Getting a Cheetah to Move

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Sir,

During the last “bit of bother” the method of starting the Cheetah engines on an Anson was to insert an enormous crank into a socket just behind the engine and turn it with great difficulty over several top dead centres, whilst someone in the cockpit flicked the booster coil switch. If you were lucky and your eyes hadn’t fallen out or your arms dropped off, the engine started; it was then essential that this handle be inserted through a hole in the cowling into a safe storage at the back of the engine bulkhead, all this, while the propeller was blowing a 90 m.p.h., icy gale two feet from your nose end.

By far the best way of starting them was demonstrated to me by an Armstrong Siddeley representative who pulled the prop through two revolutions, throttle open, switches off, stopping just after one TDC, set the throttle; to start, switch on magnetos and press the booster coil switch. If you didn’t waste too much time the engine started. No electric starter, little effort, a touch of the booster coil at the right moment and away. E. W. Dean, Hull, Senior Inspector.

(This letter is another of a great many on the same theme, intended to convince me that I am wrong in thinking that a car with a cold engine can start itself up entirely on its own, if by some mysterious mischance its ignition switch moved to “on”! All these correspondents have missed the point, of course! Some engines will start “on the spark”, every time or with luck, as the case may be, providing all is in order, set correctly, and a human hand flicks the ignition advance-and-retard control. Perhaps some apologies are now due to me from those readers who think I am too ignorant or have such a short memory that I do not know of this. I have, of course, seen various cars so started, notably 40/50 Rolls-Royces and Ron Barker’s 1908 Napier. Jack Warner recalled an ancient Daimler that had stood in a garage starting up entirely of its own volition, because its ignition switch (not its advance/retard control) dropped down, which I took the liberty of calling an improbable happening. See also “Vintage Postbag”. -Ed.)