Letters from readers, June 1940

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Sir,

I note in my April copy you published my comments on the picture of the alleged 1907 G.P. Fiat, appearing in the March issue of MOTOR SPORT.

I would point out that in the published letter the car is referred to as a probable 1913, and not as 1912 which I suggested it was. As those who remember the race will realise, no Fiats raced in the 1913 French G.P. and therefore the letter loses its point.

I am, Yours

CAPT. H. W. BUNBURY.

Mildenhall.

[Authoritative circles now seem to agree with Capt. Bunbury that the Fiat in question is 1912 and not 1907.—Ed.]

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Sir,

In the March issue of MOTOR SPORT, Mr. D. R. Hagen requests information regarding the 2-litre Lagondas at Le Mans in 1929. Perhaps the following will be of interest. Actually no Lagonda ran at Le Mans in 1929. It was the previous year that witnessed a works team of three cars, all four-seaters, competing in a field of thirty-three starters—all of them cars such as manufacturers could expect to sell for everyday motoring!

It was not a great day for Lagondas, which, though undoubtedly fast, were unlucky—or was it over-eagerness on the part of some of their driver’s? At all events, the start saw one Lagonda badly left at the post. Quite early, a second, attempting Mulsanne at impossible speed, embedded itself for keeps in a sand-bank, only to be rammed by the first Lagonda, which broke a frame and sustained other damage as a result. Strange to relate, this Lagonda was the only one to finish the course, which it did eleventh at an average of approximately 56 m.p.h. The third Lagonda was also eliminated in the early stages with an empty radiator.

The race was won at 69 m.p.h. by a 4½-litre Bentley, a second Bentley putting in a lap at approximately 80 m.p.h. Another, and perhaps the best British achievement, was that of a front-wheel-drive 1,500 c.c. Alvis, which, in addition to winning its class, finished sixth in the general classification at an average of 59 m.p.h.

These speeds may all seem pretty tame to-day, but in 1928 the Le Mans circuit was a very different kettle of fish, and still included the famous Pontlieue hairpin.

I am, Yours etc.,

F. LYCETT.

London,

S.W .5.

*   *   *   *   *

Sir,

Although somewhat late in the day, I should like to add my praises to your highly commendable effort in “carrying on” and the continued production of your excellent journal. Long may MOTOR SPORT flourish.

It appears that various enthusiastic folk are furnishing evidence that the spirit that broods over fast machinery has not as yet gone into hibernation “for the duration.” Here is my contribution. Last Autumn, in southern counties, a very impressive 4½-litre Bentley which was less windscreen and somewhat cut down. Pick of the bag: a genuine “San Sebastian” -Salmson which, the owner informed me, was the last of that particular model to leave the works. Blue finish, Cozette blown and twin o.h.c. with a tendency to oil plugs. Early in the new year a T.T. Replica 1½-litre Aston Martin put in a not unnaturally rapid appearance. On leave in the north recently, I had some delightful runs in a real dyed-in-the-wool Ulster-Austin—most exhilarating was the raucous note peculiar to this model, interrupted on occasions by minor explosions from the blower release valve. A veritable paragon among small cars, with superb road-holding. And lastly, on returning to the south, an open four-seater, 14 h.p. Marendaz Special. Not too bad, considering prevailing conditions, although I fear my main connection with automobiles has been confined to the passenger seat of sundry lorries, fruits of some energetic “hitch-hiking” when proceeding on week-end. Glad to see the old Austin Seven tourer putting in an appearance in increased quantities. Fine little cars; I had one for some time, which, albeit thirteen years old, gave no trouble, and had truly astonishing performance.

Here is a suggestion that I should like to put forward. Many may bewail that there are no longer any sporting events in which to compete and that they have had to lay up their sports-cars or considerably curtail their peregrinations in same. But what of the enthusiasts who had only very humble vehicles and were forced to follow the “Sport” from the wrong side of the fence, anyway? There were lots of people who could only keep up their motoring associations by means of the Press and radio, one of their main joys being simply to “talk motoring”. Now, Mr. Editor, I can assure you that the average barrack-room is by no means 100 per cent. enthusiastic in the motoring sense of the word, so couldn’t some means be found (perhaps through the pages of MOTOR SPORT?) whereby small numbers of interested persons up and down the country could arrange to get out of camp for a few hours and repair to some convenient hostelry and discuss those two subjects of never flagging interest, to wit: sporting motoring and vintage cars. Not much, I admit, but definitely something to do until Brooklands, Lewes, Prescott, Donington and the like open up once more.

I am, Yours etc.,

J. 0. BALLARD.

Somewhere in England.

[The idea of enthusiasts getting together to “talk cars” is very much to the point; the question is, how best to get the ball rolling. We hope that regular meetings of sports-car owners will soon be a feature of the war, and can think of no better organizing body than the Vintage S.C.C,—Ed.]

*   *   *   *   *

Sir,

In these troubled times with a nuisance of a nation to be put back (?) into a strait jacket, and therefore practically all modern sporting motoring completely curtailed, I must confess to a feeling not far short of bitter anger that there are persons so lacking in imagination as to chide you for frequent mention of Edwardian and vintage motors. What better time than this to dwell on glorious cars of the past?

It is a very immature enthusiast indeed who cares only for modern fast and distinctive cars. Any pre-war (I) car that could equal or better a goodly number of to-day’s smaller sports-cars in the matter of top speed is surely worthy of more than passing respect.

l’ve always thought it a pity that MOTOR SPORT had never published pictures, or brief descriptions of the larger, really rare super sports-cars of pre-war vintage. To my mind, the two that stand out are the “Prince Henry” Austro-Daimler, and the “Prince Henry” Mettalurgique (sp.?). Of the former, I have been told, by the service depot (fifteen years ago) in New York City, that no more than eleven found their way to this country. Probably the rarest of all was the Mettalurgique. This car really deserves an article, if only a brief one. From “The Autocar” of 1912 or so, I seem to remember that the engine was almost the same capacity as the Austro-Daimler, but carried four gigantic overhead intake valves (the 70 mm. diameter valves of the Austro-Daimler are sufficiently gargantuan!), one to a cylinder, nearly as big as the bore, while there were no fewer than four lateral exhaust valves (horizontal), to a cylinder. I cannot remember the b.h.p. but the speeds on the gears would be impressive to-day, 35 m.p.h. on bottom, 60 on second, 80 on third, and 95 on top. This car was actually illustrated in an issue of “The Autocar” for 1912. I, for one, would certainly like to know how many were ever built.

Going back to the “Prince Henry” Austro-Daimler, mine is a 1912, engine number 1329. Speeds in the two lowest gears are not outstanding, being about 18 and 30 m.p.h. respectively. Over 50 can be obtained on third, and this gear possesses very satisfactory accelerative powers. Top is 2.5 to 1, and therefore needs no comments as to its “free-running” properties, and other attendant joys. The engine carries a R.A.C. (as well as S.A.E.) rating of 27 h.p., while 80 was delivered on the brake, at just what r.p.m. I can’t say, though I do know that 1,900 represented its safe maximum.

I know of a 1913 Austro-Daimler that attained 55 easily in third, and a 1914 model that could reach 70 in the same gear, though it had been admittedly doctored a bit. From 1912 through 1914 the “P.H.” model had practically no mechanical changes. I believe it came out in 1911, with chain drive, though all three subsequent years were shaft driven. The bore and stroke was 105 mm. x 165 mm. Main oil tank was on the dash in which was a multitude of plunger pumps, each with its own pipe to main bearings and cylinder walls. Base chamber was very shallow, the big ends dipping—I always trusted(!)—into whatever oil happened to collect there. On the left of the oil tank was a hand operated plunger oil pump that, I was told in all seriousness, was for strenuous bits of running! When I dismantled the engine I found that this pump really did squirt a jet of oil at each down stroke, on all four big ends simultaneously. The little pumps in the dash tank were driven by skew gears from the rear of the single overhead camshaft. The valves, both intake and exhaust, were inclined and opened, not by contact on their stems, but by forked rockers that engaged collars on the stems very close to the valve guides. Ignition was by two Bosch magnetos driven from the vertical shaft (to the camshaft). One was a dual, giving coil ignition for starting. Dynamo was chain driven from the clutch to gearbox shaft in the manner of the Rolls “Silver Ghost.” Lights and starting were six volt, the components obviously being added on arrival in this country. Petrol feed was by pressure in the rear tank (which holds about 16 U.S. gallons). Preliminary pressure was pumped by hand on the dash; when the engine started, a weird exhaust pump attached to the fourth exhaust stack, or lead to the muffler, more or less kept up pressure. This pump, too corroded to dismantle, appears to work at each explosion, compressing a small amount of air as it reacts from each “impact.”

Steering is the quickest I have ever experienced; slight pressure on the wheel rim suffices for all but the sharpest bends, while those met on the average highway are simply not dealt with. The picture before one, that imperceptible inclination, is more than sufficient. The castor action is excellent. Suspension is of a very robust sort, but after 60 m.p.h. it takes on a more “flowing” quality. These cars were, with original tyre equipment, supposed to do around 85 m.p.h. I’ve been told. Being such a rare creation I have refrained from exceeding much beyond 65 m.p.h. Northern New England roads are not like those of South Georgia. Incidentally three pedals are used; as in the contemporary Isotta and Benz cars, there were two separate foot brakes working on a large drum behind the gearbox. The hand lever controlled expanding shoes on the rear hubs.

Totally aside from the above, there are two items in the March issue that I would like to touch upon.

Now that article that appeared in “Esquire” by that supercilious Sagendorph (needless to say, none of us enthusiasts ever heard of him before, and the well-known Gallico should damned well stick to his golf, boxing, etc, before wading out into what is for him the unknown).

Keech was killed in a multifold crash at Altoona, but after Indianapolis, 1929, of course; that fall or late summer I’m sure. Yes, Jimmy Murphy was killed at Syracuse, but on a dirt track. That mile triangle at Syracuse has always been dirt or macadam, never boards as Sagendorph infers.

Item No. 2 is that “1907” Vanderbilt Cup Fiat photo that Professor Fales sent you. I feel I should argue with him personally before writing to you, but so far we have lacked the chance to see each other for some months.

Now this Fiat, when first shown to view about two years ago, was stated to have won the 1911 Vanderbilt Cup Race at Savannah. I have before me a New York Times, dated November 11th, 1911, showing a map of the course (how that makes a real Yankee sportsman cringe!—the glorious days that used to be!—Santa Monica, Elgin, and others!) and pictures of many of the contestants. Except for wheel sizes the Fiats shown bear a very marked resemblance to the one shown on page 48. Somehow I feel sure that that high, massive radiator was not used by Fiat as early as 1907. Nazzaro’s Targa Florio winner (for that year) was much more on the order of Anthony Heal’s. This will bear further investigating.

I am, Yours etc.,

DILL WYN PARRISH.

Vermont,

U.S.A.

[Further proof of American enthusiasm, and a most interesting letter. The date of the Fiat has already been queried, and it is now generally agreed to be later than 1907.—Ed.]

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Sir,

In the current issue I like H. L. Biggs’s “Chain Gang Days,” and am looking forward to his Alfa-Romeo article. Could you possibly dig up a similar Lancia effort? As a sometime owner of a “Lambda” fourth series, I should be very interested, especially as so far I have not come across a history of this marque—except for paragraphs which crop up occasionally in your magazine. I am, Yours etc.,

WILLIAM A. CRABB.

139 Sqdn.,

R.A.F.

[Letters about Lancias, please.—Ed.]

*   *   *   *   *

Sir,

I have noted with interest the observations of Mr. Clutton and Mr. John V. Bolster, relative to the performances of the “30/98” Vauxhall and the 3-litre Bentley. Doubtless Mr. Bolster is correct in stating that the “30/98s” were superior to the 3-litre Bentleys in initial acceleration, in acceleration in top, and wear of bearings, etc., but in my somewhat biased opinion (being a Bentley fan since my school days) I would say that a doctored 4½-litre Bentley is the superior of a hotted up “30/98” in many ways— also I would point out that the 3-litre Bentley has a h.p. of 15.9 and therefore it is rather unfair to compare it with the higher powered Vauxhall.

Mr. P. E. Elgood lapped Brooklands last year at 127 on a 4½, which started life as an ordinary production model. The 4½s of Mr. Forrest Lycett and Mr. L. C. McKenzie—which have had outstanding performances at Brighton, Crystal Palace, etc.—would, I believe, be a match for any “30/98” Moreover, I think it would be a fairer comparison to take the performances of these “lightened” 4½.s as the production model was definitely too heavy in many directions, and of course, half the secret of the “30/98” performance is the power/ weight ratio.

However, far be it from me to dash into this controversy too quickly, as I must admit that I have never driven one of the famous “30/98s” and am, therefore, ignorant of first hand knowledge— nevertheless, my own “4½” Bentleys give me every satisfaction, and a speed in third of nearly 80 m.p.h., coupled with a maximum of 93 m.p.h. on a good open road for a car used every day for business purposes, needs some beating. Also in five years of Bentley motoring (3 and 4½-litres) I have never had to stop on the road except for punctures—that is to say, until last Saturday week when I used a 4½ which had been standing for many years—the trouble in this case was merely dirt in the petrol system, and this would, of course, happen to any make.

I would add how much I look forward to MOTOR SPORT each month, although it now costs 1/-. I am made to pay for it myself; previously my wife just included it with the newsagent’s bill, but the increase was noted, and if I had not produced the necessary oof I was threatened that the standing order would be cancelled.

I am, Yours etc ,

C. J. L. MERTENS.

London,

N.W.2.

[What did we always say about women!—Ed.]

*   *   *   *   *

Sir,

I have noticed several letters re vintage cars, but none after my own heart. I am a “Brooklands” Riley enthusiast.

My model—W.K. 7162—is at present undergoing a thorough overhaul, and is being extensively modified. At some time, a previous owner fitted large Itala brakes—I take my hat off to him—they’re “super.”

Besides polishing con-rods, flywheel, crankshaft, etc., I have faired in the con-rods, fitted a pair of “super-super” camshafts, and am fitting four Amal carbs., and the exhaust system has been redesigned.

The car has been lightened, and several alloy fairings “bashed” out and fitted, also the under carriage faired in by a 26g “tray-thing.” With all this and the special “Hep.” pistons and copperizing I have had done to head and valves, I expect a real honest-to-goodness 90 when I put her on the road again for the third quarter.

I should like to hear from previous owners of this car.

My present transport is a Riley Nine “Monaco,” which although fairly recent, has had a huge rebore and has been known to dust up a “Gamecock” which lives locally.

May I, in conclusion, wish you every success in your campaign for “Motor Sport” during the war and if you do succeed—my Riley will be there. [Our correspondent refers to the now cancelled race.—Ed.]

I am, Yours etc.,

NORMAN D. ROUTLEDGE,

Chatham.

*   *   *   *   *

Sir,

The coals of fire so profusely heaped upon my head by Mr. John Bolster, writing in defence of the 30/98 Vauxhall, are not altogether unexpected; but as I have received almost equally passionate complaints from incensed 4½-litre Bentley partisans, my conclusion is that I have treated the whole matter with a truly noble impartiality.

So far as Mr. Bolster’s letter is concerned, it is surely unreasonable to compare the performance of a 4½-litre and 3-litre machine of almost identical weight? I never denied that the 30/98 was faster, but speed is not the only requisite of a fast hack-tourer, and if the owner of a standard 30/98 is going to make full use of his undoubted performance, under modern traffic conditions, he will be obliged to take risks with his funny brakes.

It is undoubtedly true that a 30/98 can be made into a better car than any 3-litre Bentley, but I was careful to refer to each machine in standard form. The Bentley, as supplied in 1925, was as immediately practicable for daily, trouble-free use as it is to-day, but the purchaser of a 30/98 had to fit different brakes, find means of preventing the torque arm, speedometer drive, and dynamo drive from throwing themselves away at inappropriate moments, and remove a large proportion of the flywheel; to name the most urgent modifications only.

Undoubtedly, the gearbox on a Bentley has to be mightily exercised if the car is to be got along worth mentioning, but this is only to be expected with a small engine; and, wonderfully as the 30/98 accelerates on its top gear, it would go much better with less ludicrous ratios, especially with a raised compression. Something like 3.8, 4.4, 6.4 and 10 to 1 would make a phenomenal difference.

There is, surely, a lot more to be said on the subject of non-detachable cylinder heads than the added cost of decarbonization. Personally, for example, I prefer to have something between my coolant and lubricant that is a trifle less perishable than a slice of household asbestos.

The Bentley engine is certainly no smoother than it has need to be, and I deplore the fault no less than Mr. Bolster; nor am I unaware of the other respects in which the Bentley fell short of perfection. But I still hold that, in standard form, the 3-litre Bentley and 12/50 Alvis were perhaps the most serviceable and generally practicable sports-cars ever put on the market. I think this is borne out by the remarkably large number still in daily use, even since we have been going in for this war business.

Even on grounds of performance I doubt whether a standard 30/98 was a lot quicker than a standard 3-litre of the same date, and certainly not enough to justify the difference between 16 and 24 h.p.

I am, Yours etc.,

CECIL CLUTTON.

London, W.11.

*   *   *   *   *

Sir,

Will you please ask whether any of your readers have a handbook for a “P” type M.G. Midget, 1934/5 model?

I am, Yours etc.,

J. ROE.

1, Liverpool Lawn,

Ramsgate.

*   *   *   *   *

Sir,

I am driven to write to you by a sentence appearing on page 77 of this month’s MOTOR SPORT, in the invaluable “General Notes.” If the special does come into being, and by some miracle it will be possible for you to baptise it at Nailsworth, I implore you to let me know the date, that I may turn up to watch. I am in the happy position of being pretty well in the midst of the Gloucestershire Trials Country, and Nailsworth is a mere six miles away. I inspected the Ladder on a motor-cycle in April, and I plan to visit as many hills as a basic petrol ration will allow. May I suggest that if you are in this part of the country you attempt to inspect Breakheart, near Dursley (two miles from here)? This struck me as the most awe-inspiring acclivity I have yet seen, and I know of only one car trial that has used it. So if you manage to turn the nose of your special in this direction, I shall be eternally grateful if you would send me details.

Next, something for the MOTOR SPORT census. I have changed the motorcycle for an Austin Seven, actually the “Speedy” model that A. E. Moulton drove in the C.U.A.C. June meeting of last year. I plan to run it for this year, until called up, on basic rations.

I found the Georges-Irat road test particularly interesting, as it included a few remarks on the Tracta. A friend has just purchased from a dump a 1929 model, for which he paid £10. It appears to be in excellent order, and certainly, in my hands at any rate, possesses the “marked directional uncertainty” you mention. Further information would be very welcome.

I am, Yours etc.,

A. H. WILSON.

U ley,

Gloucestershire.

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