin Seven. It would never start on the battery, so the procedure was as follows. Prop the choke open, take spanner and unscrew nose-cap off the crank-case, put on starting-handle, being careful not to let the oil run up your sleeve, insert cotter in starting-handle, turn petrol on, flood carburetter and crank. After a while, if it had had a good night, it would start at about 2,000 r.p.m., you would then run round and ease the throttle, ease the choke, remove the cotter and starting-handle, replace the cap on the end of the crankcase, put one leg inside the cockpit and the engine would stop through either, (a) too much choke, (b) not enough choke, or (c) just cussedness. Would it start on the starter ? No, so you propped open the choke, took spanner, etc., etc. Then it was for ever choking its main jet at the most inopportuneltimes, and someone had fitted two large Luvax hydraulic shockers on the front axle, which at their slackest setting were still too tight. I think that it had a standard gearbox because the ratios were very badly arranged ; second was too low. Luckily it had a phenomenal top gear performance. So I sold it when someone made me an offer for it. then bought and still have a “PA,” M.G. Midget, which is a vast improvement over the “J2.” Obviously Mr. ‘Umber gave a considerable amount of thought to the designing of it. My only criticisms are that it is a shade on the heavy side and that the steering is still a trifle springy.
That covers my motoring since 1929. I am afraid it has been a disease with me from 1927 and I am still a long way from being cured. The peak of my ambition will be when I own an old-type Bentley, as I am definitely a ” vintage ” enthusiast, and never feel quite comfortable when I am behind an engine revolving at 5,000 r.p.m. or so, no matter how smooth and how far off the red mark on the rev.meter.
I have recently come to work and live in Birmingham and should be very pleased to get in touch with any fellow-enthusiast ; if he would give me a ring at Calthorpe 1358 we could forgather to talk of motoring matters. . . .