Rumblings, July 1948
With but three miles free motoring a day (unless you are an unscrupulous business-motorist who has “swung” far more E-coupons than your business needs), British enthusiasts can be excused for discussing motoring (as distinct from fuel-rationing) ideals in the course of what the Bentley Drivers’ Club aptly terms the “natter and noggin.”
Thus the conversation turned, the other day, to the most desirable car from the personal aspect. One speaker, in real-life a vintage-car advocate, “saw the light” in respect of modern practice, but said “Let us at least go the whole way:” Asked to explain, he outlined a fully aerodynamic four-seater closed car, so well shaped as to happily exceed 100 m.p.h. on a high-geared o.h.v. 2-litre engine, and softly sprung, “on hydraulic suspension all round, if you like.” This just-not-futuristic car, cruising comfortably at nearly 90 m.p.h., was to be really well sound-proofed and to offer every conceivable mod. con. — radio, air-heating and conditioning, screen and window de-misting, electrical control of its epicyclic gear trains, engine and luggage boot lit up automatically as bonnet or boot were opened, R.R. type control of suspension hardness, seating as comfortable as that found in an air-liner, and so on. The experienced motorist who visualised this car said it could be made now, and probably will be marketed within the next five years. The Healey and Bristol already point the way. Its purpose, it was explained to several receptive listeners, would be to offer a compact, striking-looking car able to be handled like a modern racing-car and offering rather better everyday long-distance averages than can be encompassed at present by the private-owner aeroplane, and with less fatigue and a more moderate expenditure of petrol. The Italians already know what is in mind…
The less ambitious amongst us didn’t want to go quite so far, but one of us did murmur that a cheap-to-operate car of about 1-litre capacity, capable of a good performance on a 30/35 m.p.g. fuel consumption, is badly needed, yet, surprisingly, is an absentee from the British market. It was agreed that even non-trials drivers often toy with the theme of a Ford Ten engine in an Austin Seven chassis, because they seek the reliability of simple, proved components, coupled with the briskness which a good power/weight ratio gives. Some favour a quite standard engine, to make doubly certain of reliability; others seek to increase the power, such as Wharton did in the case of his Ford “Anglia” by raising the compression ratio and fitting a “Prefect” carburetter, prior to the Lisbon Rally. But the installation of the famous Ford unit into the Austin chassis isn’t as easy as it may appear at first sight, nor is the chassis entirely suitable, and as your Austin/Ford, with not-too crude bodywork, is going to weigh around 10 cwt. rather than the 8-1/2 cwt. that a 1923 road-test report quotes as the avoirdupois of the “Chummy ” Austin Seven of that year, why does not some manufacturer go further and fabricate a simple chassis of steel or light alloy tubes, incorporating simple and retaining proved components — perhaps a Vauxhall Ten or Rover Ten engine to give more urge? Such a car, which exists in Italy in the form of the Simca-Gordini and Cisitalia, able to do practically anything that a sports car of a decade ago and like-capacity could do, with greater economy, is surely just the job for home use and export success in the troubled times prevailing today? In somewhat more elaborate form and closed bodywork the Jowett “Javelin,” to much the same formula, is going well, in respect of both performance and sales.
However, each man to his taste, and one who will not be parted from his Vintage convictions spoke next. He realised that the pre-1931 vintage sports car is becoming a ticklish proposition to find, and more difficult to maintain and service as each year rolls by. But he thought a quality car of, perhaps, less distinguished performance but as great a worth, if such could be discovered, would serve him well for many moons hence, particularly in point of pride-of-possession. He told us to forget for a moment our “30/98’s” and 3-litres and consider the better Continentals of the late-vintage era. He waxed enthusiastic over such forgotten models as the 20-h.p. six-cylinder Rochet-Schiwider, with its elaborate lubrication system, that he had seen at the 1928 Paris Salon, the straight-eight 2-1/2-litre de Dion Bouton and Unic of the same era, the former using two oil pumps, one for sending the lubricant to a cooler and centrifugal purifier embodied in the flywheel; the straight-eight Renault with its before-the-engine radiator disguised as much as possible by radiator shutters and also using a centrifugal oil purifier (French designers were exploiting the straight-eight and had a craze for clean oil at this time, it appears), and other products emanating from such old French factories as those of Voisin, Peugeot and Panhard Lavassor, and which were new designs in the late nineteen-twenties. Oh, well! Each to his choice…
The Leonard M.G.
L. Leonard’s M.G. has been attracting favourable attention recently on account of its excellent performances in sprint events. At the May Prescott meeting it relieved Kennington of the Class Record for supercharged sports cars up to 1-1/2-litres with a time of 50.62 sec., and was second to Ansell’s E.R.A. in the 1-1/2-litre racing cars class; at Brighton last month it was third in the class for 1-1/2-litre racing cars, beaten only by a 6C Maserati and a “Shelsley” Frazer Nash; and at Prescott on June13th it again won the 1-1/2-litre sports-cars class, although not quite up to its class-record speed. Here is an account of this forthright M.G., culled from its owner.
He bought the car secondhand in 1938, as a four-seater N-type M.G. Magnette, and used it normally until 1942. He then removed the body and replaced it with something more sporting. In this form it clocked 64.8 sec., at the Prescott Meeting of May,1946, running unblown. For the July Meeting a Centric supercharger was added and Leonard got his time down to 59.1 sec. For the closing Prescott Meeting of 1946 he replaced the Centric with a standard Marshall supercharger itistallation, as sold for Magnettes of this sort — result, 57.95 sec.
The opening Prescott Meeting of 1947 was wet, but Leonard again won his class, in 53.87 sec. just beating Kennington. Then to Horndean, where this astonishing M.G. made f.t.d. in 20.7 sec., beating Leslie Allard’s Allard and Parker’s Jaguar, amongst other far larger cars. The linered cylinder block now began to protest and the liners, in creeping up the bores, damaged the gasket. So the engine was bored to its limit, a copper gasket fitted, and in the rain at the International Prescott Meeting Leonard yet again won his class, in 53.79 sec., from Kennington and Jacobs. Finally, so far as the 1947 season was concerned, the M.G. won its class at Merston, and, of the blown sports cars, gave best only to two Alfa Romeos.
That, coupled to what the car has achieved so far this year, made us prepared to find at least a K3 engine under the bonnet. The fact is, this M.G. is a practically standard N-type Magnette.
The block has been bored to 60 mm., giving a capacity of 1,408 c.c., and standard PB Aerolite pistons installed, giving a compression-ratio of 8 to 1.
The supercharger, as has been stated, is the standard Marshall-Roots layout produced for this engine, blowing at about 6-1/2 lb/sq. in. It draws from a S.U. carburetter. Crankshaft and connecting-rods are standard N-type, nor are “racing-fits” tolerated. Even the exhaust manifold is the normal inside-the-bonnet type found on production “N” Magnettes, although the Burgess silencer has been cut down to half its former length to render it more compact.
To avoid interference with the low bonnet line, a “K3” valve cover replaces the N-type with its “up-stairs” oil filler, and a Scintilla Vertex magneto is used. But that really exhausts the modifications made to the engine. It is run on 50/50 petrol-benzole, its Lodge HMP plugs seldom need attention, and it will exceed 6,000 r.p.m. comfortably if asked to do so. The rev.-counter drive, incidentally, is taken normally from the rear of the camshaft, which reminds us that Leonard has successfully overcome the snag of lubricant dribbling down the dynamo drive, the result being an engine which looks truly spick and span.
To this engine is mated a Type 75 E.N.V. preselector gearbox, taken from a Rapier, but now using the closer ratios found in M.G. boxes. It weighs 17 lb. more than the crash box it replaces, by the way. The gearbox casing and remote control are from a K-type Magnette, adapted to suit this particular E.N.V. box. The back-axle ratio is 5.375 to 1, being that used for the “PB” M.G. Midget, in conjunction with 16″ rear tyres, although 18″ tyres are fitted to the front wheels. Like many other sprint drivers, Leonard eschews racing tyres, finding normal road tyres preferable.
Surprising again is the chassis, inasmuch as it, too, is standard N-type Magnette, even the spring leaves being unchanged in number and the brakes likewise being entirely standard, although lined with Rabestos. The only deviation from catalogue in the chassis is the use of Hartford shock-absorbers at the back.
The neat body is the work of Harry Lester. It is a light-alloy two-seater, possessing a big tail — rather too big in Leonard’s estimation — to enable it to house a 14-gallon fuel tank with the spare wheel in a tray above it, the latter removable through the cockpit. Two bucket seats are accommodated on the plywood floor. The radiator is neatly cowled, with small Lucas head-lamps set side-by-side behind the grill, and the one-piece bonnet lifts off, its side pieces also being easily detachable. The instruments are grouped before the driver, with a business-like row of switches for the passenger to contemplate. Leonard was warm in his praise for the man who fabricated this simple yet effective body, which replaces a former effort constructed in Leonard’s front garden! The standard 12-volt electrical system supplied from two 6-volt batteries over the rear axle is retained. The steering wheel clamps and keys to the column so that it can be removed to facilitate ease of entry to the car.
Leonard has not weighed the car, but imagines it to scale about 15 cwt. It is driven to and from meetings, when it does between 16 and 18 m.p.g., and will attain just over 6,000 r.p.m. in top gear, equal to about 93 m.p.h. That, you must confess, allied to those other desirable performance factors which sprint successes have convincingly demonstrated, is very useful indeed. On a higher ratio available, it is estimated that about 108 m.p.h. should be possible.
That is all there is to this very successful M.G. if you overlook careful assembly and expert driving. In generously giving us this “gen” for the benefit of curious readers of Motor Sport the owner observed, a little wistfully we thought, that “others will now be able to do just what I have done.” He modestly forgot to allow for the aforesaid skill in assembling the car and in driving it to its fullest extent in the various sprints. But in any case, by the time anyone is able to digest, these notes and build up a similar car from standard M.G. parts we rather think Leonard may have something even more potent under the bonnet of his M.G. — although the only modifications he would confess to having in mind were merely a slightly thicker radiator core and, possibly, Girling brake operation.
It seems that the ex-Abecassis 6C Maserati now owned by Hamilton is not the car once raced by Negro but the car which Everitt had in South Africa.