A Section Devoted to Old-Car Matters
Another Vintage Racing-Car Restoration
A long time ago, about this time when Eric Benfield was starting to rebuild his 1924 200-Mile Race Alvis, I went to see another 200 Mile Race car of the same period, curiously, not far away from where the Alvis was being restored. It was one of the 1923 1,100 c.c. Newton-Ceirano. It seemed to be complete, but the paintwork on the body had suffered. I heard nothing more of this car until very recently. It seems that Noel Newton of Newton & Bennett Ltd., the shock-absorber manufacturers, who were agents for the Ceirano, wanted to compete in the “200” and so he engaged Oliver Pellegatti to make him a suitable racing car. The result was a workmanlike job, said to be based on the current GP Fiats in appearance, with a twin-cam 1,100 c.c. ball-bearing, light-alloy power unit, alleged to give 66 b.h.p. at the then high crankshaft speed of 6,000 r.p.m. In fact, two such Newton-Ceiranos were built, and entered for the 1923 race. They were not completed in time but one car was entered again in 1924. It again failed to start, for a rather interesting reason. Pellegatti had used dry-sump lubrication, with the lubricant in a 4½-gallon tank in the scuttle, above the driver’s legs. He had not realised that on the Brooklands’ bankings a considerable sideways/downwards thrust was exerted, and the scavenge oil pump just couldn’t cope and dumped too much oil into the sump, causing incurable oiling-up of the plugs.
It seems that Newton sold, or more probably lent, the car to Sydney Cummings, who is said to have installed extra scavenge pumps driven from the timing gears enabling the car to be raced at Southport sands and in speed hill-climbs by his daughter Ivy, although I do not recall this. After that it seems that the car returned to the Manchester district and was put into store, where it was discovered, in a very poor state, due to the Lancashire sand and inadequate garaging, by Nick Sloan, who had a more normal Ceirano in his possession. He bought it, but disposed of it to a friend, to whose house I had made that journey out to Middlesex to see it.
Now, from Rhodesia, comes a sequel. It seems that the engine had suffered badly but that before the war, Neil Smith had got hold of the spare engine, from Marcus Chambers, intending to use it in a sprint special and having new Martlett pistons made for it. When he bent the chassis of this special he sold the engine, which had survived the war in a flooded East End basement, to someone who had blown-up the engine in his Alfa Romeo, around 1944. I now hear that this Ceirano engine has turned up again and is to be used to complete the restoration of the racing Newton-Ceirano that I went to see so many years ago. Benfield races his 200 Mile Race Alvis to good effect and the enjoyment of many of us, and it seems that another 200 Mile Race car may soon join it in VSCC events, perhaps later this year. – W.B.
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Those who are depressed by the current astronomical prices demanded for everything ancient except human beings may be encouraged to note that a reader reports that at a recent farm machinery auction a 1938 Morris Eight was sold for £15 and that the top bid for a running-order Austin 7 chassis was £11. May the trend continue! Renold’s are celebrating the centenary of the founding of the original Renold Company in Salford with a series of open days at their factories and other events, the celebrations to run until September. They have also produced a fine brochure with colour illustrations to mark the occasion. Among the vehicles depicted therein are a circa-1900 P & M motorcycle, one of the first to use Renold chains, an Edwardian 18/24 h.p. chain-drive Austin in which Hans Renold is a passenger, a Leyland undertype steam waggon which used a roller-chain drive, and a modern Saab with its triple Renold chain-drive, using staggered-tooth sprocket between engine and gear box (see Motor Sport Editorial, December, 1977). Shelsley Walsh has been resurfaced from start to finish and new lavatories erected in the Paddock – otherwise, this famous speed hill-climb venue will, we hope, remain much as it was in 1905. The Bicton Hall of Transport Museum in East Devon will open on July 8th. Among the cars on display are a 1902 Panhard-Levassor, a 1903 curved-dash Oldsmobile, 1902 Stanley steamer, 1915 Model-T Ford, a 1923 Morris and a 1928 Bentley, while the motorcycles range from a 1902 Peugeot to a 1977 Matchless. The oldest exhibit is a 3 h.p. Benz, claimed to date from 1894; it carries Reg. No. A 65. The May issue of the Pre-War Austin Seven Club Newsletter contained information on how to convert an Austin 7 from cable to hydraulic brakes. The Rotary Motor Gala, organised for charity by the Rotary Club of Bognor Regis, takes place on August 19th. More than 200 entries are expected of veteran, vintage, and classic vehicles. Details from: C. Sayer, Barton Grannery, Nyetimber, Bognor Regis. The Bullnose Morris Club’s magazine for last April had a most interesting article by Ken Revis about WW2 bomb disposal, in connection with the TV play “Danger-UXB”, for which he acted as adviser – Ken lost his sight in a bomb explosion during the war but never allows this to interfere with his active life. The same magazine has a photograph of the Morris-Cowley which was defeated by Screw Hill at Porth-y-Nant in 1924; its owner conquered the gradient in 1925 with an Austin 12. Entries for the Historic Commercial Vehicle Club’s Beaulieu Rally close on July 1st. The Jowett CC’s magazine The Jowetteer for last April contained an article about a 1937 Jowett saloon purchased in 1940 for £40, which was then converted into a truck and which has since run 326,000 miles, still being used, now for pleasure only.
From a brochure lent to us by a reader we note that the manufacturers of the Brooks steamer, made in Canada in the 1920s and looking like a typical American car of its period, claimed that this was the first American car to have a fabric body as standard, this being the then-new Meritas body, “adopted by several of the biggest British manufacturers”. It was suggested that those who had refrained from purchasing a closed car due to the inevitable squeaks and rattles, would find an “entire absence of rumbling and vibration in a Brooks sedan.” The 5-seater body was to Brooks design, made by the American Auto Trimming Company of Walkerville, Ontario, finished in black with a polished metal line, and upholstered in the finest broadcloths and mohairs. As to the car itself, it had a 21-gallon copper water-tube boiler under the bonnet, rear-mounted 15-gallon fuel tank, and a double-acting, slide-valve, two-cylinder 4” x 4½” steam engine driving directly to the back axle. The wheelbase was 122”, the weight 3.800 lb., and no water replenishment until more than 225-300 miles had been covered, while an oil consumption of 1,200 m.p.g. was named. There were back-wheel brakes, Ross cam-and-lever steering, and 33 x 5.75 balloon tyres on detachable rims. The radiator was the steam condenser and the price was 3,885 dollars.
Isn’t it rather pleasing, remembering all those effective vee-eights made by the great Turin Company, that today’s Lancia Gamma uses an unconventional flat-four power unit? It was a nice gesture on the part of Barnes County Council to retain the massive wrought-iron gates that once formed the entrance to the Beverley Engineering Works, where the straight-eight Beverley-Barnes cars were made and parts of vintage Bentleys fabricated, as part of the new housing estate in Brookwood Avenue, Barnes. Barry Clarke hopes that still more information may be forthcoming about the Gordon England Brooklands-model Austin 7s, possibly from those who remember these cars when they were in production. This year’s Amilcar Rally is to be in Belgium, on September 1st/2nd. Details from: Elaine Drake, West Hayes, Rockbourne, near Fordingbridge, Hants. – W. B.
Vee or In-Line?
It has been pointed out to me that in the list of straight-eight engined cars that existed in 1930, published in the April issue, I included a Lancia and that this famous make has never been made in eight-cylinder in-line form. I took my list from data published in The Autocar at the relevant time and rather than this being in error, I am inclined to think that their then-Technical Editor, A. D. Douglas-Clease, BSc, regarded the angle of the Lancia’s cylinders as so narrow as to constitute, in effect, a straight-eight format. He was thinking of the 32 h.p. Lancia Dilambda, of 79.37 x 100 mm. bore and stroke (3,954 c.c.). When this fine car was first described in The Autocar, however, its engine was called “a small-angle V-type eight, no longer than a four of equivalent bore . . .” Indeed, it was said that as there was a sparking plug on either side the four-cylinder illusion was apt to be increased. The Dilambda had one crankpin per con-rod, as the cylinders were staggered, on its five-bearing crankshaft, which may, of course, have caused the in-line illusion in Clease’s mind. Incidentally, the Dilambda had the same splendid valve gear that I used to admire after removing the “Dome of St. Paul’s” valve cover on the Lambda I owned during the war, which was, of course, a vee-four. There always has been to my mind something special about that Lancia overhead-camshaft valve gear. The valve springs sat neatly into their retaining caps, (could these and the caps have been plated?) and the angled rockers were well formed, and spring-loaded into place. The camshaft was driven by beautifully-made spiral bevel gears, and one reader remembers the wooden “aeroplane propeller” cooling-fan and the crankshaft which D. B. Tubbs has described as “a beautiful artifact, fully-machined.” – W.B.
A 28/95 Mercedes in Australia
I was rather taken aback when, at the close of the enjoyable BOC Golden Jubilee Dinner, J. L. Goddard asked me to meet two friends of his from Australia, and they went on a bit about injustices Motor Sport had done to a vintage Mercedes. It was a Bugatti occasion and my memory was hazy about other makes. But it seems that this Mercedes cropped up in another magazine’s report of the 1978 Australian International Vintage & Veteran Rally, when a picture caption referred to E.A. Lobb’s 1921 car as a “raceabout” and remarked that it looked to be too small to be 28/95 so it was guessed to be “in the 2-litre class”. I do not recollect any later correction.
My interest was aroused and in the Rally programme I found a picture of the car, which appeared to have a very home-made body and which was described as a Targa Florio Mercedes. Mr. Warriner, who restored this and a Type 49 Bugatti for Mr Lobb, wrote to us to say the car was in fact an original 7-litre short-chassis Mercedes of the type that was second in the 1921 Targa Florio and had won that year’s Coppa Florio. I duly apologised for my earlier comments. A photograph of the car which we published last October showed it to have been very much smartened up, so I conclude that it has a replica body. It also has modern-size tyres and T. A. S. O. Mathieson pointed out that it can’t be like the 1921 Coppa Florio winner as this race was won by a Ballot. They myth that Mercedes won this race apparently originated in The Motor and has been repeated ever since even by such experts as Pomeroy and Scott-Moncrieff! Motor Sport’s caption writer incorrectly said Mr. Lobb’s Mercedes, which is probably a 28/95 rebodied touring chassis, is in the USA. It isn’t. It is in Australia, along with a rebuilt 1914 GP Delage, I am very glad to make this correction for Mr Lobb, who takes his Mercedes very seriously. – W. B.
The VSCC at Silverstone
In a changing World, nothing much changes within the VSCC and its second Silverstone race meeting of the year will thus take place as usual at Silverstone, but on July 28th. It will be the customary Mike Hawthorn Trophy Meeting over the Club circuit. Besides the Hawthorn Trophy race for post-war historic racing cars, vintage racing cars will contest the Boulogne Trophy Race, there will be an Allcomers’ race for pre-war machinery, and a handicap for the bigger road-trim sports cars for the Fox & Nichol Trophy. In addition the supporting short races will sustain the programme, with the Napier, Light Car and Bill Phillips Trophies awarded for special performances. Racing is due to commence at about 1.15 p.m., admission costs £2 per adult to enclosures and stands, paddock transfer 70p extra, but children under 14, unlike dogs which (although often better behaved) are not permitted, get in for 30p and 20p respectively. Don’t ask me why children over 14 are regarded as adults. Special concessions for VSCC members, of course, and those wishing to compete should note that entries close first-post on July 5th, which by present-day Post Office standards means about NOW. – W. B.
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V-E-V Odds & Ends
As usual, The Journal of the Morris Register, Summer issue, is full of interesting text and pictures. There is good coverage of the 1933 Morris Minor expedition made from Merseyside to Cape Town in 1933, as featured by Yorkshire Television earlier this year, a pictorial report on this year’s Morris Register Brighton Run, and some more erudite focusing, by Harry Edwards, on pre-war Morris Commercials, with a comprehensive table of LC and CV-type data, including a list of known surviving vehicles. Incidentally, one of the photographs in this issue is of a Lines Bros child’s pedal-car, intended to be a bull-nose Morris. The Bluebell Railway’s well-established “Vintage Sunday”, which includes a static display of pre-war vehicles, is scheduled this year for September 9th. Details from: David Rider, Drummond House, 3 Bluebell Railway Cottages, Sheffield Park, Uckfield, East Sussex, TN22 3QU. Future books from the house of Dalton Watson will include “Vanden Plas” by Brian Smith, the Daimler historian, and “Twin Cam” by Griffith Borgeson. The May issue of Flute News, official organ of the Vauxhall OC, contained details of pre-war S and F-type Vauxhall ambulances. Several pre-war Vauxhalls are in course of restoration, including a 1935 DY saloon which has been stored since 1951. On September 16th the West Midlands Section of the Rover Sports Register is holding a National Rally of Rover vehicles of all ages, the venue being Warwick Castle. This commemorates 75 years of the Rover name. Concours d’Elegance classes, open to non-members, will be judged by the entrants themselves, which is a novel method. These will cater for all Rovers, excluding bicycles and motorcycles made before 1930, those of 1931-39, and 1940-49, with other classes for pre-P4 60s, 75s, 90s and 105s, and for P4 80s, 95s, 100s and 110s, all P5 models, all P6s up to the 3500s, and for Rover bicycles and motorcycles. RSR members will also be competing for the Keith Kent Trophy in the National P4 Pride-of-Ownership Contest. Details from the Rover Sports Register. Champion Plugs’ International Motor Mail carried a story recently about how one off their sales reps. found a 1930 AJS saloon in pieces, stored in boxes, and how he rebuilt it, for use in Irish rallies. It is the deluxe Richmond saloon, with sunroof, and is thought to have run 250,000 miles. The Folkestone Pageant of Motoring takes place on July 7th. Entries have closed but spectators may care to watch the Grand Parade along the Leas, which commences at 2 p.m., after the cars have assembled there from 11 a.m. to noon. The prizewinners’ parade is at 4.30 p.m. The local council has approved the event. The Bullnose Morris Register is holding a Summer Rally in York on July 21st/22nd, with the cars gathering in front of the Castle Museum under the shadow of the Norman Keep, and the annual pilgrimage of these cars to their birthplace, Oxford, will take place on September 15th/16th. The Club Secretary is David Williams, 123, Lakeside Close, Hough Green, Widnes. Those who like Austins should remember that the Austin Ten DC, the Club whose members are encouraged to use their cars, has its National Rally at Weston Park, Shifnal, Shropshire on July 21st/22nd, and that the 750 MC’s National Austin Seven Rally takes place at the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu, on July 1st, on which day pre-war Sunbeams return to their birthplace, Wolverhampton, centred on the Castlecroft Hotel. Will the reader who offered a pre-war Raydyot licence-holder to anyone with an appropriate car (preferably a Singer) – April issue, page 451 – please let us have the address to which to forward the many letters we have received from interested persons? – W. B.
The British Movietone Newsreel service has come to an end of its long run defeated by TV news and other factors. Although Movietone covered all aspects of the passing scene, we feel it merits a last salute in these columns, because many Brooklands and other motor-racing and sporting events were “shot” by its cameramen. Sir Malcolm Campbell was Editor of British Movietone for some time, and his voice could be heard commenting, on other than motoring occasions. Paul Wyand, who worked as a boy for Parry Thomas at Brooklands, when on to become one of the greatest newsreel photographers of all time, after joining Movietone, as his book “Useless If Delayed” (Harrap, 1959) so graphically describes. Alas, it is now farewell, to this very British institution, although one hopes to see many of the motor-racing films from Movietone’s archives again, at appropriate times. – W. B.
Top Paper/Top Car
In this 75th year of the Rolls-Royce motor-car I thought it might be interesting to look back at what The Times said in its road-test reports of some of the Rolls-Royce models –the top paper looking at the World’s best-car, as it were, although in terms of production continuity the motor manufacturer is today having decidedly much better luck than the newspaper’s proprietors.
No doubt The Times thundered about Rolls-Royces from very early times. Here we will confine ourselves to some of the vintage and p.v.t cars of this illustrious make. The Times’ Motoring Correspondents used to describe in some mechanical detail each of the cars they tested, and before the war adopted the rather quaint practice of checking the speedometer-readings up the old Dashwood hill near Oxford, a popular test hill with pioneer drivers. I believe this hill still runs parallel to the A40 road out of Oxford, should anyone want to try their car on it.
Of the Rolls-Royce Twenty, the latest model “with four speeds and six brakes”, The Times tester of the day said that “it is not designed for great speed, but its running is highly refined”. It is interesting that, when this was written, the older model without “the modern braking system” was still available, for £85 less. Silence, the Times’ man thought, was the 20’s greatest attribute –“Travelling on top at 60 miles an hour one hears only the tyres”. If I pick out his few criticisms, this is because all the rest was praise. On this Twenty the worm-and-nut steering “was not free from shake on a rough road”. The tester went on to say that, to his thinking, all Rolls-Royce steering would be improved were greater steadiness obtained. The new brakes tended to pull a trifle to the nearside under hard and unsympathetic pedal pressures which was accentuated on rough surfaces, but this was put down to probably some insulation caused by a foreign substance, “such as water from washing”, affecting the balance of the two brakes. There was a little wheel bouncing on bad roads and the arrangement of the side-curtains of the Barker body were thought too old-fashioned. The ignition coil got hot, the water-pump would have to be removed to re-pack the gland, and you had to crawl under the car to drain the sump. The petrol-tank filler lacked a gauze, and a gauge, the oil-filler a strainer, and as the clutch bearings called for hand lubrication, winged nuts on its inspection plate might have been provided. The tester felt that the rear brakes cables should have been in guides and that the various brake adjusters could have been more easily reached. Sir Henry would have said, perhaps, that this was pampering your chauffeur. Otherwise, all was happiness, the new £1,675 Rolls-Royce 20’s engine being praised for “vitality, courage, and a pleasing disposition”. At about the same period The Times’ man drove a 40/50 Phantom I Rolls-Royce touring car, “the finest production of its kind that I have tried”.
He went on to say that “This world famous chassis has never been above criticism, nor is it perfect now, but the general performance is quite outstanding. There are faster cars, there are makes with quicker acceleration for their engine capacity, and there are sound chassis planned with less complication, but very few makes can exhibit the same all-round behaviour on the road”. The detail criticisms were much as for the Twenty, with the added remark that as the gearbox was three-point mounted there seems no object in mounting the gear-gate on the frame. The gears were commendably quiet and 70 m.p.h. “was not an exaggerated maximum”. The tester must have been gratified to learn that most of the improvements suggested by him were incorporated in later models, even to deletion of the additional gear-gate support.
Although the motoring journalists of those days did not seem to get over-many Rolls-Royces for test, The Times was allowed a second PI tourer, which was “not quite so sweet as the first one, but the climbing was better”. It may have needed more running-in, but would do 35 and 55 m.p.h. on its 2nd and 3rd gears before “any marked valve clatter was heard”, and “75 in top on the level should not push the car too hard”. The steering was “always light and now reasonably steady”. The brakes were over-servoed at first under hard applications, and the hand brake “could be made more responsive”. This five-seater Hooper tourer cost £2,690. Of it the report said “When I am not travelling in a Phantom Rolls-Royce I seldom feel that the car is worth the money: when I am driving one I invariably feel that it is” (Note that “Auntie’s” Editor passed the split-infinitive!).
So it went on. It seems that another 20 h.p. model was tried, and later there was a 20/25 Weymann saloon, priced at £1,699, of which The Times man said “The proof of the Rolls-Royce is in the running. In its wealth of detail construction it does not particularly appeal to me, but its running inspires enthusiasm . . . and the acceleration is freer (than from the smaller-bore car) and finer”. The Phantom II that he tried was an experimental car with nearly 30,000 miles run, the four-window, four-door Barker body of which restricted driver vision. Speeds on its upper three gears were about 45, 60, and 80 m.p.h. but the clutch slipped when doing re-starts in top and 3rd gears on what was called the new Dashwood hill. Less responsive and firmer steering would have been appreciated. The chassis price was £1,900, the shorter wheelbase model being £50 cheaper.
A later 20/25 which had done 1,000 miles was good for 35, 55 and 70 m.p.h. in the upper gears and its steering was improved, although still heavy, on lock. Let us look finally at what The Times thought of the Continental Touring Park Ward saloon on the Phantom II chassis. The test car had run about 13,000 miles. “It needed no urging, it is always ready to tackle it’s job, and hard work is undertaken lightly, yet swiftly and surely, it gives the impression that down to the smallest nut, the greatest care has been given to ensure that every part is a worth member of the whole.” Priced at £2,425, speeds of about 50, 75, and over 90 m.p.h. were obtained in the gears. The steering was described as light but showing too much reversibility on rough surfaces – “I should prefer cam steering”. Reading between the lines, it seems too, that the gears baulked in engagement when the car was at rest.
Reverting to the ascents of Dashwood hill, described as of 1 in 11 gradients, the new bill being 1 in 22½, it is amusing that while the number of passengers carried varied, the tester was careful to discuss whether the surface was dry, wet or rutted (the ruts apparently reduced speed by some six m.p.h.) and the direction and strength of the wind at the time, although one wonders how much the latter affected the speeds? These can be summarised by a table, below. – W. B.
In last month’s issue a line was omitted from the VSCC Donington report, so that a reference to Howell’s 3-litre Sunbeam did not appear and a nonsense was made of the Norris Special of I. Stirling, which won a handicap race. On page 786 the stolen Morgan 3-wheeler had a barrel-shaped body, not the medically-orientated “bowel-back” body attributed to it, and surely the Matchless engine it should have is air-cooled, not water-cooled? –W. B.