CALLING on Michael May the other day we were invited to take a short drive in his, or more correctly his mother's, 1929 3-litre AM 80 Hotchkiss saloon. This one-owner car carries its years well. The original paint on the shapely bonnet literally glistens, pleasing contrast to the dull fabric of the Weymann body. This, too, is very presentable for all its 22 summers although, like the elder elephants at the zoo, it is now a little ragged in the trunk. The car has a 1931 steering column, this proving easier to fit than a new spring steering wheel when the original one cracked, and a Solex carburetter because the 1029 gas-works fouled the later column. The Hartfords were heavier than standard. Otherwise, all is original, even to the Marchal headlamps, and very nice too!
You sit low on extremely comfortable cloth-covered seats, yet the waistline isn't so high as to impair visibility and both front wings can just. be seen. The body is, naturally, entirety free from squeaks and its doors open and shut impeccably. The engine, whose oil-pressure is nil until warm, runs silkily, and this Hotchkiss not only out-accelerates most 3-litre Bentleys, but gives a fuel consumption of 17-19 m.p.g. Pool it dislikes, yet it pulls strongly in top, pink-free if you retard the spark, which is done by turning a large knob above the steering wheel, a smaller knob above it constituting the hand throttle. Both work with absolute precision. The horn button lives on the facia. Steering is light and accurate, the lock very good. The ride is rather "dead," but comfortable; the brakes adequate, but inclined to squeal. The concealed gate gear-change is typically French—light, easy, very pleasant, with a trick of requiring movement to the right to get the slender central lever out of third, which May believed to be due to the maker's concern that it should not slip out of this gear up Alpine passes. Unlike many French cars, you can tell the hand brake from the gear-lever because it has no knob. The six-cylinder o.h.v. engine is neat, in typically Continental style.
Capable of 80 m.p.h. under good conditions, this Hotchkiss proved a roomy, comfortable car, quiet save for mild back-axle hum. It has provided the May family with adniirable transport and touring all its life. A pleasant car!
Discovery in a sleepy Berkshire village—an interesting vintage small car, in the form of a 1924 10-h.p. Ariel. The specification was found to be quite straightforward, the s. v. four-cylinder engine inclined somewhat in the chassis and set well forward, one suspects because it had to occupy the same space as the flat-twin power unit of earlier models. A tiny Smiths carburetter fed through the block to inlet ports on the near side, where lived the Lucas magneto and starter. Petrol was carried in a big, flat gravity tank, there was a separate r.h.-change gearbox, suspension was by 1/2-elliptics and the adjusters for the small back brakes and the tiller for the back-axle were extremely accessible, in spite of a chummy body of very reasonable dimensions. Equipment included a bulb horn and Lucas three-lamp lighting set and the tyres, on artillery wheels, were a mixture of 700 by 80 and 26 by 3.
If anyone tries to tell you early light cars weren't durable, remember this Ariel. It is used regularly in the summer months by a lady who has had it since it was new. Why did site choose this rather rare make? Because the more popular Morris wouldn't go into the garage at the house where she was living at the time. The Birmingham product has certainly justified her patronage and has weathered well the passage of the years.
"I do not. like the glossy, characterless efficency of motor cars. It takes years of travel and the botchings and patchings of a hundred hands to humanise a car. Only the quirks and crankiness of age can give it personality and make it worthy of interest . . . " Morris Brown in a long article on his old car, in Time and Tide of May 26th.
The "20/70" Crossley mentioned in the May issue was by no means the only polished aluminium one of its type. Quite a number were made so.
When the "Douggies" were "cinder shifting" around 1930, at Hall Green dirt track, two of these cars often stood in the car park. One was owned by Jimmy Gent, a popular rider of those days, and the other was owned by Chris Anderson. They were identical except for the unusual hood sported by the latter's car.
Nearby, often stood is rakish three-seater H.E. with canoe-type tail and wood strip protected fuel tank. The chorus from their "drain pipes" quite drowned the exhaust of my M.A.G.-engined Lea-Francis motor-cycle.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Heronfield. PHILIP S. SMITH.
In the Febraury issue, your correspondent, Mr. Fergie, suggests that the Gwynne and Humber Eights were the most attractive vintage small cars. I suspect that Mr. Fergie desired to start something by this remark, and I had hoped that the challenge would be taken up on behalf of the Talbot "10/23"s. May I do so since no better men have come forward in the meantime? It is somewhat rash of me to do this since I have no direct experience of the Gwynne or the Humber, but during 24,000 miles accomplished on a Talbot during two years' ownership in 1934-36 I was always very interested in the two other makes. I am still.
My feeling is that as small cars the L10 and Z10 Talbots were altogether outstanding, both in character and for sheer quality and refinement, giving delightful handbag and that, ability to be cruised at full bore which is worth so much and which they nobly shared with their larger sisters. Of course, to those not, under the spell of the vintage light car, reference to performance may seem misplaced, but they were good for fifty or so and standard averages of thirty were natural—this at 100,000 or more miles.
Figures are perhaps dangerous, but it always seemed to me that the Talbot's performance was superior to that of the Humber Nine as well as the Eight; I am not so sure about the Gwynne. The handling appeared to be well ahead. The smoothness of the engine remains a joy in my memory as does its willingness, and the steering and stability were surely beyrond comparison for the class of car. It must be admitted that the gearbox sadly lacked four speeds and the front axle lacked brakes, but the latter did not seem to matter in those days and helped the road-holding. One glance at the size of the rear brake drums gave one confidence and doubtless they were responsible for braking similar in characteristics to that of the later and larger Talbots, within the limits of the two wheels.
And what of the "8/18" Talbot?
The views of someone with experience of all three makes would be interesting.
Thanking you for the frustration-antidote with which you have provided us monthly since the fight for freedom began nearly twelve years ago.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Surbiton. L. L. JONES.
I. think that Mr. Rex Leppard is a little astray on the Lagonda history. The original 2-litre 14/60-h.p. engine of 72 by 129 mm. was designed by a Mr. Davidson and first appeared at the 1925 Olympia Show; this was built at Staines and the basic design remained Unchanged until discontinued around 1933. It was superseded by a six-cylinder 65 by 100 mm. push-rod o.h.v. engine (i.e., the " 16/80") which was based on the 2-litre Crossley, the latter concern having decided to discontinue their 2-litre model. I think it is correct that Meadows supplied all the six-cylinder engines used on the larger Lagondas including the 4 1/2-litre Rapide, but the smaller 2-litre was definitely a Crossley-based production.
The design of the Rapier was obviously inspired by that of the Davidson 2-litre unit, but I always understood that the actual designer of the Rapier was a Mr. Ashcroft who was later identified with the Rapier concern when it commenced operations on its own in the Hammersmith district.
I was interested in your reference to the Storey car (see April quiz) but I think that the original 1919-20 prototypes were made at the works of the now defunct Storey Machine Tool Company in Pomeroy Street, New Cross, and were fitted with American Wisconsin engines. New works were in course of erection at Tonbridge but financial difficulties overtook the company before it could occupy them.
I am, Yours, etc.,
Crawley Down. G. ARNOTT.
[The Storey concern certainly had a depot at Clapham Park, in the days when grass lined the roads there, but this may have been merely a service depot.-ED.]