Vintage Postbag, July 1970

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How to Save £58

Sir,

Herewith a salutary tale for any readers with a damaged petrol tank. I took my badly damaged tank from a sleeve-valve Daimler to a well-known London radiator repair company, who informed me that the tank could not be repaired – they were prepared to make me a new one for £70. Believing that if they could not do it nobody could, I resigned myself to perpetrating a bodge and covering same with the normal Daimler wooden tank guard.

I was later advised to take the tank to Raymond Radiators, of Chalk Farm Road, NW 1, who immediately recognised it as a Daimler tank and said they could repair it. Three days later I collected the tank – as good as new, invisibly mended and repainted for £12 – which probably proves something.

Usual disclaimers.

London, NW3.

R. K. K. Verschoyle

Panhard-Levassors

Sir,

I was particularly interested in your article on White Elephant No. 11 as I have, for many years, itched to get my hands on this particular family of Albino Pachyderm again, but costs present too big a problem.

I drove two of the 30 h.p. (RAC?) P-Ls back in 1934 when I was an apprentice at W. & G. DuCros, at Acton Vale, and they were the English agents for Panhard-Levassor. According to my record one was a 1927 car and the other was 1928 vintage. I think the latter was a saloon (as I can remember nothing about it), but the former was an open sports four-seater, the rear seats being protected by an Auster screen.

This sports version came into W. & G.s for a complete overhaul and repaint and I had the pleasure of working on it and later doing some of the road-testing, tuning and brake adjusting.

Unlike your “acquaintance”, this car had a three-choke, two-float chamber horizontal carb. assembly similar to that shown in the photograph of the 2.3-litre, the central choke taking fuel from both float chambers. The linkage of the butterflies was so arranged that when the revs. reached maximum on the single choke further depression of the acceleration pedal picked up the two outer chokes and the resultant surge was similar to that of a supercharger cutting in, and the scenery began to move backwards at a fantastic rate, particularly if the exhaust cut-out was opened at the same time.

The air intakes were similar to those shown on the 2.3-litre – open to the elements, and if the outer pair of chokes were opened up at too low revs. or too quickly the resultant weakening of the mixture was such that three sheets of flame shot half-way across the road. (We never took a P-L out on test without having a full Pyrene handy.)

I am sorry that your motor had lost its original operation of the dynastart. It was a bit much for the battery to spin that engine from cold and half the fun was hand-starting. The usual switch-off – suck-in – switch-on procedure was used, but it needed the reduction gearing to turn it over compression for the suck-in. Having got her primed, the handle was pushed through the gearing to engage direct, then you just swung gently gaining a bit more each time till you made one last heave. If it went over compression she almost invariably ran. If, however, you had forgotten to retard the ignition your relatives started filling in the hole where you had been standing! Her kick-back was definitely in the Elephant class.

You mentioned the very heavy brake rods used from the cross-shaft to the wheels, and these provided the adjustment and balance, each rod being similar to a track rod with left- and right-handed threads. Adjusting in the workshop was only a rough run as the only effective way was to take the car out and see which hedge it wished to mow down. An adjustment then meant that you dived for the other hedge. Two straight stops were the aim and then leave well alone.

The brake shoes were nearly unique as they covered the total circumference of the drum all but about three inches at the bottom. When applied the first action was for the expander links to jack up the whole lining till it touched the drum at the top, and then a series of side expansions took place until the whole shoe was pressing the lining on to the maximum area of the drum. The brake power was quite fantastic when all worked correctly. The clutch on this car was a heavy duty type, quite up to the power it was handling, unlike the smaller six-cylinder 16 h.p. cars, where the lining was only wafer thin. These cars were not to be started by push or tow, as this usually stripped the lining off its plate.

This big car was owned by the chief manager to the Sir Alan Cobham’s air circus and after the rebuild it was taken back to the owner at Penshurst Airfield. She was a lovely sight and I wish I had had a photograph of her. I believe that only four of these 30s were brought into this country and one was written off after it caught fire (?flashback). Where the others finished up I don’t know, but I wish I did. I can confirm that the smaller cars had that very odd gate for the gear-change – 1st and 2nd being forward left and right, with 3rd and 4th being back right and left respectively. Great fun if you forgot and tried to change down from top to 1st at any speed. One day, at W. & G.s, we heard a most astounding scream coming from the road outside the workshop and there appeared one of the 16s being driven off the main road howling in agony. Someone had removed the needle valve, linked to the throttle, and replaced it off its seating. As a result the sleeves were getting no oil and the car had been driven about 50 miles like that. The block and the outer sleeves were white metal lined and, apart from one or two score marks, they were undamaged.

By the way, are there any of the Old Talbot 25 or MAB ambulances still about? W. & G. used to build the latter and, of course, the bodies for the Talbot 25 and the later Roesch Talbots with the double reduction back axles. They also built 30-seater coaches fitted with Talbot 25 or Lycoming six-cylinder engines, dust carts and ambulances with Meadows four-cylinder engines and their own W. & G. lorries, and were famous for the old yellow cabs.

Radlett.

J. Saner.

* * *

Sir,

I was very interested in your article on the two Panhards.

When I was learning to be a wine merchant in the early twenties my father bought me one of the small Panhards – 11.15 h.p. and 1,496 c.c., if I remember correctly.

This must have been the smallest sleeve-valve car ever made and not really a very satisfactory affair as with a big and heavy body the car was very under-powered. However, as a first car at the age of 19, it was a great joy to me and it took me round France without any major faults apart from a great thirst for oil. One feature I remember was a sort of fin that you put in the oil system to restrict the flow and thereby cause less smoke in the exhaust. There was a heavy fine in those days imposed on motorists in Paris who had smoky exhausts.

I brought the Panhard to England on two occasions and ran it in the London-Barnstaple trial, without, I fear, any success.

London, SW1.

Leslie Seyd

Petrol

In your column headed V-E-V Miscellany, page 604 of June issue Motor Sport, reference is made to Carless Capel & Leonard, who first invented the name “petrol”.

This is incorrect. The word “petrol” was not coined in England but was first used by Eugen Langen in a letter to his friend Adolf Schmidt of Liege, Belgium, dated September 28th, 1876. Incidentally, the first experiments with petrol were undertaken in England by William Burnett several decades before being used by Daimler.

Benzin (meaning petrol) was first chemically determined by Faraday in 1825 and eight years before Karl Benz was born a Professor of Chemistry at Berlin University gave the spirit this name.

Shepperton.

V. N. L. Butler, Aracs.