Camber-Wise

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Since two recent books have been mildly snide about the LMB split-axle independent front suspension which Leslie M Ballamy marketed in the 1930s, we took the opportunity to discuss this design with him. This still very active engineer put his suspension on a sports A7 with papier mâché body, top-hat and box A7 saloons, Marshall-blown Ford Ten tourer, Ford Ten sports two-seater, Ford Epoch four-seater and supercharged Ford V8 saloon and coupé.

Ballamy claimed superior roadholding from his LMB ifs, with a level ride and greater comfort, attained by negative camber and no increase in track when cornering. He also points out that he received glowing testimonials from many famous people who had it fitted to their cars; these included Sir Malcolm Campbell, who used it on his Mercury and Ford V8 coupé when he was Chairman of Lincoln Cars in this country, Dick Seaman, who had it on the Ford V8s he drove to his racing engagements, Whitney Straight on his Ford V8 saloon, Sir Roland Smith, the Managing Director of the Ford Motor Co, Major “Billie” Whittall, Major Gardner of Dagenham Motors, inventor Granville Bradshaw on V8 saloons and Peter Berthon, the ERA designer, on his Ford V8 coupé.

It was also used by Gordon Brettell, George Abecassis, Colin Chapman, Jack French and Arthur Mallock on their racing A7s, and Adrian Conan Doyle put it on his old V12 GP Delage. Ballamy also converted a T37A Bugatti to this form of front-end. I found it effective on those experimental LMB cars, all of which I have experienced, including joining Leslie on a speed hill-climb, MCC trials and a JCC high-speed trial.

Ballamy makes the point that he supplied all Allard’s ifs before the war, with the exception of the radius-rods which were anchored to the chassis, thus upsetting the steering geometry, used after the LMB patent had expired, when Dudley Hume persuaded Allard to change this to forward-extended rods. Colin Chapman made the same mistake on his first A7, and he also failed to relate the pivot-centres to the cg, which gave less-than-good LMB action.

Leslie Ballamy, a friendly extrovert, used to delight in demonstrating his suspension by driving people rapidly up and down kerbs in London streets, and was once about to do this up Lynton Hill in an MCC Land’s End Trial when I yelled to him to cease because regulations expressly forbade driving on the footpath! I also recall how, when the august Dr Lanchester was about to deliver a learned lecture on suspension to the Institution of Automotive Engineers, Leslie accosted him in the hotel foyer and offered him just such a demonstration, which was firmly refused!

To confound the BDC fraternity, we reproduce (above) the system applied by LMB to a vintage 3-litre Bentley in 1935. WB