EMPAN5-ON AT ROURKE, THE E.R.A. FACTORY MUCH ENLARGED. PLANS AND PROSPECTS FOR 1935.
JUST a year ago English Racing Automobiles, Ltd., produced the first E.R.A. racing car, and in spite of the minor troubles which almost always beset a new design during the early stages, the cars have already made their mark in hill-climbs, races, and in the sphere of record-breaking. During the winter months the finishing touches have been made to the factory at Bourne, Lincolnshire, and the concern is now in a position to carry through the strenuous racing season which lies before it.
The first cars were constructed under rather cramped conditions, in what was formerly Raymond Mays’ workshop. A new wing, capable of taking eight or ten cars has now been erected, and we found this spacious and well-lighted shop a perfect hive of activity on the occasion of our last visit. In another part of the building is the engine erecting shop, where we were able to inspect the massive fullybalanced crank-shafts, the delicate-looking slipper pistons and the light alloy connecting rods, which were being balanced on a special Avery machine. To the layman one of the most interesting engine parts was the caged roller bearing for the centre main bearing. The rollers, which are about an inch-and-a-half long and half that in diameter, are constructed from square rod wound on a mandrel. Each roller runs on its own pin, and the cages consist of two semi-circular parts hinged together. These are threaded round the crankshaft when it is in position and finally joined together by means of a special rivet. Not the kind of job one would like to undertake during the course of a race.
Before leaving the engine shop we must mention an experimental I,100 c.c. engine fitted with an enormous Zoller blower. This was fitted at the rear of the engine and driven by gears front the rear end of the crankshaft. If it is possible to get this unit ready in time, it may be fitted to one of the cars taking .part in the Isle of Man races. Another interesting catwas a Riley M.P.H. fitted with a de-tuned E.R.A. engine. Running on straight petrol, this astonishing little car reaches a speed of tin m.p.h.
In another part of the. building are the stores, already filled with neatly arranged rows of spare parts and raw materials, and close to this was Raymond Mays’ sanctum, where we finally settled down to discuss the programme for the present season.
” The new International Formula is naturally rather a disappointment to us,” was Mays’ first observation. ” Mathieson -has given up the idea of buying a car, and so has Eric Burt, but fortunately Tim Rose-Richards. who was to have been his driver, has decided instead to drive one of the team cars, with Humphrey Cook and myself. We have already delivered an 1,too c.c. car to Fairfield, and Seaman’s 11-litre is downstairs almost completed. ” We had the greatest difficulty last
winter in securing the special chassis, engine castings and other parts which we require, and now we have got them we find we do not need as many cars as we expected, and so we will have one 1I-litre car to sell. Another snag is to find a sufficient number of really highly-skilled and trustworthy mechanics, but now we’ve managed that as well, so we should be fairly well set for the season.” The cars have given surprisingly little
trouble, and the new models show only minor alterations. The most important of these is an additional box-section and X member in front of the driver’s seat, while the rear springs have been made more flexible and have improved the road-holding considerably. We were interested to learn that Mr. Berthon was not in favour of independent rear springing, at any rate, of any type so far devised. The disadvantage of swinging axles lies in the fact that on a corner a car fitted with them heels over twice as much as one on which the conventional type is used. Against this, of course, one has to consider the question of tyre wear, which has been shown to be much less with independent springing. The E.R.A.s weigh Only 13 cwt., while the 1,100 c.c., 1Hitre, and 2-litre engines develop respectively 140, 18o and 230 h.p., so the problem of tyre wear is somewhat acute. For the International Trophy the car which Mays drove was fitted with tyres of 71-inch section, and he found that he wore out the off-side rear cover in a mere 3 laps. After a moment of quick thought he decided to take a really high course on the banking and by thus equalising the wear was able to keep on for a further 39 before coming in again. However, this type of tyre does not seem as satisfactory as the six-inch type fitted last year, though it lasts better, but he is now planning to try a set with a section of 61-inches. ” I’ve never been so disappointed as in that race,” he continued, ” with a comfortable three-mile lead half-way through, and the car running perfectly, I ran out of fuel on the far side of the track. We thought at first the tank must have sprung a leak, but we (Continued at foot of next page)
found out afterwards that the fuel we were using had dissolved the solder on the carburetter float and that it had been flooding steadily for the greater part of the distance.” His magnificent runs at Shelsley must have come as some consolation for this misfortune. The proposed racing programme is an extensive one. After the Isle of Man, Cook, Rose-Richards and Mays will be taking part in the Eifelrennen, and as was pointed out, this will be the first time for many years that a team of Grand Prix cars from England has taken part in a race abroad. After that Mays may go to the Kesselhurg Hill-Climb, return
ing then to England for the Empire Trophy, in which two 14-litres and one 2-litre will be entered. There will be three 11–litre cars at Dieppe in the small race, and possibly a 2-litre in the large-car race on the Sunday, and the E.R.A. Company have also been invited to send a 2-litre car to the German Grand Prix.
The Nice authorities have also sent an invitation, while three 14–litre cars will be entered in the Swiss Grand Prix. The season concludes with the Nuffield Trophy at Donington, the autumn Shelsley meeting and the Mountain Championship. In addition, Seaman will be running his car in several races as an independent, starting with the Grand Prix des Frontieres.
Needless to say this programme will necessitate much travelling to and fro, and to carry the cars four Bedford trucks have been bought. For his personal use Mays has purchased a 31-litre Bentley fitted with a Park Ward saloon body, and is enthusiastic about its performance and its easy riding qualities.
After the Mannin races, therefore, the ER.A. team will proceed to the Eifel Race on the Nurburg Ring, and all followers of the sport in this country will wish the three drivers and Peter I3erthon, the designer and team manager, the best of luck in their first serious venture abroad.