Motor Sport Road Test (Post-War Series) No. 5 — The Lanchester Ten Saloon



A small car which belies its size. Refinement and ability to average high speeds coupled with excellent stability and comfort.

When the new Lanchester Ten came along for test we anticipated refined motoring in comfort and security. We had not been in the car very long before we were enthusiastically expressing surprise —surprise at the performance of this modestly-dimensioned car and the way in which it could be handled. To say that a car gives the road-tester the impression of being larger than, in fact, it is, is hackneyed. But that is just what the 1947 Lanchester Ten does; it goes about the country like a good Sixteen. Moreover, its steering and suspension combine to provide handling qualities which those who are habitually in a hurry can really enjoy. Driving this outwardly dignified and sober car and going over it in the garage, one’s impression is that it has been designed by an enthusiastic owner-driver.

For instance, opening the alligator-bonnet, which has a good catch and is nicely balanced, a grease-gun and Wesco oilcan are found in clips by the radiator. The tool-kit, stored with the spare wheel on a shelf beneath the rear locker, is very comprehensive, even to two spare wheel-nuts, a valve spring, spare top for the grease-gun, etc. At night the Lucas headlamps enable one to drive safely at the car’s daytime cruising speed, and a well-placed foot “dimmer,” which functions pleasantly, puts out these lamps and brings in a Lucas F.T.600 “Passlight” (for which, incidentally, there is no other switch). The handbook supplied with each car is beautifully produced and sensibly planned. It is factors such as these that stamp the Lanchester Ten as a driver’s car.

We have already emphasised that the car performs astonishingly well for what is a really roomy saloon of but 10 R.A.C.-h.p. and 1,287 c.c. This is best emphasised by saying that not only will this Lanchester cruise at a speed of over 60 m.p.h. effortlessly and quietly, but, indeed, this becomes the natural gait whenever one is in a hurry. The lower-end acceleration, while extremely useable and adequate for rapid negotiation of traffic, is not so outstanding as what happens after the little engine has got into its stride. The pre-selector gearbox, of course, makes upward and downward changes a slick operation, and how fast one goes through the gears depends on how much load you are prepared to put on the back axle. The gear quadrant, on the right below the wheel, is well placed and the lever goes firmly and smoothly from notch to notch under finger pressure, but has to be pressed down, purposely, for reverse. The “clutch” pedal is reasonably light to operate, but one must remember to select the next required gear before using using it, otherwise it goes solid as a reminder that the driver has erred. At night, the lever position is not easily visible but the quadrant locations are absolutely positive. Here it may be said that the driving position is good, the steering wheel nicely in one’s lap after the bucket seat, which is massive and comfortable, has been adjusted, which is simple to do. The right-hand treadle accelerator is light to depress, the pedals well located. Visibility is moderate, but neither front wing can be seen and, in glancing sideways for cars approaching at junctions, the centre door pillars sometimes intrude.

One feature of the Lanchester which really is very effective and fascinating is that with the combination of Daimler fluid flywheel and Wilson gearbox the “clutch” pedal need only be used to effect gear-changes — car-control, as such, becomes a two-pedal job. In any gear the car can be brought to rest and held on the brakes; as soon as these are released it inches forward at tick-over speed until the accelerator is depressed. It is literally impossible to stall the engine. What this means to beginners or nervous drivers is obvious, and we are quite ready to admit that in the chaos of London traffic we, too, appreciated this foolproof control, which removed the fatigue from town driving.

To illustrate this commendably foolproof control we carried out two tests. A lady who had never learnt to drive got into the Lanchester and was able to concentrate entirely on steering it, remaining in top gear and getting away perfectly satisfactorily in that ratio, thereafter using only accelerator and brake. Next, we set the car going at tick-over in top gear, got out of it, and let it run along on its own, stopping it by leaning on the radiator grille or pulling on the rear bumper. Such is the action of the classic Daimler/Lanchester transmission. The same game could be played in 3rd gear, but the thrust in the lower ratios defeated us. Slowest speed in top gear cannot be quoted — because this astonishing car just goes down to infinity; so slowly will it go that eventually a hollow in the road surface will bring it to rest until a little more throttle is applied. That the 4-cylinder engine opens up smoothly, without trace of flat-spot, from 0+ m.p.h. in top to maximum, is to its everlasting credit; moreover, it does not convey how flexibly it is mounted, save when idling with a gear engaged and the brake holding the car.

Returning to open-road matters, we noticed early in the test how well the springing, with the coil-spring i.f.s. functioned. Bad surfaces were smoothed out most effectively, with merely the patter of wheels and slight shudder one associates with independent front wheels. We expected, in consequence, the usual lateral flexibility when going fast. Not at all! This Lanchester rolls very little and displays a quite remarkable “flat” or “even-keel” ride, with no pitching. Not only does this mean that this saloon corners at sports car speeds, but that back and front-seat occupants alike really enjoy extreme comfort, and are not thrown roughly about while the driver is in a hurry. Much of this stability must be credited to the “P.5” Luvax shockabsorbers, which most effectively damped rebound from the springs. At times, with a sudden change of direction, or on hitting a bad bump, the front suspension felt momentarily soft, but normally this was not the case and there is no gainsaying the fact that the Lanchester designer has achieved a remarkable balance between firm, and comfortable, suspension. Moreover, on dry roads or wet, we were quite unable to provoke a tail-slide, nor, under really spirited cornering, did the Dunlop tyres protest particularly loudly.

We see, then, a moderately-dimensioned yet roomy “Ten” which goes faster than most, is very simple to drive and which is comfortable yet stable. Add to this a high degree of refinement throughout the car and it will be appreciated that the Lanchester Ten justifies the price at which it sells. Not only is the engine silent until a faint chatter is heard approaching maximum r.p.m., but not a sound comes from the body, nor is wind-noise intrusive. The car is so quiet that wheel patter on rough roads is the only evidence of speedy motoring, although a rattle did develop at the front of the car after 800 hard miles. There is very little of the usual epicyclic gearbox hum and the gears are very quiet.

The steering gives a sense of really high gearing-2 1/2 turns are needed from one to other of a very generous lock, and the turning circle is 35 ft. It is accurate steering, has some castor action and becomes lighter the faster one drives. On certain surfaces front-wheel motion is transmitted to the driver’s wrists, but no movement is permitted through the column. On fast bends there is a tendency to over-steer. The brakes work effectively and silently, being progressive in action, if calling for fairly heavy pressure on the pedal for rapid stopping. The righthand dash-located hand-brake is easily reached and holds the car securely, but tended to be tricky to release. The brakes appeared to need adjustment after some 800 miles of fast main-road work, yet remained entirely adequate to the car’s speed.

At night, the lighting was truly 100 per cent. in power, although it was not easy to read the instruments at night. From left to right the facia carries a very generous cubby-hole with truly thief-proof lock, the lid shutting very effectively; lighting and ignition switches; a half-circle dial A.C. speedometer with mileage, trip and total, reading to 80 m.p.h.; oil and ignition warning lights each side of it; below the speedometer the petrol gauge (rather vague), electric clock and water thermometer (which never exceeded its customary 175° F.), all A.C.; starter and choke/slow-running controls; and a smaller cubby-hole.

The screen winds open by means of a centrally-placed handle; there are twin wipers which only function when the ignition is on, and an ash-tray for each occupant. Very useful is a petrol reserve control under the facia, which brings in the last one-and-a-half gallons of fuel. Each door has a small folding handle and a deep pocket; upholstery is quietly carried out in high-grade leather; the rear seat has a deep concealed armrest, and there are cut-aways for the rearseat passengers’ elbows — not very well located, we thought. The interior light is effective, the large rear window gives ample visibility for reversing, and no “grabs” are fitted — the excellent stability of the Lanchester renders them unnecessary. The direction indicators act well, remaining up until the wheel really has returned the car to the straight; they are controlled from the wheel-centre, as are the Lucas “Windtone” horns. The interior of the car conveys very well the refinement which the car couples with its manner of running.

At the rear is the large luggage locker and below it the spare wheel recess, in which are stored the tyre pump, jacking apparatus and the very complete tool-kit aforementioned. The rear number plate is lit by dual tail lamps and is behind glass. Under the bonnet the finish of the engine is fully in keeping with the remainder of the car. The dip-stick is accessible and the oil-filler is well located in the cover of the o.h.v. gear.

Using the Lanchester for nearly a four-figure mileage and driving it as though it were a sports car, we experienced no trouble of any sort, save that the choke control became disconnected. This was no embarrassment, as after a night in the open the engine started very easily and was quickly into its stride. No water and only a quart of oil was required, and fuel consumption came out at approx. 28 m.p.g. for the entire, certainly exacting, test. Incidentally, in spite of the fluid flywheel it is perfectly possible to tow another car, should such an occasion arise.

When we took the Lanchester to our usual test course it was dry, but a considerable wind was blowing. The self-change gearbox rather punishes the rear axle if “racing” get-aways are the order of the day and, although we found that 50 m.p.h. could be reached from a standstill in 19.2 sec., this was somewhat hard on the car and more gentle gearchanging was indulged in when making the runs from which the mean acceleration figures in the table were arrived at. Similarly, the makers suggest changing into top gear at 35 m.p.h. if the best acceleration is to be obtained, but we found it necessary to exceed 40 m.p.h. in order to get good figures. Again, the maker’s recommended maxima in the gears are 12 m.p.h. in 1st, 25 m.p.h. in 2nd and 40 m.p.h. in 3rd gear, but we found it possible to exceed these figures somewhat before valve-bounce came in, and would put the reasonable maximum in 3rd gear 47 m.p.h. A very pleasing discovery was that the speedometer was somewhat slow at 30 m.p.h. and again at 50 m.p.h., only being fast after 60 m.p.h. was reached. On the road it indicated 70 m.p.h. more than once and sat at 62 m.p.h. for many miles on end, which is a genuine cruising velocity of a mile-a-minute.

The best accelerative 1/4-mile (1/2-mile to get up speed) came out at 61.6 m.p.h., and the fastest standing 1/4-mile at 25 sec., while the best time for the 0-50 m.p.h. test, driving not too brutally, was 20.5 sec. The engine remained happy throughout, nor did the temperature go up, but clearly “Pool” petrol is not to the liking of this push-rod o.h.v. unit, and at all times it distinctly objected to being switched off and thumped away merrily on its own igniting arrangements.

Summing up, the latest version of the well-tried Lanchester Ten offers fast travel in extreme comfort and with a pleasing sense of refinement, and at all times and in all ways, save when one pays the petrol bill or measures the exterior, suggests that here is at least a sixteen horsepower car. Full details will be supplied on request by the Lanchester Motor Co., Ltd., Coventry, and the price, inclusive of purchase tax, is £927 2s. 9d.

W. B.

Lanchester Ten Saloon
Engine: Four cylinders, 63.5 by 101.6 mm. (1,287 c.c.). R.A.C.-h.p., 10.
Gear Ratios: 1st, 21.4 to 1; 2nd, 11.65 to 1; 3rd, 7.55 to 1; top, 5.0 to 1.
Tyres: 5.25 in. by 16 in. Dunlop low-pressure.
Weight: 21 1/2 cwt. (in road-trim with approx. 3 gallons of petrol but less occupants).
Steering Ratio: 2 1/2 turns lock to lock.
Fuel Capacity: 8 gallons (4 in reserve).Performance Data.
Acceleration: 0-50 m.p.h.: 22.8 sec. (mean of two-way runs).
s.s. 1/4-mile: 26.1 sec. (mean).
25.0 sec. (best run).
Speed: fs. 1/4-mile (approx. 1/2-mile run in): —
58.02 m.p.h. (mean).
61.60 m.p.h. (best run).
Maximum in indirect gears (corrected for speedo. error):
1st: 12 m.p.h.
2nd: 25 m.p.h.
3rd: 47 m.p.h. (maker’s maximum, 40 m.p.h.).
Fuel Consumption: Approx. 28 m.p.g.