Emphasis on economy
Further reductions in petrol rations prompt the inclusion of these notes on two cars which, if not of sports type, are of some topical interest to the enthusiast – Ed.
Certain cars, whilst not ranking in the sports category, nor even in the luxury class, lay claim to Vintage status by reason of their peculiar merits and characteristics. Such a car was the stubby and uncompromising little 7-h.p. Jowett of 1923/25. It did not invite you to rebuild it as a “Special,” it refused to respond to amateur tuning, and with its “austerity” body lines, snub nose, and “semi-detached” looking axles it was not beautiful. Yet few cars have inspired their many owners with such fierce loyalty and partisanship as these sturdy little Yorkshiremen.
I have owned four specimens; a short and a long 2-seater, and two long-chassis 4-seaters. Each had been consigned unjustly to the breaker’s yard, and each was rescued on sight. Not one of them knew a covered garage during my ownership, but summer and winter alike they started on a pull-up, their reliability was proverbial, and their m.p.g. varied from 40 to 50. Their unlovely square-cornered bodies were all aluminium-panelled, the paint stayed put, and the hide upholstery shone the seat of one’s pants but refused to wear out.
I have always considered that the old fixed-head engines were in many respects to be preferred to the later models, and at least one of my cars had covered 90,000 miles without a rebore. An enormous crankshaft ran in bronze bearings, renewable, so I was told, for about 4/9, though I have yet to meet an owner who has replaced one. The earlier models occasionally gave some anxiety due to the failure of the oil-pump to prime, but nothing ever seized, and one simply refused to look at the oil-button on the dash for the next 20 miles, by which time one had forgotten about it. The gears were changed by a delightful little right-hand lever operating split selectors in the gate, and went home with a satisfying click When well judged, otherwise emitting a horrible scrunch of protest.
The brakes were fun. A foot transmission brake behaved in the manner of its kind, and the hand-brake was used as an emergency measure. As the errandboy darted from his side road you yanked heartily on this appendage, the car said “Yonk,” or “Gluck,” depending on the general tightness of everything, and forward motion ceased if the road was dry. If not, subsequent directional control depended on one’s reflexes and the high-geared steering.
The Jowett had other advantages; the snootiest insurance company would cover them for a song, on the assumption that dicing was unlikely to take place in so venerable an equipage, and ten shillings taxed them for a month and bought a gallon of petrol into the bargain. It was all thanks to these clemencies that many of my trips to Donington and Shelsley were possible at all during numerous financial crises of the early 1930’s.
The acquisition of my last long 4-seater was inspired by a discussion with the Editor of Motor Sport on really cheap long distance motoring, and I determined to embark on a fortnight’s holiday in an equipage costing no more than fifty shillings. I had recently acquired a mongrel o.h.v. Morgan-J.A.P. for £1, but since my crew was to number three, complete with female luggage, this entrancing vehicle was out of the question, and a capital outlay of 47/6 produced a 1924 Jowett, devoid of battery, horn, spare cover and rear upholstery of any kind. I took delivery of my bargain the evening before my leave started, borrowed a battery, fitted a scrap cover, and filled the rear seats with an assortment of sitting-room cushions, before gingerly introducing her to her horror-stricken crew.
We upped anchor at dawn, averaged 26 m.p.h. over the 100 miles to Doncaster and then, with her foot, on her native heath and the crew’s apprehensions partially lulled, the machinery commenced to boil. And she boiled regularly at ten mile intervals for the rest of our association with her, despite frantic efforts to trace the cause and pounds of soda in her cooling system – by the time the west coast of Cumberland was reached at least one member of the crew had shown real talent as a water-diviner. Her powers were unimpaired, however, and she coped with the really trying gradients of those mountainous parts in a manner that endeared her to us all, completed 1,200 miles with no other fault than her chronic thirst, and on the return journey covered the final 30 miles in 55 minutes, non-stop, finishing, bone-dry and glowing cheerily, in the dusk.
About that time I was associated with a much speedier edition of the marque. A Jowett-minded friend, a keen driver with some trials experience, bought the wreckage of a 1935-6 “Kestrel” saloon, which had only 4,000 miles to its credit when it crashed badly, wrote off its body and put some nasty kinks in its frame. The bodywork was wrapped, the frame straightened, the compression raised and special Terry valve-springs fitted. A downdraught carburetter was fitted to each cylinder, the steering rake altered, and the suspension slightly stiffened. A quite attractive close-coupled 4-seater body was built, of ash and aluminium sheet, and a neat hood was made professionally.
This car, though not fast by modern sports-car standards, would stand more prolonged caning than any 7-b.p. car I have known, and on an illicit run down to Starkey’s after a Donington meeting clocked 68 m.p.h. Incidentally, the addition of a special exhaust system produced such a frightening animal-snarl on the overrun that it was hastily discarded as a breach of the peace.
The idea of supercharging by belt-driven Centric was toyed with, in view of the generous margin of safety given by the engine’s main components, but I believe that the House of Jowett evinced such shocked disapproval on being lightheartedly approached for advice that the plot was abandoned! The car was invariably and savagely over-driven on all gears, but it took everything it got and gave its owner many thousands of miles of reliable motoring at 33 m.p.g., for a capital outlay of about £50 and some interesting hard work.
– and Ralph Venables on the B.S.A. Three-wheel
In a short article appearing in Motor Sport for July of last year, I mentioned that I was then compulsorily laying up my Aston-Martin in favour of a three-wheeler, and I will readily confess that the prospect seemed anything but inviting. I had not, at that time, actually taken possession of the B.S.A., and I must admit straight away that my first experience of “tricycling” was an absolute revelation. That, of course, is not to say I wouldn’t have preferred to keep the Aston motoring, but in the twelve months during which I have run the three-wheeler I have come to the conclusion that this type of machine is possessed of a peculiar attraction, and I am now seriously considering the permanent addition of a tricycle to whatever sort of post-war stable I may be able to afford. I might add that the old Aston Martin will be retained, and that a Jeep will be acquired within a few minutes of the armistice having been signed.
The Editor’s request for some general notes on my experience with the B.S.A. has, in a way, come at an unfortunate time, for it coincided with a disconcerting visit from a Petroleum officer – the aftermath of which was a polite but firm request from Tunbridge Wells for the immediate surrender or my meagre three units – the consensus of official opinion being that I could walk instead. So, as I pen these notes, my motoring days are numbered, and in future I shall have to make my journeys by bicycle, bus or Fordson tractor. (P.S. – The Petroleum Board has suddenly seen the error of its ways and has doled out a fresh supply of units in something which amounts almost to a spirit of abandon. Now I can stop pretending that I didn’t mind laying up the car.)
I formally took possession of the tricycle on July 1st, 1942, and, in common with all other owners or two- and/or three-wheelers, was blessed with a basic ration for use until the last day of November. Only three gallons per month, admittedly, but on this the B.S.A. has carried me down to the Dorset Coast twice and to Wiltshire and Gloucestershire on three occasions, and has, in between whiles, transported many heavy loads and made innumerable journeys in Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire. During my twelve months of ownership I have covered well in excess of a thousand miles – always entirely free from trouble – and my affection for this slightly ludicrous little vehicle has increased with every mile. It still amuses me to catch sight of the darned thing reflected in a shop window, and it is worth mentioning that I have yet to pass a Canadian or American without suffering the humiliating embarrassment of seeing him convulsed with merriment. I once gave a Canadian soldier a lift down the Portsmouth road, his only comment being to the effect that the folks back home would never believe it!
My particular model is of 1931 vintage, and is, of course, f.w.d. Violent acceleration imparts a fascinating sort of “whip” to the steering which I shall definitely miss when I return to more orthodox transmission. The engine is an air cooled o.h.v. twin, and is automatically lubricated by a rotary gear pump at the end of a vertical shaft driven through spiral gears by the crankshaft. The o.h.v. gear is lubricated by oil mist forced out of breather grooves cut in the four tappet guides, despite which they are very noisy. Oil pressure starts at about 25 Ibs./sq. in. when cold, and falls to between 5 and 6 after about ten miles of hard driving. I succeeded in seizing the engine on my initial run, but this trouble has been completely overcome and the compression is still admirable.
Suspension is definitely on the whimsy side. A shock-absorber is fitted to the rear wheel arm, but at no stage of adjustment is it entirely effective. Keeping it tight, and the rear tyre well inflated, proves to be best, but although this largely overcomes the tendency to pitch and roll, it produces a marked desire on the part of the rear wheel to dance sideways when travelling over any but the smoothest of roads. Low pressure in the back tyre only overcomes this fault at the point where steering has become more than a shade vague.
A special bridge piece is provided to enable both front wheels to be jacked up together, but this is absent on my car, and the procedure is simply to lift one wheel clear of the ground and slip a chock under the axle. Here, of course, is one of the great advantages of lightness (the car weighs under 7 cwt.), and it is due almost solely to the excellent power/weight ratio that one obtains such phenomenal acceleration and top-gear hill climbing. The triangular frame twists pleasantly (I dislike the “dead” feel of a rigid chassis) and the rear wheel is supported on one side only (by a strong arm), the rear spring being enclosed in the frame member.
My model is blessed with five lights ahead and two astern, and it sports two screen-wipers – suction on the left and electric on the right. The varying speed of one to the other tends to be distracting, and I normally deny my passenger the luxury of being able to see through the glass on a rainy day. What’s the good? It only terrifies them all the more.
The brakes are really fine, and a spring box to ensure evenly balanced braking is fitted to the rear brake rod. Descending steep hills, however, one is well advised to apply the pedal with caution, otherwise there is a definite tendency for the back of the car to lose contact with the ground. And talking of hills, the front wheels are very prone to spin when climbing rough surface’s and I have several times been forced to scale a muddy slope in reverse. On the average trials-section a three-wheeler is unsatisfactory, mainly on account of the aforementioned wheelspin. But there is a another disadvantage, this being that the back-wheel has a sort of complex. No sooner does it find itself on a slippery surface than it commences sudden and spasmodic attempts to get around to the front of the car, and it occasionally succeeds. No amount of twirling of the steering-wheel will discourage it, and the only sure method is to stop the car and start all over again. This may sound a little far-fetched to many readers, but any tricycle exponents who chance to see these words will read them with a sigh of sympathetic understanding.
I have, however, stressed the bad points rather than the good, and the latter certainly far outweigh the former. The urge is nothing short of inspiring and the figures from 0 to 50 wouldn’t disgrace many a large car of far greater reputation. I must admit, though, that at about 55 I feel for a fourth gear which just isn’t there, but this is obviously the result of nearly ten years experience with the Aston-Martin (where 55 m.p.h. is about the most effective speed for changing into top gear). One rarely drops to first, and I have yet to find a main-road hill which couldn’t be climbed in top without effort.
Several well-known trials sections have been tackled with the B.S.A., and I shall not readily forget the amusement of some locals when we dug in on Hatch Farm and proceeded to lift the back clear out of the mud and turn the car completely round. This is the sovereign method of turning in a narrow space, of course, and a person of average strength can just manage it alone. Also at Hatch Farm I contrived to turn the car on to its side, but a gentle push against the bank with my hand brought us back on to an even keel. The hackneyed question, “Have you turned it over yet?” as applied to all owners of three-wheelers is, I feel, entirely without justification. I have poked the B.S.A. round corners in a quite outrageous manner, and I find that the point at which sliding sets in occurs prior to any signs of wheel-lifting.
So much for the B.S.A. tricycle. With such a performance from an elderly model, one wonders why the potent Morgan was not more popular. One also wonders why production of the B.S.A. ceased in the middle thirties, and it can only be supposed that there is a groundless prejudice against three wheels. That view, I suggest, could be held by nobody who had any experience of these fascinating little vehicles, and I certainly have the war to thank for introducing me to the tricycle. In the immediate post-war period a lively car doing 50 m.p.g. and taxed at a mere £5 per annum is liable to be an uncommonly useful possession.
The results of the Aero Modeller petrol-driven model car contest have been announced. Models had to be timed over ten flying laps of a circuit measuring between 50 and 70 ft. in diameter, and were divided into Class A for cars not exceeding 6 c.c. and 9 in. track by 15 in. wheelbase, and Class B, for cars of 6 to 10 c.c, and not exceeding 11 in. track by 20 in. wheelbase. Class A was won at 36.7 m.p.h. by T. Cruickshank, of London, with an M.G. Midget powered with a 5 c.c. Kestrel engine. Class B went to F. G. Buck, of Stoke-on-Trent, at 40.5 m.p.h., with a car having a 7. 1/2 c.c. Givin Aero motor. Details and photographs of these model cars are given in the Aero Modeller for June. Mr. Cruickshank’s car bears a fair resemblance to the “Magic Midget” and has a wheelbase of 10 3/4 in. and a track of 6 1/4 in. It is now doing around 40 m.p.h. Mr. Buck’s car resembles no particular prototype, but perhaps gets away from the general tendency to use unreal wheelbase/track proportions and to ape dirt track lines, more than any of the other models. It has a wheelbase of 12 in., and a 7 in. track and f.w.d., the front wheels being independently sprung. American 3 1/2 in. Sieberling tyres on disc wheels are used and the specification includes free-wheel starting pulley, ballbearings for the front wheels and driving gears, and a universally-jointed propeller shaft. The chassis is liberally drilled and the model weighs 4 lb. all-up, a previous 10-lb. model being deemed too heavy. This car was clocked round a 26 ft. circuit on which 45 m.p.h. is “pretty hectic.” The runner-up in Class B was R. H. R. Curwen’s model, at 33.7 m.p.h. It is said to be based on an E.R.A, but looks more like a dirt-midget. The engine is a 2-port, 2-stroke of Mr. Curwen’s own design and the drive to the front wheels is via a centrifugal clutch. The wheelbase is 11 in., the track 7 1/2 in. and 40 m.p.h. is now being achieved. All these models use 2-stroke engines, f.w.d., and disc wheels and are appreciably slower than America’s models. Much more ambitious is the scale model S.S. 100 2-seater of D.A. Russell, Managing Editor of the Aero Modeller, which is based on his own 2 1/2-litre S.S. 100 and very sensibly scaled around its 5 1/4 in. India tyres. This gives a wheelbase of 19 in., a track of 9 1/2 in. and an overall length of 26 in. The 10 c.c. Dennymite 2-stroke engine drives through a Curwen centrifugal clutch, which engages at 1,500 r.p.m. and goes solid at 2,000 r.p.m., to a solid bevel rear axle, 1/4 in. in diameter. Fifteen ball races are used in all to ensure easy running and the all-up weight is 11 lb. The test runs have been made at 40-45 m.p.h. and later a 1.35-to-1 rear axle will be installed, which should give 60 m.p.h. at 5,000 r.p.m. We hope more such models will be built and run, perhaps for record attempts of considerable duration.
A rebuilt M.G. Magna
Gilbert Stiles tells how he bought a 50/-M.G. and converted it
IN early 1937 I found myself the happy owner of a very much decayed and battered MG. Magna (1,271 c.c., 57 by 80 mm. bore-stroke, o.h.c. 6-cylinder) for the munificent sum, so I thought at the time, of fifty shillings. Little did I know what I was letting myself in for. After a hectic towing trip, much enlivened by broken springs and lack of anchoring material, it was finally brought safely to rest in my private auto-wrecking department.
My next move was to demolish the body, which was a derelict close-coupled coupé. This turned out to be the shortest job of the lot, as the body simply fell apart when approached with a heavy hammer and a determined air.
The engine unit, axles and steering, etc., were all removed and stripped. The axles presented no bother except for the usual renewals. The road springs were re-set, polished and bound. The braking system was in a bad way and had to be extensively overhauled including the fitting of a set of new brake cables. The only modification to the chassis, other than paring down weight wherever possible, was the filing back of the wheel stops on the front axle, thereby giving a much sharper lock. I then turned my attention to the 60 m.p.h. part of the job. After deliberate and painful consideration (as costs were already galloping way past my modest estimate of the cash involved), I had the block sleeved back to standard size, the crankshaft reground and mains and big-ends remetalled undersize and bored out in line; also, the head was machined down 1/8 in. The inlet ports were opened out 2 mm. and, together with the exhausts, carefully polished. The combustion chambers were given much attention at the cost of many hours of midnight oil,” while bronze guides and special valves and springs were fitted and the head copperised.
Blue print and technical advice were very kindly given by University Motors, Ltd., and by their guidance I effectively reduced the fly-wheel to a mere shadow of its former self and lightened the various reciprocating parts. The crankshaft, rods and pistons were balanced, the pistons being Aerolite and of slightly higher compression ratio than standard. The M.G. exhaust and inlet manifold was discarded as having too many tight turns, and a separate outside exhaust system was built up, using seamless steel tubes arranged with long, down swept bends, welded to a steel backplate and running into a larger diameter pipe which was carried along the outside of the car into the existing flat type silencer situated immediately beneath the near-side door. Here a further modification was necessary, consisting of a sheet of brass, chromium-plated and suitably shaped to act as a guard against the hot exhaust pipe and high price of silk stockings. The inlet manifold was made by cutting an old Wolseley Hornet inlet in half, fitting the two sections with the carburetter flanges cut from the M.G. system and coupling the sections with a 1/2-in. balance pipe. The assembly was then fitted upside down.
At this point I should like to mention that I feel certain the careful attention given to the manifolds was responsible for a large part of the extra performance obtained. The body was found – as all good special bodies are – in a breaker’s yard, and came from a badly crashed 1927 Morgan “4/4” for the price of 10/-. After cuting the cross-frame down 4 ins. and closing the body in by this amount, it was found to be a perfect fit on the existing mountings attached to the chassis. The rear was sheeted over, covering the two slots for the Morgan wheels, and the spare wheel bolted on flat by means of a dummy hub and supported by brackets built up on the inside from the rear of the chassis.
With an eye to slime-storming and extra wheel adhesion, the 19-in. rims were duly swapped, with cash adjustment, for a set of 16 in., complete with large-diameter, low-pressure tyres; this entailed alterations to the axle ratio.
Finally, after many further visits to the haunts of special builders, the car was completed, having taken just on a year to build with extensive aid of the proverbial midnight lamp!
The roadholding, cornering and acceleration were excellent, and the steering very positive in spite of the low-pressure tyres. The braking, however, when used at high speeds, was conspicuous by its absence! Unfortunately, I have no performance records with me and am therefore reluctant to say anything further than that the comfortable cruising speed was in the region of 70 m.p.h., and flat-out speed around the 90 m.p.h. mark – not too bad for a 1931 car, I thought.
As the car was re-registered in 1938 it carries a licence plate of that year.