by Cecil Clutton
The Hillman Coatalen Company was founded in 1907 and produced at first a 25-h.p. machine with four cylinders, and a larger version with two more cylinders. Louis Coatalen had already started his long career as an automobile designer with the Humber Company in 1902, but it was not until 1907 that his name emerged from anonymity, in partnership With Mr. Hillman.
None of the 1907 models is known to have survived and indeed, probably -only one specimen of Coatalen’s pre-Sunbeam era still exists. This is Phillip Manns 1908, 12/15 tourer.
The model was introduced in the latter half of 1908 and displays the solid conservatism that is typical of all Coatalen’s designs. Right to the end. Sunbeams were grotesquely inefficient by comparison with their more adventurous contemporaries. For example, the early vintage Sunbeams contented themselves with an Edwardian 12 b.h.p. per litre. On the other hand, this 10u specific output accounts largely for their charming characteristics as touring ears, while their immense safety factor was shown by t he remarkable power developed from the 12/16 engine, 1912 Coupe de /’Auto form. Coatalen’s only production model of any enterprise was the twin-cam 3-litre Sunbeam which, however, was fairly closely modelled upon the 19234, Bertarione-designed, Grand Prix ears. I Fact. when Coatalen wanted high performance he always looked abroad for inspiration, or actually imported a foreign design—though never with such success as his own modest 1912 Coupe de l’Auto efforts.
The 12/15-h.p. Hillman-Coatalen displays all these characteristics of coatelen’s later career; it is a well-made, pleasant, ordinary Edwardian tourer.
The cylinder dimensions are 3 1/2, in. 3 3/4 in., giving a capacity of 2 1/2-litres. The four cylinders are cast parately with water jackets open at back and front. The large openings are closed by plates and make it possible for the cored spares to be cleaned out very thoroughly —Which is by no means is always the case. The fixed head is T shaped involving, of course, twin underhead camshafts.
If the top half of the engine is unadventurous, the bottom part shows that Coatalen early rerognised the importance of rigidity. The camshaft is extremely robust for the size of engine and period, and it is carried in three main bearings, the centre. one heavily webbed. The bearings are lined with White metal. which was then only just coming into vogue in place of bronze. Lubrication was a rather half-hearted compromise between pressure and gravity feed. The contemporary Autocar report itself seems rather in doubt about the system. ” The lubrication of the engine ” (it Says) – “is effected by means of a belt-driven vaned pump which is carried up on the lefthand lower side of the dashboard.” however, later on we read, ” It should be mentioned that the force oil pump is served from a tank carried on the dashboard.” Mann’s car has the oil tank on the near side of the chassis and is further complicated by pressurisation from the exhaust manifold.
Ignition was normally by accumulator and coil, but a Bosch hightension magneto could be had for an additional £20. The carburetter lives at the end of the customarily long pipe which threads its way between the two middle cylinders. The makers claimed 25 m.p.g. but Mann cannot yet do better than 22.
Power (presumably about .20 b.h.p. of it) proceeds via a leather cone clutch to a three-speed gearbox giving final drive forward ratios of 31, 5i and 10 to I. With 760 X 90 tyres this gives 25i m.p.h. per 1,000 r.p.m. in top, and if the top engine speed is in the order of 2,000 r.p.m. (as seems to be the, ease), the maxima in the three gears are about 18, 32. and :50 m.p.h. In fact, the engine accelerates sluggishly so that the gears are really for hill-climbing and do not improve performance noticeably.
The footbrake is external contracting on the transmission and the handbrake is internal expanding. on the back axle. The front axle is an early example of Coatalen’s not always very felicitous predilection for a built-up beam. It has a tubular centre, while outboard of the springs are drop forgdngs. brazed into the ends of the tubes. The front springs are half, and the rear three-quarter elliptic.
The body Was made to conform with the 1908 2,000 Mile Trial regulations. It is without a wndsereen and nowadays seems pretty stark. However, The Autocar commented that “it has high side entrance doors and appears to be really larger than is necessary for a car of this power.”
On the road, the performance is undistinguished but pleasant and refined, the only displeasing feature bring the hypersensitiveness of the air control to the carburetter –a feature more typical of veteran than of Edwaialian cars. Maximum speed is about 50 m.p.h.. but 35 m.p.h. is a comfortable cruising speed.
Mann’s car was used regularly until 1926 when it was laid up and not used again ontil this year. Restoration was started in 1952, but never completed, and when Mann acquired it last year it was in a semi-complete state. He has finished the job with meticulous care and skill that characterises all his work, which must take up a very high proportion of his leisure hours.
The Hillman-Coatalen partnership was of short duration. In 1909 Mr. Coatalen married one of Mr. Hillman’s daughters and then departed to Sunbeams, where he remained the Chief Designer until the early thirties.