Letters from readers, June 1942

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Sir,

We have for a long time now been discussing the future of our Sport: “Motor Racing After the War.” Well, there are a number of things that we must do. Taxation should be governed by the c.c. of the engine and not by bore alone. For, as we all know, the trend of design is for an engine of short stroke and as near as possible “square.” We must try to get the ban lifted, so that we can race on public roads. This, in my mind, will enable entry fees to be lower (or cash prizes higher), as the promoting clubs will not have to hire the course, which in turn will mean that entrance to or view-points on the course will come within the reach of the man who now goes to football matches. And now, a point which, in my mind, is of great importance: Why should we, England, have to bear the unlucky colour green as our national colour? I believe that we only had it in the first place because we were the last to enter for some Continental Grand Prix, and because, being an unlucky colour, no other nation would have it. What is wrong with our Union Jack? Red, white and blue. No other nation has more than one colour; is there any reason why we shouldn’t?

I chose my racing colours to be blue and red – blue body and red wheels and chassis. Admittedly I haven’t done much yet, but I was going to, and I still hope to. “Chatterbox” has taught me quite a lot and was part of the ground work one has to do. Now I have the “White” Riley, which is the next step and I hope will determine whether I can or cannot drive a racing car.

May I say to conclude that no amount of praise is adequate to tell you how much we in the Army look forward to each copy of Motor Sport. 

I am, Yours etc.,

Barry Woodall, L/Bdr.

G.H.Q. Liaison Regt.

 

Sir,

I greatly appreciated the article by Cecil Clutton in your April issue on Bugatti cars in general and the 5-litre in particular, though I do not agree that the Types 49 and 46 are the most satisfying Bugattis of all. This, however, in each case is purely a matter of personal choice. Whilst, of course, the numerous types produced in the past are virtually incomparable in many respects, from personal experience of the Types 13, 22, 43, 44, 49, 55, 57 and 57S I think the 57 as a type is far superior in all respects to the Type 49 (and just as much a Bugatti, though neither possesses the stark old-time Bugatti characteristics of, say, the Type 44 or 55), and the Types 57S and 57SC are probably the finest cars ever produced at Molsheim – or elsewhere.

I hope Mr. Clutton will forgive me if I make one or two additions and corrections regarding Bugatti types in general. In addition to “Black Bess” there are, oddly enough, other typeless Bugattis, e.g., the “Royale” (Or Golden Bugatti) produced around 1927 and virtually unaltered in 1939; the 4.9-litre four-wheel drive G.P. of 1932; the sixteen-cylinder G.P. of around 1929 (I believe possibly a type number in the “thirties”?); the 1/2-litre eight-cylinder twin o.h. camshaft G.P. of around 1936; the 2.8-litre G.P. of the same date and virtually an early 3.3-litre G.P.; the 3-litre monoposto G.P. of 1938 and the 4.7-litre monoposto G.P. of 1939. There may be others.

In addition to the models mentioned in the article there are also two notable G.P. types, viz., the Type 54 4.9-litre G.P. and the Type 59 3.3-litre G.P. Regarding road cars, there was the 4.7-litre – ultimately to be 4 1/2-litres – immediately pre-war destined, I assume, eventually to replace the 3.3-litre Type 57 series. There is also the Type 50T, a modified 4.9-litre.

Regarding the 5-litre, wire wheels were always fitted to the Type 46 right from the start. The Bugatti aluminium wheels were fitted to the Type 46S of the same style as those fitted to the Types 49 and 50. Production ceased on the Type 55 around 1937; all Type 57S and 57SC models were fitted with De Ram shockers, which were also fitted on the front end only on the Type 57 from 1937 to 1939, when Repussean shockers were fitted all round. At the same time (end of 1938) the Types 57S and 57SC were discontinued because M. Bugatti felt that these cars, intended only for long-distance highspeed motoring, were being ill-used. Thereafter he concentrated on the Type 57C, the “C” standing for compressor, by the way, and the “S” for Sport, for the benefit of the few that hadn’t already realised it!

Mention elsewhere in Motor Sport of N.S. Ernbiricos’s special streamlined high-geared 4 1/2-litre Bentley’s hour “record” at 114.84 m.p.h. reminds me that Robert Benoist did 112 miles in the hour at Montlhèry in 1939 in a standard 57C Bugatti four-door Galibier saloon – surely a relatively better performance.

I am, Yours etc.,

C.W.P. Hampton, 2nd Lt.

4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards.

[Cecil Clutton, of course, confined himself to touring Bugatti types in the article referred to. – Ed.]

 

Sir,

Congratulations on producing the April copy of Motor Sport so early in the month; you could have knocked me down with a feather on the occasion of its early arrival! I have recently become the owner of a Maserati, reputed to be a “2.9.” It is a straight eight, twin o.h. camshaft, blown job, with dry sump lubrication and mechanically operated brakes, not hydraulic. The body is a T.T. 4-seater, colour red, and registered No. ELM 510. Can you tell me anything about this car, history, performance, etc.? The previous owner was a Lieutenant Easton, I am told, and it was stored at Thompson and Taylor’s for some time. Mr. Pomeroy thought that it sounded like Torin’s car and might be a 2.5-litre, but he was not sure.

I am, Yours etc.,

Peter Whalley, Lieut.

1/6th S. Staffords. Regt.

[We believe Torin’s car is in pieces at a London garage, and, in any case, it was a 2-seater. This may be a car which Capt. Eyston drove in a “Double Twelve.” – Ed.]

 

Sir,

I wish to record my appreciation of Motor Sport, published under the most trying conditions – it’s still as good as ever! I started with a “push-pull” Salmson (origin lost in the mists of antiquity, but capable of startling things with a skimpy home-made body) and progressed via various interesting light cars, including 1925 Amilcar and Type 40 Bugatti (body saloon by Cooper’s, Putney, and replacement cam-bearings by yours truly out of mother’s old white metal teapot, with home-made low-pressure oiling for same – ran like a bird), up to a really pleasant Mark II “18/80” M.G. – pleasant memories. Present restricted motoring is on a 1932 Morris Family Eight, self-fitted with M.G. “M” Midget unit and 1933 Wolseley Hornet four-speed box – it has quite a startling effect and no half shafts have gone yet – at the astounding price of £7.

I am, Yours etc.,

J.A. Hunter.

R.A.F.

 

Sir,

On a certain aerodrome are four ardent enthusiasts in silent hope that the war will end soon and they will be able to resume their interest again. Needless to say, this interest is constantly stimulated by a sort of running discussion on personalities, performances and power units in the usual enthusiasts’ fashion; the fast car topic is, I believe, inexhaustible. The members of this circle are as follows: Sgt. M. Clenton-Wright, who is well known for his “action” drawings. He has diced considerably in Alfa Romeos and just before the war took an Anzani Marendaz to Australia, where he ran it with some success in speed trials. For several months he ran a supercharged 4 1/2-litre ex-Birkin open 2-seater Bentley in Canada and tells some very amusing tales concerning various people who mistook it for an impotent antique. Affluent members of the sporting youth with their Cords and Packards, finned and flamboyant with flared fenders, admittedly fast (but with faster speedometers), would, on first encounter with the Bentley, judge it, by its rakish cut and uncovered parts, as game meat for what they wanted – an easy beat up, Which is what they got, only the tables were turned! The usual procedure adopted was to play them up to their maximum, draw level, take note of the driver’s expression (the high light of the procedure), then lean out, swap a cog, foot hard down, leaving a smell of burnt rubber and a very perplexed owner-driver. Such sport was taken in the best spirit and a good laugh was had on both sides.

Sgt. J. Steer is a Frazer-Nash addict and, being true to the cult, treats any other marque with secondary interest. He has an ex-Fane supercharged ‘Nash with Blackburne engine carefully stored waiting for “the day.” This car has clocked 112 m.p.h. in racing form under favourable conditions. At one time he built a very fast “Special” with, of course, a G.N. chassis. This job proved to be very unstable at high speed, requiring superhuman strength and courage to hold it.

Sgt. J. Rettie has just finished rebuilding an “International” Aston-Martin and hopes to put it on the road for June just to see how she goes.

The joint “utility” is the writer’s Series I Morris Eight 2-seater, which will seat all four of us. It may be of interest that the Series I and II can be effectively “hotted up” by fitting Series E pistons, which will raise the compression ratio. Both performance and economy will be improved and excessive pinking will not be experienced. The writer also possesses the chassis of a Type 130 rear-engined Mercédès-Benz (13 h.p.). This car used to be his pansy get-about until the body got “written off” in a smash with a lorry. After the remains of the body had been removed with hack-saw and cold chisel, the chassis was found to be unharmed. The writer plans to fit a 22-h.p. V8 Ford engine and build a very light body with welded pipes covered with doped fabric. He hopes that in such a form the car will be suitable for trials. There are only eight Type 130 Mercédès in this country (which is understandable!). The engine is a four-cylinder, side-valve unit, following very closely the design of the old 14.9-h.p. Ford. The stroke is only 86 mm. and 28 b.h.p. is developed at 3,200 r.p.m., giving 62 m.p.h. in the overdrive. Acceleration is bad, to 50 requiring about 45 secs. Petrol consumption is about 27 m.p.g. In fact, it is a very lazy piece of machinery and possesses the failings of the highly stressed – that is to say, it is very noisy and required a rebore at 26,000 miles. There is nothing to recommend the engine whatsoever. Independent suspension is supplied all round, with two transverse springs in the front and coil at the rear. The chassis is of the backbone type, with a welded floor. Total weight is 17 cwt. Roadholding and cornering are good (even though all the shock-absorbers have broken off), and no rolling or lurching is experienced at any time. But to off-set all these suspensional advantages is the appalling rate at which tyres wear out. The writer prefers to drive his Morris Eight with its straightforward design.

I am, Yours etc.,

Donald Parker, Flt. Sgt.

R.A.F.

 

Sir,

Whenever there is a gathering of enthusiasts and sports cars are the subject one invariably gets the idea, as a neutral listener, that the only sports cars in the world emanate from the Continent and that England is sadly lacking. I accordingly decided to think up a few Continental sports cars and see what we could do by way of beating them. However, when I came to draw up a list of cars it was the Continent which was sadly lacking in sporting types. So that I may not have too many bricks thrown at me, I should like to state that by “sporting type” I have in mind open 2-seaters or 4-seaters, of either the stark, streamlined, or conservative type, that have definitely good sports car characteristics; sound steering, road-holding, reliability and performance being the main items and all vehicles to be of the just pre-war era.

Bugatti is the first Continental to spring to mind and the Type 57 series can produce some very worthy examples. I do not claim that we can produce anything to come up to the Bugatti, and I think it rather tends to stand alone in the sporting world. Of other French sports cars, Delage, Delahaye and Darracq are the main possibilities and production sports Delage were not very numerous, and we could possibly put forward British Salmson Six or the Atalanta also for the Paris-Nice Hotchkiss. The Competition Delahaye is a pretty rare specimen, built mainly for racing, and the more popular sports-bodied Delahaye or the later V12 Delahaye could be pretty successfully coped with by the V12 Lagonda or the “4.3” Alvis. Even the later Allard “Specials,” which had been cleaned up considerably in finish and appearance, could put up quite a good show (as far as acceleration is concerned), and the Darracq follows pretty closely on the Delahaye as far as production models go. Such cars as Connell’s 4-litre Darracq are of the more special type.

Germany can really only boast the B.M.W. as a sporting type, though some might like to include the larger Mercédès-Benz. Standard 328 B.M.W.s as sold over the counter could be dealt with by the “Speed Model” Aston-Martin as far as maximum speed is concerned, for the B.M.W.s needed quite a bit of “warming” before they really got cracking, as did Pane’s or Thomas’s cars, for example. Admittedly acceleration has got the Aston-Martin beaten, but an Allard could hold it over the standing 1/4 mile. The racing B.M.W.s as used at Brescia are far ahead of us, I know, but they are special racing models. A 4 1/2-litre Bentley can deal with the Mercédès in many respects.

Of Italy the Alfa-Romeo is the only contestant and is a rather doubtful, possibly unknown, quantity in its latest form, and could be put rather in the V12 Lagonda class.

This covers most of the Continental sporting types and all of them, with the exception of the B.M.W., are in the big car, as well as high price, class. Where are the counterparts of such models as the 2-litre Alta, A.C. 1 1/2-litre and “1,100” H.R.G. and Frazer-Nash in the quality class, or the T-type M.G., S.S. “100” and Morgan “4/4” in the popular class? At one time small sports cars from the Continent were numerous, in the day when Derbys, Salmsons, Amilcars, etc., were seen everywhere, along with the smaller Bugatti types or the Lancia “Lambdas,” O.M.s, Diatts, small Alfa-Romeos, etc. These are gone, and what have we to replace them? Possibly the “1,100” Fiat, Lancia “Aprilia,” Hotchkiss Amilcar and Citroen roadster, but these have turned into very modern utility vehicles more than sporting types and most of them have grown roofs.

No longer does the Continent produce the reasonably stark sporting-looking 2-seater it used to. H.R.G. Alta and Frazer-Nash stand alone. We are told often enough that streamlining is the latest thing, along with i.f.s. and electric gearboxes, but while the three cars I’ve just mentioned remain horribly old-fashioned and brutal, can the Continent show us anything better from the sports car owner’s viewpoint? I think not.

The Continent may produce the best sports cars, that is another argument altogether, but they most certainly do not produce the only sports cars, and what they do produce are only for the lucky ones of this world who are blessed with plenty of the necessary; the average enthusiast has no scope at all on the Continent when he is thinking of getting a sporting type. I don’t suggest for a moment that the Continent couldn’t produce some good sporting cars, but they haven’t, and the reason why is not very evident. Have the Continental lads who used to dice their Type 37s, Senechals, “Grand Sports” Amilcars, “San Sebastian” Salmsons and “Zagato” Alfas, etc., gone soft or do they really prefer to drive streamline contrivances with i.f.s., lots of curved glass and a quietly efficient engine rather than the fiercer type that looks very crude and agricultural, but does motor far better? I can’t imagine that the Continental boys have gone all technical; it seems that the Continental enthusiast is an extinct race….

I am, Yours etc.,

Denis S. Jenkinson.

Cove, Hants.

 

Sir,

I write under great difficulties as, having just received the May issue of Motor Sport on April 30th, I am still suffering from severe shock…!

Cecil Clutton’s narrative of the early development of aero engines is up to his usual standard; I need not say more. Certain interest attaches to a copy of the Pall Mall Gazette dated June 10th, 1891, which is in my possession and from which I quote the following paragraph:–

“MR. MAXIM’S AERIAL ENGINE OF DESTRUCTION.

“Mr. Maxim, who with Mr. Nordenfeldt combined to form one of the most powerful guns of modern times, is now turning his attention in a new direction. He has conceived the idea that a balloon, or, as he calls it, a flying machine, may be constructed which will form a peculiarly destructive engine of war. It would be impossible to exceed the simplicity of the vividness of Mr. Maxim’s own description of his object, conveyed in a communication to a friend. ‘If,’ he says, ‘I can, rise from the coast of France, sail through the air across the Channel and drop half a ton of nitro-glycerine upon an English City, I can revolutionise the world. I believe I can do it if I live long enough. If I die someone will come after me who will be successful where I failed.’ This pleasing prospect lends quite a fresh interest to the possible duration of Mr. Maxim’s life.”

Written three years before his first flight and 50 years before the “Battle of Britain,” this prophecy can only be regarded as uncannily accurate.

I cannot claim to know how many Motor Sport readers are seriously interested in aero-engine evolution, or whether someone is going to review later progress up to, perhaps, 1918, when the Liberty engine came on the scene. But if nobody is tackling this job, I feel it is essential that a little more be said concerning the Gnome engines.

To the casual reader, Cecil Clutton’s article may appear to suggest that the types of Gnome rotary, which were used so widely during World War I, were those having a counterbalanced automatic inlet valve in the piston crown; actually, the types concerned were the later and even more revolutionary (pardon the double meaning) Monosoupape models.

The first “Mono” was shown at the Paris Salon in December, 1913, by which time the earlier Gnome engines were an established success; but where the earlier engines had been unorthodox, the design of the “Mono” was positively freakish, despite which it was a brilliant success.

From the reliability aspect, the Monosoupape or “single valve” engine was a great step forward, in that it dispensed with the automatic inlet valve without introducing any other complication in its place. This was achieved by using a single poppet valve, serving as both inlet valve and exhaust valve, together with piston controlled ports in the cylinder wall.

The operating cycle was a somewhat modified version of the normal four-stroke cycle, and in describing it one can most simply start at the beginning of the induction stroke.

With the piston at top dead centre, the single push-rod operated overhead valve is open, its port leading directly to the atmosphere; consequently, as the piston moves down on the induction stroke, air is drawn in, until the valve closes 60˚ before bottom dead centre. There follows a period of “valve closed,” then for 20° on either side of bottom dead centre the piston controlled ports are open, connecting cylinder to crankcase. During this period a very rich mixture is drawn into the cylinder, which mixes with the air already in the cylinder to give a correct fuel-air mixture.

The compression, ignition and expansion are normal, save that the single valve opens for exhaust 95° before bottom dead centre. This is to ensure that the pressure in the cylinder has dropped to atmospheric before the ports connecting cylinder to crankcase open – the mixture in the crankcase is so rich as to be non-inflammable and no harm comes from contact between it and a cylinder full of exhaust gas. The cycle is completed by a normal exhaust stroke, the cylinder being emptied through the single dual-purpose valve.

This unorthodox system of operation gave reliability through sheer simplicity: a high b.m.e.p. was not obtained, largely on account of the abnormally early exhaust valve opening, but a typical engine weighed only 260 lb. for an output of 106 b.h.p. The use of the same valve for both inlet and exhaust must have had a most beneficial effect on valve temperature, and I sometimes wonder whether the same scheme could not be employed to advantage on modern diesel engines.

As regards the other details of this model, it was very much the same as the earlier types described by Mr. Clutton, the rotary principle and the use of crankcase induction being continued; there was not even a carburetter or throttle, control being by an ignition cut-out button and an adjustable needle valve in the fuel feed line. So if, at any time, you get involved in argument with someone who says “The unorthodox never succeeds,” just say “Gnome Mono,'” and watch him fold up like a jack-knife.

I am, Yours etc.,

J. Lowrey.

Farnborough, Hants.

[Reference was made to these remarkable Gnome rotaries in “Rumblings” in the issue for June, 1940. – Ed.]

 

Sir,

I thought you would like to know have acquired the de Dietrich that was at Woking. I simply can’t understand why nobody else made a serious attempt to go after this car, as it is a priceless veteran type. I can only think that the rather misleading description in the “Register of the Unique” was the cause, i.e., (1) Roi de Belge body, when, in fact, it has an early type straight-backed tonneau, the canopy top being added some years after manufacture. (2) The mention of Type 8. This appears on the Burlington Carriage Co.’s plate on the dash; they were the builders of the body only. The telling plate is on the engine and reads: “System Turcot-Mérz, Type BIS No. 558.”

Garry Adams came to stay for a night and we decided that, as it had a gilled tube radiator (de Dietrich fitted a honeycomb radiator in 1905), we would use what little of the “basin” that remained in the tank of the Morgan “4.4” and have a look-see. When we caught sight of it, Adams said in great excitement: “It’s a real veteran, look at the tonneau body.” We then started a thorough inspection and found the engine had automatic inlet valves (from 1903 onwards de Dietrich had mechanical); it had a wooden flitch plate chassis (in 1903-4 it was pressed steel). Anyhow, we decided that it was 1903 at the latest and probably 1902. It appears that it is Lord Iveagh’s first car and had been stored in the stables at Pyrford Court, Woking, until they were bombed just over a year ago: the car, being undamaged, was moved to the Guinness Farm. Both Lord Iveagh and his agent were out, but we found the chauffeur, who said he used to drive the car in the early days. He remembers the car being used at Lord Iveagh’s (then Hon. Rupert Guinness) wedding. We looked up “Who’s Who” and found he was married in 1903! The chauffeur suggested that I should write to Lord Iveagh and ask him if he would dispose of the car if promised a good home; this I did. He replied, saying he would be only too pleased to let me have the car, without charge, providing I could arrange the necessary transport. I went with a breakdown truck the next Sunday and towed it home to Puttenham.

It is a 16-h.p. Paris-Vienna type chassis. The chassis was ordered in April, 1902 (see Autocar, April 19th, 1902), imported from France late in 1902 and a special body built for Hon. Rupert Guinness by Burlington Carriage Co., Ltd., of 315, Oxford Street (see Autocar, March 28th and April 4th, 1903). It was exhibited on Stand 39A at the Motor Show (Agricultural Hall) from March 21st to 28th, 1903. The Autocar described it as one of the finest examples of body building in the Show. The car was in everyday use until 1912, when it was stored at Pyrford Court. Incidentally, there is a full description of the Paris-Vienna chassis in the Autocar of October 4th, 1902. Three of these cars ran in the race in June, 1902. The winner was a 16-h.p. Renault.

I have also acquired another quite interesting veteran lately – a 1904 two-cylinder 10-h.p. Humber; it is one of six Napier-Humbers built in Coventry by numbers, but to Napier design.

Mention of the Blakes’ G.B. Napier in Motor Sport reminds me that the Blakes had a bad fire at King’s Worthy a few weeks ago, the house and buildings being gutted. But, I am glad to say, the cars were all saved and are undamaged.

I am, Yours etc.,

Francis W. Hutton-Stott, Junr.

Newbury.

 

Sir,

I was glad to have my mistake about the winning B.M.W. in the 1940 Brescia Grand Prix pointed out by Mr. Pomeroy. I wrote the article when exiled in rather a remote spot and was consequently unable to check my facts.

Like Mr. Lowrey, I consider accessibility an important. factor, and in my article suggested that it could be obtained on a “flatiron” type of body, by having detachable side panels between the front wheels and scuttle. These could be held down on sorbo rubber mounting by screw-button fairing fasteners. If one is to have the benefits of streamlining it seems to me that one must pay the price of increased inaccessibility, and this cannot be so good on a streamlined vehicle as on cars such as Mr. Lowrey’s H.R.G. or my Frazer-Nash. Regrettable though it is, the type of body exemplified by the Le Mans Mk. II Aston-Martin seems to have had its day. Indeed, does it not appear that the open sports car is doomed to become extinct in another 10 years’ time, as the streamlined coupé replaces it? The three Le Mans races before the war and the 1940 Brescia Grand Prix seemed to indicate such a trend. It is rather a sombre thought, but … “Time marches on!”

Mr. Graham Dix’s article on his postwar ideal was most interesting. I hope other readers will send their ideas in. Personally, I should like a light highly geared car, with i.f.s., hydraulic brakes, high-geared steering, an engine with special alloy bearings, a large oil cooler and a moderate stroke to ensure prolonged high-speed running with mechanical safety, together with an open streamlined body. The only car in existence at present which comes up to this is the “328” B.M.W. What a pity there is no British counterpart of it. I believe, however, that Isleworth were to build them had the war not come. Let us hope that they will carry on the good work after the war.

I am, Yours etc.,

F/O. W.J. Scafe.

R.A.F.

 

Sir,

In the interests of technical accuracy, may I point out that the crankshaft bearings of the Brescia Bugatti are two ball and one plain (front); not, as stated in Mr. Pomeroy’s letter, roller bearings.

I enclose a 1924 catalogue issued by Chas. Jarrott & Letts, which gives some information about the 16 valvers. Apparently the Type 22 is a short 7′ 11″ wheelbase plain-bearing job and the Type 23 an 8′ 4″ wheelbase car, and no type number is given to the Modified and Full Brescias. The plain-bearing models were discontinued after 1923.

I think something on the lines of the recently formed Lea Francis Club ought to be done for the Brescia Blokes. Perhaps the B.O.C. would tackle the job (but not, I hope, at 3 guineas for subscriptions!).

I am, Yours etc.,

J.A. Fawcett.

Ossett, Yorks.

[Even now the issue isn’t entirely clear. The 1924 catalogue describes the plainbearing cars, with bronze main and big-end linings, yet Mr. Fawcett says these cars were discontinued after 1923 – doubtless the catalogue anticipates. It certainly gives Type 23 to the 68 x 100-mm. car, whereas we have always thought this applied to the Brescias and Full Brescias. – Ed.]

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