The Austin A90's Stock-Car Records
The Stock-Car Records established by an Austin A90 at Indianapolis rather take one’s breath away! In sober fact the car, driven for three-hour spells by Charles Goodacre, Dennis Buckley and Alan Hess, established or broke 68 A.A.A.-recognised standard-car records, 53 in the 3-litre class and ten in the unlimited class. These range from the s.s. five miles at 83.03 m.p.h. and fs. five miles at 89.58 m.p.h. to 200 miles at 80.14 m.p.h., 2,000 miles at 77.43 m.p.h., 3,000 miles at 69.17 m.p.h. and 10,000 miles at 71.86 m.p.h. But the overall show — 11,875 miles at an average of 70.68 m.p.h. — is sufficient in itself to prove the worth of the achievement and to put it in its true perspective.
The successful attack has shaken American motoring circles into enthusiastic acclamation of a car which American citizens can now purchase for as little as 3,795 dollars and British citizens for £786 11s. 6d. The Austin’s run will increase prestige the world over for Austin products in particular and for British cars in general. Amongst those manufacturers who share in the success are Automotive Products, Dunlop and Joseph Lucas.
It may be questioned whether the records broken, being those established by a Studebaker President away back in 1928, are of much value, albeit no American manufacturer dared, or troubled, to try to raise them. But unquestionably the Austin’s main achievement, that of averaging over 70 m.p.h. for seven days and seven nights round and round the arduous Indianapolis oval in weather conditions embracing intense heat, violent thunderstorms, torrential rain, hail and snow, is magnificent. The car, remember, has been checked as absolutely standard by the A.A.A. and even its fire-extinguisher could not be carried in a bracket, for the good reason that no bracket is referred to in the manufacturer’s specification. The Austin’s actual engine capacity, too, be it noted, is but 2,660 c.c.
Tyres proved a problem until the weather became cool, Dunlops on the near-side front wheel at first lasting only three hours, all four being changed every six hours. As a matter of fact, the first attempt, at an average of 77 m.p.h. for 2,300 miles, resulted, in some 20 new tyres being needed per day. Then the engine overheated and that run was suspended.
A new attempt was made at slightly slower speed, with the success acknowledged. The Austin Motor Company, apart from the very worthwhile publicity, must have benefited from the research aspect, for shortcomings included breakage of a front hub spindle (pit-stop 2 hr. 10 min. 31 sec.) sticking of the carburetter pistons, fumes from the carburetters which affected the drivers, a hot front hub, replacement of the offending hub after 7,600 miles (pit-stop 10 min.), a hole in one piston (pit-stop 1 hr. 40 min.) necessitating running-in a new piston and rod, replacement of another (worn and too-hot) front hub (pit-stop 5 min. 10 sec.) and a broken timing chain, the latter happening 55 minutes from the end of the proposed seven-day run, slightly lowering the potential average. Lessons will undoubtedly be learned from these happenings, but they do not amount to much — at over 70 m.p.h. for a year’s normal motoring!
Punch’s Art Editor changed wheels during the pit-stops; four wheels were changed and the fluids put-in in 1 min. 57 sec. on one occasion. S. C. H. Davis not only wrote an excellent account of the Austin’s run for his paper, but acted as a very able team-manager, a factor pleasing to those who are aware of his many successful exploits at the wheel of Austin racing cars in days gone by.
On the afternoon of May 3rd, Alan Hess and Davis, accompanied by “Dunlop Mac,” Alf Depper and George Coates arrived back at Southampton in the Queen Elizabeth. They were welcomed by Sir Algernon Guinness, Bt., representing the R.A.C., Col. Arthur Waite, representing the Austin Motor Company, Ltd., Capt. George Eyston, Dudley Noble, Mrs. Hess, Christopher Jennings, Editor of the Motor, W. Boddy, Editor of Motor Sport and a number of reporters, camera-men and news-reel men. A small Press reception was held on board. No speeches were made, but in conversation Davis was warm in his praise of the A.A.A. officials, and he told us how the knife-edge bricks of Indianapolis played havoc with the tyres, and what a magnificent job of work the mechanics did throughout. The weather was a definite bar to speed and it was so cold at one time that sleep was impossible in caravans whose heating refused to function. The meals supplied to the drivers were at first too substantial and sandwiches and fruit had to be substituted. Asked whether they had worn a groove in the Indianapolis track, Davis said no, but they had laid a rubber-dust carpet which the Americans thought would help 500-Mile Race competitors on May 30th! We were disappointed not to see the A90 but it was still largely in pieces after A.A.A. examination, which was absolutely thorough, and it was due to be displayed at Indianapolis on race-day, which display Goodacre had stayed behind to supervise. The party left the docks by road. Surely a representative from the Board of Trade or from the Ministry of Supply might have been present to welcome them.