A Series of Interviews with Personalities famous in the Realms of Motoring Sport No. 7 — Kenneth Hutchison
Most drivers of note seem to prefer one motor car in particular. A strange point this; there appears to be no “best” car, just a number of excellent though widely different designs, each appealing to their own loyal followers.
The name of Kenneth Hutchison brings to mind a host of trials successes whilst driving Allard cars. But it is not so well known that Hutchison started his motoring career in 1932 with a Type 37 1 1/2-litre, 4-cylinder Bugatti, together with a Singer Nine, and various Frazer-Nashes. His racing commenced with the first Donington meeting when, it will be remembered, 1 1/2 litres was the limit of capacity. With his Papworth-tuned Type 37 he was successful in taking the lap record (60.3 m.p.h.) and, later, the ten-lap record (56 m.p.h.). This Bugatti performed most reliably. However, when, in the following year, Hutchison acquired a Type 37S 1 1/2-litre supercharged Bugatti, his troubles started and he had a succession of “blow-ups.”
In 1934 he realised that the then newly-introduced Ford V8 was the answer to successful and reliable trials participation, and accordingly exchanged the Bugatti for a V8. From then on, so to speak, he never looked back. He soon became so adept with this eminently trialworthy model that he carried all before him, gaining first-class awards in all the classic events.
During the course of this long and successful V8 career a vast number of Fords passed through his hands, and he even built two specials out of Ford V8 components.
With the advent of the Allard, Hutchison became their first customer, and since then has taken secondary interest in any other marque. During 1937 and until the banning of competition tyres, he found that the V12 gave the best results. With such a remarkably good power/weight ratio and comps. to transmit the power, the brute force so obtained could surmount almost any terrain. It was after the banning of comps. that the “Tailwagger” team made its debut. These V8-engined Allards had their weight well back, and overall were lighter than the previous Allards. The “Tailwagger” team comprised K. Hutchison, G. Warburton and S. Allard and was a serious and successful attempt to compete with the very strong teams of M.G.s and Austins then running in trials.
When the war came he sold his Allard; however, a short while ago he purchased the original Allard prototype (with Bugatti bodywork). This car, he says, is probably the best of them all — at least he likes it the best. The weight distribution seems to be just right and, indeed, the success that he has had with it in the post-war events indicates the excellence of both the car and driver. This stalwart motor car has won close on 300 awards and has probably given more service in competition and touring use than any other vehicle.
Besides owning the Allard, Hutchison also possesses a Ford V8 “Utility” waggon and a soothing Rolls-Royce “25.” His wife, also known in sporting circles, before her marriage, as Miss Kitty Brunch, has participated in several Monte Carlo rallies and numerous trials and rallies held in this country. She runs a Fiat “Topolino.”
Hutchison, tall and fair, with AngloSaxon clear blue eyes, talks a great deal of sense and has a broad philosophy not usually found in one so young. With regard to hobbies he says he has many; he is house proud, collector of antiques, fond of fishing and touring, particularly in Britain. “By that,” he says, “I do not mean getting into a car and blinding from one end of the country to the other.” He likes to explore the byways and discover the unfrequented villages. Life is so full of matters of interest, techniques to learn and practise, that he does not anticipate ever becoming bored. In his working hours he is an active director of Fry’s Die-Castings, Ltd. When we asked him what advice he would proffer to the less experienced, he showed modesty, finally suggesting that those who participate in the Sport should endeavour to cause as little outside annoyance as possible. Treat the Sport as one which, although liked by many, is disliked by quite a few. Do not let trials get a bad name on account of one member who, shall we say, buys an M.G., takes off the silencer, and wears a white helmet. Trials came very near to being banned before the war.
Hutchison regards the Ford V8 engine as the cheapest means of obtaining reliable power. The standard unit will give about 85 b.h.p., with very good power low down in the rev. range. It is not possible to tune a V8 engine very extensively on account of the poor water-cooling layout. With the exhaust gases doubling back through the block and the narrow and restricted water passages, prolonged high revs, almost always lead to disaster, directly attributed to overheating.
In an endeavour to obtain cooler running, an overhead exhaust valve conversion is manufactured in America. With this design an exhaust-over-inlet valve disposition is obtained. The exhaust valve is positioned vertically over the cylinder and the inlet porting and valves are unaffected. To fit this rig the exhaust valves are removed, together with springs and guides, also tappet barrels; in place of the latter a hollow, open-topped barrel is fitted. Brass pieces are supplied to cover the normal exhaust seats and adjacent cutaways, and provide a flat surface in the same plane as the cylinder face.
These brass filling pieces are drilled to allow a push-rod to run from the aforementioned barrel to ball joints on the rockers. A specially shaped head gasket is required. These heads give cooler running, higher compression ratio and slightly more power. Their chief disadvantages being the difficulty in obtaining a seal over the old exhaust valve position, and the fact that there is no provision for lubricating the overhead valve gear. Hutchison uses aluminium heads (in spite of their tendency to “grow” and corrode, rendering their removal sometimes difficult). It is considered that 1/16-in. is the best amount to remove from standard heads to raise the C.R. However, a considerable weight of metal can, with advantage, be removed from the fly-wheel. On the passenger version of the Type 51 engine the weight of the flywheel is 40 3/4 lb. This can be reduced to 26 3/4 lb. by machining away the top flange above the clutch face. This will not affect the slow running and will improve acceleration and allow quicker gear changing.
A Scintilla magneto is a very desirable modification, a special model of which is made to interchange with the standard distributor.
Various attempts have been made to improve the charge-filling to the extent of fitting eight Amal carburetters, but whereas there is obviously much scope in this direction, one just comes up against the old bogey of overheating.
To improve the Sport, Hutchison feels that with trials the same routes should not be used too often. The first time a route is used, the near-by inhabitants enjoy seeing the cars go by. The second time they put up with it, and after the fifth time they are hostile. Give places a rest and the inhabitants a rest. — D. P.