More Australian News

We print below a condensed version of an enthusiastic letter written to us last February by Robert Hood, of Victoria, Australia.—Ed.

At present I am enjoying my first home leave for over a year. I have just received a batch of Motor Sport and, on seeing your appeal for articles, etc, I have decided to write you another “newsletter.”

First, however, I would like to make a correction to my article in your May 1942 issue. In it I mentioned that my friend David Hawker had an “Alpine” Talbot here in Australia. This car is actually one of the earlier racing cars with “crash” gearbox.

I knew that he was having the Talbot engine fitted to an Atalanta chassis. Unfortunately the outbreak of war prevented the completion, of this project. David left England before the car was ready, and I understood that after the war he was going to continue with the idea. However, I may be wrong, and this may be (as you suggested) the car now owned by ME Nixon and described in the February 1943 issue. Nixon says that the car was completed in America and it is possible that David’s chassis was sent over there for completion after he left England. I would be interested to hear if Nixon’s car is really the same machine.

 There are two short articles in the February 1943, issue that interested me very much. The first was the newsletter from my friend R Beal-Pritchett, and the second was the article, “Australian Veteran and Vintage,” being a condensation of a letter from another friend, Nigel Pugh. There are some errors in this article too. Nigel ‘s TT Austin is Cozette blown, not “Roots blown,” as appears in the article. Then he mentions the Mercedes, that we now have in our scuderia as being a “1910 model raced in England in 1906.” This is obviously an error and actually we believe that this is one of the 1908 Grand Prix cars, presumably a sister to the one preserved in America.

In your March 1942, issue you show a photo of the Mercedes that won the 1908 Grand Prix. The similarity between it and Duckett ‘s car is very evident. On our car the wheels have been rebuilt to take modern tyres (Dunlop 21 in X 6.00 in at the back and 20 in X 6.00 in at the front). Also the body has been removed, presumably during the last war (see article “Veteran and Vintage” mentioned above). Duckett has restored every detail of the chassis to perfect order, and the car is a delight to the eye of an enthusiast. The plate on the bulkhead bears the following inscription :- Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft.

Best 648.    Com No 5871.

Mot No 10888.   Wag No 874.  

Gen Kg 1300.   PF SA 66.

Details are as follows : The weight in its present form is 21 cwt : wheelbase 8 ft 10 in, track 4 ft 81/4 in : bore and stroke approximately 7 in ; rated hp 78 : bhp 130.

Cylinders in pairs. Overhead inlet and side exhaust valves. Camshaft driven by external straight-tooth gears. There are two sets of cams, one for half compression and the other for full. 

Ignition—Originally soap and stone, but converted to ht with two Bosch magnetos. Three plugs per cylinder.

Lubrication—Gravity feed to mechanical plunger pump, which has about a dozen outlet pipes to main bearings, cylinder walls, etc. Camshaft lubricated by small drip oilers (the pump also has two drip oilers on the dash for the driver to observe in dull moments).

Transmission—Small cone clutch (diameter about 6 in) of steel, with no lining, and 4-speed box which incorporates a bevel drive to a countershaft, which carries a sprocket of about 19-in diameter on each side of the car. The drive passes from these, via chains, to the rear wheels, which have sprockets bolted on to the brake drums.

The gear ratios are : 1st, 5.5 : 1 ; 2nd, 2.0 : 1 ; 3rd, 1.6 : 1 ; 4th, 1.3 : 1.

Retardation— Two rear brakes with cast-iron shoes and no lining and a transmission brake with normal lining. The latter brake enjoys a pedal of its own. A second pedal operates the clutch and a third operates both the clutch and a brake arranged to act as a clutch stop.

Carburation—Originally fitted with a Daimler-Benz product operating like a lavatory cistern with chain throttle (figuratively). After the first run it was decided that this was unsatisfaetory, and a huge twin-choke Stromberg of modern design was obtained. This had been sitting in a shop window, presumably as an object of interest rather than one of utility, as there are very few engines as large as the Mercedes. The Stromberg gives much smoother running and a petrol consumption of’ 12 m.p.g.

Performance— The only figures Duckett has been able to obtain are the standing 1/4-mile in 19 secs. I believe it was timed in its original form before he bought it and gave about 110 mph (anyway, definitely over 100 mph).

Talking of veteran cars, there must be a number in Australia. I can recall a run organised at the time of the Geelong (Victoria) Centenary celebrations in about 1935. I seem to remember about 20 pre-1908 cars appearing in running order, including, a 1899 Panhard, a De Dion of about 1903 vintage, and a 1908 Austin, which seemed to be of quite modern design. In addition to these a friend of mine had a 1912 Minerva, with a very high body featuring an immense area of plate glass. This car had electric lights, run by a huge nickel-iron battery. The sleeve-valve engine was very easy to start and was far more silent than many modern engines. It was capable of about 50 mph. I also know of a 1911 Rolls-Royce in running order. In Sydney there is an early electric car in regular use ; it is very difficult to tell which is the front end, as it is almost symetrical. However, for all its odd appearance it has come into its own since petrol rationing was introduced. I know of other veterans stored away in various places, still in the possession of the people who bought them new. Unfortunately, some of these have suffered in recent scrapmetal drives,

Since my last article our scuderia has grown considerably. I have added a Vauxhall “30/98″ (engine number OE 276), and Peter Williams and John Floyd have acquired E-type ”30/98s.” At present my “30/98” is a very standard example, but I have hopes of “doing” things to it. It has a bath-like four-seater body. The wings were very bulbous affairs, so we cut more rakish ones from the original wings with the aid of a pair of hedge clippers. Peter’s E-type is also a four-seater, while John’s has a quite distinctive two-seater body.

Ian Williams had a “Blue Label” 3-litre Bentley tourer for a while. Hewever, the long chassis and “B” gearbox rather limited the performance. Accordingly, it was replaced by an 8-cylinder Delage saloon, to which Ian has fitted a gas-producer for war-time use. Ian has also bought a 350-cc TT Velocette, which will do 110 mph on racing fuel with 8 : 1 compression ratio, and 100 mph in its present form with 7 : 1 compression ratio and using a 10 per cent alcohol mixture.

The Williams brothers have persuaded their father to obtain a beautiful 3-litre “Speed-Model” Lagonda, with pillarless saloon body. The performance is not outstanding, but it is a delightful car to drive. Gear-changing with the crash box seems far simpler without the aid of the clutch.

Thus we now have in our scuderia four “30/98s” (2 OE types and 2 E types), Ian Williams’s TT Frazer-Nash, Delage and Velocette, the Lagonda and Duckett’s “Special” (Type 37 Bugatti chassis with twin-ohc Anzani engine). Then there is the Mercedes and Nigel Pugh’s TT Austin and Indian-engined “Special.” Finally, there is my Stoewer and Bruce Shanks’s “Red Label” Bentley.

In addition to the above, I have had two sv 8-hp Amilcars, a 1931 21/2-litre Citroen, and a 250-cc ohv BSA by way of transport at various Air Force stations. However, these hardly count as part of the scuderia. The two Amilcars gave me nearly 2,000 miles of war-time motoring in six months. The first of these had a rather nice sports body and a superb exhaust note, but little else to commend it. It embarrassed me considerably by shedding one of its rear wheels whilst I was cornering in front of quite a large crowd. Also, it had a fantastic thirst for oil. Accordingly I bought Amilcar number two, which I had seen outside a garage, suffering from a bent front end. From the two cars I made one quite respectable model. On being posted to my present station I sold the Amilcars. After being without transport for some time, I bought the Citroen, but I never seemed to have any petrol to run it. Thus I replaced it with the BSA, which I still have.

My previous experience of motor-cycles had been limited to my Indian, and before that a 1914 Triumph with belt drive and no clutch or gearbox. The Triumph was over 20 years old when I had it. I was about 14 at the time and it was the pride of my life. It used to go very well in dry weather, but in the wet the belt slipped continuously. Alas, one day the belt broke at speed, and before I could close the throttle, the engine had exceeded safe rpm and expensive noises ensued. While searching for parts I found one of these Triumphs that had only done about 3,000 miles ! Unfortunately the owner would not part with it for a reasonable sum, so I had to make other parts do. After much filing of pistons, rings, etc, I got the engine to run again, but its days were numbered, so I sold it for 30s. Thus, by comparison, the BSA seems very superior.

Incidentally the CO of my present station is an ardent enthusiast, and during the past seven months he has constructed a scale model of one of the twin-ohc racing Austins. The car was built to a scale of 2 inches to the foot. The only data he had to work from was the photo on the cover of the February 1943, Motor Sport and another photo in the Motor of January 6th 1943. The model is powered by a 10-cc single-cylinder two-stroke motor. The weight complete is 73/4 lb, and a speed of 60 mph should be possible, though no trial run has been made so far.

There are two obvious departures from the original. Owing to the design of the engine, the exhaust pipe had to be put on the wrong side of the car. Likewise the hand-brake lever, which operates the ignition switch, is also on the wrong side. The workmanship and finish is first class and the detail work of the steering mechanism and suspension is excellent.

Despite the fact that most of the cars in Australia are of American origin, there are quite a number of enthusiasts who possess sports cars, carefully stored, or under reconstruction for post-war activities. The popularity of the large American car is understandable when one considers their low first cost, their ability to deal with the very second-rate roads and tracks, of which Australia has plenty, and their cheap and abundant spares. Also they provide very generous luggage space, and their bodies keep out dust far more efficiently than most English bodies. Our family Dodge (a 1937 25-hp saloon) has now done 70,000-odd miles and yet the whole car is in excellent condition. In short, the American “tank” provides a very good means of transport for Australian conditions. Nevertheless, let us hope that there will always be enthusiasts who appreciate all that a sports car gives and which no family fugbox can provide.