More Letters From Readers, July 1954

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76

A Case For Alcohol

Sir,
The very best news that the car owners have had lately is that the Cleveland Co. have at long last been able to put on the market and made available all over Britain an unfaked motor spirit. This is just as it should be as we are now able, if we have a sense of discrimination, to buy jam British produced and from fresh fruit and sugar only, though this has been the case for forty years in Australia and South Africa, where the governments would permit no mucking about with food, and if labelled raspberry, raspberry it had to be, and not turnips, though there might be just as much nourishment in the one as the other. In the case of Cleveland Alcohol Mixture the petrol cannot be said to be adulterated, as the alcohol is a power producer in its way just as much as the oil spirit, but what the percentage is we are not told. Knowing the “oil” people as I have done for the last thirty-five years and their propensity by a whispering campaign to run down a competitor’s product in order to sell their own, already the question is being bandied about “what about valves?” The motor owners, whether sports car, or otherwise, can reply “forget it” and “I am willing to try anything once.”

“Consumption” will be another query, and the reply to that can be also “forget it.” Sad to relate, it is now sixteen years since the motorist was denied the use of this really super spirit, which went off the market because it was too good, and was taxed off the market by a 3d. per gallon tax on industrial alcohol, which also put up the charge for cleaning a suit of clothes by 6d.; so one may assume that there are few motor owners who can say they have had an experience of Cleveland-Discol of 1938. Yes sir, the production and sale of British alcohol was displacing the import of foreign oil spirit, so it had, in the opinion of the international trading politicians, to be taxed off the market to make room for the foreign. It was the 1 1/2d. per gallon tax on the mixture which drove alcohol off the market, making it 1s. 7d., as against petrol at 9d. plus 9d. spirit tax, making it 1s. 6d.

It was this largely British product which enjoyed a bigger sale to the sports-car owner than any other brand, as thousands of retailers could testify in the same way as they could about lubricating oil. I cannot remember the exact date when Messrs. Cleveland first marketed Discol, but at that time I was a travelling representative of a lubricating oil concern, and very British at that then, but not so new. We representatives were asked to run on Cleveland-Discol exclusively and take a special note of the consumption, without any alteration to carburetters which were Zenith, Solex, S.U. or Cox-Atmos. I had the latter, with adjustable jet. I could make no great claim for lower consumption as, at 30 miles to the gallon, my Coventry-Climax-engined 1,496-c.c. Clyno cost only three-fifths of a penny per mile in any case. I could detect no difference in speed, though at low speeds, the engine was smoother. One could put the car into top gear, get out and walk by the side to steer it, but top speed was about 60. What was of the utmost importance to a motor-lubricating oil firm was the effect of the fuel on the oil in the sump, which was mineral oil, plus a fatty oil of animal origin now used for making margarine — before inhibitors, detergents were in vogue, and wire gauze the only filter. Admittedly, there was little blow-by, thanks to the cast -iron pistons with a clearance when new of half a thou. per inch diameter, and a running-in of 1,000 miles with ‘oil heavily loaded with graphite running-in componnd, the Cleveland test commencing at 15,000 miles. Samples were sent to our laboratory, and it was found that in every case there was far less contamination of the oil either by carbon or by what was then called the “heavy end” of petrol.

My firm came to the concluasion from over 100 laboratory tests that Cleveland-Discol caused less contamination to lubricating-oil than any other brand of spirit. We started this test with newly decarbonised engines, and heads were liked at 5,000 miles. I am not saying there was no carbon, but there was very little; obviously, because alcohol on combustion does not produce carbon, and we do not expect a sooty deposit on the Christmas pudding when we set light to the brandy or whisky, which has the same chemical composition, though made from grapes in one case and grain in the other, as the alcohol in Cleveland-Discol.

As to valves, the best answer to that is that there was very little loss of compression when properly tested by a gauge. As for plugs, which new when the test started and of a practically unknown make, they were never removed until the head was removed, when they were sent to the makers, who reported back that they had no fault to find with the fuel, cleaned them, and sent them back telling me they were as good as new.

From that experience, admittedly not with a sports car, if the spirit Messrs. Cleveland are supplying today is as fine as it was 25 or more-years ago, the motor user need have no hesitation in using it. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and in 1938 Cleveland Discol enjoyed the biggest sale among sports-car owners, and they are drivers of discrimination, who like to test for themselves and are not prepared to believe sales-talk.

I have been retired from business since 1945, so I have no axe to grind, and certainly no connection with Messrs. Cleveland, but now their alcohol mixture is available I shall change to it from No. 2; although the price is higher, it may be cancelled out by more miles per gallon, which advancing of the magneto may achieve. I do not mind paying a bit more for spirit improved with alcohol, which I buy at the same price as petrol, but I draw the line at paying for non-power-producing chemicals with comic names. As to alcohol, though it is mixed with petrol I shall be paying petrol price for it, which seems to me out of all reason. Alcohol pre-war was sold retail at 9d. and commercial-users could buy at 7d. in 500-gallon loads, So 6d. was the outside cost of production, and I am not aware that any crop was grown for the production of industrial alcohol, though we know barley is grown for whisky, which, up to the 1914-1918 war, was sold retail at £1 per gallon, the tax on it being 16s. 6d.

Is it to be supposed that industrial alcohol costs 50 per cent, more to produce now than it did in 1938? It saves dollars, anyhow! I would also point out that up to the outbreak of war and Pool, spirit made from coal rubbish was sold at the pump for 9d., plus 9d. tax. We were told that during the war millions of gallons of high octane spirit for the use of the Forces was made from the same sort of coal waste, but since then this industry seems to have closed down, but huge factories to make motor spirit from foreign oil have been erected. British production of alcohol, and motor spirit from coal, could bring the price of foreign oil spirit down with a run.

I am, Yours, etc.,
L. A. Postle.
Attleborough.

* * *

A Pre-F.W.D, Citroën

Sir,

I am most interested in letters you print concerning the Citroën, and there have been many recently, but I have failed to see any mention of other than the front-wheel-drive models.

Now I look longingly at these excellent cars but am proud of the fact that I am behind the wheel of a rear-wheel-drive Citroën — a Model P35, 11.4-hp. 1933 saloon.

I think I can honestly say that I have read all of your “Letters from Readers,” but have failed to see any reference made to these robust cars. It is about time somebody mentioned them, as I am sure some of your readers may own, or have owned, this or similar models.

I know of four in this area, but to date have not had the opportunity of contacting the owners to discuss their steeds. Whilst garages know the model, very few seem to have any real knowledge of it. (Is it possible that they just don’t require mechanical attention?) All I get is: “That was a good model — they don’t make ’em like that now!

To me they are fine, sturdy-looking cars, with their stout “edge-on” wings and solid disc wheels (the number of people who ask me why I put on such small wheels is amazing!).

The whole design is “clean,” and the large rear boot is very useful and keeps the interior of the body for “passengers only.” It gives you the feeling, when driving, that it will “plod on” for ever, but is hardly in the sports-saloon class for performance.

I am, yours, etc.,
D. Byrne.
Sleaford.