Vintage postbag, July 1975

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Morris Register Rally to Belgium

Sir,

Having at last found time to catch up on some reading I was amused to note your comment concerning the Czechoslovakia Rally in April’s V-E-V Odds and Ends, in which, because of the prevailing cost of motoring, you wonder whether anyone will attend. Amused because, together with more than 70 pre-war Morris’s from the Morris Register, I have just attended, in my 1931 Oxford saloon, our bi-annual five-day Belgium Rally, held at Gevaardsbergen, some 25 miles S.W. of Brussels. Whilst the distance and therefore the petrol costs were less than those involved in travelling to Czechoslovakia, the other expenses, ferry, insurance, etc., are much the same.

It is almost impossible to find words to describe the reception we received throughout our whole tour. The 70 mile route from Zeebrugge lined with people the whole way, even though it was well after dark when we arrived at our destination. The unbelievable kindness or all the inhabitants of Gevaardsbergen, with whom many of us stayed, The excellent service provided by the “Tours Secours”, the Belgian Auto Club, who dealt promptly with our few problems. These included a Bullnose broken halfshaft, a leaking Oxford wheel cylinder and a broken handbrake cable on an Eight Saloon, The latter resulting in several “Tours Secours” men voluntarily missing the Reception Dinner to which they had been invited, whilst they made up and fitted a new cable. Finally the superb organisation of British Leyland, Belgium, Ltd., together with our Morris Register member in Gevaardsbergen, Fernand Paul. Whenever our convoy travelled BL’s Marinas were on hand at every junction to guide us through. The Reception Dinner and Grand Ball they organised were faultless, One wonders whether, if 250 Belgians in pre-war vehicles were to visit Britain, we would be so superbly organised and hospitable. But alas it can never happen, as pre-war vehicles in Belgium are only allowed on their roads on certain specified dates. As a result very few Belgians own pre-war vehicles. Surely an appalling loss of freedom to which we in Britain must never succumb.

My sincere thanks for a wonderful magazine that certainly reminds me that there are other makes of vehicles on the roads besides those of the Morris Register.

St. Albans. S. J. BROWN

A Hard-Worked Model-T

Sir,

I came across this old photograph recently, taken, I think, in about 1920 at Aveley, Essex. I am not sure if the firm still exists.

Oldham C. M. TIBLLES (Rev.)

[The Ford was owned by Oliver Oxley, Junr., of 57, Arthur St., Grays, Essex, and is interesting as one of the few fitted with a full 14-seater char-a-banc body—Ed.]

A Sprint Venue Sir,

Your article on hill-climbs and speed-trials was extremely interesting because it mentioned so many of the old venues which are no longer in use. There is a little known road which is, in fact, very historical as far as hill-climbs are concerned. This road was the site of the first speed-hill-climb held in the 20th century. It was held in January 1900 during a snowstorm. The winner took ten minutes to cover the one mile course and the second car was a Wolseley driven by its designer, the then Mr. Herbert Austin.

Mucklow hill is part of the A.456 Birmingham-to-Kidderminster main road. I enclose a photograph taken of this road in the early 1900s, showing it as it was at the time of the hill-climb. The square chimney on the left is still visible but the cottage which can just be seen on the right was demolished about ten years ago. The road itself, however, is now a very busy dual carriageway with industrial development on both sides.

This Company’s premises were, as they still are, further down the hill on the right, hidden from view by the high banks and bushes. I am indebted to Mr. K. H. Williams of Hasbury for this very interesting old photograph. He is a local historian and has a collection of photographs of great interest about the Black Country.

Hales Owen G. G. TAYLOR

Walter Somers Ltd.

A Mouth-watering Sight!

Sir,

Reading Jack Bartlett’s letter in MOTOR SPORT brought back memories of the time I went to his place to get a part for my Rapier (Lagonda) in the early part of the last war, and was offered the only two remaining cars there—a supercharged Mercedes and an 8-cylinder Alfa-Romeo for £50 each!

However, being on active service at the time, I couldn’t do anything about it, although sorely tempted.

I think, perhaps, the accompanying photo may be interesting to your readers—and, perhaps, to Jack Bartlett.

Chichester G. de JONGH

Another Squire

Sir,

Please find enclosed a photograph which I took in the 1975 Castrol-Datsun International Veteran and Vintage Car Tour.

The car is a 1935 1½-litre Squire, owned by J. J. Huyshomer of Cape Town; I took the photograph in Port Elizabeth during an overnight stop.

I am sure your readers will appreciate seeing such a magnificent example of a Squire.

Port Elizabeth HERBY JOHNSON

British Salmsons

Sir,

I was pleased to see yet another reference to British Salmson cars in MOTOR SPORT, particularly as your correspondent Mr. Freeman writes about the six-cylinder cars, and would, like the writer, like to know where they all are now.

Thus encouraged, I have attempted to find out as much as possible from past issues of our Club newsletter and from members and other sources. Unfortunately, for reasons best known to themselves, Club officials in the early days made no provision in their recording system for chassis or engine numbers, relying only on the vehicle registration. This presents problems today in tracing cars and histories, as the lettering preceding the chassis number gives positive identification of not only type but of year of manufacture.

This was achieved as follows: the chassis identification consisted of letters followed by figures, the letters the more important. Thus all S4-c have the basic letter “Z”, with a prefix letter “A”, “B”, “C”, etc. indicating the production batch, so that, for example, all cars with the prefix “A”, were erected in 1934. The suffix letter “S” on this model indicates that the chassis is a 12/70 sports, possessing extra aids to performance compared to the standard 12/55 car. Type S4-d is identified in the same way, but the prefix letter “A” in this case would refer to a chassis laid down in 1936, the first year of production of that model: the type identification letter in the case of S4-d is “D”, thus, AD 123 for example. None of the S4-d were given any extra urge (officially) and there were, therefore, no suffix letters. So far so good, but perhaps the cars were not selling too well, as dates of first registration are often up to three years after chassis date, all of which makes identification a bit of a problem.

Engine number was the same as the suffix number of the chassis, and as well as the usual letter and number stamping of chassis and crankcase, there was also a plate screwed to the off-side of the bulkhead giving the same information. Oddly, the six-cylinder 20/90 motor cars have a slightly different chassis identification: either that or else all the chassis were laid down in one single batch. This seems the more probable, as it is thought that just twelve were produced, each with the chassis identification letters A6ZS followed by a number, commencing 101 and ending with 112. Dates of first registration, however, start in 1935 whilst the last one was in 1946, which rather looks that the sale of this model was even more infrequent than that of the smaller cars.

The car was bodied in four different styles; three of each type are thought to have existed though no doubt this was by coincidence rather than by design as, at a price of £645 for a stark two-seater and £695 for the saloon, they were not particularly cheap, and coachwork would obviously be to the choice of the customer. First announced in 1935, and exhibited at that year’s Motor Show, was a black two-seater, chassis A6ZS 101, which was probably the car in which W. C. N. Norton won his class in the 1936 Six Day Scottish Reliability Trial. In that year a smoke blue saloon appeared on the stand at the Motor Show, and the drophead version could then be bought at the same price. The fourth body design, also a sporting version, seems to have appeared first in 1937, and was more refined than the one produced for 1935. An example of this coachwork is depicted in your magazine accompanying Mr. Freeman’s letter.

Yet another example of the earlier sports car was competed successfully by Miss Patten, coming second to Kay Petre (driving the White Riley (?) in the Women’s Unsupercharged Class at Brighton, as well as winning coachwork competitions at Ramsgate and Eastbourne.

Of the original twelve cars built, we know positively of the existence of six, with at least one example of each of the body types. There is unsubstantiated evidence, mainly from Club newsletters of a decade ago, that there are others widely scattered—a complete car in Spain, a chassis in Australia, and a drophead sans engine somewhere in UK. I am told that a saloon was “written off” and subsequently scrapped in the Bristol area, and one car, ex Miss Patten suffered chassis fracture in Africa, and may well have suffered a similar fate.

Designated BS6/1 at the Works, the design of the engine was entirely the result of the work of the design staff at Raynes Park, but the chassis was virtually the same as S4-d, which, of course was one of the S4 series, a product of SMS at Billancourt. An early general arrangement drawing, dated 17.9.34, shows the engine to be almost a scaled-up version of S4-d, with a generator driven from the nose of the crankshaft, a starting motor in the conventional position and a cooling fan. The most interesting thing about this drawing is that it depicts the engine with separate block and crankcase—à la four-cylinder cars. When the cars emerged the most important feature was the monobloc construction of the crankcase in a chromium alloyed iron. An interesting aside involving the original design, was the use of a crankshaft damper between crankshaft and dynamo, a feature which did not appear on the engines built. Any effort to dampen torsional vibrations set up in the crankshaft would no doubt have made Emil Petit smile, as one of the reasons for his split with SMS was his disapproval of design of the S4 series generally but particularly of the mode of camshaft drive; he claimed, and judging from the number of sucessful engine designs which are so basically similar to his own, that driving the camshafts from the rear of the engine resulted in the transmission of torsional vibrations of the crankshaft to the valve train.

Although the parent factory in France did produce a six-cylinder car it never went into serious production; this was in 1928, a year, before Emil Petit left his employers of the previous ten years. Curiously enough this car gets only a mention from Chris Draper in his Salmson Story, so I am tempted to think that although designed in 1928 (or earlier) Petit was not responsible. If this assumption is correct who then did design this engine? In any event it was quickly discarded in favour of the S4 and its long line of successors, and as these were certainly the work of another designer perhaps he was the man responsible for the Salmson S6. If this is correct one wonders what comparisons may be made between the six-cylinder engines of the two concerns. Are the early British Salmson drawings of BS6/1 any more than a scaled-up copy of that solitary Salmson Six or did the Raynes Park people start afresh? Certainly the final designs were much improved and embodied features based on more sound engineering principles.

Hemingborough R. K. TAYLOR

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