Racing with a K3 na MAGNETTE
H. J. P. Williams’s experiences of an ex-Mille Miglia car in races and on the road, recounted by Roy Jackson, his engineer. K ” 3001″ was one of the team cars to run in the 1933 Mille Miglia, being driven by Lord Howe and the late H. C. Hamilton. After the race the car
came back to England. Again it went on its travels, this time to Germany in the hands of Kohlrauseh who, incidentally, ran it in conjunction with his J4 M.G. ” Midget ” in a large number of Continental races, and especially hill climbs.
During 1934 Kohlrausch ran the car successfully, at the conclusion of which season it came back once again to Abingdon-on-Thames.
It was at this juncture that H. J. P.
Williams—who was to be the next owner —decided that a K3 M.G. Magnette was the ideal motor-car with which to combine fast road work and racing. I contacted the M.G. car company, on
behalf of Williams, and was informed that “K 3001 ” had landed back in this country and was to be offered for sale, and would I care to come down to look it Over ? In due course I arrived at Abingdon and was ushered into the competition department where” K 8001″ was standing in what appeared to he a sorry condition. Five badly-worn racing Dunlops, inclusive of the spare, were fitted. The white paintwork (Germany’s ” colour “) was in bad condition, having a large area covered with tar splashes ; the exhaust manifold and pipe were covered with rust, having no doubt accumulated during the journey. Altogether not an enviable sight. We discussed the price and what should he done to the car prior to it being collected. It was agreed that a complete overhaul and repaint should be carried out, the car at the same time being made suitable for road use. Prior to signing on the dotted line I had to contact Williams, to convey my impressions which, judging by the way his face lighted up with enthusiasm, must have been most favourable. Needless to say, Williams decided to purchase the car, and ti Le day of collection was eagerly awaited. __ Notification that the car was ready was eventually received, and ‘ Williams and myself proceeded to Abingdon in my J3 Midget, arriving at about 11.30 a.m. on a Saturday morning. As I had been down to M.G.s on various occasions I knew My way around the works, so we drove straight into the despatch bay where Midgets and IVIagnettes (Midgets predominating) in every conceivable colour, were lined up ready for collection. As we entered a crowd W83 stand,–
ing around a car which was in the middle of the floor. We drove up to the crowd, and there in the centre of the admiring group was “K 3001.” What a transformation ! In place of dishevelled white paint was a glistening British racing green. The front axle beam, track rod and drag link were polished. The brake drums had been polished and glistened behind the wheels in their new aluminium paint. The exhaust manifold and pipe had been blackened, and at first the exhaust system looked strange. It was then observed that there was no silencer. A straight-through pipe ended in an enormous hsh-tail which, ultimately, cost a fortune to be kept full of pan scrubbers. All the business transactions regarding the oar had been previously dealt with, and all that remained was to sign the receipt of delivery. This done it was decided to start the car and wend our way towards London, where we had decided to spend the week-end.
Suddenly remembering the necessity othaving a spare set of plugs, we suggested this, and were informed that it was now after mid-day and the stores closed. Fortunately, I was carrying about twelve spares for my J3—knowing its own capabilities for oiling them in traffic.
Williams jumped into “K 3001,” switched on, pressed the ‘starter And the sudden staccato roar reverberated around the despatch shed. With a tank full of 75 per cent. Benzoic, 25 per cent. No. 1., and a voluminous cloud of castor oil smoke he engaged bottom gear and Slowly ran out of the shed on to the road to Oxford. 7 I followed in the J3, and we cruised slowly along the Oxford-London road at a steady 55-00 m.p.h. Nothing of any consequence occurred until we entered Oxford Street, W. I was in the lead, with Williams hugging my tail, when No. 6 plug on the Magnette oiled up. We came to rest at a set of traffic lights, myself in the front of the outside line of traffic, when , Williams gave the Magnette_ a burst, hoping to clear the offending plug. The resultant ” bark ” had the effect of galvanising all in the immediate vicinity on either side of the street to
the spot with heads turned towards us. I looked up at an omnibus, on our inside, and was rewarded with a marvellous view of an array of faces with noses hard pressed against the windows. The lights changed to green and the street was clear to the next set of lights: By the time the ‘bus had begun to move I was on the other side of the • crossing just getting into 2nd ; again “K 3001 ‘ , was immediately behind, still trying to clear the plug. The J3 was far. from being quiet, and the combination of exhausts by the time we both “bore down” on the next set of lights, which happened to be our destination, Demers Street, was justifiable of a conviction ! We proceeded sedately down Berners Street with the plug cleared and tucked the cars away for the night.
The next day we set out for the North, and noticed then how effortlessly the Magnette responded, or would have responded if allowed, to the throttle at between 60 and 70 m.p.h. Temptation was overcome, and the tedious job of running fairly slowly for 1,000 miles or so was adhered to. the prescribed period was soon over, and although the tr felt fairly free during this period, the fact that all main and big-end bearings, pistons and rings were new had to be considered. During this slow period the M.G. Car Company, Ltd. forwarded the second set of plugs which they had promised. These were as originally fitted, KLG.718C, which for normal road use were satisfactory if kept spotlessly clean. When we were satisfied that the car was free the taps were turned and these plugs failed on hard driving. Subsequently, we found Champion JA.11, which I had been using for some time on the J3, to be most satisfactory. These were used for all road work and racing. If kept very
clean they withstood quite an amazing amount of oil.
Since our days on J2 Midgets we had had a i-mile measured out on the BuxtonAshbourne road which, although slightly downhill, served admirably for our test runs. The police had a pretty shrewd idea of what we were up to when, on several occasions, they steamed past in their Austin Ten and saw a conglomeration of people and cars on the grass verge, with enquiring heads under bonnets. Anyway, we were always lucky! Our timing was primitive, two stop watches, one at either end of the measured distance. On initial runs with full road equipment and the original Powerplus supercharger, 75/25 benzole-Ethyl which was always used when in road form, and the engine clean internally, the maximum was not in excess of 103-105 m.p.h. The Powerplus supercharger only gave a pressure of 11-12 lbs./sq. in., and the car was, consequently, dead reliable, as was later to be proved, and with the full weight of road equipment this performance was good for a 1,100-c.c. engine. Coupled with this was the confidence inspired by the superb handling qualities, and the excellent roadholding, coupled with good brakes. As time went by several points asserted themselves, which, together with certain modifications carried out from time to time, will be enumerated below, and kept together for the sake of clarity :
The cam drive spring coupling was found to be free from fracturing if fitted carefully, so avoiding any distortion. Otherwise, the spring discs fractured easily.
The front oil drain pipe to cylinder head face joint always leaked unless a very soft packing was used.
The h.t. wires were fitted with ” snapon ” terminals. This proved to be a source of great satisfaction.
The S.U. float mechanism allowing automatic feed to the sump from an auxiliary tank in the scuttle was most unreliable, due to foreign matter getting between the needle valve and seat and allowing flooding. This was never used, after having been let down numerous times.
The twin “Autopulse ” fuel pumps appeared to operate every “Preston guild.” These were scrapped in favour of a pressurised tank. An outside pump, hand operated, was used.
The front springs were too soft. A broken shock-absorber bracket was the first intimation of this fault, resulting in Williams retiring in the 1936 International Light Car Race in the I.O.M. They were reset with an extra second leaf—so relieving the shock-absorbers—curing the trouble.
The Powerplus supercharger was removed in favour of a Centric. This gave a pressure of 12-14 lbs./sq. in. The power in the lower ranges was improved vastly, and maximum speed was increased. The braking system was powerful and smooth, but we invariably suffered slight binding. This was due to drag of the inner cables and the consequent inability of the brake shoe springs to overcome this through the operating cams. Subsequently, after much patience had been expended, we fitted “pull-off” springs
attached between the operating cam cranks and a suitable outrigger anchorage attached to the brake backplate. As brake shoe springs were used for this purpose the braking system became, naturally, much heavier, but the trouble was thoroughly cured. The most essential modification was the moving of the brake cable adjustment locking nut from the front of the anchorage to the rear. By doing this the pressure, which was otherwise on the adjustment thread, was taken on the face of the lock nut abutting against the anchorage. The necessity of this was observed when Williams was proceeding at a high rate of knots bearing down on a corner, and upon applying a. fair measure of brake an adjustment pulled through the anchorage on the off-side front wheel. Fortunately, after a few gyrations a degree of control was. obtained. It was found upon investigation that the anchorage had expanded, due to braking pressure on the outer cable, so allowing the adjustment to, ” jump ” the threads. The rear axle hub bearings were rather too small. These were renewed many times as, when slight wear had taken place the wheel went off dead alignment, and the felt oil-retaining washer was unable to cope with resultant oil on the rear brakes. (I experienced the same trouble on my J3 and J2 Midgets.)
The divided track-rod gave superb handling qualities. These were exercised to the full when the car was motored over the Derbyshire roads. The single set of double Hartfords on the front and the. double set of double Hartfords on the rear were somewhat of a nightmare to keep in accurate adjustment in the Derbyshire climate, rain, snow, frost and heat (comparatively!) all being probable within two
days. Although not affecting the understeering qualities of the car to any extent, the tolerance of understeer was remarkably small even with drastic shockabsorber variations ; the front shockabsorbers, if adjusted in excess of the optimum tightness, would give rise to synchronous front wheel bouncing which was tiring to one’s arms over even a short, but fast, journey. When the shockabsorbers were in perfect adjustment a complete absence of kick was achieved.
Water and oil temperatures under hard driving conditions were approximately 95-98°C. and 60°C. respectively.
In place of the 4.75 X19 in. tyres on the rear, 6.50 x 16 in. were fitted. The front remained at 4.75 x 19 in. The improvement gained by this change was most marked with regard to roadholding, at the same time making the car less susceptible to shock-absorber adjustment.
After many miles covered with the Centric supercharger fitted, it was found that far fewer plugs had been changed due to oiling.
The Wilson gearbox was most reliable. The only failing was the burning out of bottom gear once (during the entire running of the car by Williams). In view of 1st gear acting as a clutch on all starts —there was direct coupling between engine and gearbox—this was remarkable. Granting an increased drag factor for these boxes, as well as an increase in weight, the fine handling qualities far outweigh these two detriments. Over undulating and twisting roads necessitating frequent gear changing, the advantages of these boxes soon became apparent, both to the driver and in respect of performance.
The brake adjustment wheel, mounted at the rear of the gearbox remote control casting, required gentle handling if used when the car was in motion. This adjustment acted on the brake cross-shaft, and if indiscriminately used, resulted in all the brakes binding.
No trouble was ever experienced with cracked cylinder heads, although a degree of distortion of the cylinder head face was observed every time the head was lifted. Strictly adhering to a fuel mixture standard prevented this common failing, as no experiment of road fuels was ever carried out, the aforementioned benzoleEthyl mixture being used permanently when in road use.
K.E.965 inlet and exhaust valves were used, and the original cylinder head was in service when the car was eventually sold by Williams in 1937. The valve seats had been ” crowned ” almost up to a maximum, and that this state of affairs existed after many valve guide renewals was due to very careful valve guide fitting necessitating much trial and error to ensure the minimum amount of metal having to be cut from the seats to ensure a perfect seating. Two complete sets of main and big-end bearings were fitted during the two complete overhauls which we gave the engine. Upon examination all the bearings were found to be cracked ; the centre mains in both instances were beginning
to break up, and the rear main bearing journal was very badly grooved as well as showing signs of ovaiity. These bearing conditions obtained both times that the engine was stripped. Although the main oil pressure was low, about 55 lbs./sq. in. normal instead of 90-100 lbs./sq. in. normal, this was due to the bad condition of the rear main bearing, and the normal pressure was restored upon reassembly.
When the engine was initially stripped the rotating mass assembly was balanced dynamically by a firm manufacturing dynamic-balance-machines. They took infinite trouble while carrying out this work, and the result was a perfect range up to 7,500 r.p.m. Williams usually limited himself to 6,000 r.p.m. on the road, although 7,500 r.p.m. was used at Wetherby, quite happily.
The normal top gear ratio 4.89 to 1 was used on all occasions, and for general purposes was found to be an excellent choice.
One experience worth recalling shows how fate steps in. In the early months of 1936, after spending the entire winter on completely stripping and rebuilding the car, we decided to have the manufacturers’ circuit at Donington for a day so as to pack as many miles in as possible and get everything nicely bedded in. For the first two hours everything went well. We were cruising around the circuit at a steady 50-60 m.p.h. accompanied by the usual scream of the straight bevel crown wheel and pinion. Suddenly, and without warning, the scream changed to an ominous grating noise. The car was immediately stopped and the ultimate examination showed that one of the differential adjusting ring-nut locking washers had come adrift, the differential assembly, consequently, gliding away from the pinion. The differential assembly was the only part of the car that had not been stripped during the winter !
Minor bodywork alterations had been carried out, as will be seen from the photograph, in the nature of a radiator cowl which had the supercharger cowl integral. Access to the carburetter was gained through a door in the grille. Although one worked blind, carburetter needle alteration was comparatively easy when the knack was acquired. A permanent tonneau cover was fitted over the passengers’ compartment, greatly cleaning up an otherwise “wide open space.”
During 1935 and 1930 only the minor modifications were carried out. In the winter of 1936-’37 the main modifications of supercharger change-over, with the second complete rebuild, took place. At this juncture the body alterations were carried out.
In 11935 the first race in which the car ran with its new owner was the 25-Mile Senior Handicap in the Donington July meeting. The race was won by A. H. L. Eccles’s ” 3.3 ” Bugatti at 63.84 m.p.h. Williams finished 3rd at 50.78 m.p.h. At the end of the same month the 75 miles ” Jubilee ” race was scheduled to be run at Southport. It will be remembered that this was a black day for the race organisers. During the previous day the tide had been higher than anticipated and had inundated the proposed course. During the night the shed in which was stored the mallets, flags, pegs, rope and all accessories for the marking
out of a course was broken into and its contents pilfered.
As though this wasn’t enough to justify an abandonment of the meeting, a high wind with blinding sand was awaiting a harassed body of organisers and competitors alike.
We ploughed our way along Ainsdale beach looking for some semblance of a course, when we eventually came across a gathering of despairing officials who, in spite of all these setbacks, were determined to run the race. Consequently, the officials and drivers decided on a modified course, to suit prevailing conditions, measuring 50 miles, the course to be one of a mile in place of the more usual two miles.
The best portion of the beach was chosen and duly marked out. The surface over the mile circuit was far from being uniform. Cross gullies’ caused by the tide and wind, resembled corrugated iron. Some sections of the beach were soft, soggy sand which would depreciate quickly. In spite of all these hazards the cars were lined up and the race commenced. As in all sand-racing a car appears to be progressing favourably when on solid sand and then the speed is visibly slowed, to the spectator even, when a soft patch is encountered. So it was on this day ; cars appeared to motor along literally in leaps and bounds ! At the end of the race the course was very similar to a tank-testing ground. Nevertheless, Williams was first home in 1 hr. 11 mins. 7 secs., having covered his 52 laps (2 laps handicap).
The car was used on the road again until the winter, when it was stripped and rebuilt in readiness for the 1936 season.
The first big race in 1936 was the International Light Car Race in Douglas, I.O.M. Although the car ran consistently at just over 65 m.p.h. for the 18 laps, retirement was necessary due to a fractured front shock-absorber bracket.
The same cause necessitated retirement in the Plicenix Park race of the same year.
It was now decided to rebuild the front springs, at the same time fitting an extra leaf. No further trouble was experienced. In the practising period for Phcenix Park, I remember, we had much fun coaxing the ” AutopUlse ” fuel pumps to perform. We eventually made some headway, but as early retirement occurred their reliability was further unknown. On arrival home we fitted the pressure pump and eliminated further possible trouble.
During the winter the car was once again completely stripped. The Centric supercharger was fitted and the body and front fairing alterations were carried out. The green paint was thought to be a bad omen, as 1986 was a most unfortunate year, so a new coat of blue was applied. As will be seen, a decided change in fortunes prevailed in 1937.
Due to the car having a slender chance of success in International 1i-litre events, it was decided to limit the programme to more favourable events, handicap races, Wetherby, Southport, etc., where a more promising chance of success was apparent. In the early days of 1937 we took the car to Donington where, after hiring the manufacturers’ circuit for the day, we proceeded to turn many laps off while bedding in the engine. After about five hours of continual running—we stopped
at the pits quite frequently to change drivers and to make small adjustments— we decided to give the car a couple of fast laps before calling it a day. On one ” full-out ” run down Starkey the r.p.m. corresponded to 118 m.p.h., and considering the car still had the regulation A.I.A.C.R. body fitted, we felt satisfied , with the performance.
When the car came home we decided , to keep it as it was for the first Wetherby Meeting. The head was lifted, cleaned, and replaced.
The first meeting was in May and Williams put up fastest time of the day with 30.64 secs., beating H. B. Prestwich’s ex-Cecchini single-seater Magnette, which returned 30.83 sees.
The second Wetherby meeting of 1937 proved to be more successful still. Good weather again prevailed, and this time the record for the course was broken when Williams returned 30.13 secs. The record had previously been held by Cummings’s Villiers-Supercharge at 30.20 secs. H. B. Prestwich was again competing and, using the 6.50 in. tyres loaned to him by Williams, his best run was 30.25 secs.
A Donington meeting and the first meeting at Shelsley Walsh were unsuccessful, due to trouble being experienced with the supercharger. The vane trunnions were found to have swollen excessively due to using alcohol fuel, so seizing the rotor. Although the trouble was eventually remedied it nevertheless caused two annoying retirements. When operating on the road on petrol-benzole the supercharger was efficient and reliable.
The car was run on the road most of the summer and operating under road conditions once again, with full equipment, we were able to ascertain the true road performance. On subsequent run/ over our measured 1-mile on the Ashbourne road the top speed under these conditions was 108-110 m.p.h., which, even though the stretch of road was slightly favourable, was a performance with which we were highly pleased. Our modifications had been carried out one at a time, and at the same time the car’s inherent reliability was never impaired, and the ultimate . result was a motor-car possessing all those alterations of which enthusiasts dream. The Southport Championship meeting came round at the close of the season ; once again a wet day was experienced, resulting in soggy sand which made the going very heavy. The meeting comprised several short races for motor-cycles and cars, also the flying kilometre event, and it was in this latter contest that we were most interested. The course used was the seaside leg of the circuit which, incidentally, was usually the firmer, although the initial 100 yards had been badly cut up. In these flying kilometre runs a restricted distance only is allowed before commencing the measured distance. On both his runs, I was standing on the starting line ; when Williams passed me I should imagine he was doing only about 90 m.p.h., although his acceleration was decidedly retarded on coming into the loose section Of sand. He disappeared into the distance and sounded to be motoring well when suddenly the ominous
bangs through the induction blow-off valve indicated a ” cooked ” plug. I went back to the pits, where we fitted a new set of plugs and returned for the second run.
The second run was almost satisfactorily concluded when the car began to lose speed some 150 yards from the end. When he was crossing the finishing line Williams noted that the boost gauge was down to zero. Investigation showed that a piece the size of a sixpence had blown out of one of the canvas-rubber
induction pipe connections We walked over to the timing tent and learned that the last run showed 100.70 m.p.h. The aim of achieving 100 m.p.h. over the kilometre had, even in face of bad luck, been achieved. The fastest speed recorded that day over the kilometre was 107.54 m.p.h., by Conan-Doyle’s twin
o.h.c. 1,500-c.c. Bugatti, which was new.
The road equipment was once again replaced and the M.G. was used through the winter months for pleasantly covering the counties’ highways. Williams then decided to give up racing and so the car was offered for sale. It was a sad passing. ” K3001 ” had, in the main, been an evenly disposed motor, seldom showing the temperamental side of its character. It had served admirably
under many diverse conditions. When running in an international 1,500-c.c.
event it never disgraced itself. When running in its class it was fully capable of looking after itself. When running on the road it was unsurpassable. Altogether a pleasant motor-car !