Week-end with a Bradford

The Bradford, product of Jowett Cars Ltd., is really no mystery, for these sturdy vehicles are to be seen in increasing numbers on British roads, they are encountered on the Continent, and now they are bringing home the dollars, for America has come to appreciate how handy they are as a cheeky, “second-string” to bigger and faster cars.

During the Shelsley/Prescott week-end in June we covered nearly 500 miles in a De Luxe Utility version of the Bradford and the more and the harder we drove it the more it appealed to us. It would seem “just the job” for carrying the inevitable ancillaries of the racing car, for the conveyance of racing motorcycles, for solving business-transport problems, as tender to the sports car, or as the sole garage-occupant of persons whose occupations, families or taste in female companionship preclude fold-flat screens and the like.

Before Mr. Baldwin placed us in a De Luxe Utility Bradford and waved us away from Jowett’s Albemarle Street showrooms we rather felt that “any kind of van” would answer most, if not all, the foregoing requirements. Now, after a week-end devoted, between reporting two sprint meetings, to pressing hard on the Bradford’s throttle in traffic, on the open road, and down by-ways and country lanes, we know, to use an Irishism, that this car is not a van.

Apart altogether from the fact that the De Luxe Utility version is properly finished within and equipped with four really comfortable leather-upholstered seats, the handling, performance and economy are all in the private-car class. In addition, this Bradford has other qualities. You sit high, with grand driver-visibility, you can pack so much into the useful body, and there is the additional charm of having something under the bonnet that is distinctly different from the dully-conventional four-cylinder engine. We cherish the unconventional and naturally enthused over the Bradford’s power-unit, which is neatly summed up by a statement in the servicing data : “Firing order, 1.2.”  From which it is abundantly apparent that here you have a modernised version of the famous horizontally-opposed two-cylinder engine which Jowetts have been making successfully since 1906.

What, you may ask, are the misdemeanours of a flat-twin, made to take its place in a vehicle of the present day? We discovered only two  —  in pushing on too much throttle at low engine speeds the carburetter coughed politely once or twice during the test, as if to draw attention to our clotulence, and on very isolated occasions, having eased up momentarily, we noticed a “clonk” as the flat-twin vented its confusion on the transmission. We are assured that no harm results from this occasional difference of opinion between a transmission urged by the back wheels to keep going and an engine hoping for a respite. The engine starts with rather a bang, but did so every time, given choke, even after nights out in the dewy open.

In other ways this flat-twin is equal, indeed superior, to the fours. At normal and greater gaits it is not only inaudible, but is astonishingly smooth. Rubber mounting is no doubt the answer to such sweet running, but if it is, the gear lever does not wave about like a lily in a field to proclaim it, as on many multi-cylinder cars. Actually the engine is happy down to 15 m.p.h. in top gear. In spite of such reasonable behaviour, this sturdy 8-h.p. unit, which the engineers at Idle have persuaded to develop 19-b.h.p. at 3,500 r.p.m. from 1,005 c.c., endows the Bradford with unexpected liveliness. The 80-m.p.h. speedometer will show 50 plus along any main road for as long as you like and 60 or more comes up quite easily. In this country, of course, you have either to throw away the body or find a private road before you can do such speeds, which is a pity, because the Bradford’s engine is as smooth and quiet at 50 as it is at 40 or the legal 30. It is high time authorities abolished this stupidity, thus encouraging drivers to devote more attention to what is ahead and less to what is behind. The Bradford’s centre mirror is quite good, but would be better still were vision not affected by vibration and the rear door pillars.

The Bradford’s acceleration is as surprising as its speed capabilities. 35 m.p.h. can be had in second gear of the 3-speed unit box, but above 20 m.p.h. pick-up is very good in the highest ratio. Normally, therefore, you change into second as soon as you move off, then go into top at 20/25 and you still get along very nicely indeed. The engine is, obviously, well up to its job and you will find yourself regarding it, as we did, as at least a “ten” until you check the economy of its fuel consumption.

The characteristic chug-chug exhaust note is apparent only if you put your head out of the window or stand beside the car as it ticks over, when it certainly recalls the achievement of J. J. Hall’s record-setting Jowett (54.86 m.p.h. on 7 h.p. for 12 hours, as long ago as 1928). In its present guise a 30 mm. Zenith V-type downdraught carburetter feeds via long, water-heated induction pipes that also convey water from the engine to the radiator in its imposing chromium shell. The dynamo and battery of the 6-volt Lucas electrical system are very accessible, ignition timing and water flow are varied automatically, fuel feed is by A.C. pump, and the box-like crankcase and sump are of light-alloy. The compression ratio is 5.4 to 1 but, on “Gaitskell-white,” pinking only occured if too much throttle was given on too high a ratio up too steep a gradient.

The aforementioned briskness of the Bradford is matched by good handling qualities. True, on straight roads in a cross wind the car wandered a bit, but whether a larger rudder or more air in the tyres was the requirement we did not ascertain. We did discover that winding lanes could be negotiated in a fashion not in the least becoming to a “van” and from this ability real driver-joy resulted. The large-diameter steering wheel transmits no return motion, suffers no column movement and is unassisted by castor action, while 1-1/2  turns take it from one moderate lock to the other. The front wheels might be non-existent. If not entirely accurate this is very reasonable steering, with a tendency to oversteer and heavy at low speeds, but light enough when under way. Some lost motion was evident after 7,500 miles’ use.

The Girling brakes, too, were admirable  —  more progressive as pedal pressure increased, and. truly powerful without protest, effort or deviation from the required direction, unless a real crash-stop was made, when they pulled to the left but were otherwise impeccable.

These combined qualities of briskness, good handling, powerful brakes and an absence of effort from both engine and chassis make the Bradford a useful vehicle in which to hurry from A to B and on to C.

The body, apart from its car-type interior, has four windows on each side and one in each rear door. The windows in the front doors slide up and down; those immediately behind the doors open also. The rear doors are held by a single turn of the handle and the front doors and the bonnet open and shut easily. The roof light is useful, the facia lighting sensibly subdued, and the headlamps good, but in need of adjustment. Dipper, horn (which has a nice note) and non-cancelling direction indicator controls are accessible on an extension below the steering wheel. The central gear and brake levers are easy to reach for all save the very rheumatic, and the hand brake holds on the steepest hills, its ratchet also releasing satisfactorily.

The clutch is rather heavy and a trifle fierce, but obviously doesn’t know the meaning of slip. The gearbox has constant-mesh second speed gears engaged by dog-clutches but otherwise possesses no aids-to-learners. The lever is a bit stiff to move but double-declutch changes go through well, the r.h. roller accelerator being close enough to the brake pedal to permit “heel-and-toe” action. The second-to-top change is slow and apt to be audible if hurried and sometimes obstinate if left too late. The gears are quiet, second thus being useful in traffic, and the over-run so smooth as to suggest free-wheeling, although some noise is developed. Fumes and heat are absent. The Luvac-damped 1/2-elliptic suspension allows considerable movement at low speeds over bad surfaces but evens out well at cruising speed. The facia has a useful cubby hole and the usual instruments, including petrol gauge, 80m.p.h. speedometer with mileage recorder, and an oil gauge calibrated in “idle” and “driving” sections, the latter indicating over 40 lb/sq. in. throughout the test. The doors lock, but a turn-switch sensibly replaces an ignition key, so easily mislaid. Electric screen-wipers are provided but the blades were rather half-hearted. The screen does not open. The choke will stay fully out if its control is turned as well as pulled out, a useful feature. The spare wheel is in a concealed tray behind the rear number-plate and the rear pair of seats are easily removable, when 78 cubic feet of loading space becomes available. The seat-backs fold for ease of entry and steps are provided. A useful tool locker is located forward of the off-side rear wheel arch. The steering wheel obstructed easy reference to the speedometer. Visibility is a strong feature of the Utility body, although the nearside front mudguard is just out of sight. The fuel filler, on the mid near side, is rather small and fine-threaded.

We were in a hurry nearly all the time we had the Bradford yet it called for no oil, although a fair quantity of water was added at the finish of the warm week-end. We made several climbs up a back lane to the Rising Sun Hotel at Cleeve Hill, which called for bottom gear and made the engine smell hot, but no boiling was evident. The petrol consumption, checked over the entire distance, came out at over 32 m.p.g. No new rattles developed and those present concerned the rear doors, nor was any trouble experienced, save for a faulty bulb in one direction indicator.

Besides the De Luxe Utility, which costs £415, there are available the six-seater Utility at £340, a van at £310, a lorry at £300, and a chassis at £250, inclusive of p.t. where it applies. The impoverished post-war world so badly needs staunch transport of the sort which Idle is making that a chassis might be difficult to come by. Otherwise we would be tempted to suggest that with twin carburetters a low bonnet-line and open body, and perhaps a 4-speed Jowett gearbox and lowered chassis, the Bradford could proclaim itself an excellent austerity semi-sporting car. We would not express such an opinion had the Bradford Utility not impressed us as a very sound and pleasant vehicle during our week-end’ s acquaintance with it.  —  W.B.


The Bradford Utility

Engine: Two cylinders, 79.4 by 101.6 mm. (1,005 c.c.).  R.A.C. h.p  8;   19 b.h.p., at 3,500 r.p.m.

Gear Ratios: 1st, 18.1 to 1;  2nd, 9.3 to 1;  top, 4.89 to 1;   Reverse 24.7 to 1.

Tyres : 5.00 by 16 on Easyclean wheels.

Weight: 15 cwt. 3 qt. (in road trim with approx. 1 gallon of petrol, but less occupants).

Steering Ratio: 1-1/2 turns lock to lock.

Fuel capacity: 5-1/2  gallons (range approx. 175 miles).

Wheelbase: 7′ 6″;   

Track: 4′ 0-1/2″.

Overall dimensions: 12′ by 5′ by 5 9″.

Maker: Jowett Cars, Ltd., Idle, Bradford, and 48, Albemarle Street, W.1.