Rumblings, July 1949

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Still More Racing
Last month we commented on the large number of races which British enthusiasts can attend this year. As we anticipated, the Ulster Trophy Race, scheduled for August 13th, is cancelled, because the Dundrod circuit cannot be finished in time. However, the B.A.R.C. has now seen the light and is putting on a private Members’ Day at Goodwood on that date. The programme will consist of a series of short races for private sports-car owners, practice taking place in the morning and the racing in the afternoon. We hope all those who have been asking for just such a day’s sport will now flood John Morgan with entries! The following week-end comes the B.R.D.C. International fixture at Silverstone, sponsored by the Daily Express, and it seems that the sports-car race which is to precede the racing-car event will have the official support of Aston-Martin, Frazer-Nash and Healey. Exciting! The next week-end will see a Formula II race run off at Blandford Camp by the highly-efficient W. Hants & Dorset C.C. This race will be supported by seven shorter races, including one for the “500s” and another for sports cars. All these races should attract immense crowds. If your holidays have run out, plan now the necessary “happy event” or “dying grandmamma”! Incidentally, the Irish M.R.C.’s races at the five-mile Curragh circuit on September 10th will be a handicap for the O’Boyle Trophy and £75, and a race for unrestricted racing cars, for the Wakefield Trophy and £100, both of 100 miles.

Veterans’ Paradise
The restoration and running of a veteran or Edwardian motor car is a very commendable pastime and one which has much to recommend it these days, inasmuch as the slower your car the longer your drive per coupon, over and above which the prevailing “Gaitskell half-fare” is particularly appropriate. Participation in the various rallies and trials for pre-1916 cars which are put on by the Veteran Car Club and other organisations is a more leisurely undertaking than trials-driving or racing, at all events until trouble overtakes one, and it can also be quite a social amenity into the bargain, for the larger veteran and Edwardian carriages are usually roomy and comfortable, permitting quite a party to enjoy the experience of taking part in an “old-car competition.”

In America, of course, they take their veterans very seriously and attempt to fit them out exactly to original specification even to correct components and accessories. In the States, too, it is the “done thing” to dress the part when driving or riding in a veteran car, whereas the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain frowns on any suggestion of “comic” dressing-up. Possibly the fact that American veteran meets often take place in the grounds of someone’s country house or on other private ground is the reason for this different outlook in respect of the personal element. And that brings us to the point of this particular “rumble.” Wouldn’t it be nice if our V.C.C. could have a sort of private “veterans’ preserve,” where those wishing to slip back into a motoring past could meet, working on their historic cars in private lock-ups, driving them and exchanging drives along private roads, with a country club at hand so that they could blow-out the candle-lamps, go to bed, and be able to resume operations the very next morning? Of course, this is a Utopian dream and our old-car activities have to take place either on the public road or for brief spells of activity, too rapid for the majority of V.C.C. members, at Prescott or Silverstone. One wonders whether the next best thing to the (in this country) mythical “veterans’ preserve” might not be the hiring of, say, Prescott for a week-end, assuming the Bugatti O.C. could accommodate a party of veteran-car fanatics in this manner. Then, at least, from early on Saturday until dusk on a summer Sunday it would be possible to compare cars in the drive beside Prescott House or in the Paddock and to exercise even untaxed veterans (which could be towed to the venue) to one’s heart’s content up the famous hill and in a circuit down the return road. With sensible co-operation only a minimum of marshalling should be required, and no form of competition of any kind would be required. Possibly Silverstone would be better suited to what we have in mind, except that somehow most of the old cars would seem lost in the vast expanse of its runways and the cosy and so-pleasant atmosphere of Prescott would be lost. To be able to drive one’s veteran and give rides to others, free from the attentions of “mobiles” or the inconvenience which the intermittent appearance of numbers of such vehicles on one short stretch public highway could entail, would surely be a happy business. Here we must hasten to explain that this is purely our own idea. Major Dixon Spain will probably shoot on sight!

Be that as it may, interest in veteran cars will undoubtedly grow, and next year we hope to see even more competitions for such cars, for excellent as this season’s events have been, often warmly supported by public bodies, they were rather scattered, in these dire days of petrol in exchange for bits of paper. As an aside, because owners of veteran cars do their utmost to restore them to original condition and operate them as in the days of yore, wouldn’t it be a nice gesture if the Ministry of Fuel and Power would waive petrol rationing in their case, on the grounds that coupons and veterans go not well together? After all, these cars do provide enjoyment for the public, free of entertainment tax, which must be good for national morale.

As to the cars themselves, no longer does diligent search produce specimens suitable for restoration for purely nominal sums of money — or very, very seldom! But to offset that, the standard of restoration achieved by V.C.C. members has never been higher. It is a cause of anxiety to those in this country hoping to own such cars, however, that a Berkshire breaker recently shipped a whole bunch of miscellaneous old cars to America and that certain people appear to have a “spy system” operating over a wide area, so that any veteran that does come to light is instantly purchased, before local enthusiasts can do aught about it.

The Le Mans Aston-Martins

So many times have cars wearing the British green set out for Le Mans from the Aston-Martin factory at Feltham that we could not resist calling in early on the Monday before this year’s 24-hour race to see the team being got ready to catch a steamer from Newhaven the next morning.

After being whisked comfortably across the aerodrome in a roomy and dignified 2 1/2-litre Lagonda, we were shown round the works by Roy Lunn, who continued with the development work on the cars after Claude Hill left the firm.

Three cars were being given last-minute attention, each beneath a huddle of technicians. All are very business-like two-door saloons, with very Continental-looking lines, for the style of which Fielding, the Lagonda body-designer, was responsible. Two cars have the 2-litre four-cylinder-rod push o.h.v. engines, the third having a 2 1/2-litre six-cylinder twin o.h.c. unit, this latter car having a Lagonda gearbox containing Aston-Martin gear-ratios. On all three cars the gear-ratios were the same — 3.5, 4.41, 6.54 and 10.2 to 1 — and after experimentation the use of 5.50-18 racing Dunlop tyres had been decided on.

Naturally, engines and chassis are largely standard, but some of the engine components have been re-arranged to give a lower bonnet line, while, in the case of the six-cylinder car, an extra header tank has had to be accommodated on the engine side of the scuttle and the system (water) pressurised, as otherwise the low radiator would prove inadequate. Triple carburetters were tried, only to be discarded in favour of twin 1 5/8 in. S.U.s. Pistons and cylinder heads have been modified and the six-cylinder engine has a slightly lower compression ratio than the four-cylinder. No special oil-coolers are fitted, and the high-gearing made possible by the aerodynamic bodies is relied on to provide the required reliability factor; at 1,000 r.p.m. in top gear the road speed is as high as 25 m.p.h. The sump capacity of the six-cylinder engine, however, is 1 1/4 gallons greater than standard.

The bodies can be completely removed, or fitted, in a matter of ten or fifteen minutes and they are constructed of 18-gauge aluminium alloy. After louvres had been cut in the sides of the bonnets, towards the rear, it was not anticipated that the drivers would suffer from heat or fumes, although less than a week before the race they had not driven the cars in saloon form. An additional safeguard was provided, in the form of a cooling duct, taking cold air from behind the radiator grille and delivering it under the floor. The space normally occupied by the rear seats has given way to vast 32-gallon fuel tanks, which, when full, will add some 3 1/2 cwt. to the total weight of the cars. The chassis have a wheelbase of 8 ft. 3 in., a track of 4 ft. 6 in., and weigh 16 cwt. It is estimated at Feltham that the total weight is about 20 1/2 cwt. and that the four-cylinder cars may exceed 120 m.p.h. The bodies are four-point mounted on Silentbloc bushes and all electrical connections are made at a central point to facilitate removal. The brakes are 12-in. Girling, with the latest Wellworthy bonded Ferodo VG95 linings.

Detail equipment counts for much at Le Mans. The headlamps are Lucas 770s, recessed in the front wings, with tiny side lamps below them. There are Lucas spot-lamps behind the radiator grille and the screen will be swept by Lucas wipers. Before the race the drivers were shown X-ray photographs of the front suspension units, as proof that these were free from cracks and fit for 24-hours’ high-speed work.

By the time these words appear in print we shall know how the team fared, but, as we write them, the good wishes of British sportsmen, and of Aston-Martin enthusiasts in particular, are with these interesting new cars from the old-established Feltham factory.

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