W. Boddy replies to "Baladeur's " Book Review


I do not know whether it is or is not the ” done thing ” for an author to reply to the reviewer of one of his books, but I have done so many ” not-done-things ” in journalism that another lapse will not make any difference.

“Baladeur’s” review of my book, “The Story of Brooklands,” was far more complimentary that I deserve, and I want, for my part, to pay my respects to him  for being the first person to clarify the mystery of Nazzaro’s 120-m.p.h. Brooklands lap of 1908  —  a mystery that has persisted for forty years. I have not had time to turn up any further contemporary reports of this event, nor am I a good enough mathematician to work out, from the lap-times we have, whether “Baladeur’s” solution is entirely water-tight. But he does seem to have explained satisfactorily how the Napier could have led the until it retired and yet have been the slower car, and he also offers what looks to me a perfectly reasonable explanation of how the time-keepers’ mistake about Nazzaro’s 120-m.p.h. lap may have arisen, while at the same time exonerating the electrical timing apparatus.

I am in agreement with most of “Baladeur’s” criticisms of the book, but for the sake of historical accuracy would like to make the following observations.

Pilette’s Mercedes of 175 by 155 mm. is still something of an unsolved mystery, for “Baladeur” quotes it as a 120-h.p. 1907 G.P. type, but E. K. H. Karslake (Motor Sport, June, 1927) gives these cars as 175 by 180 mm. and the 1906 G.P. Mercedes as 175 by 150 mm. cars.

The first Itala that Campbell drove I am inclined to think was developed from a standard chassis and certainly was not the 1924 Coppa Florio car which Karslake later owned. That latter car, by the way, eventually ended its days at a garage on the hill behind Benson aerodrome, after a Vauxhall engine had been forced into the long-suffering chassis. Undoubtedly Nazzaro won the Targa, not the Coppa, Florio in 1907; that mis-statement was pure carelessness on my part. The actual dimensions of Robertson Shersby-Harvie’s Itala are given in the B.A.R.C. records as 125 by 175 mm., 8,590 c.c. Now the Autocar of February 8th, 1913, gives the bore and stroke of the standard rotary-valve “50/70” Itala as 130 by 160 mm. and the issue of May 24th, 1913 quotes the 1913 rotary-valve Grand Prix car as of 125 by 170 mm., 8,344 c.c., not 125 by 160 mm. suggested by “Baladeur.” So it does seem likely that Shersby-Harvie had a rotary-valve engine, unless “Baladeur” can discover a poppet-valve 125 by 175 mm. Itala.

So far as Mrs. Duller’s 1913 Sunbeam is concerned, the Race Card is at fault here, as it gives the dimensions as 80 by 149 mm. (near enough to the G.P. car’s 80 by 150 mm.), but the capacity as 5-1/2 litres. Clearly it was 4-1/2 litres and establishes this car, I think, as having been one of the 1913 G.P. team.

Regarding the Naudin’s Voiturette  records of 1908 and “Baladeur’s” query of his 1/2mile and one-hour speeds, I have before me the B.A.R.C. Record Book for that year and entry No. 58 confirms that the Sizaire and Naudin Type X, series G.P., covered a flying half-mile at 66.48 m.p.h. and 65 miles 755 yards in one hour, so I am correct on that score. I think perhaps a half-mile was timed during the hour run, which would explain the unexpected similarity in the speeds. I quite agree that there was no A.C.F. Voiturette  G.P. in 1909 and that the Lion-Peugeot of that year was the Coupe de l’Auto car. The fact remains that B.A.R.C. record entry No. 70 of November 3rd, 1909 states that this 6.18-h.p. Lion-Peugeot  “Complied in all particulars with Regulations of A.C. de France for Grand Prix des Voiturettes except as regards exhaust box which complied with 1909 Regulations.”

I am, Yours, etc.,

W. Boddy

London, E.C.1