Piecing together the evidence
IN the May issue a correspondent asked for information about the Arab; Cyril Peacock, of Gwynne Eight fame, did likewise in 1937 and, several replies having come through, he thoughtfully sent them in for dispatch to the more recent enquirer. This has been done, but as the marque in question arouses more than a little interest, it seems worthwhile piecing the available evidence together and publishing what it comprises. Donald Munro, then, contributed the information that a 2-litre Arab finished second in the 2-litre class to a Bugatti at Shelsley Walsh in 1929, its time being about 68 secs. He suggested that twelve of these cars were built in all, less than six of which were blown, and he believed the maximum of the unblown examples to have been about 82 m.p.h. The owner of the car run at Shelsley reported inherent weaknesses as a slipping clutch and poor brakes. Actually, the car was in production considerably earlier than this, and was described in “The Autocar” of November 19th, 1926, a reprint of which we used to hold; unfortunately, it has been destroyed. S. C. H. Davis quotes the engine as of 12.1 h.p. (70 x 120 m.m. 2-litre) with single o.h. camshaft, leaf valve springs, separate four-speed box, open shaft-drive and spiral bevel axle, and puts the maximum at something like 80 m.p.h. The engine was designed, he says, by Railton, and he recalls the ingenious adjustment of the chain driving the camshaft and auxiliaries. Actually, it seems more likely that Parry Thomas designed the engine, based on the 2-litre Marlborough-Thomas, and Railton the chassis, and we believe that Railton was a director or the Letchworth firm which made the car. A lot of evidence was contributed by F. E. Clampett, writing from Leyland, Lancs. He owned one of these cars in 1937 and suggested that the 2-litre was really the Spurrier-Railton, the Arab being a 1½-litre. He believed the former, in blown form, to be the first car to exceed 100 m.p.h. at Southport, a feat accomplished about. 1927-8—probably the actual car of the present enquirer. His own car was reputed to have been owned by Birkin at one time, and had a 2-litre 13.1-h.p. four-cylinder engine with hemispherical heads, 1¾ in. ports, and a two-bearing crankshaft having 2⅜ in. main bearings and 2¼in. journals. The carburetter was a type Claudel-Hobson and dual ignition was used. The clutch was like a 1928 12/50 Alvis single-plate and the Meadows gearbox gave ratios of 3.6, 4.8, 7.0 and 10.4 to 1, reverse 12.0 to 1. The four-wheel brakes had alloy drums with cast-iron liners at the front and the Rudge knock-on wheels carried 5.00 in. x 20 in. covers. Steering was Marles; other items as above. 3,600 r.p.m. was taken as maximum engine speed, although 3,800 was possible, at which speed the velocity in third gear was 72 m.p.h. Using 60 x 135 carburetter settings in winter and 60 x 125 in summer, the fuel consumption was about 22 m.p.g. and 26 m.p.g. respectively, the latter setting being pretty useless in the cold. Roadholding, brakes and steering were praised. This reader also suggested that the number built was about twelve, and that Thomas did the engine, Railton the chassis, and that undoubtedly the fantastic chassis-price of £680 killed them. As to how many are left, we saw a chassis in a front garden in Hampstead some years ago, on which some.. film-producer had built a dummy closed body to represent a futuristic car, we believe for Wells’s “Shape of Things to Come.” Monro knew of a two-seater at Colnbrook in 1933, but reported it worn out then, and F. E. Clampett’s car may or may not be the one which has again turned up in Leyland. And that’s absolutely all we have. . . .