Letters from readers, July 1943

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Sir,

Many interesting articles have appeared from time to time on home-built specials and conversions, but I have yet to see some authoritative dope on “blowers” and the manufacture of amateur productions.

Perhaps trade secrets enter into the matter, but surely someone at some time or other has made, say, a Cozette-pattern supercharger which, from the meagre details available, looks simple enough! Perhaps something could be done?

More power to your elbow via Motor Sport.

I am, Yours etc..

Geoffrey B. Norman

Didsbury.

[This is a case of there being more in the task Mr. Norman would like to perform than meets the eye, we believe. But we put out this feeler in ease anyone has any useful information to dispense. – Ed.],

 

Sir

With regard to the reference in the April issue of Motor Sport in “Club News” concerning the Midland Motoring Enthusiasts Club, I don’t think it is generally known that a band of 20 to 30 Bristol enthusiasts gather on the last Thursday of every month at the Full Moon Hotel, Stokes Croft, Bristol, to talk cars past, present and future; the pro-racirig, sports and vintage element being most prominent.

These right-thinking people will be only too pleased to meet other enthusiasts in this neighbourhood.

As it is not a club in the strict sense of the word, there is no entrance fee, the only expense being the amount of liquid refreshment consomed.

Among our members are a number of visitors to this area, one of the more recent being Peter Robertson-Roger, who is attached to the A.T.A., and R. D. Carson, who is connected with the local aircraft industry; shortly we hope to have a visit from Captain J. Fry, of Freikaiserwagen fame, and Lieut. R.A. Macdermid, R.N.V.R., who is now back in England but does not get much chance to visit Bristol.

I shall be only too pleased to hear from any dyed-in-the-wool enthusiasts should they care to get in touch with me.

I am. Yours etc.,

J.B. King

Stafford House, All Saints Road, Bristol, 8.

 

Sir,

I have been trying for Some considerable time to find an Indian made before the last war, also a “90 bore” Zenith Matchless or Bat, Without success. Can anyone help me?

At the moment I have a couple of fairly interesting cars – a Type 37 Bugatti which was the one raced at Boulogne by Miss Ivy Cummings, and later at Southport by Lane Jones, and the 3-litre Bentley which my sister raced for several years. The latter car started life as one of the T.T. flat-radiator cars, and was rebuilt after a smash at Blackpool. Bentleys also supercharged the job at the same time, about 1925/26 and it must have been one of the fastest 3-litres made. From what I remember it was quite quick off the mark: anyway, quick enough to beat Basil Davenport’s standing third-of-a-mile record at Stalybridge. Like so many cars it has had all sorts of eccentric fittings, such as dummy oil tanks and comic oil radiators, hung on; needless to say, these have been sent to assist the war effort. Unfortunately, the car only ran in about six meetings and was never persevered with. May sold it when the family bought the G.P. Sunbeam, and I was very glad to be able to rescue it.

I am, Yours etc., 

J.O. Cunliffe

Manchester.

[This is most interesting news, which Bentley enthusiasts everywhere will welcome. We well remember May Cunliffe’s “flat-fronted” Bentley, and this must he one of the oldest Bentleys now in existence. – Ed.]

 

Sir.

Years ago I user I to be a regular reader of a weekly magazine for motor-boat enthusiasts. In the Queries section of that paper optimistic amateurs were always asking the editor what speed they could expect from an ex P & O. lifeboat powered by a T-model Ford engine. The answer was always 5 m.p.h. There were always two ways of looking at the picture of the stricken and disillusioned boat builder when receiving this blow to his high hopes: one could either pity the poor fellow who honestly thought he was going to have a 40-m.p.h. speedboat, or one could congratulate him on not being drowned when his boat capsized when cornering ten times faster than it was ever designed to do. It is easy to scoff, therefore let us scoff.

I think the same applies to “Specials.” Let’s see. What generally happens is that somebody admires an ancient motor-car which, having either overhead valves or a low overall weight, is regarded as requiring only slight modification before becoming a racer. A test run up a narrow drive, flat-out in second gear, convinces the embryo Reid Railton that the car has the blood of the Darley Arabian in its veins. At that stage the car and driver between them generally possess the following: (1) A pathetic lack of urge from the engine. (2) Feeble brakes. (3) Grotesquely vague steering and roadholding. (4) At the very best, the driving skill of a high-street racer.

As each of the above deficiencies is overcome the succeeding one renders participation in speed events a grave danger to the driver. Let us, therefore, work back, overcoming the defects in the proper order, and see whether we can get something for our trouble.

Now, what about learning to drive. It’s not enough to be able to thrash the daylight out of the family saloon and beat taxis away from the traffic lights. Until you can ride a motor-bike, and ride it fast under all conditions, you’ll never be a driver. Yes, I know all about him, but I’ve also heard of Nuvolari, Charlie Dodson and Freddie Dixon; and I know whom I’d rather ride with on a wet road. So get a motor-bike, and learn something about what happens to your front wheel when cornering and braking on the wet.

Then there’s steering and roadholding. Have you ever seen a Grand Prix car, a fairly modern one? What did you notice about it? What! It had funny springs? Quite right. Those springs were either flat, stiff and widely spaced, or they were some sort of independent system. Now look at yours. I’ll bet they’re floppy, of pronounced camber, and mounted all wrong. Do something about it, and don’t forget to fit a decent set of shockers. And please believe me when I tell you that the large-section tyre, correctly inflated, is the finest independent suspender ever stumbled upon by car designers.

Oh, and when you were looking at that Grand Prix car you didn’t happen to notice the brakes, did you? I’ll bet the drums were of larger diameter, and better cooled, and the actuating mechanism was more carefully compensated than yours. I’m afraid you’ll find very few touring cars, and almost as few sports cars, with brakes which will both pull you up safely and continue to do so for long.

The thing to do if you want brakes on a Special is to take the shoes and drums bodily from something which has racing associations, like a Talbot or Bugatti, and graft them on to your own axles as best you can. There is no lack of ingenuity among Special builders; all I ask is that you don’t devise an actuating mechanism which absorbs most of your pedal pressure in friction and distortion. Don’t forget, or don’t omit to find out, that suspension, weight distribution and tyre pressures all have their effect on braking.

Now the engine. I know you all want to break records in the under-1,500 c.c, classes. I wish you didn’t. Ever since legislators and motoring journalists persuaded us to coax large car horse-power out of small car engines British and Continental racing has been like a coconut shy, where the women and children go half-way While the men have to attain the same standard from the full distance. The result is that at any motor-sporting event in this country one sees broods of frolicsome little toy cars frisking round the real stuff. However, you boys know best; so let’s have a look at this engine of yours. I see you’ve cleaned it so that it’s spotless, and I know you’ll keep it clean so as to detect oil leaks when you’ve got it ready for racing. But I shouldn’t try to do much with side-valves, really. I know all about Ulster Austins, etc., but that was rather a long time ago.

Never mind about port polishing. Your overhead-valve engine obtains its efficiency because the gas can flow in all round the head of the valve, instead of drifting out of one side. Apply that principle to induction pipes and ports, and see that they are not full of obstructions and awkward corners. See also they they are the right, diameter in relation to valve sizes. Brake mean effective pressure is what enables engines to exert the necessary tractive effort, and this you’ll obtain with the highest compression ratio your engine will stand. This increased ratio will mean that you’ll have to watch out for things breaking and bending. Here’s a chance for you to do a bit of polishing, as a high finish is useful in preventing surface cracks starting in con. rods, etc.

There are so many things you know already that I can only hope to remind you of a few points. A piston speed of 3,000 ft. per min. is all you want if the engine is to last for long, so don’t try to make something with a 4-in, stroke run at 8,000 r.p.m. Have a good oil pressure if you can, but don’t forget that too high a pressure, in conjunction with a high operating temperature, can cause frothing. Fuels are a great thing if you know how to employ them, although it is not enough to fill the tank with dope and leave the carburation to do the rest. Be careful about leaded fuels with side-valve engines, and don’t forget that alcohol fuels only give increased power if you richen up your carburetter setting to suit them.

And such and such. I see you’re getting bored with engines. The bodywork, of course, you designed before anything else, so I suppose you have got something that looks like 160 m.p.h. I was only trying to make the performance match the streamlining…

I am, Yours etc.,

“Sardanapalus”

Sussex.

 

Sir,

I was interested to read your notes on the Marendaz Special in the February Motor Sport, particularly the footnote at the end, in which the statement is made that it is believed all the “11/55” Anzani-engined models are defunct, save for one, perhaps, in use overseas. From this it would appear that I am somewhat unique in possessing possibly the last of the “11/55s” in the country. For I actually have one! Mine is the Marendaz that broke the 1,500 c.c. F-Class 24-hour record (in 1929, I think). I actually purchased the car from Mr. Hanks, in 1936, I think.

I had plenty of fun out of the Marendaz, which would put up a good performance, despite its age, and the acceleration was everything one could want. As I disappeared from “civvy street” in August, 1939, the car has been off the road since then. However, I still have it, and see no reason why it should not burn up a few more miles after this present business is over.

I am, Yours etc.,

H.R. Maule, Lieut., R.A.

Caversham, Reading

[We are glad that an Anzani-Marendaz, and an historic one at that, has survived the passing years. Curiously, another has come to light at a London dealer’s. Hanks is now a Bugatti-enthusiast, of course. – Ed.] 

 

Sir,

We have been unable to deliver awards won by the following in Vintage. S.C.C. events in 1939, as the parcels have been returned from the addresses given us. I should be grateful if you could assist me to trace these people so that we may deliver their awards to them. Here are their names: G. Wood (S.S.); D. Smith (Aston-Martin).

I am, Yours etc.,

Anthony S. Heal.

Red Hill Cottage, Denham, Bucks.

[Will those concerned please contact Mr. Heal direct. This is a nice little reminder, incidentally, that the broadminded Vintage S.C.C. admitted modern cars to its events. – Ed.]

 

Sir,

Having read Motor Sport for years and having owned a fair number of vintage motors, I am rather surprised to find that you, and a good many of your readers, still “boost up” the vintage car against the modern high-performance car.

My own vintage cars have all been acquired due to lack of capital to buy a good modern type, and I had generally supposed that other vintage owners were, with obvious exceptions, attracted to this class of car solely for this financial reason.

A recent article in the The Motor suggests that sports cars, as such, will die out after the war. This seems possible, the streamlined saloon was making progress just before the war and may well supersede the open type. Obviously a D.H. coupé is the ideal type, but the saloon will give greater performance.

An open car is all very well if one can afford to keep it for the day upon which summer falls, but anyone who claims to enjoy a 300-mile drive in the depths of winter with slimy-clad roads and a blizzard, or who revels in being soaked to the skin as often as possible, when he could be warm and dry in a saloon or D.H. coupé, is either a fool or a liar.

In decent weather I am all for an open car, but for a person who really uses his car in Britain the percentage of rotten days is so high that some protection is definitely desirable, and anyhow, the saloon goes faster – the die-hards should remember the Alfas and B.M.W.s at Le Mans.

I suggest, for the good of the British motor industry, that the people “who truly believe that motor-cars to their taste have not been made since around the year A.D. 1931” (according to your recent editorial), should be allowed to ponder upon the excellence of some of the cars that came from over the Channel immediately before the war.

Probably the best car in the world as a sports-road car, on a basis of price, upkeep cost and performance, for its capacity coupled with roadholding and road safety, is the 328 B.M.W., or the 327, if you like the extra comfort, but there were many other Continental motors that “showed us the way.” The Lancia, in its class, the Delahaye, Hotchkiss, etc., etc.

I hate to boost foreign cars at the expense of our own, but unless we realise the true position and “get our finger out ” before hostilities cease, we shall be nowhere in the foreign market.

After the last war we lost the foreign trade to the Americans due to lack of foresight, and if large bodies of people still believe that the 4 1/2-litre Bentley is the best car in the world we are on the way to repeating the performance.

Take the normal family type of British car, an absolute abortion, compare it with the Citroen, Opel, Fiat. It is obvious that our people just don’t know the first thing about chassis design and they still believe, apparently, that lots of good solid dead-weight helps to keep the car on the road, and to hell with fuel economy, acceleration and braking.

If one gets an average British light car up to 60 the steering gear becomes merely an aiming gear, and at the first corner it is a toss up which hedge you go over.

Let us hear a bit more about Lancias and B.M.W.s, and let us appreciate how really good they are, then we shall be on the way to beating them up; but if we continue to live in a world of 3- and 4 1/2-litre Bentleys, “30/98” Vauxhalls, 3-litre Sunbeams, etc, then, for our postwar markets, Grand Prix racing, or sports car racing we can say that “we’ve had it.”

I am, Yours etc.,

B. FitzPatrick.

Larribley, Notts.

[On the subject of English weather, the editorial Lancia had no hood and we only recall getting drenched on a very few occasions, although it was used nearly every week-end and on several weekdays over a period of eight months. But to a very large extent we agree with Mr. FitzPatrick. Obviously, every vintage car owner is not financially embarrassed, as witness the excellent, rebuilds – such as Lycett’s 8-litre Bentley. Remember, too, there are 328s and 328s. – Ed.] 

 

Sir,

While I agree with your views on the scrapping of old cars, I fear I do not share your optimism that the Government might allow picked specimens to be saved. My opinion is that the cars are not merely wanted for scrap but to ensure that they are not used again after the war, an idea which would no doubt have the backing of the insurance companies.

There was no labour available, we were told, to remove obsolete types of lampposts, or Belisha beacons, those useless memorials to a useless M.O.T., which disfigure our most beautiful villages. Then, last, week, I read that a number of Napier “Lion” engines were being offered to the public for about £17 10s. (Special builders, please note), by a private firm which had bought them from the Air Ministry. Reason – no labour available to dismantle for scrap.

Now, if the Government cannot break up their own aero engines how can they find labour to scrap other people’s cars? I fear there is only one answer.

Personally, I doubt if more than a small fraction of the 250,000 will be dealt with during the war. The rest will be scrapped after the armistice, but they will be scrapped. Preference will probably be given to those in running order.

What about lorries, buses, traction engines, etc? There are quite a few in breakers’ yards. Surely they would provide more material for the same labour than cars. And most of the A.R.P. ambulances in this city should be on the scrap heap.

I am, Yours etc.,

J.H. Balleny.

Birmingham.

[The drive started with obsolete A.R.P. vehicles, and may embrace traction engines in time, in which case we suspect there will be precious few vintage cars spared. – Ed.]

 

The Midlands Motoring Enthusiasts’ Club.

Sir,

We wish to thank you again for the mention of the Club in your columns and also to let you know that we had another very successful meeting on May 5th.

Mr. C. R. Southall, veteran car enthusiast and competitor in a number of veteran car rallies and competitions in pre-war days, gave members a most interesting film show of Shelsley, Donington, etc., which was much appreciated by everyone who was there.

Afterwards there were one or two rather heated discussions on such subjects as “Do trials damage a car?” in which Mr. Gilbert Couzens, present owner of one of the “Cream Cracker” M.G.s, held forth at some length, his contention being that they do not. Mr. Woodhall, well-known Midlands trial competitor and H.R.G. owner, held the opposite view.

I am, Yours etc.,

On behalf of the M.M.E.C.,

Stewart Forrest, Chairman

Birmingham, 5.

 

Sir,

I have been meaning to write to you for a long time to congratulate you on the great effort in keeping Motor Sport going. Actually, my November and December, 1942, copies have gone astray, and until the arrival of the January copy a day or two ago I had begun to fear that our last link with the good old days was broken. Please do not let this happen.

Incidentally, I have been giving quite an amount of thought to the sort of car that we want in the future and find that my ideas more or less coincide with those of the late F/O. W. J. Seale, expressed in his letter in June, 1942, but are rather more detailed. I am hoping to put them on paper during the next few weeks and will send them on to you by fastest possible means (which is pretty slow) as they may be of use.

As regards the 18 mm. crankpin diameter for the proposed Lory V 12 engine, this is obviously fantastic, as it gives the impossible stress of 25 tons/in.2, simply due to the engine torque. From consideration of the 1 1/2-litre Straight Eight Delage crank dimension, I arrived at a diameter of 44 mm., making allowance for a V 12 shaft being shorter than a Straight Eight, and thus I suggest that the 18 mm. is a misprint in the original article, and should be 48 mm. The likelihood of this is increased by the French practice of invariably writing figure one with an upstroke. The stress in the 1 1/2-litre Straight Eight engine is 1.5 tons/in.2

I am, Yours etc.,

J.S. Moon, Captain.

By Airgraph. M.E.F.

[We shall look forward to publishing Captain Moon’s observations on design for the future in due course. We showed his comments on the Lory crankpin to Mr. Lowrey, who replies as follows:–

Thank you for allowing me to see Captain Moon’s letter. The article on M. Lory’s G.P. project has aroused far more interest than I anticipated when I sorted out the rough notes I made for personal information.

With regard to the 18-mm. crankpin, this was apparently intended to be the diameter. Captain Moon is probably right. in suspecting a printer’s error in the journal, the nominal stress figure which he correctly quotes being “impossible” indeed. – J.L.]