Vintage Postbag, July 1969

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Headlamps on Old Cars

Sir,

Over the last two or three months we have noticed that there have been various letters concerning the problems of double dipping headlamps for vintage and P.V.T. motor cars.

We would like to bring to your readers’ attention that we have had a good deal of success in fitting modern optiques incorporating twin-filament bulbs into original headlamp shells. However, as the larger optique available is only 200 mm., then naturally a headlamp with an optique of a larger diameter unfortunately cannot be adopted so as not to look out of place.

We would like to point out that we can supply a complete vintage-styled headlamp. This unit comes with a black shell and chrome rim and incorporates the 200 mm. optique, reference number is 77/85/003, priced at £12 a pair complete.

We have fitted and supplied a great many of these headlamps to vintage cars, and the owners have not only been extremely satisfied with the appearance but also with the excellent light output provided by a modern light unit.

If a vintage car owner has any lighting problem of any sort our technical staff would be only too happy to advise them here at our works and, of course, an appointment is necessary.

London, N.W.2. C. G. Meisl
(Chairman and Managing Director)
Britover (Continental) Ltd.

* * *

The Lincoln V8

Sir,

Perhaps you and your readers would be interested in the enclosed photograph. It’s a 40-h.p. Ford Lincoln which my father, E. B. Westcott, used for private hire in the thirties, at Exeter.

It really was a magnificient motor car, and every head would turn when it came along especially when used for weddings. I believe a TV actress still owns one at Richmond, Surrey, but it’s not the same car.

It would be interesting to know how many Fords of America made, and, as I understand it weighed two tons, what its top speed was? The salesman (they all do) described it, if I remember correctly, “Henry Fords personal transport” and the “Rolls Royce” of America!

Derby. Kenneth Westcott.

* * *

Bentley and “Babs” Matters

Sir,

I would be grateful of the opportunity to correct an error in your May issue regarding Derby Bentley of Mr. A. F. Rivers Fletcher.

Whilst Messers. Mann Egerton may have done some slight alterations to bodywork, i.e., re-spraying, making up a scuttle cowl, etc., there is no doubt at all that the car is still as designed and built completely by me, converted from a Hooper saloon that had been vandalised beyond restoration.

I am only in business in a one-man capacity, and I don’t go out of my way to seek publicity, but I do draw a line at what is grossly unfair to my efforts and appears to give the credit entirely to the wrong firm.

I realise of course that the whole affair is one of misunderstanding, and I am sure your Editor will be only too anxious to see that the credit for work goes to those responsible.

Finally, may I say how pleased I am that “Babs” has been dug up. I am certain that Parry Thomas would have wanted the machine to be preserved, especially from a historical angle and one of mechanical interest to many people.

I am, like your Editor, most intrigued by the original cause of the crash and particularly the damage to the n/s stub axle. However, I do think that this could have been caused when the car slewed around and being inverted the top of the wheel dug in the sand. Without seeing the car I don’t know whether the steering arm broke or was it deliberately removed say for an investigation later? If the steering arm became detached from the track-rod the wheel would have been forced back on full lock and impact the top of the wheel could, I am sure, twist the axle back. Photographs in Hugh Tour’s book on Parry Thomas confirm damage to the rim of the n/s front wheel. This mystery is very important as if the track-rod had come adrift this could have been the cause of the accident.

I for one shall be most interested to hear if the correct solution to the crash is found, and in the meanwhile the best of luck to Mr. Owen on his splendid and worthwhile effort.

Dunnington. Alan E. Padgett.

[It is also suggested that if the steering arm broke the n/s front wheel of “Babs” would swing against the chassis, dig into the sand, and cause “Babs” to somersault, landing hard, as she obviously did, on the o/s back wheel—the point is, however, that the n/s wheel and tyre were virtually undamaged after the crash, and the mystery is, could it have survived digging into the sand?—Ed.]

* * *

The Mighty Michigan

Sir,

I have recently been given a rather interesting sales catalogue for a car called the “Mighty Michigan 33 Model L” dated 1913. This was made, it says, by the Michigan Motor Car Co., “owned by owners of the Michigan Buggy Co., Kalamazoo, U.S.A.” The catalogue is 14 pages long, so it would be impracticable to quote it verbatim. However, I give below the main technical and interesting features from it.

The car was designed by W. H. Cameron. The body was designed by Mr. John A. Campbell, “One of the World’s greatest body designers”.

The general specification runs as follows:
“The motor is of the four-cylinder type cast en bloc. The bore is 4 1/16 in., and the stroke 4½ in. The cylinders are L-head. . the valves are 1 9/16 in. in the clear with 3½ % nickel steel heads electrically welded to carbon steel stems. . . . valves operated by mushroom lifters.”

The crankshaft is of 45 point carbon steel, heat treated, with a tensile strength of 90,000 lb. The front bearing is 1¾ in. dia. by 3½ in. long. The rear bearing is 1¾ in. dia. by 4 3/16 in. long. Bearings are die-cast. The crankcase and “oilbase” are of “high-grade aluminium”.

Lubrication is by the constant level splash system. Ignition is a dual-system “guaranteed-for-life” Briggs Magneto. An electric self-starter is an optional extra ($125.00; or Pres-to-lite gas starter and tank complete at $20.00 extra).

Lighting is by “search-lights which throw a broad and steady path of light a thousand feet away”. Cooling is by water, with a centrifugal pump and adjustable fan. The radiator is “of the latest improved cellular type—the handsomest to be found on any 1913 car”.

Carburation is by a Schebler ‘model L’—”the Aristocrat of carburetters”. . . . Fed by gravity. The clutch is a leather-faced aluminium cone clutch 15½ in. dia. with a face of 2½ in.

Transmission it “of the selective type, three speeds forward, and reverse, with direct drive on 3rd. Hyatt roller bearings are used… “. “Connection with the rear axle unit is through one universal joint and a large propeller shaft of heat-treated nickel chrome steel, with a tensile strength of 130,000 lb. to the square inch. A torque tube of extra strength takes up the reaction of the rear axle.”

“The front axle in its entirety is the special design of Cameron. The axle bed is 2½ in. 1.B. section, 1 5/8 in. wide, ¼ in. web. . . . The hub bearings are of the cup and cone type. Sizes of balls are ¾ and 1 1/6, which are amply sufficient to carry any load assigned and are mounted so as to be adjustable.”

The rear axle is of the three-quarter floating type, driving shafts are 1 3/8 in. dia. and made from 3½% hot rolled nickel steel, heat treated.

“The brakes are internal and external, 14 in. in dia. by 2¼ in. face, lined with a solid web asbestos facing and impregnated with a compound making the fabric impervious to oil, mud and water. Both brakes are of the fully floating type, toggle-operated and very powerful.”

“The wheels are of the artillery type with oval spokes 1½ in. thick. There are 12 spokes to each wheel, front and rear. There are 12 bolts to each hub front and rear. Firestone quick detachable universal demountable rims are used. An extra rim is included.”

The tyres are 34 x 4 in., and the car is “as much extra-tyred as the Mighty Michigan 40”. The frame is cold rolled steel, 3/16 in. stock.

“The front springs are semi-elliptic, 36 x 2 in. The rear springs are three-quarter elliptic, 50 x 2 in. wide. All four of the Michigan Springs are equipped with big rubber bumpers.”

The car has left-hand drive with central controls. The steering and the brake and clutch pedals are all adjustable. The body receives 22 coats of paint and varnish.

“The upholstery is of high-grade leather filled with the finest curled hair. The Turkish cushions are 12 in. deep. . . . wheelbase is 114 in. . . . rear seat width frame to frame is 55 in. . . . Colour: body, gear and wheels black; brown, grey, and olive green optional at extra cost.” Cost of car complete $1,400.

There are illustrations of the car in the catalogue, and it appears as a four-seater four-door tourer.

Woking. Neill S. Bruce.

* * *

Sir,

Reviewing Sir Henry Ricardo’s autobiography you comment on his lack of information about his 1922 3-litre T.T. Vauxhall engine. This is fully described in his “The High Speed Internal Combustion Engine”, with photographs, drawings and graphs.

L. A. Pomeroy in “Grand Prix” and John Bolster in “Specials” have reason for their statements, which you rightly queried, and your reference to the number of plugs and carburetters might well be further ventilated.

Liners.—There were some steel liners amongst my spares but cast-iron were fitted when I bought the engine in supercharged form in 1939.

Blocks.—Originals were alloy but amongst many spares gathered during war leaves, mainly through the good offices of Tim Carson, was a cast-iron block. Unfortunately the bores did not line up with the piston spacing.

Cylinder head and plugs.—Vauxhalls, using coil ignition in a racing car for the first time, were insistent on dual ignition, and it would be interesting to have confirmation as to whether the two outer plugs were used in the 1922 T.T. Bench tests revealed no measurable difference in power using one, two or three plugs, though later Peter Berthon claimed extra b.h.p. from the Villiers Supercharge using two magnetos and the outside plugs.

When faced with the task of making patterns for the rear heads after the war (all spares were front heads), Ricardos advised me to wash out the outer plugs and use the central one with more water space round it which I did.

Carburetters.—One twin-choke. Zenith was employed with manifolding to cylinders 2 and 3 quite separate from manifolding to Nos 1 and 4.

B.H.P.—Attempts to check the current power on a brake have failed to date, but I would estimate it between 200 and 225 b.h.p. The engine, as bought front S. G. Cummings via Fred Hambling, was set up with 8.5-to-1 cr., 11 lb. boost, running on 60% methanol, 30% benzol and 10% petrol. After consulting the fuel and piston suppliers I have found no reason to depart from this combination. L. A. Pomeroy told me he had calculated this engine would produce 325 b.h.p. if two-stage supercharging were used. Raymond Mays’ car used a 30-lb. boost (single stage) in the final development of the Villiers Supercharge, when 300 b.h.p. was claimed.

In 1964 an opportunity arose to determine the maximum speed of the Vauxhall Villiers in a kilometre sprint at Church Fenton near Leeds, which has a longer pull-up area than Brighton Speed Trials. Results were interesting if inconclusive, but provided some indication of the Vauxhall’s potential. Inconclusive because I heard the dreaded “ticker-ticker” as the revs. moved past 5,500, about 100 to 150 yards from the finish line. This called for a sharp slot into neutral and engine switch off, which slowed things down a bit, coasting over the timed terminal velocity stretch of 146 ft. 8 in. as only 95.49 m.p.h.

A liner had cracked, due to overheating on being held up on the start line at a previous hill-climb, and had broken a piston ring but fortunately not the piston. Disappointing, as the real speed was not confirmed and the car was a non-starter for the Seaman Trophy at Oulton Park once again. As a non-starter the car has apparently caused some amusement but not to anyone who has worked on the engine!

Following are the fastest cars’ times at the kilometre sprint held in June at Church Fenton:

Driver – Car – s.s. ¼-mile – s.s. kilometre – Timed Terminal Speed
J. E. Barraclough – Jaguar C-Type – 13.68 sec. – 25.24 sec. – 127.40 m.p.h.
G. Tatham – Lister Jaguar – 14.26 sec. – 26.13 sec. – 123.35 m.p.h.
T. B. Gibson – Jaguar C-Type – 13.78 sec. – 24.91 sec. – 132.62 m.p.h.
D. Burke – Lotus 16 – 14.55 sec. – 27.06 sec. – 113.74 m.p.h.
A. Brooke – Vaxhaull Villiers – 14.24 sec. – 26.45 sec. – *95.49 m.p.h.
* Engine off 100 to 150 yards before finish, coasting in neutral.

I am trying to compile a history of the Ricardo engines from their supercharging days, the first conversion was carried out at Vauxhall’s for Humphrey Cook, who never raced it but sold it to Jack Barclay; he sold it to Raymond Mays. There was a second Vauxhall Villiers driven by David Brown, whose firm made the blower gears.

There must be many individuals and companies who had a hand in the development of these two cars and I would welcome any information, however apparently unimportant, from them. Photographs, notes or drawings would be returned.

Ramsgill. Anthony Brooke.